Archive for June, 2010

Is Sustainability Finally on the Political Agenda?

Posted by admin on June 30, 2010
Posted under Express 115

Is Sustainability Finally on the Political Agenda?

In her first week on the job, Australia’s new Prime Minister put sustainability on the policy agenda, most notably in relation to population. Julia Gillard gained some welcome support in the process, but also a warning that she shouldn’t take the climate change issue lightly. Here’s hoping there’s action in the form of a price on carbon with an election looming, as Tim Flannery and Dick Smith have their say. Leading oceans scientist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg comes into the spotlight for his IPCC appointment. Leadership changes practically obscured Government’s significant move to make Renewable Energy more conducive to investment, while Beyond Zero Emissions thinks we need to go for a 100% target by 2020. The G20 might not have delivered much renewed hope, but President Obama is still hoping to get a clean energy bill through this year. India is coming clean with a biomass boost, as reports from the international adaptation conference that rising sea levels refuse to go away. Whales have missed out on much needed international protection, even though sustainable tourism is starting to be taken more seriously. Strategic Directions has designs on new clean energy data centres, while a solar decathlon attracts global attention and the sun shines on a European festival site. Take the good with the bad. – Ken Hickson

Profile: Ove Hoegh-Guldberg

Posted by admin on June 30, 2010
Posted under Express 115

Profile:  Ove Hoegh-Guldberg

A scientist who pioneered knowledge of the links between climate change and coral reefs. University of Queensland researcher and Director of the Global Change Institute, Prof Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, has been selected as the IPCC Coordinating Lead Author  on “Open Oceans”, His work exemplifies how researchers can help communities around the world understand and manage the most challenging issues. IPCC author teams consist of leading experts in the respective fields with a range of scientific views on climate change.

UQ Scientist named Coordinating Lead Author for next IPCC report

University of Queensland researcher and Director of the Global Change Institute, Prof Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, has been selected as the Coordinating Lead Author of Chapter 30, “Open Oceans”, to the Working Group II (WGII) contribution of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  

 The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), scheduled for completion in 2013-2014, will be the next comprehensive assessment of all aspects of climate change by the IPCC.  

UQ Vice-Chancellor & President Professor Paul Greenfield said Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg was an excellent scientist and a fine choice by the IPCC. “Ove has pioneered knowledge of the links between climate change and coral reefs. His service to the IPCC will exemplify how UQ researchers can help communities around the world understand and manage the most challenging issues.”

The IPCC Working Group II assesses the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive consequences of climate change, and options for adapting to its consequences.

Coordinating Lead Authors play a leading role in ensuring that any crosscutting scientific or technical issues, which may involve several sections of a report, are addressed in a complete and coherent manner and reflect the latest information available.

The author teams will conduct the scientific-technical assessment using procedures that emphasize comprehensiveness, scientific independence, openness, thorough review and transparency.

Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg has published works that include over 180 refereed publications and book chapters and is one of the most cited authors within the peer-reviewed literature on climate change and its impacts on natural ecosystems.  

Other Coordinating Lead Authors from Australia in Working Group II include:

Roger Jones, Victoria University, Ch. 2, “Foundations for Decision Making”; Ian Noble, The World Bank, Ch. 14, “Adaptation Needs and Options”;  Roger Kitching, Griffith University, Ch. 25, “Australasia”;  Roger McLean, University of New South Wales, Ch. 29 “Small Islands”

A number of other Australians have also been selected to participate in WGII as Contributing Authors and Reviewing Editors, as the work on the Fifth Assessment Report progresses.  

Geneva, 23 June 2010 – The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) announces today the release of the final list of selected Coordinating Lead Authors, Lead Authors and Review Editors. This unique team of 831 climate change experts will dedicate almost four years to the three Working Group Reports of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) to be published between 2013 and 2014. These experts will also provide contributions to the Synthesis Report to be published in 2014.

In the selection of authors particular attention has been given to relevant expertise to ensure that IPCC author teams consist of leading experts in the respective fields with a range of scientific views on climate change. The 831 individuals are drawn from fields including meteorology, physics, oceanography, statistics, engineering, ecology, social sciences and economics. In selecting the author teams the IPCC stressed the need for regional and gender balance and recognized the importance of involving new and younger authors.

In total 831 experts will contribute to the AR5, divided between the three working groups (WG). WGI focuses on the physical science basis and will include 258 experts. WGII assesses the impacts, adaptation strategies and vulnerability related to climate change and will involve 302 experts. WGIII covers mitigation response strategies in an integrated risk and uncertainty framework and its assessments will be carried out by 271 experts.

In March 2010, the IPCC received approximately 3,000 nominations. At the Bureau session held in Geneva, 19-20 May 2010, the three working groups presented their selected authors and review editors for the AR5. Each of the selected scientists, specialists and experts was nominated in accordance with IPCC procedures, by respective national IPCC Focal-Points, by approved observer organizations, or by the Bureau.

In comparison to the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), participation from developing countries has been increased reflecting the on-going efforts to improve regional coverage in the AR5. About 30% of authors will come from developing countries or economies in transition. The proportion of female experts, has significantly increased since the AR4, reaching approximately 25% of the selected authors. More than 60% of the experts chosen are new to the IPCC process, which will bring in new knowledge and perspectives.

The IPCC received 50% more nominations of experts to participate in AR5 than it did for AR4. A total of 559 authors and review editors had been selected for AR4 from 2,000 proposed nominees.

“This increase reflects the high regard of the IPCC’s work within the scientific community”, said Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the IPCC. “The IPCC is very grateful to all those scientists, specialists and experts who will give their time freely to participate in the work of AR5.”


Just last month, the latest of Ove’s scientific papers was published in Science (18 June 2010). Here’s the abstract:


The Impact of Climate Change on the World’s Marine Ecosystems

By Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and John F. Bruno

Marine ecosystems are centrally important to the biology of the planet, yet a comprehensive understanding of how anthropogenic climate change is affecting them has been poorly developed. Recent studies indicate that rapidly rising greenhouse gas concentrations are driving ocean systems toward conditions not seen for millions of years, with an associated risk of fundamental and irreversible ecological transformation. The impacts of anthropogenic climate change so far include decreased ocean productivity, altered food web dynamics, reduced abundance of habitat-forming species, shifting species distributions, and a greater incidence of disease. Although there is considerable uncertainty about the spatial and temporal details, climate change is clearly and fundamentally altering ocean ecosystems. Further change will continue to create enormous challenges and costs for societies worldwide, particularly those in developing countries.

Here’s what Ove says about himself:

My early fascination with the ocean led to studies at the University of Sydney (BSc Hons) and UCLA (PhD). After returning from the United States in 1992, I took academic positions at the University of Sydney and the University of Queensland (2000). Over this period, I built up the Coral Reef Ecosystems group, pursuing questions from molecular to global scales.

The full range of my research interests and laboratory group are detailed at the lab website and in my CV.

In addition to my love of science, I have been deeply motivated by the desire to communicate science effectively and to help solve the serious problems that ecosystems such as coral reefs face. In this respect I have actively collaborated with organisations such as the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, Royal Society of London and World Bank, as well as advising government and business on the science and urgency associated with climate change.

I have also worked extensively with the media, believing that scientists need to extend the impact of their science using the full set of communication options. This one of the primary reasons for why I maintain the active blog,

And a fuller biography:

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg is currently Professor of Marine Studies and Director of the Global Change Institute at The University of Queensland. Ove has held academic positions at UCLA, Stanford University, The University of Sydney and The University of Queensland and is currently a member of the Australian Climate Group; the Royal Society (London) Marine Advisory Network; and the Board of Editing Reviewers at Science Magazine. He also heads a large research laboratory (over 30 researchers & students) that focuses on how global warming and ocean acidification are affecting and will affect coral reefs now and into the future.

Ove completed his BSc Hons at the University of Sydney and PhD at UCLA in 1989, and has spent the past 20 years working on climate change issues within marine ecosystems. He was recognised in 1999 with the Eureka Prize in 1999 for “ground-breaking research into the physiological basis of coral bleaching”. Ove’s published works include over 180 refereed publications and book chapters. Three of his publications are now the 1st, 4th and 6th most cited works over the past 10 years in the area of “climate change”. Two of these papers are also the 1st and 2nd most cited papers over the past 10 years in the area of “coral reefs”: 649 (Hoegh-Guldberg 1999) and 426 (Hughes et al. 2003). His recent Science paper in Dec 2007 is now ISI’s hottest paper (most cited over the past two years) in the both the area of “climate change” and “ocean acidification” (cited 192 times in <24 months). In 2008, he became a Queensland Smart State Premier’s Fellow.

Ove is also a regular contributor to the media, with his work over the past 12 months featuring in the ABC (Catalyst), BBC (with Sir David Attenborough) and NBC (with Tom Brokaw), reaching over 15 million people in Australia, the UK and the USA. In his role as Deputy Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and as Coordinator for the Australasian Centre for Excellence and Chair of the Bleaching Working Group within the World Bank-Global Environment Facility Coral Reef Targeted Research project. Hoegh-Guldberg interacts with a wide array of national and international scientific networks that focus on the challenges that climate change poses to the health of the world’s oceans.

In addition to his work as a university academic, Ove has been advisor to numerous organisations including the Royal Society (London), Greenpeace, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Rio Tinto Aluminium, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, The World Bank, UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, NOAA and the Australian Government on the issue of coral reefs and climate change.   Ove Hoegh-Guldberg become the Queensland Smart State Premier’s Fellow in 2009, a position he will hold for 5 years.

About the Global Change Institute

The University of Queensland established the Global Change Institute (GCI) to provide a vehicle for collaborative research, learning, engagement and advocacy in major global change issues.

The GCI will contribute to evidence-based, progressive solutions to the problems of a rapidly-changing world within the existing and projected frameworks of those problems: political, environmental, social, economic and technical. The GCI will investigate complex, interconnected issues in innovative ways, in order to achieve multi-disciplinary, integrated solutions.

About the IPCC

The IPCC is a scientific body which reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change. Thousands of scientists from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC on a voluntary basis. Review is an essential part of the IPCC process, to ensure an objective and complete assessment of current information. Differing viewpoints existing within the scientific community are reflected in the IPCC reports.

Because of its scientific and intergovernmental nature, the IPCC embodies a unique opportunity to provide rigorous and balanced scientific information to decision makers. By endorsing the IPCC reports, governments acknowledge the authority of their scientific content. The work of the organization is therefore policy-relevant and yet policy-neutral, never policy-prescriptive.

Source: and

As G20 Falters, More Pressure on US and OZ

Posted by admin on June 30, 2010
Posted under Express 115

As G20 Falters, More Pressure on US and OZ

Last weekend’s G20 summit failed to deliver anything new or strong on climate change action, most observers , while in Washington President Obama urged a bipartisan group of senators to put a “price” on carbon pollution, as they draft energy and climate legislation to pass this year. While in Australia there’s a call for economists to trust predictions from climate scientists and stop tinkering around the edges of the climate change debate.

Ron Johnson in Earth Island Journal (29 June 2010):

The G20 Summit is almost two years old. And like an infant approaching its terrible twos, the ad hoc gang of developed countries with no real structure or mandate is starting to get out of hand.

Heading into the G8 and G20 summits in Muskoka and Toronto, there were a number of areas where the developed countries had the opportunity to show leadership and initiative, and introduce progressive ideas. The results, to say the least, are mixed.

Following is a breakdown of key climate-related initiatives the world was hoping the summits might tackle, and what actually happened at this year’s G8 and G20:

1. Move forward with an aggressive plan to deal with the climate crisis and gain momentum heading into COP16 in Cancun. No such luck. Canada announced some fast track financing, but there were little to no new initiatives discussed at the G8 or G20, and the report coming out of the G8 in Muskoka is almost identical in tone and intent to previous commitments.
2. Get tough and eliminate the billions of dollars of fossil fuel subsidies to companies such as British Petroleum and other upstanding corporate citizens. Uh, wrong again. The whole eliminate fossil fuel subsidies thing must have been decided upon after a long night at the pub because G20 leaders this weekend seemed to be trying hard to forget it ever happened. 
3. Enact a tax on financial transactions, dubbed the “Robin Hood Tax,” and earmark the revenues for social spending and climate change. Yes! Nah, just kidding. Wouldn’t that be nice though? A simple .05 per cent tax on transactions from corporations raking in billions in profits and, well, bailout revenue, to go to progressive social and environmental programs. There was lip service paid to keeping banks in line, so that’s good… right?

Instead, with the global financial recovery in a tenuous state, security threats from North Korea and Iran, and deficit consolidation dominatng the conference, little to no attention was paid to so-called “non-economic mandates,” such as the future of life on our planet. Ahem.

“I mean, there has been very little substantial in the G20 on climate change issues,” said Kim Carstensen, WWF Global Climate Initiative. “It is the bare minimum of engagement, the bare minimum making reference to climate change at this level.”

Carstensen also voiced concern over the disturbing omission of any talk about clean energy in the final communique.

“In an earlier draft there was talk of an investment in clean energy and that was taken out completely,” he said. “There were eight references to clean energy in the final report from Pittsburgh (the last G20 Summit) and they have been completely vacuum cleaned and that is kind of scary.”

There was a report by Mexican President Felipe Calderon on the state of climate change negotiations leading up to the United Nations climate conference in Cancun, Mexico this November, but Calderon’s press conference following the plenary sessions was cancelled and little follow-up was offered.

“I think, there has been no back tracking,” said Carstensen, in an attempt to remain upbeat as the proceedings wrap up. “So if we want to stay where we are that is a good thing, but if we think climate change needs to move forward and be more ambitious, then this is definitely not a success.”

That leaves some scratching their heads wondering when the G20 is going to move beyond being a forum for the global economic recovery and start throwing its weight around on issues that are considered by many to be equally, if not far more, important.

“As climate change continues to gather pace, it’s the poorest and most vulnerable that are bearing the real costs. The G20 needs to get serious,” said Robert Bailey of Oxfam International.

All eyes now turn to Cancun, Mexico where this November the United Nations countries will meet to try and hammer home a progressive and binding climate change agreement.

Following are the three paragraphs included with regard to climate change and environmental issue from the Toronto Declaration:

41. We reiterate our commitment to a green recovery and to sustainable global growth. Those of us who have associated with the Copenhagen Accord reaffirm our support for it and its implementation and call on others to associate with it. We are committed to engage in negotiations under the UNFCCC on the basis of its objective provisions and principles including common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and are determined to ensure a successful outcome through an inclusive process at the Cancun Conferences. We thank Mexico for undertaking to host the sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP 16) in Cancun from November 29 to December 20, 2010 and express our appreciation for its efforts to facilitate negotiations. We look forward to the outcome of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing which is, inter alia, exploring innovative finance.

42. We note with appreciation the report on energy subsidies from the International Energy Agency (IEA), Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), OECD and World Bank. We welcome the work of Finance and Energy Ministers in delivering implementation strategies and timeframes, based on national circumstances, for the rationalization and phase out over the medium term of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption, taking into account vulnerable groups and their development needs. We also encourage continued and full implementation of country-specific strategies and will continue to review progress towards this commitment at upcoming summits.

43. Following the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico we recognize the need to share best practices to protect the marine environment, prevent accidents related to offshore exploration and development, as well as transportation, and deal with their consequences.

Ron Johnson is based in Toronto, Canada, where he is an editor for Post City magazines and contributes to The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, The National Post and the London Business Times. He is covering the G20 Summit (2010) in Toronto for Earth Island Journal.


By Linda Feldmann, Staff writer in Christian Science Monitor (29 June 2010):

President Obama urged a bipartisan group of senators Tuesday to put a “price” on carbon pollution, as they draft energy and climate legislation the White House hopes to pass this year.

Many Republicans call carbon pricing a “tax” that would harm the already-ailing economy, and therefore they oppose it. But in the eyes of many Democrats, including Mr. Obama, a “polluter pays” provision in the legislation will help reduce America’s unhealthy dependence on fossil fuels.

“The president told the senators that he still believes the best way for us to transition to a clean energy economy is with a bill that makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses by putting a price on pollution – because when companies pollute, they should be responsible for the costs to the environment and their contribution to climate change,” according to a White House readout of the closed-door session with about 20 senators.

“Not all of the senators agreed with this approach,” the statement added, “and the president welcomed other approaches and ideas.”

Democratic senators who attended the meeting said afterward that Obama argued passionately for pricing carbon emissions. But they also acknowledged Republican resistance, and are trying to find a compromise that can win enough votes to pass. One Senate leader on the issue, John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts, said he and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I) of Connecticut are ready to “scale back the reach of our legislation” to gain more support.

Last year, the House passed energy and climate-change legislation, but its ambitious “cap and trade” system for limiting carbon emissions is a nonstarter in the Senate.

Still, Senator Lieberman, speaking from the White House driveway after Tuesday’s meeting, sounded an encouraging note on the prospect for compromise with Republicans.

“A very important thing that happened around the table is that some of our colleagues who up until this time had been at least publicly reluctant about the polluter pays, putting a price on carbon pollution, said that they’d be willing to discuss limited terms of doing that in this bill. And to me that’s a breakthrough,” Lieberman said, according to ABC News.

One possibility is to cap carbon emissions on utilities, but not on manufacturing or transportation, Senator Kerry said.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) of Tennessee, another attendee at the meeting, said that as long as a “national energy tax” was off the table, he saw “no reason why we can’t have clean energy legislation.”

Finishing energy legislation by the end of the year could be a long throw. The Gulf oil spill has added fresh urgency to the issue, and the bill could raise the liability caps on oil companies and impose stricter rules on offshore drilling.

But Democrats are hoping to achieve much more, as the clock winds down on their large majorities in Congress. The death Monday of Sen. Robert Byrd (D) of West Virginia adds another wrinkle to the party’s drive for energy reform. Though Senator Byrd represented a coal state, he had shown recent signs of willingness to compromise on the carbon emissions question. West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) has yet to appoint a successor, but whoever it is may not be so flexible.


Phillip Thomson in Canberra Times (29 June 2010):

Economists must trust predictions from climate scientists and stop tinkering around the edges of the climate change debate, a top federal bureaucrat said last night.

The secretary of the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Martin Parkinson, used the 2010 Sir Leslie Melville lecture to argue economists had not been adding enough to the national carbon pricing conversation. ”Despite 15 years of thinking on this issue, there are few Australian economists who could discuss any of the emissions trading scheme’s design concepts, choices and trade-offs in detail,” Dr Parkinson said.

The lecture at the Australian National University in Canberra was the ninth of its kind to honour Sir Leslie Melville, the late executive director for Australia at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Dr Parkinson said foresight of the kind Sir Leslie had would be needed to introduce an emissions trading scheme.

Economists Ross Garnaut and Warwick McKibbin were, in Dr Parkinson’s words, two rarities who had the in-depth knowledge of abatement schemes needed to lower carbon use. Dr Parkinson, an economist and former Australian Treasury deputy secretary, said the economic community needed to embrace a gradual transition to greenhouse gas reduction.

”Economists prefer to be pure in their proposed solutions to problems and are suspicious of politically negotiated outcomes and transitional assistance,” he said.

There have been unsuccessful attempts to introduce a carbon price for 15 years.

Dr Parkinson said this should not be considered failed economic reform.

The GST was an example of a policy discussed and attempted 15 years before being brought in.

”Tariff reform was formally proposed by the Tariff Board in the mid-1960s … and debate has continued over the 40-plus years since the Tariff Board’s original proposals.

”Stiff opposition was a regular occurrence in relation to proposals to reform indirect taxation, the labour market and tariffs.

”For example, the gold industry was adamant that it would cease if gold’s tax exempt status were removed.”

Lack of serious engagement from economists about climate change had deprived the public of important information. He put forward the argument that economists should believe in climate change because of the evidence provided by the scientific community.

”It is probably reasonable that economists without expertise in the relevant scientific disciplines should let scientists be the professional experts in this area,” he said.


Renewed Push for Sustainable Population & Price on Carbon

Posted by admin on June 30, 2010
Posted under Express 115

Renewed Push for Sustainable Population & Price on Carbon

Australian Conservation Foundation has welcomed Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s announcement that ecological sustainability, not the idea of a ‘Big Australia’, would be the focus of a national population policy. Electronics tycoon turned anti-immigration campaigner Dick Smith agrees. And the Greens are prepared to work with Government to put a $23 per tonne price on carbon in place by July 2011, based on the work of government adviser Professor Ross Garnaut.

AAP Reports (29 June 2010):

The Australian Greens have handed Prime Minister Julia Gillard a proposal to adopt a price on carbon within three months of Labor’s re-election.

Greens Leader Bob Brown says his five-point plan is the best way to break the stalemate on climate action, after Labor twice failed to get its carbon pollution reduction scheme through the Senate.

The Greens want a $23 per tonne price on carbon to be in place by July 2011, based on the work of government adviser Professor Ross Garnaut.

Ms Gillard’s options would be left open for a future emissions trading scheme and emissions reductions targets, Senator Brown told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

“She cited getting a carbon price in her first speech on Thursday as one of her priorities,” he said.

“She knows like all of us do that quick action on climate change is wanted.”

Under ousted prime minister Kevin Rudd, the government was marked down by voters because it backed away from an election promise to take action on climate change, Senator Brown said.

He revealed Ms Gillard had contacted him on the weekend to flag her announcement to change the population portfolio to “sustainable population”, and he looked forward to meeting with her in person soon.


Australian Conservation Foundation (27 June 2010):

The Australian Conservation Foundation has welcomed Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s announcement that ecological sustainability, not the idea of a ‘Big Australia’, would be the focus of a national population policy.

“Bigger isn’t always better, so a focus on sustainability will be in Australia’s long-term best interest far more than an arbitrary preference for a large population,” said Chuck Berger, ACF’s Director of Strategic Ideas.

“The crucial challenge for the Government will be how to translate this positive commitment to sustainability into the practical development of Australia’s first-ever national population policy.

“We need to clearly identify ecological, infrastructure and resource constraints at national, regional and local levels and set goals for our society to operate within those constraints.

“A sensible population policy would set clear targets and plans for dramatically reducing greenhouse pollution, improving water and energy efficiency, stabilising the population in the long term and protecting key ecological assets.

“Australia’s rate of population growth is now among the highest in the industrialised world.

“More people means more roads, more urban sprawl, more dams, more power lines, more energy and water use, more pollution in our air and natural environment and more pressure on our animals, plants, rivers, reefs and bush.

“If we want our kids to enjoy the same quality of life we have enjoyed, we should aim to stabilise our population and overall consumption at sustainable levels.”

He said while immigration levels should be set within an ecological context, Australia should also play a stronger role in assisting refugees.

“Australia can continue to accept refugees and accommodate family reunions while reducing overall migration to sustainable levels,” Mr Berger said.


Smith backs PM on population

Olga Galacho in Herald Sun (28 June 2010): 

FORMER electronics tycoon turned anti-immigration campaigner Dick Smith is delighted with the new Prime Minister’s opposition to rampant population growth.

Mr Smith also announced yesterday that he would award $1 million cash to a person aged under 25 in a competition to design a population “safety” plan for the nation.

Speaking exclusively to BusinessDaily, the millionaire declared he would dedicate the rest of his life to fighting policy that encouraged population growth.

Under former PM Kevin Rudd, the Federal Government was contemplating a population target of 36 million by 2050.

But yesterday, new PM Julia Gillard said she did not support the target on the grounds of sustainability.

“There are environmental issues about water and about soil. But there are also sustainability issues about planning, about services,” Ms Gillard told the Nine Network yesterday, after naming Tony Burke the new Sustainable Population Minister.

Australia’s population stands at 22 million and Mr Smith said if it grew past 26 million, the nation could struggle to feed its people.

“I am going to commit the rest of my life to this issue and to communicate to Australians that they need to wean themselves off constant growth in the economy, too,” the confessed “proud” capitalist said.

“It is just a fact that we can’t grow forever … there needs to be a way of making economies work without the constant growth and without using GDP as a measure of success.”

He conceded the transition to low or no growth could take decades because it faced opposition from organisations that donated to political parties.

Mr Smith, who has made a documentary on population growth, to screen on the ABC in August, said he has made more money out of Sydney property deals than he ever did as an electronics retailer or publisher of Australian National Geographic magazine.

He added his all-Australian Dick Smith Foods was not doing well and would probably disappear from supermarkets one day.

“I have benefited from growth and become a very wealthy man but I couldn’t just say nothing like all of my friends,” he said, adding he welcomed any criticism of a perceived double standard if it created publicity on the issue.


Can Australia go beyond 20% to 100% renewables by 2020?

Posted by admin on June 30, 2010
Posted under Express 115

Overshadowed by a leadership change last week, believe it or not but the Federal Parliament has united to deliver sweeping reforms which will drive Australia’s renewable energy target of 20 per cent of stationary generation by 2020, which pleases the Clean Energy Council and investors in this sector. But around the same time Melbourne based Beyond Zero Emissions has tabled The Zero Carbon Australia report which provides a detailed blueprint for transitioning Australia’s stationary energy sector to 100% renewable energy sources by 2020.

Clean Energy Council (24 June 2010)

NATIONAL: The Federal Parliament has united to deliver sweeping reforms which will drive Australia’s renewable energy target of 20 per cent of stationary generation by 2020.

The passage of the Gillard government’s enhanced Renewable Energy Target (eRET) legislation today marks the biggest climate change reform in Australia’s history with the support and input from the coalition, the Greens and independent Senator Nick Xenophon.

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Matthew Warren said the welcome reforms would unlock more than $20 billion in investment in major generation projects while creating a stable growth path for household scale technologies like solar hot water and solar PV panels.

“It is rewarding to see all sides of politics come together to deliver and enhance these important reforms that will underpin the creation of a world-class Australian clean energy industry this century,” he said.

“This completes a first important step forward in decarbonising energy in Australia.  It’s now important for the industry get on with the job.” 


Beyond Zero emissions

MELBOURNE – On Tuesday June 22, climate change solutions research group Beyond Zero Emissions launched the Zero Carbon Australia – Stationary Energy report at the Australian Parliament in Canberra. 

The Zero Carbon Australia report provides a detailed blueprint for transitioning Australia’s stationary energy sector to 100% renewable energy sources by 2020. The report shows that Australia can replace fossil fuel baseload electricity using renewable energy technology that is available today, with the additional investment required equal to about one cup of coffee per person per day. 

Next monthly discussion: 6.00pm Wednesday 14 July Melbourne Energy Institute event featuring the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan.

“BZE’s Zero Carbon Australia is an extraordinary and pragmatic roadmap to a new and more sustainable energy system for Australia, and ultimately our region, and I recommend it to all who are truly interested in securing Australia’s energy future.”
Professor Mike Sandiford
Professor of Geology, Director of the Melbourne Energy Institute,
The University of Melbourne

“The chips are down – there is no longer any doubt about our need to rapidly transition to a zero emission economy.  The fate of Australia and the world depend on it.  The Zero Carbon Australia strategy being launched by Beyond Zero Emissions provides the roadmap to the solutions. Let’s hope it is adopted by responsible governments everywhere.”
Professor Ove Hoegh-Goldberg
Director, Global Change Institute
The University of Queensland

“The Zero Carbon Australia 2020 plan shows that it is technically feasible and affordable to replace all fossil fuel electricity with 100% renewable energy given the willpower and commitment to do so. This is a cutting-edge science-based plan that should be read by every energy decision maker and politician in Australia.”
Mark Z. Jacobson
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Professor by Courtesy of Energy Resources Engineering
Director, Atmosphere/Energy Program
Stanford University, USA

“Every nation in the world should make a plan like this.  If one can get a 100% renewable, zero carbon electricity system by investing 3% of GDP (and 10% of gross investment) for ten years, there is no good reason not to do it. Except, maybe, the straitjacket of old ways of thinking and doing.

“This plan lays out a high solar-wind renewable future and then does more.  It looks carefully at the materials requirements of such a future, an aspect of the matter too often left unaddressed.

Australia could be the first large economy to show the way.”
John O. Blackburn
Professor Emeritus of Economics
Duke University, USA

“That Australia enjoys an abundance of renewable energy resources is beyond question. The Zero Carbon Australia 2020 plan demonstrates that it is both technically feasible and economically affordable for Australia to realise the benefit of these resources and transition to a 100% renewable energy future. Australian politicians and decision makers with the vision and commitment to embrace this new path have the opportunity to play an important role in leading Australia to a sustainable low carbon future.”
Sharon Mascher
Associate Professor
Centre for Mining, Energy and Resources Law
University of Western Australia


Earthcheck, Sustainable Tourism & Riding Your way to Cleaner Energy

Posted by admin on June 30, 2010
Posted under Express 115


Visitors can uncover the natural evidence for climate change, and examine its impact on our atmosphere, oceans, land, and societies at Chicago’s climate change expo, while EC3 Global and Earth check is organising Australia’s first Destino Sustainable Tourism Conference in Melbourne 19/20 July. And for an example of how hotel guests can come clean is on offer at Crowne Plaza Hotel Copenhagen Towers in Denmark.

Solutions for Sustainable Business

If your business has been hit hard by the GFC and are looking for a way to fatten profit margins, then we highly recommend you secure a seat at the Destino Australia Sustainable Tourism Conference in Melbourne: 19 & 20 July 2010

The event includes first-hand accounts from tourism market leaders who have taken a hands-on approach to managing their environmental footprint and increasing efficiencies as a result. Tickets range from $70 to $400 (including lunch and famils), so there really is no excuse not to go.

Run by EarthCheck and sponsored by global giant Ecolab, Tourism Victoria and Destination Melbourne, Destino Australia presents a unique opportunity to peek behind the scenes of some of the world’s leading businesses, exchange ideas and assess the advantages and disadvantages of sustainable operational practices.

As with other Destino events held overseas, Destino Australia offers a program filled with first-hand accounts from tourism professionals who are taking a hands-on approach to managing their environmental footprint and increasing efficiencies to help fatten profit margins. Jon Dee, Founder & Chairman of Do Something! Founder of Planet Ark is keynote speaker and sure to deliver a rousing speech. Some of Jon’s initiatives have become role models for international change. He initiated the successful lobbying campaign for Australia’s three year phase-out of incandescent light globes; an initiative that has been adopted by other countries. Jon has also spearheaded the highly successful media campaign to phase-out the use of plastic shopping bags in Australia

On Day Two, excursions will see a limited number of delegates visit a selection of Melbourne businesses that have been operating in a sustainable manner for a number of years. In the afternoon, delegates can join a famil to Geelong Otway to see how local businesses are lessening their environmental footprints and enjoy one of Victoria’s most beautiful regions along the way. This hands-on approach to learning is included in the price, as is lunch on Day One and a copy of Jon Dee’s new book about simple things to do to create sustainable workplaces.

EC3 Global is holding an Environmental Assessment Training Workshop at the Crowne Plaza in the afternoon of the 20th for those who seek to come away with a valuable new skill set. Although this is at an additional cost, the extra $100 (EarthCheck Members) or $150 (PATA, ATEC and HMAA Members) or $220 (all others), it’s unlikely to damage the hip pocket of any delegate and those lucky 15 who do take the course will come away with a certificate of achievement.


Chicago Climate Show June 25—November 28, 2010

Uncover the natural evidence for climate change, and examine its impact on our atmosphere, oceans, land, and societies. Discover how even small changes can add  up to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and find out more about our best hopes  for alternative energy sources. Take a moment to explore more about Climate Change at The Field Museum in Chicago and the science behind the exhibition.

In an effort to lower the city’s carbon footprint, a new exhibit focusing on climate change has opened at the Field Museum and will run through Nov. 28. “The exhibit and the plan provide a call to action on climate change,” said the Nature Conservancy’s Bob Moseley via the Chicago Sun-Times, speaking Friday at a joint launch for the show and the Climate Action Plan for Nature he helped create. “But the impact of the many things we can and should do will not be felt for another 50 to 100 years.”

Curators of the new exhibit focused on showing the public how they can reverse the greenhouse effect by reducing the burning of fossil fuels, which is considered to be the primary factor behind carbon dioxide pollution. “Yes, we encourage individuals to look at their choices around energy use and transportation,” Melinda Pruett-Jones, executive director of Chicago Wilderness, said Friday to the Sun-Times, “but we also want them to see the powerful benefits of this region’s natural areas and advocate for their protection and care.”


By Charlotte Cuthbertson in Epoch Times:

No more singing for your supper. It is time to pedal your way to a free lunch.

In its attempt to be greener, the Crowne Plaza Hotel Copenhagen Towers in Denmark encourages guests to get on their special bikes and generate power for the hotel.

The hotel’s calculations suggest one guest cycling at 30 kmph (about 18.6 mph) for one hour will produce around 100 watt-hours of electricity, meaning that reaching the threshold for the meal should take only six minutes, according to The Guardian.

The scheme is a pilot project that will run for a year, and if successful, could be rolled out to all 21 Crowne Plaza hotels in the U.K., the Guardian reported


Biomass: Turning Agricultural Waste to Green Power in India

Posted by admin on June 30, 2010
Posted under Express 115

Biomass: Turning Agricultural Waste to Green Power in India

India’s past reliance on coal based thermal power is a serious environment concern with the increasing awareness about global warming so the Government is actively encouraging green power. It has been estimated that if all of India’s agricultural wastes were used for power generation it could potentially generate over 50,000 MW of power while simultaneously giving very valuable extra income to farmers. Special report on biomass from Murad Baig in India


Although the Indian government is taking urgent action to accelerate its power production, power demand continues to grow at an exponential rate to keep outpacing the available sources. Faster economic growth rates not only encourages industrial and housing growth but also increases consumer spending on computers, refrigerators, TV’s, air-conditioners, washing machines and other energy demanding appliances both in urban and rural areas.

India’s past reliance on coal based thermal power is also a serious environment concern with the increasing global awareness about global warming so the Government is actively encouraging green power. Hydro power projects are slow but a number of wind power projects are moving rapidly and several nuclear power projects in the public and private sector are being developed after the international sanctions were removed.

Biomass potential

The most widely available and also the most wasted energy source are a wide variety of agricultural wastes. While some of it is used for cattle fodder huge amounts of paddy straw, cane trash and other farm wastes are simply burned in the fields unlike wheat straw that is completely utilised as fodder. After China, India is the world’s largest producer of paddy. India now produces 98 million tonnes of paddy with roughly 130 million tonnes of straw of which only about half is used for fodder. India also produces about 350,000 tonnes of cane that will yield about 50 million tonnes of cane trash that is also an excellent biomass fuel. With high silica content it has no commercial use and is therefore almost entirely burned. Other agro wastes are maize, cotton, millets, pulse, sunflower and other stalks, bull rushes (sirkanda), groundnut shells, coconut trash, etc., all make good biofuels. The farmers with time constraints to their crop cycles have to burn huge quantities of biomass that contributes to great haze and global warming.

It has been estimated that if all these agro wastes were collected and used for power generation it could potentially generate over 50,000 MW of power while simultaneously giving very valuable extra income to farmers. 120,000 tonnes of paddy straw that each 12 MW plant typically needs will be collected from roughly 15,000 farmers who stand to earn an incremental income of about Rs. 500 an acre or Rs, 2,500 for an average Punjab farmer with about 5 acres. So each project can give the local farmers extra income of roughly Rs. 4 Crores.

It is only quite recently that biomass power has been taken seriously world-wide as there were problems in biomass collection in short seasons and a few technical modifications necessary in the boiler technology. Recognizing the huge potential of biomass the Indian government has enacted several new initiatives to accelerate biomass power production offering higher tariffs than for thermal projects. As biomass projects are also carbon neutral they are eligible to earning valuable carbon credits.

Another big advantage of biomass power projects is that they are relatively small, in the 10 – 25 MW range, and have to be located in widely scattered rural areas. Thus the power they generate can be fully consumed in nearby areas resulting in much lower transmission losses. With modest investments in the Rs. 50 – 100 Crore range, a number of biomass power plants therefore can be set up in as little as 12 months from first brick to first unit of generated power. (The first project, like all pioneering projects, however faced numerous delays owing to many new clearances and was affected by several changes in the local government).  

Considerable quantities of paddy and other agro products are harvested by India’s existing fleet of about 30,000 combine harvesters. While these efficiently collect the grain it throws out broken straw that is mostly considered useless. The fleet of balers attached to each plant can efficiently collect this and make compact bales suitable for efficient storage and handling.

Fuel collection is however a serious issue and a fleet of 100 tractor towed balers costing nearly Rs. 7 Crores are needed to collect the broken straw dropped by the combine harvesters in a short period of 6 – 8 weeks between the Kharif (paddy) harvest and the Rabi (wheat) sowing.

Each plant requires about 120,000 tonnes of biomass per year (Roughly 350 tonnes per day). The collected straw has to be stored in a number of stockyards rented from farmers in a 15 Km radius around the plants. Each fuel centre has a weighbridge and fire management systems. A fleet of 30 tractors and trailers are also needed to transport about 100 loads of straw daily from the fuel depots to the plants. These increase the fuel costs but they are still quite attractive as viable sources of green energy.

Bermaco Group biomass power projects

Bermaco Energy Systems has been in the power sector for over three decades first as a supplier of boilers and other power plant equipment. It had completely built a 165 MW power plant as well as installed nearly thirty units of 10 – 25 MW gas turbine power plants. In the biomass area it had earlier leased an existing 10 MW biomass plant in Punjab for several years. Although this old plant had several technological deficiencies, it proved the viability of a project based on paddy straw.

Punjab Biomass Power Ltd., a 50:50 joint venture between Bermaco Group and Gammon Infrastructure Projects Limited, has just completed a 12 MW plant near village Ghanaur in the Patiala district of Punjab. The financial closure was facilitated by the Power Finance Corporation. This project mainly uses paddy straw (not paddy husk that is already widely used as an expensive commercial fuel).

The Plant configuration is as follows; – 67 Bar, 60 TPH, 430 Deg C traveling grate boiler, 12 MW bleed-cum-condensing steam turbine.

The furnace and boiler has had to be especially modified to be able to generate steam at the high temperatures necessary for good plant efficiencies.

The feeding of fuel is by a long belt conveyor after a set of small machines cut open the bales and shred the straw into small pieces to ensure uniform combustion. The turbine is conventional as also the water treatment, evacuation and other plant elements. An electrostatic precipitator ensures minimal atmospheric pollution.

Bermaco Group has also initiated several projects in developing green fuel with fast growing varieties of trees and high yielding bamboos to create energy farms that can augment biomass sources.

Although there will be some emissions from the burning process itself the project will earn substantial carbon credits as the complete carbon cycle is calculated from the oxygen generated by the rice, or other plants, while it is growing until it is finally burned. 

This will be the first of 9 similar projects in Punjab. Bermaco–Gammon Consortium plans to also set up 6 similar projects in the Haryana.

The Bermaco Group plans to set up 26 similar projects in Bihar to be followed by a number of projects in other states in a number of joint ventures with Power Trading Corporation, IL&FS and other corporate entities.      

Bermaco is planning to set up about 20 biomass power plants generating about 300 MW during the next three years and about 1,000 MW during the next six years. Bermaco believes that biomass power plants can be set up easily in most districts of India and that as they are all located in rural areas will directly benefit the rural communities. Bermaco believes that biomass power is the best way to quickly generate power that is clean and green.

Thermal power from coal, gas and oil currently accounts for about 70 % of India’s power generation of nearly 150,000 MW. Hydro power projects provide about 20% of India’s power and nuclear power accounts for 3% of India’s power. Wind energy currently accounts for about 5% of India’s power but is mainly confined to south India. Solar power projects despite high capital costs are being implemented. 

As compared to these, biomass power plants have modest capital costs and are much quicker to commission. Their fuel costs are manageable but huge human management effort is needed to collect, store, transport the fuel from farms to the depots and then to the plants. As India has huge agro wastes these medium sized projects can most quickly augment India’s power generating capacity in most rural areas of the country.

Murad Baig is a veteran New Delhi-based Journalist who regularly writes for Times of India. He has devoted years of his life to writing about cars and the automobile industry. He is following developments in India’s move to clean energy.



Data Centre Designers Aim for Zero Carbon Emissions

Posted by admin on June 30, 2010
Posted under Express 115

 Data Centre Designers Aim for Zero Carbon Emissions

Strategic Directions has designed a geothermal powered data centre with zero carbon emissions and is also involved in designing a family of world class, energy efficient data centres powered by alternate energy sources and technologies, including wind, solar, biomass and hydro.  Acknowledged as one of the heaviest industrial users of power, data centres need to utilise alternative energy and energy efficiency.

In Ken Hickson’s book “The ABC of Carbon”, he noted the big role played by data centres. “It has long been suspected that the IT (Information Technology) industry has been a major contributor of CO2 emissions. Gartner — a company that acts as analyst and advisor to the industry — announced in April 2007 that the IT industry produces 2% of global CO2 emissions, placing it on a par with the aviation industry.”

Last month, Ken visited the POLARIS Date Centre, reputedly one of the the best designed centres in the world, and saw for himself the trouble the designers and managers have gone to to make it work in the most energy efficient way possible. He inspected for himself the very secure and heavy energy using centre and talked first hand to Strategic Directions’ Mike Andrea and Dave Robinson.

 A leading Queensland ICT Services company established in 2003 – Strategic Directions – is gaining international acclaim as a design authority of world class data centres.

Tenants of its POLARIS Data Centre at Springfield SE Qld, include the Queensland Government, NEC Japan, Suncorp Bank, Bank of Queensland and British Gases.

POLARIS incorporates several “green” initiatives and Director Mike Andrea presented a paper on its unique design, at the AFCOM International Data Centre Conference in Nashville, USA in March.

In addition, Strategic Directions has designed a geothermal powered data centre (with zero carbon emissions) for Queensland based ASX Company Geodynamics – and is also involved in designing a family of world class, energy efficient data centres powered by alternate energy sources and technologies, including wind, solar, biomass and hydro. Already acknowledged as one of the heaviest industrial users of power – the design of energy efficient, alternate energy data centres for the future is gaining the attention of Governments and Organisations around the globe.

With Data Centres already acknowledged as one of the heaviest industrial consumers of power around the world – the design of energy efficient, alternate energy data centres for the future is gaining the attention of Governments and Organisations around the globe, and these facilities will be a critical part of the international business communities’ drive to move to renewable energy power production and a reduction in carbon emissions.

How does City Development & Green IT complement each other?

Here’s what Mike Andrea, CIO, Springfield Land Corporation has to say:

The unique opportunity to create and deliver the ICT Master Plan for Greater Springfield (located outside of Brisbane) includes the requirement to merge city development and energy efficient information technology (IT) demands.

While many organisations look solely at the choice of IT product and system, such as a server or desktop computer, and how efficient they are, or how much power they consume, we consider the overall impact on the building on a 24 hour basis.

One simple method of reducing energy consumption by computers is to turn them off when not in use – particularly over night and during weekends. This method might be acceptable for desktops and laptop computers, but it is not viable for servers that run the email system, and corporate applications that might be accessed after hours.

It is these ‘high availability’ email and application servers that run 24×7 that can lead to a buildings core electrical and cooling systems to also run 24×7. This is very inefficient, and means the true energy consumption is much higher than what the servers use.

At Springfield, office buildings are designed and built for people, and dedicated data centres are designed and built for high availability computers.

Through large-scale, purpose-built data centres such as the Polaris Data Centre, significant levels of power and cooling efficiencies can be delivered for high availability IT systems.

This allows high green-star office buildings such as Springfield Tower to be constructed with the ability to be ‘turned off’ each night and weekend.

The same philosophy is being applied to commercial, education and health buildings being planned for Parkside, Technology Park, Education City and Health City, which will see development in Greater Springfield deliver a Green IT city.

White Paper: Green Goals

Read this extract from a White Paper written by David Robinson, who is Vice- President of the recently formed AFCOM Brisbane Chapter, and Executive General Manager of Strategic Directions Group, a vendor independent company offering ICT master planning and strategic advice to federal, state and local government agencies and commercial organisations. The company is also the design authority of the Polaris Data Centre in Queensland and has undertaken other federal, state and commercial data centre engagements around the country:

Most of the press surrounding data centres these days tends to be very negative and can leave the reader with a feeling of hopelessness. At first glance, the outlook is gloomy with not a lot of positives for the future!

It is true that the global challenges facing data centres are daunting. No matter how you look at it there are no easy solutions:

• Power usage is the number one problem facing new and existing facilities – along with the resulting impact on carbon footprint.

• Cooling runs a close second, caused by the increasing power densities at rack level.

• Unprecedented focus on ‘green’. Sustainable regulation is coming; energy efficiency will eventually become law; carbon emissions and efficiency reporting; energy sources; LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design); green building rating systems; US Green Building Council (USGBC); the control and disposal of hazardous substances; and legacy inefficient electrical equipment are all considerations in the great green debate.

• Data centre consolidation is occurring across servers, storage and data centre sites. However, the resulting impact on the data centre is increasing densities and reliance on primary and secondary data centres. Do the business cases for consolidation include the increased costs that may be incurred in the data centre and is the organisation aware of the increased management complexity, increased business risk and the impact of downtime in the data centre?

• High availability is no longer the preserve of mission critical applications (airlines, banks etc). Businesses generally can no longer afford to be without ICT operations. Many organisations are now demanding at least Tier 3 data centre facilities.

• Data centre monitoring, reporting, metrics and efficiency are the keys to future best practice. Airflow distribution, temperature control and energy metering are paramount. Efficiency and utilisation is becoming just as important as availability.

• Expertise shortage is a growing problem and will only get worse. IT managers will need to be aware of and manage energy usage and cost. They must also become familiar with the facilities management (mechanical and electrical systems) aspects of data centre operation.

• Energy in general is currently a non-renewable resource. Distribution is a problem in some areas; power failures may increase; energy costs will rise; energy surcharges will be applied; DC power usage is also being considered.

• Shortage of suitable facilities is an international problem. Commercial building costs are increasing by 10% annually.

Mechanical and electrical systems account for 82% of most data centre infrastructure costs. Site selection is critically important – the sphere of influence (or impact) of a disaster is key to selecting primary, secondary and disaster recovery sites.

However, there is currently no green rating for data centres. Any such rating system should, however, cover the carbon footprint of the facility – irrespective of the levels of efficiency delivered by the IT and mechanical and electrical systems. Arguably, a 1MW data centre that is supplied solely by non-renewable energy sources should have a lower rating than a 10MW facility supplied by 100% renewable energy. The challenge for business is to consider more than simply vendor’s claims around green products and how efficient they are. Ultimately they all use power – it’s where the power comes from that may finally determine how green a data centre is. It has been said that the only thing green about data centres is the colour of money – perhaps it should be the colour of source energy.

To sum up, the global data centre industry continues to face many challenges – but through adversity there are positives emerging that will help develop a new era of data centre design, planning and operation. The truly global nature of the issues means that there are many smart people and organisations working to address current issues.

IT dependent organisations, which is almost every organisation, should be forward planning data centre space and capacity requirements up to three years in advance. Similarly, awareness of how much archive data is impacting current primary and secondary data centres, and the resulting market pressure around ‘green’ data centres, carbon footprint/renewable energy, and what it might mean to the business is paramount.


“Lumenhaus” Solar Decathlon Win & Festival Place Sees the Light

Posted by admin on June 30, 2010
Posted under Express 115

“Lumenhaus” Solar Decathlon Win & Festival Place Sees the Light

Festival A team of US students calling their project “Lumenhaus”, has won  the Solar Decathlon Europe competition in Madrid to design and build the best house run only by solar energy, beating 16 other competitors from seven countries.  Meanwhile, on Michael Eavis’s farm, which played host to 175,000 Glastonbury revellers for Europe’s biggest music festival last weekend, work will start on a major solar-power project financed by an ethical bank’s savers.

AFP reports (28 June 2010):

A team of US students has won a competition in Madrid to design and build the best house run only by solar energy, the organisers said.

The “Lumenhaus” of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University beat 16 other competitors from seven countries to win the Solar Decathlon Europe award.

The contestants had 10 days to construct “real, sustainable, self-sufficient and comfortable houses exclusively sustained by solar energy”, it said in a statement on Sunday.

The jury, made up of experts in architecture and solar systems, decided the Lumenhaus was “the most efficient” of the 17 entries.

It “presents an open distribution that connects the inhabitants of the house with the external environment”.

About 190,000 people have so far visited the “solar village” on the banks of Madrid’s Manzanares river where the houses are on display, the statement said.

Solar Decathlon Europe was taking place in Europe for the first time.

It is organised by the US Department of Energy and was staged in the US in 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2009.

In Madrid, there were five teams from Spain, two from Germany, two from France, two from the US, two from China, one British and one Finnish.


Rupert Jones The Guardian (26 June 2010):

Last weekend Michael Eavis’s farm is playing host to Europe’s biggest music festival, but when the 175,000 Glastonbury revellers have gone home and the stages have been dismantled, work will start on a major solar-power project financed by an ethical bank’s savers.

Bristol-based Triodos Bank has granted a UK£500,000 loan to Eavis’s Worthy Farm, home to the festival, to help pay for the installation of what will be Britain’s biggest solar roof. The bank says it is a good example of the type of green project that savers who put their cash in its climate change bonds (which pay interest of up to 3.25%) are supporting.

The solar-panel system will be on the roof of the “Mootel” – the barns that are home to the farm’s herd while the festival is on. On a clear,sunny day, it is expected that the 1,100 panels will generate around 200kW (kilowatts) of power.

That is enough electricity to power about 40 houses, though it is estimated the farm will consume about 80% of what is produced, says a Triodos Bank spokesman. The project is costing £550,000, with Eavis (below) providing £50,000 himself, and the rest being financed by the Triodos loan. Work is due to start in early August.

Eavis has said he wants the farm, and the festival, “to be as green as they can be”, and the solar panels will make a huge contribution towards that aim. This is the first such installation that the bank has financed in the UK, but one of 85 internationally.

Triodos is different from most banks and building societies in that it guarantees that people’s savings cash will only be used to finance businesses and charities that benefit people and the environment. In total, it has 36,500 customers in the UK.

Triodos’s climate change bonds are savings bonds where your money is tied up for two, three or five years. They pay gross interest of 2%, 2.75% and 3.25% respectively. These are decent rates, though ICICI Bank UK is offering 4.15% on a three-year fixed-rate bond and 5% on a five-year bond. However, some savers may take the view they would prefer to deal with an ethical bank.

The spokesman says a customer who puts just £2,679 into one of its climate change bonds is effectively financing the creation of enough renewable energy for one average UK home for the next 20 years.

“And because we publish details of all the organisations we lend to, savers can see what their money’s supporting at,” he adds.

The minimum investment is £500 and the maximum £50,000, and it can be managed online or by post. Be aware that no early closure or withdrawals are allowed, so this is not an account for money you are likely to want to access.


Kill Them for “Research” or Let Them do “a Whale of a Job” for Climate

Posted by admin on June 30, 2010
Posted under Express 115

Kill Them for “Research” or Let Them do “a Whale of a Job” for Climate

In the same week we learn that Sperm whales in the Southern Ocean are doing their bit for the battle against global warming, by helping to  remove about 400,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere a year by releasing large quantities of liquid faeces into the upper layers of the ocean, the international efforts to agree a new deal on whaling have collapsed, leaving in place the rules that allow whalers to kill around 1500 whales a year for so-called “scientific purposes”.

By Wendy Zukerman in New Scientist (28 June 2010)

International efforts to agree a new deal on whaling have collapsed, leaving in place the rules that allow whalers to kill around 1500 whales a year for so-called “scientific purposes”.

An attempt to replace these existing loopholes with a system of quotas for the whaling nations Japan, Norway and Iceland collapsed at last week’s International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Agadir, Morocco.

All whaling nations and most of those opposed to whaling were willing to consider the quota system, which was proposed by IWC chair Cristián Maquieira and vice-chair Anthony Liverpool. Australia, however, was against it from the outset.

The plan would have allowed commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean, currently deemed a “sanctuary” by the IWC – although it’s a sanctuary in which whale-killing is permitted when masquerading as scientific research. The status of whaling in the ocean was one of several sticking points on which consensus could not be reached at last week’s meeting.

Breakdown coming?

A spokesman for the Australian government said his country welcomed the abandonment of the proposal. “The commission must move forward to embrace a contemporary approach that recognises that you don’t need to kill whales to learn about them,” he said.

Addressing the conference on its fourth day, Yasue Funayama, Japanese vice-minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said, “To continue to request the elimination of whaling and sticking to such positions would mean the breakdown of the future of the IWC process.”

Many member nations, including Japan, expressed disappointment at the failure to reach a consensus. Despite the outcome, all members have pledged to continue supporting the IWC.


Deborah Smith, science editor in Sydney Morning Herald (17 June 2010):

SPERM whales in the Southern Ocean are doing their bit for the battle against global warming.

The giant mammals help remove about 400,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere a year by releasing large quantities of liquid faeces into the upper layers of the ocean, Australian researchers have calculated.

Trish Lavery, of Flinders University, said whale poo is rich in iron and stimulates the growth of phytoplankton – microscopic plants that soak up carbon dioxide. ”When the phytoplankton die, the trapped carbon sinks to the deep ocean.”

Ms Lavery and her team have estimated that industrial culling of sperm whales has resulted in an extra 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year remaining in the atmosphere. ”It makes a compelling case for an immediate ban on whaling,” she said.

Whales had previously been accused of having a large carbon footprint because they exhale a lot of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. But the study shows they more than offset these emissions by defecating.

Sperm whales, of which there are an estimated 12,000 in the Southern Ocean, dive deep to consume a diet of squid and fish.

The researchers calculated they release about 50 tonnes of iron near the surface in their faeces, which floats around and fertilises the iron-poor waters, increasing phytoplankton blooms.

Although whales exhale about 200,000 tonnes of carbon a year, the net gain is 200,000 tonnes of carbon locked in the ocean for hundreds or thousands of years.

The sperm whales in the Southern Ocean represent only about 3 per cent of the global population, and those elsewhere could also make a significant contribution to carbon removal from the atmosphere, the researchers said.

So could other kinds of whales and sea creatures that feed deep in the ocean and poo in the surface layers where light is available for photosynthesis.

”Seals and sealions often consume prey at depth, but whether the waste is liquid and buoyant requires further investigation,” the researchers said.

Before whaling began there used to be about 10 times as many sperm whales in the Southern Ocean.