News briefs: Everest rises, money and tech for SDGs

Plus, House passes $9 bln water resources bill, and the environmental damage caused by mining lithium

Everest is taller than we thought: China and Nepal this week, after years of fraught discussion and surveying work, announced a revision to the elevation of Mount Everest: Officials say the summit now stands at 8,848.86 meters, or 29,031.69 feet above sea level, according to a report from NPR. That makes the official measurement more than 2 feet taller than the consensus had it on Monday.

Money and tech in achieving sustainable development goals

The IISD has published a policy brief on the role of finance and technology in achieving sustainable development. The brief warns that while the world has enough money to fund sustainable development, there is a financing gap and a persistent digital divide to achieve the SDGs. Author Elena Kosolapova writes that “technology, finance, and capacity building, together with inclusive and equitable globalization and trade, regional integration, and enabling environments” can help address climate change, biodiversity loss, growing inequalities, poverty, and hunger, among other challenges. It acknowledges that without transferring technological and financial resources to developing countries, the world cannot achieve the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

House passes $9.9 billion water resources bill

A new water resources bill is closer to reality following the House’s approval of a compromise measure worked out in negotiations among lawmakers from both chambers, the Engineering News-Record reports. The legislation, the product of a bipartisan, bicameral deal, would authorize about $9.9 billion in federal funds for 46 Army Corps of Engineers flood control, environmental restoration, coastal protection and other projects. ENR estimates the projects’ total costs, including nonfederal shares, at $14.4 billion. But advocates of Environmental Protection Agency water infrastructure programs, including aid for wastewater-treatment projects, were disappointed that lawmakers didn’t include any funding in the bill beyond the dollars for the Corps, according to the report.

Sound light transit running on ‘carbon-free’ electricity

Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority, also known as Sound Transit, says its Link light rail system in the Seattle metropolitan area is running on carbon-free electricity, according to a report in Railway Age. The agency is now purchasing wind energy from Puget Sound Energy’s Green Direct program under a 10-year contract, a move projected to save more than $390,000 in electricity costs over the contract term. According to the report, six Link light rail accounts with PSE, which serve the airport and Angle Lake stations, are receiving renewable energy from western Washington’s Skookumchuk Wind Facility. Those accounts had made up about 70% of Sound Transit’s greenhouse gas emissions from electricity. The rest of the Link system is powered by Seattle City Light, a carbon neutral electric facility, so now all of Link light rail runs on carbon-free and renewable energy, Sound Transit said.

Collateral damage to sourcing lithium for EVs

The race is on to find a steady source of lithium, a key component in rechargeable electric car batteries. But while the EU focuses on emissions, the lithium gold rush threatens environmental damage on an industrial scale, Oliver Balch reports for The Guardian. The urgency in getting a lithium supply has unleashed a mining boom, and the race for “white oil” threatens to cause damage to the natural environment wherever it is found. But because they are helping to drive down emissions, the mining companies have EU environmental policy on their side, the article notes. Even before the pandemic, alarm was mounting about sourcing lithium, according to the report, quoting Thea Riofrancos, a political economist at Providence College in Rhode Island: “There’s a fundamental question behind all this about the model of consumption and production that we now have, which is simply not sustainable. Everyone having an electric vehicle means an enormous amount of mining, refining and all the polluting activities that come with it.”