Archive for December, 2012

Engineers to Focus on Innovation, Sustainability & Climate Change

Posted by Ken on December 22, 2012
Posted under Express 181

Engineers to Focus on Innovation, Sustainability & Climate Change

World-renowned speakers, representing different facets of the sustainability field, will lead more than 2000 engineers from around the world in multiple disciplines, financiers, property developers, urban planning specialists, legal advisors, energy specialists, researchers and institutions in exchanging ideas on “Innovative and Sustainable Solutions to Climate Change”, the theme of World Engineers Summit 2013.

International speakers to provide expert advice on climate change at inaugural World Engineers’ Summit (WES) in Singapore

Euroasia Industry (17 December 2012):

The inaugural World Engineers’ Summit (WES), which will take place from 9-15 September 2013, will feature internationally distinguished thought leaders on climate change. Hosted by The Institution of Engineers, Singapore (IES), the event will be held in conjunction with the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO) General Assembly 2013, at Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Marina Bay Sands.

The world-renowned speakers, representing different facets of the sustainability field, will lead more than 2000 engineers from multiple disciplines, financiers, property developers, urban planning specialists, legal advisors, energy specialists, researchers and institutions in exchanging ideas on “Innovative and Sustainable Solutions to Climate Change”, the theme of WES 2013.

The speakers will also share on sustainability and climate change issues faced by the global population. They include Dr. Roland Busch, Member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG and CEO to Infrastructure & Cities Sector, Asia-Pacific and Professor Asit K Biswas, Founder of Third World Centre for Water Management and one of the world’s leading authorities on water management.[1] Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Special Adviser to the Institute of Policy Studies will be the Summit Keynote speaker, and serve as Moderator for the Sustainability Leadership Forum.

“The call to combat climate change has become increasingly urgent as its effects manifest themselves as environmental catastrophes, damaging lives and resources around the world. As the national society of engineers, IES is confident of the significant role that engineers, leaders of innovation and technology, can play in developing sustainable solutions to combat climate change,” said Er. Tan Seng Chuan, Chairman, WES 2013 Steering Committee, and Vice President, WFEO.

Speaking at a lead-up event, ‘Impact of Climate Change on Singapore and Sustainable Building’, Dr. Christopher Hails, Chairman of WWF Singapore, spoke about how our climate is vital for life on earth, but how our current use of energy is creating climate change that threatens our very existence. He will speak on the challenges and the solutions, our failure to implement those solutions and how we will have to tackle the issue urgently. “Climate change is a global responsibility. Every one of us contributes to the planet’s health and there is much we can do to mitigate some of the problems we face. It is not too late. There are already solutions that can be implemented and we just need to have the collective will to turn ideas into action,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, Dr John Keung, CEO of Building and Construction Authority (BCA), shared the growing global impetus for a more responsible building construction and maintenance regime. He also outlined the relevance of an accelerating worldwide green economy to our engineers and built environment professionals. “There has never been a better time than now to ride the wave of global green growth. With our reputation as one of the key green building leaders of Asia, our firms and built environment engineers and professionals are well-positioned to play their part in a rising green economy while assuming the critical role of mitigating the impact of climate change, urban development and rising energy consumption on the environment,” said Dr Keung.

Co-located with WES 2013 will be the Build Eco Xpo (BEX) Asia 2013 and the International Green Building Conference (IGBC) – a dedicated green built exhibition and conference that addresses sustainable and green solutions for the building sector. Together, these events aim to encourage discussion on environmentally friendly solutions to fight climate change.

Source:  and

Sustainable cities require sustainable consumers

Posted by Ken on December 22, 2012
Posted under Express 181

Sustainable cities require sustainable consumers

Sustainability experts across the globe are realising that consumer behaviour holds the key to reducing the environmental impacts of the world’s rapidly growing urban populations, alongside high-tech solutions such as green buildings, clean energy and more efficient transport. This special report also showcases some leading manufacturers on the measures they have taken to reduce the impact of urban consumption on natural resources. Jenny Marusiak, in her Singapore swan song, writes her last piece for Read More

By Jenny Marusiak in (18 December 2012):

Sustainable cities require sustainable consumers. Even the best technology will not be enough if cities continue their current consumption path.

For its lighter footprint and higher standards, green products often demand a higher price, but is this how it should be?

Speaking at a recent sustainable business summit in Singapore, chief executive of the United Nations Environment Programme Achim Steiner posed this question: “Is the customer making the sustainable choices the one who should be paying the premium?”

Sustainability experts across the globe are realising that consumer behaviour holds the key to reducing the environmental impacts of the world’s rapidly growing urban populations, alongside high-tech solutions such as green buildings, clean energy and more efficient transport.

This is because even the best technology will not be enough if cities – and its people – cannot change their high-consumption lifestyles. Simply put, sustainable cities require sustainable consumers.

“Whether we like it or not, today we are automatically part of a high consumption system,” said Professor Steffen Lehmann, director of the Centre for Sustainable Design & Behaviour (sd+b) at the University of South Australia, in a recent interview. “One cannot have infinite growth and consumption on a planet with finite resources.”

Many are over-consuming in societies where progress is measured by how quickly people can extract, produce, consume and waste things, and it is time for a wake-up call, he noted.

The manufacturing, consumption and disposal process is a symptom of the current ‘pipeline’ mentality, which society must abandon if it is to stop wasting resources, he added. In its place, society needs to develop a ‘no-waste’ ethos through which products and services are designed and managed to systematically avoid and eliminate the waste of materials.

“Today, it is technologically possible to build a zero-waste and zero-carbon-emission city. The question is: are we willing to do so and transform from consumers to citizens?” he asked.

Conventional measures like recycling programmes will not be enough; such a transformation will require companies to change the way they create and recover products, noted Professor Lehmann. It will also require new business models such as car-sharing schemes, he added.

As UNEP’s Mr Steiner has noted, eco-friendly products – typically manufactured in relatively small quantities for niche markets – have conventionally cost consumers more money. However, a growing number of multinational manufacturers are beginning to measure the environmental and social impacts of their business beyond the boundaries of their factories, and they are making strides at greening the products that consumers already buy.

Professor Lehmann called this extended producer responsibility, and noted that it is becoming more common despite the fact that many companies – driven by their marketing departments – are still pretending to have greener products than they really have.

“Extended producer responsibility means that companies…cannot walk away from the legacy of their produced stuff and its environmental damages,” he said.

At the moment, he has doubts that the manufacturing industry overall is making much progress towards sustainable consumption because over-hauling existing supply chains is difficult and costly.

“The real change will only happen when consumers demand it. This is why we need to have more well-informed consumers,” he said.

“At the end of the day, if the product cannot be 100 per cent recycled, re-used or composted then the company should not be producing it and we should not be buying it,” he said.

In this special report, Eco-Business showcases some leading manufacturers on the measures they have taken to reduce the impact of urban consumption on natural resources.

Puma:  Quantifying natural capital

Clothing manufacturer Puma last year became the first multinational to include environmental costs in an environmental profit and loss statement. Puma chief executive Jochen Zeitz said that he had been surprised by the results of the life cycle analysis of the firm’s products, which showed that the production and processing of raw materials such as cotton, rubber and leather accounted for 76 per cent of the overall environmental cost of 145 million Euros (nearly US$190 million).

In terms of carbon footprint, the emissions generated by the company’s factories were minimal compared to the supply chain.

“So, even if we go carbon neutral in our factories, we only impact 6 per cent of our footprint,” he said at a recent sustainable business forum. He added that putting the impacts in monetary terms resulted in better decisions during the product design and development stages.

Puma is now working on applying the environmental costs to individual products, so the customer can compare when shopping. Mr Zeitz said he hoped industry could find easy, standardised ways to communicate these costs – something along the lines of “environmental calories” – so that the consumer can make informed choices.

“As a large international brand, we know that we have an opportunity to help change consumer behaviour when it comes to sustainability and also inspire others to do the same,” he told Eco-Business in an e-mail interview.

Kao: Working with customers towards eco-friendly habits

The Japanese firm Kao, whose 34,000 employees produce cosmetics, household goods and chemicals for the global market, has a research and development team of thousands looking for ways to environmental impacts of its products in the homes of customers. The company set up an Eco-lab museum in Japan for business partners, school groups and the public to raise awareness and help change habits. Museum director and research fellow Mazaki Tsumadori told Eco-Business in Singapore recently that about half of the firm’s overall emissions occur after the customer takes home its products, and that the firm focussed on developing products that use less water and less energy to heat water, and generate less waste.

After conducting thorough research on consumer habits and lifestyles in different markets, the firm introduced product innovations such as concentrated laundry detergents to reduce packaging and the energy needed for transport. Over the years, they have also developed refill packs for soaps and detergents and reduced the amount of water needed for rinsing.

Mr Tsumadori noted that consumers could only play their part in a more sustainable lifestyle if companies provided the necessary information. He also cautioned against having trade-offs: “If the products cost more or do not perform as well, they will not work for the mainstream.”

Philips: Creating new business models

Dutch electronics firm Philips was recognised earlier this month as a “Green Game-changer” by WWF-UK for a new business model that overcomes the problem of high up-front costs for energy efficient LED lighting. Its Pay Per Lux leasing scheme allows businesses to install the energy-saving lights without the expense of the fixture or the hassle of recycling the parts at the end of their use. Philips is preparing to scale up the model after the success of its first test case in the Netherlands.

Robert Metzke, senior director Philips’ EcoVision Program, said in a WWF report that eco-friendly technology often provided benefits that were not directly beneficial to the customer. “It’s challenging to find new ways to include these additional benefits into your business model,” he added.

Philips’ current sustainability blueprint, called Eco-Vision5, calls for a 50 per cent improvement in its products’ energy efficiency from 2009 levels by 2015 and progress towards closing the material loop through natural resource efficiency and recycling.

Mars: Maximising impacts

The privately held Mars Corporation, the US-based maker of M&M chocolate candies and other food products, concentrates its sustainability efforts where its massive size and big brand recognition give it an edge – with the small-holders in its supply chain on one end, and the individual customers on the other. Chief sustainability officer Andrew Hobday said in an interview that while big companies had tremendous negative impacts on the environment, they also had the opportunity to affect the lives of many people in a responsible way.

The firm, which uses 12 to 15 per cent of the global cocoa supply, is currently the largest purchaser of certified sustainable cocoa and has committed to using only certified cocoa by 2020. Mars is investing heavily in scientific research on cocoa farming and in programmes to help small-holder farmers improve their yields and reduce environmental impacts.

In Africa, where most of the cocoa is grown, better techniques such as intercropping can improve yields up to five times the current average, and Mars has an incentive to help farmers achieve so this so that they do not move out of farming, he said.

As little as 25 years ago, companies never worried about the supply chain, and were only concerned with getting good quality at a good price, noted Mr Hobday. However, now companies are taking a long term view and working to strengthen the science.

Mars also applies its long-term view to customers. In recognition of the public health issues associated with many snack foods, the firm is careful to market its snacks as occasional treats, and never to children under 12. It has also reduced portion sizes and introduced resealable packaging to encourage people to eat less in a sitting. “We want people to continue to enjoy and buy the products, and we recognize that we can do our part to ensure that,” he said.

The company is also working on different ways of providing positive environmental and social responsibility messages on its products.

Panasonic: User-friendly, environment-friendly systems

Japanese electronics firm Panasonic has been creating interactive systems to help consumers improve energy efficiency without sacrificing comfort or lifestyle. In August, the company launched a new integrated energy management application through which customers could connect to their home appliances over the internet. The app lets people check energy efficiency settings and control appliances, and also provides useful tips.

The general manager Panasonic’s solutions development group, Yasuyuki Shintani, said that the ultimate goal was to minimise household energy use with a range of Panasonic products such as insulation, air-conditioners, appliances and grid-connected demand-response energy management systems. The key, he added, was to design for efficiency for the entire household from the beginning.

He called energy efficiency the ultimate strategy to achieve sustainable cities. This is especially true for emerging countries, where conventional thinking is usually to build new power plants rather than finding ways to save energy, he added.

Fuji Xerox: Staying the course

Fuji Xerox product developer Motofumi Baba spent 14 years working on a multi-function copier that would not keep customers waiting while the machine warmed up. He said he was motivated by the fact that people were not using the energy efficiency settings on the Japanese manufacturer’s machines because they were too impatient to wait for copiers to wake from sleep mode. The zero-wait copier was launched earlier this year as part of the company’s Real Green solutions range.

Fuji Xerox applied the same persistence to its zero-waste goals. When the company had trouble sourcing qualified recycling operations for its product take-back scheme in Asia, it built its own facility in Thailand and trained local workers to safely perform the task. Another facility located in China enables the firm to recycle all of the products it collects from within Asia at the end of their lifespans. Fuji Xerox remanufactures as much material as possible for use in new machines.

This Liveable Cities Series is brought to you by Philips Lighting.


Last Word: Connecting the Dots

Posted by Ken on December 22, 2012
Posted under Express 181

Last Word: Connecting the Dots

We’ve been hearing a lot about the nexus between climate, water, food and energy.  We’ve uncovered a vital communication connection. Sustainability and technology come together to help us better understand and educate ourselves – particularly the younger generations – about our world and our behaviour and how to makes things better. As a relatively new convert to gaming – not the gambling kind – I have discovered a lot is being done around the world to use “gamification”, video games, virtual reality, avatars, digital mobility, even “interactive visualisation technology” to educate and to train. It’s being called Serious Games – or to coin a phrase “Games for Good.  Its applications are many and varied as I have recently discovered through my work with Serious Games International. Now we learn that in the US a competition has been organised to challenge designers to use social gaming to combat climate change. And the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is involved with a new programme for students using serious games. Read More

This is being introduced in Africa and Asia in 2013:

Aqua Republica is a new online strategic game that taps into social networks and the phenomenon of serious games. It helps raise awareness and educate stakeholders of the importance and challenges of managing limited natural resources in the face of multiple and often competing demands in the drive towards sustainable development. This serious water resources game is being developed by DHI and UNEP. Source:

See also PSFK’s Future of Gaming report.It presents key trends emerging within the gaming space that brands, non-profits and communities can leverage to build engagement and motivate their target audience towards achieving a desired goal or outcome. It is designed to inspire anyone tasked with creating compelling user experiences, whether that be on a digital screen, in the real world or somewhere in between.

We recognize that there is a tremendous amount of research and study taking place around gaming, and this report reflects our contribution to that conversation. The report provides a current snapshot into the innovative ways that games are being used within the broader marketplace, examine their expanding role in effecting change on an individual and societal level, and highlight the new technologies that are making these experiences possible.


For more on games for good go to: and


This article from Massable on Gaming for Good is one year old:

Can Gaming Change the Climate Change Conversation?

By Dory Carr-Harris on December 2, 2011.

From Foursquare to Angry Birds to Farmville, there’s no denying social gaming is exploding. Riding this trend, new ideas and inspiration site PSFK recently challenged designers to use social gaming to combat climate change.

At this month’s Gaming for Good in New York City, 10 finalists presented gaming concepts, which address challenges presented by The Climate Reality Project. Environmental activist and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore selected five gaming concepts he believes have the potential to change conversations about climate change.

In his opening remarks, Gore said private companies — such as the PSFK gaming entrants — rather than governments, are leading the way to slow the rate of climate change. “Our democracy has been hacked,” he said. “It no longer functions with the integrity of our founding fathers.”

Gore is a known supporter of climate change prevention and believes the U.S. government does not do enough to protect the environment. Despite the evidence, some people are still not convinced that climate change and its effects are real.

One innovative gaming solution Gore loved was REALiTREE, a digital representation of the local environment and our role in sustaining its well-being.  Large video screens, powered by renewable energies, display images of conversation-provoking trees. Creators Stark Design compare it to a communal Tamagotchi, essentially a digital environment where you’ll feel compelled to take care of the trees.

Other favorites included Zemoga’s Climate Trail, based on retro favorite Oregon Trail, in which players follow a money trail tied to false information, and use that information to work toward a healthy environment in 2036. Awkward Hug’s Greensquare is a geo-location game where you get points based on your checkin’s green scores. Arnold Worldwide’s Reality Drop provides you with the tools to win any climate change argument on online discussion boards — and gives you points for each time you “drop” a reality fact. Parlor’s Climate Reality Patrol users tag their online comments with deeper explanations relating to climate change, earning rewards and badges.

While these games might not share the addictive appeal of World of Warcraft their combination of a pressing topic and points and badges make them exciting educational tools and conversations starters. If these concepts come to fruition, do you think they can impact climate change?

Mashable is a leading source for news, information & resources for the Connected Generation. Mashable reports on the importance of digital innovation and how it empowers and inspires people around the world. Mashable’s 20 million monthly unique visitors and 6 million social media followers have become one of the most engaged online news communities. Founded in 2005, Mashable is headquartered in New York City with an office in San Francisco.


Tilting at windmills?

Posted by Ken on December 10, 2012
Posted under Express 180

Attacking imaginary enemies is the literal translation to the age-old expression. When wanting to slay what he saw as his large looming enemies, Don Quixote was told: “Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone.” There are some who see today’s giant wind turbines as enemies and want to bring them down. Some oppose any attempt to turn from fossil fuels to renewable energy.  Let’s embrace the innovations – new approaches to renewable energy and clean tech – which are all around us. Maybe that’s the same thing which is stopping some nations from working towards a global agreement to cut emissions. They see change and renewal as too risky. An enemy of the economy? Inhibiting growth? We report on the final day of the UNFCCC meeting in Doha – ever hoping there would be a last minute meeting of minds. Maybe with such slow progress or no progress at all, the whole UN climate change “multilateral” emissions-reduction attempt should be scrapped. There has to be a better way. Fortunately, many big businesses the world over – and some countries, too – are agreeing to turn the tide to a future that will benefit all.  Burying your head in the sand – pretending things are not as bad as they really are or refusing to admit what’s already plain to see – is no longer an option. Not unlike tilting at windmills. Imagined enemies. Attacking the scientists and advocates who are the messengers of climate change impacts. Let’s deal with the real enemies and mend our ways. – Ken Hickson

Profile: Nick Rowley

Posted by Ken on December 10, 2012
Posted under Express 180

Reducing emissions will be driven by public and political will and a combination of international diplomacy, technological innovation, scaled investment and policy at national, state, and local level. The indications are that this will, driven largely by economic and national interest, is growing. This  from Nick Rowley, climate change and sustainability strategist and one of the 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders. Read More

By Nick Rowley in The Conversation (27 November 201):

The irony of the world’s climate change negotiators meeting in Doha this week cannot be lost on anyone taking an interest in climate change.

Qatar is hardly a model of the low carbon economy. With annual per capita carbon emissions of more than 50 tonnes, it has the highest footprint of any nation. The country’s exponential economic growth has been driven by the export of oil, natural gas and other petrochemicals. Its winning bid to host the 2022 World Cup includes plans to fully air condition every new stadium, insulating the players and the crowds from the 40°C+ heat.

But even if it were held in the lowest-emitting of countries, this Conference of the Parties is unlikely to achieve anything meaningful.

Climate change is all about energy: the way we generate and use it for electricity, transport and food production. Energy is the foundation of the global economy. And negotiators working for environment ministers just don’t have the authority to contribute to decisions that affect these dynamics.

If you transform the energy system, you fundamentally transform the global economic system. All the ships crossing the ocean full of sheep and textiles and cars and all the other things on our supermarket shelves or our lounge rooms are moved by fossil fuel. All those planes transporting people around the globe are too. Not all, but most of the lights seen from space are illuminated by electricity from combusted fossil fuel.

It is not hyperbole to conclude that changing the inputs that create this amenity will require the most far-reaching transformation of the energy system since the industrial revolution. And as with the industrial revolution starting in Britain, Belgium and other northern European countries, so the energy transformation will be led by the current major global economic actors.

Understanding the global response to climate change is thus a matter of following political and policy developments in the United States, Japan, Germany and China as much as it is about following the formal UN processes.

Let’s take a closer look at China. It is now home to four of the top five solar photovoltaic manufacturers in the world. Two of the top five wind turbine manufacturers are also Chinese. Ten years ago none of these companies were even in the top ten. Some didn’t even exist.

This change has been rapid, and just as with any other product or commodity, once volumes increase, so prices fall. Just two weeks ago Suntech, the world’s biggest solar PV company, announced that its cost of manufacture will fall 30 per cent in 2012. That is on top of a 75 per cent fall since 2009. For certain consumers, in certain places, and at certain times, solar is rapidly becoming the cheapest way to generate electricity.

And China’s current Five Year Plan has earmarked $1.6 trillion of investment in low carbon infrastructure and technology. The “China 2030” report, released earlier this year by China’s State Council and the World Bank, concludes that China’s national interest is in building a low carbon economy and getting ahead of the competition. The recent energy policy has a series of ambitious renewable energy targets.

Japan is often forgotten in discussion of low carbon development. Yet the world’s third largest economy has long been a leader in energy efficiency. With few primary resources and massive global companies like Canon, Toyota and Sony, it built its post-war economic strength on the basis of technological innovation.

Following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and the break down of the Fukushima nuclear plant, Japan is shifting its energy system away from nuclear and towards renewables, energy efficiency, and modern power grids able to manage demand.

Driven by policies such as these, the changes in the energy and electricity business have the potential to be as rapid as the changes in information and communications technology. Large-scale electricity generation distributed to our homes, businesses and factories via a lengthy distribution network ending with a plug in the wall might be the equivalent of the old black dial phone owned by the government. Now we can choose our make of mobile phone; choose our plan and the level of service it provides.

As with our phones, we will soon be able to use electricity in different ways, at different times, to manage cost. Businesses with roof space, or the ability to invest in their own electricity generation through technologies such as co-generation, can get into the business of selling their own power back to the grid.

And with Japan and Germany leading this charge, with China on the rise, the economics of electricity will move even faster.

According to Bloomberg, last year was the first when new investment in clean energy overtook coal and gas. In 2004 only $US34 billion was invested in clean energy globally. In 2011 the figure was $280 billion. That is a more than 800% increase.

This is all happening a good deal faster than most predictions. Rhetorical commitments to green growth are fine, but tangible examples of where investment in new local carbon infrastructure has achieved clear environmental and commercial returns is more powerful.

It is easy to be sceptical about Doha. But one shouldn’t allow oneself to therefore become cynical about the UN process. It is far from what it has to become but remains a critical part of the complex three-dimensional jigsaw that is our emerging response to climate change. The agreement reached last year at Durban has maintained the hope that by 2015 we will have a legally binding framework focused on keeping climate change within 2°C.

Climate change is not a problem that can be “solved” by any one meeting at any single point in time. Reducing emissions will be driven by public and political will and a combination of international diplomacy, technological innovation, scaled investment and policy at national, state, and local level. The indications are that this will, driven largely by economic and national interest is growing. Deliberations in Doha this week can only contribute a small amount to strengthening it.

Nick Rowley is a research fellow, Institute for Democracy and Human Rights at University of Sydney

Nick currently works as a strategic policy consultant to a mix of business and NGO clients in Australia and overseas. Over the past fifteen years, Nick has worked at the centre of government on sustainability, climate change and broader policy and political strategy in Australia and the UK. In these roles he has developed new and innovative policy approaches in a number of areas from the funding of cutting-edge medical research, protecting public lands bordering Sydney Harbour to helping establish the seminal Stern Review into the Economics of Climate Change.

As a Founding Director of Kinesis, a bespoke climate change advisory and systems development firm, Nick was the Strategic Director of the Copenhagen Climate Council: an affiliation of climate scientists, business CEOs and policy practitioners brought together to make the case for a more adequate global climate treaty in 2009.

From March 2004 to January 2006, Nick worked at 10 Downing Street as an advisor to Prime Minister Tony Blair. In this role he oversaw all domestic and international climate policy and was part of a small team advising the British Prime Minister on climate change prior to the G8 Summit at Gleneagles in July 2005. While at Downing Street he was involved in early discussions in 2005 about the potential of establishing a series of leaders debates in the UK. From 1995 to 2004 Nick was advisor to Bob Carr, Premier of NSW (now Australian Foreign Minister), working primarily on policy on the environment, urban development and medical research.

As a Visiting Research Fellow at IDHR Nick’s work concentrate on how to achieve more effective public engagement and debate prior to Australian elections through more effective Prime Ministerial televisions debates supported and enhanced by new media.


The New Normal: Extreme Weather, Rising Temperatures, Higher Emission Rates & Inconclusive Climate Talks

Posted by Ken on December 10, 2012
Posted under Express 180

In spite of firm words from Ban Ki-Moon to revive deadlocked global climate change talks that “extreme weather is the new normal and it poses a threat to the human race”, the results of two week’s work at Doha by hundreds of politicians, diplomats and civil servants, produced little more than a decision to delay the inevitable. Maybe what the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) plans in its Low-Carbon Society (LCS) Blueprint for Malaysia is a better way for countries to agree themselves to cut emissions. Read More

Reuters report (9 December 2012):

Following are major decisions by almost 200 nations at U.N. meeting on climate change in Doha, Qatar, November 26 to December 7:


The conference agreed to an eight-year extension to 2020 of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding U.N. pact for combating global warming.

It now obliges about 35 industrialised countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by an average of at least 5.2 percent below 1990 levels during the period 2008-12. Nations will pick their own targets for 2020.

But backers of Kyoto will dwindle from 2013 to a group including the European Union, Australia, Ukraine, Switzerland and Norway. Together they account for less than 15 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions.

Others of the original Kyoto group — Russia, Japan and Canada — are pulling out, saying that it is time for big emerging economies led by China and India to join in setting targets for limiting their surging emissions.

The United States signed but never ratified Kyoto, arguing that it would cost U.S. jobs and wrongly omitted goals for developing nations. Developing nations have insisted on keeping Kyoto as a sign that rich nations are leading.

Under Saturday’s extension, there will be a possibility for tightening targets in 2014. The European Union, for instance, has promised cuts of at least 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.


Countries laid out a timetable for working on a new global deal, due to be agreed in 2015 and to enter into force from 2020 that would apply to all nations. Kyoto now only sets targets for industrialised nations.

Negotiations would be split into two “work streams” – one looking at actions to combat climate change from 2020 and another to look into how to step up ambition before 2020

They agreed to hold a first session of talks from April 29 to May 2, 2013, in Bonn, Germany, perhaps another in September 2013, and at least two sessions in 2014 and two in 2015.

The talks are named the “Durban Platform” after the South African city that hosted talks last year where the new push for a global deal from 2020 was decided.


The conference stopped short of obliging developed nations, facing austerity at home, to give a timetable about how they would achieve a promised tenfold increase in aid to $100 billion a year by 2020.

The text “encourages developed country parties to further increase their efforts to provide resources of at least to the average annual level of the (2010-12) period for 2013-15.” It would extend work on identifying new sources of funds by another year.

Developed nations agreed at a summit in 2009 to give developing nations $10 billion a year in aid to help them adapt to a changing climate for 2010-12. They also set a separate goal of $100 billion for 2020 but did not say what would happen from 2013-19.


The meeting agreed ways to address rising losses for developing countries from the impacts of climate change, ranging from droughts to a gradual rise in sea levels.

It decided to set up new arrangements to address loss and damage, including perhaps a new international mechanism at a next meeting in 2013. The text includes no promise of new cash.

Delegates said that the United States was the most adamant that any new project would not be in addition to a $100 billion funds promised from 2020 to help the poor.



Extreme weather the ‘new normal’, UN chief says

Sydney Morning Herald (5 December 2012):

Extreme weather is the new normal and poses a threat to the human race, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday as he sought to revive deadlocked global climate change talks.

Ban’s intervention came as efforts to agree a symbolic extension of the U.N. Kyoto Protocol, a treaty that obliges about 35 developed nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions until the end of 2012, looked to be faltering.

In a speech to almost 200 nations meeting in Doha to try to get a breakthrough, Ban said a thaw in Arctic sea ice to record lows this year, superstorms and rising sea levels were all signs of a crisis.

“The abnormal is the new normal,” he told delegates at the November 26-December 7 talks. He said signs of change were apparent everywhere and “from the United States to India, from Ukraine to Brazil, drought (has) decimated essential global crops”.

“No one is immune to climate change – rich or poor. It is an existential challenge for the whole human race – our way of life, our plans for the future,” he said.

The failure to agree a Kyoto extension is blocking efforts to lay the foundations of a new global U.N. deal that is meant to be agreed in 2015 and to enter into force from 2020.

At the last attempt in 2009, a summit in Copenhagen failed to agreed a global deal to succeed Kyoto. Kyoto requires countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels from 2008 to 2012.

“A blank slate”

Robert Stavins, director of Harvard University’s environmental economics programme, said there was some hope that an accord could be struck in 2015 despite past setbacks.

“It’s a blank slate and there is always hope for long-term happiness,” he said, likening the situation to somebody seeking a new romance after being twice divorced.

Ban said that Kyoto was a valuable model even though Russia, Japan and Canada are pulling out, leaving a group led by the European Union and Australia that account for only 15 per cent of world greenhouse gas emissions.

The defectors say Kyoto is no longer relevant because emerging nations led by China and India will have no targets to curb their soaring emissions from 2013. And the United States, the second biggest emitter behind China, never ratified Kyoto.

Ban also said that rich nations should step up aid to help the poor cope with climate change after a $10-billion-a-year funding programme promised for 2010-12 runs out.



In Doha, Malaysia pushes low-carbon blueprint

Bikya Masr Staff (3 December 2012):

Iskander Malaysia pushes low-carbon blueprint in Doha.

DOHA: Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) has launched the Iskandar Malaysia Low-Carbon Society (LCS) Blueprint in a bid to reduce the economic corridor’s carbon intensity emissions by 50 percent once it reaches maturity in 2025.

“It is a message to the world that Iskandar Malaysia and Malaysia have its ways of contributing to a better environment now and the future,” said IRDA’s chief executive, Datuk Ismail Ibrahim.

Ismail, who launched the Blueprint as a side event at the 18th session of the Conference of Parties (COP18) here last Friday, said: “We will start implementing the 12 Actions outlined in the blueprint during the first quarter of 2013.”

“While we are going through the process of economic development with physical development, at the same time we shall continue with our commitment to preserve the environment,” he said.

He said environmental issue was one of the topics that always cropped up during his engagements with investors and potential investors, especially foreign multinationals and foreign investors.

“They always asked what Iskandar Malaysia is doing with regard to protecting the environment while it continues to experience economic growth.

“That question is a clear signal that investors today and in the future always look for a balance between growth and the need to protect the environment, he said.

Ismail said the multinationals and investors wanted to embrace the investment that would run in tandem with the need to protect the environment, and what were being done in Iskandar Malaysia were actually something that supported that agenda.

The blueprint is a result of a joint effort between Japan and Malaysia, which started in July 2011.

The project, Development of Low-Carbon Society Scenarios for Asian Regions, was initiated by the Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS).

Sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the project brought together a team of multi-disciplinary researchers from Kyoto University, the National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES), Okayama University and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) with a view to define Low-Carbon Society (LCS) visions and crafting a roadmap towards LCS at the national and city-regional level.

The project will showcase best practices in LCS for the Asian Regions and will therefore benefit not only Iskandar Malaysia and Malaysia, but also the Asian regions.

It is a hands-on project where researchers and government officials of Asian countries work together in implementing research output within the cities or regions involved, leading to the eventual establishment of an Asian Low-Carbon Society network.

It is in line with Malaysia’s voluntary commitment to reduce the country’s carbon intensity by up to 40 per cent by year 2020 (based on 2005 levels) and the research project began with a pilot study of Iskandar Malaysia.

“Although it is still early days, our research teams have already started some initial programmes such as the pilot project for Low-Carbon Village at Felda Taib Andak in Iskandar Malaysia, the use of CASBEE tools to assess Iskandar Malaysia’s regional environmental performance and the launching of Iskandar Malaysia Smart City Framework,” said Ismail.

He said the Blueprint, with its 12 Actions and its 300 plus programmes, must be implemented in a timely and proactive manner by all, and IRDA, as the regional authority, would play a lead role in ensuring that the Actions were carried out.

“UTM and our research partners from Japan will continue to play key roles in the implementation of these Actions, in which they are the main instigators,” he said.

Professor Dr Ho Chin Song, the project manager of Malaysia/Japan Joint Research project for Development of Low-Carbon Society Scenarios for Asian Regions, said UTM would be the hub for training and Iskandar Malaysia is the test bed for low-carbon technologies and policies that could be implemented in other Asian countries.

He said Low-Carbon Asia Research Centre has already been set up in UTM and would train Asian urban managers to understand how a low-carbon society works.

He said Iskandar Malaysia Low-Carbon Society Blueprint was the first of its kind to guide or transform a region into a low-carbon area.


Epic Failure of Energy Policies. An Economic Sin of Global Proportions

Posted by Ken on December 10, 2012
Posted under Express 180

An economic sin. An epic failure of international energy policy.  Harsh words from the chief economist of the  International Energy Agency (IEA) Dr Fatih Birol on why only a third of economically-viable energy efficiency measures are actually achieved globally. He said this in Singapore with the Asian launch of the World Energy Outlook 2012 organised by Energy Market Authority. Ken Hickson was there and clearly heard Dr Birol offer some praise too – for the industrial sector in the US, as well as China, Japan and Europe, for making some positive moves to capitalise on the benefits of energy efficiency. Enlarge the telling graph on the right to see where the problems lie, but read more on what Dr Birol and IEA has to say on what’s needed to capitalise on huge energy efficiency opportunities. Read More

Ken Hickson reports on the World Energy Outlook and on what International Energy Agency (IEA) Chief Economist Dr Fatih Birol had to say in Singapore on 4 December 2012:

Focus on Energy Efficiency as its where the most can be achieved in the shortest time

Eloquent and energetic. Mostly diplomatic, but very direct.

Dr Fatih Birol does not mince words when it comes to pointing out the fateful omissions of countries when it comes to not exploiting the opportunities to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by effectively employing energy efficiency measures.

Here is the man with his finger on the pulse of the global energy scene and with his mind tuned to the bottom line of energy – what its costs to produce and what cost the planet has to bear.

He is undoubtedly an energy economist with a heart and one he proudly wears on his sleeve.

Cool and calculating, he tells the world – and in this case a sober Singapore audience of 200 plus – that for him it is “an economic sin” that only one third of all economically-viable energy efficiency potential is being realised.

That means two thirds of economically viable energy efficiency opportunities are missed. Lost forever.

In terms of international energy policy implementation this is – in his words – “an epic failure”.

He pointed out that the IEA studied every country and every sector and looked at all the opportunities for producing energy savings.

He also made clear that this year the “fuel” IEA decided to focus on in its World Energy Outlook was not coal, or gas, or renewables, but was energy efficiency. The fuel we often forget about. It goes to waste.

The gains promised by energy efficiency are within reach and are essential to underpin a more secure and sustainable energy system.

He talked about the benefits of unlocking the purely economic potential for energy efficiency could do for energy markets, the economy and the environment.

Some of his strong words and impressive points:

  • Energy efficiency can delay “lock-in” of CO2 emissions permitted under a 2 °C trajectory – which is set to happen in 2017 –  until 2022, buying five extra years
  • Cumulative investments in energy efficiency of $12 trillion are more than offset by fuel savings & trigger economic growth of a cumulative $18 trillion
  • Industry is the one sector where the most of energy efficiency opportunities have been realised – that because industry recognises the business case. Proof that energy efficiency works.

Here’s an important extract from the World Energy Outlook:

A blueprint for an energy-efficient world

Energy efficiency is widely recognised as a key option in the hands of policy makers but current efforts fall well short of tapping its full economic potential. In the last year major energy-consuming countries have announced new measures: China is targeting a 16% reduction in energy intensity by 2015; the United States has adopted new fuel economy standards; the European Union has committed to a cut of 20% in its 2020 energy demand; and Japan aims to cut 10% from electricity consumption by 2030. In the New Policies Scenario, these help to speed up the disappointingly slow progress in global energy efficiency seen over the last decade. But even with these and other new policies in place, a significant share of the potential to improve energy efficiency – four-fifths of the potential in the buildings sector and more than half in industry – still remains untapped.

Our Efficient World Scenario shows how tackling the barriers to energy efficiency investment can unleash this potential and realise huge gains for energy security, economic growth and the environment. These gains are not based on achieving any major or unexpected technological breakthroughs, but just on taking actions to remove the barriers obstructing the implementation of energy efficiency measures that are economically viable. Successful action to this effect would have a major impact on global energy and climate trends, compared with the New Policies Scenario. The growth in global primary energy demand to 2035 would be halved.

For the full executive summary or the 2012 World Energy Report go to:


Energy Market Authority Reports (4 December 2012):

Singapore, 4 December 2012 – The International Energy Agency (IEA) today held the Southeast Asia launch of its flagship World Energy Outlook (WEO) publication in Singapore, noting that dramatic changes to the global energy system would have wide-ranging implications on energy production, policy decisions and the geopolitical landscape.  Asia is a key region in this regard due to its growing share of demand for energy resources, said this year’s report.

IEA Chief Economist and WEO lead author, Dr Fatih Birol, highlighted several key insights from the publication, including the energy renaissance in the United States. Resurgence in oil and gas production in the United States is accelerating an ongoing shift in international oil trade towards Asian markets.  This is necessitating a greater focus on the security of strategic transport routes. Among other developments, several countries are retreating from nuclear power generation while there is continued growth in the use of renewable technologies.

More, however, needs to be done to improve energy efficiency and ensure that the global energy system remains on a more sustainable path, said Dr Birol.  He noted that the central scenario of WEO 2012 shows that several conflicting trends persist – energy demand and CO2 emissions are rising; energy market dynamics are increasingly determined by emerging economies; fossil fuels are still dominant as sources of energy; and the world is lagging in providing universal energy access to the under-privileged.

Said Dr Birol: “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 percent on average.”

The report also confirms that the 10 economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are set to play a key role in global energy markets over the next quarter century.  Southeast Asia’s energy demand is expected to expand by over four-fifths over the period.  Alongside rising energy needs in China and India, this robust growth is refocusing the global energy landscape increasingly towards Asia. “But many challenges will need to be overcome if Southeast Asia is to meet its growing needs at affordable prices and in a sustainable manner,” said Dr Birol.

WEO 2012 sets out updated projections of energy demand, production, trade, investment and carbon-dioxide emissions, broken down by country, fuel and sector, from now to 2035.  These projections are used by the public and private sector as a framework for policymaking, planning and investment decisions, and to identify the impact of current trends on energy security, environmental protection and economic development for specific regions.

Singapore was IEA’s first Southeast Asia stop to launch the WEO 2012.  For a full report, including Dr Birol’s presentation  -  – and video clips from the forum, go to the source.


US Bipartisan Moves On Major Energy Savings for the Public & Private Sectors

Posted by Ken on December 10, 2012
Posted under Express 180

In the US, quite remarkably and even unexpectedly, the Senate has sent a new energy efficiency bill to the President to sign into law which will help monitor and manage energy use and energy savings in the public and private sector. On top of that, US Representatives Cory Gardner (Republican) and Peter Welch (Democrat) announced the roll out of a bipartisan caucus that will focus on promoting performance contracting in government buildings across the country and thereby provide guaranteed energy savings to American taxpayers.

Robert Bowen for the Examiner report (7 December 2012):

Two days after the House passed the American Energy Manufacturing Technical Corrections Act, HB6582, the Senate passed it Friday on unanimous consent and sent it to the president for his signature. President Obama is expected to sign the bill.

The smallest carbon footprint comes from energy that is never used. That is why any energy efficiency is important given the reality of climate change.

Although the bill falls short of what many energy conservationists would have liked, it is rare in this current Congress that any bill having to do with energy efficiency is even considered let alone passed. Steven Nadel, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) said “This bill is a modest but bipartisan step forward, one we hope the next Congress can build upon.” Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) also agreed that a weak bill is better than no bill

So it is a step in the right direction given the realities of Washington even if they are baby steps.

The bill is a blending of two House bills and a Senate bill. It does several things to promote energy efficiency and thus reducing carbon emissions and reducing our dependence on foreign oil at the same time. It was supported by The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), the National Association of Manufacturers, and other groups.

The bill has several areas of focus.

First it requires the U.S. Department of Energy, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense and the General Services Administration, to develop and issue an annual best-practices report on advanced metering of energy use in federal facilities.

This will enable the DOD and GSA to conserve energy by understanding how much they are using in each facility and determine what steps they can take to improve efficiency. The DOD is the largest consumer of electricity in the nation.

The law compels certain federal facilities to use a web-based tracking system to publish energy and water consumption data on an individual facility basis; this is in addition to existing requirements for tracking compliance with energy and water audit and savings of the measures, and benchmarking of energy use.

It also directs Energy Department to establish collaborative research and development partnerships with other programs to support the use of innovative manufacturing processes and applied research for development, demonstration, and commercialization of new technologies and processes to improve industrial efficiency.

Industry is a large consumer of energy both for heating and cooling as well as running equipment. If industrial facilities and their equipment become more energy efficient the savings will be dramatic.

The Act requires the Energy Department to conduct a study, in conjunction with the industrial sector, of the barriers to deployment of industrial efficiency technologies such as electric motors, demand response, combined heat and power, and waste heat recovery, and to provide policy recommendations for overcoming these barriers.

It clarifies the factors the Secretary of Energy must consider as part of the economic justification for any new minimum efficiency standard under the residential appliance and commercial equipment energy conservation program. Also makes certain technical corrections to lighting efficiency and electric motor provisions in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

One of the energy saving provisions of the Act is that it establishing a uniform energy efficiency descriptor that applies to all residential water heaters sold in the U. S. In addition to applying a consistent rating system for all water heaters, the bill will require the Department of Energy to develop a test method to accurately determine the descriptor for all types of water heaters including new advanced technologies introduced over the last several years.

“Passage of this legislation will help reduce the confusion that consumers face when attempting to determine the energy efficiency of the water heater they intend to purchase,” Paul W. Jones, chairman and chief executive officer of A. O. Smith Corporation, commented. “It will make it easier for them [consumers] to obtain available incentives that are based on an appliance’s energy efficiency,” he added.

Now it is up to the DOE and the DOD to use these new authorities to maximize the benefits from the legislation.



Gardner, Welch announce creation of bipartisan energy efficiency caucus

Journal-Advocate staff (6 December 2012):

U.S. Representatives Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Peter Welch (D-VT) announced the roll out of a bipartisan caucus that will focus on promoting performance contracting in government buildings across the country and thereby provide guaranteed energy savings to American taxpayers.

“The goal of our caucus is going to be pushing for policies that reduce energy costs, cut pollution, and create jobs,” Gardner and Welch said in a joint statement. “There is nearly 3 billion square feet of building space that is owned and operated by the federal government, and by making government buildings more energy efficient we can save taxpayer dollars and give a boost the construction and energy sectors of our economy.”

The Energy Savings Performance Caucus currently consists of 10 members and was inspired by Gardner and Welch’s collaboration on several amendments to promote the use of Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs).

In December of 2011, President Obama authorized department and agency heads to use up to $2 billion toward the implementation of ESPCs, which are contracts between the federal government and a private company. The federal government, however, has been slow to act on taking advantage of this energy savings, the congressmen say.

Gardner and Welch hope the formation of their caucus can move the process along a bit faster by getting executive branch departments to evaluate their own facilities and identify potential savings through ESPCs, Utility Energy Service Contracts (UESCs) and performance contracts that promote energy efficiency at the federal, state, and local level.


GE Way to Cut Energy Use & Waste to Save Billions of Dollars

Posted by Ken on December 10, 2012
Posted under Express 180

General Electric’s chairman and CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, addressed a crowd of innovators in San Francisco last week, talking about a new generation of products and services designed to radically improve customers’ efficiency and productivity, cut energy use and waste, and foster a new wave of innovation. For example, 1 percent improvement in the efficiency of gas-fired power generation would save $66 billion over 15 years.

GE, the ‘Industrial Internet’ and radical efficiency

By Joel Makower in (3 December 2012):

General Electric’s chairman and CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, addressed a crowd of innovators in San Francisco last week, talking about a new generation of products and services designed to radically improve customers’ efficiency and productivity, cut energy use and waste, and foster a new wave of innovation. He described the potential to cut billions of dollars of energy from sectors like aviation, railroads, power generation, and oil and gas development. He talked about ecosystems and intelligence and efficiency.

Ecomagination 2.0? Nope. Welcome to the Industrial Internet.

GE’s latest branding effort sounds a bit like its earlier, more green-focused campaign, launched in 2005. Except that this one shuns any mention of climate change or sustainability, let alone “eco.” I doubt you’ll see any daisies or dancing elephants in its marketing efforts, even though the new messaging sounds a lot like the “jet engines, trains, and power plants that run dramatically cleaner” that GE’s ecomagination ads once touted.

And yet this is not a rehash of the same old thing. Something important is going on here. GE’s new focus is about “the convergence of the global industrial system with the power of advanced computing, analytics, low-cost sensing and new levels of connectivity permitted by the Internet.” It’s about how “the deeper meshing of the digital world with the world of machines holds the potential to bring about profound transformation to global industry, and in turn to many aspects of daily life, including the way many of us do our jobs.”

It’s fundamentally about data — Big Data — and how it transforms and, in many ways, revitalizes the dirty work of manufacturing, transportation, and energy production.

In many ways, GE’s new Industrial Internet push — articulated in a report issued last week (download – PDF) and at a high-profile San Francisco event — meshes with (and validates) our global series of VERGE events, which cover similar ground: the convergence of systems and technologies around buildings and transportation, and how data and IT create new platforms that enable radical efficiencies, breakthrough business models, and innovative products and services. Like VERGE, the Industrial Internet has a great deal to do with radical efficiencies, primarily of energy, as our friend (and VERGE 25 award winner) Katie Fehrenbacher reported last week.

GE sees this convergence as a very big business opportunity. According to its report, connecting devices to the Industrial Internet could boost global GDP by $15 trillion by 2030. That’s roughly the size of today’s U.S economy, according to the World Bank. The savings come from such things as lower fuel and energy costs; better-performing and longer-lived physical assets, like airplanes and power plants; and lower-cost healthcare. The authors claim that in the U.S. alone the Industrial Internet could boost average incomes by 25 to 40 percent over the next 20 years “and lift growth back to levels not seen since the late 1990s.”

For example, says GE, achieving a 1 percent fuel savings across the entire global airline fleet would save $30 billion over the next 15 years. A similar 1 percent improvement in the efficiency of gas-fired power generation would save $66 billion over that same period. A 1 percent improvement in railroad efficiency adds $27 billion to the total. (Note that these examples — planes, trains, and power plants, as well as healthcare devices — are GE’s bread and butter. GE’s report didn’t delve much into other parts of the industrial world, such as logistics, supply chains, and manufacturing.)

What the report makes clear is that industrial companies are no longer just about “big iron” — planes, trains, power generators, and the like. Today, software, intelligence, connectivity, analytics, sensors, diagnostics, integration, user interface, and materials science are key parts of industrial companies’ ecosystems.

All of which makes the Industrial Internet (and VERGE) a powerful platform for innovation. GE gets a bit hyperbolic on the subject, calling it the third wave of innovation, after the industrial revolution (machines and factories that power economies of scale and scope) and the Internet revolution (computing power and rise of distributed information networks). In the Industrial Internet, advances in software tools and analytic techniques provide the means to understand the massive quantities of data that are generated by intelligent devices.

GE sees vast potential in “thing that spin” — millions of rotating machinery around the world: motors, turbines, compressors, pumps, fans, blowers, generators, rollers, conveyors, and more, from simple electric motors to highly advanced computed cosmography (CT scanners) used in healthcare. Each of these assets is subject to temperature, pressure, vibration and other key metrics, which can be monitored, modeled, and manipulated remotely to provide safety, enhanced productivity, and operational savings.

This is already happening, says GE:

Companies have been applying Internet-based technologies to industrial applications as they have become available over the last decade. However, we currently stand far below the possibility frontier: the full potential of Internet-based digital technology has yet to be fully realized across the global industry system. Intelligent devices, intelligent systems, and intelligent decisioning represent the primary ways in which the physical world of machines, facilities, fleets and networks can more deeply merge with the connectivity, big data and analytics of the digital world.

As we’ve made clear with VERGE, all of this is a significant sustainability play, encouraging systems thinking across organizations and value chains, tapping into vast new opportunities for energy and operational efficiency, and rethinking and retooling business models and value propositions in ways that dramatically dematerialize and decarbonize the economy.

From what I’ve seen so far, GE seems to be deliberately downplaying the sustainability value proposition here, to the point of sustainability being conspicuous in its absence. At last week’s San Francisco event — which included presentations and panels with a number of big brains from the technology world — the words “climate change” weren’t spoken. If the S-word was mentioned, I

Neither was “ecomagination,” once a prime focus of the company. Despite the star power GE brought to the event — in addition to Immelt, there were at least three other GE corporate officers present — Mark Vachon, who heads ecomagination at GE, wasn’t there, nor were any of his lieutenants.

Perhaps this had to do with Immelt’s apparent souring on green messaging, based on Reuters’ report of comments the CEO made last year:

“If I had one thing to do over again I would not have talked so much about green,” Immelt said at an event sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Even though I believe in global warming and I believe in the science … it just took on a connotation that was too elitist; it was too precious and it let opponents think that if you had a green initiative, you didn’t care about jobs. I’m a businessman. That’s all I care about, is jobs.”

So, is ecomagination over?

I asked Beth Comstock, GE’s chief marketing officer, about ecomagination’s absence at the San Francisco event. “It wasn’t intentional,” she responded. She went on to describe a variety of initiatives done under the ecomagination banner — a greener mining business unit and a battery storage play, for example, both launched in 2012 — explaining that “ecomagination is not a special campaign, it’s just the way we work.”

Perhaps. But at one time it was a special campaign. In searching press releases on GE’s corporate website as well as its ecomagination site, it appears that ecomagination has become a secondary messaging platform at best. Internally, it’s a program GE uses to validate environmental metrics (via third-party verification) in order to establish solid underpinnings for its marketing claims. Externally, the brand seems to have lost juice within the company.

Maybe that’s just as well. Given that “green” and “clean” (and “eco”) have become politically problematic language in some circles — at least within the United States — it may be wise for Immelt and his team to quash the sustainability talk. (It’ll be interesting to see if the messaging for the Industrial Internet is different outside the U.S.)

Indeed, it was significant, albeit not surprising, that Immelt — the first to take the stage at the San Francisco event — mentioned the word “revenue” within the first 20 seconds of his presentation. GE’s newest marketing message is all business: productivity, innovation, revenue growth, and a world-class opportunity.

Joel Makower is chairman and executive editor of GreenBiz Group Inc., producer of


Seven Reasons Climate Change Is ‘Even Worse Than We Thought’

Posted by Ken on December 10, 2012
Posted under Express 180

The New Scientist magazine, in its special issue on climate change, makes the point that five years ago, the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change painted a gloomy picture of our planet’s future. But as climate scientists gather evidence for the next report, due in 2014, Michael Le Page gives seven reasons why things are looking even grimmer.  - for one, if the worst climate predictions are realised, vast swathes of the globe could become too hot for humans to survive.  Joe Romm in Climate Progress reviews the findings. Read More

By Joe Romm in Think Progress/Climate progress (26 November 2012):

The NY Times isn’t the only major publication going apocalyptic on climate change. New Scientist has a new dedicated issue that makes the Times’ stories seem down-right Pollyannish.

Nearly 3 years ago, the late William R. Freudenburg discussed in a AAAS presentation how new scientific findings since the 2007 IPCC report are found to be more than twenty times as likely to indicate that global climate disruption is “worse than previously expected,” rather than “not as bad as previously expected.” As he said at the time:

Reporters need to learn that, if they wish to discuss ‘both sides’ of the climate issue, the scientifically legitimate ‘other side’ is that, if anything, global climate disruption is likely to be significantly worse than has been suggested in scientific consensus estimates to date.

So it’s good to see New Scientist make just that point in its special issue on climate change:

Five years ago, the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change painted a gloomy picture of our planet’s future. As climate scientists gather evidence for the next report, due in 2014, Michael Le Page gives seven reasons why things are looking even grimmer.

The 7 reasons are below, with links to their respective articles. Since they are all behind a paywall, I’ll provide links to Climate Progress articles on the same subject:

  1. The thick sea ice in the Arctic Ocean was not expected to melt until the end of the century. If current trends continue, summer ice could be gone in a decade or two. Read more (or see “Death Spiral Watch: Experts Warn ‘Near Ice-Free Arctic In Summer’ In A Decade If Volume Trends Continue“).
  2. We knew global warming was going to make the weather more extreme. But it’s becoming even more extreme than anyone predicted. Read more (or see “NOAA Bombshell: Warming-Driven Arctic Ice Loss Is Boosting Chance of Extreme U.S. Weather“).
  3. Global warming was expected to boost food production. Instead, food prices are soaring as the effects of extreme weather kick in. Read more (or see “Oxfam Warns Climate Change And Extreme Weather Will Cause Food Prices To Soar” and links therein).
  4. Greenland’s rapid loss of ice mean we’re in for a rise of at least 1 metre by 2100, and possibly much more. Read more (or see “Greenland Ice Sheet Melt Nearing Critical ‘Tipping Point’” and links therein).
  5. The planet currently absorbs half our CO2emissions. All the signs are it won’t for much longer. Read more (or see “Carbon Feedback From Thawing Permafrost Will Likely Add 0.4°F – 1.5°F To Total Global Warming By 2100” and “Drying Peatlands and Intensifying Wildfires Boost Carbon Release Ninefold“).
  6. If we stopped emitting CO2 tomorrow, we might be able to avoid climate disaster. In fact we are still increasing emissions. Read more (or see “The IEA And Others Warn Of Some 11°F Warming by 2100 on current emissions path”)
  7. If the worst climate predictions are realised, vast swathes of the globe could become too hot for humans to survive. Read more (or see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts“)

And people say Climate Progress has too much gloom and doom! Still, if we didn’t add that all of the above impacts will be happening simultaneously and “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” then we wouldn’t be true to our name, would we?

It’s too bad the articles are behind a paywall, but at least the accompanying editorial plea, “Obama should fulfil his 2008 climate promises,” isn’t. The editors’ bottom line is inarguable:

What’s needed is very clear: emissions cuts, and soon. The best way to do that is to change our economic systems to reflect the true long-term cost of fossil fuels. That means ending the $1 trillion of annual subsidies for fossil fuels and imposing carbon taxes instead.

Source: and