Who Are the “Vulnerable 20”? The V-20 Hold Joint Climate Forum, Rice U. Researches Rare Earth Metal Recycling, Pennsylvania Sewage Plant Converts Waste to Biofuels

by | May 11, 2022 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Who are the “Vulnerable 20”? Plus the V-20 Hold a joint climate forum. Rice U. researches rare earth metal recycling, and a Pennsylvania sewage plant converts waste to biofuels.



Last month, in Washington, DC, finance ministers of the Vulnerable Twenty (V20), a coalition of 55 vulnerable developing countries, have agreed to design and test a funding facility to address the devastating losses and damages that climate impacts are incurring on lives, land, livelihoods and infrastructure. 

They will use resources from a joint Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) & V20 Multi-Donor Fund and urge G7, G20 and philanthropies to further support efforts through the Fund. In a communique, the group noted rising public expenditure on climate change loss and damage in the absence of international support and call on the UN climate negotiations at COP27 later this year to establish an international financing mechanism for loss and damage “in solidarity with victims least responsible for, and least equipped to withstand, the increasingly extreme shocks driven by climate change.

Takeaways from the forum include: 

  •       V20 members have begun formulating their own climate prosperity plans as investment strategies to support maximum ambition climate action to protect our economies while enhancing socio-economic outcomes and optimizing our domestic renewable energy potential.
  •       With the development of the Accelerated Financing Mechanism (AFM), the V20 aims to unlock at least USD 100 billion in primarily financial cooperation guarantees to bring down the cost of capital to leverage the trillions of private sector investments into resilient, nature-based infrastructure and renewable energy projects. 
  •       With the Sustainable Insurance Facility (SIF), together with the G7 and G20 partners of the InsuResilience Global Partnership, the V-20 is investing in the sustainable development of their domestic insurance sectors to help close the financial protection gap against climate and disaster risks, focusing first on the micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) sector as the major employer and livelihood supporter across the V20.

Why do the results of the Climate Vulnerable Forum matter to us? It reminds us of the importance of inclusivity in decision-making processes and to include V20 representation. The most vulnerable economies deserve the same collaboration deserving of replication that the G-7 and G-20 share.




But who are the V20? Well, as Jeffrey said, there are actually 55 member states spanning three regions–Africa and the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America and the Caribbean. Combined, the 55 nations make up 15% of the world’s population (1.4 billion), yet emit only 5% of the total global share of GHGs.

The Vulnerable Twenty (V20) Group of Ministers of Finance of the Climate Vulnerable Forum is a dedicated cooperation initiative of economies systemically vulnerable to climate change. The V20 works through dialogue and action to tackle global climate change.

The call to create the V20 originated from the Climate Vulnerable Forum’s Costa Rica 2013-2015 Action Plan in a major effort to strengthen economic and financial responses to climate change. It foresaw a high-level policy dialogue pertaining to action on climate change and the promotion of climate resilient and low emission development with full competence for addressing economic and financial issues beyond the remit of any one organization.

The Vulnerable Twenty (V20) Group was established with the inaugural meeting of the V20 Ministers of Finance of the Climate Vulnerable Forum in conjunction with the 2015 Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund.

DEEPER DIVE: Vulnerable20, Costa Rica Action Plan



After 30 years of service, the equipment in the wastewater treatment plant in Edmonds, Pennsylvania recently found itself at the end of its service life. Rather than shut it down, or replace it with the same old technology disguised as new machinery, the owners did something great for the climate. They chose to re-outfit the plant in partnership with Pittsburgh, PA-based Ecoremedy. 

According to its website, Ecoremedy provides the world’s most flexible and advanced platform for nutrient and energy recovery from organic residuals. In other words, they turn waste from wastewater into energy. The goal is to help the plant reach near zero CO2 emissions.

The upgrade at the plant is possible in part because of $14.4 million in revenue bonds financed through a Edmonds City Council ordinance passed in June 2020.

The equipment takes the sewage sludge (ew) and turns it into a gas. Wastewater Treatment Plant Manager Pamela Randolph explains, “With this new system, our plant can now remove things from the wastewater stream that were beyond the ability of the original incineration setup including microplastics, pharmaceuticals and PFAS.”

Turning sludge into energy will reduce the electrical consumption by a third, it will produce more energy than it uses—eliminating the need for fossil fuels—and convert residual solids into a marketable product called biochar. Biochar is a stable form of carbon that can’t easily escape into the atmosphere. It’s used as a soil amendment to enhance nutrient and soil structure. It also promotes microbial activity, which in turn accelerates the composting process. 

Why do the improvements to the Edmonds treatment plant matter to us? A 2020 Scientific Reports finding lists wastewater treatment plants as responsible for at least 9% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Construction is set for July and August 2022. 

DEEPER DIVE: Edmonds News, Ecoremedy, Nature



James Tour, an organic chemist at Rice University, is leading a team of researchers looking into new methods of recycling ‘rare earth’ elements from industrial waste and old electronics. These rare earth elements, or REEs, are used in things like magnets that power clean energy technology, telescope lenses and screens from smartphones.

Truth be told, REEs aren’t actually that rare. It’s just that they have to be separated from other elements in order to be used. So, the extraction process is tedious. Simon Jowitt, a geochemist at the University of Nevada said, “It’s energy- and chemically intensive. Depending on how you process them, it involves high-strength acids. Those acids can leach into the environment.”

The Rice University group is testing a recycling method that relies on using intense electricity called “flash joule heating.” This occurs when the substances to break down are put into a quartz tube and quickly heated with electricity to around 5400 degrees Fahrenheit. The separated components are then dissolved in a solution for chemists to retrieve later.

Why does rare earth elements recycling matter to us? After testing their process on a few types of industrial waste, the team concluded flash joule heating could be economically viable: It requires only about $12 of electricity per ton of waste product, lower than standard methods used currently.

DEEPER DIVE: Pop Sci, EOS, Science, Nature Communications