Sat 22 May 2021

Getting to Net Zero - and beyond

G Graham Public Seen by 138

One of the cooperative organisations that I work with (not a worker co-op) has just agreed to commence work on a decarbonisation programme for itself and its members (who are mainly businesses, including some pretty big ones). Looks like I'm going to be pretty heavily involved in the work. So I'm keen to find out about any other cooperative economy initiatives around climate change, net zero, etc., focussing on decarbonising businesses, that I might engage with and learn from. Also wondering if there is already some sort of network/grouping in place on this issue that I might engage in, and if not, whether there are any co-operatives interested in creating some sort of networks for mutual learning, sharing of good practice, etc.


Zev Friedman, Co-operate WNC Sat 22 May 2021

@Graham we have been working on a program as part of our mutual aid network (Cooperate WNC- www.co-operatewnc.org) in western North Carolina, U.S., called Carbon Harvest, that is organizing a cooperative regional-scale carbon offset and agroforestry initiative. The idea is to use our own voluntary carbon offset program starting at around $70/ton and moving towards $120/ton, selling to organizations, businesses, households in our area, then that money is used to help farmers and landowners pay for the 3-5 year establishment/conversion costs of carbon sequestering, food-producing agroforestry systems including silvopasture and riparian reforestation. We spent a year gathering a coalition of interested farmers and other stakeholders and developing the concept into a white paper which I can share with you. We have not done any physical work yet. The cooperative structure will either be a producer coop of farmers, or a multi-stakeholder coop including farmers, purchasers and NGO's.

Also, Green America (formerly Coop America), has a whole bunch of regenerative agriculture work they've done at a national and international scale with various partners, with different levels of cooperative structure. Check them out online.

Both of the above examples are more climate mitigation/adaptation/resilience and carbon sequestration, rather than decarbonisation. In terms of decarbonisation specifically, another thing we're looking at through our WNC Purchasing Alliance, which is a cooperative bulk purchasing initiative modeled after the successful Community Purchasing Alliance in Washington, D.C., is cooperative bulk purchasing and installation contracts for renewably charged electric vehicle charging stations throughout our large rural area (22 counties of western NC, about the size of the state of Massachusetts), with charging stations to be located at multi-functional mutual aid community centers where child care, food distribution, regenerative farming, emergency response etc. are also happening. Then we can charge up electric delivery trucks for our purchasing alliance distribution at these same stations and enable and quicker practical transition to renewably powered aggregation and distribution. Also we are working on developing worker coop, Black and Brown-owned solar installation companies to begin doing this installation work and democratize the knowledge and wealth generation from this coming boom of activity.

In terms of networks and groupings on this topic, I don't know of anyone but I am curious what might be going on in Emilia Romagna region of Italy, and in Japan, in this arena. Would need contacts and language access to really get in there and figure out what they're doing. Thanks for starting this conversation, I'm following and glad to talk with you in person.


Graham Sat 22 May 2021

Wow! So many good things in your post to get my teeth into @Zev Friedman, Co-operate WNC - thank so much. I'm just beginning to familiarise myself with the landscape on this stuff, and you are clearly well ahead. Looking forward to the continuing conversation.


Zev Friedman, Co-operate WNC Sat 22 May 2021

@Graham can you point me towards some of the organizations/initiatives you are working on?


Graham Wed 26 May 2021

Hi @Zev Friedman, Co-operate WNC - I'm initially focussed on an organisation called INCA (Independent Networks Cooperative Association) which is a not for profit trade association serving non-incumbent telecoms/broadband network builders and operators and others in the sector here in the UK. It's a fast growing business community, with lots of investment going in right now. Of course, building fibre broadband networks has a good impact on emissions because it enables more people to get more stuff done without needing to travel. That said, the work of building and running these networks is fairly energy intensive, so we're beginning the journey of working out how to decarbonise that activity as much possible, and investing in offset to balance the thing. I'm very interested in your plan for offset investment into regenerative ag. Also the EV charging idea is interesting given that these companies are building largely underground infrastructure, so investing in EV charging might have a lot of interest and alignment.


Zev Friedman, Co-operate WNC Wed 26 May 2021

Thanks @Graham for explaining this. We're looking into broadband infrastructure too for our rural network which largely does not have access to highspeed internet. That's an interesting point, are you suggesting that EV lines and fiber lines would be installed at the same time in the same trenches? How are you all doing financing for the fibre networks and for the decarbonisation component?


Graham Thu 27 May 2021

The biggest cost element for building any sort of physical network is the civil engineering - digging up the streets to lay cable. I'm guessing this also has a high carbon cost. Hence it makes a lot of sense to dig once and put all the infrastructure in the ground at the same time, be that fibre for telecoms or cabling for EV charging stations. In our case our members are the companies building the fibre networks - that's their core business.


Graham Wed 9 Jun 2021

Surprised not to see more traction on this post. Probably mainly due to Loomio's seeming inability to get stuff out in a way that sticks, or general lack of engagement with this space, but also wondering if worker co-ops and others who are engaged here are simply not engaging with this issue, or maybe think they've already got it nailed?


Jenny Stein Fri 11 Jun 2021

Hi Graham,

You are right Graham. This is the absolutely THE most important topic. I think about it a lot as I know others do. But I find that naturally, my first point of call for ideas/suggestions/initiatives
is my own coop – Suma - rather than this forum. Because it’s my day job (with a demanding workload), my income and my primary focus.

I would love to see a vibrant creative dialogue going on in this forum. But personally, speaking for myself as an individual, this is not the first place I go to as a busy worker coop member. It’s
more a place I keep an eye on and try to engage with intermittently at a low level. I get the feeling it’s probably similar for many people.

I will make sure that I follow up and update myself on where Suma’s up to with engagement in this forum at an ‘official’ level though.

Thanks for raising it and for creating a space for the conversation.



Graham Fri 11 Jun 2021

Hi Jenny. Nice to see you here. It would be great to connect with Suma, and others, on this Net Zero issue, and if Loomio isn't the optimal place to do that that's fine. For me cooperatives could and should be at the forefront on this, and leveraging our cooperative V&Ps. It feels like a no-brainer.


Dan Holden (Unicorn Grocery) Fri 11 Jun 2021

I'd just like to echo Jenny's comments - but replace 'Suma' with 'Unicorn'!