The month of September, as we have said before, is a big month for events in Singapore, highlighting all things green, sustainable and innovative. With one notable exception. The biggest and most lavish – most wasteful? – was the Formula One motor racing carnival. Almost certainly the best event for the economy, but what about the environment? The fact that it was held on World Car Free Day – 22 September – did not go unnoticed. Pity Singapore hasn’t decided to go for the new all electric Formula E race in 2014. We report on all events, as well as the remarkable ideas from one of Asia’s most distinguished thinkers and doers – Kishore Mahbubani – on his dream for “Fewer cars and fewer roads”! And how about electric cars? All this when at month’s end we will have a major global report from the UNFCCC on the state of the climate for the world. We preview that as we expect the news will be as we feared. There’s a sense of urgency about all this and Lord Nicholas Stern reminds us – again! – that the cost of inaction is far greater than the price for taking action now. There are sustainability stories from around the world, including moves by Coca Cola and HP, plus the report from UN Global Compact and Accenture. There’s more on bees, art, fashion, flooring and what’s happing in the world of green purchasing and the clean tech marketplace. Don’t forget we’re working on producing the 2013 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders list – and yes, late nominations/recommendations will be accepted, but be quick. Next month all will be revealed, along with my book “Race for Sustainability”. Food for thought and fuel to fire up a low carbon future. But this book’s not for burning! – Ken Hickson
Archive for September, 2013
The leading British and former World Bank economist most famously as far back at 2006 that the cost of inaction would be far more – between 5% and 20% of GDP across the world annually – than the real cost of dealing with climate change impacts and risk – in the order of 1% of GDP annually. The IPCC report due out this week, says Stern, “ will show even more clearly how human activities, primarily burning fossil fuels and deforestation, are creating a dangerous trend with immense risks for the lives and livelihoods of billions of people around the world from shifts in extreme weather, rising sea levels and other serious problems”. Read More
World leaders must co-operate on talks for strong new climate change deal
The most comprehensive study of the science of climate change is released this week, with an urgent message for governments
Nicholas Stern in The Observer, Saturday 21 September 2013
On Friday, 195 governments around the world will accept a summary of the most comprehensive assessment of the basic science of climate change that has ever been written. The IPCC’s report, which has been prepared by 259 researchers from 39 countries, will show even more clearly how human activities, primarily burning fossil fuels and deforestation, are creating a dangerous trend with immense risks for the lives and livelihoods of billions of people around the world from shifts in extreme weather, rising sea levels and other serious problems.
It will also underline the fact that delay is making things much worse, both because the ratchet effect of emissions is causing a rapid accumulation of greenhouse gases and because we are locking in our dependence on the fossil fuels that cause the problem.
Current action is much too weak to reduce emissions by enough to avoid a significant probability of the global average temperature rising by more than 2C above its pre-industrial level by the end of this century. The Earth has not experienced a global temperature more than 2C higher than pre-industrial since the Pliocene epoch 3m years ago, when the polar ice caps were much smaller and sea levels were about 20 metres higher than today. Modern humans have only been around for about 250,000 years, so we have no experience of such a climate.
What we have learned from history is that if people are faced with increased dangers of floods, droughts and other extreme weather, they will try to escape, resulting in population movements of perhaps hundreds of millions, leading to widespread and continued conflict. We have to decide if this is the kind of world we want to present to our children and grandchildren.
Some have argued that we have no responsibility to future generations and that whatever risks we create for them, it is their problem. But imagine what the world would be like if we applied such an unethical approach to our everyday lives and relationships with the people around us now.
There are others who think that, no matter what damage unmanaged climate change might create in the future, our children and grandchildren will be much richer due to many decades of relentless economic growth in the future. But that ignores the fact that unchecked climate change could produce such a hostile environment that it will undermine and destroy growth, such that future generations will be worse off than us.
What we could do instead is create a story of rising living standards, stronger communities and a more resilient society, embracing the challenge of poverty reduction – with everlasting benefits. Our children and grandchildren could inherit a low-carbon economy that will be safer, as well as cleaner, more secure and more efficient, created through investment in an exciting period of technological innovation.
But to achieve this we will need clear and consistent policies not weakness and vacillation, to unleash private investment in a low-carbon economy. We will also need greater international co-operation, with countries sharing examples of the benefits of the new low-carbon industrial revolution.
Every world leader will need to recognise the importance of the international negotiations towards a strong new international agreement on climate change at the UN summit in Paris in 2015.
This week’s report will confront us with the risks we would face from unmanaged climate change, and should help us to recognise there is so much we can do to create a better world for ourselves and future generations.
Re printed from the Observer and The Guardian
We also reproduce this article by Nicholas Stern which first appeared in the Circle or LeCercle on (10 July 2013):
Innovative society advocacy for a low carbon European economy
Europe has a unique opportunity to boost its growth by investing in the transition to a low carbon economy. European governments should take advantage of the current configuration to boost activity by policies to encourage investment in energy infrastructure.
If it wants to maintain its prosperity against a physical environment increasingly threatening Europe – like the rest of the world – will have to overcome in the next forty years of its economic dependence on oil, coal and gas and thus open a new chapter of sustainable growth based on clean energy.
The volatility of fossil fuels imported from non-European countries has greatly hampered growth, maintaining uncertainty and weighting the bill for households, governments and businesses. A medium-term energy strategy based on strong carbon can be considered a viable option for businesses and households, given the risks involved and despite the direction – timidly – by national policies and international.
Only a strategy of low-carbon growth is credible medium term. And savings down, this is the ideal time to invest in the development patterns of the future. But for that to happen, the private sector must have confidence in the stability and consistency of policies. Procrastination and delay can have a deleterious effect. It is time that European governments set a firm vision for a low carbon economy, with clear policies to implement.
The first step is to set a goal of “decarbonisation” of the European power sector by 2030. We already have most of the technical solutions to achieve this. Subject to rapidly develop and deploy systems for capturing and storing carbon, fossil fuels can retain a place in the energy mix, and the gas can provide an interesting alternative to coal as part of a transition strategy. By mobilizing a wider array resources, Europe will secure its energy supply.
And provided to improve connectivity between national grids, all European countries could take advantage of solar energy produced in the southern regions of the continent or wind energy from the North Sea. A European supergrid would have a production architecture, transportation and much more efficient consumption, including securing the supply of dependent countries imports of non-European gas or improving the management of intermittent and promoting energy efficiency.
A European low-carbon electricity sector would pave the way for accelerated low-carbon transport development, with cars and trains running on green electricity.
All this is feasible, if European governments use public policy to address multiple market failures that impede the development of clean technologies, and to promote private sector investment – only real catalyst for growth and change.
Efforts to establish a carbon price through the European emissions trading scheme (ETS) are thwarted by indecision politicians – in part due to the recession and an erroneous analysis of growth opportunities. All countries must put in place policies to support a high carbon price in all sectors, so that the price of fossil fuels actually takes into account the pollution caused by emissions of greenhouse gases.
But a change of this magnitude requires other measures that the only setting a carbon price: we must overcome market imperfections, such as limiting access to networks, slows research and development or discourage the long-term investment flows.
Hence the importance of having detailed analyzes and relevant decision makers. Not to mention a healthy dose of political will.
There was a time when the European Union was seen by the world as an example of cooperation and collective leadership. But the economic crisis has clearly removed confidence and ability to manage difficulties him. Once a leader in international climate policy, Europe is now at risk of losing this advantage because of its divisions and an ambient confusion, while others, such as China, show the way forward. The United States are also beginning to respond, as evidenced by the aggressive speech by President Obama in late June, and the actions taken at the level of cities and states.
European leaders must realize that there is a solution to the current malaise, it requires resolute action in favor of sustainable growth. Clean energy and industrial revolution are conducive to creativity and entrepreneurship needed to boost growth, security of supply and greening the planet. Experience has shown us that we had two to three decades of sustained investment, innovation and growth to overcome a technological level.
As the world prepares to adopt a new climate treaty in Paris in 2015, Europe can regain the initiative. Engaging the transition to a low-carbon growth, it may at once an example for its partners and competitors, among the rich countries as developing countries, and get the low-carbon markets of the future.
It thus usher in a new era of economic prosperity for the peoples of Europe, while fully exercising its environmental responsibilities to provide future generations with a cleaner and more attractive dynamic better future,.
From the British Academy (18 July 2013):
New President Lord Stern says UK and world “are at a historic point of change.”
In his inaugural speech as incoming President of the British Academy, Lord Stern of Brentford today (18 July) set out his vision, saying: “I believe that we are at a historic point of change. The world faces a lack of trust in institutions and a lack of confidence in existing ideas and models: it is hungry for new insights into meaning, identity and policy.”
Lord Stern emphasised that the Academy’s great strength and foundation is its Fellowship of eminent academics. Research and the creativity of scholarly work lies at the very heart of the Academy, enabling it to lead and speak on behalf of the humanities and social sciences – advancing the interests and values of the wider academic community, and to playing a significant part in public life. “The power of ideas”, Lord Stern said, “should never be underestimated.”
“There is decline in membership of political parties, a lack of public engagement in political issues, especially amongst the young. These processes are magnified and intensified by the revolution in communications and social media. A crucial part of the public political arena, the quality and quantity of questioning and the serious discussion of evidence, is shrinking before our eyes. We will all be the losers if this continues. This is, I think, a world-wide phenomenon but it is intense in the UK.”
He continued: “What is urgently needed is a new focus on public discussion of a host of difficult challenges. What kind of society do we seek to live in and what are the roles of individual and community responsibilities? How can we rekindle economic growth and development that can last and is responsible, that delivers through its activities and products the kind of outcomes and lives that people find fulfilling? We should drive public debate forward on issues that face us all – issues such as ageing, migration, well-being, liberty and equity, and environment and climate change. These all require deep understanding and reflection, for which research from the humanities and social sciences is essential.”
Lord Stern also announced plans for a new series of high-profile public events from 2014 organised by the Academy. The British Academy Debates will be held across the country, presenting cutting edge academic research, and involving participants from the media, government and civil service. They will cover themes such as Ageing, and Immigration, sparking public debate and discussion on some of the great challenges of our society.
Lord Stern of Brentford joins a roster of major figures in the academic and public life of the UK, including Sir Keith Thomas, Sir Isaiah Berlin and Baroness O’Neill. He succeeds Professor Sir Adam Roberts after a four-year tenure. Lord Stern will be the first President from the LSE since Lord Robbins in 1962.
A leading British economist and academic, Lord Stern was elected as a Fellow of the Academy in 1993. Since 2007 he has been the IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government, and also Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics. He has taught and researched at universities around the world including Oxford, Warwick, MIT, the College de France and the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, the People’s University of China and the Indian Statistical Institute. He was knighted for services to economics in 2004.
Throughout his distinguished career, he has made a major contribution to the economics of public policy and to development economics. As head of the Government Economic Service, he led the ground-breaking Stern Review on the economics of climate change, published in 2006, which has had great influence around the world. He has been Chief Economist of the EBRD and of the World Bank and has served as adviser to governments, businesses and NGOs in many countries and as Second Permanent Secretary of the UK Treasury.
Lord Stern’s inaugural speech as President of the British Academy can be downloaded in full from the British Academy website.
Lord Stern is chairman of the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy and IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government at LSE. He is also Chair of the Asia Research Centre and Director of the India Observatory.
Lord Stern was adviser to the UK Government on the Economics of Climate Change and Development from 2005-2007, where he was Head of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, published in 2006.
He was Head of the Government Economic Service from 2003-2007; Second Permanent Secretary to Her Majesty’s Treasury from 2003-2005; Director of Policy and Research for the Prime Minister’s Commission for Africa from 2004-2005; and Chief Economist and Senior Vice President at the World Bank from 2000-2003.
During his time as Chief Economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and Visiting Professor of Economics at LSE, he was one of the founding forces behind the Asia Research Centre, formally becoming its director in 2007.
Globally, 22 September was declared World Car-Free Day. Singapore marked it by drawing the attention of the world to its historic streets turned into a motor racing circuit. World Car-Free Day is celebrated around the world in 1,500 cities and 40 countries and this year for the first time in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We reproduce an excellent article written by Kishore Mahbubani of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore, who said, among other things: “We have to give up this insane dream of owning a car and replace it with an ecosystem of a public transport system that makes it irrational to own a car.” Read More
History of World Car-Free Day Global
After the petroleum crisis of 1973, the first ideas started to surface as to how to discourage car use and promote more efficient uses of transportation. However, it was not until October 1994 that the first car free days are organized.
The cities to take the first initiative in the World Car Free Day were Reykjavik, Iceland, La Rochelle, France, and Bath, UK. In 1997, the United Kingdom was also the first country to organize a car free day as a nationwide campaign.
In 2000, the European Commission constituted Car Free Day as a European Initiative. That same year, it became a worldwide day and in Europe, activities even stretch all week long.
Every year on or around 22 September, people from around the world get together in the streets, intersections, and neighbourhood blocks to remind the world that we don’t have to accept our car-dominated society.
But we do not want just one day of celebration and then a return to “normal” life. When people get out of their cars, they should stay out of their cars. It is up to us, it is up to our cities, and our governments to help create permanent change to benefit pedestrians, cyclists, and other people who do not drive cars.
Let World Carfree Day be a showcase for just how our cities might look like, feel like, and sound like without cars…365 days a year.
As the climate heats up, World Carfree Day is the perfect time to take the heat off the planet, and put it on city planners and politicians to give priority to cycling, walking and public transport, instead of to the automobile.
So take the time, browse the links and resources provided, and join in on the celebrations!
By Balqis Nasir and Norbaiti Phaharoradzi in New Straits Times (21 September 2013):
GOING GREEN: Move to promote public transport
In an effort to support the government’s policy to reduce carbon emission by 40 per cent by 2020, the Malaysia National Cycling Federation has initiated the “Kuala Lumpur Car Free Day” movement.
Its vice-president Datuk Naim Mohamad said the movement would be a first for Malaysia, an inspiration from the “World Car Free-Day” movement held on Sept 22 annually around the world.
“If we can reduce vehicle pollution for just one day, the effort can go a long way in the fight against global warming,” he said, pointing out that global warming had led to rising sea levels due to melting ice in the Arctic and Antarctic, increased hurricanes, drought, heavy rain and floods.
Meanwhile, motorists gave the thumbs up to the initiative and those interviewed pledged to join in the “World Car-Free Day” by leaving their vehicles at home tomorrow.
A 48-year-old taxi driver, who wished to be known as Ibnu Alwan, said he was willing to be off the road for four hours even though he would lose about RM50 to RM60.
“I support the campaign as it encourages people to use public transportation. It can also reduce traffic congestion and emission from vehicles.”
Another motorist, Laila Masrur Mohd Nasir, 26, said the campaign encouraged motorists to leave their vehicles at home and opt for public transportation which should be expanded to other cities and towns.
“I am also very proud to see Malaysians getting involved in the fight against global warming.”
Nabila Diana, 24, said while leaving their cars for a day might cause some inconvenience to motorists, people should make the move towards using public transport.
“I hope people will support this campaign for a better city environment.”
The Kuala Lumpur Car-Free Day will be held in a 4km loop around Bukit Nanas from Jalan Dang Wangi to the Golden Triangle area via Jalan Ampang, Jalan P. Ramlee, Jalan Raja Chulan, Bukit Bintang and Jalan Sultan Ismail.
Fewer cars, fewer roads
I have a dream for Singapore
By Kishore Mahbubani in The Straits Times (14 September 2013):
A few weeks ago, on Aug 28, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the famous speech given by Martin Luther King Jr entitled “I have a dream”. He said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”
The goal of his speech was to open the roads to advancement for his fellow black citizens. I too have a dream for my fellow Singaporeans. However, while the goal of his speech was to open the roads to advancement, my goal is to close the roads to advancement for my fellow citizens. The only difference between him and me is that while he was speaking metaphorically, I am speaking literally. We do not need many more physical roads or much more physical road space in Singapore.
One undeniable hard truth of Singapore is that we live in one of the smallest countries in the world. This is also why we have one of the most expensive land costs in the entire world. Apart from Monaco, no other United Nations member state has land as expensive as Singapore has per square foot. Hence, we should value every square foot. Every square foot we give up to road space is a square foot taken away from other valuable uses: pedestrian walkways, bike paths, green parks and so on.
To be fair to our road planners, they are caught in a bind because Singapore is continuing to grow its population of cars. If we expand the number of cars, we have no choice but to expand the amount of roads to carry more cars. So the real solution is to reduce the demand for more cars in Singapore. How do we do this?
The problem here is that a car remains an essential part of the Singapore dream. Yet, if every Singaporean achieves his or her dream, we will get a national nightmare. To prevent this national nightmare from happening, we have created harsh policies to raise prices and reduce the demand for cars.
Paradoxically, the high prices of cars have made them even more desirable as status symbols. This is why luxury brands trump cheap brands in Singapore sales. If the desirability of cars keeps rising, our efforts to curtail car ownership will be as successful as a dog chasing its tail.
So what is the alternative solution? The solution is obvious: Change the Singapore dream!
Yes, almost every Singaporean reading this article will laugh out loud at this suggestion. How can any well-off Singaporean deprive himself of a car? It serves as the most reliable form of transportation as well as a powerful status symbol. The minute you own a car, especially a Mercedes-Benz, BMW or Lexus, your friends know that you have arrived.
But for 10 years of my life, I have actually lived on another even more crowded tiny island where it is not rational to own a car. In fact, it is considered downright stupid to buy and own a car if you live in Manhattan. All this came home clearly to me one evening in Manhattan when I saw the former chairman of Citibank, Mr Walter Wriston, and his wife Kathryn standing on First Avenue with their arms raised and trying to hail a cab.
Clearly, Mr Wriston was then one of the richest men on our planet. He could have easily bought a car in Manhattan. Yet, it just did not make sense.
The eco-system of public transport that Manhattan had created with a combination of subway trains, public buses and readily accessible taxis meant that in a crunch you could get anywhere in Manhattan using public transport.
More significantly, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, another clearly very rich man, used to take a subway train to work in Manhattan.
The former mayor of Colombian capital Bogota, Mr Enrique Penalosa, put it very well when he said: “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.”
I have been to Bogota. When I visited it in 1992, the city was so unsafe that I was given a private bodyguard to walk down its equivalent of Orchard Road. Mr Penalosa transformed the city so much that Latino Fox News described him as “one of the world’s pre- eminent minds on making modern cities more liveable.”
Mr Penalosa is quoted as saying: “When we talk about car-free cities, we’re not talking about some hippie dream. Not only do they exist, but they also are the most successful cities on the planet. The ones where the real estate is the most valuable, the ones that attract most tourists, the most investment, the ones that generate the most creative industries.”
There was a time when Singapore’s experiments in improving its urban environment would get global attention. Today, it is a man like Mr Penalosa, with bigger dreams than our dreams, who is described by Latino Fox News as a man whose “work and ideas have gained him international attention and a loyal fan base that includes New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg”.
Mr Paul Steely White, executive director of New York City’s Transportation Alternatives, has also said about New York City that “the way the streets of the greatest city in the world are being used is changing fundamentally… People are beginning to understand that it’s entirely possible and really very desirable to lead a life without being tethered to an automobile”.
We therefore have to replace the Singapore dream with the Manhattan or Bogota dream.
We have to give up this insane dream of owning a car and replace it with an ecosystem of a public transport system that makes it irrational to own a car.
And this is probably one of Singapore’s biggest failures in its first 50 years: We have failed to develop a world-class ecosystem of public transport. We do have a good public transport network, but this has not kept pace with the population’s expectations, which include a more reliable MRT system with fewer breakdowns, predictable bus services, taxis available in thundery showers, and pools of electric cars for ready rental.
So why did we fail? The answers must be complex. But one fundamental error could be simple. We expected every artery of this ecosystem to be financially viable. The disastrous result of looking at each artery and not looking at the ecosystem as a whole is that while each artery made sense in isolation, the combination did not result in a good ecosystem. Even more dangerously, by looking at each unit in isolation, we did not consider its impact on the island or the nation as a whole.
Let me give a specific example from the area of expanding road space. Many Singaporeans of my generation are still puzzled that the road planners of Singapore destroyed our precious National Library on Stamford Road to build a little tunnel under Fort Canning to save two minutes of driving time. The road planners who designed this tunnel had no idea that they were effectively shooting a bullet through the soul of Singapore by destroying the National Library.
This is why we have to be fair to our road planners. The only key performance indicator (KPI) given to them is to make traffic flow smoothly. With this KPI, it is logical to build more roads or expand road space. Hence, it was perfectly natural for our road planners to announce recently that Clementi Road and the Pan-Island Expressway would be expanded. I am sure many motorists who use that stretch of road daily will approve. But when do we say that enough is enough?
This is why we need a new dream. Does this mean Singaporeans will stop driving cars?
Absolutely not. My dream is to walk out of my house, use a smart card to pick up an electric car on rent and drive it anywhere I want to. We can replace car ownership with car pools. In fact, other cities have begun trying this. In Vauban, a suburb of Freiburg, Germany, 70 per cent of residents choose to live without private cars due to excellent city planning and a car sharing system. Before you scoff at electric cars, let me tell you that electric cars have faster torque than petrol-driven cars.
In short, we can have an alternative dream for Singapore. Let us dream of an island with fewer cars and fewer roads. It will be closer to being paradise on earth.
The writer is dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.
He dreamed a dream. He left a legacy of words and actions. At great cost. Martin Luther King’s words ring out loud and clear now – “the fierce urgency of now” – as the latest report from the UNFCCC tells us quite conclusively that we humans have caused a lot of damage and we have to fix it. Ian Lowe shares some words of wisdom on the subject as does Aiko Stevenson for Huffington Post, as we await the latest weather warning for the world – or more correctly the Global Climate Forecast. Read More
We invited a few of our knowledgeable experts/friends to comment on the imminent report of the UNFCCC. And happily share this commentary from Ian Low, President of the Australian Conservation Foundation and himself a scientist who has contributed to the reporting process and written more than one book on the subject.
The middle section of my column for the October edition of Australasian Science:
The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report was still in review as I wrote, but its alleged findings were already being used by the press to misrepresent the science. The main charge, attracting banner headlines, was that the new report had backed away from earlier calculations of the rate of warming.
The Australian seized on a claim by London’s Daily Mail, a dubious source even by British tabloid standards, that the IPCC’s fourth report had said the average temperature was increasing by 0.2 degrees per decade.
This claim led them to portray a calculation, rumoured to be in the new report, of 0.12 degrees as a massive backdown and evidence that climate science is in disarray. In fact, as Prof. David Karoly of the University of Melbourne pointed out, the fourth report gave a range of 0.10 to 0.16 degrees per decade, so the mean estimate was 0.13. The 0.01 “backdown” is a minuscule amendment rather than a retraction. To be fair, there are questions in the latest science about the slowing of the rate of increase in surface temperatures.
This may be due to increasing absorption of heat by the oceans, which appear to be warming faster than was projected, or it may have other causes. Science is always a work in progress.
At one level, the denialists are right when they say that the science is not “settled” – but they are totally wrong when they infer that it is so uncertain we should not respond.
Aiko Stevenson for Huffington Post (23 September 2013):
Climate Change: “We Must Confront the Fierce Urgency of Now”
Summer ice in the Arctic will vanish in less that 40 years. That’s according to the final draft of the UN’s blockbuster climate report which comes out this Friday.
“A nearly ice-free Arctic Ocean in September before mid-century is likely,” says the draft according to the Financial Times.
This marks a much faster pace of warming than the UN previously forecast. In 2007, it said that such ice would not disappear until “the latter part” of this century.
And, scientists are now concerned about the fate of the region’s permafrost. They worry that it will eventually melt, ushering in what has described an “economic time bomb” as huge amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is released into the earth’s atmosphere.
Although there is much debate about when this will happen, it is widely expected to accelerate the current pace of global warming.
This new forecast for the Great North is one of the most striking aspects of the UN’s upcoming report. The product of four years of hard work by over 800 scientists across the globe, it is the most comprehensive study on climate science in recent years.
And, as the UN’s conclusions are always drawn from a consensus process, they tend to sit on the more conservative end of the spectrum.
Nevertheless, the report has already come under heavy fire from American conservative groups like the Heartland Institute. Through an endless stream of articles, op eds and blogs, such groups have been trying to discredit both the UN, and the science behind global warming.
Funded by energy companies and other sympathetic interests, these so called think tanks receive millions of dollars every year to sow doubt: to keep the debate about climate change alive.
Heartland shot to dubious fame last year after it ran a controversial billboard campaign comparing climate change believers to the “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski. It’s the same group that tried to cast doubt on the link between smoking and cancer in the nineties.
But, in spite of the millions of dollars spent on such campaigns, many activists believe that these underhand tactics will fail to resonate with most people who can see the devastating effects of climate change with their own eyes.
The UN’s upcoming report comes 10 months after Superstorm Sandy swept across the northeastern seaboard to leave much of New York City submerged under water.
Creating scenes reminiscent of a blockbuster movie, Sandy marked a time when the climate crisis became real for many Americans. Caused by warmer weather over the world’s oceans, it was a brutal reminder of what the future may look like if global warming continues to run riot.
So far, world temperatures have risen by around 0.8 degrees Celsius. But, according to the World Bank, that number may more than quadruple over the next fifty years. It says that a “four degrees Celsius world can, and must be avoided.”
Given the gravity of the situation, many western scientists and governments are already discussing plan B options such as geoengineering.
Geoengineering hopes to cool the Earth by using various controversial methods such as putting giant mirrors into space; spraying aerosols into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight; and fertilizing the oceans with iron to create giant algae blooms that absorb carbon.
As such ideas have the capacity to “substantially” cool the planet, the UN has included some of them in its upcoming report. But, it does warn that these methods risk “unintended side-effects, and long-term consequences on a global scale”.
“The public and policymakers need to be on guard against being steamrollered into accepting dangerous and immoral interventions with our planet, which are a false solution to climate change,” says Silvia Ribeiro from the technology watchdog ETC Group.
Clearly, governments and companies the world over need to tackle the problem head on: by reining in emissions at home.
As the U.S. and China are the world’s largest polluters, any hope of saving our planet will depend on the commitment of these two powerhouses.
Last week, Barack Obama pressed ahead with tough requirements for new coal-fired power stations. The move marked his first effort as U.S. president to set strict limits against carbon pollution.
The move came a few weeks after Washington and Beijing announced plans to rein in a key ozone-depleting chemical. That deal followed their June pledge to stamp out highly polluting HFC’s from refrigerators and air conditioners.
Taken together, there are now hopes that the world’s two largest economies are getting serious about saving our climate.
But, as David King, the UK’s former head scientist points out: “politics and diplomacy” alone “are unlikely to solve the problem. He says that “only one thing is guaranteed to solve it: technological advance [...] To defeat the axis powers, the allies developed the atom bomb. When threatened in the cold war, the U.S. sent a man to the moon. When threatened by global warming, we surely need a similar effort to save the planet.” … Something that engages the best minds from every nation — something that is “international.”
According to King, solar energy offers the best way to develop cheap “bulk electricity”. And, although “the scientific challenges involved in achieving this goal are great”, if all G20 nations matched the amount spent on the Apollo project, it will only require 0.05 percent of their annual GDP for the next 10 years.
“This is a far more important issue than putting a man on the moon,” says King, “It should attract as much attention. Failure to solve this problem will affect every nation upon earth.”
As Martin Luther King once said: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” In the face of this great global challenge, “we must accept that tomorrow is already today” and “confront the fierce urgency of now.”
As World Engineers gathered in Singapore for their Summit in Singapore earlier this month around the theme “Innovative and Sustainable solutions to Climate change”, the most heartening report on “connectivity” came not from an engineer but educational psychologist, conservationist and international President of WWF Yolanda Kakabadse. Meanwhile, as 191 member states gather to endorse new roadmap for sustainable global aviation progress under International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), comes the word that aviation’s record on lowering its emissions has been unmatched over the last several decades and aircraft today are at least 80% more fuel efficient than they were in the 1960s. Read More
See and hear from Yolanda talked about in an interview for UBrainTv:
Ken Hickson reports from the World Engineers Summit:
Listening to Yolanda Kakabadse was like a breath of fresh air. Having endured hours and hours of engineered flag waving, politically-important speeches and engineers who had important things to say, but failed to effectively communicate, the WWF president put things succinctly and persuasively.
She did not lecture. She did not patronise. In plain speak, she conveyed this to me and a few hundred others on the first day of the summit.
It was all about the importance of connectivity. Surely an important scientific and engineering concept. Everything is connected. Just as sustainability and development must go together, so must energy and the environment. The world must wake up to reality and recognise that you cannot work in isolation.
There is so much good work being done in the world that there has to be a better way of sharing knowledge and learning from others.
What did others get from the lady with the key messages?
In a report for Green Business Times, Desmond Low, an environmental engineering student at the Nanyang Technological University, had this to say:
In the session chaired by Professor Tommy Koh, International President of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Ms Yolanda Kakabadse, focused on the importance of food and water security, the changing vectors and the interdependence of the environment and humans.
She proposed that the current challenge for engineers is to create more food with less water to achieve sufficient quality and quantity in food.
Also, the rising temperatures have caused disease-transmitting vectors to change behaviour and thus causing vaccines to lose their effectiveness. These factors would affect the poorer developing countries to a larger extent.
However, she was elated to share the good news that China has officially announced the ban of shark’s fin soup in all government events. She ended her session by urging the young engineers to proactively participate in non-profit organisations like WWF and play a part in contributing to the society as soon as possible.
Here’s the official wrap up report for media on the World Engineers Summit
Singapore – 20th September 2013: The World Engineers Summit 2013 (WES 2013) closed last Sunday after a fulfilling week of positive discussions amongst heavyweights of the engineering world. The three-day event, together with Build Eco Xpo (BEX) Asia and International Green Building Conference, was held from 11th to 13th September. Well over 800 delegates from 58 countries were in attendance at the Summit.
“We are extremely pleased with the outcome of this first World Engineers Summit. We received positive feedback from the participants, many of whom felt that they had learnt much from the sessions. I would like to thank the organising team for a job well done and I am also very grateful to our various partners, who supported us in so many different ways. I look forward to our next event in 2015,” said Er. Tan Seng Chuan, Chairman, WES 2013 Steering Committee.
At the WES-IGBC-BEX joint opening ceremony, which drew a packed audience, the Institution of Engineers, Singapore unveiled a Chartered Engineer accreditation programme – the country’s first – to provide professional recognition to qualified engineers across all sectors.
Following the opening ceremony, the Summit plenary session featured keynote addresses from leaders across the different sectors – from government to private industry to international non-governmental organisations – including Dr Bindu Lohani, Vice President, Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, Asian Development Bank and Dr Roland Busch, Member of Managing Board and CEO, Asia Pacific and Infrastructure & Cities, Siemens AG. The session was chaired by Prof Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore.
Prof Koh also chaired the Sustainability Leadership Forum which wrapped up the day’s programme. A compelling forum, it saw Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Singapore, calling for governments to play a role in seeking an ‘honest accounting’ of the impact of economic activities.
In addition, WES 2013 saw young aspiring engineers, from secondary to tertiary level, showcase ideas for sustainable solutions in a competition called “Trust Us, We Are Engineers”. Mr Lawrence Wong, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, and Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information was the guest of honour at the finals held at Connexis, Fusionopolis@one-north. The top prize in the national category went to Singapore Polytechnic for developing a sugar cane bagasse board, where fibrous waste of sugarcane stems are recycled into boards resembling wooden furniture panels through a heat-pressing process.
At the Gala Dinner and Awards Presentation Night that closed the conference, organisers The Institution of Engineers Singapore (IES), gave out its Prestigious Engineering Achievement Awards to thirteen deserving teams. It also inaugurated a Lifetime Engineering Achievement Award, with the honour going to Emeritus Er. Prof Lee Seng Lip.
Over the three days of the conference, many issues pertaining to climate change and sustainability were discussed and numerous ideas shared. Er. Edwin Khew, who spoke on Singapore’s role as a springboard to the Asian cleantech market, remarked, “The World Engineers Summit 2013 is timely in addressing many of the issues that are responsible for climate change, and I feel that engineers can do much more in terms of mitigation and adaptation with respect to climate change.”
Delegates attending the WES 2013 also found the sessions to be informative and insightful.
“I have attended quite a few of the sessions here and found that they have provided a tremendous amount of knowledge into the challenges we face in fighting climate change today. I will return home with these new insights and look forward to sharing what I’ve learnt in terms of content and organisation with my colleagues and peers back home,” said Engr. Ademola Olorunfemi, Deputy President, The Nigerian Society of Engineers.
The next edition of the World Engineers Summit will be held in Singapore in 2015.
MONTRÉAL, 24 September 2013 – Over 1,400 delegates, representing the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO’s) 191 Member States and major international and industry organizations, helped the UN specialized agency for aviation to successfully launch its 38th triennial Assembly today. Participating government Ministers and civil aviation officials will be discussing a range of critical global issues at ICAO over the next two weeks, many of them expected to impact how world States and operators will cooperatively manage the projected doubling of air transport traffic now expected by 2030.
“Rapid and dependable air transport connectivity remains essential to the socio-economic hopes and expectations of industries and peoples all over the world,” confirmed ICAO Council President Roberto Kobeh González. “Expanding our capacity from 100,000 to 200,000 flights daily in barely two decades poses significant challenges to aviation planners, from the standpoints of system safety, efficiency, security, economic viability and environmental stewardship. Businesses and travellers all over the world are looking to ICAO to help manage this process with little adverse impact on current service levels and this is precisely what our States are here to accomplish.”
An important priority at ICAO’s 38th Assembly will be the endorsement of revised global safety and air navigation plans. These have been developed between States and industry at a series of high-level ICAO consensus-building events held since 2011. The process has helped ICAO to confirm sector-wide operational performance targets to guide future technology development, a key component in how aviation expects to manage the coming capacity expansion without any sacrifice in terms of overall system safety or convenience.
In the area of aviation security, ICAO will be using the 38th Assembly to continue to drive momentum on the linkages now being drawn between how States and industry secure aircraft, passengers and cargo without creating bottlenecks and other obstructions to traveller convenience and trade flows. On the cargo side specifically, ICAO is now closely cooperating with the World Customs Organization (WCO) and cargo industry groups to achieve an effective security and facilitation solution governing the entire cargo supply chain.
ICAO Secretary General, Raymond Benjamin, who formerly headed up his organization’s aviation security branch, stressed that ICAO is focused on this area of activity given its current and direct impacts on global trade and basic traveller mobility.
“Over the past 70 years, aviation has been essential to expanding markets and creating tourism and other economic opportunities in every corner of the world,” Benjamin stressed. “Recent technological innovations, coupled with improved data sharing supporting more effective risk assessments, have created an opportunity where leadership and forward-looking standardization can permit us to improve on our well-established and effective security levels while greatly facilitating passenger and trade flows. We’ll therefore be looking to our States to firmly endorse our current priorities and planning at this Assembly so we can continue with this work.”
In the environmental area, ICAO has stressed repeatedly that aviation contributes just 2 per cent of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions each year and that approximately two thirds of this amount, or 1.3 per cent, are due to international flights.
The Organization’s States had previously set out a global aspirational goal for the sector of carbon neutral growth from 2020. To achieve this, a broad range of measures including operational refinements, alternative fuels, new technologies and improved government awareness and planning are being pursued. ICAO is progressing on all these fronts through the development of a CO2 standard for aircraft, the creation of guidance material on the environmental benefits of operational improvements and supporting progress on a globally-acceptable MBM solution for international flights, just to name a few of its environmental initiatives.
Since the last Assembly, the organization has engaged and collaborated with States to significantly improve capacity building, resulting in the development of Action Plans for CO2 emissions reduction activities by States. ICAO is also entering into partnerships for possible funding in support of Action Plan implementation.
“Aviation’s record on lowering its emissions has been unmatched over the last several decades,” stressed Benjamin. “Aircraft today are at least 80 per cent more fuel efficient than they were in the 1960s and sector-wide we continue to improve our emissions performance through a broad range of efforts. No other major industry sector can match this record.”
Elections to determine the State seats on the ICAO Council through 2016 will also be taking place at ICAO over the next two weeks. The 36-seat Council serves as ICAO’s governing executive body in the period between its triennial assemblies.
The ICAO 38th Assembly runs from 24 September through 4 October.
The International Green Purchasing Network held its conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last week. One of the key note speakers was Tom Delay, CEO of the UK’s Carbon Trust, which is also actively involved in sharing its experiences and practices around Asia. In this article he argues that new regulations forcing large companies to report their greenhouse gas emissions will bring about a global change in business behaviour. There will be much more Green Purchasing Network reports in coming issues. Read More
Tom Delay Chief Executive, Carbon Trust
Tom was appointed as the first Chief Executive of the Carbon Trust in 2001. Tom has extensive experience in the energy sector, with 16 years in commercial and operations roles at Shell, before moving into management consultancy with McKinsey and the Global Energy Practice of A.T. Kearney prior to joining the Carbon Trust.
Without much fanfare a potentially transformative piece of legislation has come into force this month. New regulations are being introduced that will make the directors of some of the world’s largest companies legally responsible to report on more than just financial performance and business strategy. They will now have to go into greater detail about how the way they do business impacts the wider world.
From October 2013 all UK-based companies listed on the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange will have to annually report on the impact of their business on the environment, the gender of their employees at different levels of seniority, and social and human rights issues. Perhaps most significantly, following sustained campaigning from the CBI and the business world, these new regulations will require companies to report on their greenhouse gas emissions globally.
The UK is the first country in the world to introduce mandatory carbon reporting. Although the current regulations will only apply to over 1,100 listed companies there are plans in place to consider extending it in 2016 to all large companies. That could significantly increase the impact of the regulations, involving as many as 24,000 businesses.
This will mean that from later this year boardrooms and shareholders will have to start paying a lot more attention to carbon footprints. Carbon footprints will also provide a new metric available across all companies on the market, allowing for investors to assess company performance, efficiency and competitiveness.
Of course a number of companies are already reporting emissions on a voluntary basis, whether this is through their current annual reports or with organisations such as the Carbon Disclosure Project. There is no prescribed methodology in the regulations but a number of robust and accepted methods are now well established, of which the most widely adopted around the world is the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Standard.
Some companies are going even further and looking at emissions outside their direct control, produced by their supply chains and customers, as in many cases they are able to reduce these through their influence. For example we are working with Tesco to help engage their suppliers in reducing energy costs, helping them to be more efficient, cutting their indirect carbon footprint, keeping down costs and insulating themselves from energy price shocks. We have also just completed a project with BT on developing a methodology helping them to achieve their Net Good goal of reducing customers’ carbon emissions by three times the end-to-end carbon impact of their own business.
Climate change and resource scarcity are threats that mean we have to change to the way that we do business and the way that we live. A new economic world order is asserting itself, where only the sustainable will survive. In major global economic centres it is becoming increasingly important to accurately measure emissions.
China has just set up its first pilot emissions trading scheme in Shenzen, one of seven schemes planned over the next two years. This is just another step in a trend that started with the European Union and has since spread to places including Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, South Korea, the state of California and the city of Tokyo. In fact in 2015 the Australian and EU schemes will begin to link, which could be the start of creating a global carbon market.
But this new requirement to report represents a huge opportunity for those businesses that can see beyond the burden of compliance. Energy is the lifeblood of a business, but it is also a considerable cost. Measuring is the critical first step setting meaningful targets for managing and reducing those costs. At the Carbon Trust we have worked with three-quarters of the FTSE100 to help them identify efficiencies, save money, improve reputation and drive innovation. The key to unlocking all these benefits starts with understanding a footprint.
Bringing sustainability inside organisations, products and services will be a critical part of the great transformation that businesses will need to undergo to survive through to the middle of the century. All current indications show that resource and energy demand will continue to increase, and those companies that will thrive are the ones that understand their own impact and how to keep it to a minimum.
It’s not just green groups taking notice any more. Customers have started caring, we know from our own research that in the UK over half of the 18-25 age group would be more loyal to a brand if they can see that they are taking action to reduce their carbon footprint, and in growing economies like Brazil, China and South Korea these figures increase to around three-quarters of young consumers. Businesses that look at their indirect impact have started taking far more care in selecting suppliers that act in an environmentally responsible manner. Even investors are now using carbon as a way to evaluate company performance and exposure to risk.
Mandatory carbon reporting regulations are going to help a lot of UK-based companies lagging behind to get up to speed with taking action on their emissions and compete globally in a sustainable future. It will help those already taking action to go further and become leaders within their own industries. Ultimately reporting emissions should not be seen as compliance issue, it is an absolutely fundamental part of having a sustainable, innovative and successful business in the twenty-first century.
As Phoenix Solar, gets the job to install the largest PV system in Singapore, on the roof of the main office and distribution centre of CMM, Christophe Inglin reports that solar PV is an attractive investment. The latest Bloomberg New Energy Report shows that Europe is moving ahead in leaps and bounds to a low carbon, renewable energy future. Read More
Phoenix Solar on Monday announced that it will design and build the biggest photovoltaic (PV) system in Singapore for supermarket giant Sheng Siong Group.
The solar project, which will be completed by year-end, is for CMM Marketing Management Pte Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Singapore-listed supermarket retailer.
Phoenix Solar, an international photovoltaic system integrator with headquarters in Germany and an Asia Pacific branch in Singapore, will install the PV system on the roof of the main office and distribution centre of CMM, which covers an area of 11,000 square metres.
A few weeks ago Christophe Inglin, the managing director of Phoenix Solar, was sings the solar song saying PV is now an attractive investment.
He’s what he had to say for eco-business.com:
PV or photovoltaics is still perceived by many today as a nice but expensive renewable energy source; a highly subsidised luxury for rich nations; or as a token to improve rural electrification in developing countries, also subsidised by multilateral agencies. We praise its great potential and environmental advantages but we regret its lack of economic viability and defer its full deployment to a future date.
For many years, building owners struggled to justify the expense of installing a rooftop PV system, because it would take 20 years or more to pay for itself in electricity savings. PV systems relied on two main justifications:
•To contribute essential points towards a Green Mark award, Singapore’s green building certification. A PV system can increase the Green Mark score by up to 20 points.
•To comply with a company’s global carbon footprint targets.
But rapid changes in the last two years have overtaken these perceptions, and many people are unaware that PV is now commercially viable in Singapore.
Massive increases in global PV module production capacity have driven costs so low in the last two years that a rooftop PV system in Singapore now pays for itself in seven to ten years, depending on system size. This results in an unlevered project IRR (internal rate or return) of 8 to 13 per cent, making PV a very attractive investment and one that needs no additional incentive schemes to justify it.
When Green Mark was the driving factor, even large commercial and industrial buildings needed no more than 300 kWp to achieve their maximum 20 bonus points. It made little commercial sense to add more PV than this to a rooftop. Not surprisingly, there were only three systems larger than this in Singapore by the end of 2012.
But with IRRs exceeding 12 per cent for large systems, building owners will want to maximise the PV they can install on their available roof space. This means that PV systems in Singapore will get bigger, as well as more popular.
Singapore has enough roof space to accommodate 6 GWp of PV capacity, which is enough to meet 15 per cent of projected electricity demand in 2020, assuming today’s per-capita consumption continues.
Thanks to the attractive returns on investment, we expect the installed capacity to more than double in 2013, reaching at least 20 MWp. If this growth rate of continues, Singapore can meet that target within eight to nine years, meaning that PV will soon become a mainstream source of electricity.
Christophe Inglin is the managing director of Phoenix Solar, which specialises in large commercial and utility-scale solar power plants.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Business Spectator (25 September 2013):
The week in clean energy – German election provides clean energy clues, EPA says CCS not impossible
Last weekend saw a big win for Angela Merkel, but will clean energy have anything to gain from the Chancellor’s re-election victory?
This is the question many renewable energy investors are considering this week following the victory of Merkel’s right-of-centre grouping in Sunday’s German election.
Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU), along with sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), narrowly missed an absolute majority in the federal election, but are now without a coalition partner. The CDU’s former coalition party, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), failed to reach the 5% hurdle needed to win seats in the Bundestag.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance expects it will take weeks for a new coalition to be formed, with the Social Democrats (SPD) or Germany’s Green Party potentially joining forces with the CDU. Both parties are more supportive to renewables than the previous coalition partner, the FDP.
The reform of the Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz (EEG) will become a priority once a coalition is formed. The EEG, Germany’s 13-year-old renewable energy act, is designed to increase the share of electricity from green sources to 80% by 2050, from about 23% now.
Under the EEG, the government guarantees above-market prices for wind, biomass and solar power generators. The difference between the rate paid to clean-energy producers, which get priority access to the grid, and the market price, is offset by a charge added to every household bill.
In 2013, the EEG surcharge increased 47% to EUR 0.528/kWh. While there are many factors contributing to this spike, direct support to renewables has taken most of the blame.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance anticipates that the new coalition will rebalance the cost distribution for renewable support in a way that will help alleviate the burden on households. Energy-intensive industries are currently granted exemptions from paying the EEG surcharge. Bloomberg New Energy Finance expects that some but not all of these exemptions will disappear, as both the CDU-CSU and the SPD parties have strong ties to industrial lobbies.
Meanwhile, all carbon market participants will be waiting to hear the new coalition’s position on a draft plan to fix an oversupply in the region’s emissions-trading system.
Germany’s neighbour France is also looking to shake up how it supports renewables as the country begins its “energy transition” away from nuclear.
France will introduce a carbon tax and a law to cap nuclear-power capacity as part of a new energy bill next year to boost renewable generation, President Francois Hollande told an environment conference last week. Hollande has vowed to reduce reliance on nuclear to half of total output by about 2025 while also keeping down consumers’ bills.
Among other things, the energy law in 2014 will define how renewables are financed. Hollande said last week that the above-market guaranteed prices currently paid to green energy producers “can lead to a waste of public funds, profit-taking and speculative behaviour.” Bloomberg New Energy Finance expects the shift in renewable support may move towards a greater use of tenders to keep costs low.
Over in the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a plan for limiting emissions from new coal-fired power plants. The new draft rules place a limit of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide for each megawatt hour of power produced – a standard that no coal-fired power plant can meet without carbon-capture technology, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said 20 September in remarks prepared for delivery at the National Press Club in Washington.
In proposing these limits, the EPA is effectively saying that carbon capture and storage (CCS) is feasible, even though the technology is not yet being used on a commercial scale. The agency is implicitly challenging coal interests to demonstrate otherwise.
The EPA’s move sets the stage for a far-reaching set of final rules governing emissions from existing power plants, due by June 2014. McCarthy has said those rules will not require existing coal-fired power plants to install CCS equipment.
There were also big clean energy deals last week. Landis+Gyr won a GBP 600m (USD 956m) contract to supply smart meters in the UK, while Vestas Wind Systems said 20 September it received an order to supply turbine equipment with a capacity of 60MW to Renewable Energy Systems Americas in a deal that could grow to as much as 610MW in 2014 and 2015. Vestas shares closed the trading week 3.3% up.
The Danish wind turbine maker was just one of many other clean energy stocks that ended the week on a positive note. The Wilderhill New Energy Global Innovation Index, or NEX, that tracks 98 clean energy companies, closed last week 2.9% up, beating broader market indexes.
Business leaders’ views on the private sector’s progress in addressing global sustainability challenges are detailed in the survey of 1,000 CEOs. It is the latest triennial global poll by the UN Global Compact and Accenture, and the largest such study of top executives ever conducted on sustainability. One of many CEO’s to give his view is CDL boss Kwek Leng Joo who says: “Collaboration is the key.” Read More
“Collaboration is the key to building a sustainable business environment. We can more effectively work towards this common goal with the collective efforts of more companies.” – Leng Joo Kwek, City Developments Limited
UN Global Compact/Accenture (20 September 2013):
Global CEOs Remain Committed to Sustainability, But Report Frustrated Ambition and Call for Policies to Align Market Incentives with Sustainability
Largest global CEO study on sustainability, by UN Global Compact and Accenture, identifies approaches that combine high performance in market leadership and sustainability
More than two thirds of chief executives – 67 percent – believe that business is not doing enough to address global sustainability challenges, according to a survey by the United Nations Global Compact and Accenture (NYSE: ACN). Amid evidence that CEOs are strongly committed to embedding sustainability throughout their organizations, the vast majority now call for action to incentivize and reward sustainability leaders and unlock the full potential of the private sector.
Business leaders’ views on the private sector’s progress in addressing global sustainability challenges are detailed in the survey of 1,000 CEOs. It is the latest triennial global poll by the UN Global Compact and Accenture, and the largest such study of top executives ever conducted on sustainability. Published in The UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study on Sustainability 2013: Architects of a Better World, the study also includes in depth interviews with 75 CEOs and an analysis of those companies that successfully combine sustainability leadership with market leading business performance.
As the UN Global Compact continues to see rapid growth, with almost 8,000 corporate participants, the study demonstrates broadening awareness on the part of global business of the opportunities presented by sustainability. Fully 78 percent of surveyed CEOs see sustainability as a route to growth and innovation, and 79 percent believe that it will lead to competitive advantage in their industry. However, CEOs see the economic climate and a range of competing priorities creating obstacles to embedding sustainability at scale within their companies.
This year, 93 percent of respondents say that environmental, social and governance issues are important to the future of their business, the same proportion as the previous study in 2010. But the proportion describing sustainability as very important has fallen from 54 percent to 45 percent, including only 34 percent of CEOs in Europe. While 84 percent believe that business should lead the way in addressing sustainability challenges, they point to a number of barriers:
• A lack of financial resources is the leading barrier to advancing sustainability, cited by 51 percent of respondents; 40 percent say that economic conditions have made it difficult to embed sustainability into core business.
• The failure to make a link between sustainability and business value is the fastest rising barrier. In 2007, 18 percent said this deterred them from taking further action, rising to 30 percent in 2010. This year, 37 percent of responding CEOs cited this factor, and just 38 percent believe they can accurately quantify the business value of sustainability.
• Only 15 percent of responding CEOs think business has made good progress over the last three years in making sustainability a must-have factor for consumers, even though 82 percent think this is critical to harnessing sustainability as a transformative force in the economy. Almost half (46 percent) believe consumers will always consider sustainability as secondary to price, quality and availability.
• In a sign of investor ambivalence, although 52 percent of respondents see investor interest as an incentive for them to advance sustainability practices, only 12 percent of respondents see investor pressure as a leading motivator. Nevertheless, only a small minority of CEOs (15 percent) blame the short-termism of financial markets as a barrier, and 69 percent believe that investor interest will be increasingly important in guiding their approach.
“As the CEO study reflects, the challenge at hand is to unlock the full potential of corporate sustainability to transform markets and societies around the world,” said Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact. “With thousands of companies, from market leaders to small enterprises, committed to responsible business practices, we can see that there is enormous momentum. Now, we need policymakers, investors and consumers to send the right signals to spur the next level of corporate sustainability action, innovation and collaboration.”
A call for partnerships with governments and market intervention
CEOs are demanding greater collaboration between business, governments and policymakers, according to the survey. Forty two percent of respondents now list governments among their top three stakeholders in sustainability, a rise from 32 percent in 2007. Eighty three percent of respondents think more efforts by governments to provide the enabling environment will be integral to the private sector’s ability to advance sustainability. Specifically, 85 percent demand clearer policy and market signals to support green growth.
When asked which policy tools should be prioritized, 55 percent point to regulation and standards and 43 percent call for governments to adjust subsidies and incentives. A further 31 percent seek intervention through taxation. Softer measures, such information and voluntary approaches, are supported by only 21 percent of CEOs.
“CEOs’ initial optimism has given way to the belief that the constraints of market structures and incentives prevent them from embedding sustainability at the heart of their business,” said Sander van ‘t Noordende, Group CEO, Accenture Management Consulting. “Many would now welcome government action to reshape market rules. But before taking this step, business leaders should recognize that even in today’s imperfect markets, high performing companies do manage to combine commercial and sustainable success. These companies are harnessing sustainability as an opportunity for growth, innovation and differentiation, and demonstrate that sustainable business is good business.”
High Performers in Sustainability
Using Accenture’s methodology to assess high-performing companies, the report identifies a number of approaches most likely to be taken by what the study categorizes as “Transformational Leaders”, those assessed as sustainability leaders that also outperform their industry peers on traditional business metrics. These companies more readily accept that the world is not on track to meet the needs of a growing population and that business is not doing enough. They are also more committed to engaging consumers, local communities, policy makers, investors and other stakeholders. The analysis reveals that these leaders set an example for other businesses by being more likely to:
• See sustainability as an opportunity for growth and innovation, according to 81 percent of Transformational Leaders, by accessing new markets, developing new products and services, and differentiating their offerings through superior social and environmental performance.
• Go beyond measuring their emissions and mitigation efforts to fully quantify and track the positive value of sustainability to their company and their impact on the communities in which they operate; 81 percent of Transformational Leaders practice integrated reporting of financial and sustainable metrics.
• Invest in innovation and deploy new technologies to advance sustainability. These include more sustainable and efficient uses of energy, data analytics to better manage resource consumption, machine-to-machine technologies and closed loop business models; 95 percent of Transformational Leaders report that they will invest in and deploy new technologies on sustainability in the next five years.
“CEOs are clearly disappointed that markets have not aligned with sustainability in the way they had hoped three years ago and would like to see more action from governments to create an enabling environment. But the good news is that they have not lost faith in the role of business to drive sustainability,” Peter Lacy, the study lead from 2007 to 2013, and managing director, Accenture Sustainability and Strategy Services, Asia Pacific. “To move from incremental to large scale transformation, businesses must accept that instead of persuading consumers about sustainability they must give them sustainable products and services they want at prices they can afford. And instead of showing investors the savings made from sustainability, the will have to demonstrate the positive business value it can generate.”
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with approximately 266,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$27.9 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2012. Its home page is www.accenture.com.
About the UN Global Compact
The UN Global Compact is a call to companies everywhere to voluntarily align their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and to take action in support of UN goals and issues. By doing so, business can help ensure that markets, commerce, technology and finance advance in ways that benefit economies and societies everywhere. Endorsed by chief executives, the UN Global Compact is a leadership platform for the development, implementation and disclosure of responsible corporate policies and practices. Launched in 2000, it is the largest corporate sustainability initiative in the world—with over 12,000 signatories from business and key stakeholder groups in 145 countries, and more than 100 Local Networks.
There’s an Australian scientist who helped discover what was killing the world’s honey bees believes he may be on the cusp of working out how to stop it – if he can just convince anyone to listen. And there’s a new Australian Prime Minister with “a bee in his bonnet” who refuses to listen to scientists – not only climate scientists – and is receiving national and international criticism for its perceived disinterest in science, research and development; the absence of a dedicated science minister in the new Abbott cabinet, and the decision to abolish the Climate Commission. Read More
Scientist strives to save honey bees
Scott Hannaford The Sunday Canberra Times editor (15 September 2013):
Bee Expert, Dr Denis Anderson, with some of his bees at Gungahlin.
He is researching a mite which has been wiping out bees allover the world.
The Australian scientist who helped discover what was killing the world’s honey bees believes he may be on the cusp of working out how to stop it – if he can just convince anyone to listen.
Denis Anderson was awarded the 2007 CSIRO medal for his work spreading awareness of the varroa destructor mite, a parasite that sucks the blood of European honey bees and has caused widespread carnage to populations across the world.
The mite has spread to all major honey harvesting countries except Australia and is rated as one of the nation’s greatest biosecurity threats.
But Dr Anderson, who identified and named the mite, has left the CSIRO out of frustration and says he has been forced to rely on funds from selling women’s sandals to continue the research, because the CSIRO is unwilling to put money into solving the problem.
“The product we are after is a bee resistant to the mite, whether we manufacture that bee or select it naturally,” Dr Anderson said.
Research has found the mite relies on a chemical signal from the bee to trigger its breeding cycle.
By manipulating that signal without harming the bee, he believes it is possible to trick the mite into not laying eggs and therefore not reproducing. “But to get to that end product you need all this research, and CSIRO is not interested in funding that,” he said.
Dr Anderson said Australia was in a race to find a solution as the mite’s arrival was inevitable. There have already been several close calls, including in 2012 when thousands of Asian honey bees carrying the mite were discovered on a foreign ship berthed in Sydney.
The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation estimates it would cost Australian industry $72.3million a year over 30 years if the mite becomes established.
CSIRO ecosystem sciences chief Dan Walker said there was a range of work continuing at CSIRO on bees and the varroa mite, but it was not possible to fund all forms of research.
“CSIRO has invested significantly in varroa mite research over the past 23 years, inclusive of the research undertaken by Dr Anderson on ‘switching off’ the ability of the varroa mite to breed,” he said.
“We have advanced the knowledge significantly over this period, but as with many other areas of research undertaken by CSIRO we rely on industry co-investment to take research through to many applied solutions. In this case industry funding has not been forthcoming.”
Dr Anderson said it would take about five years and $10 million to find the chemical switch and a way of changing it to stop the mite breeding, but it was very achievable and would be a breakthrough for agriculture around the world.
Having given up on CSIRO and the pollination to put money into the required research, Dr Anderson has started appealing to the corporate sector, and has had some initial support, including from a West Australian fashion business myhoneybees.com.au, which is providing a portion of sales from women’s sandals to fund bee research.
Dr Anderson is also working to establish a foundation to fund research by universities and PhD students in the area that he hopes will lead to a bee resistant to the mite.
Testing times for science credibility
Wayne Smith in Climate Spectator (22 September 2013):
The Abbott government has its own scientific problem. Even before being sworn in, the government received national and international criticism for its perceived disinterest in science and research and development. The criticism has only heightened with the absence of a dedicated science minister and Thursday’s decision to abolish the Climate Commission.
New Scientist magazine has suggested research was under fire in Australia, with a more politicised approach to research funding, the dismantling of the Climate Commission, whose job it is to produce and disseminate the latest science and research on climate change, and funding cuts to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which helps support clean energy research and development.
In an article on September 10, 2013, New Scientist reminded its global readership of Tony Abbott’s notorious quote of August 2009 that “the climate change argument is complete crap”, a comment Abbott has tried to distance himself from. The new environment minister, Greg Hunt, has made it clear the government accepts the climate change science.
The prestigious Smithsonian Magazine picked up on this theme, suggesting “Abbott does not keep his climate scepticism a secret”, adding that “his campaign slogan of ‘Choose real change’ may turn out to be unsettlingly on the mark”.
These criticisms occurred before the ministerial line-up was announced and the absence of a dedicated science minister – for the first time in 80 years – intensified these concerns.
The government has also been badly let down by some its closest advisers. The executive director of the Liberal Party-aligned Institute of Public Affairs, John Roskam, has led a campaign to denigrate climate change science and has said he’s sceptical about peer review science “in as much as you’re reviewed by your mates”, even though the Australian Academy of Science says it’s the gold standard for assessing the quality of science.
The Coalition’s chief business adviser, Maurice Newman, has gone even further, describing climate change as a “myth”, and attacking the CSIRO for daring to research climate change. He has described climate scientists as a “global warming priesthood” and suggested climate change concerns are a “global warming religion”.
Perceptions matter, and this perceived disregard for science has the potential to shape the government’s short and long term agenda, permeating through industry, education and social policy, as well as creating difficulties for Australia’s international climate change negotiations. Science, research and evidence-based decision-making are central to methodical public administration. The scientific problem needs to be knocked on the head quickly by the new government.
The government needs to turn the absence of a dedicated science minister into a virtue by taking a more rigorous, whole of government approach to science, innovation and research, and by having a forceful spokesperson on science matters.
After the announcement of the new Cabinet, the Nobel Prize winner, Brian Schmidt, tweeted “Symbolism of no science minister unfortunate-but I don’t care, IF cabinet supports science. Strong support better than weak minister”.
The chief scientist, Professor Ian Chubb told ABC’s Lateline: “my hope is that we do get somebody who’s influential enough … to have an impact on the decisions that are made about science in Australia.”
In Ian Macfarlane, the science community has someone of influence and someone they may consider a supporter. Ian Macfarlane told ABC radio that he was passionate about science, “My mother is a scientist. My grandfather was a scientist, a geologist. I’m a great believer in innovations and inventions.” He will be the primary minister for science and research matters in the Australian government.
The government should strike early in addressing a perceived weakness by emphasising its strong support for science and research and development. It has a positive story to tell – increased funding for rural research and development, the restoration of funding to the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, the Howard government’s record of support for research and development tax credits, being just some examples.
The government should deliver a strong response to the forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, making it clear through the prime minister that it accepts mainstream climate change science and has a plan to help the world avoid a 2 degree increase in global temperatures – reinforcing Australia’s international commitment. The Coalition’s promise to drive an international climate change agreement through its chairmanship of the G20 will be important here.
The government should reconsider its decision to abolish the Climate Commission and convene a summit of Australia’s leading climate scientists to help develop a long-term response to the IPCC’s Summary for Policy Makers report.
If the government does not change tack and establish an independent scientific body on climate change, the research community and the broader community needs to do the government’s job and set up its own independent body. It can be done and it needs to be done.
The prime minister should also convene an early meeting of the PM’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Committee and give them responsibility, as the chief scientist has suggested, for a whole of government approach to science policy. Climate change should be a core issue for PMSEIC. John Howard attended his first PMSEIC meeting within six months of becoming prime minister. Tony Abbott should aim to chair a meeting within three months.
Ian Macfarlane will need help in promoting a strong science and research agenda. He has a massive portfolio covering industry, innovation, manufacturing, resources and energy and aspects of climate change policy, as well as science and research – all without a junior minister. The need for a dedicated science and research minister will not go away, but the government can turn this weakness into a strength through a dedicated approach to promoting science and research and development.
This is a test for the new government. It needs to strike down the hypothesis that it is anti-science. Many will be watching and hoping that it passes the test.
Wayne Smith is the director of Clean Economy Services, a renewable energy consulting firm. His clients include solar and renewable energy companies and industry associations. This article reflects his views only.
Two penetrating views from the International Green Building Conference in Singapore this month: One from UK designer Thomas Heatherwick, the most entertaining of the speakers who talked about his approach to green design and his Singapore project the Learning Hub. And Jessica Cheam – Straits Times and Eco-business.com – who has “witnessed the rather remarkable growth” of the sector and the journey Singapore has made from relative obscurity to international recognition for its leadership in green building development, particularly for the tropics. Read More
By Jessica Cheam in eco business.com (16 September 2013)
Event Coverage / International Green Building Conference 2013
Increased transparency a boost to green building movement Increased transparency a boost to green building movement. The Building and Construction Authority’s move to require owners to voluntarily disclose their building performance is a step in the right direction and a long time coming
Having covered the green building industry in Singapore for years, I have witnessed the rather remarkable growth of the sector and the journey it has made from relative obscurity in this area to the international recognition Singapore has won for its leadership in green building development, particularly for the tropics.
One criticism I often hear, though, is despite the impressive rate of adoption of green building technologies and certifications, there is just not enough information sharing and public disclosure about the performance of such green buildings, even in the public sector.
Many green buildings may achieve high ratings under the Building and Construction Authority’s (BCA’s) flagship Green Mark scheme, which rates buildings for its sustainability performance, but users of such buildings are none the wiser about its energy efficiency
Industry professionals also say the information on the performance of the building is not publicly available, making it hard to determine whether such buildings achieve the energy efficiency rating it professes on paper – and whether this performance is kept up over the years.
On Friday at the BCA Breakfast Talk for CEOs held at the International Green Building Conference, the BCA took steps to address this when it gave the industry a peek into its new third green building masterplan.
Among other initiatives, it will soon introduce voluntary disclosure of a building’s energy performance. This means that building owners will start making such information publicly available; the BCA will be naming the top 20 per cent of energy efficient buildings with the consent of building owners and at a later stage, will encourage owners to display building energy certificates in their lobby or foyer areas.
This is an encouraging move and a long time coming.
Enabling visitors to see such energy performance certificates, along with the Green Mark rating, in public areas will help to raise public awareness about the importance of green buildings in helping Singapore mitigate its carbon footprint and raising productivity and general well-being of its occupants.
In one separate session that I attended at the conference, a researcher had mentioned that although the BCA’s Green Mark scheme is well known and established within the industry, for the general public, the link between identifying a green building and the Green Mark scheme remains weak.
Enabling visitors to see such energy performance certificates, along with the Green Mark rating, in public areas will certainly go in some way to address this issue. It will also help to raise public awareness about the importance of green buildings in helping Singapore mitigate its carbon footprint and raising productivity and general well-being of its occupants.
At the breakfast talk, which I moderated, industry leaders spent a good part of the morning discussing the ‘value of green to corporations’.
The growth of green buildings in Singapore – from a mere 17 buildings in 2006 to more than 1,600 today comprising 20 per cent of Singapore’s built-up space – has been spectacular. The country has a target to green 80 per cent of its buildings by 2030. That it is on track to achieve this target is testament to the fact that companies here do realise the ‘value of green’ not just to its own operations, but also to their clients and the wider community.
Rod Leaver, chief executive officer for Lend Lease Asia set out the case for change for the industry. The benefits of green buildings include:
•High occupancy rates
•Reduced liability risks
Netapp vice president and general manager for Asean, Scott Morris, also shared how the firm’s sustainability efforts have enabled it to rank number 6 on Fortune magazine’s 2013 “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, and this has greatly enhanced its talent retention rates.
Its commitment to green its data centres by developing solutions that reduce the amount of resources used while keeping costs low for its clients have won them a ranking in Forbes’ “World’s Most Innovative Companies” list, which, guess what – enables them to win more business.
You could call sustainability a virtuous cycle.
The panel also had a spirited discussion about BCA’s latest efforts to name the best performers.
Why not also name the bottom 20 per cent? I asked BCA. Such an approach would surely motivate the laggards of the industry to get their house in order.
In response, BCA chief executive John Keung said it would take the “carrot” approach first, by recognising the leaders in the hope of encouraging the others to follow suit. He assured the 250-strong audience: “BCA always takes a consultative approach with any of its new initiatives” but he also did not rule out that such a display of a building’s performance may be made mandatory in the future.
Mandatory disclosure is a matter of time if Singapore is serious about greening its dense, built-up infrastructure.
The Singapore public sector should show some leadership and also make it mandatory for all public buildings to do so. It is taxpayers’ money that funds the construction and maintenance of these buildings after all.
In my opinion, such a move is a matter of time if Singapore is serious about greening its dense, built-up infrastructure. Public buildings in the United Kingdom, for example, are already required to display such certificates. The Singapore public sector should show some leadership and also make it mandatory for all public buildings to do so. It is taxpayers’ money that funds the construction and maintenance of these buildings after all.
Chief executive officer and executive director of Keppel REIT Management, Ng Hsueh Ling, expressed some anxiety about naming the worse-off performers. “There are serious repercussions for building owners when such a move is taken. For example, the air quality in a building could be not bad at all, but just not as good as the best in the industry,” she pointed out. So companies should not be unnecessarily penalised in such rankings, she added.
I agree that such concerns must be addressed, and in general, an atmosphere of encouragement in the industry is preferred over naming and shaming. But requiring buildings to display their energy performance can hardly be considered the latter – numbers are hard facts upon which the public and industry can determine and judge for themselves.
It’s similar to how listed companies are required to disclose their financial information and shareholders and anaylsts can judge whether their numbers hold up against their peers according to their unique conditions and business strategies.
After all, transparency has always been a big driver of openness and accountability within industries. I do not doubt that increased transparency in the industry will only serve to spur the local green building movement to greater heights in the years ahead.
UK designer Thomas Heatherwick was one of the most entertaining speakers at International Green Building Conference this year and talked about the Learning Hub, one of remarkable, green designs for a technology education building under construction at Nanyang Technology University in Singapore.
Here’s more information on the man and the project which first appeared in Dezeen Magazine:
Learning Hub by Heatherwick
Resembling a cluster of elongated bee hives, the Learning Hub at Nanyang Technology University explores new ways of teaching at a time when computers and the internet are challenging the rationale of learning institutions.
“Before, the university was the place you would come to because it had the computers, or the university was the place that you would come to because it had the books,” said Heatherwick, explaining the concept of the building in a keynote speech at World Architecture Festival in Singapore last year. “And now, you can just stay in your bedroom with your [iPhone] and get your PhD and deal with the different professors – and so what is the purpose of a university building anymore?”
In response, the university wanted to dissolve the traditional relationship between the tutor and the student, to encourage a new kind of collaborative studying. “They no longer want the model of a master at the front of the class,” said Heatherwick in his lecture. “[That] is something that they want to move away from completely.”
The building consists of several 8-storey towers containing stacks of tutorial rooms, but avoids using traditional circulation and room layouts. The rooms are corner-less, to dissolve the standard classroom hierarchy where the tutor is at the front and the students all face towards him or her.
Instead of corridors, each level features open galleries where students can circulate and meet. And instead of a conventional entrance, the building is porous at ground level, meaning people can approach and enter from any direction.
“So the building has no one door, it’s all porous,” said Heatherwick. “You can just walk into one big shared space that links the whole thing together.”
Nanyang Technology University was masterplanned by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange in the 1980s and features buildings set in lush gardens. Heatherwick’s design reflects this by placing plants and trees on the roof and on some of the circulation levels.
Heatherwick studio has won a competition to design a Learning Hub for a university in Singapore. The hub will be part of a £360 million scheme which Nanyang Technological University is undertaking, and is the first redevelopment of its campus’ in twenty years.
It was clear to us that since the advent of the internet and low cost computers that there has been a distinct shift in how students approach educational facilities. University buildings have ceased to be the only site where students are able to source educational texts, and have become unappealing spaces with endless corridors, no natural daylight and only hints of other people’s presence.
The studio’s approach was to redefine the aspiration of a university building, and to once again make it an essential part of the tertiary education experience. Within this new context the purpose of a university is to foster togetherness and sociability, so that students can meet their fellow entrepreneurs, scientists or colleagues in a space that encourages collaboration.
The hub’s form is dictated by its function, and brings together 55 tutorial rooms into a structure without conventional corridors, which have traditionally created social separation and isolation. The learning hub has no one door, it is porous. Students can enter from 360 degrees around into a large central space which links all the separate towers together. Each tower is made up of a stack of classrooms which build up gradually, with gardens on selected floors.
Another inspiration for the hub was a wish to break down the traditional square forward-facing classrooms with a clear front and hierarchy, and move to a corner-less space, where teachers and students mix on a more equal basis.
In this model, students work together around shared tables, with teacher as facilitator and partner in the voyage of learning, rather than ‘master’ executing a top-down model of pedagogy.
Each of these tutorial rooms faces the large shared central space, allowing students to continually feel connected to all the other activities going on in the building.
In 2013 the learning hub was awarded the BCA Green Mark Platinum Award for sustainability by the Singaporean government. The award is a benchmarking scheme which incorporates internationally recognised best practices in environmental design and performance.