Archive for the ‘Express 158’ Category

Island Airport Goes Solar & King Tide Beach Snaps Sea Level Rise

Posted by admin on January 4, 2012
Posted under Express 158

Island Airport Goes Solar & King Tide Beach Snaps Sea Level Rise

A Queensland government project, initiated by Green Cross Australia, is asking beach goers to take summer holiday beach snaps as a way of recording the impact of king tides, which can predict sea level rise. And the Micronesia island state of Palau has covered its airport car park with 1000 solar panels to generate 250 megawatt-hours of electricity annually and avoid about 80 tonnes of carbon emissions each year.

King tides predict climate change sea level rises

By Neroli Roocke ABC Rural News (27 December 2011):

A Queensland government project, initiated by Green Cross Australia, is interested in summer holiday beach photos taken around the time of king tides.

King tides are the highest tides of the year and one of the biggest is forecast for January – although already over Christmas an ex-tropical cyclone sitting almost 1,000 km off the east coast of Australia has pushed up swells as big as four metres.

Beaches from Fraser Island in Queensland to the south of New South Wales have had to be closed and there’s been erosion and some minor flooding as the water pushed inland.

David Robinson from the Queensland Centre for Climate Change Excellence wants to collect images of how high the seawater reaches in as many locations as possible.

“We know that the sea level is rising but it’s a little difficult to visualise and understand what that means,” he said.

“But if we take photographs of the big tides of the year, then this will give us an indication of what’s going to come in the future.”

“The king tides of today will become the everyday tides of the future.”

Similar photographic studies have been undertaken in New South Wales, California in the US and Canada.

Photos can be uploaded to and they will go towards an interactive map.


Palau enters race against climate change

ABC Asia Pacific News (28 December 2011):

The roof of Palau airport’s carpark is covered in more than 1,000 solar panels.

Palau has entered the global campaign to tackle climate change by covering its airport carpark in solar roof panels to reduce the facility’s carbon footprint.

More than 1,000 solar panels have been installed, producing an estimated 250 megawatt-hours of electricity annually.

The project is expected to avoid about 80 tonnes of carbon emissions each year.

The minister for Public Infrastructure, Industries, and Commerce, Jackson R. Ngiraingas said the panels would help reduce the country’s reliance on expensive, imported fossil fuels by 2030.

“Our country is very environmentally conscious,” Mr Ngiraingas told Pacific Beat.

“The window of change has begun in which most countries are becoming aware of climate change.”

Palau says the project was funded by a Japanese aid grant.

Solar panels have also been rigged in the country’s main hospital parking lot along with three government buildings.

Mr Ngiraingas said the solar panels are multi-purposed as they also provide shelter for parked cars.

“It’s a blessing in disguise,” he said.

“People park their cars in the area, and at the same time in the sunshine it provides shade for the cars and even when it rains it acts as an umbrella.”

Palau, officially the Republic of Palau, is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, 800 km east of the Philippines and 3,200 km south of Tokyo.

In 1978, after three decades as being part of the United Nations trusteeship, Palau chose independence instead of becoming part of the Federated States of Micronesia, a Compact of Free Association was approved in 1986 but not ratified until 1993. It was put into force the following year, making it one of the world’s youngest and smallest sovereign states.


It’s Getting a Lot Easier to be Green: Good Product News for 2012

Posted by admin on January 4, 2012
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It’s Getting a Lot Easier to be Green: Good Product News for 2012

Business and product announcements to cheer about: the world’s most fuel-efficient hybrid car is ready to go; there’s a new way to store energy that outperforms most batteries and is much cheaper to produce; and technology exists to generate electricity by turning shredded paper into sugar which in turn is used as fuel. Meanwhile, in the US incandescent light bulbs are finally on their way out. They will be phased out in 2012 and all light bulbs will be required to meet new energy efficiency standards.

From Reuters (26 December 2011):

Toyota Motor Corp launched the world’s most fuel-efficient hybrid car, as the company looks to fight off competition from pure electric vehicles.

The compact car, dubbed ‘Aqua’ in Japan and the ‘Prius C’ overseas, has a listed fuel efficiency of 35.4 km/litre (83.3 mpg), beating the current top Prius, which gets 32 km/litre.

Rivals Nissan Motor Co and General Motors Co are seeking to share the green limelight with their Leaf and Chevrolet Volt electric cars, though sales volumes are expected to stay relatively low until the high price of batteries comes down significantly.

Toyota is aiming for monthly Aqua sales in Japan of 12,000 units, with a starting price of 1.69 million yen (US$21,600).

The Japanese automaker, which dominates the hybrid field, is aiming to launch about 10 new gasoline-electric models by 2015 and offer a fuel-sipping option across its entire line-up around 2020.

The firm last week forecast a 20 percent surge in 2012 sales as it recovers from the March earthquake in Japan and flooding in Thailand that hit production around the world.


Energy-store membrane better than batteries

Straits Times report (24 December 2011):

A team from the National University of Singapore’s Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Initiative has come up with a new way to store energy that outperforms most batteries.

That has important uses, especially for storing the energy produced by alternative technologies like solar and wind power.

The polystyrene-based polymer membrane (right) can store up to 0.2 farads (a unit of charge) per square centimetre when sandwiched between two metal plates, compared with a millionth of a farad for a standard capacitor.

And it is four to eight times as cheap as lithium-ion batteries. Most rechargeable batteries are based on liquid electrolytes, making them more expensive to produce and make larger.

The research, led by Dr Xie Xian Ning, was published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science and highlighted in Nature.


BBC News Technology (21 December 2011):

Sony has unveiled a paper-powered battery prototype in Japan.

The technology generates electricity by turning shredded paper into sugar which in turn is used as fuel.

If brought to market, the innovation could allow the public to top up the power of their mobile devices using waste material.

The team behind the project said such bio-batteries are environmentally friendly as they did not use harmful chemicals or metals.

The Japanese electronics giant showed off its invention at the Eco-Products exhibition in Tokyo last week.

Employees invited children to drop piece of paper and cardboard into a liquid made up of water and enzymes, and then to shake it. The equipment was connected to a small fan which began spinning a few minutes later.

The process works by using the enzyme cellulase to decompose the materials into glucose sugar. These were then combined with oxygen and further enzymes which turned the material into electrons and hydrogen ions.

The electrons were used by the battery to generate electricity. Water and the acid gluconolactone, which is commonly used in cosmetics, were created as by-products.

Researchers involved in the project likened the mechanism to the one used by white ants and termites to digest wood and turn it into energy.

Their work builds on a previous project in which they used fruit juice to power a Walkman music player.

“Using a ‘fuel’ as simple as old greetings cards – the sort of cards that millions of us will be receiving this Christmas – the bio battery can deliver enough energy to power a small fan,” said Yuichi Tokita, senior researcher at Sony’s Advanced Material Research Lab.

“Of course, this is still at the very early stages of its development, but when you imagine the possibilities that this technology could deliver, it becomes very exciting indeed.”


David Biello in Scientific American (1 January 2012):

Happy New Year! And welcome to the year of light…bulbs. Why you ask? Well, it’s not just because LEDs lit up the iconic New Year’s ball drop here in New York City again. No, it’s because this is the year that lighting will finally become more efficient.

The old, incandescent lightbulb turns 90 percent of the electricity it uses into heat rather than light. And in 2012, it will be phased out in the U.S.—or at least radically upgraded. Lightbulbs will be required to meet new energy efficiency standards. So the old 100-watt lightbulb will have to produce the same light using just 72 watts.

Lighting is the original killer app of modern energy—and one that the world continues to embrace. By adopting lighting technologies that use less energy the nations of the world will cut down on the fossil fuels, often coal, burned to produce that light.

So whether it’s new, long-lasting but expensive light-emitting diodes, the swirls of a compact fluorescent or just more efficient incandescents, 2012 will be the year that lighting’s environmental impact gets lighter.


Singapore: Is Energy Efficiency Enough to Achieve Emissions Cuts?

Posted by admin on January 4, 2012
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Singapore: Is Energy Efficiency Enough to Achieve Emissions Cuts?

Singapore is in danger of having a split personality when it comes to climate change mitigation and adaptation. It is torn between its twin interests as a small vulnerable island state and an economy that relies on energy-intensive industries such as petroleum refining. But serving as a role model means Singapore must shoulder some responsibilities, and tackling climate change is one of those responsibilities it must bear. Grace Chua reflecting in the Straits Times after attending the climate talks in Durban.

By Grace Chua in The Straits Times (22 December 2011):

The United Nations climate talks in Durban, South Africa, earlier this month resulted in what some have called ‘a plan to make a plan’: an agreement for all countries to negotiate a new regime of greenhouse gas emissions cuts by 2015 and have it take effect by 2020.

The current Kyoto Protocol was extended for another five-year commitment period, but it covers only developed nations.

What’s a developing country to do in this interim grey area? They could get some pointers from Singapore, perhaps.

Though the island state aligns itself with the Alliance of Small Island States and the developing world Group of 77 (G-77), which want the developed world to bear responsibility for the emissions it put into the atmosphere, it bears characteristics of both developed and developing countries.

Hence, the Republic serves as a model of how a relatively advanced economy could navigate the tricky shoals of climate change.

Singapore has close relationships with both Eastern and Western nations, and Asian countries in particular look to it on many counts. For example, it has collaborated with China on projects like the Suzhou industrial park and a planned eco-city in Tianjin.

But the implication is that serving as a role model means Singapore must shoulder some responsibilities, and tackling climate change is one of those responsibilities it must bear.

Singapore’s stance is: It is keen on a binding agreement that all countries adhere to, according to their respective responsibilities and capabilities.

Singapore Environment Council executive director Jose Raymond commented: ‘As a small island state, Singapore certainly has a vested interest in a legally binding deal being reached as soon as possible.

‘The longer it takes, the greater our vulnerability to climate change, and the greater our investment in mitigation and adaptation measures will be,’ he said.

But torn between its twin interests as a small vulnerable island state and an economy that relies on energy-intensive industries such as petroleum refining, it can be a little split personality.

Arguably, it is not absolutely necessary for Singapore to go any greener.

Compare cutting emissions with the case of electricity. Electricity is not subsidised here, to encourage people to use less. But for many residents middle-class and up, electricity is a small proportion of overall costs, compared with the overall benefit they derive from running the air-conditioner and the computer 24/7.

Likewise, Singapore now has such a high gross domestic product – US$43,867 (S$56,800) per capita – that adapting to the impact of climate change would be a small proportion of overall costs, compared with the potential short-term benefit of continuing to produce carbon emissions by encouraging consumption and industrial growth.

At the same time, Singapore is not sitting around waiting for a real deal, so to speak, before it starts cleaning house. In 2009, it announced it would cut emissions by 7 per cent to 11 per cent by 2020 if no global, binding deal was reached, and by 16 per cent if one was.

Already, other emerging economies that have grown very fast in the past few decades – such as South Korea and China – are adopting similar voluntary targets.

Singapore’s targets are down from the ‘business as usual’ case – in other words, if it continued on the growth trajectory it was on. If no changes were made, Singapore was predicted to have reached some 72 million tonnes of emissions by 2020.

It is aware it will have to pay for adaptation measures anyway, and has already raised minimum levels for land reclamation and new building platforms.

But the crux of the matter is that Singapore’s current energy demand outstrips its current alternative energy supply.

With constant cloud cover and intermittent wind, Singapore is not able to take full advantage of alternative energy sources like solar and wind power.

So it must rely on energy efficiency to achieve those cuts, and has put a new Energy Conservation Act up for discussion, meant to rein in large energy users. (In fact, this is an important symbolic shift, signifying a willingness to use the law instead of simply offering energy users monetary incentives to improve.)

But energy efficiency goes only so far.

That’s why Singapore is genuinely concerned about meeting more stringent binding targets, if in future, all countries must limit their emissions.

Speaking to The Straits Times after the UN talks, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan acknowledged that Singapore might have to purchase carbon offsets one day, depending on how future negotiations go.

Still, Singapore could do more to go green systematically – for example, taxing cars by emissions instead of fuel type, truly supporting the use of public transport and cycling, or offering tax incentives to cleaner and more energy-efficient firms.

That suggests one way to be a role model. The Republic is an emerging economy, which has grown very fast in a few short decades, and countries like China and Thailand are on a similar trajectory (and so are their carbon emissions). While the island state taking the plunge will not transform the world’s climate, it can, by its own action yet, nudge such emerging economies towards deeper, binding targets.

This is not to single Singapore out.

Many countries at the negotiations were also loath to commit to internationally binding, absolute targets, even though they had passed domestic legislation to trim emissions.

With its energy performance requirements and green building legislation, Singapore is already on something approaching the right track.

But now it needs to take the lead and make the difficult decision on how much further to go.


Top 10 Clean Energy Stories of 2011

Posted by admin on January 4, 2012
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Top 10 Clean Energy Stories of 2011

The clean energy stunner of 2011, according to Stephen Lacey in  was undoubtedly that renewable power tops fossil fuels for the first time: “Even with a severe financial crisis in Europe and the continued malaise in the US, renewable energy surpassed fossil fuels for the first time in new power-plant investments in 2011”. This is number one in the top ten clean energy stories of the past year.

By Stephen Lacey in (28 December 2011):

What an odd year. While businesses around the world were making record-level investments in renewables and efficiency, a growing number of conservative politicians and members of the American media punditry — lead by the outrageously ignorant “reporting” by Fox News — have been foolishly projecting (even cheering on) the demise of the sector.

Aside from the mind-boggling disparity between the science and politics of climate change, I’ve never seen such a large gap between perception and what’s actually happening on the ground.

Of course, we can’t ignore the enormous challenges — from cheap natural gas to relentless competition in manufacturing — that will lead to the death of many of the companies we know today. That is part of the natural (and sometimes violent) shakeout we can expect to see in years to come.

However, in order to cut through some of the recent political attacks, here are stories on the positive trends in clean energy. These are some of our favourites from the last year (with some of our best clean energy charts of the year):

1. Clean energy stunner: Renewable power tops fossil fuels for the first time.

Even with a severe financial crisis in Europe and the continued malaise in the U.S., renewable energy surpassed fossil fuels for the first time in new power-plant investments in 2011.

2. Solar is ready now: “Ferocious cost reductions” make solar PV competitive.

This great series of charts shows just how cost-competitive solar photovoltaics have become with new coal and nuclear plants in the U.S.

3. Regional greenhouse gas initiative (RGGI) adds 16,000 jobs and $1.6 billion in value to Northeast economies.

While RGGI was being implemented, conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity claimed the regional cap-and-trade program would drive rates up 90 percent. An independent analysis shows that after three years, the program has set a course for $1.2 billion in ratepayer savings.

4. Pension funds and big companies to invest over $1.6 billion in energy efficiency projects.

This year saw a couple record-setting, private-sector investments in efficiency, proving once again that the biggest companies in the world see enormous value in reducing energy.

5. Google map reveals massive geothermal potential nationwide, “effectively an unlimited supply,” says Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

The geothermal industry has had its share of troubles financing and building projects in the last couple of years. But a new Google-funded map shows that technically exploitable geothermal resources in the U.S. are equivalent to 10 times our current coal capacity.

6. Green jobs reach 2.7 million: The “clean economy” starts delivering on its promise of high-wage jobs.

Despite what we hear from politicians who call green jobs “progaganda,” a Brookings Institute report released this summer showed “torrid” growth in high-paying, export-heavy green jobs around the U.S.

7. Google phases out clean energy R&D in favor of deployment, citing the “compelling” cost reductions in solar PV.

With over $915 million in clean energy investments to date, Google is emerging as one of the leading players in renewables and efficiency. In order to make a more immediate impact on the market, the tech giant has switched its focus from R&D to deployment.

8. Solar stunner: America is a $1.9 billion exporter of solar products.

With a high-profile trade war against the Chinese brewing in the solar market, it’s often forgotten that the U.S. is actually a net exporter of solar products to China and the rest of the world. With 73 cents out of every dollar spent on a solar installation staying within the U.S., this sector is providing immense domestic value.

9. What free market? Subsidies have always been a big part of energy industry.

Opponents of strategic government investments in clean energy seem to forget the past. A report on historic government investments showed that the federal commitment to oil and gas was five times greater than the commitment to renewables during the first 15 years of a subsidy’s life.

10. Polling reveals that being anti-clean energy is bad politics.

Anyone watching the presidential primaries has seen an astonishing reversal from candidates on climate science and support of clean energy. It turns out that negative rhetoric can actually have negative consequences for candidates.

Stephen Lacey is a reporter with Climate Progress covering clean energy issues. He formerly worked as a producer/editor at


Unsustainable Energy & Food Policies Collide with Global Warming

Posted by admin on January 4, 2012
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Unsustainable Energy & Food Policies Collide with Global Warming

In a year of big climate news and events, Joe Romm in Climate Progress says the climate story that affects the most people around the world today by far is the one from Oxfam that “extreme weather has helped push tens of millions into hunger and poverty in grim foretaste of warmed world”.  And the energy story with the biggest climate implication was clearly Fukushima.

Climate Progress had been covering those who have been warning the day would come when humanity’s unsustainable energy and agricultural policies would collide with global warming

By Joe Romm in Climate Progress (21 December 2011):

This year has seen a great many important climate stories.  Obviously, the continued self-destructive failure of the nation and the world to reverse greenhouse gas emission trends always deserve to be the top story in some sense:

  • Biggest Jump Ever in Global Warming Pollution in 2010, Chinese CO2 Emissions Now Exceed U.S.’s By 50%
  • IEA’s Bombshell Warning: We’re Headed Toward 11°F Global Warming and “Delaying Action Is a False Economy”
  • The emergence of a genuine grassroots movement following Obama’s fecklessness on the environment is a major U.S. story (see “A Climate Movement Is Born: Ozone Decision Spikes Total Arrests to 1,252 at White House Pipeline Protest“).

And the energy story with the biggest climate implication was clearly Fukushima:

  • Japan scraps plan for 14 new nuclear plants

No nukes, No problem. Germany is proving a rapid transition to renewable energy is possible:

“Within four decades, one of the world’s leading economies will be powered almost entirely by wind, solar, biomass, hydro, and geothermal power.”

But the climate story that affects the most people around the world today by far is well described in this post —

Oxfam: Extreme Weather Has Helped Push Tens of Millions into “Hunger and Poverty” in “Grim Foretaste” of Warmed World.

Climate Progress had been covering those who have been warning the day would come when humanity’s unsustainable energy and agricultural policies would collide with global warming, who warned that the agricultural system we need to feed the world was built on a relatively stable climate that we are now destroying.

Lester Brown has been our Paul Revere on food insecurity (see the 2009 post Scientific American asks “Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization?”).

We covered the emergence of this story last year:

The Coming Food Crisis: Global food security is stretched to the breaking point, and Russia’s fires and Pakistan’s floods are making a bad situation worse; Podesta, Caldwell: “Lasting gains in agricultural productivity will require … action to confront climate change.”

But CP really dug in to this story starting in January, when food prices soared — see Extreme weather events help drive food prices to record highs — and I had lunch with Brown (see Washington Post, Lester Brown explain how extreme weather, climate change drive record food prices).

Brown’s work persuaded me that genuinely destabilizing food insecurity may occur as soon as this decade — assuming 1 billion undernourished people isn’t already a crisis.  So I decided to add a new category, “food insecurity,” and began a series of posts on food insecurity and the threat of Dust-Bowlification, which ultimately led the journal Nature to ask me to make the case that this was the gravest threat to humanity posed by climate change.  As my piece concluded:

“Feeding some 9 billion people by mid-century in the face of a rapidly worsening climate may well be the greatest challenge the human race has ever faced.”

Of course, it’s not just climate change that is driving food insecurity.  We have an “unsustainable surge in demand and not just ‘peak oil’, but ‘peak everything’,” as uber-hedge fund manager Jeremy Grantham, a self-described “die hard contrarian,” put it in a must-read analysis (see  “Time to Wake Up: Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever”).

Summary of the Summary:  The world is using up its natural resources at an alarming rate, and this has caused a permanent shift in their value.  We all need to adjust our behaviour to this new environment. It would help if we did it quickly.

And we have a grotesquely unsustainable biofuels policy, as CP has long argued:

  • The Corn Ultimatum: How long can Americans keep burning one sixth the world’s corn supply in our cars? Bill Clinton warns: Too much ethanol could lead to food riots
  • Biofuels May Push 120 Million Into Hunger, Qatar’s Shah Says: “The era of low food prices … is over.”
  • The Fuel on the Hill
  • More Corn is Used For Ethanol in U.S. Than For Food or Feed — The Top Five Reasons We Should Stop This Madness
  • Food-Based Biofuels Are Helping Drive Up Food Prices

But it is climate change that threatens to turn large parts of the habited and arable land of the nation and the world into Dust Bowls, while at the same time driving extreme weather — heat waves and floods — that wreak havoc with crops around the world.

Lester Brown and Oxfam have been doing great work bringing attention to this issue.  And a number of reporters have been doing a good job of covering this story, notably the NY Times climate reporter, Justin Gillis.

And the scientific literature on the connection between global warming and extreme weather exploded this year:

  • Two seminal Nature papers join growing body of evidence that human emissions fuel extreme weather, flooding that harm humans and the environment
  • Study Finds 80% Chance Russia’s 2010 July Heat Record Would Not Have Occurred Without Climate Warming
  • NOAA Bombshell: Human-Caused Climate Change Already a Major Factor in More Frequent Mediterranean Droughts

My best effort to clearly lay out the problem is the Nature piece.  It had the benefit of multiple reviews by their editors, and I also got comments from five of the world’s leading authorities on climate change and drought and the hydrological cycle:  Kevin Trenberth, Aiguo Dai, Michael Mann, Peter Gleick and Jonathan Overpeck.


Airlines Want Global Carbon Pact, But Not Yet

Posted by admin on January 4, 2012
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Airlines Want Global Carbon Pact, But Not Yet

As the New Year begins, airlines will have to start buying carbon credits to pay for carbon emitted during all flights into and out of Europe, in a move that the EU hopes will cut the sector’s environmental impact and boost investment in green technology. EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard has urged aviation companies to invest in more efficient engines and cleaner fuels, such as biofuels, which will also help reduce their fuel costs in the long run.

Carriers will have to buy permits for every tonne of CO2 emitted on flights into and out of EU airports

By Will Nichols in Business Green (29 December 2011):

Airlines will have to start buying carbon credits to pay for carbon emitted during all flights into and out of Europe from next week, in a move that the EU hopes will cut the sector’s environmental impact and boost investment in green technology.

Carriers will join power plants and factories in the emissions trading scheme (ETS), although permits will not have to be handed over until 2013.

Branson predicts aviation could be among ‘cleanest’ industries within 10 years

The scheme started on schedule after surviving a legal challenge by trade organisation Airlines for America (A4A), formerly known as the Air Transport Association of America, as well as American Airlines and United Continental.

The airlines had argued that forcing non-EU carriers to abide by the rules breached international aviation agreements and constituted an unlawful tax, but this was dismissed first by Advocate General Juliane Kokott, an adviser to the European Court of Justice, and subsequently by the court itself.

Huge pressure has been heaped on the EU to soften its stance and exempt airlines from outside its borders from the ETS.

But the European Commission has maintained that, as the preferred option of a global carbon pricing mechanism managed through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has not been forthcoming, action must be taken at a regional level.

Aviation accounts for around three per cent of global emissions, but green campaigners predict this to rise significantly as other sectors decarbonise.

The ICAO has delivered non-binding commitments to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5 per cent annually to 2020, cap net emissions from that date, and cut net emissions in half by 2050, but has failed to deliver the binding regulations the EU wants to see.

Campaigners say the move to put a price on aviation emissions on flights into and out of the EU could save around 183 million tonnes of CO2 each year by 2020.

They have also dismissed industry warnings that fares will skyrocket as a result of emissions trading.

Pamela Campos, an attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund, said passengers could expect between €0.5 and just under €3 to be added to ticket prices as a direct consequence of emissions trading.

However, UK fares are likely to see an additional rise owing to Air Passenger Duty, which will increase eight per cent in April.

Bill Hemmings, programme manager at Brussels-based campaign group Transport & Environment, also dismissed airlines’ claims that emissions trading will cost upwards of €10bn by 2020.

“The fact that airlines are getting 85 per cent [of the permits they need in the first year] free looks like they’re in a good position to make windfall profits,” he told reporters on a telephone conference call.

EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard has urged aviation companies to invest in more efficient engines and cleaner fuels, such as biofuels, which will also help reduce their fuel costs in the long run.

Many green campaigners are wary of biofuels, saying they compete with food crops for land, a problem that would be exacerbated by increased biofuel demand from the aviation industry.

However, advocates have argued that the sector will never fully rely on biofuels to decarbonise and that the fuels likely to be scaled up are second-generation biofuels, variously derived from waste, algae and industrial gases. Several leading airlines, including Virgin, KLM, Lufthansa and Qantas, have already tested such fuels.

It is also hoped that any increase in airline fares that results from the ETS will incentivise more people to switch to alternatives, such as rail or video conferencing.

However, opposition to the EU scheme remains intense, despite the European Court of Justice ruling. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has written to EU commissioners warning that the US will take “appropriate action” if Brussels does not halt or delay emissions trading, while a bill introduced to the Senate in December would prevent US airlines from complying.

Chinese carriers have also threatened legal action, while there are rumblings of discontent even among European carriers which are fearful of a trade war.

“We won’t get agreement on a global approach if states are throwing rocks at each other because Europe wants to act extra-territorially,” said Tony Tyler, director general and chief executive of the International Air Transport Association, after the court decision.

“Europe should take credit for raising the issue of aviation and climate change on the global agenda. But what is needed now is for Europe to work with the rest of the world through ICAO to achieve a global solution.”

The prospect of more regional legislation has also been raised by a case in the US in which a group of organisations led by the Center for Biological Diversity is trying to force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set efficiency standards for jet engines.

The group’s contention that the EPA has a responsibility under the Clean Air Act to examine whether aviation emissions are detrimental to public health was upheld by a judge in July.

The EPA has been instructed to respond by February, but is likely to seek a delay in line with its previous record of postponing regulations on emissions from power plants and smog. However, if the decision is not overturned, it will have to investigate the potential for aviation emission regulations.

If the inclusion of the aviation in the ETS proves successful it could pave the way for the shipping industry to be incorporated into the scheme. Shipping has tended to make more progress in promoting efficiency improvements than aviation, but the EU has similarly threatened to bring the industry into the scheme if a global regime for cutting emissions is not enforced.


Nothing Silly about this Season

Posted by admin on January 4, 2012
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We used to call this the silly season. When journalists around the world would fill the void left by the lack of business and political news with unusual or human interest stories. Some of the articles in this issue – the first for 2012 – would be silly, if they weren’t deadly serious. Nothing like starting the New Year on the right foot – with 20 plus items of interest – as it does promise to be an eventful year and hopefully a more sustainable one with a promise of better – and greener – things to come. New Yorkers got a good start to the year when the iconic New Year’s Eve Ball was illuminated – for a change – with thousands of LED energy saving lights and it was human power from the Duracell Smart Power Lab which charged up the batteries to light up the 2-0-1-1 sign. Philippines had a wet start to the year after weeks of devastating floods, but help is at hand and hopefully a change to the damaging logging practices which reputedly aggravated the floods. We have for you the top climate stories of 2011 and the best of clean energy innovations. Some good news on inventions as well as news about chocolate, endangered species, coal mining’s demise, king tide impacts, Nepal’s glacier lakes, Hawaii’s energy advances,  Palau Island’s solar airport, Europe’s aviation emission tax and  Google’s greener data centre. Reports from Sydney that free range eggs are not all they’re cracked up to be and wind farms are getting opposition from influential quarters. Japan is under fire for its whale meat hunger and poor nuclear power management. Maria Adebowale of Capacity Global is in the spotlight. Did you know that 2012 is the UN’s designated Year of Sustainable Energy for All or that there’s a fear that climate change journalists are a dying breed? And to show we’re not taking things lying down, we have the last word to tell you what were top reads of 2011 and what’s in store for 2012. Hope springs eternal. – Ken Hickson

Illegal Logging in Sensitive Watershed Areas

Posted by admin on January 4, 2012
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Illegal Logging in Sensitive Watershed Areas

Logging is emerging as a major culprit behind the flood disaster that killed at least 1,257 people in the southern Philippines. As Philippine President Benigno Aquino earmarks 1.6 billion pesos (S$47.4 million) for the acquisition of new technology for more accurate weather and disaster information, the World Bank releases US$500 million (S$650 million) to help with the recovery and reconstruction efforts in the Philippines.

Aquino to put $47m in weather technology

Straits Times (31 December 2011):

MANILA: Philippine President Benigno Aquino has directed his office to release 1.6 billion pesos (S$47.4 million) for the acquisition of new technology for more accurate weather and disaster information, following the destructive tropical storm Washi that struck the country recently.

The World Bank has also released US$500 million (S$650 million) to help with the recovery and reconstruction efforts in the Philippines, Xinhua news agency reported yesterday.

Relief operations are continuing in the south of the country, where Singapore’s Mercy Relief and Red Cross are among those bringing relief to thousands of homeless victims.

Mercy Relief has been aiding affected communities through a food and water programme in Barangay Consolacion, Cagayan de Oro city, while the Singapore Red Cross (SRC) has dispatched a second team to distribute relief items to shelters in the city.

The $12,000 five-day programme by Mercy Relief, comprising 500 packs of freshly cooked food and bottled water daily, will run till tomorrow. The group is also procuring 200 sets of tarpaulins for affected families to help ease overcrowding at the shelters.

Mercy Relief is conducting fund raising in Singapore until Jan 15 to help support the relief efforts. The public can call 6332-6320 for more information.

A second team from SRC has distributed $200,000 worth of relief items donated by people in Singapore to the 47 relief centres in Cagayan de Oro. The items in the ‘Family Christmas Pack’ include food, clothing, blankets and school supplies. More than 12,000 displaced families are housed in the centres.

The Philippine Star newspaper reported yesterday that the homeless living in relief centres in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan may find themselves displaced a second time when schools reopen next Tuesday.

The Department of Education reportedly rejected appeals from local governments to extend the use of classrooms as temporary shelters for evacuees until February.

As a result, those in charge of relief efforts have begun building ‘tent cities’- clusters of hundreds of tents in which an estimated 2,580 families will be staying over the next few months before their new permanent homes are constructed, the newspaper quoted Mr Rey Magbanua, response manager for Humanitarian Response Consortium as saying.



Logging in spotlight after Philippines flood tragedy

It is emerging as major culprit behind disaster that killed over 1,200

Alastair McIndoe in Straits Times (31 December 2011):

MANILA: Logging is emerging as a major culprit behind the flood disaster that killed at least 1,257 people in the southern Philippines.

In a country highly prone to natural disasters, the loss of vast areas of protective forest cover in uplands and watersheds has long put communities at risk from flash floods and landslides triggered by pounding seasonal rains.

In the aftermath of the catastrophic floods in two coastal cities on Mindanao island on Dec 17, a nationwide logging ban ordered by President Benigno Aquino 11 months ago to help prevent such disasters from recurring is under the spotlight.

Environment officials admitted this week that the logging ban had not been enforced in a politically volatile part of Mindanao that has been hard to govern.

An investigation is now under way to determine whether ongoing logging there contributed to the flood damage unleashed by tropical storm Washi.

But the region already has some of the country’s most depleted forests, said Forest Management Bureau assistant director Nonito Tamayo.

Aerial footage of Ligan City’s shoreline taken days after the storm shows a thick carpet of logs and other debris washed down from swollen river systems.

Officials believe the logs came from nearby Lanao del Sur province in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The logging ban was ignored because the four-million population in ARMM had its own environmental authority.

‘That was the problem,’ Environment Secretary Ramon Paje told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. ‘When the President declared a total log ban, they were not sold on the idea. So logging in the ARMM was allowed and above that, there was illegal logging.’

President Aquino has ordered ARMM governor Mujiv Hataman – who has been just days in the job – to enforce the ban and crack down on illegal logging.

It is a tough assignment. This corner of the Philippines has a notorious reputation for lawlessness – a legacy of decades of insurgency, warlordism and a high incidence of poverty.

And because of security concerns, the ARMM still has not been fully mapped for geo-hazards, said the government’s geological survey chief Sevillo David.

All the same, its new governor swiftly sacked a senior environment officer – and has said that more heads will roll – after uncovering evidence of continued logging in a sensitive watershed area feeding Mindanao’s main river system.

Government data shows the ARMM has only around 250,000ha of forest cover left. ‘That’s small considering the size of the region,’ said Mr Tamayo.

The national picture is just as bleak.

Decades of rampant logging – and often illegal – have reduced the country’s natural forest cover from 80 per cent at the turn of the 20th century to 24 per cent today, leaving just over 7 million ha of forest. The perils of tree-thin uplands were devastatingly exposed in 1991 by flash floods which killed more than 6,000 people in the central Philippine city of Ormoc. The debris flushed down a mountainside included hundreds of logs and shipping containers of cut timber.

After years of ineffective campaigns against illegal logging, there are some signs that the government’s logging ban is not merely another exercise in good intentions but with weak implementation.

According to the environment department, 450 cases of illegal logging have been brought to court since the ban, and there have been 72 convictions. Mr Paje said that turning the President’s executive order into legislation would give the logging ban ‘more teeth’ and ensure that it remains in force after his term in office.

The only legal sources of timber are now from commercial plantations, which cover 330,000ha, and imports. Senator Loren Legarda, an environmental crusader, wants the logging ban to last 25 years.

The administration also plans to plant 1.6 billion indigenous trees on 1.5 million ha of forest-depleted land between this year and 2016. Under the programme, 100,000ha was targeted for this year, which Mr Tamayo says was met.

The goal for next year is 200,000ha, and 300,000ha for each of the following three years.

Among those helping are the nation’s schoolchildren. Those in state education are each required to plant 10 seedlings a year. Mining firms must plant 100 trees for every one they displace.

As for the logs recovered from Washi’s disaster zone, they will be used to repair damaged schools. Classes resume on Jan 3 and in the city of Cagayan de Oro alone, some 406 classrooms need repairing.


Profile: Maria Adebowale

Posted by admin on January 4, 2012
Posted under Express 158

Profile: Maria Adebowale

Businesses that put people and the planet before profit are more likely to make it through the tough times, says Maria Adebowale, founder of Capacity Global, a UK think tank and social enterprise working on environmental justice. While not predicting the clinking of celebratory glasses in the corridors of most small sustainable businesses, she is willing to bet that sustainability will stay at top of their agenda.

Maria Adebowale for the Guardian Professional Network  (28 December 2011):

Sustainable companies see profit as a means to an end, not the end in itself.

Common themes run in conversations with partner organisations and friends running small-scale businesses in the third and social enterprise sectors. These are: the loss of contracts and funding, the eating up of reserves, which, in the worst scenario equals a further loss of staff, and the end of projects that support local engagement and environmental improvements in some of the most vulnerable neighbourhoods.

Based on these conversations, the potential collapse of the Eurozone and shadowy second dip recession, predicting the future for sustainable business in 2012 could be a pretty depressing task. It certainly doesn’t feel like it’s time to toast to a bright new year. But there is a case for dogged optimism.

My guess is business that is not centred around profit will slog through the hard times fully committed to the triple bottom line: people, profit and planet. That means continuing to allocate resources: money or time to reducing carbon footprint, supporting sustainable behaviour change, whilst actively working with poorer communities – economic down turn or not.

This is down to a fundamental principle of authentic sustainable business. Profit is a means to an end not the end in itself. Austerity can hinder the time it takes or how much can be done but despite this the commitment to social and environmental change stays at the heart of a holistic business.

The slightly rosier scenario is that smaller businesses that aren’t only there for profit, will get far more canny at reducing spend and pooling resources to deliver as part of cross sector consortiums to maintain cash flow and deliver on their organisation’s cause.

This does not mean that there will not be fewer projects and services needed to support community asset building or environmental protection nor does it mean that balancing priorities won’t create numerous challenges. And frustratingly it doesn’t even mean that some good sustainable businesses won’t really struggle and possibly fail.

So I am not predicting the clinking of celebratory glasses in the corridors of most small sustainable businesses but I am willing to bet that sustainability will stay at top of their agenda next year, and the next.

Maria Adebowale is director and founder of Capacity Global, a think tank and social enterprise working on environmental justice and a member of the Guardian Sustainable Business Advisory Panel.

Capacity Global is the only non-governmental organisation and think tank in the UK focusing on urban environmental justice and equality, and the first national environmental organisation to be awarded the Social Enterprise Mark for its economic, social and environment aims.

Maria has a degree in Organisation Studies and Business Law and a Masters in Public International Law (human rights and environmental law) and is the author of the Third Sector Climate Change Declaration.

Maria advises on advises on environmental justice and is currently working on the challenges of climate change, transport and food security on urban regeneration and environmental justice. She is also listed as one of the most influential environmentalists for her contribution to the environmental and social justice agenda.


The last word: Scoring 2011 Issues and Committing to 2012 Opportunities

Posted by admin on January 4, 2012
Posted under Express 158

The last word:

Scoring 2011 Issues and Committing to 2012 Opportunities

Trolling through the reports and past issues, we find some interesting results…and we tell you what was the most read/opened edition of abc carbon express the year past.  What item/article did more of you read than anything else?  Who was the most popular profiled personality of the year? And what was the single or recurring topic  which generated the most interest from readers? Interestingly, you seem to be keener on good news – scientific discoveries,  inventions and  innovations – than reports of bad things happening around us, even though we have consistently reported on the disasters which have befallen us.  For this and more – including some of our predictions, or more accurately, commitments for 2012 – Read More

The first edition of 2011, number 134, was actually the one edition of abc carbon express which produced the highest percentage of readers – those who opened and clicked on more articles than any issues which followed. The best read article then was one about “Where there’s sun there’s power to burn or store”. A good way to start the year.

But the one single article/item which elicited the best response all year was when we reported on the 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders and listed the chosen ones. That was issue number 150, which came out in August. Naturally enough, many of our readers were among top 100 – as you would expect – but looking for who’s there and who’s not, obviously created unprecedented interest. We’ll do it again this year, of course. And expect to create just as much reader interest.

What is welcome news to us – as originators of the new global annual list – is that so many of the chosen few have decided to make known their selection, using it in media releases, websites and biographies. It is encouraging to know we are getting recognition – up with the Nobels and Oscars!

So what more can we tell you about your reading habits?

That the second most read single story of the year was the one entitled – “Sizing up innovations; a small solar charger and a floating solar island” – which appeared in issue number 155 and reported on the Third Wave Power’s MPowerPad and Singapore’s plans  to create an island covered in solar panels.

Who was the most popular of the people we profile in each issue?

Well, we have to announce a draw for this title of the year. Interface founder and business sustainability leader Ray Anderson – who we profiled only days before he sadly departed this earth to which he had contributed so generously – along with Cate Blanchett, who besides taking such a strong personal commitment to sustainable and green practices, has led the Sydney Theatre Company on that journey as well. She achieved added attention during the year for appearing in a climate change “pro carbon price” advertisement in Australia – consistent with her beliefs and practices, we must add – which drew criticism from some quarters.

The one subject or  issue which keeps cropping up and which seems to be of greatest interest to readers is solar power. We try, as we must, to give every subject and issue equal space. We have covered wave, tidal, hydro, wind, geothermal and all the clean energy options. We have also drawn attention to dirty coal, guzzling gas, greasy oil – not showing our bias of course! – but it is consistently solar which comes up tops. For us and our readers.

It has been a year of disasters and some of them at least have been quite directly attributable to a changing climate and the increase in extreme weather events we have come to expect more frequently.

What was reported as the worst flooding in Thailand for 50 years – or was it 100 years? – we can  now expect to see again and again. This is not just about extreme weather, but the changes man has made to the way we use our land and water. Will we continue to build on river plains?

And it points to how we must – before it is too late – start fully fledged adaptation processes. It goes without saying – but we will say it again and again – that the world has left it too late to seriously stop the climate from changing and going beyond the manageable level. So we have to get better prepared to face the consequences.

That means adapt to change, yes, but it also means we must get much better at managing disasters across borders. It is about time the UN or one of its international agencies, brought together all relevant NGOs, to form a genuine global task force to swing in to action with experts, food, water and rescue equipment.  And not wait until asked. It is amazing that this seems to happen more easily when it comes to peace-keeping or military operations, but more difficult to engineer when it comes to major weather or humanitarian disasters.

While we are on disasters, we must acknowledge the worst of 2012. Without a doubt, the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and consequent nuclear accident – a triple whammy – was worse than anyone could have expected. Even the normally very well organised Japanese were seemingly at a loss to comprehend it and manage it.

It did lead to some soul searching, both in terms of disaster management as well as the suitability of nuclear energy. It led Germany to say “no to nuclear” in its clean energy future and many other nations to question whether they should seriously consider nuclear options.

We must also draw attention to the earthquake which damaged Christchurch, New Zealand (a former home city of ours) so severely and produced serious losses of life, businesses and homes. While the number of fatalities was much less than similar sized geological events – Haiti for example – it has been a “disaster too far” which refuses to stop. Thousands of aftershocks have continued for months leaving citizens and businesses wondering how they can remain in a city subjected to an ongoing onslaught of danger and damage.

While we know we cannot connect earthquakes directly to climate change, we did run a report during the year which showed scientific evidence of geological changes to the earth from melting glaciers and rising sea levels. These could well increase. We have said ourselves that we cannot believe that taking so much out of the earth and seabed – oil, gas, coal, for example– and burning it, cannot have some unintended consequences.

More research is needed but so is the realisation that we must clean up our act and switch to a clean energy future which is sustainable and will allow us to live at peace with ourselves and maybe one day in the distant future expect less, not more, disasters.

Turning to a future closer to home, what are the professional and personal commitments – not resolutions! –I am prepared to make for 2012. Here’s a seven point plan:

  1. To grow the business of SASA – Sustain Ability Showcase Asia – in a sustainable way of course, by reaching out to more businesses – and Government agencies – not just in Singapore and Australia, but throughout Asia Pacific.  We can offer advisory services and provide direction. We can get more people and companies started on the sustainability journey. We can also do what we apparently do best – act as a matchmaker – by bringing together Governments, businesses, individuals, consultants and NGOs to work together to achieve so much more than is possible alone.
  2. To keep abc carbon express on track as a voice or mouthpiece for all organisations and businesses committed to doing something about climate change. Looking at  issues and opportunities. Highlighting developments from around the region and around the world in clean energy, clean tech, water, waste and carbon management, as well as promote energy efficiency and all sustainability measures for businesses, for countries, for homes and communities.
  3. To put renewed emphasis on making events more sustainable – in Singapore and elsewhere. We have started with our appointment as sustainability consultants for the big three week long lighting festival in Singapore in March – i Light Marina Bay. We have adopted an international standard for sustainable events, the same being utilised  for the London Olympics this year. All conference and exhibition organisers and venues need to get on board the sustainability journey.
  4. To broaden the appeal and client base of the communications consultancy we took over the management of in the later part of 2011. It will from now on be known as H2PC Asia, formerly Professional Public Relations Singapore and a member of the Racepoint Group.  We’ve started work for the National Environment Agency (NEA) and hope to see more business  in the clean energy and clean tech space, to complement our current client portfolio which includes investor relations and media relations, along with technology and telecomunications businesses.
  5. To put a higher value on time, a precious resource that disappears without trace!. That’s based on advice business friends have given me, as I apparently give of my time too freely! Of course, I will continue to support organisations like WWF and the Singapore Environment Council (SEC). And clients have no fear that I’m about to put up my rates. But I’m going to get better at managing my time and making sure everyone – including me – gets a better return on my investment of time.
  6. To get another book written and completed this year, marking as it does 50 years since I first started out in my journalism  career. A few have been awaiting a promised book of communications industry case studies for a long time and that could well be what it’s mostly about. Don’t expect a heavy tome like “The ABC of Carbon”, but a more sustainable, manageable size in print and digital form. Less said the better at this stage, except to say it’s underway.
  7. To go on a much talked-about, long-awaited trip to another distant continent. Business will be done, but we’ll squeeze in some leisure here and there of course. Catching up with old friends and seeing some places again – and some for the first time. Not a magical mystery tour, but a plan to take my dear wife on a much- desired and well-deserved journey.

So here’s to the year ahead: A good one all around. Busy, but rewarding. Happy, but not over-indulgent or wasteful. Sustainable, but never boring. Energetic, but well-managed.


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