Maybe it’s because I have been indulging in Serious Games – or more correctly helping promote games for good – as “gaming” goes beyond gambling and time-wasting pursuits. Maybe it is because the US Presidential election is happening right now and there are very serious issues – and opportunities – at stake. Maybe it is because of Sandy – the storm that literally took America by storm and might even have helped change attitudes to climate change’s impact on us all. Maybe it is just because sometimes we make light of things and it is time to take matters seriously. By the time you read this the US could have a new President or it could return Obama. If the latter – and it is one we openly hope for – maybe it will embolden the man to stand up for what we know he believes in and do more to move America – and the rest of the world – to a low carbon future that we can live with. We have it all in this issue. More important issues. More people who matter. And more thought provoking articles and ideas. Maybe we are on the right track. Seriously! – Ken Hickson
Archive for the ‘Express 178’ Category
A paradigm shift is needed in the way we define and measure sustainability – this according to Janis Birkeland, one of the 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders. In a world where sustainability is often seen as an economic conundrum, she presents a radical departure in the way we view our roles in creating an environment conducive to our lives, work, play and economy. Read more
By Tina Perinotto (12 October 2012):
Author and academic Janis Birkeland is quietly spoken, calm and with a soft delivery. It’s your brain that registers the shock, as the meaning of her words starts to rattle your preconceptions.
The message is astoundingly simple, as the best revolutionary ideas tend to be.
Birkeland is gentle at first and confirms something we all instinctively must have known – that the design of the built environment has the power to change the world.
But just in case we might feel a creeping sense of hubris, she soon adds: “Any social problems you have you can trace back to the design of cities and buildings.”
And many other problems besides.
In fact, “the only thing not made worse by the built environment are meteorites and volcanoes,” Birkeland says.
More provocatively, she points out that we should not fool ourselves – economic efficiency belongs in the economic bottom line, not the ecological.
And social sustainability that eventually pays for itself is another economic gain.
According to Birkeland sustainability has been corralled by everything that created the problem in the first place: payback periods, costs, a paradigm focused on negatives, and that the best we can do is to minimise these by concepts such as zero carbon.
“You can’t fix the thing by using the system that broke it in the first place”, Birkeland says.
Speaking to an audience at Customs House in Sydney last Thursday morning, Birkeland, who is professor of Architecture at Queensland University of Technology and professor of sustainable architecture at University of Auckland, had teamed with Caroline Pidcock, interim chair of the Living Futures Institute Australia, presenting on the theme of the positive development at an event organised by Mark Thomson for the Australian Green Development Forum.
In Birkeland’s view the topic is spot on. We need to rethink the sustainability agenda. The paradigm of sustainability is an impediment to sustainability.
Let’s not think of the built environment as a series of negatives we need to minimise, Birkeland says, let’s think of it for its potential to be a “positive contribution to our ecology”. Which, after all, is the thing that sustains our lives, our work, play and economy.
In Birkeland’s view the Brundtland Commission had the best of intentions, but strategically “it put us back into the economic paradigm”.
The problem is that after Brundtland everyone applied traditional tools and metrics to sustainability.
What tends to happen is that we allow things to happen because it’s under the economic efficiency line.
The solution, says Birkeland, is in design, which is too often seen as decoration, but is in fact a decision system.
“Design has caused a lot of our economic problems and it can create a lot of the economic solution.
“Everything traces back to systems design.”
The other answer is to measure the positive impact on the eco system. It’s possible and Birkeland has the model.
We hope to hear more from this radical thinker.
The recent hurricane Sandy that devastated north-east United States may be an indicator of what is to be expected in the new global climate norm. Coupled with the rising sea levels, coastal areas are facing an unprecedented threat, requiring extensive and expensive flood mitigation systems. Recognition of climate change and policies aimed at its mitigation will have to be at the front and centre of the incoming US administration. Read more
How Cities Plan to Keep the Sea at Bay in an Age of Climate Change
By Christopher F. Schuetze for New York Times (5 November 2012):
Hurricane Sandy was bad. Now imagine a near-future that is markedly worst, where storms are not only more vicious and more frequent, but ocean levels are higher too.
According to a team of experts in New York, coastal waters there are expected to rise some six inches per decade, rising at least two feet by the middle of the century, according to a report by my colleagues David W. Chen and Mireya Navarro.
Andrew C. Revkin extensively discusses on his Dot Earth blog how climate change affects heavy storm systems. He suggests that not only gradually and permanently rising seas are in our future, but more flooding caused by violent storms like Sandy.
On Tuesday, after New York City felt the full brunt of superstorm Sandy, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the state was considering a system of surge barriers and levee systems, David and Mireya report.
“We are only a few feet above sea level,” said Mr. Cuomo, pointing out that once water breaches the city’s defenses, subway tunnels, building foundations and underground infrastructure like parking garages are immediately faced with flooding — as thousands of New Yorkers who lost power, public transportation, basements and their cars experienced just the last week.
With the immediacy of a systemic, long-term threat far more apparent in the wake of the so-called Frankenstorm, New York officials — who had already discussed the threat posed by rising sea levels before Sandy — are joining a long list of experts and administrators who are seeking to protect their cities from the high waters associated with climate change.
This weekend, my colleague Alan Feuer reported on several flood-control plans for various parts of New York.
The physical barriers to the sea are estimated to cost around $10 billion.
If the city builds them, New York (once known as New Amsterdam) would be following in the footsteps of old Amsterdam, where parts of the city are up to 6.5 meters (21 feet) lower than the North Sea, thanks to an intricate and very expensive system of levees, polders and dams.
Taking the model of physical flood protection one step further, Venice, which for centuries has suffered the effects of Acqua Alta (high water), will inaugurate the Mose system in 2015. Named after the prophet Moses (Mose in Italian) who parted the seas, the €5.5-billion movable floodgate rises from the ocean floor with the help of compressed air when storm waters threaten
In his excellent article, Alan also cites a project for Lower Manhattan by Stephen Cassell and his firm, Architecture Research Office, that would not rely on physical barriers but would flood-proof the area, so that high water would do less damage.
Such a model is currently under discussion in Durban, South Africa, where the money to build expensive infrastructure to keep the sea at bay is much harder to come by than in comparatively wealthy New York.
As part of its plan for protection against increasing flooding, Durban is redrawing city districts and keeping city infrastructure away from areas that are at risk of flooding.
Mr. Cassell and Kate Orff, a landscape designer who has proposed a plan to protect the low-lying Red Hook and Gowanus neighborhoods in Brooklyn, also advocate natural biomass in the fight against rising seas. From marches and artificial islands to oysters, natural and active biomass has great potential to mitigate floods. Both New Orleans and Durban (among many other cities) are betting on nature to act as a natural sponge.
And while global models will be more attentively studied after last week’s disaster, some more ready solutions have been proposed. Home Land Security has developed, in conjunction with West Virginia University, ILC Dover and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, gigantic plugs that can, when filled with 35,000 gallons of water, plug subway tunnels to prevent flooding of the system.
Post-storm, climate change skeptics denying reality, say lawmakers, activists
By Dylan Stableford in Yahoo! News | The Lookout (31 October 2012):
Climate change doubters looking for proof of global warming can stop looking. That, at least, is what many lawmakers and activists are saying after last week’s deadly storm.
“There has been a series of extreme weather incidents,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday after assessing the catastrophic damage left in the superstorm’s wake. “That is not a political statement—that is a factual statement. Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think, is denying reality.
“There’s no such thing as a 100-year flood,” he continued. “We have a 100-year flood every two years now.”
Speaking on “Current TV,” former Vice President Al Gore said, “The storms are getting … stronger. The stronger storms are getting more frequent.”
Critical of members of Congress continuing to deny climate change, Gore said, “The temptation to create an alternative reality completely divorced from the facts is greater when money dominate politics and they convince themselves.”
Gore’s former boss, Bill Clinton, blasted former Gov. Mitt Romney on Tuesday for the Republican nominee’s criticism of President Barack Obama’s position on climate change at the GOP convention.
“He ridiculed the president for his efforts to fight global warming in economically beneficial ways,” former President Clinton said at an Obama campaign rally in Minnesota. “He said, ‘Oh, you’re going to turn back the seas.’ In my part of America, we would like it if someone could’ve done that yesterday.”
Oliver Stone, the outspoken filmmaker, suggested the deadly storm was “punishment” for both Obama and Romney not addressing climate change during the presidential debates.
Sandy is “kind of a weird statement coming right after” the debates, Stone said in a video interview with the Huffington Post. “This is a punishment—Mother Nature cannot be ignored.”
The Times of India, the world’s largest-circulation English-language daily, wrote that Sandy would serve as a sobering reminder of climate change:
The eastern seaboard of the United States is under attack. Not from Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, Libya or any of the usual suspects. The offender assaulting the world’s only superpower is a hurricane, bearing the innocuous name Sandy.
Sandy though is an overgrown progenitor of Mother Nature, who no one messes with; not even a superpower. As if to remind US presidential candidates that it is not a good idea to put global warming—or human aggravated climate change—on the back burner (as both President Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney have done in this election campaign), Mother Nature appears to have let loose Sandy to deliver a kick in the American gut. By Monday noon, the US was on its knees.
The Los Angeles Times noted that Sandy’s “devastating intrusion into the final days of the presidential race would have at least one positive result if it inspired President Obama and Mitt Romney to finally address a huge issue they have ignored throughout the long campaign: climate change”:
After the firestorms that swept the West amid a merciless drought and the killer tornadoes and freak storms that battered the Midwest, South and East Coast, Sandy is just 2012′s latest screaming reminder that our weather is becoming a much more destructive force.
While the rest of the world long ago moved beyond asking if climate change is real to accepting it as a fact, the United States has stalled in a ridiculous debate. Romney leads a party in which a majority believes that climate change is a hoax and the rest—including Romney—avoid talking about the issue, lest they be seen as anti-capitalist, bug-loving granola eaters.
Even in the storm’s wake, climate change is a partisan issue. Just look, for example, at how the liberal Huffington Post and “liberal bias-correcting” Fox News interpreted the same Associated Press story on the scientific connection between global warming and the superstorm:
“It is, at this point, impossible to say what it will take for American politics to catch up to the reality of North American climate change,” Elizabeth Kolbert wrote in the New Yorker. “More super-storms, more heat waves, more multi-billion-dollar ‘weather-related loss events’? The one thing that can be said is that, whether or not our elected officials choose to acknowledge the obvious, we can expect, ‘with a high degree of confidence,’ that all of these are coming.”
With the United States going to the polls today, spotlight has been cast on the track records of the candidates on addressing the threat of climate change, especially in the light of the recent Superstorm Sandy. In this regard, the incumbent President Obama has been tipped by New York Mayor Bloomberg to retain his presidency for the steps taken to reduce carbon emissions, while candidate Romney has backtracked on his earlier positions to mitigate climate change. Read more
Bloomberg endorses Obama for a second term, climate change a focus
Chicago Tribune (1 November 2012):
(Reuters) – New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday endorsed President Barack Obama for a second term, citing the importance of his record on climate change, particularly in the aftermath of the devastating blow dealt to the New York area by storm Sandy.
Bloomberg said Obama has taken significant steps to reduce carbon consumption, whereas Republican challenger Mitt Romney has backtracked on earlier positions he had taken as governor of Massachusetts to battle climate change.
“Our climate is changing,” Bloomberg wrote in an opinion article for Bloomberg View, a section of Bloomberg News.
“And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be – given this week’s devastation – should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”
Obama is locked in a neck-and-neck battle with Romney, and the endorsement came just five days before Tuesday’s election.
The nod from Bloomberg, a Republican turned independent, comes after Obama won praise from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, for his quick reaction to the storm.
“I’m honored to have Mayor Bloomberg’s endorsement,” Obama said in a statement. “I deeply respect him for his leadership in business, philanthropy and government, and appreciate the extraordinary job he’s doing right now, leading New York City through these difficult days.”
Bloomberg, who has flirted with runs for the White House in the past, did not endorse a candidate in 2008.
While a welcome boost to the Obama campaign, Bloomberg’s was hardly ringing endorsement.
Bloomberg said in his endorsement that although Obama campaigned in 2008 as a postpartisan candidate, he “devoted little time and effort to developing and sustaining a coalition of centrists, which doomed hope for any real progress on illegal guns, immigration, tax reform, job creation and deficit reduction.”
“And rather than uniting the country around a message of shared sacrifice, he engaged in partisan attacks and has embraced a divisive populist agenda focused more on redistributing income than creating it,” Bloomberg said of the president.
Still, the mayor concluded, on a number of issues dear to him, Obama stands closer to him than Romney. The mayor chastised him for changing some of his positions, specifically on climate change, between his time as governor of Massachusetts and his 2012 presidential run.
Bloomberg said of Romney, “In the past he has taken sensible positions on immigration, illegal guns, abortion rights and health care – but he has reversed course on all of them, and is even running against the very health care model he signed into law in Massachusetts.”
“If the 1994 or 2003 version of Mitt Romney were running for president, I may well have voted for him because, like so many other independents, I have found the past four years to be, in a word, disappointing,” Bloomberg said.
Reports from PricewaterhouseCoopers show that climate change is expected to have detrimental effects on supply chains, assets and infrastructures, and the ability of companies to plan for potential weather disasters is a competitive advantage. This is especially so in a world experiencing a six degrees rise in temperature, according to another finding. Companies should plan for the long term with a more pessimistic view in order to stay afloat. Read more
Environmental leader (5 November 2012):
PwC: Supply Chains Threatened by Six-Degree Global Warming
Some 85 percent of companies have more complex supply chains as a result of globalization, and adjusted climate forecasts mean businesses should expect climate change to have an even more destructive effect than previously assumed on supply chains, assets and infrastructure, according to two reports from PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The first PwC report, 10 Minutes – Risk ready: New approaches to environmental and social change, says many companies now view preparation for climate change as not only an indicator of resilience, but also as a competitive advantage.
The report, published as the northeast begins recovering from Hurricane Sandy, says the ability to anticipate — and plan for — potential weather disasters is vital. Companies should embed sustainability practices into their business models to mitigate the risks associated with these major weather events.
One way to build resilience is to increase buffers — the margins that provide short-term space needed to absorb shock after a disaster. PwC uses PG&E as an example of how to put these buffers in place.
Because California’s temperatures rise between May and October, which means higher electricity demand, the utility implemented a voluntary program for small commercial and residential customers who agree to shift their power use in exchange for discounts. PwC reports there are 25,000 PG&E customers participating, resulting in a 16 percent reduction on high-load days.
Natural disasters are costly, PwC says, and only 33 percent of $380 billion lost in 2011 to natural disasters was covered by insurance. Natural resources like water and energy continue to be strained, and working closely with suppliers can help pinpoint issues.
PwC’s warnings are playing out in real time, with companies from Amazon to railroad firm CSX telling customers to expect delays on shipments as Hurricane Sandy continues to back up supply chains and slow deliveries leading into the holiday season. Some economists say Sandy’s total impact on the US economy could total up to $45 billion in damage and lost production, with the losses from closed businesses and drops in consumption possibly outweighing the cost of physical damage.
Looking ahead, companies need to address the early environmental warning signs and identify areas of risk, the report says.
Meanwhile, a separate PwC report says the world is heading for a six-degree rise in temperature by the end of the century. The PwC’s Low Carbon Economy Index 2012 says that governments’ ambitions to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius appear highly unrealistic. Companies can no longer assume the 2 degree increase as a default scenario, and investments in long-term assets and infrastructure, particularly in coastal and low-lying areas, need to address a more pessimistic outlook.
Sectors dependent on food, water, energy or ecosystem services need to scrutinize the resilience and viability of their supply chains, while carbon-intensive sectors need to plan for more invasive regulation and the possibility of stranded assets, PwC says.
Drought, poor quality, flooding and other water-related challenges negatively affected 53 percent of the world’s largest listed companies in the past five years, up from 38 percent last year, yet there’s been no increase in the number of corporations providing water-related risk assessments to investors, according to an October report by the Carbon Disclosure Project.
In September, CDP’s 2012 Global 500 Climate Change report found 81 percent of reporting companies have identified physical risks from climate change, compared to 71 percent in 2011, with 37 percent perceiving these risks as a “real and present danger,” up from 30 percent in 2011 and 10 percent in 2010.
The University of Coventry in the UK is taking the lead in building resilience in the face of global change. A focus on food security is aimed at managing this critical issue in a changing world. Other initiatives include sustainable transport and construction, by reaching out to local communities and businesses with technologies and know-hows to build a low carbon economy. Serious Games come into play, too. Read more
Serious business from the University of Coventry
By Ken Hickson
To be “sent to Coventry” was an English saying which supposedly originated in the 1600s. It meant: “To be ignored or ostracised. This behaviour often takes the form of pretending that the shunned person, although conspicuously present, can’t be seen or heard.”
But these days, being sent to Coventry – particularly the University – could be a very good thing to happen to you. This place is becoming a global centre for research and development into the business of sustainability, low carbon/low impact living, cleaner transport and cites, and food security.
We came to get to know the University of Coventry through the business of Serious Games. It is a global leader in research and development in the creative and technical application of games for good. It set up the Serious Games Institute 7 years ago and now is taking on the world with Serious Games International (SGI) – in Europe, In the US and in Asia.
But when we heard Professor John Latham, the University’s Pro Vice Chancellor speak in Singapore at the first anniversary of SGI presence in Asia, we came to realise there’s more to this university city of Coventry than legends.
Coventry has inspired many things – from the motor industry and the jet engine to Lady Godiva. The city’s slogan, ‘Coventry Inspires’ – a play on the city’s famous three spires, was chosen by the people of Coventry to reflect the enthusiasm that they feel about their city’s past, present and future.
John told me that it the University is seriously investing in research and development into global issues of sustainability, climate change, clean tech and clean energy. It is not consumed with the past, but very much focussing on the future – of cities, transport, buildings – towards a low impact and low carbon tomorrow.
So we take a glimpse, through recent University reports of some of the things consuming the University. First food!
A new Master’s degree has been launched by Coventry University to tackle the globally critical issues of food security and contribute to the development of food systems that will help countries feed their growing populations.
The MSc in Food Security Management, which begins in September, will equip students with a comprehensive insight into sustainable food production and management, agricultural systems, climate change and the environment, and law and governance. The course is being run by experts in the University’s Centre for Agroecology and Food Security, including the world-leading researchers behind the University’s Grand Challenge Initiative programme in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security.
“It is generally accepted that we need to develop more sustainable agricultural systems that protect the natural resource base, reduce adverse effects of agriculture on the environment, and are conducive to the maintenance of biodiversity,” explained MSc in Food Security Management course leader Dr James Bennett.
Food for Thought
Encouraging people to grow more of their own food is not only beneficial to the environment but leads to improved health and wellbeing and creates stronger local communities, according to new Coventry University research released today.
In a study of the Master Gardeners programme run by the UK’s leading organic growing charity, Garden Organic, researchers in the University’s Centre for Agroecology and Food Security (CAFS) and Centre for Sustainable Regeneration (SURGE) found that those involved enjoyed an increased sense of community and improved life satisfaction, as well as having a significant impact on their food growing and consumption habits.
Through this new mentoring programme, Garden Organic recruited, trained and supported more than 400 volunteers in five areas – North London, South London, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Warwickshire – to become Master Gardeners.
These volunteers, aged 16-81, then worked with their local community to encourage more people to grow food. As part of their commitment volunteers then recruit 10 households to mentor in horticulture for a year.
Low Carbon Transport
The annual celebration of Coventry’s automotive heritage will take place this bank holiday weekend at the city’s Festival of Motoring, and – for the first time – will feature a unique insight into the transport innovations of tomorrow.
Organised by Coventry University in partnership with the Coventry Transport Museum, the Future of Transport Expo will run throughout the whole weekend as part of the festival, and will give companies from the area an unprecedented opportunity to shout about what they do and illustrate the vibrancy of the region’s transport sector – particularly low carbon initiatives.
The expo will showcase the considerable range of transport innovations that are being developed and produced across the region today. Exhibitors over the weekend will include Jaguar Land Rover, Liberty Electric Cars, Mercedes, Nissan, Peugeot and Vauxhall – each of whom are expected to have a ‘green’ vehicle on display.
Local firm Travel de Courcey will also be showing off one of its new electric buses, which began running on service routes along Kenilworth Road and in the south of Coventry earlier this year.
Coventry University itself is set to exhibit a selection of low carbon vehicles at the expo, with highlights including:
• the H2EV hydrogen fuel cell vehicle created by University spin-out Microcab;
• a 100mph battery-powered go-kart created by a team of undergraduates to contest the prestigious Electric Vehicle Grand Prix at Indianapolis;
• student team Phoenix Racing’s single-seater racing car, built for this year’s Formula Student contest to defend the University’s ‘Most Fuel Efficient Car’ award from 2011;
• the University’s entry into the Shell Eco-marathon – a ‘soap-box’ style racer designed to go as far as possible on a litre of fuel.
Coventry University greeted suppliers and clients from the sustainable construction sector last month as they met to discuss how small and medium sized enterprises in the West Midlands could be put on the map for supply to the industry.
The University is leading on the Sustainable Building Futures (SBF) project, which engages with eligible SMEs in the region for knowledge transfer, collaborative development and implementation of innovative environmental technology for use in sustainable construction.
Funded by Coventry University and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the project provides fully funded support to West Midlands SMEs in the form of specialist advice and the development, testing and demonstration of new sustainable building technologies. It also offers access to state-of-the-art equipment in the University’s new Engineering and Computing building.
The ‘Get Ready to Supply’ event provided a platform for both suppliers’ and buyers’ views to be heard, and included one-to-one advice sessions with industry experts from Orbit, the Sustainable Housing Action Partnership (SHAP) and Coventry University’s Low Impact Buildings Centre.
Andrew Tonks, programme director for the SBF project, said:
“The event provided a fantastic opportunity for us to engage with local industry and to listen to their needs. We are now planning on how we can develop the support services that the SBF project offers so we can help local industry compete in these challenging yet exciting times.”
With 70% of the world’s surface covered by oceans and seas, it would make sense to utilise this expanse – something taken to mind by technology firm DNV with its newly unveiled floating solar array SUNdy. Renewable energy solutions such as this are crucial in limiting global temperature rise to the targeted 2 degrees, according to a panel discussion at the recent Singapore International Energy Week. Read more
Editor: Here are two enlightened articles. There are many more innovations and energetic ideas and studies to come out of the recent Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW). More to come in future issues.
The sea’s the limit for solar
By Jenny Marusiak in Eco Business.com (5 November 2012):
Land-scarce coastal cities such as Singapore may soon be looking to the sea for their solar energy supply.
Global technology consulting and certification firm DNV unveiled a new floating solar array concept at the recent Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW) with an invitation to companies to develop the idea.
Called SUNdy, the concept consists of floating islands – each containing 4,200 solar panels that together generate 2 megawatts (MW) of power – connected into a network capable of providing at least 50 MW of electricity for about 30,000 people.
The solar islands, which are about the size of a football stadium, would come with flexible solar panels that are prewired to minimize installation. DNV designers used a spider web design to create a flexible but strong platform that could withstand ocean movement and send electricity to shore through underwater cables.
Off-shore solar is not appropriate for every location – it is best in calm waters of between 20 to 100 metres within five miles of the shore – but it would be good for many densely populated Southeast Asian cities near the coast, said DNV KEMA’s global director of renewable energy services Kevin Smith at the unveiling.
DNV KEMA is a DNV subsidiary covering energy and sustainability-related industries.
SUNdy would also be useful as a disaster relief tool because it could be installed quickly, added Mr Smith.
He noted that DNV chose thin film solar technology – as opposed to the more widely used rigid crystalline solar panels – for the project for its flexibility and because of expected cost reductions.
Thin film solar is cheaper to produce than crystalline solar, but is still less efficient despite recent improvements.
The entire project installed at current prices would cost about US$4.40 per watt, but could go down to $2.50 to $3 per watt based on solar industry predictions, said Mr Smith.
Managing director of DNV’s Clean Technology Centre in Singapore, Dr Sanjay Kuttan, told Eco-Business on the sidelines of the event that they were assembling a business coalition to develop the concept.
The firm already has expressions of interest from solar farm developers and infrastructure companies, although DNV could not yet divulge names, he added.
By keeping the technology openly sourced – meaning no intellectual property (IP) rights are associated with it – DNV hopes to avoid “wasting time on lawyers” and create a prototype in as little as 12 to 18 months, said Dr Kuttan. He explained that participating companies would sign an agreement, under which investors could own the IP at a later stage if they chose.
The idea of floating solar arrays is not new.
Singapore’s Economic Development Board announced last year that it would build an S$11 million 2MW system on one of its fresh water reservoirs. And other inland projects have been installed in reservoirs and industrial holding ponds in places like the United States and France.
For marine applications, last year United Kingdom-based inventor Phil Pauley launched his idea for a floating hybrid solar-wave technology – called Marine Solar Cells – that captures energy from both ocean movement and the sun.
However, coming up with the concept for off-shore solar innovations is only the first step, said DNV’s Dr Kuttan.
By Melissa Low and Yuen Kah Hung, Energy Analysts, Energy Studies Institute (23 October 2012):
Energy efficiency can be the “game changer” to mitigate climate change and reduce carbon emissions, agreed expert panellists discussing the social and environmental impact of climate change at the Singapore Energy Summit on Monday.
Nicholas Fang, Director of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), moderated the session, titled “Keeping the Door to 2°C Open”. He highlighted the urgency of the issue by pointing out the need for a new climate agreement as the Kyoto Protocol expires this year.
Toshihiko Fujii, Deputy Director General of the Global Energy Policy Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), Japan, highlighted Japan’s experience in the context of energy solutions to climate change. His view was that energy conservation and renewable energy are the keys to keeping the door to 2°C open – but that this required setting specific targets for conservation and adopting renewables.
In this context, Dr Fujii cited Japan’s post-Fukushima energy plan, explaining that Japan has set targets to triple power generation from renewable sources for its 2010 levels to 300 billion kWh by 2030. Of this, hydro power will account for 110 billion kWh. He said renewable energy capacity, excluding hydro power, is set to rise to 108,000MW by 2030, from 9,000MW in 2010.
“There needs to be continued improvement of existing feed-in-tariffs for renewable energy, but there also must be regulatory reform to introduce new energy technologies”, said Dr Fujii. He explained that as renewable energy resources such as geothermal can be found within protected natural areas, regulatory changes are required for these resources to be tapped. This means that discussion among stakeholders is vital.
Dr Nawal Al Hosany, Director of Sustainability, Masdar, highlighted the need to find new sources of energy and said it was significant to see Middle East looking at unconventional sources of energy and renewables. She reasoned that there is a clear need to invest in a clean energy future so as to keep the door to 2°C open. She said the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has targeted 7 percent of electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2020. Dubai has set a 5 percent target within the same time frame.
Yoshiyuki Miyabe, Managing Director and Member of the Board, Panasonic Corporation, emphasised that energy initiatives are needed throughout the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. Energy efficient appliances could be adopted to address the increasing trend of energy consumption in residential and commercial sectors.
Amidst the many proposals and rationales put forward for “keeping the door open”, there were expressions of concern about whether this was still achievable. Hon. Eileen Claussen, President of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, was of the view that “while governments have adapted to the 2°C trajectory, I am a realist. Chances are slim, but that doesn’t mean we should stop”.
A sensible way forward, she added, would be to change the ways in which we generate and use energy. Renewables, natural gas, coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS) are the means to move towards a low carbon society, she said, also emphasing the need to improve energy efficiency.
Jose Maria Figueres, President of the Carbon War Room and Former President of Costa Rica, was concerned that the door to 2°C has already closed. He asserts that 2°C is “no more a possibility under our present way of conducting our sales”. Citing the population in Bangladesh that will be displaced by floods and rising sea levels, Figueres said future climate change dialogue would also need to be anchored on values. For example, should countries accept climate refugees?
A major step in the fight against climate change requires partnership among governments, private sector and people, said Claussen. She observed that companies are leading the fight instead of governments. Collaboration between companies and individuals could kick-start governmental action, she suggested.
Taking a leaf from the banning of CFCs through the Montreal Protocol, Figueres was hopeful that stakeholders can take concerted action to fight climate change. He pointed out that shale gas is not a climate change panacea and additional measures are necessary.
Dr Al Hosany reasoned that widespread adoption of renewable energy will be dependent on economic conditions in each country. In spite of the challenges, she predicted a general shift to renewable energy. We are issuing an invitation to the industry to get this idea to reality,” he added.
The increasing scarcity of fossil energy and impacts of climate change means that companies face increasing cost and uncertainties in their operations over the medium-to-long term. A report by SolAbility shows that concessions will have to be made for these disruptions in business processes, and the lowest risk and highest business opportunities can be found through the implementation of an energy Marshall plan scenario. Read more
From SolAbility, which is a Swiss-Korean Joint Venture founded in 2005 by a former senior analyst to the DJSI (Dow Jones Sustainability Index).
Sustainability & Stock Returns: The Correlation (26 October 2012):
Left out in the cold
Report on Climate change, energy & businesses – quantifying the impacts to 2040
There is no reason – neither technical nor financial – why the world economy should not be powered by renewable energy by 2040. However, a comprehensive energy infrastructure transformation would require political consensus within, and in between countries. Such a scenario is highly unlikely.
The scarcity of fossil energy sources (decline of easily accessible and exploitable oil fields), increasing demand from emerging economies, combined with the lack of meaningful investment in alternatives suggests that cost of energy business will increase significantly in the mid-and long-term future
Apart from long-term changes, climate change is leading to increased frequency of extreme weather events, adding a high degree of uncertainty.
The combination of rising energy costs and increasing climate change impacts is affecting operational aspects and the bottom-line of businesses. Based on modelling of future energy developments and the connected climate change impacts, the financial implications on different business sectors have been analysed under three different scenarios: a BAU (business-as-usual) scenario, an energy Marshall plan scenario, and a TINA (there is no alternative) approach.
Key findings include:
• The future price of energy and its implications on operational costs to businesses are still underestimated by most businesses
• Energy management and energy efficiency, are becoming key competitiveness drivers in many industries, in particular in energy intensive industries
• Business opportunities related to energy efficiency and renewable energy (both in terms of products and services) are still grossly underestimated
• Climate change will lead to increased and unforeseeable business disruptions through higher frequency and ferocity of extreme weather events
• Extreme weather events are leading to disruption and higher cost in the supply chain in all industries directly or indirectly depending on natural resources (water, agriculture, metals, fossil raw materials)
The lack of political consensus and/or will to tackle the fundamentals means that businesses will be left out in the cold to deal with the impacts of climate change and rising energy cost. In other words: businesses will need to develop their own counter-strategy to deal with the increasing frequency and ferocity of extreme weather events and rising energy costs.
Interestingly, risk (financial impacts) to businesses would be lowest and business opportunities highest under the Marshall scenario, which is based on the assumption of a swift implementation of an energy transformation roadmap through strategic guidance, tax and incentive revision, and large-scale investments.
You can browse the report as ebook, or download the full document as PDF.
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Companies based in ASEAN are urged to develop their businesses along sustainability principles as a way of coping with the impacts of climate change at the ASEAN Sustainable Development Symposium in Bangkok. Global progress in sustainable development has been in spurts and starts, and businesses in this region will do well to fully utilise available business solutions. Read more
ASEAN business must focus on sustainability
By Ina Parlina in The Jakarta Post (6 November 2012):
Sustainable development could be low-hanging fruit for companies operating in Southeast Asia, a forum was told on Monday.
Peter Bakker, from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development said that if companies started sustainable businesses they would find “low-hanging fruit, as sustainable development is not only green, but is also efficient”.
”There is an increasingly important role for people, particularly businesses, in how well we engage in the fight to implement sustainable development, as witnessed by the greater participation of business leaders at Rio+20,” he told the ASEAN Sustainable Development Symposium in Bangkok on Monday.
While sustainability is not a new concept for business, progress has been questionable.
Bakker said the core issues were outlined in 1970 by the Club of Rome, the 1992 Rio Summit and the Rio+20 meeting. “However, the same agenda items and issues from the 1970 are still here.”
Bakker urged ASEAN member nations to act instead of arguing about climate change. “Short-term economic pressures are up due to droughts and bankruptcy, weather patterns are shifting and social tensions are increasing.”
Business solutions are available for sustainable development. “There is micro-irrigation, effective water management and renewable energy, as well as low-carbon growth in India,” Bakker said. “Businesses can scale up such measures.”
Thailand Deputy Prime Minister Kittirat Na Ranong urged stakeholders at the conference to “try to win this war to achieve sustainable development goals together”.
Business solutions are available for sustainable development
Supachai Panitchapakdi from the UN Conference on Trade and Development said he agreed that sometimes sustainable development had more to do with people, not regulations and policies.
Kan Trakulhoon, the CEO of SCG, which organized the conference, said he hoped that the event could create a network to prompt communities to become more active in sustainable development.
“In the past, community social responsibility programs gave us a good image. But now, it’s sustainable development that is more important as it gives something to the community,” he said.
“We want every company in ASEAN to commit [to sustainable development], because this is for the future of our planet.”
Bakker congratulated SCG for its recognition as the world sector leader in the building materials & fixtures category in the Dow Jones Stock Index (DJSI).
The DSJI is a set of indices comprising 2,500 large companies selected as meeting criteria, including for sustainable development performance.
It is well known by now that climate change will have an adverse financial impact on countries, communities and businesses. What is not so, is that mitigating it will also create serious impacts on global finances. In the report “Unburnable Carbon” by London thinktank Carbon Tracker, a “carbon bubble” could burst with meaningful climate action, putting at risk millions of dollars in hundreds of companies. Read more
Global warming: Climate change needs action but it has a cost
By Pilita Clark in Financial Times (4 November 2012):
Money could go up in smoke
The plodding pace of global talks on curbing climate change is familiar to anyone with an interest in the issue.
Governments have spent nearly two decades trying to stem the carbon dioxide emissions scientists say are responsible for global warming, and yet they keep increasing.
But what if this changed? What if countries agreed to take more urgent action to cut back the carbon emissions produced by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas?
Or what if nations sped up the individual efforts many have taken in recent years, such as China’s goal of reducing the carbon intensity of its energy supply or California’s emissions trading scheme?
Few have bothered to spend much time on this question – which is hardly surprising given the pace of global action.
But one thinktank in London, Carbon Tracker, has studied the potential financial effects of serious climate action, which has more of an impact than some expected.
The report, “Unburnable Carbon”, came out last year and concluded the world’s financial markets were carrying a “carbon bubble”, meaning investors are putting millions of dollars into hundreds of companies that could be in trouble if meaningful climate action were ever taken.
Its argument is based on estimates that to have an 80 per cent chance of limiting global warming to 2C – the level scientists say should be met to avoid potentially dangerous climate change – only 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide should be emitted between now and 2050.
The world’s proven coal, gas and oil reserves already amount to nearly five times that amount, and the reserves held by the top 100 listed coal companies, along with the top 100 oil and gas companies, come to 745gt – still far more than the 565gt “budget” for the next 40 years.
The 2C target is not entirely fanciful: it was included in the outcome of the 2010 global climate talks in Mexico, though how it is to be achieved is unclear given countries are now aiming at finalising a climate deal by 2015 that would not take effect until 2020.
Still, if action is taken after 2020, at least one large bank says the impact could be significant.
“This has potentially profound implications for the natural resources sector, notably producers of coal, the most carbon intensive fossil fuel,” analysts at HSBC wrote in a June 2012 research note that examined the issues raised in the carbon bubble report.
If constraints on carbon emissions were imposed after 2020, they could reduce coal asset valuations by as much as 44 per cent, HSBC said, and the impact would hit some companies harder, depending on how much they depended on coal for their revenues, and by extension, stock exchanges on which more of those companies were listed, such as London, where the mining sector makes up about 12 per cent of the FTSE 100 index.
HSBC is not the only financial body to have taken an interest in the Unburnable Carbon report.
Pension funds in the UK, Australia and South Africa have also been looking at it, says its lead author, James Leaton, a consultant on sustainability issues.
One Australian pension fund manager, Local Government Super (LGS), has used its arguments to back a green shares option that excludes coal mining, an important industry there.
The report also led Carbon Tracker’s chairman, Jeremy Leggett, and other financial sector figures with an interest in climate, to meet Andy Haldane, the Bank of England’s executive director for financial stability, this year to discuss the idea that the carbon bubble could pose a risk to stability in the UK.
It is far from clear the Bank will act on such warnings. A spokesman declined to comment when asked if any action had been contemplated since the Carbon Tracker meeting.
That is no surprise says Milton Catelin, chief executive of the World Coal Association, who argues that until there is evidence of a binding global agreement to limit carbon emissions, investors should not be concerned.
“It’s a big ‘if’, isn’t it,” he says. “If there is concerted action on climate change, there may be repercussions.
“But you could just as easily say if there is concerted action on global poverty, companies that have shares in coal might actually be more valuable.
“So, I don’t know why you would assume action on climate change is more likely than action on poverty.”
Mr Leaton disagrees. “We’re not hanging it all on a global climate deal,” he says, explaining countries were taking actions of their own – such as the US Environmental Protection Agency’s recent efforts to curb coal plant pollution – and technological advances in renewable energy also posed a risk to fossil fuel use.
“There is a range of measures that add up to making fossil fuel less competitive,” he says.
But surely investors would be aware of such changes and have plenty of time to react?
Not necessarily, says Nick Robins the head of HSBC’s climate change centre of excellence, who co-authored the bank’s coal report.
This is a long term problem and markets have a very short-term focus, he says, “so the market is likely to be surprised”.
“There’s an impression people can trade out of these sorts of problems in time but one of the things we saw in the financial crisis in 2007 is that this is not always possible.”