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Companies Hope to Turn Trash into Treasure

More and more consumers are worrying about the environment, and companies are taking note. According to a 2015 Nielsen study, 58 percent of people willing to pay more for a product were influenced by a brand being environmentally friendly. This ecological purchasing influence coincides with many new companies making innovative products with recycled material. Although it's hard to know definitively if these two trends are linked, Billy Pizer, a professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke and a faculty fellow at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, tells Yahoo Finance that companies increasingly appeal to consumers' environmentally friendly nature. "[Consumers] just care more about the environment," Pizer said. "Environmental problems are more palpable now than they were 10 or 15 years ago." 

President Xi Supersizes Environmental Agency ($)

China has consolidated and strengthened its environmental regulatory bureaucracy in a "superagency," a move environmentalists say will support its domestic greenhouse gas rules and help deliver China's current commitment to the Paris climate accord. The change came last week as part of an overhaul of China's government aimed at elevating the priorities of President Xi Jinping, who recently became president for life. The government hopes to complete it this year. Jackson Ewing, a senior fellow with the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, told a ClimateWire that Xi's objective in making the change was to signal again that China is entering a period of "cleaner, more balanced growth ... not as solely focused on economic growth, but rather on some steady but important environmental advances as part of his mandate and part of what he wants his legacy to be."

Beijing is Fundamentally Changing its Environmental Governance, but will it Work?

On March 13, China announced its most significant environmental governance reforms of this decade. Coming on the heels of President Xi Jinping securing the possibility of long-term presidential powers, the State Council presented draft plans to consolidate environmental policymaking in the newly formed Ministry of Ecological Environment. Jackson Ewing, a senior fellow at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and an adjunct associate professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy, writes in The Diplomat that the effectiveness of this new ministry will inform not only China’s environmental future, but also its stability, its socioeconomic ambitions, and global efforts to address environmental challenges.

Portrait of Jackson Ewing

News Tip: Expert Available for Comment on China’s Environment Ministry Restructuring

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, March 14, 2018

China’s 10-year-old Ministry of Environmental Protection will be transformed into the wider-reaching Ministry for Ecological Environment, and will absorb environmental duties formerly held by the land, water and agriculture ministries. The changes are expected to be approved Saturday.

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Energy Access Project director Jonathan Phillips speaks to Andrew Herscowitz, coordinator, USAID/Power Africa, about the evolution of the Power Africa Initiative during EAP Launch event.

Seven Takeaways from the Energy Access Project Launch

Some of the leading lights from the energy access community convened in Washington, D.C., February 23 for the launch of Duke University’s Energy Access Project. As the new project assembles its agenda, leaders from business, government, and civil society weighed in on the market and policy challenges facing the billions of people lacking access to modern energy. Here’s some of what we heard.

We Can Reduce Methane Emissions. Here’s How.

In 2016 U.S., Canadian and Mexican leaders pledged to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector 40 to 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025. Canada is just beginning to propose regulatory limits on methane. But Mexico has made only nonbinding pledges, and the Trump administration is rolling back federal methane standards. Nevertheless, write the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions Kate Konschnik and her co-author Sarah Jordaan in the News & Observer, states, industry, academics, and nongovernmental organizations are advancing methane measurement and mitigation efforts. They are acting despite deep uncertainty—the magnitude of leaks from oil and gas infrastructure remains disputed and insufficiently measured—and against a backdrop of rapidly evolving research. But to be effective, these actors need to work in concert, fully informed by the latest science. In a newly published article in Climate Policy, Konschnick and Jordaan suggest a North American Methane Reduction Framework to coordinate regulation, voluntary actions, and scientific developments. This approach could bridge the divide between science and policy, and drive new research that in turn can support better federal policies when governments are ready to act.

Rivers Run Through Us: Six Questions on the Future of our Waterways

For American Scholar, Martin Doyle, director of the the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions Water Policy Program, poses six questions on the future of waterways. Doyle just penned a book The Source: How Rivers Made America and America Remade Its Rivers, documents the complex history of our nation’s waterways, taking into consideration such subjects as politics, ecology, and economics. 

Jim Rogers

Duke University Introduces Energy Access Project in D.C.

Leaders from business, government, civil society and academia convened in Washington, D.C., on February 23 to explore one of the world's most pressing challenges at Accelerating Global Energy Access, the formal introduction to Duke University's Energy Access Project. Nearly a third of humanity lacks reliable electricity and three billion people are without clean fuels and technologies for cooking. At the event, Energy Access Project staff and sector leaders examined ways to tackle the energy access challenge in conversation on the use of renewables, so-called last mile electrification, and financing to support viable pathways to sustainable and modern energy solutions for all.

To Slow Climate Change, the U.S. Needs to Address Nuclear Power’s Dismal Economics

In late December 2017, the Georgia Public Service Commission faced a major decision: whether to cancel construction of two nuclear power reactors at Plant Vogtle, near Waynesboro, which had been plagued by delays and escalating costs. Now the only large-scale nuclear construction underway in the United States, nuclear advocates called the unanimous vote to allow construction at Vogtle to continue a win for the economy and the environment. In reality, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions Director Tim Profeta writes in The Conversation, the decision says more about the challenges facing the nuclear industry in the 21st century. If nuclear power is to be part of a U.S. climate change strategy over the next century, policymakers must address its increasingly precarious economics.

Looking for Lessons along the Colorado River

In a series of stories on the Colorado River, the New Mexico Political Report covered the forging of the Colorado River Compact, quoting Water Policy Program director Martin Doyle's The Source: How Rivers Made America and America Remade Its Rivers. The book describes how, with a view to “limiting the potential for observers and interlopers," then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover sequestered Colorado River Commission members at a remote ranch in New Mexico. The ensuing talks, writes Doyle, “were held with only the delegate and advisors (an engineering adviser and a legal adviser) from each state; this approach minimized outside or lobbying during the actual talks and allowed the commissioners to negotiate concessions without immediately infuriating their state interests. These conditions, combined with Hoover’s constant cajoling and needling and prodding, resulted in a compact that hinged on a great compromise.”