Archive for the ‘Express 111’ Category

What’s the world coming to?

Posted by admin on June 2, 2010
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What’s the world coming to?

A massive oil spill that even the best brains and technology in the world don’t know how to stop until it ruins an ocean and shore environment. A Government that continues to mess up every time it attempts to clean up its act, even failing to effectively introduce a super mining tax.  A global agreement which could finally deal with the deforestation scourge of tropical rainforest regions. Businesses the world over are showing definite signs they’re prepared to commit to sustainability and a low carbon economy. Solar ships on the oceans, sails to capture the sun in space advanced solar cells for more people on land. Small advances in large communities to get people to switch to clean energy for daily cooking. All too much? Well there’s more. A renowned international actor who believes the world needs to deal with the big issues like over-population and sustainability. Could this lead to another Inconvenient Truth?  Europe is embarking on a bold plan to address emissions, while India has to deal with a heatwave to beat all others. We hear what people think about renewable energy and life without a price on carbon as well as what the new Carbon Trust aims to do for Australia. We cannot resist another electric car story. Ethics and the environment are starting to have appeal to investors in Australia, while Graham Readfearn tells us we need to get real and face up to climate change adaptation. You’ll have to wait another week to find out who’s on the ABC Carbon 50 list. All nominations are in. Make the most of World Environment Day (5 June). – Ken Hickson

Profile: Jeremy Irons

Posted by admin on June 2, 2010
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Profile: Jeremy Irons

The world is becoming so overpopulated that nature will one day wreak its revenge, claims Jeremy Irons, the British actor. Launching himself as a green campaigner, he reveals plans to make a documentary about sustainability and waste disposal. In the wake of the global financial crisis, we are facing an economic revolution and things can ever be the same again.

By Amy Turner in The Sunday Times  (23 May 2010):

Earth will bite us back, warns Irons

There are too many humans and disease may restore the balance, the actor claims

Jeremy Irons fears population growth will be controlled only by a natural disaster.

The world is becoming so overpopulated that nature will one day wreak its revenge, claims Jeremy Irons, the actor.

Launching himself as a green campaigner, Irons has revealed plans to make a documentary about sustainability and waste disposal, likening himself to Michael Moore, the controversial film maker, although “not as silly”.

The increasing global population would put an intolerable strain on the world’s resources, Irons said, and the gulf between developing countries and westerners living a bountiful “pie-in-the-sky” existence must be addressed.

“One always returns to the fact that there are just too many of us, the population continues to rise and it’s unsustainable,” he said in an interview with The Sunday Times. “I think we have to find ways where we’re not having to scrap our effluent junk and are a really sustainable planet.”

Natural systems of self regulation may stop population growth, he said: “I suspect there’ll be a very big outbreak of something because the world always takes care of itself.”

The 61-year-old actor went on to speculate that either disease or war, “probably disease”, could become nature’s way of halving the population.

He is seeking funding for a film on sustainability, which he hopes will be in the manner of An Inconvenient Truth, the Oscar-winning Al Gore documentary on climate change.

“We’ll be pulling in a lot of expert opinion and we are in talks for funding,” said Irons. “We hope it will be a movie.”

The actor, who says he is apolitical although he is a former Labour donor and his wife Sinead Cusack is “deeply socialist”, has already made a plea for action in a short video for an organisation campaigning to end world hunger.

In a film on the website, Irons declares: “People around the world suffer hunger — 1 billion. Now that’s bad, worse than bad, that’s crazy! We’ve got to get mad. I want you to get mad. I want you to get up right now, stick your head out of the window and yell, ‘I’m mad as hell’.”

Irons, who owns seven houses, including a pink castle in Co Cork, Ireland, believes a new economic vision is needed in the wake of the global financial crisis. “We are facing an economic revolution,” he said. “I don’t think things can ever be the same again. The next generation will have to think laterally and find ways to cope with this.”

He dismissed the idea that a recovery in consumption would help Britain out of recession: “You walk down the high street and it’s just clothes, clothes, clothes. How many clothes do people need? We’re on a hiding to nothing with that.

“We’ve always known the City was a bubble. We can’t continue to divide the world between people who live a pie-in-the-sky life and people who are starving.”

Irons, who says he runs “very old motor cars” including a 13-year-old Range Rover, also launched an attack on today’s throwaway society. “Why does it make sense for us all to be buying a lot of motor cars, selling our old ones and scrapping them? Why don’t we make cars that last for 40 years? We could,” he said.

Known for backing causes such as an international ban on capital punishment and the repeal of the fox hunting ban, Irons said he developed his views after discussions with Richard Leakey, the Kenyan conservationist and politician.

Leakey has argued that the world cannot sustain more than 15 billion humans. The global population is now at 6.7 billion — and rising fast.

Earlier this year Sir David Attenborough, the naturalist, said it might be the duty of humans to commit to having smaller families and change their lifestyles to sustain the planet.

Irons, who has two children, Samuel, 31, and Max, 24, says the answer is not enforced population control: “Morally, I don’t think you can tell people not to have children.

“In the West we tend to have smaller families anyway, but in developing countries we need to offer as much technology and medical aid as possible. Whether that can happen before some natural disaster kicks in, we’ll have to see.”

The grimmer alternative, says Irons, is to continue to inflate the richer western economies to bursting point at the expense of poorer nations: “We would have to ringfence those who are starving and fighting over water, keeping everybody out. We’d live in a sort of fortress world, with an area which is fine, with its guarded oil pipe coming from Afghanistan or wherever, but I can’t see that working.”

The ultimate solution, he says, is for us all to live less decadently — growing our own food and recycling instead of replacing goods: “People must drop their standard of living [so] the wealth can be spread about. There’s a long way to go.”


Rich & Poor Countries Turn REDD

Posted by admin on June 2, 2010
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Rich & Poor Countries Turn REDD

The Oslo Climate and Forest Conference, attended by representatives of 52 countries, agreed on a non-binding framework to funnel aid promised by the rich world and set up monitoring standards to ensure money flows are based on solid results, while Indonesia agreed place a two-year moratorium on new concessions to clear natural forests and peatlands under a deal signed with Norway aimed at reducing greenhouse gases.

From The Guardian (27 May 2010):  

Rich and poor countries have agreed on guidelines for releasing aid to save forests, in the first concrete sign of global action on climate change since Copenhagen.

Norway, which chaired last week’s climate conference, said aid pledges to save forests had risen by $500m (£345m) since the UN climate conference in Copenhagen last December.

But this is less than was expected just weeks ago – showing the limits of more state funding amid economic crises and unrest in the financial markets.

Some experts say the modest increase in state aid for forests, whose conservation is seen as the cheapest way of lowering carbon emissions, underlines the need for private sector engagement.

The Oslo Climate and Forest Conference, attended by representatives of 52 countries, agreed on a non-binding framework to funnel aid promised by the rich world and set up monitoring standards to ensure money flows are based on solid results. Such frameworks are known as Redd (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) programmes.

“The outcome of this meeting could be the first comprehensive component for a future international agreement on climate change [since Copenhagen],” World Bank chief Robert Zoellick said in a televised address from Washington DC.

In Copenhagen, global leaders failed to deliver a legally binding deal on manmade emissions. Rich nations did agree, however, to provide $30bn from 2010-12 to help poor states combat global warming, rising to $100bn a year by 2020.

The US, the UK, Australia, France, Japan and Norway had specifically agreed on $3.5bn from 2010-12 to save forests, a pool of money which has now grown to $4bn (£2.75bn), according to Norway.

“There is no way to mobilise that much money without mobilising the private sector,” Norway’s prime minister Jens Stoltenberg said, referring to a plan to spend $30bn on forests and other fast-track green financing until 2012.

Deforestation and forest degradation wipes away an area the size of England each year and is responsible for 17% of global carbon emissions – more than that made by the world’s cars, trains and planes combined, according to UN data.

“Reducing deforestation and forest degradation can provide the largest, fastest and cheapest cuts in carbon emissions,” Stoltenberg said. Such efforts could achieve “a third of the cuts in carbon emissions needed by 2020″, he added.

Norway, which is rich in oil, yesterday formally announced $1bn in aid to Indonesia to help protect forests in the south east Asian nation, which has been quickly clearing trees for palm oil plantations. It has a similar deal with Brazil.

Growing populations, agriculture and the timber industry have all reduced tropical forests from the Amazon to Indonesia, where it has become more profitable to cut down natural forests.

“Today, the market values forests more destroyed than standing,” said Papua New Guinea prime minister Michael Somare.

“We must find a way to value forests more alive than dead.”

To push people to protect forests, as well as to attract private sector financing, it will be essential to set up a global price for carbon emissions, either via a market or a carbon tax.

“This is a good day – it rebuilds trust in the international community’s ability to confront climate change,” said Abyd Karmali, global head of carbon markets at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

“What is needed is a bit more assurance that the carbon price will be there and that the private sector will have input how the system of green financing is set up.”

Prince Charles was among the speakers at the conference, after being invited by Stoltenberg.

The prince told the delegates that three years ago experts warned him how serious the deforestation problem had become.

He said: “However, the great positive difference between the summer of 2007 and today is that we now have a serious group of governments – with none showing greater leadership than Norway – who are prepared to work together to find a durable solution which will effectively tackle the drivers of tropical deforestation.”


Reuters report on ABC News (27 May 2010):

Indonesia will place a two-year moratorium on new concessions to clear natural forests and peatlands under a deal signed with Norway aimed at reducing greenhouse gases.

Norway will invest $1.2 billion in forest conservation projects in Indonesia under a deal struck by Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg in Oslo.

“In the second phase of the partnership, Indonesia is prepared to suspend for two years new concessions for the conversion of peat and natural forest lands,” a statement said.

“Sufficient non-forest lands exist for Indonesia to accommodate the growth of its vitally important plantation industries, a major source of livelihoods in Indonesia.”

The suspension will encourage the development of new plantations “on degraded lands rather than vulnerable forests and peatlands”.

Previous concessions already granted to clear forest land are likely to still be honoured, since the statement only referred to new concessions.

Palm oil firms such as Wilmar and Indofood Agri Resources have big expansion plans in Indonesia, already the largest producer of an oil used to make everything from biscuits to soap.

Part of Norway’s $1.2 billion will be spent on creating monitoring systems and pilot projects under a UN-backed forest preservation scheme called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).

REDD allows developing nations to earn money by not chopping down their trees and preserving carbon-rich peatlands, seen as key to slowing climate change because forests soak up huge amounts of greenhouse gases.

Indonesia has vowed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 per cent from business-as-usual levels by 2020, or by 41 per cent with sufficient international support.


India Swelters as Europe Storms Ahead to Cut Emissions

Posted by admin on June 2, 2010
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India Swelters as Europe Storms Ahead to Cut Emissions

Europe was tipped to introduce a new plan to combat global warming, committing it to the world’s most ambitious targets. If it goes ahead EU would cut emissions by 30% on 1990 levels by 2020, and cost an extra $58 billion a year by 2020, according to a report in The Times of London. Meanwhile, India has been going through a heatwave of record proportions.

Ben Webster in The Times of London (27 May 2010):

EUROPE was tipped to introduce a new plan to combat global warming, committing it to the world’s most ambitious targets.

The surprise plan proposes a massive increase in the target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in this decade.

The European Commission is determined to press ahead with the cuts despite the financial turmoil gripping the bloc, even though it would require EU member states to impose far tougher financial penalties on their industries than are being considered by other large economies.

The plan, to cut emissions by 30 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020, would cost the EU an extra $58 billion a year by 2020, according to a draft of the commission’s communication leaked to The Times.

The existing target of a 20 per cent cut is already due to cost $84bn. The commission will argue that the lower target has become much easier to meet because of the recession, which resulted in the EU’s emissions falling more than 10 per cent last year as thousands of factories closed or cut production. Emissions last year were already 14 per cent below 1990 levels.

Business leaders fear thousands of jobs could be lost and energy bills could soar. Carbon taxes on road fuel, heating and other sources of emissions could be introduced, with proceeds reinvested in renewable energy.

The EU’s present policy is to wait for other countries to commit to equivalent action before raising its target to 30 per cent “as part of a genuine global effort”. But after the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit, a global deal on cutting emissions is unlikely to be agreed until the end of next year.

Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard will make the case for the EU to commit itself unilaterally to a 30 per cent cut to inspire other countries to follow suit and accelerate the development of low-carbon industries. The draft communication says: “The extra economic effort needed to reach 30 per cent – while still substantial – has fallen. Both the international context and the economic analysis suggest that the EU is right to continue preparing for a move to a 30 per cent target. With the 20 per cent target reachable with less effort, and the carbon price low, it also acts as a much less powerful incentive for change and innovation.”

The plan also says that the higher target would reduce air pollution from fossil fuels and improve the health of millions of people, generating up to $14bn a year in economic benefits from having a healthier population.

The draft commission document raises the possibility of trade wars by suggesting EU industries could be protected by imposing border tariffs on imported goods from non-EU countries with less stringent emission controls.

Jeremy Nicholson, director of the Energy Intensive Users Group, said: “A unilateral move to 30 per cent would damage the European economy at a time when we can ill afford it.”


Amanda Hodge, South Asia correspondent for The Australian (27 May 2010): 

NORTHERN India is sweltering under a killer heatwave that has claimed 55 lives in the past 48 hours, with soaring temperatures shattering records and causing massive power blackouts and water shortages.

The Indian Bureau of Meteorology warned yesterday a swath of northern and central India – including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat – was suffering a severe heatwave, with temperatures climbing to 48C and higher.

The temperature in the Rajasthani city of Kota reached an intolerable 48.4C on Tuesday, seven degrees above the average for this time of year.

Across the north, serious cases of heatstroke are stretching the resources of local hospitals, with admissions 20 per cent up on normal.

At Vadilal Sarabai hospital in the Gujarat capital of Ahmedabad, superintendent M.H. Makawanna said most of the patients were elderly people who could not acclimatise to the sudden rise in temperature.

Delhi has sweltered under intense heat for weeks, with the mercury tipped to top 46C yesterday. The misery has been intensified in parts of the city by prolonged electricity blackouts and irregular water supplies.

In outlying Mehrauli, some residents complain they have had no water for the past week.

“Today is the seventh day we’ve gone without water,” said Ruksana Choudhry.

“We have to buy water from private tankers for 200 to 300 rupees ($5 to $6.60). Even after that, carrying water up to the third floor is difficult.”

Bureau of Meteorology forecasters attribute the record heat to lack of atmospheric moisture, hot dry winds blowing from the Thar Desert and the after-effects of last year’s El Nino cycle – normally marked by a hot spring and summer.

This year is on track to be the world’s hottest since records began in the late 1800s. Recent figures from NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show last month was the hottest April on record.

In India, mean temperatures for March and last month were the highest in more than 100 years.


Advance for Solar Cells, But Carbon Price Needed To Boost Investment

Posted by admin on June 2, 2010
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Advance for Solar Cells, But Carbon Price Needed To Boost Investment

The message is out that what investors need most of all is a carbon price, to give a clear market signal of the viability of renewable energy, and without it, investment in low-CO2-emissions power sources does not make sense. Meanwhile, China’s solar billionaire Zhengrong Shi agreed to head a new Victoria-Suntech Advanced Solar Facility in Melbourne to revolutionise solar cell technology.

Jennifer Foreshew in The Australian (1 June 2010):

A $12 MILLION project aimed at delivering next-generation solar cell technology was officially launched in Melbourne.  

The Victoria-Suntech Advanced Solar Facility (VSASF) is a collaborative venture between Melbourne’s Swinburne University of Technology and Suntech Power Holdings in China, one of the world’s leading producers of solar panels.

The facility, expected to be staffed by about 10 researchers, has been partially funded by a $3m grant under the Victorian Science Agenda Investment Fund.

Current solar cell efficiency is far below what is expected of it in the future, VSASF director Min Gu said. The aim of industry is to try to double the solar cell efficiency and reduce costs.

The VSASF would also be headed by Zhengrong Shi, Suntech’s chairman and chief executive, as well as a fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

The collaboration would provide a platform for the partners to commercialise Nanoplas, a revolutionary nanoplasmonic solar cell technology being developed at Swinburne.

The Nanoplas technology would allow for the efficient collection of solar energy from a wider colour spectrum than cells currently being developed.

This could make them twice as efficient as the current generation of cells, making them significantly less costly to produce and use.

“As soon as we prove the concept, Suntech will work with the Victorian government to invest money to produce a plant in Victoria,” said Professor Gu, who is also director of the Swinburne Centre for Micro-Photonics.

He said the technology was expected to be commercialised in about three to five years.

It would also complement Suntech’s industry-leading Pluto solar cell technology.

“We are pretty confident that we should be able to apply this Nanoplas technology into their current product,” Professor Gu said. “On the other hand, our concept can also produce a totally independent solar cell, but that will probably take longer.”

Professor Gu said the project would compete with a similar project that had recently been announced in Europe.

“So there is competition now on which one is going first,” he said.

Professor Gu said the team was in a unique position to research, develop and commercialise the innovative solar cell technology.

“So we can reduce the time of development, the cost of development and then transfer the knowledge to the production.”



Carbon price is missing impetus

James Dunn in The Australian (27 May 2010):

BATTERED by the global financial crisis, the shelving of Australia’s emissions trading scheme, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) and, for some, the government’s new Resources Super Profits Tax (RSPT), it is a shaping as a bleak winter for Australia’s renewable energy companies.

What they want most of all is a carbon price, to give a clear market signal of the viability of renewable energy. Without it, investment in low-CO2-emissions power sources does not make sense. As Ross Paul, chief investment officer at specialist renewable energy and cleantech investment firm Bakers Investment Group,  puts it, renewable energy investors have to “stump up both faith and cash”.

“Without a carbon price, renewable energy is still considered a bit on the speculative side”, says Paul.

“Not having a carbon price makes them a little less attractive.”

Regulatory support is a big driver of renewable energy and cleantech investment, says Paul. “The RSPT has scared off investors, particularly if resources are part of the supply chain. With all that’s happening in Europe, post-GFC it is another piece of bad news that investors didn’t need.

“The question will be the degree to which government will continue — either at state or federal level — to try to meet on a voluntary basis or even a legislative basis, any renewable targets,” he says.

In the Budget delivered in May, the federal Government recommitted to its mandatory renewable energy target (MRET), which seeks to ensure that 20 per cent of Australia’s energy consumption by 2020 is derived from renewable sources. Combined with the 15,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) of renewable energy already available, the MRET aims for Australia to produce 60,000 GWh of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

The Government also used money saved by the shift of the CPRS to the backburner to announce a new fund, the $652 million Renewable Energy Future Fund, to develop renewable energy. The fund will be used to support renewable energy projects such as wind and solar power, as well as to encourage households to reduce their energy use.

Local renewable energy companies have to use the Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) market as the closest proxy for a carbon price. The REC market requiresenergy retailers such as AGL Energy and Origin Energy to buy enough RECs to ensure they meet the federal government’s 20 per cent target. Each REC represents one megawatt-hour of electricity: a wind farm, for example, will generate RECs over the life of the project.

But complicating the REC market is the fact that to encourage the installation of rooftop solar power, the federal Government gave households five RECs upfront for every MWh of electricity they generate. In 2009, the REC market was over-supplied — mainly from this source — with 15 million RECs generated compared with 8.1 MWh of RECs required.

From $50 in May 2009, the spot REC price fell under $30 by October 2009, but after a review of the REC market by the Government in November 2009, the price has recovered to $45.

A low REC price works against the large-scale renewable energy producers — for example, wind projects — which rely on the REC price to be high enough to compensate for the higher cost of generating renewable energy. If the price of the RECs doesn’t rise, investment in large-scale renewable energy projects could be jeopardised.

Andy Gracey, portfolio manager at Australian Ethical Investments, says the comeback in the REC price has been welcome, but there is a long way to go. “If you’re a renewable energy producer, say a wind power producer, for one megawatt hour of wind production, you get the ‘black’ price — the price that the grid in a particular state will pay for buying your electricity — plus an additional $45 credit for that megawatt hour, that is, the REC. The ‘black plus green’ return — the total return per hour that the wind producers are getting — is up at about $100 per MWh.

“The problem is that on a global scale, Australia has a relatively low wholesale power price, at about $40 per MWh. I think wind really needs a price of $120 a megawatt hour to make some kind of sense from an investment point of view — to make economic returns on wind,” says Gracey.

He says the REC price has actually recovered from that flooding of the markets. “That side of the market is good: we’d like it to improve more, but overall, we need it to be higher. The feeling was that as we progressed down this regime, the value of the RECs would go up.

“On the one hand, the cost of buying a wind turbine is falling: so from that perspective, the economics of renewables is getting better. But at the moment, the ‘black plus green’ return is not enough, and I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of new wind projects at these levels.

“The Government definitely wants to encourage this, but in terms of what happened at Copenhagen, and the subsequent decision to delay the ETS, they are definitely setbacks,” says Gracey.

In another Budget announcement, the Government announced the eight projects that will be invited to participate in the second stage of assessment for the first round one of the $1.5 billion Solar Flagships Program. The two winners will be announced in the first half of 2011.

Gracey says Infigen Energy, Australia’s largest wind-energy developer, surprised the stock market by being named on the Solar Flagships Program shortlist. Infigen is teaming with US company Suntech Power, the world’s leading producer of crystalline silicon solar PV (photo-voltaic) modules, to generate up to 195MW of solar PV power generation capacity at three Australian sites.

In April, Infigen scrapped an attempt to sell its US wind farms, after a much-anticipated auction of the assets failed to entice attractive bids.

The market had hoped the wind farms would fetch about $1.5 billion, as it is the biggest independent wind portfolio in the US, but a weak market for renewable energy forced the abandonment of the sale.

“A couple of months ago I would have described Infigen as the Australian market’s stand-out renewables stock, but then it failed to sell the US windfarms,” says Gracey.

“It’s Australia’s biggest ‘pure’ renewables play, but it’s fair to say that the market is scratching its head about a wind play going into solar.’

“Infigen has bounced 11 per cent since the Budget . . .

“At least Infigen is saying ‘we know wind, we understand the intermittency of renewable energy, the volatility of not supplying electricity constantly to the grid.’

“They obviously see solar PV as an opportunity, they’ve got the experience, and if the government is footing a fair chunk of the capital bill, why not?” Gracey says.


“Bumbling Masters” Let Oil Spill Get Out of Control in Gulf of Mexico

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Oil Spill Out of Control in Gulf of Mexico

A blistering attack on the oil industry for the over-confidence that led them to have no emergency plans in place to deal with the disastrous out of control oil spill and a spirited call for President Obama   “to stop believing these bumbling masters of industry and do what we know we need to do –  decrease our dependence on fossil fuel”. Cameron Scott makes the call and even The Australian says “the nature of the disaster demonstrates that deeper sea drilling requires more stringent safety and disaster recovery standards”.

The Thin Green Line: Cameron Scott brings you dispatches from the environmental battlefield, in association with the San Francisco Chronicle.

Occupational hazard of being a green blogger: Last night, after listening to a lot of analysis yesterday about whether Obama was taking the oil spill seriously, I was tossing and turning while writing a letter to him in my head. I’m including it below, and I’ve also put it up as a petition on Care2 – if you want to sign on.

Dear President Obama:

I am writing to ask you to make sure that another devastating offshore oil spill never happens again. You can do it. All you have to do is tighten the permitting process for offshore drilling and permanently ban any expansion of it.

It’s rare that a president gets such a golden opportunity to change the course of history. The scale of the spill invites you to make strong policy decisions. That opportunity is the one good thing about it — please don’t let it go to waste. What better argument for green energy and energy efficiency is there? People who might not ordinarily see the need — say, Louisiana shrimpers — are primed to make a change.

I know you’ve said we need the oil. Supporters of drilling threaten high prices at the pump if we don’t increase domestic production. But economists say offshore drilling is likely to have no effect on gas prices. And the effect it has on the environment is anything but negligible, as NASA’s photos of the spill from space make clear. Add in the cost in dollars of the spill and the lives lost and oil doesn’t look like such a great deal anymore.

Offshore drilling, according to the most aggressive estimates put out by the industry, could produce 10 percent of what the country uses after a 20-year ramp-up period. Why don’t we use that time to reduce demand by 10 percent or more? The United States is an energy hog. There are so many easy ways for us to reduce our use. And climate change demands that we do so. Be a leader, and show Americans how to make these small sacrifices. Be a good executive and create the combination of carrots and sticks that will make them do it.

Backing offshore drilling is inconsistent with the leadership we need you to show on climate change. Only an opportunistic politician — not a leader — talks from both sides of his mouth. Only an opportunistic politician puts his head in the sand about an impending disaster, hoping that his successor will be left holding the bag. Americans want leadership; that’s why we elected you.

You may agree with those who say that something like this will never happen again. But those same people never thought it would happen this time. And it was their blasé over-confidence that led them to have no emergency plans in place. It’s time to stop believing these bumbling masters of industry and do what we know we need to do: decrease our dependence on fossil fuel.


Editorial in The Australian (31 May 2010):

SO freely is the word “catastrophe” bandied around in environmental debate that its impact has been blunted. It is the only appropriate term, however, to describe the 70 to 110 million litres of oil that have poured into the Gulf of Mexico since April 20, when an explosion tore through the Deepwater Horizon rig 80km off shore. Eleven workers were killed.

Now that BP has abandoned its failed “top kill” operation to plug the rupture, pressure is increasing on Barack Obama to do more than wring his hands as he laments that the disaster is “as enraging as it is heartbreaking”. The US President has visited the disaster scene twice, but might come to regret spending the Memorial Day weekend relaxing in Chicago as the crisis unfolded. Already he has admitted he should have pushed BP sooner to disclose the full extent of the spill and that he was wrong to expect that oil companies were better prepared for such worst-case scenarios.

Much remains to be discovered about why the disaster occurred. Investigations by the Wall Street Journal have uncovered a breakdown in the chain of command aboard the rig as flames spread rapidly and terrified workers leapt into the dark, oil-coated sea. Reportedly, personnel on the bridge were in disarray. Friction and a delay in issuing a distress signal to the outside world suggest they were ill-prepared for an emergency evacuation.

Mr Obama has put Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel prize-winning physicist, in charge of scientists working with BP officials and has stepped up clean up efforts. But with 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico each day, a more effective strategy is needed. The only sure solution is to build a relief well more than 4km under the sea floor, an operation that would take months. So far, Mr Obama has stopped short of hiring another oil company with experience in deepwater drilling to take over operations.

The commission of inquiry established to investigate the disaster will have important lessons for all energy-producing nations, including Australia, where major new offshore liquefied natural gas projects are under way.

No technology is absolutely fool-proof, but the nature of the disaster demonstrates that deeper sea drilling requires more stringent safety and disaster recovery standards than those currently in place.


Rising Corporate Commitment to Energy Efficiency

Posted by admin on June 2, 2010
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Rising Corporate Commitment to Energy Efficiency

Even as climate policy stalls in the US and elsewhere, 70% of corporate executives globally plan to increase spending on climate change initiatives between 2010 and 2012, according to a new survey by accountancy firm Ernst & Young. What’s behind this?  Energy costs, consumer sentiment and stakeholder expectations are drivers for implementing change, with 82% planning to invest in energy efficiency in the next year.

By BC Upham on Triple Pundit (26 May 2010):

Even as climate policy stalls in the US and elsewhere, 70 percent of corporate executives globally plan to increase spending on climate change initiatives between 2010 and 2012, according to a new survey by accountancy firm Ernst & Young

The international survey, which polled 300 executives at companies with revenues of $1 billion or more, indicates the degree to which concerns about climate change have percolated into corporate culture.

“Corporate leaders are not letting the lack of global standards and regulations slow their climate change investments” said Steve Starbuck, Americas Climate Change and Sustainability Services Leader at Ernst & Young. ”Other market drivers, such as equity analysts’ growing interest in climate change performance, are prompting a further need to act and be more transparent.”

Two thirds of respondents said their company had instituted a climate change program, with a further 16 percent planning to do so in the near future. Ninety percent said climate change policy is dictated by C-suite executives or board members.

Nearly 50 percent said their company planned to spend between .5 and 5 percent of revenue annually on climate change initiatives. The survey report points out that at a company with $1 billion in revenue, that amounts to $5 – 50 million a year. Executives reported that energy costs, consumer sentiment and stakeholder expectations are drivers for implementing climate change initiatives at their firms.

As for what companies plan to spend on, energy efficiency is at the top of the list. Eighty-two percent plan to invest in energy efficiency in the next year. Energy efficiency is not exclusively a global warming issue, of course. But 65 percent also plan to invest in new products or services because of climate change, and 63 percent transparency in corporate reporting of greenhouse gas emissions.

Thirty-six percent of respondents said they were “working directly with our suppliers and expect them to reduce their carbon footprint.”

The survey, titled “Action Amid Uncertainty: The Business Response to Climate Change,” comes as chances for a comprehensive climate and energy bill in Congress are slim (despite — or perhaps because of — the Gulf spill). Australians also recently shelved plans for a cap-and-trade system there. In the UK, global warming programs have been cut due to fiscal belt-tightening.

Source: and

Carbon Trust Ready To Work On Saving Energy

Posted by admin on June 2, 2010
Posted under Express 111

Carbon Trust Ready To Work On Saving Energy

He admits that a carbon price is still the single most important thing to accelerate industry and new opportunities, but Robert Hill, an environment minister under the Howard government and now chairman of the new Carbon Trust, says it will focus on energy savings programmes that will work with the financial sector. He told the Climate Change @ Work in Sydney last week that, despite its formation almost a year ago, the trust is still in transition.

The ABC PM programme (26 May 2010):

MARK COLVIN: It’s almost a year since the Federal Government announced that it would set up the Australian Carbon Trust. The Prime Minister said this was a practical, local way to help businesses and households save money by becoming more energy efficient.

But the $75 million program is still not off the ground. The trust has a temporary office in Brisbane but still no functioning website. Its chairman, the former Howard government environment minister, Robert Hill, says they haven’t just been sitting around but there have been complex administrative challenges.

Bronwyn Herbert reports.

BRONWYN HERBERT: The Federal Government pitched the Australian Carbon Trust as a practical way for Australia to reduce its greenhouse footprint, mainly through encouraging businesses to retrofit buildings to become more energy efficient.

Robert Hill was an environment minister under the Howard government and is now the chairman of the trust. He told a green jobs conference in Sydney today that, despite its formation almost a year ago, the trust is still in transition.

ROBERT HILL: We’re only just in the process of being set up. We’re based in Brisbane. We’ve just appointed our CEO (chief executive officer). We’re just negotiating the final transfer of the programs from the Government and we’ll have to get out there and do the business.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Now there’s been a fair delay in getting the Australian Carbon Trust up and running and why the delay?

ROBERT HILL: It’s taken a while but I think it’s because it’s new. The Australian Government hasn’t ever outsourced its climate change programs in this way so every step has been quite challenging.

BRONWYN HERBERT: So when will we see it up and running?

ROBERT HILL: Well the senior executives are all appointed now and they have at least temporary offices in Queensland, although we’re about to sign a lease and the negotiation of transfer of the programs from Canberra is at its final stages. So haven’t just been sitting around.

BRONWYN HERBERT: He says the trust will set up an energy savings program that will work with the financial sector. Its aim is to overcome what the Federal Government has identified as a market failure.

ROBERT HILL: If you have a situation where there’s not a relationship between the energy saving and the owner, in other words if the tenant’s paying the, well getting the benefit for the energy saving, then why is the, why is the owner going to invest the money?

So there’s been failures both in, in the way in which we’ve structured our leases generally in Australia and also there’s been failures in terms of the economics of the market, market model and it wants us to try and overcome those failures and to, and it’s prepared to put public money into work with the banks and take up the opportunities to retrofit.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Apart from the energy efficiency program, the trust will also set up a program for householders to pledge to save energy in their own homes to gain tax benefits.

The carbon trust program was seen as the local aspect of Australia’s attempt to reduce its carbon emissions, alongside the carbon pollution reduction scheme. Robert Hill says that scheme would have become a reality if his own side of politics hadn’t had a leadership spill.

ROBERT HILL: They almost did it successfully if it hadn’t have been for my side imploding at the, at the line they would’ve have. So then they wouldn’t have been too smart by half. They would have been very clever wouldn’t they? That’s how, that’s how politics, politics works.

BRONWYN HERBERT: In terms of the carbon pollution reduction scheme, you mentioned that it’s unnecessarily complex. What changes would have made it more palatable in your view?

ROBERT HILL: Well, that’s a big question because you can’t just sort of take out a piece or add another, another piece. But I’m just saying that the, the final Australian model was a very complex model in terms of the, you know, the exemptions and the offsets and so forth and I think the complexity was one of the reasons, or contributed to a lack of public confidence.

BRONWYN HERBERT: He says a carbon price is still the single most important thing to accelerate industry and new opportunities. But despite a stalemate in fixing a price on carbon, there are other ways to boost the green economy.

John Buchanan is the director of the Workplace Research Centre at the University of Sydney.

JOHN BUCHANAN: There are a whole range of initiatives bubbling up from below and I suppose the thing that’s of interest to us, as researchers, is why isn’t policy engaging with these more spontaneous movements? You know Australia has led the pack historically, you know, Jack Mundy and the green bans showed that Australians can support an environmental stance.

But, in a sense, if there’s a problem in Australia it is in the leadership. I think the population at large is ready to move but the leadership itself has been very cumbersome and compromising in the way it moves forward and that’s not inspiring leadership.


And for some insight into what the Carbon Trust was set up to do we go back to an announcement by Minister Penny Wong (25 March 2010):

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong has announced the directors and management team of the Australian Carbon Trust Limited.

The Australian Carbon Trust – to be chaired by Professor Robert Hill – will lead efforts to boost energy efficiency in households and businesses across Australia. It will be responsible for implementing the Energy Efficiency Trust and the Energy Efficiency Savings Pledge Fund.

The Australian Carbon Trust head office will be based in Brisbane.
Senator Wong announced the appointment of the following directors to the Trust Board:

  • Martijn Wilder, Head of Baker & McKenzie’s Global Climate Change and Emissions Trading Practice.
  • Tony Coleman, Director of Lonergan Edwards Associates.
  • Don Matthews, National President of the Australian Industry Group and former Chief Operating Officer of Amcor Australasia.

“These directors will bring a great diversity of commercial and governance experience to the Board of the Australian Carbon Trust,” Senator Wong said.
“The Australian Carbon Trust represents an innovative new way of engaging Australian households and businesses to support them to take action to save energy.”

Senator Wong also announced the appointment of the Trust management team:

  • Chief Executive Officer Meg McDonald, who was previously President and Treasurer of Alcoa Foundation and Director, Global Issues, Alcoa Inc.
  • Chief Operations Officer Cath Bremner, who was previously Head of International Development at The Carbon Trust in London.
  • Chief Financial Officer Andrew Powell brings a wealth of financial management expertise to the position.

The Energy Efficiency Trust will promote the use of energy efficient technologies and practices – including through financing the retrofitting of commercial buildings.

The Energy Efficiency Savings Pledge Fund will help householders identify energy efficiency opportunities. Using web-based tools, households will be able to work out their energy use and identify ways to save energy and save money. The Pledge Fund will also enable householders to donate in a tax efficient way towards the purchase and retirement of Australian Emissions Units – or offsets approved under the National Carbon Offset Standard.


Nissan Powering Ahead With Batteries & Electric Cars

Posted by admin on June 2, 2010
Posted under Express 111


Nissan has begun building a battery factory next to its main North American auto-assembly plant as Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn predicts US demand for electric vehicles will surge. He has set a goal for Nissan and its biggest shareholder Renault SA, which he also runs, to lead the market for electric autos, as the US, Japan and Europe push automakers to cut oil consumption and carbon emissions tied to global warming.

By Alan Ohnsman for Bloomberg (217 May 2010):

Nissan Motor Co. began building a battery factory next to its main North American auto-assembly plant as Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn predicts U.S. demand for electric vehicles will surge.

The plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, will be able to supply lithium-ion battery packs for 200,000 electric cars a year when it opens in 2012, more than the 150,000 rechargeable Leaf hatchbacks Nissan plans to build there annually. Japan’s third- largest carmaker said yesterday its $1.7 billion investment in the Leaf and battery capacity in Tennessee, funded mainly by a $1.4 billion U.S. government loan, may create 1,300 local jobs.

“‘We know that we are the most bullish on the market,” Ghosn, who predicts global electric-car sales may reach 500,000 a year by 2012, said yesterday. “What we’re doing here will radically transform the automotive experience for consumers.”

Ghosn, 56, has set a goal for Nissan and its biggest shareholder Renault SA, which he also runs, to lead the market for electric autos as the U.S., Japan and Europe push automakers to cut oil consumption and carbon emissions tied to global warming. While General Motors Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and other rivals are readying their own rechargeable models, none matches Ghosn’s 2012 sales target.

Nissan will gain economies of scale to reduce costs when demand reaches the predicted level, Ghosn said.

“I don’t see this as a risk. I see this as a huge opportunity,” Ghosn said at an event at the Smyrna factory. “When we get to 500,000, 1 million units, we don’t need government support.”

Nissan has received 13,000 pre-orders in the U.S. for the Leaf, Ghosn said.

The automaker fell 2 percent in Tokyo to 634 yen as of 9:32 a.m., while the benchmark Nikkei 225 index dropped 0.7 percent. Nissan’s stock has declined 22 percent this year.

‘Wildly Optimistic’

Detroit-based GM aims to build 45,000 of its Volt plug-in cars, which also use gasoline, annually by 2012. Toyota hasn’t set volume targets for either the plug-in version of its Prius hybrid, which will be available to U.S. retail customers from 2012, or the “urban commuter” electric minicar, set to arrive in the U.S. the same year.

“Sales of 500,000 vehicles by 2012 is just wildly optimistic,” said KG Duleep, a Washington-based analyst for ICF International who helps the National Academy of Science and U.S. agencies with advanced automotive technology. President Barack Obama has set a goal of getting 1 million plug-in and battery vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015.

Ford Motor Co. said May 24 it’s investing $135 million and adding 220 jobs at three Michigan facilities to help the Dearborn, Michigan-based company introduce five models powered wholly or in part by electricity by 2012.

Global Capacity

With Nissan’s new factory and others announced by U.S. auto and battery makers, by 2012 the country will have about 20 percent of forecast global capacity to produce advanced batteries, Daniel Poneman, U.S. deputy secretary of energy, said yesterday at the Smyrna site.

“By 2012, factories like this one will be shipping tens of thousands of electric vehicles to showrooms around the world,” Poneman said. The Obama administration so far has committed $12 billion to advanced vehicle technologies, he said.

The first shipments of Yokohama-based Nissan’s Leaf, capable of traveling as far as 100 miles solely on battery power, will arrive late this year in the U.S. and Japan.

Nissan has said it expects U.S. tax credits and rising fuel prices to spur demand for the $32,780 car, which will cost $25,280 after U.S. subsidies.

Energy Department Loan

Nissan last year was awarded an Energy Department loan of as much as $1.6 billion for “advanced technology” vehicle production in the U.S. The company has since modified its loan application, eliminating an initial plan to make electrodes for the batteries and leaving the production to Japan’s NEC Corp., Mark Swenson, Nissan’s vice president of North American manufacturing, said in an interview yesterday.

“We still hope to do that eventually, but for now the electrodes will be supplied by NEC in Japan,” he said.

About 70 percent of employees being added in Smyrna will be for the battery plant, with the rest going to work on the Leaf assembly line, Swenson said.

Nissan’s North American unit is based in Franklin, Tennessee.

Australia’s 2010 Electric Vehicle Conference will be held in Brisbane on 21 October.

Source: and

Trend to Ethics & the Environment for Investment Funds

Posted by admin on June 2, 2010
Posted under Express 111

Trend to Ethics & the Environment for Investment Funds

True to global research, companies that value their intangible assets and pay regard to the social, environmental and community issues that ultimately matter to stakeholders are now registering above-average financial performance, according an a study by The Natural Edge. And Tim Blue in The Australian says “investment options that promise a sustainable and ethical approach are gaining traction within superannuation funds”.

Report by The Natural Edge in Eco Magazine

True to global research, companies that value their intangible assets and pay regard to the social, environmental and community issues that ultimately matter to stakeholders are now registering above-average financial performance.

This is being reflected by Socially Responsible Investment Funds in Australia outperforming the ASX200.

Often ‘sustainability’ is referred to using terms such as ‘corporate social responsibility’ and ‘triple bottom line reporting’. Ultimately, all of these terms refer to the same pressure to perform to a wider set of criteria than traditional financial ones.

International strategic investment firm Innovest’s 2004 report, Corporate environmental governance: a study into the influence of environmental governance and financial performance, found that,

‘In 51 of the 60 studies reviewed, a positive correlation was found between environmental governance and financial performance … Results from fund, sector and company analysts are all generally positive.’

Research by AMP Capital Investors suggests similar defining trends are emerging in Australia. A number of studies by the firm regarding the performance of Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) managers in Australia show that the median SRI fund outperforms the ASX200 over the medium term.

Of the top five performing funds in Australia last year, three of them were SRI funds. Their more recent research confirms the value of focusing on performance in these areas known as ‘intangible assets’.

Twenty years ago, company valuation was mostly about tangible assets – buildings, equipment and investments. AMP5 shows that over 75 per cent of the value of a typical Australian company is made up of unseen or intangible assets. These include a company’s corporate reputation; the way it attracts and retains its employees; its occupational, health and safety practices; and its environmental performance.

In The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First, Stanford University Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer carefully reviewed the research evidence on the characteristics of high performing organisations. He concluded that the most critical factor was human resource practices. This is perhaps intuitive: global studies indicate that better employers have higher revenue, higher profit growth and higher investment returns.

Westpac Australia, for instance, has found that 50 per cent of graduates chose it over other Australian banks for employment, explicitly because of its proactive Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) approach. 

The Hayes Best Employer Survey (2006) shows that nearly 75 per cent of 20-yearolds will not apply for a job if they’re uncomfortable with the company values.8 CSR gives competitive advantage

Company boards are realising they can improve their organisations’ competitive advantage through a sustainability strategy that both focuses on reducing operational costs through efficiency and delivers higher quality, ‘greener’ products that command premium prices.

But Harvard Business School’s Professor Michael Porter and colleague Mark Kramer wrote recently that, ‘Many companies have already done much to improve the social and environmental consequences of their activities, yet these efforts have not been anywhere nearly as productive as they could have been … The fact is, the prevailing approaches to CSR are so fragmented and so disconnected from business and strategy as to obscure many of the greatest opportunities for companies to benefit society.

If instead, corporations were to analyse their prospects for social responsibility using the same frameworks that guide their core business choices, they would discover that CSR can be a source of opportunity, innovation and competitive advantage.’

This is being increasingly understood. Martin Jones, General Manager for Government Relations at CSR Ltd, reported to us that, ‘In 2007 there has been a much stronger recognition by the management of CSR Limited of the importance of sustainability and the role it can play in developing competitive advantage at the company. An initial focus will be on improved understanding of the company’s carbon footprint, and the implications in terms of mitigation, business opportunities and customer requirements. We intend to build on the leadership from Professor Porter to understand how to leverage our internal skills for the greatest sustainability outcomes.’

Risk management

Sustainable business strategies can also assist companies to proactively address emerging risks, especially at a time when climate change liability related litigation has already begun. Managing these risks is becoming a key investment criterion, and this is placing significant pressure on firms to apply socially and environmentally responsible strategies and practices to their business operations. Over 180 investment firms, totalling US$8 trillion worth of investments, have now signed the UN Principles for Responsible Investment.

Three of the four largest fund management companies in Australia signed up in early 2007: BT Financial Group, AMP Capital Investors and Colonial First State Global Asset Management.

Addressing investor demands

Investment houses are increasingly demanding performance information from firms across social and environmental impacts in addition to their financials.

This is reflected by the exponential increase in the number of companies using the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) – fast becoming the world’s pre-eminent sustainability reporting framework. Of the top 250 companies in the world, 64 per cent published sustainability reports in 2005.

Companies are joining the GRI because they know that ‘if you can’t measure it, then you can’t manage it.’

Those that begin with a rigorous process to collect sustainability performance data and metrics are well placed to assess how best to strategically approach sustainable business practice and meet their CSR aims.

What then are the key steps for firms to develop strategies to improve their competitive advantage through a sustainability strategy? As Porter and Kramer write, ‘To put these broad principles (of corporate social responsibility) into practice, a company must integrate a social perspective into the core frameworks that it already uses to understand competition and guide its business strategy.’

However, as The Natural Edge Project (TNEP) associate Dan Atkins, Director of Sustainable Business Practices, cautions, ‘Developing an appropriate strategy and articulating a vision that meets the relevant stakeholders’ expectations is becoming a critical component of shareholder value.

How that vision and strategy is integrated within the organisation is largely dependent on getting the frameworks in place and a culture to execute the strategy in a way which is aligned to the overall business objectives and values.’

Key operational steps to ensure this occurs, identified by TNEP and its partners, include the following:

• Obtain board and senior management understanding and commitment. Assign overall responsibility for CSR to senior management to ensure alignment of core frameworks with the company sustainability strategy.

• Undertake a comprehensive audit of the company’s performance across social, environmental and financial indicators and the interactions between them.

• Bring together quantitative data on social and environmental performance to better inform decision making.

• Map social and environmental risks and opportunities to better inform company strategy.

• Identify opportunities to improve operational efficiency and new ‘greener’ product differentiation.

• Re-assess HR policy to ensure attraction and retention of the best staff. Foster a culture of innovation and institute appropriate rewards. Build the skills capacity of all employees.

• Initiate whole-of-company engagement, incorporating sustainability objectives into individual work performance measures. Establish multi-disciplinary teams ensuring all areas of the business are engaged.

• Review marketing and communications processes.

• Engage with stakeholders on CSR and develop partnerships including both internal and external participants, suppliers, customers and financiers.

• Report qualitatively in the annual report on social and environmental performance.

There is now significant evidence from market successes that pursuing these sustainable business practices pays significant dividends. A sustainability strategy with CSR reporting reinforces a company’s capacity to act responsibly and profitably, while creating new ways to\ improve both short- and long-term value for shareholders.

Karlson ‘Charlie’ Hargroves, Michael H. Smith, Peter Stasinopoulos and Stacey Hargroves, The Natural Edge Project (hosted by Griffith University). Based on research commissioned by CSR Limited.


Tim Blue in The Australian (26 May 2010):

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