Archive for the ‘Express 137’ Category

Too Close for Comfort

Posted by admin on February 22, 2011
Posted under Express 137

Too Close for Comfort

Another earthquake – or a continuation of aftershocks since last September’s big event – Christchurch, New Zealand has again been hit by an even more damaging and fatal geological catastrophe. Why are we seeing more and more major disasters like this, when some cannot be directly attributed to a changing climate? Or can they? I have wondered whether there is some connection. I have sought expert opinion. I find it hard to believe that when we take so much out of the earth – oil, gas, coal and other minerals – that it cannot have some unbalancing effect. When we put so much damaging greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, it must have some impact, particularly when we do our best to change the landscape -  tear down and burn trees as well. So what do you think of this message:

Climatologists have been raising alarms about global warming for years, and now geologists are getting into the act, warning that melting glaciers will lead to an increasing number of earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions in unexpected places. Writing in New Scientist magazine, Bill McGuire, professor of geological hazards at University College in London, said: “All over the world evidence is stacking up that changes in global climate can and do affect the frequencies of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and catastrophic sea-floor landslides. Not only has this happened several times throughout Earth’s history, the evidence suggests it is happening again.”

We have a lot to read and consider this issue….about how we are not managing climate change risks at all well; we need to deal with the global food crisis, deforestation rears its ugly head. On the positive side, we are seeing good things coming to the surface: greener buildings, energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation. Companies like Avon and Intel getting on the sustainability banb wagon. It makes economic sense. It makes earthly good sense. It is too late to stop the damage completely. But we can be much better prepared. We can think and act in a sustainable manner. We can save the earth. We can save energy and money at the same time. – Ken Hickson

Profile: Frank Levinson

Posted by admin on February 22, 2011
Posted under Express 137

Profile: Frank Levinson

The man behind the Small World Group, Frank Levinson believes in putting his money where his mouth is. Investing in clean and green startups, as well as asking pointedly “how many more years will we have to have like this one before we realize that climate change will be the defining crisis for mankind for the next 100+ years and it will occupy all of our global intellectual and economic resources not to lose the fight?”

When the World Meteorological Organisations released its report in January, here’s what Frank Levinson had to say in a column headed: “Hey frogs – It’s official – welcome to the Pot”.

Well, it’s official. 2010 was the hottest calendar year on record for the last 115 years that we have good scientific data.  All of the 10 hottest years have happened since 1998.  Statistically for this to be the case by chance is 1 in 7.5×10^13.  In other words … no chance.

The complete data record is on the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA)

And here is their commentary on the data -

Global Highlights

  • For 2010, the combined global land and ocean surface temperature tied with 2005 as the warmest such period on record, at 0.62°C (1.12°F) above the 20th century average of 13.9°C (57.0°F). 1998 is the third warmest year-to-date on record, at 0.60°C (1.08°F) above the 20th century average.
  • The 2010 Northern Hemisphere combined global land and ocean surface temperature was the warmest year on record, at 0.73°C (1.31°F) above the 20th century average. The 2010 Southern Hemisphere combined global land and ocean surface temperature was the sixth warmest year on record, at 0.51°C (0.92°F) above the 20th century average.
  • The global land surface temperature for 2010 tied with 2005 as the second warmest on record, at 0.96°C (1.73°F) above the 20th century average. The warmest such period on record occurred in 2007, at 0.99°C (1.78°F) above the 20th century average.
  • The global ocean surface temperature for 2010 tied with 2005 as the third warmest on record, at 0.49°C (0.88°F) above the 20th century average.
  • In 2010 there was a dramatic shift in the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, which influences temperature and precipitation patterns around the world. A moderate-to-strong El Niño at the beginning of the year transitioned to La Niña conditions by July. At the end of November, La Niña was moderate-to-strong.

(Again – the data above is from NOAA website)

So in case you don’t know, the title of this column comes from the story about the frog in a pot of water who is swimming around comfortably but the pot is over a fire and slowly the frog gets cooked.  The frog is unaware of the impending doom because as the temperature rises he never feels the change, he just dies.  If you toss a frog into boiling water he will jump out because he can see the immediate need, but if you put the frog into normal water and heat it slowly he just cooks and does not try to escape.

How many more years will we have to have like this one before we realize that climate change will be the defining crisis for mankind for the next 100+ years and it will occupy all of our our global intellectual and economic resources not to lose the fight?

Or will we just slowly cook ourselves and our planet?


Frank Levinson’s Small World Group Incubator regularly provides seed funding, mentoring and help to start and grow small companies. 

Small World Group Incubator (SWGI) operates under the Singapore National Research Foundation (NRF) Technology Incubation Scheme. 

Small World Group Incubator has 3 companies now funded and 4 more on the way.

Green Koncepts is lead by Kenneth Lee and focuses on monitoring and control systems for building energy and water usage.  Hardware in the building pushes data periodically out to the cloud and the customers can view the data and control internal elements through a web page from a computer or mobile device.

Optiras is led by Darrell Zhang and Clayton Miller and focuses on solutions that improve the efficiency and workflows of Energy Services Companies.

Rapsodo is led by Batuhan Okur and focuses on a product where a unique combination of hardware and software for a new twist on some existing markets.

Green Line Innovations is led by Stuart Friedman and focuses on partnering with Clean Tech companies to be their bridge to Asian based high volume manufacturing, lower costs.  GLI brings a deep experienced team from a major Fortune 500 company and their collective design and operational experience to this unique startup.

SWGI focuses on 3 areas of technology innovation – clean tech, optical systems and advanced materials.  These are areas of both passion and expertise for us.  We will also look at some special opportunities outside our core on a very selective basis.

The SWG Incubator accepts unsolicited business plans.  However we expect to start more companies by using the substantial IP and working technology from Singapore’s rich ecosystem in their Universities and Institutes.  We will also import some opportunities from abroad.  All execution will be here in Singapore.  Generally we will not be working with existing companies.  Our level of funding precludes this being practical.

There are 5 partners who are managing directors for the incubator -

  • Frank Levinson
  • Dean Haritos
  • Chris Vargas
  • Chong Chiet Ping
  • Kent Pavey

All of the partners have technical or business degrees and all have held senior operating positions in both large and small companies.  We have led companies through the IPO process and also been active in many acquisitions.  We do not think of ourselves as money managers so our Incubator is more technology, process and sales/marketing focused.   If you have an idea or if you are interested in working with us please email us to get things started. Visit the website:

Frank Levinson’s Biographical details:

Frank H. Levinson, Ph.D., is the founder and managing director of Small World Group, with an office in Tiburon, CA.

From 1988 through 2005, he was founder, CTO and chairman of Finisar Corporation, a technology leader in fiber optic subsystems and network performance test systems, headquartered in Sunnyvale, California. Finisar went public in 1999 and in early 2001 was still entirely based in the USA. Over the next 5 years, Frank helped the company expand both manufacturing and R&D into 4 different locations in Asia – Ipoh, Malaysia; Singapore; Bangkok, Thailand and Shanghai, China so that now Finisar has 85% of its employees in Asia. Today Frank still serves on Finisar board of directors.

Frank is an investor and serves on 5 private company boards – Fabrinet, Dewey Homes, Daylight Solutions, Vixar, Cloudbreak Software all of which have revenue and are in various stages of growth from a filed S-1 for upcoming IPO to just formed.

Frank is also active philanthropically with the Smithsonian and their biology and biodiversity group located in Panama. Together they are working to create a series of earth global observatories based on theCTFS plots for tropical forest census and monitoring. Frank also works part time on engineering simple sensing solutions that can work in the tropics to improve the data collection capability from the observatories.

Frank has been a judging chairperson for the California Clean Tech Open business plan competition since its inception in 2006 and has worked with various companies in the clean tech space that have yet to receive their initial funding.

Frank earned a B.S. in Mathematics and Physics from Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, and both an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Source: and

Risk Management “Completely Inadequate”

Posted by admin on February 22, 2011
Posted under Express 137

Risk Management “Completely Inadequate”

A landmark report completed by asset consultants Mercer and 14 global super funds with US$2 trillion invested between them, suggests that the current approach to managing risk is completely inadequate given the likely impacts of climate change and the technology and policy response. Meanwhile, Governments in the Asia-Pacific region face the risk of unprecedented numbers of people displaced by floods, storms and other impacts of climate change, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in a report released this month.

Giles Parkinson in Climate Spectator (16 February 2011)


The owners and managers of the trillions of dollars invested to fund our retirements have been able to pretty much ignore climate change up to now.

They have largely dismissed it as a “known unknown”, as our columnist Phil Preston described it, to be addressed at a point in the future. Only a few have finessed a small portion of their portfolios to take advantage of emerging opportunities.

However, a landmark report completed by asset consultants Mercer and 14 global super funds with $2 trillion invested between them, suggests that the current approach to managing risk is completely inadequate given the likely impacts of climate change and the technology and policy response.

The report suggests that traditional methods of managing risk – such as bonds and defensive equities – will be insufficient, and may even cause returns to decline. And it suggests that asset owners will need to migrate up to 40 per cent of their portfolio towards “climate sensitive investments” to capture the upside. These include property, infrastructure, private equity, timberland, agriculture land, carbon, broad and sector focused sustainable equities and unlisted assets in the energy efficiency and renewable sectors.

 “The analysis suggests that under certain scenarios, a typical portfolio seeking a 7 per cent return could manage the risk of climate change by ensuring around 40 per cent of assets are held in climate-sensitive assets,” the report says.

“To manage climate change risks, institutional investors need to think about diversification across sources of risks rather across traditional asset classes.”

Helga Birgden, the head of responsible investment in the Asia Pacific region for Mercer, says traditional approaches don’t take into account the technological and policy changes associated with climate risk. In fact, they effectively ignore them. Past experience – traditionally the fall-back position of the asset management industry – is no longer quite as useful for assessing climate change risk. “It requires new models and new ways of being strategic about it,” she says.

Indeed, the report says this about strategic asset allocation (SAA), which it estimates accounts for more than 90 per cent of the variation in portfolio returns over time. “While standard approaches to SAA rely heavily on historical quantitative analysis, much of the investment risk around climate change requires the addition of qualitative, forward-looking inputs. Given the unclear climate policy environment and uncertainty around the full economic consequences of climate change, historic precedent is not an effective indicator of future.”

Birgden says it’s important that in the face of climate change investors are developing new strategies to ensure their resilience over time. “This region in particular is vulnerable to environmental impacts and is therefore exposed to climate change, as a mega theme, in a range of areas. On the flip side, our region is leading developments in low carbon technology which creates investment opportunities and the potential for economic transformation.”

Nathan Fabian, the CEO of the Investor Group on Climate Change, which represents more than half of the funds under management in Australia, said that anything that represents more than 10 per cent of portfolio risk requires an immediate response from investors.

“The report also shows that waiting forever for countries like the US and Canada to address their emissions is not an option. Investors should be shopping around for countries with credible, long term policy environments. We hope Australia will soon be one of them”

The key findings of the 132 page report were:

1): Technology investments to achieve a low carbon transformation present a new investment opportunity and could accumulate to as much as $5 trillion by 2030. These include energy efficiency, renewable energy, biofuels, nuclear and carbon capture and storage.  But they will also undermine the value of some existing investments that fail to adapt. 

2):  The costs of climate impacts on the physical environment, human health and on food security could accumulate to $4 trillion by 2030.  Some investments may be directly affected by rising risks of climate change related events, such as infrastructure and coastal zone property (floods and storm damage), water availability (drought and flood risk) with knock on impacts on agriculture and health.

3)  Climate policy changes could increase the cost of carbon emissions by as much as $8 trillion by 2030.  The cost of carbon could be as high as $220/tC02e by 2030, with the cost increasing the longer the policy delay and the less well-anticipated and coordinated the policy action. Mercer calculates that climate policy risk currently contributes 10 per cent to long-term portfolio risk for a representative portfolio, with the risk increasing under scenarios of delayed climate policy action.

4): Increasing exposure to “climate sensitive” assets can help to capture the upside and protect against the downside risks of climate change at the total portfolio level.

5): The EU and China/East Asia expected to emerge as “leaders” because they are more likely to pre-emptively find alternative sources of energy, improve efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and invest in new technology.

The report was put together by a 29-strong team at Mercer and included input from 19 other researchers, including the London School of Economics and the Grantham Research Institute, with input from the World Bank, the International Finance Corp and the Carbon Trust.

The investors that participated in the report manage more than $2 trillion in assets, and include two Australian funds, AustralianSuper and VicSuper. Other participants were AP1 (Sweden), APG and PGGM (Netherlands), British Columbia Investment Management Corporation  and Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, (Canada), British Telecom Pension Scheme, CalPERS (US), CalSTRS (US), Environment Agency Pension Scheme (UK), Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, Maryland State Retirement and Pension System (US), and the Norwegian Government Pension Fund.


Reuters report in Green Business Times (9 February 2011):

Governments in the Asia-Pacific region face the risk of unprecedented numbers of people displaced by floods, storms and other impacts of climate change, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in a report released earlier this month.

The bank and climate scientists said the region, home to 4 billion people, will be among the regions most affected by the impacts of climate change, leading to major migration both within and between nations, stretching resources.

The draft report, “Migration due to climate change demands attention” also said no international mechanism has been created to manage millions of people on the move.

“Protection and assistance schemes remain inadequate, poorly coordinated, and scattered. National governments and the international community must urgently address this issue in a proactive manner,” it said.

Failure to do so risked costly humanitarian disasters, the report concluded.

The report for policymakers reviewed climate threats and the complex nature of migration, of which climate change is only one of many drivers, including greater numbers of people moving to cities to seek jobs.

It pointed to impacts such as higher temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, greater monsoon variability, rising sea levels, floods, and more intense tropical cyclones.

Last year’s floods in Pakistan led to the temporary or permanent dislocation of millions of people, while Sri Lanka is suffering its second wave of floods in less than a month, threatening up to 90 percent of the rice crop. More than 250,000 are seeking refuge in temporary shelters.

“The Pacific is particularly vulnerable because of its high degree of exposure to environmental risks and high population density. As a result, it could experience population displacements of unprecedented scale in the coming decades,” the ADB report said.

Climate-induced migration would affect poor and vulnerable people more than others, said Bart W. Edes, director of ADB’s Poverty Reduction, Gender, and Social Development Division.

“Those who stay in their communities will struggle to maintain livelihoods in risk-prone settings at the mercy of nature’s whims,” he said in a statement.

The report highlights Asia’s booming megacities as being particularly vulnerable to disasters, such as floods, rising seas and cyclones.

“Megacities will often lack the carrying capacity to accommodate the influx of climate migrants on top of those moving for other reasons,” said the report, adding that massive influxes of migrants could lead to conflict over resources.

According to UN data, only about 17 percent of, or 230 million people in, the Asia-Pacific lived in towns and cities in 1950. By 2005, it had reached 39 percent (1.5 billion) and was expected to hit 50 percent by 2025. By 2050, more than 3 billion people in the region will live in urban areas.

“The massive growth in megacities in coastal areas significantly increases the population exposed to the risks posed by climate change,” said the report, pointing to Mumbai’s population, forecast to reach 26.4 million by 2025. Dhaka’s was set to hit 22 million and Shanghai’s 19.4 million by the same year.

South Asia was most vulnerable to climate change impacts, such as rising sea levels and storm surges from cyclones, which were expected to become more powerful, threatening Bangladesh and India in particular, it said.

Other vulnerable areas were the densely populated low-lying coast of China, southern Pakistan, the deltas of the Mekong, Red and Irrawaddy rivers and the Pacific island states of Kiribati and Tuvalu.


Top Green Asian City the Place to Invest in Energy Efficiency

Posted by admin on February 22, 2011
Posted under Express 137

Top Green Asian City the Place to Invest in Energy Efficiency

Singapore came up tops in the first Asian Green City Index for its management of waste and water resources, also scoring consistently above average in the other categories, such as sanitation and environmental governance. Meanwhile, the latest batch of recipients of the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) Eco-Office Label said they saw savings of between 5% and 30% in utility costs, plus Singapore has the greatest investment potential in South-east Asia when it comes to energy efficiency improvements, says a new report funded by the British government.

Singapore ranked the greenest city in Asia

Cheryl Ong in the Straits Times (15 Feb 2011):

THE little red dot is green, too. An inaugural study commissioned by European technology company Siemens has found Singapore to be the greenest city in Asia.

The Asian Green City Index, put together by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), ranked 22 major cities – including Tokyo, Delhi and Shanghai – in eight categories.

Singapore came up tops in its management of waste and water resources. It also scored consistently above average in the other categories, such as sanitation and environmental governance.

EIU senior consultant Jan Friederich, who led the team that carried out the study in Asia, said Singapore fared well thanks to the Government’s emphasis on long-term sustainability.

“It’s building on a long legacy of focusing on sustainability, and also on long-term planning that yields results only after a certain period of time, and that’s something not as prevalent in other Asian countries,” he said.

According to benchmarks set by experts from the United Nations and the World Bank, Singapore is a winner for the way it collects and disposes of waste. The index noted that the Government has raised its target to recycle rubbish from 56 per cent in 2008 to 65 per cent by 2020. Singapore also fared well in its plans for green transport systems, such as investing in doubling the rail network by 2020, and installing new cycling paths in neighbourhoods.

Dr Amy Khor, Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, accepted the Green City Award handed out here yesterday.

“Our reputation as a clean and green city is the result of continuous effort, involving all stakeholders from the Government, industry and community,” she said.

The closest runner-up in overall rankings was Japan, whose three cities rated in the study – namely Tokyo, Osaka and Yokohama – ranked highly.

“The study of Asian cities shows one thing very clearly: higher income does not necessarily mean higher resource consumption,” said Mr Friederich.

He said while countries used more resources as their annual gross domestic product (GDP) rose to €15,000 (S$26,000) per capita, consumption dipped when GDP rose further than that thanks to more efficient infrastructure and greater environmental awareness.

But while Singapore fared well in most of the categories, it raked up carbon emissions on a par with cities like London, and higher than any of the other cities in the study. The study also found that air pollution levels are relatively high in the cities it covered.

Siemens commissioned similar studies of Europe and Latin America in the past two years, in which Copenhagen and Curitiba were found to be the greenest cities.

Siemens’ chief sustainability officer Barbara Kux said the study helps countries to learn from each other, and to do so quickly because of the growth of new cities all over Asia.

The United Nations Population Division estimates that more than 40 per cent of people in Asia now live in cities.

This latest finding comes two days after a study by consultancy firm Solidiance compared cities in the Asia-Pacific region according to eco-friendliness.

Singapore was among the top four cities, behind Tokyo, Seoul and Melbourne, for its policies on green buildings and water management.

Yesterday evening, Siemens also handed out its inaugural Green Technology Journalism Award.

The Straits Times’ environment correspondent Jessica Cheam picked up the top prize in the sustainability category.

She had submitted a Saturday Special report, published in The Straits Times on Dec 18, about sustainable forestry, which trumped over 190 other entries from Asean countries including Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Besides the €1,000 in prize money, she will go on a sponsored trip to Germany to attend a seminar organised by the Technical University of Berlin on sustainability and new technologies, and visit Siemens research centres.

Nine other journalists also walked away with awards that covered three categories: industrial productivity, energy efficiency and sustainability.


Wayne Chan Channel News Asia (16 Feb 2011):

SINGAPORE: Taking the effort to ‘green’ offices has paid dividends.

The latest batch of recipients of the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) Eco-Office Label on Wednesday said they saw savings of between five and 30 per cent in utility costs.

Gammon Construction Quality Assurance Manager Thng Seng Huat said they made efforts to orientate the site offices to be north-south facing to reduce heat gain, cutting down the need for air-conditioning.

They have also designed the layout of lighting and air-conditioning at their offices to maximise energy efficiency.

“(The staff) make an effort to switch off the computer and also the wall switches when they are leaving the office,” Mr Thng said.

“After meetings, they switch off the meeting room lights. When they go out, they try to car pool. They cut down on overseas travelling by using the video-conferencing.

Another recipient, Changi Women’s Prison, said simple changes like installing energy efficient light bulbs, and water saving taps and flushes, helped them achieve their target of 20 per cent savings in water and up to 30 per cent savings in electricity.

22 new recipients received their certificates on Wednesday, bringing the number of green offices in Singapore to 73 since the Eco-Office label was first launched in 2005.

Executive Director of the Singapore Environment Council Howard Shaw said the eco certification scheme will be rolled out to two more sectors in the second quarter of this year.

“We’ve identified the retail industry where there are significant issues such as energy consumption, packaging and waste as well. Singapore having such dense shopping districts and there are more and more coming up all the time, we feel that some standards in this field would be useful.”

Building and Construction Authority CEO John Keung said that beyond the use of energy efficient technology, it takes commitment from users of buildings to achieve results.

He said this was especially so for tenanted buildings where the landlords face the challenge of reducing total energy consumption although individual tenant’s energy use is usually out of his or her control.

Mr Shaw said: “There is a general perception that if you go green in the office, it’s going to mean greater inconvenience for people and added cost to the business, when many cases, the opposite is true.

“All our eco-certified offices have actually reported that they’ve saved on their operating costs, especially in the area of energy.”

He added that one of the biggest wasters of energy that is often overlooked is standby power. Many companies often leave appliances on standby overnight even when not in use.

Singapore was recently ranked first in green building policy in the Asia Pacific, doing better than cities like Tokyo, Seoul and Sydney.


By Grace Chua in Straits Times (14 February 2011):

Singapore has the greatest investment potential in South-east Asia when it comes to energy efficiency improvements, says a new report funded by the British government.

The benefits of such initiatives are clear, as the investments would help the region’s businesses cut back on energy consumption while maintaining output.

The report, by boutique investment firm ReEX Capital Asia, assessed investment potential in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam based on energy prices, regulatory conditions and the market size in each country.

Singapore could take up to US$1.1 billion (S$1.4 billion) worth of investments in energy-saving technologies and techniques, according to the report.

The figure could swell sixfold if the power sector was included – for example, if generation companies invested in such changes at their plants – said ReEX managing director Frederic Crampe, who presented the report on Friday at an energy efficiency seminar organised by the British High Commission.

Improvements in industrial and commercial buildings could save as much as US$341 million here each year, he said.

Singapore falls midway in the list by market size, but its high, unsubsidised energy tariffs mean that boosting efficiency would pay off faster.

It also enjoys strong government support and has a healthy supply of experts able to implement such projects.

For example, companies here can apply to a $10 million scheme that pays for up to half the cost of their energy audits.

And come 2013, legislation will require energy-guzzling companies to appoint energy managers.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) is already training managers and accrediting experts to carry out energy-use appraisals.

However, academic and former NEA chairman Simon Tay, who also attended the seminar, asked how much demand there was for such solutions and investments, and what the level of awareness was.

The Economic Development Board’s resource development director, Mr Chiu Wen Tung, said big energy consumers such as pharmaceutical manufacturers were already implementing energy-saving programmes.


Greener Buildings Means Low Energy Homes in Europe and Asia

Posted by admin on February 22, 2011
Posted under Express 137

Greener Buildings Means Low Energy Homes in Europe and Asia


World Economic Forum Young Global Leader 2010 honoree James Law from Cybertecture International will present a keynote address at the 2nd Annual Green Buildings Asia 2011 in Singapore this week, 23/24 February, while The German government wants to reduce the energy demand for heating by 20% by 2020, when all new buildings will be required to be Nearly Zero Energy Buildings, which means they use less than 15 kilowatt hours of heating per square metre per year.


From Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster (3 February 2011)


Germany leads the charge in low-energy homes

 EU backing for zero-energy buildings has given the German construction industry a boost. As materials become less expensive, the passive house, a German invention, is likely to become a more common sight.


The German government wants to reduce the energy demand for heating by 20 percent by 2020. From that year on, all new buildings will be required to be Nearly Zero Energy Buildings, which means they use less than 15 kilowatt hours of heating per square meter per year. The average house being built today uses 4 times that amount.

“Of course there are going to be increasing numbers of passive houses,” said Angela Espenberger of the International Passive House Association in an interview with Deutsche Welle.

She said passive houses are being developed all over the world, including countries where the materials and labor weren’t previously available.

 ”Companies are finally realizing that there is a real need for products that are passive house suitable. So we have more and more certified products, such as insulation and ventilation systems, that are compatible with passive houses,” Espenberger said.

She believes this boom is going to drive new developments, which will make the technology needed for the construction of passive houses more commercially competitive.

“It’s going to force people to develop more products, which is of course going to influence the economic side of passive houses, making them a lot more affordable.”

At the moment, a passive house costs up to 8 percent more to build than a conventional house.

Karsten Voss, a professor of building physics at the University of Wuppertal, said zero-energy houses will be more commercially attractive, if people change their mindset and start factoring in the long term savings on energy.

“The technology of today can reduce energy needs by 80 percent, compared to the average building. This also means it’s reducing CO2 emissions,” he said.

Considering that buildings account for about 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, the passive housing movement could help shrink the housing sector’s carbon footprint.

New inventions

The zero-energy housing boom has seen the development of innovations like high-tech vacuum insulation that is only 2 centimeters thick. This product is still at the prototype stage, but it may one day replace traditional insulation, which is about 30 centimeters thick.

Energy efficient windows, which are less expensive to maintain and replace, are also being developed. If the costs can be kept low, these may eventually become more commercially attractive than conventional windows.

Voss sees Germany as a market leader in low-energy housing. “In the last 20 years, Germany has come to the poll position in that sector, so ‘Made in Germany’ is a very good label for energy efficiency in buildings,” he said.

But Voss said that more needs to be done to improve the skills of construction workers.

“I think we still are in the situation where we have to better educate the contractors in energy efficient buildings, because it’s still a small sector,” he said.

Worldwide, only about 20,000 passive houses have been built. Most of those are in Germany, where passive houses were invented. In two short decades, the country has built 13,000 passive houses.

Oliver Jirka is an architect in Berlin who specializes in energy efficient buildings. His own home is a passive house, which he says is cheaper, quieter and more comfortable than a conventional house.

“Our electricity bills come to around 40 euros per month. A conventional house built this size might pay 150 euros per month,” he told Deutsche Welle.

The passive house experience

On a chilly winter’s day in Berlin, with temperatures pushing minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit), Oliver Jirka’s house stays at a comfortable 20 degrees Celsius. But the house doesn’t use radiators. This cozy temperature is maintained by the walls of Jirka’s house, which are padded with 40 centimeters of newspaper. The windows are triple glazed and filled with argon gas, which helps limit heat loss.

As light spills through the tall windows, the argon inside them absorbs the sun’s radiation and stops heat from escaping. This is great in the winter and for those hot summer days, Jirka has planted trees to shade the house and stop it from overheating.

The thick walls and triple glazing also make Jirka’s house extraordinarily sound proof. In the past, sealed solar-heated homes often had stagnant air and were susceptible to mold. But Jirka’s home has a built-in ventilation system. This means that the building remains airtight, so none of the heat is lost, but it still gets a good supply of fresh air.

“The fresh air passes a filter and we have very clean air. You have more fresh air than by window ventilation,” Jirka said.

The filters keep out dust, pollen and other particles, which would otherwise come into the house if the windows were left open for ventilation.

A heat exchanger under the house draws in fresh air from outside. In the summer, warm air is cooled because the ground is colder than the outside atmosphere. In the winter, when the ground is warmer than the air temperature, drawing the air down and over the ground heats it up.

Zero-energy housing developers are now looking for ways to install technology, which will allow more homes like Jirka’s to produce energy. Jirka’s house does this with solar panels on the roof, which allow him to neutralize his energy consumption.


Green Buildings Asia event 23/24 February in Singapore

World Economic Forum Young Global Leader 2010 honoree James Law from Cybertecture International will present the closing keynote address at the 2nd Annual Green Buildings Asia 2011 on 24 February. The conference starts on Wednesday 23rd.

A widely respected modern visionary and innovative thinker with accolades that include the 2009 CNBC Architecture Awards, James Law has designed some of the most innovative Cybertecture projects in the world, including the world’s first artificial intelligence media laboratory for the Hong Kong Government; the world’s first Bricks & Clicks shopping mall – Dickson Cyber Express; and the world’s first “morphable” house in partnership with IBM in Denmark.

He is joined by a stellar faculty of green building practitioners from Europe, U.S. and across Asia Pacific, including:

  1. Robert Whitlock, Principal, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, U.S.
  2. Peter Brannan, Managing Director – Asia & Middle East, Arquitectonica, Hong Kong
  3. Jason Pomeroy, Director, Broadway Malyan Asia, Singapore
  4. Chris Twinn, Director, Building Engineering Sustainability Group, Arup, China


More than 100 delegates are expected at the event, which will be held from 22-25 February, 2011 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Singapore.

Fauzi Ahmad, conference director for the annual forum said: “Green Buildings Asia 2011 brings together expert practitioners from around the world to identify innovative green solutions for our modern architecture. It will be an exciting four days of robust knowledge-sharing and networking with key people from the industry.”

Delegates will learn about global trends associated with green buildings, innovative design and building solutions, industry best practices and green project case studies from completed and soon-to-finish green designs, including:

  1. Singapore’s first green hospital
  2. Northeast Asia’s first LEED Platinum-certified green home
  3. Affordable housing project with a green development approach in Indonesia
  4. A green mixed-use building in the heart of Hong Kong
  5. Zero-Energy Building, Singapore’s green retrofit project



Promote Soil Carbon Farming & Stop Destroying Peat-swamp Forests

Posted by admin on February 22, 2011
Posted under Express 137

Promote Soil Carbon Farming & Stop Destroying Peat-swamp Forests

Malaysia, the world’s second largest palm oil producer, is destroying large areas of carbon-rich peat-swamp forests to expand plantations, reports Wetlands International, calling for an immediate halt to peatland clearance and an end to incentives for biofuels in the European Union. Top international soil scientists have called on Australian government and industry to lead the world in collaborating with farmers to increase soil carbon for improved soil security.

By Niki Koswanage for Reuters (1 February 2011):

KUALA LUMPURMalaysia, the world’s second largest palm oil producer, is destroying large areas of carbon-rich peatswamp forests to expand plantations, a leading conservation group said earlier this month.

Wetlands International and Dutch remote sensing institute Sarvision said palm oil plantations are being expanded largely in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on Borneo island.

“Unless this trend is halted, none of these forests will be left at the end of this decade,” said the report.

It said between 2005-2010, almost 353,000 hectares (883,000 acres) of species-rich, peatswamp forests were opened up largely for palm oil production.

“In just 5 years time, almost 10 percent of all Sarawak’s forests and 33 percent of the peatswamp forests have been cleared. Of this, 65 percent was for palm oil conversion,” said the report, which cited a lack of verifiable government figures on land use in relation to soil type or deforestation.

Palm oil firms in Malaysia and Indonesia are under increasing pressure by major Western buyers to halt expansion through forest clearance. But India and China remain top buyers of the oil for cooking, biscuits, cosmetics and biofuels. Malaysia produces about 45 percent of the world’s palm oil.

The report said official Malaysian government figures stated that only 8 to 13 percent of Malaysia’s palm oil plantations were on carbon rich peat soils, with 20 percent for Sarawak.

Wetlands International and Sarvision said they used satellite images combined with existing data and field surveys to challenge the official figures.

“The new studies conclude that 20 percent of all Malaysian palm oil is produced on drained peatlands. For Sarawak, this is even 44 percent. For new plantations, the percentage on forested peatswamps is even higher.”

Government officials weren’t immediately available to comment on the report, which also cited the threat to rare species such as the Borneo pygmy elephant, Sumatran rhino and Borneo clouded leopard.

Deforestation and particularly clearing, draining and burning of deep peatswamp forests is responsible for about 10 percent of mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions. Neighbouring Indonesia has come under intense international pressure to halt the destruction of peatswamps in the fight against climate change.

Wetlands and estimated that the 510,000 ha of peatlands in Malaysia drained for palm oil production led to the release of 20 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.

The group called for an immediate halt to peatland clearance and an end to incentives for biofuels in the European Union.


Report from US Studies Centre’s soil carbon summit (10 February 2011):

Top international soil scientists have called on Australian governments and industry to lead the world in collaborating with farmers to increase soil carbon for improved soil security.

The call was made as part of at the recent global soil carbon summit held at the University of Sydney, with the support of the United States Studies Centre’s Dow Sustainability Program and the university’s Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

Adjunct Professor in Sustainability at the US Studies Centre and summit convenor, Robert Hill said soil issues needed to have priority alongside climate issues.

“Australian agriculture is set to experience the destructive effects of ongoing climate change first and hardest. By improving the sequestration of carbon in soil to enhance soil security we can increase production and reduce carbon emissions at the same time. It is a win-win solution.”

Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Professor Mark Adams said soil security required increasing the quantity of carbon in soils through the adoption of sustainable farming practices. Improved soil security would underpin more sustainable food, water and energy production, at the same time as mitigating climate change.

According to the international experts, including Professor Rattan Lal, Australia is in a unique position to lead the effort to improve soil security with our agricultural sector among the world’s first to confront the challenges of climate change. The science and technology is already available for farmers to manage and increase soil carbon, but further support for the work is needed.

This month’s summit marked the beginning of an international soil carbon initiative to improve understanding and raise awareness of soil security in Australia and around the world. It set four goals for future achievement:

As a society we must recognise the fundamental importance of soil and soil carbon for food security and the survival and health of human populations.Soil issues must have priority alongside climate issues.Soil security will be achieved through soil carbon sequestration and optimisation for social, ecological and economic sustainability.

The science and technology is available for farmers to manage and increase soil carbon in accordance with their local situations. They must be supported in doing so, through public policy and community recognition

Professor Rattan Lal is among the most experienced and well-published experts in the field of soil and plant science. In Sydney to speak at the US Studies Centre’s soil carbon summit, Professor Lal discussed in this interview the potential for agriculture to assist humankind’s attempts to address climate change issues. For a video interview with Rattan Lal go to:


Something’s Cooking! Maybe GM Food is essential to feed the world?

Posted by admin on February 22, 2011
Posted under Express 137

Something’s Cooking! Maybe GM Food is essential to feed the world?

Despite widespread popular concern about the health and environmental risks posed by GM produce, scientists are increasingly convinced that they are essential to global food supply. And when the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) engages the ideologically distant interests of the cattle industry, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s to discuss global food production, it’s clear something is cooking.

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent The Telegraph

 7:13AM GMT 24 Jan 2011

Despite widespread popular concern about the health and environmental risks posed by GM produce, scientists are increasingly convinced that they are essential to global food supply. The Food and Farming report was commissioned by the Department of Business to look at ways in which the world can feed itself over the next 40 years.

It is feared that the growth of the world population to as many as nine billion people, coupled with climate change, will cause food shortages and starvation.

Sir John Beddington, the Government’s chief scientific adviser who is leading the team behind the report, said new technologies such as GM will have to be used to feed the population.

Possible examples of genetic modification include crops that can grow in salty water or drought conditions.

“There will be no silver bullet, but it is very hard to see how it would be remotely sensible to justify not using new technologies such as GM,” he said yesterday.

“Just look at the problems that the world faces: water shortages and salination of existing water supplies for example. GM crops should be able to deal with that.” In the 1990s there was an outcry against “Frankenstein foods” that led most supermarkets to ban GM ingredients in their own brand foods, although it is available in branded foods in Britain, mostly in cooking oils.

Because most farm animals in this country are fed GM soy, no supermarket can guarantee that dairy or meat is not from animals fed GM.

Sir John said it was no longer acceptable to reject GM foods merely on the grounds of “scaremongering”, particularly as food prices rocket and the world warms.

Britain does not grow any GM crops commercially but could grow GM potatoes and sugar beet within five years if seeds are licensed.

Within 10 years the country could be growing GM wheat that needs less fertiliser or is drought, or flood-resistant.

Dr Julian Little, chairman of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, pointed out that more than 300 million acres of GM crops are planted in the world every day.

He claimed that in the last 12 years two trillion meals have been eaten containing GM ingredients.

“The majority of people recognise that crying wolf on this subject without one substantiated health issue is not going to work anymore,” he said.

However, Sandra Bell, a food campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said it was too early to tell whether there were any negative health effects from eating GM.

She also pointed to the environmental costs, such as increased use of pesticides and the health effects connected to that.

“Thirty years of research and development into GM has not delivered the solutions we need in terms of feeding people who are hungry and solving the problems of malnutrition,” she added


Sydney Morning Herald (5 February 2011):

Food manufacturers, retailers and WWF are joining forces to address how to feed the world’s population, writes Paul Myers.

WHEN the World Wildlife Fund engages the ideologically distant interests of the cattle industry, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s to discuss global food production, it’s clear something is cooking.

It is a subtle, yet vital, shift in the way food producers, manufacturers, retailers and groups outside the traditional food fence, such as WWF, are addressing a new paradigm in feeding the world’s rapidly increasing population: how food is produced, not just how much.

In practice the two issues are inseparable. The difference is that while feeding a projected 9 billion people by 2050 from less farmland has long concerned governments, and global aid and food bodies, doing so in a way that satisfies escalating environmental and animal welfare scrutiny, state and national regulations and changing consumer attitudes is considerably more complex.

Behind the farm gate it means that practices in the largest and most advanced agricultural nations, including Australia, will be in the spotlight as the new food production ground rules take shape.

Enter WWF as the unexpected and uninvited powerbroker in this high-stakes scenario. The world’s largest independent conservation organisation is targeting 100 key companies that globally trade commodities including beef, sugar, cotton, palm oil, soybeans and coffee to participate in ”round table” forums about how extra food can be produced with fewer, but more precise, inputs.

Key targets are farmlands with sensitive ecosystems, such as Great Barrier Reef catchments in north Queensland. Along the way, whole industries – including beef and sugar in Australia – are being swept up in the process.

WWF’s Australian program leader for water, Nick Heath, says three times more food and fibre will be needed in the next 40 years than is produced now. ”The answer lies in precision agriculture – more crop per drop.”

And Rob Cairns, the organisation’s Australian program manager for sustainable agriculture, who has a background in the cotton and sugar industries, assures the food chain that WWF is ”just one player” in the quest for a lower food environmental footprint, ”not the policeman”.

”It’s about sustaining food production without impacting on eco-systems,” he says. ”At the moment, it’s confusing for consumers. By default, organics have been seen as the answer. But organics can’t clothe and feed the world, so we have to work with those who can make a difference. And it has to involve a number of commodities.”

Beef is at the top of that list.

To the displeasure of some traditionalists, a meeting in Denver, Colorado, last November laid the foundations of what could be the most unlikely food alliance ever: cattlemen from Australia, North America and Argentina; the world’s largest beef purchaser, McDonald’s; the largest retailer, Wal-Mart; multinational food production and marketing group Cargill; the animal health conglomerate, Intervet/Schering-Plough, and WWF.

WWF called the get-together to discuss ”sustainable beef production”. In April it will participate with the National Farmers’ Federation, Meat & Livestock Australia and other groups in a sustainable food summit in Melbourne to canvass environmental and food security issues that could be part of the national food plan being developed by the federal government.

Attendees at the Denver meeting came away encouraged and keen to keep talking.

Neither the executive director of the federation’s Cattle Council, David Inall, nor the council’s president, Greg Brown, a north Queensland cattleman who was also in Denver, fear WWF has an agenda to limit beef production. ”They were looking for some comfort that beef producers have an understanding of environmental issues,” Inall says.

In this regard, the Australian cattle industry may be ahead of the game. Meat & Livestock Australia is developing a voluntary environmental module that will enable beef producers to demonstrate the ”environmental responsible nature” of their production systems.

But it remains unclear whether farmers’ ability to merely demonstrate environmental responsibility, rather than prove it, will be enough.

To this end, a group of cattle producers in Gippsland, Victoria, is marketing beef sourced from properties with independently audited environmental management systems that comply with the international ISO 14001 standard. Their ”enviromeat beef”, sourced from 15 suppliers, is thought to be the first labelled food product backed by an environmental management system in Australia.

One of three shareholders in the venture, a former Cattle Council president, Bill Bray, says cattle producers have to ”get on the front foot and show consumers we are a big part of the solution, not the problem”. ”Cattle producers manage 45 per cent of land in Australia. Farmers everywhere are trying to understand [the relationship between] their production systems and the environment.”

At the other end of the scale, McDonald’s – the world’s largest purchaser of Australian beef (64,300 tonnes in 2010, 60 per cent of which was exported) and largest consumer of Coca-Cola – is working with WWF internationally and locally in programs involving beef and sugar.

Rob Cairns says engaging ”big players” such as McDonald’s is the most effective way to achieve positive food production outcomes. Participating companies include Kraft, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Cargill, Dole (pineapples), Wal-Mart and others outside the food chain such as IBM, IKEA, Hewlett-Packard and Toyota.

Many in the beef industry speculate the WWF-McDonald’s partnership will soon result in an ”enviro burger” made from beef grown on properties with environmental accreditation. The restaurant chain’s head of sustainable supply chain and social accountability in Asia-Pacific, Brian Kramer, who was in Denver, says it is ”too early to talk such specifics”. But the Cattle Council’s Greg Brown believes the chain’s exclusive use of Rainforest Alliance coffee and its successful McAngus promotion featuring Angus beef point to the future direction.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola is participating independently with WWF and Reef Catchments, a natural resource management group in the Mackay-Whitsunday region of north Queensland, in a project designed to improve water quality and reduce sediment from sugar-cane farms on the Great Barrier Reef. Now in its second phase, Project Catalyst involves 50 canegrowers who have committed to farming practices, including precision application of chemicals using satellite technology and monitoring water quality.

Coca-Cola South Pacific’s public affairs and communications manager, Michelle Allen, says the initial success of the project is so promising that it may be expanded to other sugar-growing countries.

Either way, the Queensland government’s 2009 Great Barrier Reef Protection Amendment Act 2009 has already changed farming practices. A key component of the legislation is a limit on chemicals that can be applied by farmers with more than 70 hectares of sugar cane in the Whitsunday wet tropics and by cattle producers with more than 2000 hectares in the Burdekin dry tropics.

The Premier, Anna Bligh, said that within four years of its introduction the act would cut by half the 32,000 tonnes of fertiliser nutrients previously flowing on to the reef each year from mainland water catchments.

So far, most of the environmental food action is on the ground. At the retail level in Australia, eco-labelling is virtually non-existent.

In Britain, Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s supermarkets sell Rainforest Alliance-branded bananas and coffee, which is also served on airlines and in McDonald’s McCafe and Gloria Jean’s Coffees outlets.

The British government’s Carbon Trust environmental watchdog has developed a label that is applied to 120 products in Tesco supermarkets. It gives advice about how to reduce the product’s carbon footprint when cooked, used or disposed, and appears on foods including vegetables, milk and orange juice. The program has now been extended to Australia through Planet Ark.

A labelling scheme that began in Japan in 2009 provides a detailed breakdown of the carbon footprint of numerous foods and drinks. In the United States, Wal-Mart, which sells more than 20 per cent of all US groceries, is developing an eco-labelling program that will give a green rating to all items sold in its 7500 stores worldwide.

Australian supermarket chains are wary about venturing down this path. A spokesman for Coles, Jim Cooper, says eco-labelling is an emerging trend but ”isn’t the number one issue for our customers”.

Many food experts believe that, eventually, on-farm environmental certification may be essential for food products to gain market access and shelf space in supermarkets.

If and when enviro food labelling reaches Australia, a ”how green is my trolley?” assessment of food purchases may be possible at the checkout. This may be several years away, but the way the food landscape is changing, don’t count it out


Garnaut’s Back with a vengeance & Gillard’s Getting the Message

Posted by admin on February 22, 2011
Posted under Express 137

Garnaut’s Back with a vengeance & Gillard’s Getting the Message

Over eight days this month, Australia’s noted economist Ross Garnaut released three detailed reports, each updating a key part of his exhaustive 2008 Climate Change review for the then Rudd government. Another five will be published in March, followed by a book tying all the ends together before the end of May. All indicators show that something fascinating is happening to the Gillard Government’s climate change argument.It’s replacing morality with economics.

Adam Morton in The Age (19 February 2011):

ROSS Garnaut hasn’t seen the 1993 Bill Murray comedy Groundhog Day, but he knows how it goes. A TV weatherman rises every morning to find it is the same as the last. He is stuck in a maddening loop, having to repeat the same job each day while people around him carry on, oblivious.

Garnaut laughs when the film is raised in an interview in his Melbourne University office; The Age is not the first to suggest similarities between its plot and the return of the veteran economist to the public stage advising the government on climate change policy.

Over eight days this month, Garnaut released three detailed reports, each updating a key part of his exhaustive 2008 review for the then Rudd government. Another five will be published in March, followed by a book tying all the ends together before the end of May.

Each will be underpinned by his messages that the threat of climate change is clear, that many other countries are taking steps to combat it, and that the economic cost of delaying action locally or unnecessarily compensating big business will be great.

None will answer a key question: how much sway does this 64-year-old professor, an architect of some of the major economic reforms of the 1980s, have within Canberra after being ignored by the government on crucial points the first time around? That will come later.

Garnaut paused momentarily when Climate Change Minister Greg Combet asked him to revisit his 2008 review, but signed on once it was clear that the Greens and independent MPs would join the government in “another serious crack” at introducing a policy to lower emissions.

“Like a lot of Australians, I was disappointed we didn’t get a result last time,” Garnaut says. “So although it was hard to welcome a return to the intensive effort on the same topic, the chance of contributing to Australia getting a result on this important policy area made the case for my re-engaging.”

For the Gillard government, Garnaut’s return to the fold – he is updating his review and advising the multi-party climate committee working on a plan to introduce a carbon price – is a potential double-edged sword.

He is in newspapers and on the airwaves emphatically making the case for forcing businesses to start factoring in the cost of greenhouse pollution. It is likely he will reach a large audience; in 2008 he packed town hall meetings around the country, and about 100,000 people downloaded his initial report on the day it was released, jamming the computer system of the Victorian Premier’s Department. But experience suggests he won’t let the ALP off the hook if it fails to take the steps he believes are necessary.

Somewhere between Garnaut’s commissioning in early 2007 and the publication of his report 18 months later, Labor appeared to slowly step away from him. Initially portrayed as the central figure in Kevin Rudd’s plan to tackle “the moral challenge of a generation”, he was later described as merely “an input”.

When Rudd rejected key parts of Garnaut’s advice, the professor hit back. Writing in The Age on December 20, 2008, he condemned the government’s failure to leave open the possibility of a 25 per cent cut in national emissions by 2020 if a strong global deal was reached. (Labor had opted for a target of between 5 and 15 per cent, depending on the level of agreement inUnitedNations negotiations.) And he argued there was no justification for handing out a proposed $3.9 billion to the owners of fossil fuel power plants.

As the compensation bill was increased to $7.3 billion in an ultimately failed attempt at a deal with the Coalition, Garnaut damned the process as “one of the worst examples of policy-making we have seen on major issues in Australia”.

Private reactions within the government ranged from annoyance to anger. Some Labor MPs not involved in the climate committee are dismissive of their chief climate adviser; one said he was unrealistic. While Combet has been effusive, it is not clear that Garnaut would have been asked back if the government did not need to do a deal with crossbenchers who wanted him in the room.

These days, Garnaut’s strongest public support comes from the Greens and independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor. Oakeshott says he speaks with Garnaut as often as he can, believes the government should have accepted his initial recommendations and will argue within the committee for his advice to be heeded. “Hopefully, colleagues are reading, hearing and reflecting on what he is doing,” he says.

According to the man himself, the level of bad blood with the government has been overplayed. His relationship with Rudd remained cordial, even after his strongest criticisms. Less than three weeks after his attack on Labor’s climate policy was published, Garnaut was invited to Kirribilli House to talk through their differences. It was just the PM and the professor, discussing climate change and cricket while watching a young Australian pace attack run through the South African lower order to win a thrilling Test at the SCG.

“We had a good yarn,” Garnaut says. “We talked it over … It finished up with Kevin thinking about it. It was a congenial day. I can’t pretend that I wasn’t disappointed, but I’ve been around the policy process in Australia and other countries for a long time. I never had a difficult personal relationship with senior people in the government.”

Three months after the meeting, the government changed its 2020 target range to leave open the possibility of a 25 per cent goal under certain conditions. Garnaut does not claim credit, acknowledging pressure was applied from inside and outside government, but it was concession enough for him to back Rudd’s emissions bill as worth passing through Parliament despite its flaws.

Garnaut’s criticisms of Labor were striking given his stature in the party as an architect of the removal of tariff barriers in the 1980s, when he was a senior adviser to prime minister Bob Hawke. He left Canberra in 1985 when he was appointed ambassador to Beijing.

The period shaped the economist’s understanding of how the epicentre of growth in the global economy  would shift into the 21st century, and has continued to inform his academic work. In recent years, Garnaut’s time has been split between the Australian National University in Canberra and Melbourne University, where he is a vice-chancellor’s fellow and professorial fellow of economics. He lives in Melbourne’s inner north with his wife, Jayne, squeezing in time with his grandchildren in his few less busy moments.

“It crosses my mind that our generation may leave problems that are simply too hard for human society in the generations that follow,” he says. “The structures that separate civilisation from disorder are thin and fragile. [But] I am not gloomy by nature so don’t presume that the global community will fail the young people.”

Returning to cricket, he recalls Justin Langer’s greeting to Adam Gilchrist before they combined to win a 1999 Test match in Hobart against Pakistan from a seemingly hopeless position: “You never know”.

” ‘You never know’ will be true for future humanity as well,” he says. One of Garnaut’s goals this time around is to improve the public debate on climate change, hence the release of eight staggered papers to maximise exposure and allow feedback. So far his updates have focused on dramatic projections of emissions growth in the developing world, and the steps being taken elsewhere to reduce them.

China is the biggest threat, but also a cause for some hope. Beijing’s non-binding target to slow emissions growth submitted to the UN is calculated to be equivalent to Australia making a cut of 25 per cent, much more than Canberra is prepared to do at this stage.

The flipside is that China’s economy is expanding so quickly that before the decade is out it is likely to have to start cutting emissions outright, rather than just slowing their growth, for a meaningful solution to be possible.

Within the current debate, Garnaut differs most markedly from the government on compensation for the power industry. Little suggests the government has come around to his view – shared by the Greens – that large cash handouts are not warranted.

This month, Julia Gillard said there had been a lot of good work designing the compensation packages under the initial emissions scheme, and they would not simply be discarded. Politically, it is impossible to imagine a design under which Labor did not offer industry support. The sum and conditions that have to be met to receive it will, along with the starting carbon tax price, be among the most difficult terrain in the  negotiations.

Elsewhere, though, Garnaut has won out. Yesterday, the government presented the multi-party committee with a model for a hybrid carbon-pricing scheme based on a proposal in his initial report, later adopted by the Greens. A carbon tax would start in July 2012 and evolve into an emissions scheme that would allow businesses to bring in international carbon credits, effectively paying for cuts elsewhere to offset Australia’s domestic pollution.

Nothing was finalised yesterday, but Garnaut has confidence that there is enough political will this time around to suggest a compromise may be possible.

“I would be surprised if anyone who plays a role in the process, including myself, doesn’t go through some adjustment on the way,” he says. “I think there is a chance that the outcome will be one that everyone connected to the policy process thinks is better than the position they started from.”


By Annabel Crabb for ABC (3 February 2011):

In the new Gillard formulation, action on climate change is no longer something to which Australia is morally obliged regardless of the behaviour of other nations.

Something fascinating is happening to the Government’s climate change argument.

It’s replacing morality with economics.

Remember Kevin Rudd’s spirited lectures on “the greatest moral challenge of our generation”?

In the former prime minister’s hands, climate change was a prophecy to which one either subscribed or did not subscribe.

Doubters could be accused of anything from callous disregard for the lives of their own grandchildren to responsibility for the spread of beri-beri across far north Queensland, or the death of the Great Barrier Reef, or a catastrophic plague of storms and wildfires.

No doubt it was the messianic zeal of the former PM’s rhetoric that made his sudden vacation of the climate field, in April last year, quite so unsurvivable.

And his successor, Julia Gillard, has been inconsistent – first urging Mr Rudd to drop his climate plan, then throwing it back to the populace in the form of the short-lived “people’s assembly”, then promising not to enact a carbon tax, then deciding to go ahead with one anyway.

But in recent weeks, a new approach is emerging, and it’s one from which any notion of moral obligation has been carefully excised.

In the new Gillard formulation, action on climate change is no longer something to which Australia is morally obliged regardless of the behaviour of other nations; these days, it’s an economic race in which it would be perilous for Australia to fall behind.

“Hawke and Keating floated the dollar,” she told a CEDA lunch in Melbourne on Tuesday.

“We will price carbon.”

Greg Combet told The Age this morning that China and the United States were racing to build new low-carbon economies, and that Australia needed to keep up.

In both China and the United States, the argument from morality has also faltered; neither legislature has any intention of enacting externally-enforceable cuts to emissions, but markets in both countries are nonetheless creating a competitive demand for green technology.

And the Gillard Government has adjusted its pitch accordingly; it used to be that Australia was leading the world on climate change abatement because it was the moral thing to do.

Nowadays, the fear factor is not that your grandchildren will boil to death while snorkelling over the bleached skeleton of the Barrier Reef, but that the Australian economy will miss this chance for growth.

(Ironically, the reason you’re probably not hearing this message particularly clearly just now is that it’s perpetually interrupted by the flying debris and siren-wail of exactly the sorts of natural disasters that featured in Kevin Rudd’s Biblical prognostications. But that shouldn’t bother anyone; in Australia, we are accustomed to having a short memory about this sort of stuff. How else could we possibly, with a straight face, move so seamlessly from a near-apocalyptic national panic about water shortages to a tetchy exchange about why the hell nobody thought to build more dams for flood mitigation?)

Where does this shift leave the Opposition?

Well, in the sense that Julia Gillard has pared her approach back to the imposition of a simpler carbon price, it does permit Tony Abbott to keep his “Great Big New Tax” band together.

But Mr Abbott’s own plan on climate change, which the Coalition calls “Direct Action” but could well be subtitled “Fixing Climate Change While Still Reserving The Right For Half Of Us To Think It’s A Crock” – is itself still fairly confused.

And an approach that deliberately allows the market to find its own way around this problem is far harder for the Coalition to oppose than a Rudd sermon.

Annabel Crabb is ABC Online’s chief political writer.


Make No Mistake: Invest in Sustainability & Learn from Nature

Posted by admin on February 22, 2011
Posted under Express 137

Make No Mistake: Invest in Sustainability & Learn from Nature

With the world’s green economy worth UK£3,000 billion a year and growing fast, failing to invest in sustainability could be an expensive mistake. ‘Nature has lots of wonderful ways to renew itself. We can learn a lot from Nature, if we look hard enough, to find sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems,” said Singapore’s NTU President Professor Bertil Andersson, an internationally-renowned biochemist and pioneer in ‘artificial leaf’ technology, as the University sets up a new laboratory – the first in Asia – that aims to turn water into hydrogen fuel.



Straits Times (8 February 2011):

SCIENTISTS from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have set up a new laboratory – the first in Asia – that aims to turn water into hydrogen fuel.

The new Solar Fuels Laboratory at NTU aims to create efficient and sustainable sources of solar fuel by developing a device that can extract large amounts of hydrogen from water using sunlight.

The energy-producing ‘artificial leaf’ technology can reduce help to reduce dependence on crude oil when perfected, NTU added.

Current technology requires huge amounts of energy to draw small amounts of hydrogen from water which makes it commercially unviable.

NTU’s Solar Fuels Lab was officially opened by Professor Bertil Andersson, NTU’s President-Designate earlier this month. A seminar on solar fuel generation and artificial photosynthesis was also held in conjunction with the opening ceremony. The lab will be jointly managed by NTU’s School of Materials Science and Engineering and the Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N).

‘Nature has lots of wonderful ways to renew itself. We can learn a lot from Nature, if we look hard enough, to find sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems,” said Professor Andersson, himself an internationally-renowned biochemist and pioneer in ‘artificial leaf’ technology.


By Andrew Stone in the Daily Telegraph (3 February 2011):

As the low-carbon revolution gathers pace globally, Britain’s businesses have an unprecedented opportunity to profit from it. Already worth £3,000 billion annually, the world’s green economy is forecast to grow by a quarter over the next five years, outpacing overall growth.

The early pioneers of this green business revolution are already profiting from the move towards an economy less dependent on exploiting finite resources and which has less impact on our environment.

The global giant GE began exploiting the opportunities a more sustainable global economy presented some time ago through its Ecomagination initiative and is profiting from the move, said Mark Elborne, CEO & President of GE UK

“We’ve doubled our commitment in terms of investment, research and development and the revenues we wish to generate from these types of products. Between 2005 and 2010, our revenues in these sectors have grown from $10bn to $20bn.”

The UK is extremely well placed to profit from the green-growth revolution, said Mr Elborne. “The opportunity is enormous. When you look at the need for more efficient thermal generation, next-generation gas engines and turbines, the introduction of renewable energy, carbon capture and storage, the need for smarter use and distribution of energy and the arrival of electric vehicles, it adds up. If we need to deploy 20 million smart meters in the UK by 2020, for example, and it takes three hours to fit a meter, how many jobs is that going to create?”

But the green-growth revolution poses a threat too. Businesses, governments and societies that pursue old ways of thinking risk being left behind in the race for green growth, according to Ian Cheshire, group chief executive of the home improvement group Kingfisher, which has 840 stores in eight countries and sales of £10.5 billion.

The cost of energy together with the march of legislation is driving businesses to rethink they way they work, said Mr Cheshire. “All of us running businesses hope we have a sustainable model that will still be here in 30 years. But if you are using too many resources, that will come home to roost. A business model predicated on cheap oil, for instance, may not be around when crude hits $150 a barrel. And the landfill tax has prompted a whole new set of behaviours.”

Most business leaders see the sense in taking a longer-term view of their companies but circumstances often conspire to prevent them acting on this knowledge, said Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust.

“Decision makers in businesses often aren’t rewarded for being brave and visionary, but for being very good managers in the short term. Business leaders also see this change as risky but in fact it’s just the opposite. There’s a great risk for firms that try to cling to old business models and ways of doing things.”

Mr Cheshire agrees that the risks of not acting outweigh those of acting. “There are still some who regard sustainability as a bit of an add-on. That’s not surprising; there will be leaders and laggards in any change process. But the risk for people tackling environmental issues in a box-ticking way is that they will miss opportunities and that their customers will see them as hypocrites. I have sympathy for companies trying to get through a recession. But in western Europe, where the economy is sluggish and there’s pressure on spending, any area offering growth potential is hugely valuable.“

The emerging green economy should be one of Britain’s great areas of advantage, a global opportunity to create jobs. Green jobs are going to be fundamental to our recovery. China and the United States get it. Britain needs to be there, too.”

To achieve this transformation, business leaders must be courageous and cultivate a sense of mission that will drive green growth, said Mr Delay. “It is difficult to take bold decisions when cash is at such a premium and you may still be in survival mode but now is a good time for bold action.“

The British economy is not behaving as it would have done 10 years ago. A board that would have been sceptical about green growth 10 or even five years ago will probably listen and understand now.”

Mr Cheshire says putting sustainable business at the heart of your strategy can produce surprises. “We asked some bright managerial talents to look at the waste in our stores. I had hoped for a 30 per cent reduction target; they suggested 80 per cent.”

Even small start-ups are feeling the power that a sustainable mission has in attracting employees. Despite competing with global banks for scarce talent, the power software firm RLtec is finding recruits inspired by the potential of the firm’s software technology to make significant CO2 and cost cuts in Britain’s electricity grid. “We’ve been successful at recruiting highly skilled mathematicians because they want to work for a green company,” said Paul Lazarevic, managing director.

You don’t have to be GE to profit from a more sustainable vision and strategy, said Mr Elborne. “Whether you’re developing offshore wind turbines or considering changes in how you light your shop or factory, be confident in your ability to be adaptable.

“Time spent understanding the benefits of action and exploring the consequences of inaction will be money and time well spent. Don’t just stand there and say it doesn’t affect you because it does. There’s a strong consensus, and it’s growing, that this is something we need to do.”


WWF, Ecofys & Intel Point To A Clean Energy Future

Posted by admin on February 22, 2011
Posted under Express 137

WWF, Ecofys & Intel Point To A Clean Energy Future

All but five percent of the world’s energy needs could be met from renewable sources by 2050, a report by conservation group WWF and energy consultancy Ecofys showed early this month. Leading the way is Intel Corporation, the top purchaser of renewable energy in the US, according to a new ranking by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The California-based chipmaker – which has built nine solar plants in the U.S. and Israel – now gets about 88% of its electricity from renewable sources. Pictured is Intel Israel’s green data centre.

By Nina Chestney for Reuters (2 February 2011):

All but five percent of the world’s energy needs could be met from renewable sources by 2050, a report by conservation group WWF and energy consultancy Ecofys showed early this month.

In 2050, total energy demand could be 15 percent lower than in 2005 due to ambitious energy saving measures even though population, industrial output, freight and travel will increase, the report said.

Currently, more than 80 percent of global energy comes from fossil fuels but the report said nuclear power, fossil fuels and biomass could be almost entirely phased out by 2050.

To achieve this, building heating needs to be cut by at least 60 percent through energy efficiency, the use of solar power and geothermal heat.

Electricity grids need to be upgraded, smart grids installed and electric transport introduced on a large scale globally.

“Renewable energy and better grid interconnection with Europe has the potential to meet all of our energy needs in a very sustainable way,” said Nick Molho, head of energy policy at WWF-UK.

Financial incentives for renewable energy generation, such as feed-in tariffs, would play an important role.

Consumption of meat should be halved per person by 2050 in industrialized countries and increased by a quarter elsewhere, the report said.

The population should also cycle, walk, use more public transport and replace air travel with trains.

By 2050, 4 trillion euros ($5,588 billion) will be saved annually through energy efficiency and reduced fuel costs in a business-as-usual scenario, the report said.

However, capital expenditure will need to increase first to install renewable energy generating capacity, modernize electricity grids and improve energy efficiency.

This will grow over the next 25 years to about 3.5 trillion euros a year from 1 trillion euros. The investments would start to pay off in around 2040 when the savings start to outweigh the costs, the report said.

Europe will need to spend 2.9 trillion euros or 25 percent of the bloc’s annual gross domestic product over the next 10 years to satisfy demand for low-carbon technologies, a separate report by Accenture and Barclays Capital said this week.

Download the full report from


Pictured: Intel Israel recently dedicated the country’s most environmentally friendly office building in Haifa. Dubbed IDC9, the 11-story, $110 million data center facility now has a double distinction—it is Israel’s first LEED-certified green building and it has been awarded Gold, the second-highest rating in the LEED certification system.

By Yale Environment 360 (2 February 2011):

Intel Corporation remains the top purchaser of renewable energy in the U.S., nearly doubling the amount of green energy credits it will buy in 2011 to more than 2.5 billion kilowatt-hours – the equivalent of powering 218,000 American homes – according to a new ranking by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

With that increase, the California-based chipmaker – which has also built nine solar plants at its facilities in the U.S. and Israel – now gets about 88 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.

The retail chain, Kohl’s, which ranked second on the EPA’s list of the top 50 green energy buyers, now gets 100 percent of its electricity from green sources, purchasing more than 1.4 million kilowatt-hours annually.

The EPA works with more than 1,300 businesses and organizations through its Green Power Partnership to encourage the voluntary purchase of green energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the EPA, those partners are using about 19.2 billion kilowatt-hours of green energy each year. Intel’s purchase of renewable energy credits is the largest green power purchase to date in the EPA’s Green Power Partnership.

View the full list:


By The Hillsboro Argus (4 February 2011):

Intel may be blue, but they are definitely striving to go green.

Evidence of that is the growth of Intel’s commitment to solar power. Two 400 kW solar installations in Hillsboro, one at the Jones Farm campus and the other at the Ronler Acres campus, have just been energized. Each system consists of raised solar support structures.

The new solar installations supplement an $800,000 100 kW solar project on the roof of a Jones Farm Campus building that was energized in December 2008.

They also supplement six other just completed solar installations. Building on its existing portfolio of renewable energy site installations, Intel reported in January 2010 that new contracts were in place to incorporate approximately 2.8 megawatts worth of new solar power projects at eight U.S. locations in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Oregon.

The solar panels used in Oregon were manufactured by Evergreen Solar Inc. and installed by Solar City Inc. They were made at Evergreen’s flagship production facility in Devens, Mass. The installation consists of high quality String Ribbon solar panels offering exceptional performance, cost effective installation and industry-leading environmental credentials.

“We’re very excited about this project,” said Marty Sedler, Intel’s Director for Global Utilities and Infrastructure. “The solar installations are a big step for Intel and supplement efforts at other Intel sites around the world.”

Intel’s new solar installations reflect just the latest in Intel’s energy portfolio, which includes wind, solar, geo-thermal, small hydro-electric and biomass sources.

Intel Oregon, with 15,000 employees, is Intel’s largest site in the world and an anchor tenant of Oregon’s economy.


And here’s a report on Intel’s work in China:

Environmental Innovation. Energy-Efficient Performance.

“Consistent environmental commitment is a part of everything we do. The environment informs and drives our business from our Eco-smart product design to our environmental partnerships.
Intel complies with all environmental standards stipulated by Chinese law and regulations, and regularly solicits opinions from communities, local supervision institutions, suppliers, and users, to improve the Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) program.

Energy efficiency, outstanding performance, and innovative materials are all essential to Intel’s Eco-smart product designs. As part of our rigorous design process we evaluate material input and improve energy efficiency and performance.

In China, Intel delivers excellent energy-efficient performance and energy saving experience to consumers through technological innovations. Intel Core™ 2 Duo Processor enables home and business computers to save 1.6 billion kwh per year, which is equivalent to the power consumed by 400,000 ordinary Chinese families in one year.

At Intel, our commitment to continuous improvement is integrated into our programs, which are designed to drive more sustainable operations in our facilities. We encourage our employees to not only participate in but also create new Eco-focused programs.

In 2006, Intel’s assembly and testing facility in Pudong, Shanghai recovered more than 66.5% of the solid waste, reduced power consumption by 5 million kwhh, and enhanced the industrial water recycling rate by 15% per year over year through technique improvements. Meanwhile, Intel’s assembly and testing facility in Chengdu, constructed later, also recovered 46% of the solid waste.