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Stories for March 2021
New Report Analyzes Carbon-Reduction Policies
to Meet NC's Clean Energy Goals
The North Carolina power sector is poised for transition. Economics, state clean energy policies, and ambitious climate commitments from utilities are driving big changes to the state’s grid, creating a shift toward cleaner options for electricity generation. With the electricity system appearing to be at a “tipping point,” even modest, well-designed policies can accelerate pollution reduction, make change more affordable for state residents and businesses, and stimulate job growth.

The NC Clean Energy Plan sets two emissions targets for the state's power sector: a 70 percent reduction in 2005 emissions levels by 2030, and carbon neutrality by 2050. Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the University of North Carolina’s Center for Climate, Energy, Environment, and Economics conducted a year-long study of carbon-reduction policies to achieve these targets. Reflecting extensive modeling, policy and economic analysis, and stakeholder engagement, the report offers options for action and a number of ways to compare policies and policy combinations, to inform the design of effective, affordable, and equitable emissions reduction policies for this sector.
Plastic Pollution Policy Inventory Among
Nine Projects Selected as UNDP Ocean Innovators
Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions was announced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as one of the nine winners of the 2020 Ocean Innovation Challenge (OIC). OIC is a unique mechanism launched by UNDP, with support from Sweden and Norway, to accelerate progress on the Ocean Sustainable Development Goal 14 by identifying, financing, and mentoring innovative approaches to ocean and coastal restoration and protection that sustain livelihoods and advance the “blue economy.”

The Nicholas Institute was selected to expand its Plastics Pollution Policy Inventory. Launched in 2020, the inventory currently includes more than 300 downloadable policies, providing decision makers at all levels a tool to identify and replicate best practices for reducing plastic pollution in the world's oceans.
Virtual Event Explores Business of Reaching
Net-Zero Emissions in Asia
ClimateCAP is an initiative that explores the business implications of climate change, and the risks and opportunities that our changing climate creates. A virtual ClimateCAP event on March 18 sought to advance this conversation in the context of Asia, which is entering a new era of climate change action.

China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea are all committing to carbon neutrality by mid-century, and pressure is building for developing Asian countries to put forth more ambitious emissions reduction strategies. While strong attention is focused on the national climate policies of key Asian countries, it is the businesses operating within them—whether private or state-controlled, domestic or multinational—where much of the change must take place.

The event was co-sponsored by Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, the Fuqua School of Business' Center for Energy, Development, and the Global Environment (EDGE), and the Environmental Research Center at Duke Kunshan University.
Case Study from Ghana Provides Lessons
for Environmental Implications of RFI Agreements
Over the past two decades, African governments have increasingly entered into resource-financed infrastructure (RFI) agreements with Chinese governmental and commercial entities to meet their critical infrastructure needs. Under these agreements, a Chinese entity provides an African government infrastructure loans in exchange for the African government’s pledge to repay the loans with future revenues from natural resource projects.

In a new Nicholas Institute case study, Duke alumnus Terrence Neal examines a $2 billion infrastructure financing deal linked to bauxite exploitation between Ghana and Sinohydro. The case study offers insight on how negotiating and implementing RFI agreements without due care for environmental and social risks can counter rather than promote sustainable development.
World Bank Aid to Small-Scale Fisheries Reveals Shifts in Approach to Environmental Governance
Small-scale fisheries are becoming a global social and environmental concern. The contribution of marine small-scale fisheries to global food security and coastal livelihoods, coupled with the significant challenges they face, has attracted increasing attention and aid from environmental organizations, philanthropies, and multilateral agencies over recent decades.

In a new study for the journal Global Environmental Change, a team of Duke University researchers focuses on the evolving role of the World Bank in shaping sustainability of coastal marine regions. The World Bank is the single largest funder of small-scale fisheries, which account for almost half of the more than $2.48 billion spent by the institution on marine fisheries over the last 50 years (click chart above). The Duke researchers found the targets of the World Bank’s aid have shifted during that time from solely economic development to increasingly emphasizing governance and multi-dimensional environmental goals. The study concludes by highlighting current dilemmas and future challenges facing actors interested in working towards sustainable marine small-scale fisheries.
Internet of Water Introduces New Tools Page
The Internet of Water (IoW) is developing tools to ease data discovery, access, and use. The IoW continues to build these resources as it learns more about stakeholder and partner needs. In addition to the tools currently available, the IoW plans to release general guidance and data extraction tools in the coming months for data analysts to make it easier to access data for use.

To date, the IoW has developed the following tools:

  • Water Data Inventory Tool: Used to learn more about data fragmentation and how public agencies can conduct their own inventory.
  • Coming to Terms: A Water Data Terminology Collection: Tool that tracks definitions, synonyms, and homonyms of water-related terms used by public agencies to promote a shared vocabulary.
  • Geoconnex: System for connecting water data from different data providers via geographic location.
  • Water Budget Navigator: Web application that allows users to compare the water budgeting and water use estimation frameworks used by a variety of water resources agencies.
  • HubKit: Free, open-source software suite that lets data providers automate the process of ingesting tabular and geospatial data, standardize that data, serve data through a standard API, and serve relevant metadata to enable harvesting by Geoconnex. Coming in Spring 2021.

Lydia Olander, Katie Warnell, Travis Warziniack, Zoe Ghali, Chris Miller, and Cathleen Neelan

A shared understanding of the benefits and tradeoffs to people from alternative land management strategies is critical to successful decision-making for managing public lands and fostering shared stewardship. This study describes an approach for identifying and monitoring the types of resource benefits and tradeoffs considered in National Forest planning in the United States under the 2012 Planning Rule and demonstrates the use of tools for conceptualizing the production of ecosystem services and benefits from alternative land management strategies. Efforts to apply these tools through workshops and engagement exercises provide opportunities to explore and highlight measures, indicators, and data sources for characterizing benefits and tradeoffs in collaborative environments involving interdisciplinary planning teams. Conceptual modeling tools are applied to a case study examining the social and economic benefits of recreation on the Ashley National Forest. The case study illustrates how these types of tools facilitate dialog for planning teams to discuss alternatives and key ecosystem service outcomes, create easy to interpret visuals that map details in plans, and provide a basis for selecting ecosystem service (socio-economic) metrics. These metrics can be used to enhance environmental impact analysis, and help satisfy the goals of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the 2012 Planning Rule, and shared stewardship initiatives.

Pradnya Bhandari, Sara Mason, and Lydia Olander

Cultured milk proteins are proteins manufactured in a lab through fermentation rather than from traditional animal farming methods. These proteins are identical to those found in milk (casein and whey), but are created using bacteria or fungi instead of any part of an animal. As humanity faces the problem of feeding an exponentially growing population, cultured proteins have emerged as one potential way to generate consumable protein without the harmful environmental impacts of expanding agricultural production.

This paper focused on answering two primary questions:

(1) How does the environmental footprint of cultured milk protein compare to that of traditional milk protein (derived from cows)?

(2) If there is a significant difference in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions between production of cultured and traditional milk protein, would developing carbon credits for cultured protein production be profitable for cultured protein producers?

By comparing a generic cultured milk protein life cycle assessment (LCA) to published LCAs on traditional milk protein, we attempted to estimate the difference in environmental impact and assess whether the GHG emission differential might warrant carbon credit creation for cultured protein projects.

Elizabeth Losos (Expert consultant)

This UN report set out ten guiding principles that policymakers can follow to help integrate sustainability into infrastructure planning and delivery. They are focused on integrated approaches and systems-level interventions that governments can make to create an enabling environment for sustainable infrastructure.

Together, the publications aim to inform the forthcoming wave of global infrastructure investment. Collectively, they specify and demonstrate how environmental, social and economic sustainability must be integrated right across infrastructure policymaking at the systems-level. The individual principles and case studies were developed via ongoing global consultation and inputs from experts and UN Member States, as part of the implementation of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) Resolution 4/5 on Sustainable Infrastructure

Ben Joseph (Author) and Kate Konschnik (Editor)

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, sending the United States economy reeling. In 11 months, the virus has spread to every corner of the country. Public safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, interstate and international travel bans, and local restrictions on public gatherings have fundamentally changed the daily lives of Americans, reshaping the way we use energy. As the U.S. recovers from the pandemic, it remains to be seen which changes rebound and which leave permanent marks on the energy landscape.
Upcoming Virtual Events
  • Water Data for COVID: Wastewater Surveillance. As we learn more about the potential of wastewater surveillance for early warning of COVID, many states are grappling with how to transform their current water data infrastructure to ensure effective and efficient data management around wastewater surveillance. Second webinar in a series presented by the Internet of Water. Tuesday, March 23, 3–4:30 p.m. EDT
  • The Power of Deserts. What if oil-rich Middle Eastern countries decide to turn their focus toward harnessing their immense solar energy potential? Dan Rabinowitz (Tel Aviv University) explores this counterintuitive proposition in his latest book. Thursday, March 25, 12–1 p.m. EDT
  • The Power of Storytelling: New Narratives to Avert Climate Crisis​. This is the second webinar in the free "Global Coalition for Community Climate Action" series, a leadership development initiative presented by American University of Beirut, Duke University, EARTH University, and The University of Texas at Austin. Wednesday, March 21, 12–1:30 p.m. EDT
In the News
Professional Opportunities
The Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) is a global coalition of industry and policy-making leaders from across the energy landscape who are working together to develop a strategy for decarbonizing the global economy.

The Nicholas Institute is hiring a director to launch the new Secretariat for ETC's United States branch. The director will build the ETC effort in the U.S. by recruiting membership and developing U.S.-specific analysis and recommendations.