One can only wonder whether two very significant meetings held in Singapore this month might produce more impactful results than the upcoming Doha UN climate change conference. Has the life gone out of the UN mechanism for co-ordinated global action on climate change? Is there a better way to make the changes needed? The World Bank and International Energy Agency is telling it how it is. And we are seeing so many examples of global businesses and individual nations taking strong actions. Look at Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development, where TEEB was launched and which was set up to operate in Singapore. The Economics and Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Business Coalition – admittedly a mouthful – has attracted widespread business support, including that of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. Putting a price on pollution – and damage to the wider environment – is consistent with making emissions trading schemes and carbon taxes work. European, American and Asian companies and their leaders made their presence felt in another Singapore meeting, organised by Xynteo and the Global Leadership and Technology Exchange (GLTE). The big difference between these meetings and all the other talk fests we hear about is that these people mean business. They are already taking action and achieving results. They are changing the way business is done. It doesn’t mean “no growth”. It means clean and green growth. A sustainable future. Makes prefect business sense. – Ken Hickson
Archive for November, 2012
Political leaders are still in the grip of the fossil fuel industry. Bill McKibben has been working hard to change that at home and abroad. And he has the numbers to show that we are headed on the path of destruction. The tireless advocate for curbing greenhouse gas emissions – and one of the 100 Global Sustain Ability leaders – is not giving up. Read More
By Tom Zeller Jr. in Huffington Post (17 November 2012):
Amid Climate Change Inaction in Washington, Activist Urges Americans To ‘Do The Math’
Official shoulder-shrugging on climate change in Washington is no longer surprising to Bill McKibben, the environmentalist and tireless advocate for curbing greenhouse gas emissions. “It’s true that D.C. hasn’t yet caught on,” he said in an email message Friday afternoon. “They’re still in the grip of the fossil fuel industry.”
The consequences of that grip are appearing increasingly dire. The International Energy Agency released its annual World Energy Outlook this week, for example. Among the many points highlighted in the roundup: Global greenhouse gas emissions are increasing at a pace that could make things far hotter on planet Earth than anyone, given the choice, would likely care to endure.
That report came on the heels of another lengthy analysis, published by the National Research Council on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency, which concluded that climate change is almost certain to destabilize the geopolitical chessboard, and as such it represents a clear concern for U.S. national security. A quick quote from the analysis:
In principle the thermal impulse could be mitigated to a degree that would presumably preserve the current operating conditions of human societies, but the global effort required to do that is not being undertaken and cannot be presumed. As a practical matter, that means that significant burdens of adaptation will be imposed on all societies and that unusually severe climate perturbations will be encountered in some parts of the world over the next decade with an increasing frequency and severity thereafter. There is compelling reason to presume that specific failures of adaptation will occur with consequences more severe than any yet experienced, severe enough to compel more extensive international engagement than has yet been anticipated or organized.
In response to the latter report, Democratic lawmakers called on Republican House leadership to hold hearings on the issue, but at this stage, no one is really expecting much from Washington.
As has been widely reported, climate change as an issue was dropped like bad habit midway through President Barack Obama’s first term, and it remained the issue that dare not speak its name right up through last week’s election.
When asked this week, as he made his way to storm-ravaged New York City, what he might do in the next four years to tackle the issue, Obama sounded some familiarly dulcet tones. He acknowledged that it was a problem. He said that what’s been done thus far has been inadequate and that a national conversation on the topic was needed.
But he also seemed keen to temper expectations, given partisan paralysis on Capitol Hill. “I don’t know,” the president said, “what either Democrats or Republicans are prepared to do at this point.”
Bill McKibben launches a “Do the Math” climate tour.
McKibben isn’t holding his breath. Instead, he plans to descend on Manhattan’s Hammerstein Ballroom Friday night — and on venues across the country over the next two weeks — armed with three simple numbers that he believes will spur a global divestment campaign not unlike that which ultimately helped bring about the end of apartheid in South Africa.
In this case the target is not a racist political system, but peddlers of fossil fuels, and McKibben’s magic numbers are 2, 565 and 2,795.
The number 2 stands for 2 degrees Celsius. This is the somewhat arbitrary number that, by dint of repetition since the mid-1990s and, perhaps, humanity’s dislike of ambiguity, has become the upper threshold for what is considered tolerable planetary warming. Allowing average global temperatures to rise more than 2 degrees Celsius (roughly 3.6 degrees, for Fahrenheit holdouts in the U.S. and Belize) could well be a tipping point beyond which the planet’s natural climate system, overloaded with human-produced greenhouse gases, goes permanently out of whack.
The curious can visit the National Snow and Ice Data Center to learn more about how that systemic breakdown might come about — and it’s worth noting that many scientists think a full 2 degree uptick in average global temperatures could be disastrous all on its own.
Two other key points: We’re almost halfway there already, and it seems quite likely, given the greenhouse gases already built up in the atmosphere and the lack of coordinated action to curb that pollution, that we’re hurtling headlong toward a 2 degree increase and perhaps well beyond.
That brings us to the two remaining numbers that McKibben wants to highlight: 565 and 2,795. The former is the upper limit, in gigatons, of carbon dioxide that many scientists believe humanity can still dump into the atmosphere to avoid the 2 degree uptick described above. The latter is the estimated amount, also in gigatons, of carbon dioxide embedded in the world’s proven coal, oil and gas reserves. If we pull all of that out of the earth and burn it, McKibben suggests, the math doesn’t add up very well for life on planet Earth.
If that arithmetic proves moving to enough people, McKibben reckons, it might be possible to focus their dismay at the bottom lines of fossil fuel companies and, in turn, diminish the industry’s influence over leadership in Washington. “If we can show people that fossil fuels are to the planet’s safety what the tobacco industry is to our individual health,” McKibben said, “we may be able to loosen their grip on policy-making.”
Central to that effort, McKibben says: Urging colleges and universities to divorce their endowments from fossil fuel stocks, much as those institutions were encouraged to divest from companies that did work in apartheid-era South Africa.
That earlier effort took decades to reach critical mass, of course, but by the late 1980s, dozens of colleges and universities had taken a stand, and it made a difference.
Last week, one day before President Obama was reelected, Unity College of Maine became the first college to announce plans to divest its endowment from fossil fuels. Whether the move will go unnoticed or will mark the start of a larger trend remains to be seen, but it does seem that frustration with Washington is mounting, and that the math is starting to sink in.
“We are running out of time,” said Unity College president Stephen Mulkey in a statement explaining the decision last week. “While our public policy makers equivocate and avoid the topic of climate change, the window of opportunity for salvaging a livable planet for our children and grandchildren is rapidly closing.
“While there is much uncertainty about how climate change will play out with respect to specific regions and weather patterns, one thing is very clear: Our current emissions trajectory will carry us beyond 5 degrees Celsius average global warming by 2100,” Mulkey added. “This will be a planet that is not consistent with our civilization, and science shows us that the impact will be largely irreversible for a millennium. I don’t know how the stakes could get any higher.”
Tom Zeller Jr., is a senior writer covering a variety of topics, including poverty, energy policy and the environment. Before joining The Huffington Post, Tom spent more than 10 years as a reporter and editor at The New York Times, where he covered numerous beats, including technology culture and policy, cybercrime, clean energy and the politics of climate change.
The cost of doing business typically does not include the externalised costs – costs of discharge into local waterways, loss of natural systems – in short, the cost of natural capital. To create a sustainable economy, externalities have to be internalised. This is the focus of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity – TEEB – for Business Coalition, formed in Singapore where it will have its global headquarters. And to keep a business focus in Doha, the World Climate Summit will show what business is doing – and can do more of – to develop a sustainable future. Read more
The Business Case for Ecosystems and Biodiversity
By Andrew Burger in Triple Pundit (13 November 2012):
Business and biodiversity haven’t mixed well, historically. The confluence of several significant trends—population growth, natural resource and materials scarcity, ongoing ecosystems services degradation, loss of biodiversity and climate change, among them—has business leaders increasingly focused on sustainability not just in economic, but in ecological and social terms as well.
The key to such efforts is internalizing economic externalities in market prices, business costs, planning and accounting. The concept of natural capital, in turn, is seen as a key for businesses to incorporate and place a fair value on the public and access goods, such as clean air, water and other ecosystems services. It is also a way for both businesses and nations to economically value and account for the depletion of natural resource stocks and the impacts of pollution, as well as degradation of ecosystems and the services they provide.
Illustrating these points was an international event in Singapore on Nov. 7, in which business, government and non-government organization leaders gathered to officially launch TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) for Business Coalition Headquarters, the aims of which are “to achieve a shift in corporate behavior to preserve and enhance, rather than deplete, the earth’s natural capital,” according to a press release.
Valuing and Accounting for Natural Capital
The founding members of the new TEEB for Business Coalition have been driving forward the international development of natural capital valuation and accounting, an effort which brings together science, industry and commerce. They’ve also been active globally in advocating for and promoting adoption in business and government. They now believe they have “a credible platform to take the business application of this forward.”
“The Coalition brings together global stakeholders to study and standardize methods for natural capital accounting to enable its valuation and reporting in business. This is the business application of the G8+5 and UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) supported TEEB programme, led by Pavan Sukhdev, which provides a compelling economic case for the conservation of natural capital and is a cornerstone of the Green Economy,” TEEB explains in its press release.
Affording societies a basis for building and sustaining economic and social capital, maintaining healthy ecosystems and fair, equitable access to natural resources and ecosystems services and the benefits derived from them, are fundamental precepts for conceptual frameworks for sustainable business and development, as well as for intergovernmental treaties, such as the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The problem is that their degradation and depletion are not valued or accounted for in business or national income accounts—they’re considered “externalities.”
The failure of business and government leaders to account for ongoing loss of biodiversity, degradation of ecosystems and depletion of natural resources is putting businesses and societies at risk, TEEB members emphasize.
“The invisibility of corporate externalities is a root cause of many errors of judgement across economics, ecology and governance,” elaborated Pavan Sukhdev, Study Leader of TEEB, and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador. “Solving this complex problem is a crucial challenge for sustainability, and it will need global collaboration and research expertise of significant scale. I am therefore delighted that so many leading global institutions, who are represented in this Coalition, are combining forces to address this challenge.”
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has been a leader in formation of the TEEB for Business Coalition, hosting the new coalition during its setup phase. Standing up for the accounting profession and the role accountants can play in driving forward widespread, mainstream adoption of natural capital valuation and accounting, ICAEW chief executive Michael Izza stated,
“At Rio+20 we heard that it is accountants that will save the world. I believe it will not just be through the strategic vision and leadership of Chartered Accountants in business and public life worldwide, but also through the discipline accountancy can bring to the issues of valuation and quantification.”
And World Climate Summit
15 November 2012:
Business leaders join forces to discuss sustainability
World Climate Summit is ‘perfect forum’ to discuss sustainability
Now is the time for business leaders to make their commitment to the environment, according to the director of a climate organisation.
Michael Mathres, founder of the World Climate Summit, which takes place during COP18/CMP8, believes that the event is the perfect opportunity for bosses in Qatar and the rest of the world to think about sustainable options for the future.
He said: “From a local perspective, we will be looking at what sort of projects could be developed in Doha and Qatar in terms of renewable energy and the huge constructions which are currently going on. So, for example, how can we make sure that all of the buildings and infrastructure being put in place between now and the World Cup is energy efficient and sustainable? If we help to do that, it will be a big achievement.
“It is the right time to do it now because we are at the beginning of these projects. If they are started in the right way Qatar can say, ‘Look we are developing our infrastructure in a sustainable way’. And if Qatar can do it, they can be an example to other Middle East countries that it is possible to grow in a sustainable way.”
Mr. Mathres set up the World Climate Summit three years ago with partner Jens Nielsen. It strives to be a neutral platform which brings together business leaders, financers and governments to discuss solutions to climate change, which can be implemented and developed throughout the world.
He said: “We are providing a platform for these three stakeholders to discuss and work together to develop initiatives and changes.”
Between 400 and 500 people from around the world are expected to attend the summit, which will take place on December 1 and 2. Among them will be delegates from international companies such as Siemens and Philips, who will talk about some of the solutions that they can provide for projects in energy, lighting and infrastructure. There will also be finance representatives from the public and private sector, such as the World Bank International Finance Corporation, the Bank of America and the European Investment Bank, which is one of this year’s sponsors.
Mr Mathres said: “There is a strong finance component to the summit as the majority of the programmes are on a huge scale, with multi-million sometimes multi-billion dollar projects implemented within cities, regions or countries.”
Government ministers from Qatar and the rest of the world will also attend the event, along with mayors of cities who are responsible for implementing changes.
The World Climate Summit 2012 is part of a 10-year process, which began in Cancun, Mexico, in 2010. Mr Mathres said: “It is a new concept and it is a long process of education to make people understand that climate change is not just a political thing. Finding solutions should not be purely a ‘top down’ process. It is also a ‘bottom up’ process because companies and regional governments have the solutions.”
Over the past two years 20 initiatives have been introduced as a result of the World Climate Summit. They include projects such as a lighting efficiency programme, which Philips implemented with various cities around the world. Using efficient LED lighting helped to cut costs and carbon emissions in cities, some of which use 20 per cent of their energy consumption on lighting.
Mr. Mathres is keen that as many local people as possible are involved in the summit. He said: “This is something which is beneficial for the Qatari economy and I would like to invite as many Qatari businesses and financers to understand the solutions that exist and the business they can do with the companies we are bringing. We have all of these extraordinary people coming to Doha to build new projects. It’s an open invitation.”
The Global Leadership and Technology Exchange (GLTE) met in Singapore last week to explore “Engines of Growth: Innovative Cities in the Wider World”, with a host of important businesses and leaders on hand to provide case studies, actions and answers towards a cleaner, low carbon future for the world. This was one of three platforms for Rock Mountain Institute’s Amory Lovins, who delighted – and astounded – audiences with his eloquent exposition of well-researched opportunities to make the world a better fossil free place. Read More
News from GLTE and Xyntea:
The Global Leadership and Technology Exchange (GLTE) met in Singapore on 14-15 November 2012 to explore the theme “Engines of Growth: Innovative Cities in the Wider World”, with a host of important business and business leaders on hand to provide case studies, actions and answers towards a cleaner, low carbon future for the world.
Osvald Bjelland, Chairman and CEO, Xyntéo had this to say to get the high powered collection of delegates from around the world to focus and act:
It doesn’t matter…
We live in increasingly complex times. Our economy is adrift, with unemployment rising across the developed world – threatening to create a lost generation. And our climate is adrift, threatening widespread damage and volatility worldwide.
At the same time, access to many essential resources is tightening, consumer trends are harder to understand, and policy frameworks are shifting.
In the face of this complexity, it is vitally important to focus on what truly matters.
It doesn’t matter if some still question the causes of our changing climate. Our work with Statkraft on the “Frontiers of Climate Science” clearly demonstrates the risks of inaction. The Earth is approaching critical climate tipping points, with extreme weather events, like Hurricane Sandy, threatening to become the new norm.
It doesn’t matter if some are slow to react to these changes. Some will always be blinded by the cheap thrill of short-term wins. But as our thought leadership series with TCS reinforces, embedding smart use of resources, clean energy and environmental protection into business strategies is now essential for minimising risks.
What matters is that we are heading in the wrong direction. What we need, what we really need, is leadership to set us on the right course. Leadership can inspire a constellation of business leaders, policymakers, big thinkers and “wisdom keepers” to work together. Leadership can open our minds to new ways of thinking. And most importantly, leadership can motivate us to act.
The Global Leadership and Technology Exchange, with its global partners positioned across disciplines, geographies and sectors, does lead and it does act.
Our method is simple. We draw on our extensive community to develop deep insights, leading to collaborative projects that we scale to create a new kind of growth.
I am so pleased that we are meeting in Singapore to discuss these critical issues and forge a practical path forward. And I am very grateful to our Singaporean partners and friends for their vision, commitment and leadership. We have much to learn from you.
Over the next two days, let this city inspire our thoughts, challenge our convictions and motivate our actions. Because in the end, in these increasingly complex times, it doesn’t matter what we say. It matters what we do.
Xyntéo is an international advisory firm that equips business leaders to unlock low-carbon growth. Working strategically and practically with some of the world’s leading companies from across a range of industries, Xyntéo delivers tailored analysis, inspiring arenas and collaborative projects.
Xyntéo founded and runs the Global Leadership and Technology Exchange (GLTE), a partnership created to help companies navigate the risks and opportunities of a resource-constrained economy.
The Global Leadership and Technology Exchange (GLTE) is a partnership created to help companies navigate the risks and opportunities of a resource-constrained economy. Through GLTE business leaders build their knowledge of the changing economic landscape, forge strategic networks and pursue practical collaborative projects. GLTE partners span a multitude of key industries and operate in virtually every country around the world.
The GLTE partnership currently includes ABB, Constellation Energy, Det Norske Veritas (DNV), Deutsche Bank, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Ericsson, Eni, Gazprom, Hess Corporation, Royal Dutch Shell, Siemens, Statoil, Stena, Subsea 7, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Sons and Unilever.
Driving the efficient and restorative use of resources
Ken Hickson meets a man on a mission: Amory Lovins
His book might be called “Reinventing fire” but listening to Amory Lovins, of the Rocky Mountain Institute, you quickly get the idea that what he’s come up with amounts to reinventing the way the world works, particularly in the way energy is used and wasted. He spoke at three different events in Singapore last week.
He is a man with limitless energy himself, full of innovations and soundly researched ideas. To get a measure of the man, here’s a glimpse at what he had to say on four important areas – automobiles, buildings, renewable energy and energy efficiency:
Amory is an advocate of lighter weight vehicles running on renewable energy. Carbon fibre, which is strong enough for aircraft, is so light it significantly reduces the weight of a vehicle – cars, trucks or buses – that so much less fuel is needed to move them along. Fuel use can be cut by 44%. They also require far less tooling along with reduced number of parts, which means they are much cheaper to make. And combined with electric, hybrid or hydrogen, can turn the whole automobile industry on its head and turn our cities and roads into much cleaner, pollution free places. It is an example of industrial transformation – and without oil!
While it might be tempting to pull an old building down and start afresh, Amory says we should think again. For him, a retrofit can mean a 75% saving in energy use – actually making old buildings better than new. He gave the example of retrofitting the Empire State Building in New York, which the Rocky Mountain Institute was involved in. It incorporated super windows which pass light but block heat and cold. Getting the right chiller size can also make a big difference. Overall, a three year payback on retrofitting costs can be achieved through energy savings. In the US, buildings use 75% of electricity produced and to him the disruptive technology is integrated design.
He wants to world to wean itself off fossil fuels. To Amory, wind and solar are the best and most cost effective renewable energy options. There are companies operating in Europe and the United States, which are installing solar photo voltaic (PV) for homes and businesses with no upfront costs to the customer. It is paid for in the same way you would pay a utility bill. He is impressed with the remarkable progress Germany has made to introduce wind and solar and wean itself off fossils fuels and nuclear. Four German states are generating between 43-52% of the energy they need from wind power. Of Germany’s total energy usage, 26% is now coming from renewables and Germany is a net energy exporter.
There is a lot of wastage in the way energy is produced and distributed, according to Amory. He estimated that about 90% of all energy produced – oil, coal and gas – is lost before it gets to the energy user. We must deal with wastage and be more efficient in the way we use energy. Smart grids and localized production renewables – with wind and solar for example – leads to “triple efficiency” and lower costs. Utilities can work with investors, regulators and the consumer, so home-owners and businesses can be rewarded for reducing their energy use.
Amory Lovins has shown through his work and his book “Reinventing Fire” that the US can be weaned off its total dependence on coal and oil by 2050. This is without contemplating no growth or low growth. Business and the economy can still grow. But the emphasis is on energy security and dealing with climate change by dramatically reducing emissions from fossil fuels. It can also be achieved without resorting to nuclear energy.
The world needs to promote “Flameless Fire”. Energy from the sun and wind, which is a free resource. Its capture doesn’t involve damaging the environment or pollution of the atmosphere. The smart, clean and efficient way to go.
The global picture for energy is set to undergo major changes as the way we produce and use energy evolve, says the International Energy Agency in its World Energy Outlook. It confirms that “Energy efficiency is just as important as unconstrained energy supply, and increased action on efficiency can serve as a unifying energy policy that brings multiple benefits.” Meanwhile, the coming summit on climate change in Doha received a boost with Australia’s commitment to the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol. Read more
IEA’s latest World Energy Outlook
12 November 2012:
The global energy map is changing in dramatic fashion, the International Energy Agency said as it launched the 2012 edition of the World Energy Outlook (WEO). The Agency’s flagship publication, released today in London, said these changes will recast expectations about the role of different countries, regions and fuels in the global energy system over the coming decades.
“North America is at the forefront of a sweeping transformation in oil and gas production that will affect all regions of the world, yet the potential also exists for a similarly transformative shift in global energy efficiency,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven. “This year’s World Energy Outlook shows that by 2035, we can achieve energy savings equivalent to nearly a fifth of global demand in 2010. In other words, energy efficiency is just as important as unconstrained energy supply, and increased action on efficiency can serve as a unifying energy policy that brings multiple benefits.”
The WEO finds that the extraordinary growth in oil and natural gas output in the United States will mean a sea-change in global energy flows. In the New Policies Scenario, the WEO’s central scenario, the United States becomes a net exporter of natural gas by 2020 and is almost self-sufficient in energy, in net terms, by 2035. North America emerges as a net oil exporter, accelerating the switch in direction of international oil trade, with almost 90% of Middle Eastern oil exports being drawn to Asia by 2035. Links between regional gas markets will strengthen as liquefied natural gas trade becomes more flexible and contract terms evolve. While regional dynamics change, global energy demand will push ever higher, growing by more than one-third to 2035. China, India and the Middle East account for 60% of the growth; demand barely rises in the OECD, but there is a pronounced shift towards gas and renewables.
Fossil fuels will remain dominant in the global energy mix, supported by subsidies that, in 2011, jumped by almost 30% to $523 billion, due mainly to increases in the Middle East and North Africa. Global oil demand grows by 7 mb/d to 2020 and exceeds 99 mb/d in 2035, by which time oil prices reach $125/barrel in real terms (over $215/barrel in nominal terms). A surge in unconventional and deepwater oil boosts non-OPEC supply over the current decade, but the world relies increasingly on OPEC after 2020. Iraq accounts for 45% of the growth in global oil production to 2035 and becomes the second-largest global oil exporter, overtaking Russia.
While the regional picture for natural gas varies, the global outlook over the coming decades looks to be bright, as demand increases by 50% to 5 trillion cubic metres in 2035. Nearly half of the increase in production to 2035 is from unconventional gas, with most of this coming from the United States, Australia and China. Whether demand for coal carries on rising strongly or changes course radically will depend on the strength of policy decisions around lower-emissions energy sources and changes in the price of coal relative to natural gas. In the New Policies Scenario, global coal demand increases by 21% and is heavily focused in China and India.
Renewables become the world’s second-largest source of power generation by 2015 and close in on coal as the primary source by 2035. However, this rapid increase hinges critically on continued subsidies. In 2011, these subsidies (including for biofuels) amounted to $88 billion, but over the period to 2035 need to amount to $4.8 trillion; over half of this has already been committed to existing projects or is needed to meet 2020 targets. Ambitions for nuclear have been scaled back as countries have reviewed policies following the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, but capacity is still projected to rise, led by China, Korea, India and Russia.
Water is essential to the production of energy, and the energy sector already accounts for 15% of the world’s total water use. Its needs are set to grow, making water an increasingly important criterion for assessing the viability of energy projects. In some regions, water constraints are already affecting the reliability of existing operations and they will introduce additional costs. Expanding power generation and biofuels output underpin an 85% increase in the amount consumed (the volume of water that is not returned to its source after use) through to 2035.
“Our analysis shows that in the absence of a concerted policy push, two-thirds of the economically viable potential to improve energy efficiency will remain unrealised through to 2035. Action to improve energy efficiency could delay the complete ‘lock-in’ of the allowable emissions of carbon dioxide under a 2oC trajectory – which is currently set to happen in 2017 – until 2022, buying time to secure a much-needed global climate agreement. It would also bring substantial energy security and economic benefits, including cutting fuel bills by 20% on average,” said Fatih Birol, IEA Chief Economist and the WEO’s lead author.
WEO-2012 presents the results of an Efficient World Scenario, which shows what energy efficiency improvements can be achieved simply by adopting measures that are justified in economic terms. Greater efforts on energy efficiency would cut the growth in global energy demand by half. Global oil demand would peak before 2020 and be almost 13 mb/d lower by 2035, a reduction equal to the current production of Russia and Norway combined. The accrued resources would facilitate a gradual reorientation of the global economy, boosting cumulative economic output to 2035 by $18 trillion, with the biggest gains in India, China, the United States and Europe.
By Fiona Harvey in The Guardian (10 November 2012):
Negotiations toward a new global treaty on climate change took a small step forward as the Australian government announced it would join up to a continuation of the Kyoto protocol beyond 2012.
At the end of this month, governments will meet in Doha, Qatar, to discuss a new treaty that would be signed in 2015 and come into force from 2020. But the mood ahead of the UN conference is tense, as few countries are willing to make the concessions needed for a compromise deal.
Greg Combet, Australia’s climate change and energy efficiency minister, said the country would “commit to limiting its greenhouse gas emissions from 2013 to 2020 with a Kyoto target consistent with the bipartisan target of reducing emissions to 5 percent below 2000 levels by 2020.”
Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and Climate and Energy Minister Greg Combet. Australia has signed up to the second phase of the Kyoto protocol.
But he added that this did not rule out the option later of moving up Australia’s 2020 target range of 5-15 percent, or 25 percent below 2000 levels if Australia’s conditions relating to the extent of action committed elsewhere in the world are met.
The current commitment period of the Kyoto protocol finishes at the end of this year, and developing countries are adamant there must be a continuation if they are to sign up to any 2015 deal.
Also on Friday, New Zealand drew fire from environments and opposition politicians for ruling out a second phase of Kyoto. The country’s climate change minister, Tim Groser, said the country would be better served by working towards the new 2015 treaty.
Australia’s move makes it one of only a handful of countries outside the European Union’s member states to agree to such a deal. It follows the country introducing a carbon tax in June that will lead to a system of carbon trading, similar to that in operation within the EU, intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Australia finally ratified the 1997 Kyoto protocol in 2007, under the last Labor government, after a decade of refusal, despite signing up to the treaty originally. But subsequent leaders turned away from it again. Climate change is a highly divisive issue in Australian politics – the country is heavily dependent on coal, and is a big exporter. There are many vocal climate skeptics in the country with the ear of government, and a powerful mining lobby.
“This is an extremely welcome announcement from Australia and for the first time expands international commitment beyond Europe,” Ed Davey, the UK’s energy and climate change minister, said. “Having Australia on board will really help to push the second Kyoto protocol period which is vital to maintaining agreed rules to cut global emissions as we make the transition to a new, global, legally binding deal.
“Australia’s work to reduce emissions is bold and promising. I’ll be working hard with Combet and our global counterparts to make even more progress in Doha.”
Another development that may make negotiations in Doha easier is the result of the U.S. presidential elections. Although Barack Obama has been largely reticent on climate change, his opponent would have been much less likely to approach the negotiations favorably, given the extent of opposition to action on emissions within the U.S. Republican party.
4 degrees Celsius. That’s the limit in global temperature rise that the World Bank projects for human adaptability. It is currently urging nations at risk to plan around the potential impacts of this change as well as to take more aggressive measures to reach their climate goals. One nation whose actions could bring big global impact is the United States. The recent ruling to increase vehicle fuel economy will result in a big reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, yet further actions face political resistance from the Republican Party. They will do well to take a leaf out of former President Ronald Reagan’s environmental record to push forward environmental rules. Read more
Climate Change: Lessons From Ronald Reagan
By Cass R. Sunstein in New York Times (10 November 2012):
THE re-election of President Obama, preceded by the extraordinary damage done by Hurricane Sandy, raises a critical question: In the coming years, might it be possible for the United States to take significant steps to reduce the risks associated with climate change?
A crucial decision during Ronald Reagan’s second term suggests that the answer may well be yes. The Reagan administration was generally skeptical about costly environmental rules, but with respect to protection of the ozone layer, Reagan was an environmentalist hero. Under his leadership, the United States became the prime mover behind the Montreal Protocol, which required the phasing out of ozone-depleting chemicals.
There is a real irony here. Republicans and conservatives had ridiculed scientists who expressed concern about the destruction of the ozone layer. How did Ronald Reagan, of all people, come to favor aggressive regulatory steps and lead the world toward a strong and historic international agreement?
A large part of the answer lies in a tool disliked by many progressives but embraced by Reagan (and Mr. Obama): cost-benefit analysis. Reagan’s economists found that the costs of phasing out ozone-depleting chemicals were a lot lower than the costs of not doing so — largely measured in terms of avoiding cancers that would otherwise occur. Presented with that analysis, Reagan decided that the issue was pretty clear.
Much the same can be said about climate change. Recent reports suggest that the economic cost of Hurricane Sandy could reach $50 billion and that in the current quarter, the hurricane could remove as much as half a percentage point from the nation’s economic growth. The cost of that single hurricane may well be more than five times greater than that of a usual full year’s worth of the most expensive regulations, which ordinarily cost well under $10 billion annually. True, scientists cannot attribute any particular hurricane to greenhouse gas emissions, but climate change is increasing the risk of costly harm from hurricanes and other natural disasters. Economists of diverse viewpoints concur that if the international community entered into a sensible agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the economic benefits would greatly outweigh the costs.
Skeptics have rightly observed that even aggressive regulatory steps by the United States cannot stop climate change. Greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere for decades, and many nations, especially in the developing world, are contributing growing levels of emissions. For this reason, the unilateral actions of any country will not do what must be done to reduce anticipated warming and the resulting harms. Nonetheless, cost-effective reductions from the United States would help, both in themselves and because they should spur technological changes and regulatory initiatives from other nations.
For the United States, some of the best recent steps serve to save money, promote energy security and reduce air pollution. A good model is provided by rules from the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency, widely supported by the automobile industry, which will increase the fuel economy of cars to more than 54 miles per gallon by 2025.
The fuel economy rules will eventually save consumers more than $1.7 trillion, cut United States oil consumption by 12 billion barrels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by six billion metric tons — more than the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the United States in 2010. The monetary benefits of these rules exceed the monetary costs by billions of dollars annually.
In a similar vein, recent rules from the Department of Energy are requiring greater energy efficiency from appliances like refrigerators, washing machines and small motors. For these rules as well, the monetary benefits dwarf the costs, and they include large savings to consumers as well as pollution reductions. There is a lot more to achieve in the area of energy efficiency, especially as technologies advance and continue to transform the once-impossible into the eminently doable.
The electricity sector is responsible for more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. In this domain, any regulations must be carefully devised, as they were in the case of fuel economy, to ensure that they do not impose unjustified costs, especially in an economically difficult period. But just as in that case, it should be possible to work with affected companies to identify flexible and cost-conscious approaches, producing reductions while minimizing regulatory burdens.
As in the case of the Montreal Protocol, an effective response to climate change requires many nations to act. China is the biggest greenhouse gas emitter on the planet, and it must become a leader in international negotiations, not an obstacle. But smart initiatives from the United States may well be an indispensable precondition for international efforts.
For those who seek to reduce the risks associated with climate change, it is ironic but true that the best precedent comes from a conservative icon. The big question now is whether today’s Republicans will follow Reagan’s example.
Cass R. Sunstein is a professor at Harvard Law School and a former administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
World Bank warns of ‘4-degree’ threshold of global temperature increase
By Howard Schneider in Washington Post (20 November 2012):
The World Bank is urging stepped-up efforts to meet world carbon-reduction goals after looking at what it says would be the catastrophic consequences if average world temperatures rise more than 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.
In what World Bank President Jim Yong Kim acknowledged was a “doomsday scenario,” a new study by the organization cited the 4-degree increase as a threshold that would be likely to trigger widespread crop failures and malnutrition and dislocate large numbers of people from land inundated by rising seas.
World climate goals aim to hold the mean temperature increase to less than 2 degrees Celsius, by curbing emissions of greenhouse gases that trap heat — a phenomenon already thought to have boosted average temperatures nearly 1 degree from levels present before the start of the industrial age, Kim said in a briefing last week.
That goal is unlikely to be met, he said, with an increase of 3 or 3.5 degrees Celsius now considered probable.
The report noted that a drop in average temperature of around 4.5 degrees Celsius (8.1 degrees Fahrenheit) triggered the last ice age, and it predicted that a temperature increase of that magnitude would similarly reshape the planet.
In looking at the effects of a 4-degree increase, Kim said the bank was hoping to encourage countries to act more aggressively to achieve climate goals and to prompt poorer nations to begin planning ways to offset the long list of potential impacts.
Those could include sea levels as much as three feet higher than currently expected — a potentially devastating problem for large coastal cities in Asia and Africa. Warming on such a scale could also limit access to fresh water for irrigation and cause heat, drought and disease-related problems that could make it more difficult to meet world food demands and improve health.
“The kind of sea level rise we are talking about is going to make the process of urban planning and services to the poor absolutely fundamental,” said Rachel Kyte, the World Bank’s vice president for sustainable development. “The race to [develop] heat-resistant and drought-resistant strains [of staple food crops] becomes fundamental.”
Kyte said the organization has begun more intense and frequent talks with poorer nations over how to prepare for climate change — usually at the instigation of officials who have seen the effects of shifting weather and climate patterns and now feel they need to plan for the worst.
Countries such as Nigeria, Vietnam and Thailand “are coming and saying, ‘help us think through the options,’ ” Kyte said. “This is an absolute change in the conversation we are having with our clients.”
The bank’s report, “Turn Down the Heat,” cast some doubt on how much can be done to avoid the worst outcomes.
Predicting the course of the world’s climate is a difficult science, and it is impossible to forecast how technology, demographics and politics will shape what the world looks like in 90 years — regardless of the temperature.
But the report concluded that a 4-degree jump in average temperatures would push some countries or regions to the brink of collapse, regardless of how hard they try to adapt.
“A 4°C world is likely to be one in which communities, cities and countries would experience severe disruptions, damage, and dislocation,” the report said. “There is no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible.”
A study in China’s north western Qinling Mountains, home to around 270 pandas – about a fifth of the world’s wild population – predicts a “substantial” bamboo decline this century as the globe warms. But Kimberley Clark is banking of bamboo – obviously not the Panda’s favourite variety – to be the focus in the company’s alternative fiber strategy. Read more
Channel News Asia (12 November 2012):
PARIS: Their numbers already threatened by a slow breeding rate and rapid habitat loss, China’s endangered giant pandas now also risk losing their staple food, bamboo, to climate change, a report said Sunday.
A study in China’s north western Qinling Mountains, home to around 270 pandas – about a fifth of the world’s wild population – predicts a “substantial” bamboo decline this century as the globe warms.
“The pandas may face a shortage of food unless they can find alternative food resources,” a team of researchers from the United States and China warn in the journal Nature Climate Change.
The international symbol of environmental conservation efforts, the giant panda is a picky eater.
Ninety-nine percent of its diet consists of bamboo – devouring up to 38 kilograms (84 pounds) per day. This means the iconic black-and-white bear’s survival is closely linked to a thriving bamboo habitat.
Bamboo itself also has a slow reproductive rate, flowering only every 30 to 35 years, which means it would be slow to adapt to a change in local climate, said a statement on the research.
Based on the data gathered for this study, researchers predict that three bamboo species which make up almost the entire diet of the Qinling pandas, will all but disappear in a warmer climate.
“Results suggest that almost the entire panda habitat in the region may disappear by the end of the 21st century,” said the study report.
The calculations are based on different warming scenarios projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – ranging from rises of two to five degrees Celsius (35.6 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit) in summer by century’s end, and three to eight degrees C in winter.
These projections were collated with data on rainfall and greenhouse gas emissions as well as historical growth patterns, to consider the future of bamboo.
Already, deforestation is threatening the survival of about half of all bamboo species worldwide.
The researchers say bamboo distribution has historically fluctuated in response to changes in the climate.
In the modern era, though, even if other areas were to become climatically more suited for bamboo growth, these would be far away and fall outside the present network of protected panda reserves.
The findings should be used “for proactive planning to protect areas that have a better climatic chance of providing adequate food sources or begin creating natural ‘bridges’ to allow pandas an escape hatch from bamboo famine,” the statement said.
Why Kimberly-Clark is banking on bamboo
By Kristine A. Wong in Green Biz (9 November 2012):
When Kimberly-Clark announced its plan to source 50 percent of its wood fiber to non-wood sources by 2025 — more than the amount that’s in three billion rolls of toilet paper — the company wasn’t quite sure how it would make that happen.
It’s a tall order, even for the one of the world’s top suppliers of facial tissue, toilet paper and paper towels.
“We don’t know how we’re going to get there yet,” Brenda Nelson, a director of business planning and sustainability for the company, told GreenBiz. “It’s not like there was a lot of precision around number and years,” she said of the pledge made in June.
So why would Kimberly-Clark, best known for its Kleenex, Huggies and Scott brand products, commit to an actual deadline? After all, Walmart famously announced goals to become 100 percent supplied by renewable energy and create zero waste — yet failed to disclose a timeline.
Like the advice given to Benjamin, the young man searching for a future in the 1967 film “The Graduate,” the answer lies in one word.
Kimberly-Clark is banking on bamboo.
“We did enough research on the fibers and potential barriers to know that it’s achievable,” Nelson said. “2025 was a date we put out there to hold ourselves accountable to make it happen.”
In 2011, Kimberly-Clark used 3.53 million metric tons of fiber to manufacture its products, according to company figures. Less than one-third of that amount – 1.05 million metric tons — came from recycled sources, the company reported.
Eighty percent of Kimberly-Clark’s product line contains wood fiber. Its primary sources are from the U.S., Brazil and Canada. In a 2011 report, the company describes itself as “highly reliant” on the material.
In the last few years, Kimberly-Clark has been hunting for a commercially viable alternative to wood fiber. In 2009, the company adopted a procurement policy requiring 40 percent of its fiber to be sourced either from FSC-certified or recycled sources by 2011. The move brought an end to a five-year campaign by Greenpeace pressuring the company to cut its ties with suppliers hawking non FSC-certified wood. The policy also banned the use of any fiber from endangered species.
But the motivation for the search extends beyond environmental reasons, Nelson says. It’s also an effort to insulate the company from a fiber market marked by volatile prices and a dwindling supply.
“We’ve taken a long look at what are the outlook and trends in virgin and recycled fiber supply,” she says. “There’s increasing pressures and demand on land that’s available. We know that where there’s constraints in terms of resources, we’ll someday have business impacts associated with them.”
To build the business case for alternative fibers, Nelson’s team examined a whole range of characteristics for several materials including bamboo and wheat straw, a product left over from wheat farming. They looked at fiber characteristics, biomass available, processing requirements and whether the infrastructure needed for processing was available. The group also identified barriers to commercializing the materials, along with broader trends that could affect the supply.
After a year of initial R&D tests, bamboo appears to have become the focus in the company’s alternative fiber strategy. Kimberly Clark is also evaluating other candidates, Nelson said, but declined to disclose more information.
Revenues raised from carbon taxes, such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, will be best used by investing on energy. According to a report from Consumer Focus, investments into energy schemes such as home insulation upgrades, is one of the best ways to create jobs, boost the economy, and reduce carbon emissions. However, the EU will be suspending its aviation carbon tax for flights originating outside the region for a year, while negotiations for a multilateral agreement are underway. A new deal from the International Civil Aviation Organisation could see a global implementation of flight tax as part of the initiative to cut aviation carbon emissions. Read more
Carbon taxes could boost economy and lower energy bills
By GreenWise staff (9 November 2012):
Investing money raised through carbon taxes on energy is one of the best ways to create jobs and boost the economy, according to a new report from Consumer Focus.
The study, ‘Jobs, Growth and Warmer Homes’, suggests that revenue raised from carbon taxes, such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, could be used to improve the energy efficiency of homes; delivering warmer homes and cheaper energy bills. It would also create 71,000 jobs by 2015 and 130,000 by 2027.
From 2013, the Treasury will receive billions of pounds in revenues from energy companies in the form of a carbon tax. But currently there are no plans to recycle the money to reduce carbon emissions.
Consumer Focus says the Government’s flagship energy efficiency policy, the Green Deal, and the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), which will see consumer energy companies providing £1.3 billion a year in energy efficiency upgrades for low income and hard to insulate homes, could become much stronger through the use of recycling carbon revenues.
Overall this strategy would quadruple the impact of both the Green Deal and ECO and would cut household emissions by around 5.6 per cent by 2027, according to the analysis, by Cambridge Econometrics and Verco.
The report suggests this use of the money would be a more effective way of boosting the economy than using the money to invest in infrastructure, general Government spending or cutting fuel duty or VAT.
It also argues that it would be a much better way to tackle fuel poverty than current Government plans. Government estimates show the ECO will lift no more than 250,000 households out of fuel poverty – five per cent of households by 2023. But according to the analysis, if carbon revenues were used to support the programme as much as 87 per cent of UK households could be removed from fuel poverty by 2016.
Fuel poverty currently affects over six million UK households, and this is predicted to grow to 9.1 million households – more than one in three homes – as energy prices increase. Energy consumers will pay an additional £4 billion each year in carbon taxes through their energy bills by 2020.
“We need to make heating our homes more affordable, cut carbon emissions and achieve economic growth. Using carbon taxes to ensure our homes leak less energy represents a triple-whammy,” Mike O’Connor, chief executive at Consumer Focus, said. “This would simultaneously improve the quality of life of millions of people, slash carbon emissions and generate greater economic growth than other measures. Consumers will be paying these taxes through their bills. They can and should feel the benefit.”
“Marshall plan” to reduce energy bills
The new report, commissioned by Consumer Focus and a coalition of organisations called The Energy Bill Revolution, details a range of funding options from using 35 per cent of carbon tax revenue to 95 per cent and how this could cut fuel poverty by 75 per cent to 87 per cent depending on the level of investment.
“This is the Marshall Plan the UK needs to slash the energy bills of the most vulnerable and re-build the economy,” Ed Matthew, director of the Energy Bill Revolution campaign, said. “Consumer Focus is urging the Government to carefully review this new research and the existing evidence from the Energy Bill Revolution, and consider this policy approach on energy efficiency. It would both help our economic recovery and give vulnerable households ongoing benefits from warmer homes, lower energy bills and better health.”
WWF-UK welcomed today’s report and urged the Government to start taking action.
“WWF has long called for the use of our environmental taxes to support energy efficiency and the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy. This report by Consumer Focus provides us with even more evidence that such a policy should be implemented and implemented quickly,” Zoe Leader, Energy Efficiency Policy Officer at WWF-UK said.
Commenting on today’s report, Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker, said:
“The Government is taking action to help households struggling with rising energy bills this winter, as well as driving forward massive changes to reform our electricity market and improve the energy efficiency of millions of homes and business across the nation.
“Two million households will get help under the Warm Home Discount Scheme this year, including more than one million low income pensioners who will get £130 off their bill. There is also help available with heating and insulation under the Warm Front scheme. And from next year the Green Deal will help millions improve their homes so they are better insulated, with extra help for those who need it most.”
AFP (14 November 2012):
BRUSSELS – The European Union (EU) will freeze for a year its rule that all airlines must pay for their carbon emissions for flights into and out of EU airports, the EU executive said, following threats of international retaliation.
Flights within the EU will still have to pay for their carbon emissions.
The year-long exemption will apply to flights linking EU airports to countries outside the bloc, a move welcomed by US and Asian officials.
Climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said on Monday that she had agreed “to stop the clock” to create a positive atmosphere for international talks on an alternative global plan to tackle airline emissions.
“But let me be very clear: If this exercise does not deliver – and I hope it does – then, needless to say, we are back to where we are today with the EU ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme). Automatically.”
The United States, China and India have put intense pressure on the EU. Debate in the US Congress is set to resume this week on legislation to counter the EU rules.
“While I am pleased the EU has temporarily suspended its efforts to unilaterally impose a tax on our airlines flying over US and international airspace, the EU’s announcement does not rule out future efforts to tax foreign carriers,” said Senator John Thune, who led efforts in the US Senate to block the law.
China also opposed what it said was the EU’s unilateral move and prefers to work under mechanisms such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“We should oppose unilateral measures,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters in Beijing.
Environment campaigners said the EU was giving up too much, too soon. But they said opponents could no longer blame the EU for any lack of progress at the United Nations’
International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which is seeking an alternative global deal.
The EU agreed on its law after more than a decade of talks at the ICAO failed to find a way to curb aviation emissions. The proposed year-long waiver – meaning no carbon payments before April 2014 for international flights – gives the ICAO until its general assembly late next year to reach a global deal.
The cost of the EU’s aviation law is minimal, at €1 (S$1.60) to €2 per passenger per flight, given the weakness of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, on which the carbon price has sunk under a glut of surplus permits following the region’s economic slowdown.
Elspeth Thomson of Energy Studies Institute posed that question to Amory Lovins at an event hosted by the National Environment Council. To look at the wide range of solar projects underway in the city state, you could only think solar has a significant clean energy role here. And Grace Chua of the Straits Times also writes about the trend to smart meters to monitor energy use. Read More
Smart meters in homes
By Grace Chua in Straits Times (2 November 2012):
AFTER she installed a home energy-management system, Ms Kavita Gandhi discovered that her kitchen appliances were draining electricity even on standby mode.
By unplugging devices from standby power throughout her bungalow, the 49-year-old executive director of a sustainable-energy business association has saved at least 10 per cent a month on her $600 monthly energy bill.
“It was a surprise that we were using so much,” she said.
The use of energy-management and energy-efficiency technologies is catching on here.
A handful of household users have bought commercial systems while the Energy Market Authority (EMA) is running a $30 million trial which involves 1,900 Punggol households.
Home energy-management systems include smart meters and software that allow residents to find out how much electricity is being used at any point in time.
They can do audits, like Ms Gandhi did, by turning off everything in the house and switching appliances on one by one to see which guzzles the most.
Even where systems are not as detailed, users can still monitor real-time use and alter their habits.
Punggol resident Nelson Cheong, 35, an engineer whose household has had an EMA smart meter for the past two weeks, said it allowed him to check electricity use by the hour.
Now he switches off the water heater when it is not in use, and hopes to save on his $200 monthly utility bill this month.
Till now, most energy-management efforts have been focused on industry users such as steel plants which can cut usage and save millions a year.
But energy consultant Adrian Bukmanis said the initiatives could help consumers too in two ways: visualisation and automation.
“It’s important to have real-time as opposed to historical data,” he said.
“You can see what happens when things are being used – if you turn the kettle on and your energy use spikes, it’s a powerful visual indicator.”
Automation might mean devices that turn off others when they are not in use, he added.
Ms Gandhi bought her $15,000 system from energy solutions firm Green Koncepts, which installed it about eight months ago with no home renovation needed.
Its director Kenneth Lee said: “We are not marketing to households but they find us.”
It usually provides the systems to firms. It may consider marketing a scaled-down, less costly version of Ms Gandhi’s system for households if there is demand. Since 2009, it has also sold a few hundred units of a simple wireless meter called WattsOn that costs $329 each.
Element14, an electronics distributor, said it has sold 65 units of two types of meters in the past two years, mainly to resellers, individuals, educational institutions and corporations.
Meanwhile, Panasonic will start a one-year trial of a system that lets users control air-conditioners remotely. It will install it in 10 homes in Punggol by year-end and is keen to commercialise it here and in the region, said Mr Low Beng Huat, general manager for environment and external affairs at Panasonic Asia Pacific.
Solar panels ‘save town councils 5% in power costs’
By Rachel Chang in The Straits Times (16 November 2012):
THE Housing Board’s pilot project to equip blocks with solar panels has saved town councils about 5 per cent in monthly electricity costs, said Senior Minister of State for National Development Lee Yi Shyan yesterday.
This works out to about $500 to $800 per block each month for the 100 blocks in the pilot programme, he said in Parliament.
These blocks are scattered across the island so the HDB can study the impact of different micro-climates on the performance of solar panels.
Mr Lee was replying to Non- Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong, who asked if cost savings could be passed on to residents directly if the pilot project was scaled up.
Mr Lee said that giving the savings to the Town Councils allows them to mitigate their rising costs and delay increasing electricity tariffs for residents.
He added that there are substantial challenges in expanding the use of solar panels. Although their price has plunged over the past year, it would still take up to 20 years to recoup in energy savings the cost of installation.
“If the costs of production continue to go down, we hope one day the economics will be favourable to us implementing on a wider scale,” he said.
Later, Second Trade and Industry Minister S. Iswaran said, in response to another question from Mr Yee, that Singapore has limited land for the large-scale deployment of solar panels.
Still, the Government is investing in solar panel research and provides subsidies for the private sector to instal solar technology.
The use of solar energy has grown three times from 2009 to 2012, he said, and there are 157 solar installations here, which represent 0.05 per cent of Singapore’s total power generation capacity.
NTU to go big on solar as part of ‘mini city’ plan
By Grace Chua in Straits Times (25 October 2012):
Nanyang Technological University (NTU) will invest about $15.5 million to phase in a 5MW solar panel system on its buildings by 2016 – the largest planned installation for a single site here.
The panels will cover some 50,000 sq m of its current and new buildings and provide more than 5,475 megawatt-hours a year of power – enough for more than 1,000 HDB households. The system will generate 3.3 per cent of the energy used by campus academic buildings.
Mr Tong Kok Kwang, project director at NTU’s office of development and facilities management, said the panels will be installed in phases, as new buildings are constructed, and will be completed by March 2016.
The solar installation is part of an NTU campus masterplan to transform the varsity into a “mini city” and provide more residence halls and academic spaces. This plan was revealed at the Solar Pioneer Awards ceremony at the PV Asia-Pacific conference yesterday, part of the current Singapore International Energy Week.
While there are already some solar panels on university and polytechnic campuses here, they are primarily for academic research and do not make significant contributions to the schools’ energy consumption.
At Wednesday’s ceremony, Economic Development Board cleantech cluster director Goh Chee Kiong spoke on Singapore’s solar industry and the expansion of public and private schemes.
The Housing Board, for example, will launch a project to install a 1MW system of copper indium gallium selenide solar panels – a new, higher-efficiency type of solar technology – next year, as part of its $31 million solar pilot programme.
And the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (Seris) is developing a technology road map for the adoption of solar energy in Singapore, mapping the solar potential of nearly every rooftop on the island, and studying the effect of solar’s intermittent electricity generation on the national grid.
Dr Thomas Reindl, director of Seris’ solar energy systems cluster, said dispersing systems around the island would be better than having them all in one place, to ensure they do not all fluctuate and generate power in tandem.
IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, will shift to renewable energy by 2020, investing 1.5 billion euros from 2009-15 in solar and wind power to produce at least 70% of the group’s energy. Meanwhile, BMW chief executive Norbert Reithofer reaffirmed last week the carmaker’s commitment to new technology, particularly electric mobility which has the potential to achieve “emission-free driving pleasure.” Read More
By Alister Doyle for Reuters (23 October 2012):
(Reuters) – IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, will shift to renewable energy by 2020 and grow more trees than it uses under a plan to safeguard nature that has won support from environmentalists.
The Swedish-based group, which wants to build on many customers’ desire for a greener lifestyle, also said on Tuesday it would limit sales by 2016 to energy-efficient products including induction cookers and LED light bulbs.
“This will be a great driver of innovation,” said Mikael Ohlsson, chief executive of the firm which is known for its flat-packs and giant stores that are expected to be visited by 776 million people this year.
Ohlsson told Reuters he had no doubt the “People & Planet Positive” strategy would save money both for IKEA and its clients, although he declined to estimate total savings.
Under the plan, IKEA will invest 1.5 billion euros ($1.95 billion) from 2009-15 in solar and wind power to produce at least 70 percent of the group’s energy. By 2020 it would produce as much renewable energy as it consumes.
IKEA already owns wind farms in six European nations and has 342,000 solar panels on its stores, warehouses and factories that generate 27 percent of the group’s electricity.
“We are a little under half-way in terms of investments” to the 2015 goal, said Steve Howard, chief sustainability officer. The company would also halve its greenhouse gas emissions from its operations by 2015, from 2010 levels.
By 2020 IKEA, one of the world’s top users of wood, will grow at least as many trees as it uses to make products such as beds or cupboards. Already, IKEA says it does not take wood from natural tropical forests, such as in the Amazon or the Congo basins.
BACKING THE SHIFT
By 2017 it would buy 10 million cubic metres of wood – half the projected total for that year and four times current amounts – from sources such as those certified by the non-profit Forest Stewardship Council.
Environmentalists backed the shift. John Sauven, head of Greenpeace UK, said it “puts IKEA at the forefront of leading companies” trying to transform their businesses in the face of environmental threats.
Mark Kenber, head of the UK-based Climate Group think-tank, said IKEA’s plan was a roadmap to a “clean industrial revolution” and urged other businesses to follow.
Both Kenber and Greenpeace confirmed the remarks, provided by IKEA. The firm said other environmental experts had praised the strategy, including the WWF conservation organisation.
Many companies, from chip maker Intel Corp to Wal-Mart Stores Inc, are setting green goals and moving towards renewable energy as part of efforts to combat global warming and ensure supplies.
As part of the shift to energy-efficient products, induction hobs use 40 percent less energy than conventional cookers.
IKEA announced the shift to LED lighting, which can last 20 years, earlier this month. Changing all 12 billion incandescent bulbs worldwide to LEDs would cut global greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of the Netherlands.
A shift to more efficient appliances, such as fridges, cookers or lightbulbs, would reduce energy use by the average household by 30 percent. “That is like having a 10 percent pay rise for most people,” Howard said.
IKEA also set stricter targets for palm oil, leather and cotton supplies. It would tighten bans on child labour and enforce workers’ rights, partly with unannounced audits of suppliers. The company would also ensure greater supplies of clean water in communities where it operates, cut waste and promote recycling.
IKEA predicted the number of visitors to its stores would double to 1.5 billion by 2020, and forecast a potential 45-50 billion euros in turnover, up from 27.5 billion for 2012.
It predicted the number of stores would rise to 500 from 338 and that staff numbers would rise to above 200,000 from 154,000.
Ohlsson said IKEA had freedom to act partly because it is not listed on a stock market. “We are owned by a foundation, it means also that our whole focus is customers throughout the chain and not stock exchange and owners,” he said. ($1 = 0.7674 euros).
4wheelsnews (13 November 2012):
BMW chief executive Norbert Reithofer reaffirmed last week the carmaker’s commitment to new technology, particularly electric drive. In a statement supplementing BMW’s results for the third quarter of 2012, Reithofer said that the carmaker considers electric mobility as a technology with the potential to achieve “emission-free driving pleasure.”
The carmaker is set to launch its small i3 electric vehicle in 2013. In the same statement, Reithofer remarked that “BMW is far more than electric drive,” taking note of the carmaker’s efforts to use recycled materials and provide for end-of-life recycling. Aside from that, the German carmaker is also adopting renewable energy in production. At first look, regulatory pressure for lower carbon dioxide emissions as well as higher fuel economy pose quite a challenge for BMW, which business model entails strong profits from building luxurious vehicles.
However, global demographic trends show that carmakers cannot postpone their sustainability efforts further. Car manufacturers are considering projections by the United Nations that the world’s population will crowd into megacities, which are urban areas with populations of more than 10 million. According to UN’s projects, the world will have 35 megacities by 2015, with a total population of nearly 360 million.
Those cities are expected to become centers of global business, wealth and consumption. And most likely, megacities will be places where vehicle use might be restricted. Currently, the city of London makes vehicles that drive into the center city to pay a congestion charge of £10. Since megacities have densely packed landscape, carmakers have to develop new forms of mobility. The i3 was a product of the BMW Megacity Project initiated in 2007. BMW is likewise partnering in a car-sharing program, DriveNow, in Germany and San Francisco.