Archive for October, 2013

Old King Coal for the Push!

Posted by Ken on October 27, 2013
Posted under Express 201

Old King Coal for the Push!

Dirty coal gets a lump of attention because many countries continue to allow its polluting presence and new coal fired power stations continue to be build. Mary Robinson joins others in saying we’re better to leave all fossil fuels in the ground. Wind, solar, hydro, bio-fuel, geo-thermal altogether add up to the answer. An island of potato growers in Denmark is showing that it is possible to be 100% reliant on clean energy and Denmark has the target of 100% renewable energy by 2050. Singapore International Energy Week gets underway and there’s hope that renewables will more than hold their own when outspoken speakers from IEA, IRENA and SERIS and clean energy funders like Armstrong Asset Management have their say. Smart Grid and Electric Vehicles will get an airing at the Asia Future Energy Forum and exhibition, where a new bio fuel with great potential will be unearthed. We cannot resist repeating the strong case for electrification of Singapore’s road transport to show the world what’s possible. We have more to say on green purchasing, procurement and supply chains as we venture to Taipei to speak at their Green Summit. And we have to advise on another couple of week’s delay in the announcement of our 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders. Obviously, too many diversions for the final review team. But it is worth waiting for. – Ken Hickson

Profile: Mary Robinson

Posted by Ken on October 27, 2013
Posted under Express 201

Profile: Mary Robinson

World governments must get used to the idea of leaving fossil fuel reserves in the ground unexploited and unburned. So says the former Irish President and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, who is to spearhead a new international push aimed at breaking the climate talks deadlock and silencing sceptics, with a group of senior diplomats and politicians from around the world. Read More

Major fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground, senior diplomat warns

Mary Robinson says governments must confront this harsh reality if runaway emissions are not to threaten the climate

By Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent in The Guardian (23 September 2013):

Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, accused Rio+20 leaders of backsliding on women’s rights

The former Irish president and UN high commissioner, Mary Robinson, is to spearhead a new international push aimed at breaking the climate talks deadlock and silencing sceptics.

World governments must get used to the idea of leaving fossil fuel reserves in the ground unexploited and unburned, one of the world’s most senior diplomats has said, ahead of a landmark report on climate science to be unveiled this Friday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The former Irish president and UN high commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson, is to spearhead a new international push aimed at breaking the climate talks deadlock and silencing sceptics, with a group of senior diplomats and politicians from around the world.

Climate sceptics are “not based in reality” and parts of the business community are “trying to cloud and distort the science”, she said, adding that strong political leadership was needed to counter them.

Robinson told the Guardian that governments would have to confront the harsh reality that much of their fossil fuel reserves, and accompanying economic value, would have to be left behind if runaway emissions were not to threaten the climate.

“There is a global limit on a safe level of emissions. That means major fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground. That has huge implications for economic and social development.”

It would mean creating incentives for countries to look at other resources, as well as carbon pricing to penalise fossil fuel use, and most of all “political certainty” coming from global leaders.

She said it was also vital that developing countries should not be put at a disadvantage by this process, as many rich countries have had more opportunity to exploit their fossil resources and have benefited from them over decades. “It must be managed in a fair way. Developing countries must not bear all the burden. We need a robust and fair climate change agreement.”

She acknowledged that some countries and many businesses, particularly those with fossil fuel interests, would be hostile to the proposal. The current economic value of the resources left unused – without taking into account their effects on the climate – is likely to run into hundreds of billions of pounds. “We are already talking to the business community that wants change, but there is obviously a business community that is trying to cloud and distort the science.”

She said going for green growth instead of fossil fuels could create jobs and prosperity, as well as improving health and avoiding the danger that the ravages of global warming could destroy the gains made in lifting developing countries out of poverty.

Robinson called for strong messages by world political leaders on tackling global warming, which she said were needed to combat the growing chorus of climate sceptics, emboldened by recent media coverage ahead of the IPCC report. “The best way to counter the sceptics is to have strong political leadership. They [the sceptics] are not based in reality.”

Robinson, who was the first woman to be president of Ireland, from 1990 to 1997, then United Nations high commissioner for human rights to 2002, and is a member of the Elders group of dignitaries that includes Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu – is widely respected for her role on the world stage, particularly in focusing attention on women’s rights.

She hopes to copy the success of the millennium development goals to forge an alliance among developing countries that would tie together aspirations for social and economic prosperity with the need to tackle climate change and maintain environmental protections.

Her backers, signatories to a declaration published on Monday by the Mary Robinson Foundation, include a roll call of former developing country presidents, including Richard Lagos, former president of Chile; Luisa Dias Diogo, former prime minister of Mozambique; Botswana’s ex-president Festus Mogae; Bharrat Jagdeo, former president of Guyana; Tuiloma Neroni Slade, secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum; and Jay Naidoo, a former minister in Nelson Mandela’s government; as well as senior diplomats and labour organisations.

The millennium development goals, after some struggles in the early stages, gained nearly universal acceptance from world governments, and although many will not be met by the 2015 deadline, they have provided a strong framework by which to measure progress on key indicators and galvanise support for development initiatives. If the same could be done for the climate, Robinson believes, and with new sustainable development goals to kick in beyond 2015, the processes could be mutually beneficial, joining to provide broader support for the changes needed.

Her foundation’s declaration will be presented to the United Nations, meeting in New York this week for its general assembly, and also at Davos this winter, for the World Economic Forum attended by business leaders. In New York, the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon will invite world leaders to a summit next year that he hopes will galvanise leadership ahead of crunch negotiations in 2015 in Paris, the date governments have set as a deadline for drawing up a new global agreement on emissions and the climate. In a high-risk strategy, Ban hopes world leaders meeting ahead of the crucial final stages of the negotiations will enable their officials the following year to forge the global deal that has eluded previous talks.

Robinson said the world had a unique opportunity in the next two years, because the current millennium development goals expire in 2015, with replacement sustainable development goals in the offing, and the prospect of the Paris conference in the same year. “This is a key point a time, such a very important year.”


Will Renewable Energy Treasures Be Unearthed?

Posted by Ken on October 27, 2013
Posted under Express 201

Will Renewable Energy Treasures Be Unearthed?

If you sense there’s an over-emphasis on fossil fuels – oil, gas  and coal – at this year Singapore International Energy Week, take a closer look. Read between the lines and look out for stirring speakers like Dr Fatih Birol, Christiana and Jose Maria Figueres, Opower’s Dan Yates and IRENA’s Adnan Amin. We are sure some renewable energy treasures will be unearthed. What to look out for in a sneak preview by Ken Hickson. News of the world’s newest bio fuel….will it help clean up the planet like nothing before it? Attend the Asia Future Energy Forum and exhibition to learn more. Read More

Sneak Preview of this year’s Singapore International Energy Week

By Ken Hickson

If you sense there’s an over-emphasis on fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal – at this year Singapore International Energy Week, take a closer look. Read between the lines and look out for stirring speakers like Dr Fatih Birol, Christiana and Jose Maria Figueres, Opower’s Dan Yates and IRENA’s Adnan Amin. Some renewable energy treasures will be unearthed. What to look out for ….a sneak preview by Ken Hickson, Editor ABC Carbon Express. He says to look out for news on Tuesday of the world’s newest bio fuel….it will take your breath away and help clean up the planet like nothing before it. Attend the Asia Future Energy Forum and exhibition to learn more.

  • Dr Fatih Birol Chief Economist International Energy Agency (IEA). Always has something to say. He stirs up his audience. No holds barred. Last year in his Global Energy Outlook he blasted all for “An economic Sin. And epic failure of international energy policy”, for only capitalising on a third of all energy efficiency opportunities. See my book “Race for Sustainability” for a profile on Fatih Birol.
  • A powerful duo: Jose Maria Figueres President of the Carbon War Room and Former President of Costa Rica – and his sister, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change . Both will appear at the Low Carbon Development and Green Growth on the opening day of the Energy Summit.
  • Don’t miss hearing and meeting Dan Yates.  As CEO, he is responsible for the vision, strategy, and leadership of Opower, one of the fastest growing enterprise companies in the world and remarkably for an energy company, it is helping clients and customers to save energy, save money, and reduce carbon emissions. Opower has been cited as an example of innovation and success by President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron.
  • He back again and he will have important things to say about renewable energy’s advance in Asia and elsewhere. Adnan Amin is the Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). He is responsible for leading the Agency in the implementation of its mandate to promote the adoption and sustainable use of renewable energy worldwide. -
  • The Future of Energy – If you sense there’s a lot of emphasis on old and dirty energy this year, watch out for and attend the Asia Future Energy Forum. The increasing the role that newer energy sources play in our energy mix is also in shaping the behaviours and listening to the ideas of young people. It is also about capturing opportunities in ideas such as electromobility and low carbon towns.
  • Look out for news on Tuesday of the world’s newest bio fuel….it will take your breath away and help clean up the planet like nothing before it. It’s growing in Malaysia and a Singaporean will introduce it to the world. Attend the exhibition at the Asia Future Energy Forum to learn more.
  • At the PV ASIA PACIFIC EXPO AND CONFERENCE,  Asia Pacific’s leading business platform for solar energy, listen up for Andrew Affleck and how he has established South East Asia’s first Clean Energy Fund and expect some great solar insights from Professor Joachim Luther of the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) .
  • Then the tide has come in for tidal energy. And Singapore is the global headquarters for Atlantic Resources Corporation with tidal projects in Australia, Scotland, Canada and India. CEO Tim Cornelius speaks at the Roundtable on Ocean Renewable Energy.


Here’s the official preview of the event:

Rise of Asia in global energy dynamics to take centrestage at SIEW 2013

For five days, global energy leaders from government, industry, and international organisations will convene in Singapore for the 6th Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW).

During the week-long programme of discussion panels, roundtables and networking events, they will deliberate on the challenges and opportunities in the evolving Asian energy landscape, underscoring the importance of public and private sector partnerships in navigating our energy horizons.

Keynote speaker Sheikh Khalid Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Chief Executive Officer of Qatargas, the world’s largest LNG producing company, will share his views on the role of gas in the future energy mix and how recent developments will impact the global energy landscape.

SIEW 2013, which runs from 28 October to 1 November, takes place as countries in the region expand their economies, placing Asian energy demand and usage as significant factors shaping worldwide energy trade over the next five years. This year’s theme, “New Horizons in Energy” also highlights the resurgence of new oil and gas supplies, and the emergence of novel technologies that are shaping global energy dynamics.

Singapore’s Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade & Industry, Mr S. Iswaran, will deliver opening remarks at the Singapore Energy Summit (SES), a high-level dialogue on the importance of developing dynamic and competitive energy systems. He will also engage students in a discussion on Singapore’s energy opportunities and challenges at “In Dialogue with Youth”, the headline event for SIEW’s youth programme.

Mr Iswaran will be joined by regional energy ministers, industry captains and other thought leaders at the SES. Over five panel sessions, they will discuss the rise of natural gas and resurgence of fossil fuels, geopolitical energy dynamics, Asia’s efforts with regard to renewable energy and innovation, and ways to encourage low-carbon green growth.

The esteemed panellists include:

YB Datuk Seri Dr. Maximus Ongkili, Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water, Malaysia; Suhail Mohamed Faraj Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy, United Arab Emirates; Mark McArdle, Minister for Energy & Water Supply, Queensland, Australia; Jose Maria Figueres, President of the Carbon War Room and former President of Costa Rica; Adnan Z Amin, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA); Amos Hochstein, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Diplomacy, US Department of State; Hiroshi Ozaki, President, Osaka Gas; Yang Qing, Executive Vice-President, State Grid Corporation of China Dr Fatih Birol, Chief Economist, International Energy Agency (IEA); Jon Moore, Deputy Chief Executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance; Anthony J. Jude, Chair, Energy Committee, Asian Development Bank (ADB); David Pumphrey, Co-Director and Senior Fellow of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS.

SIEW 2013’s onsite partner conferences include Asia Future Energy Forum, Asia Smart Grid/Electromobility, Downstream Asia, Gas Asia Summit, PV Asia Pacific Expo and Conference, Singapore Electricity Roundtable and Platts Top 250 Global Energy Company Awards Dinner.

In addition, SIEW will feature eight roundtables on a diverse range of energy topics by renowned Singapore and international think-tanks including the Energy Studies Institute (ESI); Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERIAN); S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies; International Energy Agency (IEA); Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ); International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA); and National Energy Administration of China.

About Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW)

The 6th annual SIEW 2013 is the leading platform for top policymakers, energy practitioners and commentators to discuss energy issues, strategies and solutions. SIEW brings together the world’s leading conferences, roundtables, exhibitions, workshops and networking events from across the energy spectrum of oil & gas, clean and renewable energy in one week, in one location.

About the Energy Market Authority

The Energy Market Authority (EMA) is a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Our main goals are to ensure a reliable and secure energy supply, promote effective competition in the energy market and develop a dynamic energy sector in Singapore. Through our work, we seek to forge a progressive energy landscape for sustained growth.





AFEF Conference

The Asia Future Energy Forum & Exhibition (AFEF) conference will be held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre on 29 – 30 October 2013.

The conference will open with a plenary session to discuss the regional trends and government initiatives that drive energy market developments in onshore and offshore renewables. Delegates can then opt to attend the sessions under the Future Energy Track or the Offshore Renewables Track, where topics like Driving Commercial Viability in Energy-from-Waste Projects and Wave, Wind and Tidal Power Generation will be presented by respected speakers in their respective fields.


Contaminated Coal: Who doesn’t need it now?

Posted by Ken on October 27, 2013
Posted under Express 201

Contaminated Coal: Who doesn’t need it now?

Of all dirty fossil fuels in use today, coal is considered the dirtiest of them all. Yet, demand for coal is set to surpass oil as the key fuel for the global economy by 2020, driven by growth in China and India. This is despite government efforts to reduce carbon emissions across the globe. At the other end of the scale, coal power might soon become economically unfeasible in Australia, as costs for renewable energy drops and cost of coal-fired energy production increases due to carbon capture and storage. Read more

Coal will surpass oil as the key fuel for the global economy by 2020 despite government efforts to re duce carbon emissions

Economic growth in China and India are driving global demand for coal


Coal is plentiful and more affordable for both China and India


Coal demand in the U.S., Europe and rest of Asia will remain steady

By Helen Collis in Daily Mail (14 October 2013):

Coal will become more in demand than oil by 2020 driven by growth in China and India, despite campaigns to reduce carbon emissions across the globe, a new report reveals.

Marking a return to an era reminiscent of Britain’s industrial revolution, the rapidly expanding economies in the East are turning to coal since it is cheaper and more reliable than oil or renewable energy sources, energy consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie said on Monday.

Rising demand in China and India will push coal past oil as the two Asian powerhouses will need to rely on the comparatively cheaper fuel to power their economies. Coal demand in the United States, Europe and the rest of Asia will hold steady.

Little choice: China has no alternative to coal, with its domestic gas output limited, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports more costly than coal

Global coal consumption is expected to rise by 25 per cent by the end of the decade to 4,500 million tonnes of oil equivalent, overtaking oil at 4,400 million tonnes, according to Woodmac in a presentation on Monday at the World Energy Congress.

‘China’s demand for coal will almost single-handedly propel the growth of coal as the dominant global fuel,’ said William Durbin, president of global markets at Woodmac. ‘Unlike alternatives, it is plentiful and affordable.’

China – already the top consumer – will drive two-thirds of the growth in global coal use this decade. Half of China’s power generation capacity to be built between 2012 and 2020 will be coal-fired, said Woodmac.

China has no alternative to coal, with its domestic gas output limited, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports more costly than coal, Durbin said.

China’s demand for coal will almost single handedly propel it to the most demanded fuel on the planet, the report says

China’s demand for coal will almost single handedly propel it to the most demanded fuel on the planet, the report says

‘Renewables cannot provide base load power. This leaves coal as the primary energy source,’ he said.

Power infrastructure provider Alstom estimated that across Asia close to half of the 600 gigawatt of new power generators to be built over the next five years will be coal-fired, Giles Dickson, a vice president at the company said.

‘Coal prices are low,’ he said, adding that coal is about one-third of the price of LNG in Asia and about half of the gas price in Europe.

Abundant supply is also supporting demand for coal. The traded volumes of coal will increase by a further 20 per cent by 2020, Dickson said, including supply of lower grade coal from Indonesia, Australia and South Africa.

‘As the lower grade coal comes into the market, further downward pressure on prices will further drive demand,’ he said.

Currently, oil is the most used fuel the world over, but coal is expected to be more in demand by 2020 Currently, oil is the most used fuel the world over, but coal is expected to be more in demand by 2020

Excess supply and faltering demand growth have depressed global coal prices this year. European coal futures have tumbled more than 20 per cent, while Australian coal prices have plummeted from the record $130 per tonne hit in 2011 to around $80 per tonne as China’s demand grew slower than expected.

‘If you take China and India out of the equation, what is more surprising is that under current regulations, coal demand in the rest of the world will remain at current levels,’ Durbin said.

High fuel import costs and nuclear issues will support coal use throughout Northeast Asia, while in North America coal is still competitive in many locations despite abundant low-cost shale gas.

‘The struggling economy and low coal prices has rendered the European Union (EU) Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) ineffective,’ Durbin said. ‘The carbon price will need to reach 40 euros per tonne to encourage fuel switching, which is unlikely before 2020.’

In Southeast Asia, coal will be the biggest winner in the region’s energy mix. Coal will generate nearly half of Southeast Asia’s electricity by 2035, up from less than a third now, the International Energy Agency said in early October.

This will contribute to a doubling of the region’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to 2.3 gigatonnes by 2035, according to the IEA.



Even under a conservative government, coal-fired electricity has no future

Mark Diesendorf in The Conversation (10 September 2013):

Coal-fired electricity may have little or no economic future in Australia, a new analysis has found. While the new government seems determined to turn its back on renewable energy, our study shows that even without a carbon price, and even with the assumption that carbon capture and storage will eventually become commercially available, coal may not be able to compete with renewable electricity.

Carbon capture and storage captures CO2 emitted by fossil-fuelled power stations, compressing and transporting it by pipeline, and burying it in repositories deep underground. We modelled a range of fossil fuel scenarios with CCS, and then compared their economics with that of our previously published 100% renewable electricity scenario based on commercially available wind, solar and biomass technologies.

The team, from the University of NSW, comprises Ben Elliston, a PhD candidate in the School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, and his supervisors – Associate Professor Iain MacGill, of the Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets, and myself.

Using hourly electricity demand and solar and wind data from 2010, we determined the appropriate technology mixes for each scenario. Scenarios had to balance electricity demand and supply to achieve the same reliability as the existing Australian National Electricity Market.

We used government estimates of the prices for different generation technologies and fuels in 2030. We also looked at a wide range of possible future carbon prices and carbon capture and storage prices.

The results show that coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS) scenarios are likely to struggle to compete economically with 100% renewable electricity in a climate-constrained world, even if CCS is commercialised by 2030.

CCS might become economically competitive in a few rare circumstances – such as for power stations located near potential CO2 repositories in southern Victoria at a time when there the carbon price is low.

But the majority of Australia’s coal-fired power stations are in New South Wales and Queensland, a long way from storage sites. These would have great difficulty in competing economically with 100% renewable electricity.

Even in the unlikely event that the carbon price were to be zero in 2030, electricity generated from coal with CCS would at best be equal in cost to the 100% renewable energy scenario, assuming an average transportation distance for the CO2. However, if there were no carbon price, there would be no incentive for bringing CCS to commercial maturity in the first place.

Because the onward march of global climate change cannot be slowed by the election of a Coalition government in Australia, it seems likely that by 2030 the climate situation would be desperate and most countries, including Australia and the USA, will have a high carbon price.

In summary, the UNSW modelling suggests that, in a future climate-constrained Australia, there would be little role for a domestic coal-fired electricity industry, with or without CCS.

We also compared gas-fired power stations using CCS against 100% renewable electricity. While this gas generation scenario could potentially be competitive at current gas prices, the study showed this would not be the case if domestic gas prices reached export parity. Currently gas prices are increasing substantially as more and more gas from eastern Australia is exported.

How can we understand these results when only a few years ago many governments and fossil-fuel industries were claiming that carbon capture and storage technology would be one of the best options for mitigating emissions from electricity generation?

In practice CCS technology has turned out to be more complicated and expensive than initially appreciated. While some small pilot plants have been built, large-scale CCS systems for electricity generation still haven’t been demonstrated. They appear to be years – likely decades – from possible commercial deployment.

Meanwhile, renewable energy technologies have been advancing rapidly, both within the Australian electricity industry, and globally.

The research confirms that policies to pursue very high penetrations of renewable electricity, based on commercially available technologies, offer a reliable, affordable and low risk way to dramatically cut emissions in the electricity sector. There is no need to invest in new, expensive, unproven, high-risk, fossil fuel technologies.

What does the change of federal government mean for Australia’s renewable energy future? The Coalition’s policies include:

  • removing the modest carbon price, which anyway would have become very small post-July 2014 if Labor had been returned to government;
  • holding yet another enquiry (the twentieth!) into wind farms, presumably to give more air to the unsubstantiated claims of a wind turbine syndrome
  • terminating the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. This provides venture capital to help the transition of some renewable energy technologies from the demonstration stage to the early diffusion stage of technological maturity
  • holding yet another enquiry into the Renewable Energy Target, thus undermining investors’ confidence
  • cutting funding to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which provides research and development grants.

It is difficult to avoid the interpretation that these five polices taken together amount to a deliberate strategy to undermine the further dissemination of renewable energy in Australia. However, while this strategy will slow down investment and associated job creation, especially for wind farms and large-scale solar power stations, it cannot stop it.

The price of solar photovoltaic modules continues to decline and the market continues to expand. Contrary to the claims of the deniers of climate science, global climate change is continuing and its impacts will become more and more serious.

The growing social movement for renewable energy has already successfully opposed three Australian state governments that attempted to penalise households with solar electricity.

Soon people power will give the Australian and US federal governments no choice but to take rapid, effective climate action, whichever party is in power.

Associate Professor and Deputy Director, Institute of Environmental Studies, UNSW at University of New South Wales, Mark Diesendorf receives no funding from the renewable energy industry. He does occasionally receive government-funded research grants on renewable energy and energy policy.

The Conversation is funded by CSIRO, Melbourne, Monash, RMIT, UTS, UWA, ACU, Canberra, CDU, Curtin, Deakin, Flinders, Griffith, JCU, La Trobe, Massey, Murdoch, Newcastle, QUT, Swinburne, UniSA, USC, USQ, UTAS, UWS and VU.


New Minister Says Yes to Clean Air, Land & Water, but No to Carbon Tax

Posted by Ken on October 27, 2013
Posted under Express 201

New Minister Says Yes to Clean Air, Land & Water, but No to Carbon Tax

The 2nd Australian Sustainability Conference saw the Minister of the Environment in the new Government confirming his commitment to scraping the carbon tax, while also detailing the new Environmental Policy for Australia, resting on four pillars: Clean Air, Clean Land, Clean Water and Heritage Protection. The Minister is also embroiled in media and scientific questioning – along with Prime Minister Abbott – for denying that the early devastating bushfire season has anything to do with climate change and associated extreme weather. The conference also saw various agendas, including the importance of women in driving sustainability. Read more

Greg Hunt uses Wikipedia research to dismiss climate change-bushfires link

Environment minister warns against ‘politicising the science’, saying bushfires are simply part of ‘the

Helen Davidson in (24 October 2013):

The environment minister Greg Hunt has dismissed a link between bushfires and climate change, saying he “looked up what Wikipedia says” about bushfires and it was clear Australia had a history of frequent events during hotter months since before European settlement.

Hunt was questioned on BBC’s Newshour program about the connection between climate change and bushfires including the prime minister Tony Abbott’s claim that the UN climate chief Christiana Figueres was “talking out of her hat” when she said the bushfires were linked to climate change.

When asked by presenter Razia Iqbal if he agreed with Abbott’s comments about Figueres, Hunt replied that he had spoken to Figueres and that she indicated she had been misrepresented

“Australia has since European settlement and obviously well before that, had a history of recurrent bushfire,” said Hunt.

“I looked up what Wikipedia says for example, just to see what the rest of the world thought, and it opens up with the fact that bushfires in Australia are frequently occurring events during the hotter months of the year. Large areas of land are ravaged every year by bushfires. That’s the Australian experience.”

When asked whether he accepted that there is potentially a causal relationship between rising temperatures and bushfires, Hunt replied: “Well by definition, bushfires happen in hot weather.”

Iqbal then pushed on the science behind fire weather being impacted by “changes in the climate, ergo climate change”. Hunt responded: “Well we all have to be very careful. In talking with the senior people of the Bureau of Meteorology, for example, they always emphasise – never try to link any particular event to climate change.”

He claimed the issue was raised for political advantage by the Greens.

“The way in which this was done in Australia was to blame the newly elected government for fires such as this. Even though we’re living under a carbon tax in Australia. You’d imagine then that the logic would be that that would mean there wouldn’t be bushfires,” said Hunt.

“Australians know that this is the condition we live with each and every year. Nobody in my view should be politicising the science.”

When Iqbal quoted Abbott saying climate change science is “crap”, Hunt responded that the government supports the science.

”So [Mr Abbott] no longer thinks its absolute crap?”

”Look, with great respect, you can swear on international radio, you can invite me from Australia to do this, you can be profoundly rude, I’m happy to answer but I’m not going to be sworn at.”

”Mr Hunt, I’m merely quoting your prime minister,” Iqbal replied.

Figueres released a statement after the interview, welcoming the Australian government’s commitment to meet emission reduction targets, and to reiterate the link between climate change and bushfires she previously made by quoting the IPCC’s fourth assessment report from 2007.

“Climate change is known to alter the likelihood of increased wildfire sizes and frequencies … while also inducing stress on trees that indirectly exacerbate disturbances. This suggests an increasing likelihood of more prevalent fire disturbances, as has recently been observed”.

In an example of why Wikipedia is not usually trusted as a primary source, Hunt’s own page was quickly updated. “After the 2013 election, Hunt was appointed environment minister under prime minister Tony Abbott. He was quoted as saying he uses Wikipedia for important policy research.[4]”

Mr Hunt has been contacted for comment.



Australian Sustainability Conference report (15 October 2013):

Biggest event in sustainability for the year wraps up

The 2nd Australian Sustainability Conference held in Melbourne, 9th and 10th October saw more than 150 leaders within business, government and sustainability hear from the Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, reconfirm his commitment to scraping the carbon tax.

In his speech on 9th October Mr Hunt confirmed that the Coalition’s Clean Air policy centres on “ the abolition of the Carbon Tax and the implementation of our Direct Action plan,”

The Environment Minister would not discuss whether the Government would call a double dissolution election if it does not receive support to repeal the carbon tax.

However, re-confirmed his committed that he would scrap the tax come 1st July if Labor and the Greens continue to block it in the Senate.

Mr Hunt also discussed in further detail the Government’s Environmental Policy for Australia, “Our plan for the environment rests on four pillars: Clean Air, Clean Land, Clean Water and Heritage Protection,”

“Our plan is based around how we can maintain standards, but simplify action, because if you can simplify action then you allow business to invest and encourage a culture of action,”

Day two of the conference saw international business leader, Jochen Zeitz, co-founder of The B Team with Sir Richard Branson, call on legislation of negative impacts from business to be mandatorily published and incentives for those that do well, “How can we incentivise business to become more sustainable? How can we change the framework to make sustainability more viable? These measures need to be put into place quickly,”

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which the Coalition Government is proposing to dismantle, reminded the business leaders present of the successes of their work in driving job creation, “ We are doing a lot of work in terms of catalysing projects and we’ve been working closely with people to get their projects through the organisation,” said Oliver Yates, Managing Director.

“We’ve been catalysing jobs too, not only in the individual projects, particularly if they are in the renewables sector, but if they are in the energy efficiency sector, a lot of these jobs can create activity within the market and they can have flow on effects right across the economy.”

Gender was also high on the agenda at the conference with Lisa Tarry, Managing Director from Turning Green, placing women at the centre of the sustainability future, “Without women around the table, there’s no input into policy development,”

“Despite what we are told in the media, it’s not true that workplaces are genuine meritocracies – there is a quiet revolution happening.”

Amanda Steele, Head of Sustainability from CBRE reminded business that sustainability is also a field in which women are excelling, “What’s most interesting in my role is that there are more women working in sustainability than men,”

“But sustainability is not women’s work, it is globally important work,”

“I think we need to be more clever and less apologetic about taking maternity leave… the reality is, children need time and that’s something we don’t need to apologise for.”

Amanda Cornell, President of the National Environmental Law Association pointed to the difference that women on boards make, “ There is now so much sophisticated research out there about women in senior management, and women on boards, showing that women on boards equals better returns,”

“New research shows that women on boards means more energy efficiency, reduced carbon emissions, reduced energy impact and focus on the longer term.”

Looking beyond Australia, and to the opportunities and challenges in sustainability in Asia, Stephanie Huf, Head of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility for South East Asia & Oceania Ericsson said, “If you don’t have a telecom infrastructure then it’s very difficult for business to happen and the positive change that telecoms can bring is greater than the risk of not having it,”

“Because Myanmar (Burma) has been cut off from the western world for 15 or more years, there are no strong processes or records and they don’t have any understanding of what is going on in the rest of the world, so they don’t know what they should be doing differently,”

Huf also explained the positive impact their business had on the country, “As well as technical training, we train staff in human rights and anti-corruption,”

“It was refreshing to see how aware they were of the issues, but what they really needed were practical tools and guidance – which we provided.”

Mark Joiner, Executive Finance Director of National Australia Bank commented that rather than business being lead by legislation, business should lead, “There is a greater and greater need for businesses to take leadership on the issue of sustainability, rather than wait for a political consensus to occur.”

Also important is the need for business to look within as commented by David Ross, Managing Director of Phoenix Strategic “It’s so vital for companies to truly understand what are the real values and beliefs of the company – culture can seriously impede delivery.”

James Porteous, Communications Advisor for MMG Limited suggested incorporating sustainability into the education sector, “How do we get a return on all of this effort into sustainability over the longer term?”

“I think really it’s about education, education systems within your organisations, but more broadly education systems nationally and internationally.”

Dr. Suzanne Young, Director of Executive Education and Associate Professor for the 
Department of Management, La Trobe Business School and Faculty of Business, Economics and Law spoke of a historic lack of a holistic approach when it came to sustainability education, “Historically business schools have really focussed a solo approach on those disciplines like accounting, marketing, economics and law and there’s been a lack of a holistic, integrated approach to sustainability…students are crying out for a change in approach,”

“For management students we need to move away from teaching them about concepts of agency and economics, and move to ideas around being responsible and sustainable,”

“We need to teach our students about concepts of equity and social sustainability, globalisation and development, and skills that are more than just how to make money and bring about valuation.”

“You could argue, that at the end of the day, eventually sustainability needs to be seen as, as important as maths or history, in terms of education systems if we are to have effective decision-making, if we’re to have a next generation coming through the system that are qualified to make decisions on the complexities of the intersections of sustainability.”

Where sustainability can improve was focussed on heavily by Michael Bray, Chairman for Energy and Natural Resources – KPMG Australia, “Businesses need an integrated report to give the chief executive a better basis for telling the story of the business, the business model, to the capital providers,”

“I also believe that integrated reporting has a real role in public policy in keeping governments accountable for implementation of their energy policies… (Australia) should have an integrated report against energy policy on a periodic basis.”

Looking to energy efficiency as a cornerstone of a businesses sustainability strategy, Jonathon Jutsen, Energetics Founder and Chairman for the Australian Alliance to Save Energy thinks business are underperforming in this area, “We believe that most businesses can improve their energy efficiency by at least 50%… and one of the first places to start is in eliminating waste.”

Tom Maguire, General Manager Corporate Affairs and Innovation from Teys Australia backed the call for more to be done within the energy sector, “Australia’s low cost energy advantage is eroding, and we have to do more with less.”

Not-for-profit partnerships were also highlighted with Raphaele Deau, Partnerships Director from Nexus saying positively that the private sector has begun to show more interest in the role they can play, “More and more, recently (they) have shown interest in getting involved in eco friendly solutions,”

The need for these partnerships is great, “There is a silent killer of indoor air pollution from boiling water… 30% of the world’s population are using solid fuels or biomass for cooking and boiling water, so just the essential services of access to clean water is actually killing women and children primarily as they are the main population in the households,”

Being uncompromising in your commitment to sustainability was a theme echoed by many, “We want to exert positive influence across our whole supply chain and sustainability is one of the core cornerstones of that,” said Richard Wilson, Sustainability Manager from IKEA

“We do walk away from suppliers that can’t meet our sustainability demands.”

How to value sustainability and the environment was explored by Chuck Berger, Director of Strategic Ideas for the Australian Conservation Foundation, “Valuation is not the same as monetisation, and valuation is not an objective exercise… valuation is a deeply subjective exercise that is about the attribution of importance to something,”

“Valuation of environmental assets or ecosystems is difficult, because valuation is difficult,”

“Lots of things are uncertain and there’s lots that we don’t know about ecosystems, network effects and the future… most importantly, we don’t know the values of the people of the future… all we can say about the values of the future is that they are going to be different from our current values in some ways.”


Every Breath You Take, Every Move You Make, Every Step You Take…

Posted by Ken on October 27, 2013
Posted under Express 201

Every Breath You Take, Every Move You Make, Every Step You Take…

Every breath we take may soon leave us breathless. Air pollutants from car exhausts, power stations, emissions from agriculture and industry – as well as heating in people’s homes – have been classed as a leading environmental cause of cancer by the World Health Organization. Meanwhile, in China, authorities in Beijing are trying a new scheme to reduce air pollution by restricting the number of vehicles on days of continuous and serious air pollution. Read more


Every breath you take

Every move you make

Every bond you break

I’ll be watching you

Selected Lyrics from the famous Police song written by Gordon Sumner


Fewer cars for cleaner air

By Zheng Xin ( China Daily) (18 October 2013):

Beijing decides to slash the number of vehicles on heavy pollution days

Some 80 percent of public vehicles and half of private cars will be banned from Beijing’s roads on days of continuous and serious air pollution, the city government said on Thursday.

Cars and vans will be limited according to odd and even license numbers during periods of serious air pollution expected to linger for three or more days, according to the city’s information office.

The authority said cars and vans are largely responsible for the large amounts of fine particulate matter polluting the air in central Beijing.

During a news conference on Thursday, Fang Li, spokesman of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, said: “The bureau will inform the public of the traffic control measures more than 12 hours in advance.

“However, as forecasting environmental and air quality is more complex than meteorological predictions, the bureau should be more cautious when it comes to the information release,” he said.

He said that the air quality forecast, once released, will have an big impact on the public.

Yu Jianhua, director of the air quality department at the bureau, said the bureau will further refine and improve the mechanism for forecasts and warnings.

Ongoing efforts to improve the capital’s air quality include reducing coal consumption, improving the quality of fuels and emissions, suspending industrial enterprises that pollute heavily and cracking down on illegal outdoor barbecues. However, despite these measures, Beijing is still the victim of high levels of airborne pollution, with occasional periods of heavy smog.

The new plan to limit vehicle numbers, which was approved by the standing committee of the Beijing Municipal People’s Congress on Wednesday, will come into force whenever the air quality index is predicted to be above 300 for the three following days.

In addition to limits based on license numbers, vehicles transporting construction materials will be banned from the roads during times of heavy pollution, and public transportation, including subway trains and buses, will extend their service hours by 30 minutes to cater to additional commuter needs.

The government also aims to cut the number of official vehicles in use at such times by another 30 percent.

The government has also announced plans to use more clean-energy vehicles for passenger transportation in downtown areas and the suburbs.

Many city residents have welcomed the new moves.

“It’s worthwhile using public transportation for one day for some fresh air,” said Zhang Dong, a 49-year-old resident of the city’s Dongcheng district.

According to the city’s environment bureau, construction sites and some industrial plants that cause pollution will also be required to halt operation on days of heavy pollution. Fireworks and outdoor barbecues will be suspended.

Industry is responsible for about 15 percent of the city’s air pollution, said Wang Chunlin, director of the bureau’s pollution prevention department.

The government is cracking down on existing industrial polluters, with more than 1,200 companies due to be removed from the capital by 2016, bringing an expected overall reduction in coal consumption of 2 million tons.

The capital is also tightening up on operating licenses for projects that fail energy conservation standards and environmental assessments. As of the end of September, the capital had weeded out 184 polluting enterprises as part of its clean-air action plan.

By the end of 2017, authorities aim to have reduced cement production to 4 million tons per year, while the oil refining industry is to be cut to below 10 million tons, the bureau said.

Meanwhile, classes in middle schools and kindergartens will be suspended at times of heavy and prolonged pollution to protect students from damage to their respiratory systems. The government is also warning elderly residents, especially those with breathing and heart conditions, to avoid outdoor activities when pollution is high and to wear face masks if they go outside.

Beijing’s announcement on traffic controls on Thursday came on the same day that the World Health Organization released data on the health risks associated with air pollution.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer cited data indicating that in 2010, 223,000 deaths from lung cancer worldwide resulted from air pollution, and said there was also convincing evidence it increases the risk of bladder cancer.

Air pollution, mostly caused by transportation, power generation, industrial or agricultural emissions and residential heating and cooking, is already known to raise risks for a wide range of illnesses.

Research suggests that in recent years, exposure levels have risen significantly in some parts of the world, particularly countries with large populations going through rapid industrialization such as China.



BBC Report (17 October 2013):

Pollutants in the air we breathe have been classed as a leading environmental cause of cancer by the World Health Organization.

It said the evidence was clear they cause lung cancer.

Sources of pollution include car exhausts, power stations, emissions from agriculture and industry – as well as heating in people’s homes.

The WHO said the classification should act as a strong message to governments to take action.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the WHO, has now classed air pollution in the same category as tobacco smoke, UV radiation and plutonium.

It said air pollution had been know to cause heart and lung diseases, but evidence had now emerged that it was also causing cancer.

“The air we breathe has become polluted with a mixture of cancer-causing substances” Dr Kurt Straif,IARC

The IARC said the most recent data suggested 223,000 deaths from lung cancer around the world were caused by air pollution.

More than half of the deaths were thought to be in China and other East Asian countries. Rapid industrialisation has led to smoggy skies in cities such as Beijing.

However, it is a global problem and concerns about air pollution were raised in Europe again this week.

Data suggests there may also be a link with bladder cancer.

Dr Kurt Straif, from IARC, said: “The air we breathe has become polluted with a mixture of cancer-causing substances.

“We now know that outdoor air pollution is not only a major risk to health in general, but also a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths.”

Cancer Research UK said it was not a surprise.

Dr Julie Sharp, the head of health information at the charity, said: “It’s important that people keep the risk from air pollution in perspective.

“Although air pollution increases the risk of developing lung cancer by a small amount, other things have a much bigger effect on our risk, particularly smoking.”

Dr Rachel Thompson, head of research interpretation at the World Cancer Research Fund International, said: “This latest evidence confirms the need for government, industry and multinational bodies to urgently address environmental causes of cancer.

“But there’s also a lot we can do as individuals to lower our chances of developing the disease such as being more physically active and adopting a healthier diet.”


Graphene Packs a Solar Punch & New Batteries Hold More than their Own

Posted by Ken on October 27, 2013
Posted under Express 201

Graphene Packs a Solar Punch & New Batteries Hold More than their Own

Recent technological discoveries can lead to wider adoption of renewable solar energy. One is the discovery that properties of graphene are unaffected by application of thin silicon film, which can lead to thinner and more efficient solar panels. Another is the discovery of the use of lithium-sulfur in making longer lasting batteries capable of holding bigger charges, which can ensure continued energy supply even when the sun is not shining. Pictured is lithium-air battery with graphene bubbles, lighter in weight than current batteries. Which means less weight, less cost and more energy which sounds like the future to us. Read More


Graphene solar cells now one step closer to reality

By CleanTechnica on (14 October 2013):

Graphene solar cells are now one step closer to reality, thanks to a new discovery made by researchers at the HZB Institute for Silicon Photovoltaics. The discovery: the many impressive properties of graphene, such as extreme conductivity and “complete” transparency for example, are apparently completely unaffected by the application of thin silicon film. The discovery means that thin-film photovoltaics which utilize graphene’s many great qualities could be just off the horizon.

Graphene is considered by many researchers to be a “near perfect” candidate material for the transparent contact layers used in solar cells — thanks to the material’s ability “to conduct electricity, without reducing the amount of incoming light.” That’s what’s been theorized anyway — until the material is tested in real-world environments, there are unknowns. This new research now brings the day when graphene can be be tested for this purpose, in real-world conditions, that much closer.

Graphene was deposited onto a glass substrate. The ultrathin layer is but one atomic layer thick (0.3 Angström, or 0.03 nanometers), although charge carriers are able to move about freely within this layer. This property is retained even if the graphene layer is covered with amorphous or polycrystalline silicon.

“We examined how graphene’s conductive properties change if it is incorporated into a stack of layers similar to a silicon based thin film solar cell and were surprised to find that these properties actually change very little,” explains researcher Marc Gluba.

The press release from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie provides details on the research:

To this end, they grew graphene on a thin copper sheet, next transferred it to a glass substrate, and finally coated it with a thin film of silicon. They examined two different versions that are commonly used in conventional silicon thin-film technologies: one sample contained an amorphous silicon layer, in which the silicon atoms are in a disordered state similar to a hardened molten glas; the other sample contained poly-crystalline silicon to help them observe the effects of a standard crystallization process on graphene’s properties.

Even though the morphology of the top layer changed completely as a result of being heated to a temperature of several hundred degrees C, the graphene is still detectable.

“That’s something we didn’t expect to find, but our results demonstrate that graphene remains graphene even if it is coated with silicon,” states researcher Norbert Nickel. “Measurements of carrier mobility using the Hall-effect showed that the mobility of charge carriers within the embedded graphene layer is roughly 30 times greater than that of conventional zinc oxide based contact layers.”

Gluba adds: “Admittedly, it’s been a real challenge connecting this thin contact layer, which is but one atomic layer thick, to external contacts. We’re still having to work on that.”




Chinese scientist may have discovered the future of batteries

Chris Davis in China Daily/Asia News Network (15 October 2013):

Ford Motor Co and the University of Michigan just announced they would open a new $88 million battery research and manufacturing lab that they hope will accelerate a much-needed breakthrough for the stalling electric auto non-boom (electric cars accounted for less than 1 per cent of US auto sales last year; hybrids 3 per cent, according to the AP). And batteries are getting the blame.

One of the first persons they should talk to is Chengdu Liang, a staff scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee who was born and raised in Hunan province and came to the US about 15 years ago as a graduate student at the University of Tennessee- Knoxville, did a year of post-grad at Oak Ridge and stayed on there, becoming a staff scientist in 2006.

Since then his research has focused on the development of sustainable energy technologies. “Electrical energy storage is a very important and exciting area,” he told China Daily recently, mentioning that China Daily was his favourite newspaper through his college years in Hunan.

“A sustainable energy future lies in the harvesting of intermittent renewable energies to a stable supply of electricity,” he explained, in other words, “When the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing, the supply of energy is drawing from massive storage of electricity.”

And that means batteries, big batteries. “Large scale storage of electricity needs advanced battery systems that are safe, low cost, and high energy-density,” Liang said.

This past summer, Liang and his team announced a major breakthrough that could have major implications for the quest for an ideal battery for electric cars, not to mention homes and hand-helds.

The secret lies in sulfur, as in lithium-sulfur. The most widely accepted technology for batteries today is lithium-ion, which is practical for consumer electronics but not for anything much bigger. “Large-scale energy storage like vehicles or the electricity grid – if you want to store energy from a solar panel or from a wind turbine – we cannot store it in a lithium-ion battery,” Liang said. “It’s too expensive.”

With today’s electric cars, he said, “one third of the price goes to the battery. If you had a vehicle and the gas tank cost one-third of the price, you would not buy that vehicle”. Same goes for a battery, he said, which is really just an energy “tank”.

Liang and his team had a hunch that sulfur held the answer.People had been working with using sulfur as an electrolyte for years, but always dissolved in a liquid that bridged the anode and cathode, or positive and negative terminals. Liang and his team reworked the entire structure of the battery, discovered some new compounds for the elctrodes, but the major innovation was to use sulfur in its solid form.

Putting it all together, they discovered what Liang calls “the magic” of what he believes “is going to be the future of the next generation of batteries”.

“Our approach is a complete change from the current battery concept of two electrodes joined by a liquid electrolyte, which has been used over the last 150 to 200 years,” Liang said in an Oak Ridge release.

Judged by weight and density, the lithium-sulfur technology outperforms today’s conventional lithium-ion four to one.

Lithium-sulfur is also promising because the cost is so low. “It’s almost free – sulfur is an industry waste,” Liang said. “And the lithium itself is not expensive either.”

“Not only does sulfur store much more energy,” Liang said, “but a lithium-sulfur device could help recycle a waste product into a useful technology.”

Another advantage of the technology is that it does away with the need for flammable liquid electrolytes, which have caused fires on airliners recently.

And if that is not enough, the all-solid sulfur-based battery offers a solution to another problem: self-discharge. As Liang explains, when you charge up a battery and put it on the shelf, after a certain amount of time, it goes dead. In conventional electric car batteries with liquid electrolytes, you charge up your battery, drive to the airport, park and go on vacation for a week or two and come back, “unfortunately, because of self-discharge, you have to call AA”.

Liang said that so far his team has noticed no self-discharge from their design.

The new battery is still in the testing “demo” stage and a patent is pending. As for when lithium-sulfur power packs will be available to cars and cell phones, he said “we still need some improvements and engineering work … we are scientists. We are working on the very fundamental research. We solve the scientific problem then give the engineers a chance to play with that.

“What we work out is the scientific problem,” he said, and “the science question has been answered”.

Liang says that Oak Ridge National Laboratory is “a very nice place to work. I really like the scientific environment here, everything is open, we have collaborations all over the world, anyone can come here to do research.”

The folks at Ford and Michigan might do well to take note.


Puma & BMW Helping To Build Sustainable Futures for our Feet and Wheels

Posted by Ken on October 27, 2013
Posted under Express 201

Puma & BMW Helping To Build Sustainable Futures for our Feet and Wheels

To build a sustainable future, it is not be enough to just depend on the demands of a niche group of consumers, according to Jochen Zeitz, CEO and chairman of sportswear company Puma. Businesses have to take the first step by designing and manufacturing sustainable products and make them desirable for consumers. Another company with a commitment to designing and building sustainable products is car-maker BMW, which is looking to increase its investments in electric car production on the back of favourable demand for the battery-powered i3. Read more

Why Puma’s youngest-ever CEO says it’s up to business owners, not consumers, to drive sustainability

Myriam Robin in Smart Company (14 October 2013):

Plenty of businesses have found a niche selling environmentally sustainable products to consumers who care about such things.

But sustainability should not be a niche, says leading sustainability advocate Jochen Zeitz. It shouldn’t even be consumer-driven.

Zeitz became CEO and chairman of sportswear company Puma in 1993 when he was just 30, making him the company’s youngest ever CEO.

During his tenure at Puma, its share price rose 4000% over 13 years as he revamped the company’s operations and packaging as part of a sustainability agenda.

He’s since stepped down from Puma to focus on The B Team, a sustainability advocacy group he co-founded with entrepreneur Richard Branson, as well as his role as a director at Kering, which designs and manufactures apparel and accessories for the world’s leading luxury and lifestyle brands.

On his first visit to Australia as part of the Australian Sustainability Conference, he told SmartCompany that businesses have more control over the level of sustainable production in society than they think.

“When you sell a product, you’re selling its function on one side, but also its appeal. And you control its appeal. Most products are commodities, so we buy things because we like them. Sustainability needs to be packaged and made sexy, so consumers actually switch over from traditional products.

“The design of a product, and hence its sustainability, play a very critical role. We need to turn sustainability into something that’s desirable for the consumer.”

Zeitz says small businesses, being “the large companies of the future”, have a responsibility and an opportunity to take sustainability head on.

“Big corporations have a lot of baggage,” he says. “Small businesses are able to quickly take on sustainability and make it desirable.”

Plenty of small businesses are already doing this. Zeitz nominates the local food movement, which tries to limit the amount of distance between food being grown and food being eaten, as one example.

“That movement, which is growing tremendously, is driven by small businesses, from farmers to restaurants to supermarkets.”

The easiest thing small businesses can do to boost their sustainable credentials is to take a close look at their efficiency from a resource point of view, Zeitz says.

This requires measurement. At Puma, Zeitz pioneered a system of measuring all resources used in the company’s products, making sustainability a quantifiable goal across the organisation.

“Metrics are important in business, not just from a financial, but also from a managerial point of view,” he says. “We need to make sustainability part of day-to-day business. And proper metrics to that are important.”

Metrics and efficiency won’t be enough. Ultimately, Zeitz says, we need innovation in how we manufacture and ship products. But knowing what’s going wrong is an important start.



BMW may lift investment in electric cars after i3′s fast start

The Age (15 October 15, 2013)

BMW, the world’s biggest maker of luxury vehicles, will have to increase investment in electric-car production if demand for the new i3 model continues in line with initial orders.

Customers have reserved more than 8,000 of the battery-powered i3, which will cost $US41,350 ($43,500) in the US, even before the car hits showrooms in Europe next month, Chief Financial Officer Friedrich Eichiner said today in Amsterdam.

BMW expects to sell more than 10,000 of the four-person car next year and “will adjust capacity according to demand,” he said at a press conference. “If demand holds, which is what it’s looking like, we will soon have to invest more.”

The maker of BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce vehicles is upgrading its lineup with the i3, the new 4-Series coupe and a revamp of the X5 sport-utility vehicle to maintain its sales lead over Volkswagen AG’s Audi and Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz. Both competitors have vowed to surpass Munich-based BMW in deliveries by the end of the decade.

The i3 will go on sale in Germany for 34,950 euros ($50,100) on Nov. 16, followed by the US, China and Japan in the first half of next year. The model made its public debut July 29 at simultaneous events in New York, London and Beijing. The push to sell the electric car and recoup investments in the technology underpinning the vehicle include an international print, TV and Internet advertising campaign.

Margin targets

The spending on development of new models and expanding production capacity caused the operating profit margin at BMW’s auto division to narrow to 9.6 per cent in the second quarter from 11.6 per cent a year earlier.

“We’ll have to work very hard to keep profitability within our target corridor” of 8 per cent to 10 per cent in the coming years because of large investments required to meet stricter emissions regulations and the weak car market in Europe, Eichiner said today.

Sales gains in China and the US have helped BMW cushion the effects of the sovereign-debt crisis on Europe’s car market, which is sliding to a 20-year low. BMW, which doesn’t anticipate a recovery in demand in its home region before the second half of 2014, expects deliveries to rise this year for its third straight annual sales record.

“Demand in China and North America continues to be strong,” Eichiner said. “It makes sense for us to think about expanding production capacity in North America,” with the US and Mexico both options, he said.

The rollout of the i3 will go ahead as planned next month and won’t be impacted by issues that typically affect the ramp up of a new model, he said. The executive was responding to a report by Wirtschaftswoche over the weekend that problems bonding carbon-fiber components for the car led to a 10-day production halt.


Sydney Looking to a Low Carbon Future but Losing Nemo to the South

Posted by Ken on October 27, 2013
Posted under Express 201

Sydney Looking to a Low Carbon Future but Losing Nemo to the South

Finding Nemo is going to be a much tougher task in the near future. The East Australia current has moved 350km south towards the pole, affecting climate and marine life along the coast from the Barrier Reef and along the New South Wales coastline. Directly in the path affected would be the city of Sydney, where businesses are bracing themselves for the effects of climate change by reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions. They could very well pave the way forward for state and political leaders in facing the consequences of climate change. Read more

Climate change moves Nemo current to south

Simon Benson in The Daily Telegraph (15 October 2013):

THE ocean current off the coast of Australia made famous in Finding Nemo has moved 350km south and is accelerating toward the pole, a draft international climate change report has found.

And with it so too are moving some species of shark and large fish such as Tuna, it has warned.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s second and yet to be released report into the impact of climate change has claimed average climate zones in Australia have already shifted 200km southward along the north east coast.

Australia and warming the Tasman Sea in northern New Zealand,” it claimed.

“The rate of warming is even faster in south eastern Australia with a poleward advance of the East Australia current of 350km over the past 60 years.”

The East Australia current is the largest and most powerful current acting on marine life and climate along the coast from the barrier Reef and along the NSW coastline.

“Based on elevate rates of ocean warming south west and south east Australia are recognised as global warming hot spots.”

The report of the IPCC’s Working Group II, due to be released next March in Yokohama, Japan, claims that the oceans off the south east of Australia, which would include NSW are warming faster than anywhere else – and could rise 10 per cent above the average expected for the rest of the world.

It claimed that it was already having an impact on the distribution of coastal fish, and growth rates of some fish species.

“Observed impacts on marine species have been reported from a range of trophic levels,” the report said.

It cited changed growth rates of abalone, rock lobster, coastal fish with plankton levels and the life cycles of some species of sea birds also affected.

“Habitat related impacts are more prevalent in northern Australia while distribution changes are reported more often in southern waters, particularly south east Australia where warming has been greatest,” it said.

The report of working group I was released in Stockholm two weeks ago and contained the much awaited new data on the projected changes to the atmosphere.

It warned that the global temperatures were on track to rise between 2C and 4C by 2100 without action to reduce greenhouse emissions – 4C being considered catastrophic.

The report number two, however, claimed that the impacts were avoidable if more was done to reduce emissions – based on targets of a 25 per cent reduction by 2020.

The Climate Institute claimed that both sides of politics had to commit to a 25 per cent reduction and do more to plan for communities to adapt to inevitable changes.

“Australia can help keep global warming below a 2°C increase,” said Erwin Jackson, deputy CEO of the Climate Institute.

“As the advanced economy the most exposed to climate change, avoiding 2°C warming is in Australia’s national interest. But to do our fair share, we need to reduce 2000 level emissions by at least 25 per cent by 2020,”

“Both major parties have committed to reduce emissions by up to 25 per cent by 2020.

“The climate credibility test for the Government is whether its policy can achieve a 25 per cent reduction in emissions and contribute to avoiding major risks to the lives of Australians and severe impacts on communities and natural systems.”



The time is now to take real action on climate change

Clover Moore, the Lord Mayor Sydney in the Sydney Daily Telegraph (15 October 2013):

CLIMATE change is real. Leading scientists agree we’ve reached a critical decade.

It was terrific to read yesterday’s Daily Telegraph calling for measured, rational and sensible action to cut carbon emissions.

Cities cover only two per cent of the earth’s surface but are home to more than half the world’s population – closer to 80 per cent in Australia.

Cities generate up to 75 per cent of carbon emissions, so its action in cities that provides us with the greatest opportunity for deep cuts.

Sydney businesses are already on the case reducing their energy and power bills and helping the environment.

As part of a partnership with the City, companies that own over half the city’s commercial office space revealed that by making their buildings more efficient, they had cut emissions by 25 per cent.

From changing their light globes to using more energy efficient air conditioning systems, they also saved more than $25 million a year on electricity bills.

That’s real value for their bottom line.

The national CitySwitch office energy-efficiency program helps commercial office tenants reduce emissions. The program is growing fast with over 400 signatories covering nearly two million square metres of office space in Australia. In one example, Sydney legal firm Norton Rose Fullbright saved $42,000 a year on energy bills.

Recently the City, Eureka Funds Management and Frasers Property signed a historic $26.5 million Environmental Upgrade Agreement to install a gas-powered trigeneration plant in the Carlton United Brewery development in Broadway.

The only way to tackle this crisis is to test new ideas and take the most effective and achievable steps available.

Businesses have shown that they are willing to take action. Now we need state and national political leaders to do the same.

Our future depends on it.


Fairey’s Had Enough: Hope Artist Says It in Not-so-Many Words & Pictures

Posted by Ken on October 27, 2013
Posted under Express 201

Fairey’s Had Enough: Hope Artist Says It in Not-so-Many Words & Pictures

The global failure to act comprehensively and decisively on climate change may not be due to the lack of information. The facts behind climate change and the figures for greening the economy have all been well established, but what is lacking could be the emotional connection. To encourage businesses and governments to wake up and act on the dangers of climate change might require a double-barrelled approach of appealing to and engaging their logical and emotional sides. US street artist Frank Shepard Fairey, famed for his 2008 Barack Obama piece “Hope”, suggests what will save the planet is if people ‘stop being dicks’. Read more

Climate change: just ‘don’t be a dick’

Accurate facts in the climate change debate are essential but without emotional connection it’s hard to break through inertia and denial

Jo Confino in Guardian Professional (18 October 2013):

US street artist Frank Shepard Fairey, famed for his 2008 Barack Obama piece “Hope”, suggests what will save the planet is if people ‘stop being dicks’.

Photograph: Teri Pengilley

Would telling people to “stop being dicks” be more effective in tackling climate change than trying to give them a better business case for action?

I ask this question after hearing two very different approaches to encouraging businesses and governments to wake up and act on the grave dangers our civilisation faces.

In New York I attended the launch of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, created by a collection of the great and the good and supported by seven national governments, that aims to provide a convincing case for “how stronger economic performance can be supported by good climate policy.”

Then I listened to the US contemporary graphic designer and street artist Frank Shepard Fairey offer a different solution; shocking people out of their complacency.

Fairey, whose work became widely known after creating the Barack Obama “Hope” poster for the 2008 US presidential election, told the SXSW Eco conference in Austin, Texas, that facts and figures alone will not provide the answer to the sustainability challenges we face.

“No matter how accurate facts are, or how disciplined your message, if you don’t connect with people emotionally, they won’t bother to pay attention,” he said. “Sometimes the most powerful weapon against propaganda is absurdity, creating images that are funny.” Stopping for a moment, Fairey came out with the unforgettable line that what will save the planet is if people “just stop being dicks.”

Hard facts versus emotional engagement

How refreshing it would have been if the political, business and institutional elite who attended the launch of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate had used similar blunt language. No such luck. Former Mexican president Felipe Calderón, who is chairing the commission, spoke of the false assumption that many policy makers have that fighting climate change means sacrificing growth, business revenues and jobs.

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos talked of the importance of fully understanding “the economic risks and opportunities that arise from climate change” and the Norwegian prime minster Erna Solberg highlighted the need to combine reducing emissions by up to 90% by 2050 while at the same time lifting millions out of poverty. “We have to reconcile the need for growth with reduced emissions of greenhouse gases,” he said.

Greg Barker, the UK’s minister of state for Energy and Climate Change pointed out how the Stern report had made a big impact by showing that the “costs of acting were significantly less than the costs of burying your head in the sand.” But he admitted that “since 2006, there have been huge stresses and strains – the financial and banking crises and economic recession, so we now have to make the case for why action is desirable all over again in a narrative that is right for our time.

“The best way to counter the sceptics, the doubters, the people in the media finding a way not to act, is with hard facts and robust analysis that has been peer reviewed.” Barker, through his comments, exposed the myth that having more information and analysis at our fingerprints will be enough to turn us away from disaster.

Gloom and doom inertia

The fact is that the Stern report, with its prophecy of doom if we fail to act, did not lead to a fundamental change of direction, as shown by the failure of global climate change negotiations. Also, if a financial crisis and recession mean we have to make the argument all over again, then clearly the message that we are heading for the proverbial cliff never really got through in the first place.

I fully understand the importance of developing a robust case for action and why it’s necessary to show the different solutions that are necessary for countries at different points of the development cycle. I get why it’s useful to have leaders from across politics, economics, business and civil society join forces, ranging from Lord Stern and Bank of America chairman Chad Holliday to Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation and Takehiko Nakao, President of the Asian Development Bank.

It’s also helpful that the independent initiative has the support of seven countries, has partnered up with research institutes from five continents and will have its conclusions independently reviewed by an advisory panel of world-leading economists, including Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman.

But will it make any difference? I am not so sure. Firstly, it has only six months to do its research, and will therefore mostly be bringing together information that is already held by various institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. On a more fundamental level, it’s simply naïve to believe the final report will be a silver bullet that will lead to politicians and business leaders having an epiphany and waking up to their stupidity.

Psychology of denial

Just go talk to David Blood, co-founder of London-based fund manager Generation Investment Management, who has failed to make much headway in waking up the financial markets, despite creating what he considers to be an extremely robust business case for pump priming the green economy.

What would perhaps have been more useful is if the members of the commission were to set up a global study on the psychological reasons we are failing to confront the truth of the mess we are in, and what novel ways we can use to shake people out of their denial.

In Austin, Fairey talked of the importance of using images, rather than just good arguments, of appropriating iconic symbols and subverting them, of using art to be evocative and provocative. He concluded by telling the audience: “I do not want to wow you with facts, but deliver you to the doorstep of the people with the facts.”

Perhaps those taking part in the global commission would do well to reach out beyond their own elite to form partnerships with diverse experts like Fairey and take the concept of cross-sector collaboration to a whole new level.