Archive for February, 2013

Cruising on the High Seas to a Sustainability Award

Posted by Ken on February 19, 2013
Posted under Express 185

Sustainability meets the high seas with the award of the first-ever Gold-level Eco-Certification for cruise line Royal Caribbean International by Sustainable Travel International, for its operations at the island CocoCay in the Bahamas. This award recognises the efforts that cruise lines have put in to engage in responsible travel practices that focus on economic, socio-cultural and environmental sustainability. Read more

Cruise Line Takes Sustainability From Sea To Shore, Wins Award

By Chris Owen (9 February 2013):

Sustainable Travel International (STI) is a global non-profit charged to help destinations, businesses and travelers protect the environment, adapt to climate change, preserve cultural heritage and more. This week, STI awarded their first-ever, Gold-Level Eco-Certification to a cruise line, honoring Royal Caribbean International for attractions and tour operations at their island in the Bahamas, CocoCay.

Encouraging green travel, STI awards certification for businesses that are engaged in responsible travel practices that focus on economic, socio-cultural and environmental sustainability.

CocoCay is the first operation of its kind to receive the certification, which rates on-island tours, island operations, workplace practices, guest communications and environmental management policies. Rated by an expert third-party, independent of Sustainable Travel International and Royal Caribbean, the CocoCay operation demonstrated an ability to successfully apply its at-sea sustainability initiatives to its on-shore operations. But Royal Caribbean did not just get lucky. Winning the award took a global focus, much like we saw when sailing to their private destination of Labadee in Haiti, just after the major earthquake of a few years ago. Then, Royal Caribbean was self-charged to deliver thousands of pounds of food and supplies to the devastated island, which was also home to resident Royal Caribbean employees who work at Labadee when ships come calling.

“Royal Caribbean developed a very thorough, attainable action plan, designed to implement higher levels of sustainability over time,” said Robert Chappell, Sustainable Travel International’s Senior Director of Standards and Certification in a press release.

Will more cruise lines follow Royal Caribbean and work to get their own private islands certified green and sustainable? Probably. Other cruise lines as well have been working to make a green impact. By recycling cooking oil used on ships as fuel for vehicles on Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line is making a difference.

Princess Cruises shore power program made history debuting in environmentally sensitive Juneau, Alaska, in 2001, expanding to Seattle in 2005, and then to Vancouver in 2009. Currently nine of the line’s ships have the capability to “plug in” to a shore-side power source, representing an investment for Princess of nearly $7 million in equipment.

“I’m excited to see them expand their action plan while developing innovative new solutions that are leading the way in the cruise industry,” added Chappell.

STEP is among the first global standards to be formally recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay is the first cruise line private island to receive the certification.

Rotary, Microcredit and an Indonesian Fishy Story

Posted by Ken on February 19, 2013
Posted under Express 185

The adage of teaching a man to fish to enable a lifetime of self-sufficiency certainly holds true in sustainable development in rural communities. Beyond just providing cash hand outs, an important factor in creating sustainability for developmental projects is the ability to listen to the real needs of the people and enabling them to help themselves. By enabling self-sufficiency, communities can then create solutions that are right for them. Read more

Author and microcredit expert shares lessons in sustainability

By Arnold R. Grahl in Rotary News (8 February 2013):

Years ago, Marilyn Fitzgerald learned valuable lessons about sustainability from an impoverished rice farmer in Indonesia.

Fitzgerald, a past-president of the Rotary Club of Traverse City, Michigan, USA, was visiting a community to which her club was sending money to enable the children to attend school. But the farmer she encountered didn’t want money; he wanted a water buffalo.

The events that followed became the subject of her recently published book, “If I Had a Water Buffalo,” and have shaped her thinking about sustainability, a key principle of The Rotary Foundation’s new grant model. Fitzgerald now shares those lessons with Rotary clubs she visits, which recently included the Rotary Club of Evanston Lighthouse, in Illinois, USA.

Water buffalo, piglets, and hens

Fitzgerald relates how she persuaded her family to give her money as a Christmas gift so she could buy the farmer a water buffalo. The result was that he was able to triple his crop yield, increase his income, and therefore send his children to school.

The next year, women in the village wanted 20 piglets to raise, breed, and sell. Then the children wanted hens so they could make and sell an egg snack popular in the area. Eventually, many community members increased their self-sufficiency.

“For less than US$1,200, they were [able to send] their own children to school,” Fitzgerald says. By contrast, “I was up to a $72,000 budget on the school project. I had never even asked them what they wanted.”

The most important thing any Rotarian can do to make a project sustainable, she says, is to listen. The local community has to be involved in all stages of a project, from identifying a need to coming up with a solution to implementing that solution.

“At the end of the day, they have to feel good about themselves,” Fitzgerald says. “They need to feel so good about themselves that they can go on with the effort themselves.”

She defines sustainability as the ability of a project to continue once the donations end.

“A lot of people tell me a project is sustainable because they have long-term donors or they have all these clubs involved,” she says. “But that’s not true. If the donors walk away, what happens to the project?”

Fitzgerald, a clinical psychologist, is a board member of the Rotary Action Group for Microcredit and serves as microcredit adviser and economic and community development coordinator for District 6290. She says she likes microfinance projects because a well-run program lets the beneficiaries come up with their own business plan, while Rotarians provide the capital and act as mentors.

What they really wanted was cell phones

During her Evanston appearance, Fitzgerald relayed another story, about visiting a village to pursue a sanitation project for her club, only to discover that the villagers really wanted cell phones.

“I thought, no way is my club going to go for cell phones.” But when she probed further, she discovered that the villagers wanted the phones so they could relay business decisions – such as what color fabric is really selling well – to their markets more than a day’s journey from the village.

“If we provide cell phones and [villagers] increase their income, then they can buy these other things,” says Fitzgerald. “We absolutely have to talk to our beneficiaries and ask them what they want. We need to educate them about the possibilities, then let them determine the solution that’s right for them.”

She says she used to believe that any charity was better than none, but she no longer feels that way.

“I believe we can cause great harm when we build programs that people become dependent on,” she says. “Charity robs people of choice, voice, and dignity.”


Last Word: Megatrends: More than Zero Sum Games

Posted by Ken on February 19, 2013
Posted under Express 185

The world is set to be a faster, smarter and better connected place. These are some of the megatrends being observed today that are expected to change the way we live, play and work. These megatrends provide indicators the direction the world is moving towards, and enables businesses and societies to pursue strategies that will best serve their long term development and sustainability. Sarwant Singh has the last word. Read more

Viewpoint: Megatrends that will change everyone’s lives

By Sarwant Singh in BBC (11 February 2013):

Imagine a future where concerns about sustainability and the environment have given way to worries about individual health and wellbeing.

Investors would shy away from “green” solution to instead focus on so-called “smart” products and technologies, such as digital assistants – ranging from portable screens to vehicles or robots – that help individuals in their everyday lives.

These “smart” technologies can help business too, of course, as they help cement a community of four or five billion people who will be connected to each other via the internet, each and every one of them a potential customer.

As such, a technological revolution is under way, where gadgets, large and small, are changing society. And this stuff is not make-believe any more. In a decade or so, much of this will have become reality.

But how will we get there? How will society change along the way, whether at the local or the global level?

Many companies are still trying to work out how they should respond to global trends, such as the dramatic rise of China’s economic and political power, or even to the need for strategic takes on issues such as e-commerce or the rise of social media.

Organisations are also responding to the emergence of a reverse brain drain that is increasingly forcing educated Westerners to look for skilled work in Asia, or with Asian companies in their home countries.

But while some react, others are taking the lead. To name but a few:

Facebook has emerged to both shape and take advantage of online social networking trends

IBM has transformed its computer hardware business to become a solution provider

Amazon has carved out a dominant position in online retailing, then moved into hardware with its Kindle and into services with its cloud data-storage solutions

All three, and many others with them, have one thing in common. They have all been among the first to spot and adapt to major societal and transformative forces, or so-called megatrends, such as these:

Health and wellbeing

Public health is becoming unaffordable. In the Western world, healthcare costs are set to account for a fifth of total government spending by 2020. In the US, it already does so – almost.

Consequently, the age-old model of treating symptoms will give way to more holistic solutions that involve early diagnosis of disease, methods that can predict future ailments, efforts to prevent disease in the first place and ongoing monitoring of patients to ensure medical intervention takes place at an early stage when it is generally cheaper to do so.

Private health insurance schemes will change to reward individuals who stay healthy, and the private sector will increasingly sell gadgets, drugs and services that help them do so.

Smart is the new green

If “green” was the last decade’s megatrend, the latest buzzword is “smart”, a suitably vague term that starts in the home.

The idea is that technology will transform your ordinary home into a “smart home”, where entry will be controlled by retina scanners, digital assistants will greet occupants, detect their mood and respond intelligently by controlling the ambiance with mood lighting, scents, sound and vision.

Meals will be planned with options displayed on the touch-screen kitchen table top and mirrors will offer fashion advice. The phone or tablet will become a caretaker that monitors energy usage during peak and off-peak periods.

The fridge will obviously restock itself, placing automatic orders for jam and ketchup whenever it is running low.

Outside the home “smart cars” will offer hands-free driving as they move autonomously through modern cities. “Smart initiatives” are set to emerge throughout modern society, reshaping the way we interact with homes and cities, buildings and cars, as well as with factories and utility companies. Big data will create new corporate ecosystems.

Innovating to zero

Another buzzword is “zero”, which centres around the idea that with the help of innovation, we can remove what we do not want – that we can create foolproof systems that ensures there are “zero breaches of security”, products with “zero defects”, cars that result in “zero accidents”, or clever models that result in “zero fatalities” in, say, construction or mineral exploration industries.

Concepts such as “zero emails” will gain popularity in our workplace as there will be a shift towards more informal collaboration and as increasingly versatile social media tools replace the inbox.

And then, of course, there are the so-called “zero emission cars”.

Electric mobility

By 2020, more than 45 million electric bicycles, cars, buses and trucks are expected to be sold annually.

True, sales of such vehicles remain weak and will probably remain so for a couple of years longer, but during the second half of the decade we will see sales take off, creating new markets for batteries, charging stations and wireless charging solutions, as well as electric motors for cars.

It will pave the way for new business models, such as pay-by-the-mile motoring.

Cities as customers

Across the world, the pace of urbanisation is picking up. Core city centres are seamlessly merging with suburbs and “daughter” cities. City limits are expanding and so-called “mega-cities” are emerging, along with “mega-regions” and “mega-corridors”.

Each of these “mega-districts” – which will often be deemed “smart” or sustainable – will be so large that companies are beginning to consider them as autonomous hubs of customers, investment, wealth creation and economic growth.

As such, many of the companies will increasingly reorganise to focus their sales and marketing efforts and other business strategies on individual cities, as opposed to on countries or states as most of them currently do.

From planes to trains

Some 200 years after the railway was invented, we are about to see dramatic change. The next decade or two will see the creation of a global high speed rail network that will connect not only cities, states or countries, but even continents.

Some of the world’s largest infrastructure projects will come together to make seamless rail travel between the United Kingdom and China, say, or between Moscow and the Middle East possible in the next 15 to 20 years.

Even the rail laggard USA will get in on the act as rail increasingly becomes a driver of economic growth.

Value for many

The emergence of a global middle class, which is interconnected via the internet and set to number some five billion people by 2020, is resulting in the creation of new “value for many” (VFM) business models that will help drive economic growth in the coming decade.

Examples that exist already include Groupon’s collaborative business model, which uses the internet to connect buyers and buys goods en masse to get the discounts. Car sharing schemes or the free Metro newspaper are also “value for many” business models, which by definition can only make money if they have a large number of members.

The most interesting feature of the VFM business model is that it drives innovation across a whole spectrum of industries, from low-cost flights to low-cost affordable healthcare products for the masses.

Connectivity and convergence

By 2020, the world will see 80 billion connected devices, nine billion mobile phones and five billion internet users, 50% of whom connect through handheld devices.

This creates an invisible network that amounts to a world without borders, where tasks can be completed at the blink of an eye and the touch of a finger, and where online video, social media and digital imagery create an era of connectivity and convergence that will change future human interaction in every aspect of life.

New battlefields

Cyber-wars fought by cyber-soldiers might sound like science fiction, but military forces around the world have come to accept it as a fifth battle front, alongside sea, air, land and space.

Much of it will centre around the control of information, and in turn around the control of the more than 1,200 satellites that are expected to be launched into space in the next decade, alongside myriad rockets carrying space tourists.

Population and internet growth will result in a twentyfold increase in the number of hackers around the world, each of them trying to wrestle control from companies or governments in order to make money or cause disruption.

Social trends

Age and sex matters. Our private lives will change as a direct consequence of the population make-up in our home country. Or perhaps in our home mega-city.

In India, some 60% of the population will soon be aged below 34. Consequently, a new generation of political leaders below the age of 45 is waiting in the wings.

China has already seen a political generational change and the “younger” Chinese government is expected to bring new social changes such as the abolition or relaxation of the hukou system, which restricts people migrating within the country, and the single-child policy.

The abolition of the single-child policy will reduce China’s dependence on the relatively few “little emperors” supporting their parents and grandparents. It will also increase the women-to-men ratio.

Increasingly, female empowerment, which will see women play an increasingly active role in the world of politics and business, will result in fewer children being born, often later in their mothers’ lives.

Sarwant Singh is the author of New Mega Trends and a partner with the consultants Frost & Sullivan.


State of the Art for the climate

Posted by Ken on February 7, 2013
Posted under Express 184

Art and Nature seem to go together comfortably. Artists are often at the forefront of efforts to protect the environment and they put a high value on managing earth’s resources. They are neither wasteful or destructive. So we have had a lot of art to take on board in Singapore of late which also drew our attention to an article on Art and activism, bringing sustainability and poverty into the purview of the artist. Besides art, we draw attention to fossil fuel subsidies which do nothing but maintain the status quo of emissions and pollution and block the much needed clean energy revolution. Nicholas Stern admits he got it wrong: it is worse than he thought! Food for thought: the environmental impact of what we eat and what we waste. Forests and climate come into focus as t do some handy innovations in clean energy and energy efficiency.  Shipping and aviation are coming clean and two global companies – Lend Lease and Interface – show what more can be done for sustainability.  There’s wind in the willows and rock candy silicone. Really? And more news of the World Engineers Summit and its lead up event featuring next month none other than David Hood, engineer extraordinaire! The Year of the Snake arrives and we note one important prediction that research and development will flourish as the slippery water creature thrives. Snake’s alive! – Ken Hickson

Profile: David Hood

Posted by Ken on February 7, 2013
Posted under Express 184

He is everywhere and he is everything. An engineer with his feet on the ground and his head in the clouds. Climate clouds of course! He is an Al Gore trained climate change advocate. He has just been honoured in the Australia Day Awards and completed his year as National President of Engineers Australia. He comes to Singapore mid-March to speak at the lead up event on 15 March for the World Engineers Summit. He is one of the 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders. He brought attention to infrastructure which needed sustainable rules and standards, like green buildings. Read more


2012 National President David Hood honoured in Australia Day Awards

Engineers Australia’s immediate past National President, Adjunct Professor David Hood, has been appointed Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia for significant service to environmental engineering as an educator and researcher, through contributions to professional organisations, and to public awareness of sustainability.

“Prof Hood has been recognised for his meritorious service to the nation through environmental engineering, and his very significant contribution to sustainability in the built environment through industry and professional associations,” said Stephen Durkin, Chief Executive Officer of Engineers Australia.

“Through this award, Australians can now witness the far-reaching influence of Prof Hood’s career which began with major projects in civil engineering and has more recently been focused on sustainability and climate change.

“This award not only recognises Prof Hood’s individual achievements and passion to educate the community on environmental matters, but extends well beyond to raise the profile of the engineering profession and its significance in delivering sustainability outcomes.

“Prof Hood is part of an elite group put forward by the Australian community. On behalf of Engineers Australia’s National Council, Congress, staff and over 100,000 members, I congratulate Prof Hood for this great honour and outstanding contribution to Australian society through engineering,” Mr Durkin said.

David Hood in Singapore:

David Hood will speak on Sustainability – It’s Your Business at the lead up event on 15 March to promote the world Engineers summit.

Prof Hood will discuss the science and evidence behind climate change and the sustainability crisis facing society, and suggest that engineers have a very significant role to play in providing solutions. However engineers alone cannot sort this problem – it will need solutions across many disciplines, and new skills.  Are engineers ready for the challenge?

Her will be joined by Rear Admiral (RADM) (NS) Chew Men Leong is the Chief Executive and a Board Member of PUB (Public Utilities Board).  He is concurrently the Executive Director of Environment and Water Industry Programme Office (EWIPO).  He also sits on the International Advisory Panel of the Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Here’s some insight into what David Hood talks about, with conviction and authority:

With climate change, and the loss of ecosystem services that support our lifestyles and our economy now becoming a focus of community concern, it is important that decisions on the provision, location, design, construction, and operation of engineering work be made within a context of sustainability considerations.

However, in the past, prioritising engineering work and urban development has focused almost entirely on economic outcomes. The net result has often been the degradation of our natural environment, loss of amenity, and social disruption from the construction, manufacturing and the operation of civil infrastructure. This need not be the case.

Professor Hood will discuss the science and evidence behind climate change and the sustainability crisis facing society, and suggest that engineers have a very significant role to play in providing solutions. However engineers alone cannot sort this problem – it will need solutions across many disciplines, and new skills.

Are engineers ready for the challenge? Some good things are happening, but Professor Hood believes that action is far too slow and is only tinkering at the edges. Professor Hood will discuss how businesses can change and assist with solutions and still make a profit. He will also briefly describe the evolution of Australia’s Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) rating scheme, and discuss how it is expected to transform infrastructure to achieve more sustainability outcomes.


David Hood is a Chartered Professional Engineer, registered on NPER to practice in civil and environmental engineering.  David has over thirty five years experience in business, engineering, education, project management, and senior executive positions in both the public and private sectors.

David graduated in civil engineering from the University of Queensland in 1969, and
spent ten years in the Royal Australian Air Force as a Commissioned Officer involved with the planning, development, and construction of RAAF bases throughout Australia.  After a further seven years as an airport planner, and Project Director with the Federal Department of Aviation, David was appointed Senior Property Executive with the Parliament of Australia where he was responsible for the take-over and commissioning of Australia’s then New Parliament House in Canberra.  Following the successful start-up of Parliament House, David moved back to the aviation sector where he managed a number of technology IP commercialisation projects, including the establishment of joint venture companies to develop and market air traffic control related software and other products around the world.

David then worked as National Manager Aviation and Defence with Maunsell Pty Ltd, before being appointed National Director Engineering Practice with the Institution of Engineers, Australia where he was responsible for technical standards, registration, and the delivery of the Institution’s continuing professional development and education programs.

David was a Founding Director of the Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF), and of the Australian Council of Building Design Professions (BDP), and was for six years a Councillor, and for three a Director of Standards Australia International.

David is currently Chairman of his own consulting engineering practice specialising in the areas of sustainability in the built environment, “green projects”, energy efficiency policy, engineering education and global engineering infrastructure.  David has also directed a number of government and industry funded programs throughout S E Asia and Africa assisting the engineering profession in evolving economies with the development of competency standards and assessment processes, practice registration and education upgrading and accreditation systems.

As an investor, Chairman, and Board member David led the successful turnaround of CBD Energy Limited, a small public company involved in energy saving technology and solutions for the property industry.

David is actively involved with industry and professional associations promoting the improved energy performance of buildings.    David sits on a number of industry, community and university advisory boards where his extensive engineering background, and considerable involvement at a senior level in the built environment sector is influencing change in the “energy culture” of Australia.

David is an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of the Built Environment and Engineering at Queensland University of Technology, Past Chairman of the Australian College of Environmental Engineers, Chairman of the Australian Green Infrastructure Council (AGIC), and is Past Deputy President of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC).   David is also an accredited presenter on Al Gore’s Climate Project, and lectures widely on climate change and sustainability where his passion enthuses others to make a difference and reduce the damage we are inflicting on the earth’s systems.  In November 2010 David was elected National Deputy President of Engineers Australia.  He will be National President in 2012.

Source: and

Fired up about fossil fuel subsidies

Posted by Ken on February 7, 2013
Posted under Express 184

Fossil fuel subsidies have to end. That was the call by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in the lead up to this year’s Budget, and one echoed by the World Bank Chief Jim Yong Kim and the OECD. In a move that can have a significant impact on mitigating climate change by reducing demand for and usage of carbon intensive fuel, cutting off fossil fuel subsidies also puts money in programs that will benefit a larger segment of the population. Read more



31 January 2013

Now is the time to cut fossil fuel handouts

The Australian Conservation Foundation has called on the Federal Government to make good on its commitment to remove wasteful tax breaks by cutting fossil fuel handouts that encourage carbon pollution.

Yesterday Prime Minister Julia Gillard told the National Press Club the government would announce “substantial new structural savings” in the lead up to this year’s Budget.

Today the annual tax expenditures statements were released, showing an unprecedented increase in tax breaks for mining companies.

According to Treasury data, tax breaks for exploration and prospecting have increased from $320 million last year to $550 million this year, while accelerated depreciation for fossil fuel intensive assets is now costing the taxpayer a whopping $1.3 billion per year.

“For a government that is looking for structural savings and wanting to remove wasteful subsidies, cutting the senseless tax breaks that promote pollution should be a no-brainer,” said ACF’s Director of Strategic Ideas, Charles Berger.

“Over the next four years, the Commonwealth is set to waste $22 billion – or $1,000 for every Australian – on the four biggest handouts to fossil fuel industries. It would be irresponsible and unethical to cut social programs while leaving these subsidies.

“Through the fuel tax credit handout, for example, Australia is forgoing spending on education and social programs so mining barons can pay little or no tax for their fuel.

“While the rest of us pay 38c a litre in taxes at the bowser, these companies are mining the public purse and in the process they are making climate change worse.

“Just as household ratepayers pay for their rubbish to be collected each week, it’s time Australian companies started paying their fair share.

“This year’s Budget provides the golden opportunity for the government to make structural savings and honour its G20 commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.”

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s budget submission identifies savings the government can make by repealing wasteful, pollution-promoting subsidies.

More about fossil fuel subsidies at



30 Jan, 2013, 03.23PM IST, PTI

Fuel subsidies benefit people having cars and motorcycles: OECD

Last week World Bank Chief had said that countries should do away with subsidies for fossil fuels to help mitigate the impact of climate change.

NEW DELHI: Fuel subsidies are not really helping achieve the desired purpose and are mostly benefiting people having cars and motorcycles, a top official of Paris-based think tank OECD said today.

“Fossil fuel subsidies affect people who have cars, people who have motorcycles… So, in equity terms, fuel subsidies are not really doing what they are purported to be doing,” OECD Deputy Secretary General Richard Boucher said.

He was talking about fuel subsidies in the context of inclusive economic growth.

India and many other countries provide subsidies on fossil fuels like diesel and kerosene.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is a grouping of mostly rich nations.

Boucher was participating in a round table on ‘New Approaches to Economic Challenges’ organised by public policy think tank Observer Research Foundation.

Last week World Bank Chief Jim Yong Kim had said that countries should do away with subsidies for fossil fuels to help mitigate the impact of climate change.

“We should be removing fossil fuel subsidies in every country in the world,” the World Bank President had said.

He said for instance Tunisia was finding it difficult to limit fossil fuel subsidies.

“The other issue is that we have fossil fuel subsidies. I was just in Tunisia and they are struggling to find a way to limit fossil fuel subsidies. (They said) that fossil fuel subsidies help richer people who drive cars.

“(fossil fuel subsidies) are fundamentally not progressive. We want to protect the poor and the fossil fuel subsidies don’t do that… But it is politically very difficult,” Kim had said.

Meanwhile, Boucher said that when it comes to inequality, governments need to look at ways that go beyond public spending.

In a response to a query on the government’s direct cash transfer initiative, he said it is the “right step”.

“Cash transfer is the right idea… in going from generalised subsidies to targeted ones,” he added.

However, he emphasised that such a system should be carefully designed to ensure that money reaches the right hands and is spend on the family.


Stern Climate Words: “It’s worse than I thought”

Posted by Ken on February 7, 2013
Posted under Express 184

The global outlook on the effects of climate change on the economy is set to worsen. The British government-commissioned review on climate change has, by admission of its author, Nicholas Stern underestimated the danger of rising temperature on the economy. The effects have also been underestimated on the business level by companies who have failed the costs of energy price hikes and environmental disasters, according to a report by Carbon Trust. Read more

By Heather Stewart and Larry Elliott in The Guardian (26 January 2013):

Nicholas Stern: ‘I got it wrong on climate change – it’s far, far worse’

Author of 2006 review speaks out on danger to economies as planet absorbs less carbon and is ‘on track’ for 4C rise


Lord Stern, author of the government-commissioned review on climate change that became the reference work for politicians and green campaigners, now says he underestimated the risks, and should have been more “blunt” about the threat posed to the economy by rising temperatures.

In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Stern, who is now a crossbench peer, said: “Looking back, I underestimated the risks. The planet and the atmosphere seem to be absorbing less carbon than we expected, and emissions are rising pretty strongly. Some of the effects are coming through more quickly than we thought then.”

The Stern review, published in 2006, pointed to a 75% chance that global temperatures would rise by between two and three degrees above the long-term average; he now believes we are “on track for something like four “. Had he known the way the situation would evolve, he says, “I think I would have been a bit more blunt. I would have been much more strong about the risks of a four- or five-degree rise.”

He said some countries, including China, had now started to grasp the seriousness of the risks, but governments should now act forcefully to shift their economies towards less energy-intensive, more environmentally sustainable technologies.

“This is potentially so dangerous that we have to act strongly. Do we want to play Russian roulette with two bullets or one? These risks for many people are existential.”

Stern said he backed the UK’s Climate Change Act, which commits the government to ambitious carbon reduction targets. But he called for increased investment in greening the economy, saying: “It’s a very exciting growth story.”

David Cameron made much of his environmental credentials before the 2010 election, travelling to the Arctic to highlight his commitment to tackling global warming. But the coalition’s commitment to green policies has recently been questioned, amid scepticism among Tory backbenchers about the benefits of wind power, and the chancellor’s enthusiasm for exploiting Britain’s shale gas reserves.

Stern’s comments came as Jim Yong Kim, the new president of the World Bank, also at Davos, gave a grave warning about the risk of conflicts over natural resources should the forecast of a four-degree global increase above the historical average prove accurate.

“There will be water and food fights everywhere,” Kim said as he pledged to make tackling climate change a priority of his five-year term.

Kim said action was needed to create a carbon market, eliminate fossil-fuel subsidies and “green” the world’s 100 megacities, which are responsible for 60 to 70% of global emissions.

He added that the 2012 droughts in the US, which pushed up the price of wheat and maize, had led to the world’s poor eating less. For the first time, the bank president said, extreme weather had been attributed to man-made climate change. “People are starting to connect the dots. If they start to forget, I am there to remind them.

“We have to find climate-friendly ways of encouraging economic growth. The good news is we think they exist”.

Kim said there would be no solution to climate change without private sector involvement and urged companies to seize the opportunity to make profits: “There is a lot of money to be made in building the technologies and bending the arc of climate change.”



By Carin Hall in Energy Digital (26 January 2013):

Top executives from companies in Brazil, China, Korea, UK and the USA have failed to calculate the costs of ongoing energy price hikes and environmental disasters, according to the report “Are Businesses Sleepwalking into a Resource Crunch” from the Carbon Trust.

Enigin reported on the research which showed that many top executives fail to realize they need to take crucial action now to combat rising costs, including improving energy efficiency. The report also revealed that many leading executives believe they do not need to act for another 10 to 15 years. 43 percent of the respondents in the report admitted that they do not monitor environmentally related issues, such as energy cost rises, while 52 percent have still not created targets for or monitoring CO2 reduction.

The report underlines the work ahead of those within the energy efficiency industry in educating and aiding the commercial and industrial sectors to act now for the benefit of their companies, the environment and help prevent a triple-dip recession.

“It is frightening to think that so many business leaders are ‘Sleep Walking’, as the report terms it, into an avoidable calamity. This highlights the important task already being carried out by Enigin Distributors globally in raising the importance of improving energy efficiency to businesses. They also educate and empower executives and their workforce on how to monitor and gain control of their energy use – saving energy and energy costs. Action saves, it doesn’t cost.”

Troy Wrigley, Managing Director, Enigin PLC

The Carbon Trust research shows that if companies do not act now they will feel the detrimental effects of their inactivity as early as 2018. According to the Enigin report action now not only protects businesses but opens up new opportunities and affects profits positively.

SOURCE Edit Optimisation

Eat more greens for a greener world

Posted by Ken on February 7, 2013
Posted under Express 184

Personal action for environmental sustainability go beyond being energy and water efficient and waste recycling – what we choose to put in our mouths can have a great impact on our climate. In a paper published in Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, health and nutrition guidance should be integrated with the message of reducing the environmental impact of our diet, and that would entail a shift to a more plant-based diet. Read more

How compatible are sustainability and nutrition?

By Caroline Scott-Thomas+ in Proceedings of the Nutrition Society (25 January 2013):

Health and nutrition guidance should be integrated with messages on reducing the diet’s environmental impact in order to ensure consistent advice, according to a new paper published in Proceedings of the Nutrition Society.

There has been much debate about quantifying the environmental impact of diet, especially in terms of meat and dairy consumption, with estimates of the proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions resulting from livestock ranging from about 10% to about 51%. Some experts have said that growing awareness of the environmental impact of dietary choices has been a major driver of vegetarianism and meat reduction among consumers.

As part of a special edition in the journal focused on diet and environmental sustainability, Dr Jennie Macdiarmid of the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health in Scotland examined whether nutrition advice corresponded with messages about the environmental impact of dietary choices.

She says that while consumption of plant-based protein has increased by 5% in the UK from 1990 to 2006, consumption of meat and protein from animal sources has also increased – by 11%.

“Moving towards a more plant-based diet could have benefits for health and the environment, but changing well established dietary habits dominated by animal-based products will not be easy,” she wrote.

Where health and sustainability collide

She acknowledges that it is challenging to define what exactly constitutes a healthy diet, but previous research has suggested that a healthy, environmentally sustainable diet is possible without eliminating meat and dairy products. However, healthier diets do not always mean more sustainable diets, she said, and a specific conflict exists with recommendations for fish consumption and concerns about future fish stocks.

“Integrating guidance to reduce the environmental impact of the diet with dietary recommendations for health adds a level of complexity but addressing these issues together is essential to ensure clear and consistent dietary messages are given to consumers,” Macdiarmid wrote, adding that efforts to increase sustainable fish supplies, for example, should be coordinated with dietary messages.


“The most commonly cited diet-related behaviours that people think would be beneficial to the environment are avoiding excessive packaging, purchasing locally produced food, eating organic food and reducing food waste,” she wrote. “Significantly fewer people think changing their diet could have an impact.”

In the context of nutrition, one of consumers’ main concerns about consuming less meat is whether a more plant-based diet would provide enough protein, but relatively very few people in developed countries consume less than the dietary requirement for protein. In the UK, mean daily protein intakes are 88 g for men and 65 g for women, compared to dietary reference values of 55 and 45 g a day respectively.

“Despite these higher than adequate intakes there is a perception among a significant proportion of the population that they should be eating more protein,” she wrote, citing research that found 49% of the US population was trying to boost their protein intake.

“These beliefs need to be changed as they pose a significant barrier to achieving a healthy and sustainable diet.”

Source: Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

2013, Vol. 72, pp. 13–20 doi:10.1017/S0029665112002893

“Is a healthy diet an environmentally sustainable diet?”


Net Value for Carpets & Green Star Rating Tool for Communities

Posted by Ken on February 7, 2013
Posted under Express 184

Commercial entities are showing the way forward in sustainable development. Property developer Lend Lease’s Barangaroo South project in Australia has been chosen as a pilot project for the newly released Green Star – Communities PILOT rating tool, and is set to be Australia’s first large-scale carbon neutral community. Meanwhile, carpet makers Interface, in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London, has launched the Net-Works project to recycle discarded fishing nets from the Philippines into new carpet products. Read more

Thursday 24 January 2013:

Lend Lease’s Barangaroo South project, part of the $6 billion Barangaroo urban regeneration development on Sydney Harbour, has been accepted as a pilot project for the newly released Green Star – Communities PILOT rating tool.

Green Star – Communities is an independent, national rating tool developed by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) to support the design and delivery of more sustainable, productive and liveable communities.

According to the GBCA’s Chief Executive, Romilly Madew, Lend Lease has a long history as a market leader in sustainability, and was an early adopter of the Green Star rating tools for buildings.

“Just as, back in 2005, Lend Lease’s 30 The Bond demonstrated that green building was achievable, we expect Barangaroo South will become a new green icon of sustainability at the precinct scale,” Ms Madew says.

Lend Lease’s Managing Director for Barangaroo South, Andrew Wilson, says that Lend Lease piloted the first green building rating tools nearly a decade ago.

“Now we are proud to be a pilot project for the next generation of rating tools that examine the sustainability of whole communities. We look forward to testing our sustainability plans against the credit criteria, and assisting the GBCA to test the pilot tool on a live project,” Mr Wilson says.

He adds that the Barangaroo Delivery Authority is also a sponsor of the Green Star – Communities tool is supportive of Lend Lease’s pilot process at Barangaroo South.

The GBCA will now work with Lend Lease to benchmark Barangaroo South against 38 credits in the Green Star – Communities categories of Liveability, Economic Prosperity, Environment, Design,and Innovation.

Lend Lease aims for Barangaroo South to be Australia’s first large-scale carbon neutral community. Ultra energy efficient buildings, efficient precinct infrastructure, on and offsite low carbon and renewable energy, teamed with zero carbon waste treatment and commuter carbon emission offsets will result in a net carbon neutral outcome in operation for the precinct.

Commercial towers are being designed to achieve 6 Star Green Star Design and As Built ratings, and developments to achieve 5 Star Green Star ratings.

With a mix of uses, including commercial, residential, retail and dining, along with a new landmark hotel, on completion Barangaroo South will be home to around 1,200 residents, 23,000 office workers and more than 2.9 hectares of public space.

About Green Star – Communities

Green Star – Communities is an independent, national, voluntary rating tool developed by the Green Building Council of Australia to drive more sustainable, productive and liveable communities. Green Star – Communities supports the planning, design and delivery of communities, precincts and neighbourhoods that prioritise environmental sustainability – such as minimising energy and water consumption, and reducing dependence on motor vehicles – alongside broader issues such as economic prosperity, liveability and community health and wellbeing. For more information, visit:


About the Green Building Council of Australia

The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) is Australia’s leading authority on green buildings and sustainable communities. The GBCA was established in 2002 to develop a sustainable property industry in Australia and drive the adoption of green building practices. The GBCA has more than 700 member companies who work together to support the Council and its activities. The GBCA promotes green building programs, technologies, design practices and processes, and operates Australia’s only national environmental rating system for buildings and communities – Green Star.



15 January 2013:

Interface casts a wide net for the environment

Global carpet tile manufacturer Interface, Inc. and conservation charity the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) are celebrating the successful completion of a pilot project and the start of a commercial venture with both conservation and socio-economic benefits.  The innovative collaboration, called Net-Works, has been created to tackle the growing environmental problem of discarded fishing nets in some of the world’s poorest coastal communities.

By establishing a community-based supply chain for discarded nets, Net-Works aims to improve the livelihood of local fishers, while providing Interface with an innovative source of recycled materials for its carpet tiles. Discarded nets on the beaches or in the sea have a detrimental effect on the environment and marine life as they can persist for centuries. But, most nylon from these fishing nets is the same material used to make carpet yarn.

The viability of the collaboration was proven between June and October 2012.  After conducting research and working closely with local communities and NGOs, Net-Works established the infrastructure to collect the fishing nets, gathering one metric ton of nets in the first month -and substantially cleaning up the beaches in four local communities near Danajon Bank, a threatened coral reef in the Philippines.  Operations are now scaling up, with the intention of developing commercial carpet tiles incorporating the collected nets later this year.

Collection systems will now be set up in at least 15 local villages, involving more than 280 impoverished households (the equivalent of 1,400 people based on an average household size of five).  The goal is to collect 20 metric tons of nets by the end of April—a significant amount that will generate funds directly for communities and make a positive difference, given that family incomes in the area are typically less than $192 a month.

Nigel Stansfield, Chief Innovation Officer at Interface says, “It is really gratifying to see that the concept we’ve developed with ZSL works and promises so much.  At Interface, we are designing for a higher purpose—and feel a sense of responsibility beyond the products we sell.  The collected fishing nets have a nylon that can be recycled directly back into our carpet tiles, which will help us reduce our use of virgin raw materials and, critically, create livelihood opportunities for local communities. We are now looking forward to expanding operations and delivering the first carpet tiles from our collaboration.”

Dr. Nick Hill from ZSL says, “Net-Works has been greeted with a huge amount of enthusiasm and interest from the local communities around Danajon Bank. This was clearly seen by the number of people interested in participating in the project and turning out to clear the beaches of discarded nets. Nets are very light, and we always knew our target of collecting one tonne of nets from such a small number of communities was going to be a challenge – so we’re delighted that we have been able to achieve this. It is still early and we will be monitoring both the environmental and socio-economic impacts of the project over the coming year, but the signs are there that these impacts will be positive.”

Throughout 2013, Interface and ZSL will explore opportunities to expand their partnership to other parts of the world.  They also plan to develop a toolkit to help other groups and organizations establish Net-Works supply hubs.


Forests hold the power to influence weather

Posted by Ken on February 7, 2013
Posted under Express 184

Researchers at the Southern Cross University have proposed that global weather patterns are determined by condensation and evaporation of atmospheric water vapour, and not so much by temperature differences. At the heart of this process is the role played by forests in regulating water vapour content. This provides a new push to the conservation and rehabilitation of forests as a way to mitigate the effects of climate change. Read more

31 January 2013:

New study claims forests cause winds and rain

A new theory of what determines global wind is being taken seriously enough by climate scientists to warrant publication in a top atmospheric sciences journal, says a Southern Cross University researcher.

The radical hypothesis, developed by the University’s Dr Douglas Sheil with a group of international scientists, claims that land cover, particularly the presence or absence of forests, directs weather patterns.

‘Radically novel theories concerning what determines global weather patterns are rare, and fewer still are taken seriously,’ said Dr Sheil, a professor of Forest Ecology and Conservation, in the School of Environment, Science and Engineering.

The peer-reviewed theory is outlined in the paper ‘Where do winds come from? A new theory on how water vapour condensation influences atmospheric pressure and dynamics’, published in the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics journal.

Dr Sheil said he and his colleagues had advanced a theory that implied that the atmospheric pressure gradients determined by moisture condensation are orders of magnitude greater than previously recognised.

‘Our study concluded that condensation and evaporation – and not temperature differences as traditionally believed – are the major drivers of atmospheric dynamics.

‘Climate scientists generally believe that they already understand the main principles determining how the world’s climate works. However, if our hypothesis is true then the way winds are driven and the way rain falls has been misunderstood.

‘What our theory suggests is that forests are the heart of the Earth, driving atmospheric pressure, pumping wind and moving rain.’

Dr Sheil said the theory was likely to generate fresh calls to action for forest conservation.

‘We need to acknowledge the role of forests in determining wind and rainfall is much greater than previously understood.’

He said he expected opposition to the new ideas.

‘Our theory seems incredible on first impressions. But so far no-one has shown why this theory is wrong, and we are already seeing a few converts who acknowledge that the physics is correct.

‘The important thing now is that these ideas get the full scientific scrutiny and evaluation that they require. Getting this theory into a top journal like Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics is key.’

The researchers argue that the simplifications used in dealing with the complexities of atmospheric motion have ‘thrown out the baby with the bathwater’.

‘The behaviour of the world’s atmosphere is immensely complicated and simplifications and approximations are needed. In textbook climate sciences the pressure differences caused by condensation are stated to be small so they can be ignored. This assumption is true in some cases, but also, as we argue, not in others,’ said Dr Sheil.

He said one remarkable aspect of the theory was the idea that continents could be switched from wet to dry by loss of forests, and that wet climates could, in theory, be rebuilt in regions like the Australian interior through forest restoration.

‘Our theory also explains how declines in both rainfall and rainfall reliability can result from forest loss elsewhere. Such patterns have been observed in various parts of the world and are clearly of major importance for many people – for example those who are suffering from the increasingly irregular monsoon rains in West Africa.

‘We believe the physics is correct. Unless someone can show where we have made an error I believe that these ideas have profound importance for the future of our planet,’ Dr Sheil said.

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics has pre-empted the revolutionary nature of the scientists’ theory by adding an editor comment at the end of the paper which said, ‘The authors have presented a completely new view of what may be driving dynamics in the atmosphere’.

Further, the handling editor and the journal’s executive committee acknowledge that while the work is ‘highly controversial’ they ‘are not convinced that the new view presented in the controversial paper is wrong’.

‘The editors realise their decision to publish our work reflects an acknowledgment of the need for scrutiny,’ Dr Sheil said.

‘On that basis we hope our ideas will be taken seriously.’

Dr Douglas Sheil is a researcher focusing on tropical forest ecology, management and conservation. He worked in East Africa before completing his doctorate on rainforest dynamics in 1996. He worked at the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Indonesia from 1998 to 2008. From 2008 to 2012 he was the director of the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation (ITFC) based in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. Dr Sheil joined Southern Cross University in 2012.