Archive for the ‘Express 181’ Category

Unhappy Endings or New Beginnings?

Posted by Ken on December 22, 2012
Posted under Express 181

Unhappy Endings or New Beginnings?

The world didn’t end – did anyone seriously think it would? – but we are one year closer to the demise of earth as we know it and love it. Love it to death might be an appropriate expression. However, unlike true love, we have taken more than we’ve given back. So this is a good time for a new beginning. Recognising that humans – and the resource extraction, industrialisation and motorisation we have fostered – have got the earth to where it is today. Asad Latif in the Straits Times is headlined: “It’s not the end. Life goes on” and writes we have work to do including “to prevent the collective suicide called global warming”. Is it beyond repair? Have we left it too late? Not if we start to act now as better guardians of our land, air and water. Not if we significantly reduce our consumption. Not if we adopt a sustainable way of doing things. If we stop digging up anything useful. If we stop burning fossil fuels. The good news for mankind at this time of goodwill and hope, is that we do have the answers. Solutions are at hand. We need the will – and the goodwill – to put ideas, innovations, clean energy and clean tech to work. This issue – the last for 2012 – is full of good news. So season’s greetings to all. Here’s to a happy Christmas and a new beginning. Cheers! Read More– Ken Hickson

It’s Not the End. Life Goes on.

By Asad Latif for The Straits Times (22 December 2012):

EVEN if the world had ended yesterday, there would have been much to celebrate because humans have made good use of their time on Earth. Now that the world has not ended, there is more work to be done.

Just think of how much has been achieved on a mere planet.

Adam, the first man, was also the first feminist: He listened to Eve. Obviously, as their case shows, the consequences can be fairly catastrophic. Cast out of the Garden of Eden, man and woman thenceforth had to work to live. But the first footsteps of exile also led Adam and Eve back to each other, outside the confining comforts of Paradise.

“I am your home,” she might have whispered to him. “Come, live in me.” Adam smiled so hard in the cold that his chapped lips bled. Eve kissed the blood away.

They set up the first family. Even today, when peasants lose their land and migrate to cities, their families move with them. Thousands find themselves on the streets, subsisting on the feral margins of urban dreams. They have no houses, but they are not homeless. A house is but a space; a home is a relationship. The mother, the father and the children who live together turn even landlessness into a home.

The first woman taught the first man the meaning of exile: to exchange security for freedom.

Ever since then, the great stages of history have been defined by a series of defining movements – from idyllic ignorance to profane knowledge, from bucolic bliss to the earthy struggle for identity.

Philosophy and the arts have been at the vanguard of this quest. Socrates’ defiant cry – “the unexamined life is not worth living” – echoes in Shakespeare’s quiet recognition that “Men must endure/Their going hence, even as their coming hither:/Ripeness is all”.

To be ripe is to have been an eager pilgrim on a journey, whether or not one arrives at the destination. Referring to Ulysses, whose epic travels Homer celebrates, the poet Tennyson exclaims: “I am a part of all that I have met.”

Reason has driven much of the shift to secular finality. When Galileo demonstrated that the Earth revolves around the Sun, his rationality was so subversive that he had to recant his discovery in order to stay alive. Today, his detractors have faded into scientific oblivion, but his universe is buoyantly alive.

In his universe, home to the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Industrial Revolution, the atom has been split; children have been born with the aid of test tubes; pasteurised milk has been manufactured; the polio vaccine and insulin have been discovered; and the World Wide Web has been invented.

The restlessness of science, from Newton to Einstein, has made the frontiers of the mind mobile. Technology has followed in its empowering wake, with the sputniks and Apollo spaceships literally reaching new frontiers of the scientific imagination.

Politics has not been a laggard. Every society believes it is the last, if not the best, and every society is wrong. The English, American, French, Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Velvet and Jasmine revolutions each overthrew the old order, proving that what once had seemed natural, fated, irreversible and eternal was no more than a passing way of life. The public intellectual Edward Said remarks that men and women who make their own history can also unmake and remake it. These revolutions turned remaking into the fulcrum of history.

There have been other revolutions as well. The spectacular victory of anti-colonial nationalism in India and Indonesia set the stage for the acts of political daring that led to Singapore’s independence. When the Vietnamese won the Vietnam War, colonialism well and truly began to recede into the textbooks. It is said that, in the centuries to come, colonialism will occupy no more than a footnote in the annals of African history.

But the palanquin of change does not move on its own: it needs willing bearers. Ordinary humans have filled in the everyday gaps between extraordinary events. In keeping events on the move every day, they are the true heroes of time.

Pablo Neruda’s ode, The People, celebrates these unknown partisans of the human journey. His anonymous hero was ordinary. He “did not stand out from others” because they were but himself writ large. And, because he was a part of others, he was inexhaustible: “When it seemed he must be spent,/he was the same man over again”.

Neruda’s hero “never fought with another of his kind”, “his struggle was with water or with earth”. Everything he touched grew. He made bread and buildings, he set the trains running, he filled distances with towns, and “spring wandered into the marketplace” that he had set up.

When we marvel at the Great Wall, the temples of Ajanta or Ellora, or the cathedrals of Chartres and Milan, let us not forget the invisible and unrequited labour of the thousands who translated the vision behind these masterpieces into the enduring reality of stone and rock. As Bertolt Brecht asks in his poem, Questions From A Worker Who Reads: “Who built the seven gates of Thebes?/In the books you’ll find the names of kings./ Did the kings haul up the blocks of stone?… Where, the evening that the Wall of China was finished/Did the masons go?”

Where, indeed? And what were their names? It is a pity that we do not know. It is such unacknowledged achievements that deserve celebration as a new cycle of the Mayan calendar begins after the one which ended yesterday, with a promise of better times to come.

But those times will not fall from the sky: They will have to be built, up from the ground. It will take hard work to fight oppression in the name of race, creed or gender, to resist religious bigotry, and to prevent the collective suicide called global warming.

It will take back-breaking labour to stay human. The work of Adam and Eve is never done.


The writer, a former Straits Times journalist, is a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.


Profile: Professor Tommy Koh

Posted by Ken on December 22, 2012
Posted under Express 181

Profile: Professor Tommy Koh

As the oceans serve as the blue lungs of the planet, absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and returning oxygen to the atmosphere, they play a critical role in regulating the world’s climate system.  The world must do more to understand, protect and manage our ocean resources, says Professor Tommy Koh – one of the 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders and Singapore’s Ambassador at Large – on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Read More

Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-At-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore was Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, New York from 1968 to 1971 (concurrently accredited as High Commissioner to Canada) and again from 1974 to 1984 (concurrently accredited as High Commissioner to Canada and Ambassador to Mexico). He was Ambassador to the United States of America from 1984 to 1990. He was President of the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea from 1981 to 1982. He was Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for and the Main Committee of the UN Conference on Environment and Development from 1990 to 1992. From February 1997 to October 2000, he served as the founding Executive Director of the Asia-Europe Foundation. He was also Singapore’s Chief Negotiator for the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (2000 to 2003). He chairs three committees for the National University of Singapore relating to law, Asia research and environmental management.

Here’s the speech given by Professor Tommy Koh on 10 December 2012 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea:

Mr President, Mr Secretary-General, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen. I wish to greet my colleagues from the Law of the Sea Conference who are here. With advancing age, they have become a highly endangered species of homo sapiens. Let us extend a warm welcome to them.

Thirty years ago, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, was adopted after a decade of patient and painstaking negotiations.  On the 10th of December, 1982, the Convention was opened for signature and was signed by 119 States. The Convention today has 161 Parties who are members of the United Nations.  This means that there are 32 Member States which have not yet become party to the Convention.  One of them is our host country, the United States of America. I apologise in advance to the distinguished representative of the United States in case she or he will be offended by what I am about to say.  When my wife asked me recently when the US will accede to the Convention, I answered her by quoting Churchill, who once said that we can always count on the United States to do the right thing, after it has tried everything else.  I hope we do not have to wait much longer as the Convention is clearly in the interests of the United States and of the other 31 States.

I wish to make three points.

First, I wish to observe that the Convention has become the constitution for the oceans and seas.  It is both comprehensive and authoritative.  It has established a stable maritime legal order.  It has kept the peace at sea.  In this way, it has made a significant contribution to the Rule of Law in the world.  The only parts of the world’s oceans in which maritime disputes could threaten international peace are the East China Sea and the South China Sea.  I would like to use this opportunity to call upon all the claimant States to act with restraint and to resolve their disputes peacefully and strictly in accordance with international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Negotiations should always be our first preference. However, if negotiations do not succeed, I would urge the parties to consider referring their disputes to conciliation, mediation, arbitration or adjudication by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea or the International Court of Justice. As an Asian, I know that in some Asian cultures, there is a reluctance to take a friend to court. To those clamaint states who feel this way, I would encourage them to focus on the joint development of the disputed areas.

Second, I wish to point out that the Convention represents a careful balance of the competing interests of all States, both developed and developing, coastal States and landlocked and geographically disadvantaged States, port States and seafaring States, States with artisanal fishermen and States with distant water fishermen, etc.  The balance was arrived at through an open, transparent and inclusive process, in which all States had the opportunity to participate and to contribute to the compromises.  The balance has worked well and stood the test of time.  We should therefore be faithful in our interpretation and application of the Convention.  We should avoid undermining the integrity of the Convention by taking actions of questionable legality in order to further our short-term national interests.  In some cases, States have taken advantage of ambiguous language in the text of the Convention.  In other cases, they are finding ambiguity where none exists.  Let me cite some examples.  Some States have drawn straight baselines when they are not entitled to do so.  Some States have enacted domestic legislation to regulate certain activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) even though the Convention has not conferred such jurisdiction on the coastal States.  Other States have acted on the mistaken assumption that the EEZ is part of the High Sea, forgetting that the Convention enjoins them to have due regard to the rights and duties of the coastal State and to comply with the laws and regulations adopted by the coastal State provided, of course, that such laws and regulations are in accordance with the Convention.  Some States have acted in contravention of the regime of transit passage.  Some States have made maritime claims from insular features which exceed what is justified under the Convention.This is not an exhaustitive list.

Third, I wish to refer to the Secretary-General’s initiative, The Oceans Compact, which he unveiled at the Yeosu International Conference, on the 12th of August 2012.  The Compact has the following three objectives: (i) to protect vulnerable people and improve the health of the oceans;  (ii) to protect, recover and sustain the oceans’ environment and natural resources and to restore their full food production and livelihood services;  and (iii) to strengthen knowledge and the management of the oceans.  Let me make a few comments on the Secretary-General’s initiative.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has repeatedly called the world’s attention to the crisis in the world’s fisheries.  The crisis has been caused by over-fishing; by illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; by the ineffectiveness of the regional fishery management organisations and by the use of destructive and unsustainable methods of fishing.  Subsidies for the fishing industry should be phased out because they have led to over-capacity.  The world can learn from the successful experiences of Iceland and New Zealand in the management of their fisheries.  The IMO should consider requiring all commercial fishing vessels to be licensed and to carry transponders.  Regional fishery management organisations should be established in all regions of the world and they should be empowered to make their decisions by consensus if possible and by majority votes if necessary.  Certain highly destructive methods of fishing should be banned.  The FAO’s code of conduct for responsible fisheries should be strengthened.

The nexus between climate change and the oceans is not sufficiently understood.  The oceans serve as the blue lungs of the planet, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and returning oxygen to the atmosphere.  The oceans also play a role in regulating the world’s climate system.  One impact of global warming is that our oceans are getting warmer and more acidic. This will have a devastating impact on the world’s coral reefs and on marine biodiversity.  The welfare of 150 million people, who live in coastal communities, will be affected if we allow the reefs to degenerate and die.

Another impact of global warming and climate change is the rise of sea levels.  The problem is not theoretical but real.  Low-lying countries such as Bangladesh and island countries such as the Maldives and those in the South Pacific, have already experienced the loss of land to the rising sea.  The members of the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) have made a compelling case and we should listen more attentively to them.  If sea levels continue to rise, millions of people will lose their homes and become ecological refugees.  I hope that our colleagues who are engaged in the ongoing climate change negotiations will address this threat expeditiously.

I also support the Secretary-General’s call to strengthen knowledge and the management of the oceans.  We seem to know less about the oceans than about outer space.  The oceans are our last frontier.  The United Nations University, under the able leadership of its new President David Malone, should ignite a new interest in research on the oceans and on oceans law and policies.  The UN, under the leadership of Patricia O’Brien and Serguei Tarrsenko, should incentivise the law schools of the world to promote research in and the teaching of the law of the sea.

I shall conclude.  Fifty years ago, the old maritime legal order was crumbling.  There were many maritime disputes between States.  Two European countries even fought a brief war over cod.  In response to this situation, the United Nations convened the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea to negotiate a new legal order.  The Conference held its first session in 1973. After nine years of negotiations, the Convention was adopted in 1982.  Many learned men and women, of good will, from over 150 countries, participated in that historic endeavour.  Many have passed away.  However, their legacy of a new maritime legal order, bringing peace, order and equity, will never be forgotten.

Thank you very much.


Which Countries Rank Highly In the Global Energy Sustainability Stakes?

Posted by Ken on December 22, 2012
Posted under Express 181

Which Countries Rank Highly In the Global Energy Sustainability Stakes?

High-income countries are leading the transition to a new energy architecture but still have work to do on environmental sustainability, according to the Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report 2013,  which measures the strengths and weaknesses of countries’ energy systems from an integrated economic, environmental and energy security perspective. Released earlier this month by the World Economic Forum, the index has Norway, Sweden and France top in the ranking with OPEC countries and the USA languishing outside the top 50. Read More

New Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report ranks energy systems of 105 countries from an economic, environmental and energy security perspective

Norway, Sweden and France top the ranking; OPEC countries and the USA languish outside the top 50

Purpose of the index is to help countries position themselves for the widespread transition that is expected in the global energy system

Geneva, Switzerland, 11 December 2012 – High-income countries are leading the transition to a new energy architecture but still have work to do on environmental sustainability, according to the Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report 2013, released today by the World Economic Forum.

The index measures the strengths and weaknesses of countries’ energy systems from an integrated economic, environmental and energy security perspective.

It is also designed to help countries manage and navigate the challenges that arise from this period of change which, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), will require US$ 38 trillion of investment in energy supply infrastructure by 2035 to meet rising global demand.

The findings reveal that high-income countries have proven best at managing the transition to a new energy architecture. Norway ranks in first place in the index, where a strong energy policy coupled with multiple energy resources has delivered cheap, plentiful and relatively clean power and generated large national revenues.

With seven other European countries joining Norway in the top 10, the list is completed by New Zealand (5) and Colombia (6). No OPEC country features in the top 50, while the USA ranks 55th. Of the BRICS, Brazil leads in 21st place, followed by the Russian Federation (27), South Africa (59), India (62) and China (74)

However, the index also finds that high-income and rapidly growing countries alike often underperform across a wide range of environmental sustainability metrics. With demand for energy rapidly increasing at the same time as some nations are reconsidering costly renewable obligations and CO2 targets, the report calls for affirmative action to address this.

“Energy decisions can be simplified through a common understanding of the trade-offs they require,” explained Roberto Bocca, Senior Director, Head of Energy Industries, World Economic Forum. “With clear objectives to achieve a balanced energy system that is environmentally sustainable, drives the economy and is secure, decision-makers should facilitate quicker and more cost effective transitions. The index is a tool to help in this process.”

The report, produced in collaboration with Accenture, adds that many developing countries still struggle to supply citizens with basic energy needs, with 12% of countries analysed providing electricity to less than 50% of their total population. The report also considers how issues around fossil-fuel subsidy, water use for energy production and effective management of resource wealth need addressing globally.

“The scale and complexity of the global energy industry demands a country-by-country approach to managing change,” said Arthur Hanna, Managing Director, Energy Industry, Accenture, and a Member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on New Energy Architecture. “The Energy Architecture Performance Index helps nations take stock of their energy architecture challenges and identify specific focus areas coupled with best-in-class examples to use when managing their transition.”

About the Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report 2013

The Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report 2013 benefited from the guidance and support of an expert panel of advisers. It was produced in collaboration with Accenture. The views expressed in the report do not necessarily reflect those of the advisers to the project. The report includes perspectives from high-level representatives of industry, government, non-governmental organizations and academia. A full list of contributors can be found here.


Climate Back on the Presidential Agenda with John Kerry on the Scene

Posted by Ken on December 22, 2012
Posted under Express 181

Climate Back on the Presidential Agenda with John Kerry on the Scene

Things are looking up for the Obama administration in its second term – from the climate perspective – with the impending appointment of Senator John Kerry as the Secretary of State, as he has long be known as an advocate for action on climate change. An indication of increasing focus by the administration on facing the issue of global warming and its effects. President Obama, on being named Time’s Person of the Year, also put climate chage back on top of the agenda, naming it one of three key policy priorities. Read more

By Joe Romm on 18 December 2012

Climate Progress

In the first serious indication Obama will focus on climate change in his second term, the President will nominate Senator John Kerry (D-MA) to be Secretary of State, media outlets report.

Kerry is one of the Senate’s leading climate hawks who has said he believes that climate change is the “biggest long term threat” to national security.

Of course, team Obama is known for effectively muzzling the most ardent of climate hawks. Back in February 2009, for instance, Energy Secretary and Nobelist Steven Chu said “Wake up,” America, “we’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California.” But one hardly hears such language from him these days. Same goes for science advisor and one-time climate hawk John Holdren.

Kerry, however, seems far less likely to be muzzled. Indeed, in a speech this summer on the Senate floor, he slammed the U.S. political discussion as a “conspiracy of silence … a story of disgraceful denial, back-pedaling, and delay that has brought us perilously close to a climate change catastrophe.” He called it:

… a silence that empowers misinformation and mythology to grow where science and truth should prevail. It is a conspiracy that has not just stalled, but demonized any constructive effort to put America in a position to lead the world on this issue….

Climate change is one of two or three of the most serious threats our country now faces, if not the most serious, and the silence that has enveloped a once robust debate is staggering for its irresponsibility….

I hope and pray colleagues commit to transformative change in our politics. I hope we confront the conspiracy of silence head-on and allow complacence to yield to common sense, and narrow interests to bend to the common good. Future generations are counting on us.

One would certainly expect Kerry to not merely use his position to speak out on the issue but also to push both domestic and international action. He was after all coauthor, with Senators  Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), of broad climate legislation in 2009 and 2010 (that withered like our wheat crop in a Dust Bowl as Obama tended to other matters, like health care).

National Journal reports:

“No senator since Al Gore knows as much about the science and diplomacy of climate change as Kerry,” said David Goldwyn, an international energy consultant who served as Clinton’s special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs. “He would not only put climate change in the top five issues he raises with every country, but he would probably rethink our entire diplomatic approach to the issue.”

Climate hawks should be enthusiastic supporters of this nomination, which is expected to sail through the U.S. Senate (in part because Republicans want Scott Brown to have another shot at a Massachusetts Senate seat).

I’m not sure Kerry could become Secretary of State fast enough to influence the Keystone XL pipeline decision, but it is hard to believe he would not have raised this issue with the President, since a go-ahead decision would immediately undercut the Administration’s credibility on the climate issue both at home and abroad.


Season of Good Will & Good News Messages from Global Leaders

Posted by Ken on December 22, 2012
Posted under Express 181

Season of Good Will & Good News Messages from Global Leaders

The 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders for 2012 are a positively bright collection of people from all around the world. They are committed, patience people, ever ready to recognise hopeful signs and draw attention to good deeds, innovations and sustainable practices. So when we asked them for words to inspire our readers at this time of goodwill, peace and hope, here’s what some of them provided. More to come in the next issue – the first for 2013. Pictured:  Ian Lowe from Australia and May East from Scotland. Read more

Messages from 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders:

Ian Lowe, South Australia:

Tidings of comfort and joy: South Australia is now getting 25 per cent of all its electricity from wind power and 20 per cent of SA households now have solar electricity. As a result of these developments, all SA households are getting cheaper electricity because of declining wholesale prices. While governments have dithered, Australian householders have installed 2000 Megawatts of solar power in the last three years. When the people lead, perhaps the leaders will follow?


Robert Quirk, New South Wales:

My dear old mum always said there is always some one who needs your help.

My focus over the last 20 years has been in reducing the impacts of sugar cane growing on the environment.

Last week I attended a meeting in London where my attention was drawn to the plight of the sugar cane workers in central America  and Sri Lanka.

In central America alone there has been 20,000 sugar cane workers die from kidney disease in the last 10 years. Cane cutters have a life expectancy of 47 years with 60% of all the workers having some kidney problems . In both CA and Sri Lanka,  the problem does seem to be much worse on the lowlands, where the drinking water is drawn from wells.

It is possible that the wells could be in acid sulfate soils , which can be rich in iron aluminum and in some cases arsenic.

If anyone has any thoughts on the possible cause  or can help please let us know.


Simon Thomas, United World College, Singapore:

As someone this involved in the business of education, perhaps the biggest single opportunity we have is to install the next generations with enough knowledge to propose solutions and take action.


In the words of Felix Finkbeiner -  “ I don’t have much hope that adults will do something. So we children will do it ourselves.”

Best wishes to all for the festive season and for a positive and productive year ahead.


May East, Chief Executive CIFAL Scotland:

May 2013 bring us all renewed opportunities to end extreme poverty in all its forms, and to advance the emerging SDG and the critical low carbon agendas.

“Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness the energies of love. Then for the second time in history of the world, we will have discovered fire.”  Teilhard de Chardin


From Louise Metcalf, Sydney, Australia:

For us here at PAX, it’s been a year of great success but what we’ve seen is change at the local level. We train leaders to drive sustainability, something like creating a sustainability army at all levels in organisations of all types in Australia, and now also Chile and Thailand. We measure everything we do  and this year we got statistically significant behaviour change results from our sustainability leadership development programs. Basically, we did it! The army is starting to change the world. I think this is how it will happen. It won’t be law or politicians or even big organisations, it will be those leaders at the local level out there trying to address real sustainability issues, on the ground, in communities. They are our shining lights. Every time we run a program I feel more hopeful about all this. Our local leaders struggle, we train resilience, they inspire, we train collective visioning etc. etc. but it’s their personal leadership journeys that I am deep admiration for. Such bravery! They are the real game changers. I can’t wait to see what they do next year because this army is growing, our programs are already heavily booked for 2013.


Tony Frost, South Africa:

Some thoughts for the new year and to end this old one:

•             It has been a tough year for Rhino in South Africa (with over 500 slaughtered) but never before has there been some much combined action from civil society, government and various enforcement and environmental agencies to bring this cruel, distasteful and totally unnecessary killing to an end. Perhaps in 2013 we will see the benefits of the use of weapons and equipment much more usually associated with war than the environment begin to turn the tide against the unscrupulous crime syndicates and the ruthless poachers. If there is a ‘good’ war this is one worth winning!

•             It seems that even governments are beginning to get it – the lead agency in South Africa for Climate Change action is the South African National Biodiversity Institute and it was allocated extra funds this year with which to advance the cause of in the region!

•             In the latest survey of Reputation SA a company that studies and consults in the area of reputation management it emerged that the top spot this last survey was filled by a giant retailer here, Woolworths. This company has staked its reputation, and indeed, built its business on being unashamedly and openly green. Its entire business and image is built on a platform of sustainability. In among the other companies to emerge at the top is Nedbank, a bank which has also embraced the green space to amazing effect.

•             The US is increasingly confident of securing its position in local energy production to a very great extent on the back of recently tapped stores of gas via fracking and other controversial methods. However the good news is that the companies exploiting these reserves are publicly committing themselves to a constant effort to have as minimal negative effect on the environment as possible. In South Africa ‘fracking’ is a hot topic and has been for awhile, with Shell leading the charge to unlock large shale gas reserves in the Central Karoo right in the heartland of our country. The government has adopted a very cautious approach to giving the go-ahead to ensure that environmental impacts are at the absolute minimum. For a country that needs a bountiful supply of affordable energy to grow the economy these reserves are very seductive. It is heartening to note the approach being taken by government and also the increased expenditure on unlocking the potential of solar power (of which we have an unlimited supply) and wind which is somewhat more complicated; but with new supplies from windfarms coming on stream almost continuously for the next few years we are beginning to tap more vigorously than ever before into sustainable alternative forms of energy.

•             Finally, a superficial observation is that the environmental NGOs seem to be doing reasonably well notwithstanding the economic difficulties that everyone is abundantly aware of. Huge quantities of money have been poured by all sectors of society into combating Rhino poaching. This has had a spin-off for other environmental efforts as the iconic Rhinoceros is increasingly being seen a symbol for conserving the interconnectedness of everything that keeps our Planet turning and tumbling in a way that sustains life as we know it!

In short, while 2012 has been a year of challenges and turmoil it has also been a year of opportunity and growth and has laid a useful platform to take the cause further and higher and faster in 2013!

Sara Gipton, CEO, Greenfleet, Australia:

I have some favourites from  American Presidents past…

Calvin Coolidge -

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

John F Kennedy -

All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days, nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet.  But let us begin.

Franklin D Roosevelt -

Men and nature must work hand in hand.

The throwing out of balance of the resources of nature,

throws out of balance also the lives of men.


Mike Duggan, Brisbane, Australia:

Every year at this time I reflect upon the year that was, the success and challenges (both personally and as part of the wider society) and part of this reflection comprises the reading of a poem (which I read from time to time throughout the year anyways to help me maintain my drive).  Years ago a colleague of mine gave me a coffee cup with this poem written on it that he had indeed been given by a colleague in the past himself.  Ray Anderson himself read this poem during a Ted Talk a number of years ago.  If anything, now with young children, this poem inspires me to do what I do in life.  Coming into Christmas and New Year I think it apt to share with your readers if you see fit.

Tomorrow’s Child

by Glenn Thomas

Without a name; an unseen face

and knowing not your time nor place

Tomorrow’s Child, though yet unborn,

I met you first last Tuesday morn.

A wise friend introduced us two,

and through his sobering point of view

I saw a day that you would see;

a day for you, but not for me

Knowing you has changed my thinking,

for I never had an inkling

That perhaps the things I do

might someday, somehow, threaten you

Tomorrow’s Child, my daughter-son

I’m afraid I’ve just begun

To think of you and of your good,

Though always having known I should.

Begin I will to weigh the cost

of what I squander; what is lost

If ever I forget that you

will someday come to live here too.



Alison Rowe, Fujitsu, Australia:

Sustainability is a long enduring path. I am confident this is the right path to choose and many will follow. Wishing everyone well and looking forward to an exciting year ahead.


Tony Boatman, Singapore:

In a previous life I was head of Marketing for Microsoft in Asia. Christmas often reminds me of my time there. The holiday season was special as it was the peak opportunity to generate demand for a bunch of products that no one needed, such as Xbox gaming consoles. I now cringe at the TV commercials promoting Xbox games as ‘Christmas stocking fillers’, which all inevitably end up in land fill. At this time of the year I often reflect on what I need and come to the same old conclusion. Not much – A few good friends, a laugh, a cold beer and a renewed desire to get up in 2013 and continue to work for a sustainable future.

Anne-Maree Huxley, Founder and CEO MOSS, Australia:  

It may have been a tragic year for many – but with darkness comes light and I’m seeing people all over the world wake up and stand tall – being both creative and collaborative to bring forth new innovation – new solutions – new life.   Gunter Pauli, the Zeri Network and the Blue Economy now boasts 100 innovations to transform society doing more with less and build social capital.  We are seeing the creation of impact funds to ensure these global solutions come to life.

December 21 sees the Summer Solstice and the end of the Mayan Calendar  – a time of renewal.  I’m very excited about the time in which we live and very much look forward to the many projects and initiatives MOSS and BE Sustainable will bring in 2013.  So blessings to all.  Stand tall – dream big and remember you are the master of your destiny.


Ruth Yeoh, YTL, Malaysia & Singapore:

To add, “I’m dreaming of a ‘Green Christmas’ where everyone does their part, not only by spreading the message of sustainability but by actually acting on it. For example, instead of buying more wrapping paper to wrap presents, why not re-use old magazines to do so? It IS easy being green, and if you put your heart into it.”


David Baggs, Ecospecifier, Australia:

I’ve been touched numerous times recently by the people in manufacturing who are willing to step up and step outside the box- in various ways.

Some have been incredibly generous in providing confidential information about products we are not even certifying to help us get the settings right for new personal products and cleaning products standards, others have gone out of their way to assist us get our heads around new technologies in marketing and communications and help us innovate new ways to connect with actual users of our certification and their products.

Even more have committed to increasing the breadth of products they want certified in Australia and Internationally, committing up to 3 years in advance to a program to expand new certifications into other sectors, still others have gone away to re-develop their products to reduce certain negative impacts that would not have prevented certification, but they want their products to be the best they can and so commit to improving them once they have the understanding of how they can make them more health or eco-safe.

We also have community members on our advisory panels who give freely of their time to provide consumer feedback on the standards we are proposing in the interests of the broader society. It is humbling to see the generosity, commitment, drive, and dedication of these individuals who each in their own way show how important they feel it is to help reduce the health and eco-impacts of products or increase the trust in communication about the green characteristics of products so that consumers and specifiers will, and can more easily, make the effort to buy green.


The Best of 2012: Top Ten Picks for a Clean Energy Year

Posted by Ken on December 22, 2012
Posted under Express 181

The Best of 2012: Top Ten Picks for a  Clean Energy Year

2012 has been a year of wake-up calls for the effects of climate change – from drought struck agricultural outputs to Superstorm Sandy lashing north-eastern United States. Here are some good news from the world of renewable energy, which has made significant headway into being an indispensable component of the global energy mix. RenewEconomy came up with top ten picks for a clean energy year. Who will be in the running next year? Read more

Best of 2012: Our top 10 picks from the clean energy year that was

By Sophie Vorrath in RenewEconomy (19 December 2012):

There goes another year. And while it’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride for local and global clean energy industries – with shifting government policies, unstable market conditions and some good old-fashioned nimby-ism helping to providing a few notable lows – there have been some high points along the way. Here – in no particular order – is our list of what helped provide the clean energy highlights for 2012.


1. Australia introduces a carbon price, the world doesn’t come to an end

Eleven days before Australia’s carbon pricing legislation came into effect on July 1 of this year, federal climate minister Greg Combet delivered a speech, touching on the reasoning behind the policy – “it will address one of the most pressing environmental problems (and) set the economy up for continued prosperity” – and on how it might change things for Australian people and businesses. He also listed some of the changes he did NOT expect to occur – most of them predicted by the leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott – and so far he’s been pretty much spot on.

“Will there be ‘unimaginable’ increases in the cost of living, as Mr Abbott said?

Will the carbon price ratchet up household electricity prices by 30 per cent?

Will entire industries be destroyed? Mr Abbott said the carbon price spelt ‘death’ for coal, steel, motor vehicle manufacturing, zinc, nickel, and the food and grocery industries.

Will there be large-scale job losses? He said the carbon price would ‘wipe out jobs big time.’

And, finally, will Mr Abbott turn out to be right when he said that whole towns like Whyalla and Wollongong would be wiped off the map when the carbon price came in?”

In reality, the official introduction of the carbon price – “carbon Sunday” – came and went without incident and, as we wrote back in July, the Opposition changed its position accordingly, launching “a new advertising campaign that suggested Armegeddon would be drawn out like a TV mini-series, rather than a single, Biblical event.” But six months later, Abbott’s plot line is yet to develop – although his hard-fought scare campaign still seems to be paying off, with a November poll showing a “clear majority” of voters still opposed the carbon tax, despite agreeing that they were no worse off since its introduction. Popular or not, it appears to be doing its job.


2. The opening of Australia’s first utility-scale solar PV farm

Australia’s large-scale solar build might be lagging behind most of our international contemporaries, but the switching-on of the Greenough River solar farm – 50,000 PV panels in a paddock about 50km south-east of Geraldton – in October counts as a feather in our renewable energy cap. At just 10MW in size, the Verve Energy/First Solar collaboration might not be much to write home about, but as we wrote back in October, “it may presage a dramatic change in the way this country produces energy.”


3. Australia passes 2,000MW mark on household rooftops

Meanwhile, about eight million PV panels have been installed on Australian household rooftops, leveraging several billion in investment from households keen to have the opportunity to generate their own electricity, and do their bit to reduce emissions. It has, of course, been a hot topic, particularly around the way the feed-in tariffs and other incentives were constructed, and the way they were torn down. Whether you accept that “socket parity” – where households can generate electricity at a lower cost than sourcing it from the grid – is here or not, it is clearly an attractive proposition to many disaffected by rising network costs. And battery storage may offer an even more alluring proposition.


4. South Australia’s wind success story

“Nowhere in Australia has wind energy had as much of an impact on the existing electricity infrastructure as in South Australia.” So we wrote in October, when, according to the latest figures from the Australian Energy Market Operator, wind accounted for more than 22 per cent of capacity and 20 per cent of supply over the past year – although it has been higher over shorter periods – and at times supplied more than 80 per cent of the state’s energy needs.

In the March quarter of this year, for example, non-hydro renewables accounted for more than one third of the electricity generation in South Australia – 31 per cent of it from wind, with solar PV adding another 3.5 per cent. Compared to Australia’s total renewable generation, including hydro, at that time of just 9.4 per cent, this is certainly nothing to be sneezed at, but the most exciting part of the whole thing is that it helped push the price of wholesale electricity down considerably.

The headlines say it all…


5. Germany’s solar success story

It started back in February, when the Merkel government – under intense scrutiny at home and internationally for its ambitious renewables plan and nuclear phase-out – might have enjoyed a moment of solar schadenfreude, after exporting huge amounts of electricity to its nuclear neighbour France, whose power plants were struggling to meet demand during a freak cold snap.

This was the exact opposite scenario to that which had been predicted by those who opposed Germany’s power shift. As Zachary Shahan put it on CleanTechnica, everyone “got freaked out about how German electricity prices would rise and the country would just start importing electricity from France’s nuclear power plants.” But, he added, it “seems pretty clear that solar photovoltaics are bringing down the cost of electricity in Germany. Additionally, German electricity exports to France have been increasing!”

In June, German solar PV generated 22.4GW of peak capacity output within a week – the equivalent of 20 large nuclear or fossil fuel plants – accounting for around 30 per cent of the country’s capacity on the Friday, and half on the following Saturday, when a similar amount of energy was produced. In July – when the amount of solar capacity on the German electricity grid was set to overtake that of wind, making it the first major developed country in the world to boast more solar energy than wind – German solar power producers marked a new world record, having fed 14.7 TWh of sun-generated electricity into the national power grid during the first six months of 2012 – or 4.5 per cent of the total power production during that period. And in October, a European Energy Exchange report showed that both peak-load and baseload day-ahead electricity prices in Germany were lower than that of its nuclear-heavy neighbours, Switzerland and France.


6. Electric cars gear up

When the leader of the worldwide Catholic church starts getting around in an EV, you know something has shifted. The pope-mobile went electric in September this year with a new pair of Renault cars based on the Kangoo Maxi ZE, marking just one of the many small victories in a year that has largely been a success.

The release of the Tesla S – the company’s first full-size sedan, which in November became the first EV ever to win the Motor Trend Car of the Year: “We’re going to look back and see this as a point at which the gears of history really turned,” said Tesla CEO Elon Musk – provided another such boost; as did Canadian teen-pop idol Justin Bieber, who was gifted a newly released $100,000 luxury Fisker Karma for his 18th birthday, live on US midday television.

But a bigger, albeit less headline-grabbing, EV milestone came in May when Toyota’s 15-year-old hybrid plug-in EV, the Prius, cracked it as the world’s third best-selling car line in the first quarter of 2012. “Toyota sold a staggering 247,230 Prius hybrids, beating sales figures for cars like the Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic and Volkswagen Golf,” reported Green Car Reports.

As the Union of Concerned scientists put it, 2012 has been the year of success by numbers for EVs, with automakers making large investments “that will bring dozens of new models on the market, growing competition and making EVs accessible for more drivers.” We would add that it has also been a year of appreciating EVs for their various off-road benefits, such as saving your life, or powering your home after a natural or nuclear disaster.


7. Carnegie Wave

It’s been a big year for this global award-nominated WA-based clean energy company, which in July signed an “historic” power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Australian Department of Defence for its 2MW demonstration plant that’s being built off Garden Island near Fremantle in Western Australia. As we wrote back then, “the PPA means that the HMAS Stirling naval base on Garden Island will buy all the energy from the installation, which will be Australia’s first commercial-scale grid connected wave energy facility.”

The deal also gave the company’s shares a boost, and provided a win for canny cleantech investor Mike Fitzpatrick (the former Carlton footballer and founder of Hastings Funds Management) and his co-investors, who snapped up a 10 per cent stake in Carnegie Wave from a distressed seller in the UK at just 1c per share – despite the prevailing share price of 3.5c – which by the close of trade had risen five-fold in value to 4.9c – or a total of $5.7 million from $1.14 million.

The plant will use the company’s CETO technology, the design for which it unveiled in September. Carnegie expects to begin construction of its Perth Wave Energy Project in the first quarter of 2013 and make its first power sales into the grid in the fourth quarter of 2013. The project recently attracted a $9.9 million grant from the federal government’s Emerging Renewables Program and a $5.5 million grant from the WA government, and the company is currently negotiating a power purchase agreement with local offtakers.


8. Hepburn Wind wins global industry gong

Australia’s first community-owned wind farm – the two-turbine, 4.1MW Hepburn Wind project at Leonards Hill, 10km south of Daylesford in Victoria – was this month recognised for excellence and awarded the World Wind Energy Award in Canberra. The wind farm – which, as Hepburn Wind chairman Simon Holmes à Court has pointed out, could not have been built under current Victorian planning laws – was initiated and partly funded by a 1900-member co-operative; most of its members being local to the project. Could this be the start of something big?


9. Tokelau becomes world’s first 100% solar-powered nation

The installation of a third and final solar PV mini-grid system was completed on the South Pacific archipelago of Tokelau in early November, giving the New Zealand-owned territory the capability to be the powered by 100 per cent solar energy. As we wrote back then, the Tokelau Renewable Energy Project – described as a “world first,” the largest off-grid solar power project in the world, and the largest solar system in the South Pacific – comprises 4,032 PV modules, 392 inverters and 1,344 batteries that will provide the entire electricity supply for the nation’s three tropical atolls – Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo – replacing diesel generators. Coconut-oil fired generators will provide backup capacity for cloudy days. The New Zealand-funded project was overseen by Kiwi company Powersmart Solar. “Completed on time and on budget, the project is an excellent example of how small Pacific nations can lead the way on renewable energy development,” said NZ foreign affairs minister Murray McCully.


10. RenewEconomy founded

Last but not least, it’s been almost a year since Giles Parkinson launched this independent website, with the aim of discussing the ideas, analysing the trends, and examining the new technologies and the policies that will drive what has been described as the next industrial revolution – the global shift to a low-carbon economy. We think it’s going well! And did we mention we won an award…?


Greener Apple Data Centre & BMW Drives with cleaner fuel technologies

Posted by Ken on December 22, 2012
Posted under Express 181

Greener Apple  Data Centre & BMW Drives with cleaner fuel technologies

Apple will soon be running the largest non-utility fuel cell installation in the United States with 50 fuel cells installed at its flagship data centre in North Carolina, which will be 100% powered by clean energy. And BMW is coming in for more acclaim for systematically reducing energy use in facilities through energy-efficient materials, products, and processes; and in vehicles through use of regenerative energy technologies. Green Biz has the cleaner energy stories. Read more

Apple hosts largest private fuel cell installation in U.S.

By (11 December 2012):

Apple is doubling the number of fuel cells it will use to power its $1 billion data center in North Carolina, making it the largest non-utility fuel cell installation in the U.S.

The company is having 50 fuel cells installed for a total of 10 megawatts (MW) of capacity.

Apple’s announcement eclipses eBay’s, which will power its flagship data center 100 percent by fuel cells, and 30 fuel cells will do that.

Both companies are using Bloom Energy fuel cells that get their energy from biogas piped in from nearby landfills.

The massive North Carolina data center is also making extensive use of solar PV at 25 MW. With the two technologies combined, about 60 percent of the energy will come from its own renewable sources, and Apple will purchase the rest from sources that are 100 percent powered by clean energy.

Apple says all three of its U.S. data centers will run solely on renewables, including ones planned in Prineville, Ore. and Newark, Calif. Its goal is to achieve net zero energy for corporate facilities worldwide — its facilities in Cork, Ireland, Munich, Germany, Austin, Tex. and Sacramento, Calif. run 100 percent on renewable energy, the company says.

Still, Apple remains the subject of criticism, getting a mediocre ranking from Climate Counts on its lack of attention to measuring and disclosing emissions, and has long been at the bottom of its peers in the How Dirty is Your Data? analysis by Greenpeace.

The company rose a bit this July in Greenpeace’s report, A Clean Energy Roadmap for Apple, but got poor marks for its energy sourcing strategy.

After stinging criticism on its supply chain in China, Apple announced this week that it will spend $100 million to start manufacturing Macintosh computers in the U.S. The Macintosh product line, however, makes up a tiny portion of Apple’s revenue.



How BMW is driving smart energy strategies

By Christine Hertzog

Published December 19, 2012


BMW recently convened a group of transportation, electric vehicle (EV) and energy thought leaders in Silicon Valley to participate in a dialogue with their senior executives about sustainability, energy and mobility services. The discussion also focused on V2G (vehicle-to-grid) integrations pondering new smart grid convergences with sustainability principles.

BMW’s guiding view is that sustainability along the entire value chain is inseparable from their corporate self-image. The company has been systematically reducing energy use in facilities through energy-efficient materials, products, and processes; and in vehicles through use of regenerative energy technologies.

The production facilities for its electric BMW i cars will incorporate renewable energy. Industrial plants and processes are major electricity consumers.  Adding renewables to their energy mix reduces reliance on fossil fuels, and in Germany, helps address the looming retirement of that nation’s nuclear fleet as well.  Co-located generation with consumption also reduces the need for build-outs of the transmission infrastructure and eliminates the energy losses that would otherwise occur in long distance, high voltage transmission.

All of these activities merit commendation, but the discussion group’s consensus was that creating programs that encouraged BMW dealerships to adopt renewable energy production and energy–efficient building technologies and processes would be an even more powerful means to visibly demonstrate commitments to sustainable practices.

Since many of BMW’s customers fall into the affluent and green categories, rooftop and parking lot solar installations and energy-efficient lighting could reinforce the brand’s image — and particularly with the new all-electric BMW models. BMW doesn’t own dealerships nor their real estate, but some outside-of-the-box thinking combined with that strong corporate commitment to sustainability could yield surprising innovations.

For instance, car manufacturers, like GM, have become financial institutions to structure car loans for customers. Could BMW create their own green bank to help dealers finance renewable energy and/or energy efficiency investments? Could they help dealers in specific states like California, which continue to enhance building codes for energy-efficient operations, with guidance on how to leverage technologies to save electricity costs?

There are no easy answers, and BMW has to make money at the end of the day, so any programs targeted to dealers have to show some positive impact to the corporate bottom line.  However, helping dealers save money on operating costs by reducing energy use does contribute to the corporation’s sustainability philosophy and brand values.

However, there’s another possibility for BMW to consider that integrates the principles of sustainability with their business models and has direct benefits to grid modernization. EV batteries are depleted over time but still have potential for other energy storage applications once their useful auto life is over. Community energy storage (CES) and home energy storage can potentially repurpose used EV batteries for supply during localized power outages to deliver grid resiliency. Used EV batteries could also supply electricity to homes during peak times to reduce grid loads and improve grid reliability. One electric utility, AEP, has already piloted community energy storage with used EV batteries.

There are many more questions than answers about repurposing EV batteries, and several studies are focused on providing those answers. A car manufacturer like BMW could think about batteries from a complete sustainable product lifecycle (cradle-to-cradle) perspective, and use battery technologies that have not only the best performance for autos, but the best performance for home energy storage or CES use.

Beyond battery technology itself, there’s a need to determine the best business models to cost-effectively repurpose EV batteries.  Could BMW innovations extend beyond sustainable product design to sustainable business models for repurposed EV batteries that create compelling economic value for their EV customers, dealers, utilities and help deliver grid resiliency and increased reliability?  It’s an intriguing thought.


Christine Hertzog is a consultant, author, and professional explainer focused on Smart Grid technologies and solutions.  She provides strategic advisory services to startups and established companies that include corporate, market, and funding development.


Shell & Stress Nexus: Balancing Natural Resources with Human Needs

Posted by Ken on December 22, 2012
Posted under Express 181

Shell & Stress Nexus: Balancing Natural Resources with Human Needs
Can Shell’s ‘stress nexus’ change the conversation about natural resources? Green Biz chief  Joel Makower talks to Ruth Cairnie, Shell’s executive vice president for strategy and planning, about the link between energy, water and food: why this had become a strategic focus for Shell, and what the company hoped to achieve from talking about it. Read More

By Joel Makower (17 December 2012):

When the opportunity presented itself to interview a senior executive from one of the world’s major oil companies, my initial inclination was to pass. I’ve watched oil companies enter and exit the global sustainability scene over the past 25 years, and I haven’t been impressed. They arrive with an aspirational slogan — Beyond Petroleum, People Do — along with a CEO speech extolling the company’s commitment to a better and responsible future. And, as if on cue, environmental and human rights activists decry the messaging as disingenuous at best, fraudulent at worst. And away we go.

Then something happens — an incident or lawsuit involving indigenous people in developing countries, a spill or other “event,” or maybe just the ephemeral cycles of marketing campaigns. And the company’s outreach fades away, with only a digital archive of articles, images and blog posts to show for itself. As for the company itself, not much has changed, sustainability-wise.

But something about Royal Dutch Shell piqued my interest. I’d been hearing for the past year or so company execs talking about a “stress nexus” involving energy, water, and food, and the implications of those stresses for the environment, the economy and society. It didn’t sound quite like the same-old, same-old. It took a cross-sectoral, multidisciplinary systems view of the world: not just beyond petroleum, but beyond energy. At minimum, I thought, it was a message worth hearing out.

It’s not that Shell has been exempt from controversy. It is currently under attack by activists for its plans to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic. It is being scrutinized and criticized for its human rights record in Nigeria. Like other oil and gas exploration and production companies, it is the subject of protests related to the drilling process known as fracking.

But in a world where fossil-fuel energy companies aren’t going away any time soon, and where there’s a hunger for leadership, a longer-term vision and an open dialogue about sustainability problems and solutions, the “stress nexus” seemed a provocative conversation for Shell to be having.

And so began my recent conversation with Ruth Cairnie, Shell’s executive vice president for strategy and planning, about the link between energy, water and food: why this had become a strategic focus for Shell, and what the company hoped to achieve from talking about it.

A little background: Since the 1970s, Shell has used scenario planning as part of a process for generating and evaluating its strategic options. Scenario planning is itself an exercise in systems thinking that combines many factors — social, technical, economic, environmental, educational, political — to envision possible, and sometimes surprising, futures.

Over the years, Shell has used scenario planning in thinking about sustainability. For example, in 2008, the company looked at visions of 2050, including two scenarios: one called “Scramble” (in which world governments react to changing sustainability impacts but fail to establish long-term climate strategy, and where energy companies largely set the rules), and another dubbed “Blueprint” (where international bodies have set global frameworks, laws, and trading systems that scale renewables and manage greenhouse gases). The goal, of course, is to assess the company’s sustainability goals and strategy within each scenario.

Last year, in the wake of the financial crisis, Shell released Signals and Signposts (PDF), a report that analyzed long-term energy scenarios in an era of volatility in the economic, political and social spheres. The stresses building in our global systems, such as water, food and energy production, will make industrial and social transformations inevitable, the company said. But what and how? That became the basis for the stress nexus conversation.

“In the water-energy-food stress nexus, you have quite important linkages,” Cairnie told me. “You need water to develop energy. You need energy to treat and to transport water. You need energy and water to produce food. So, it’s a recognition that you need to look at all of these issues in a joined-up way. Because if you try to find solutions for just one of the issues you’ll find unintended consequences, perhaps making the others more of a problem.”

By Shell’s reckoning, by 2030 the world will need 30 percent more water, 40 percent more energy, and 50 percent more food than today. “It’s an enormous challenge, and ultimately governments will need to play a very strong role in finding solutions. But we see Shell having a role to play, both in our own areas of direct responsibility but also to look at how we can use our capabilities to help creatively find different solutions.”

I asked Cairnie, of all the scenarios the company has developed over the years, why the stress nexus became a topic of public conversation for Shell. After all, company executives have been talking about the stress nexus for the past year or so at everything from World Water Week to various energy and engineering forums. (Just last week, Shell CEO Peter Voser discussed the topic at a UK event on “21st century challenges” at the Royal Geographic Society.)

“As we become more and more aware of the stress nexus, first of all we see that it’s relevant for us,” she said. “While, 70 percent of water use is in agriculture, for the share that has been in industry, energy is an important part of that. So, our role in reducing the water requirements for our processes is important, and we think will be increasingly important. There’s a lot that we can do and should be doing.”

This isn’t a topic for any one company to tackle, she added. “The stress nexus crosses between different countries, different government departments, different industries, and so we see the importance of finding new ways of collaborating. We think it’s important to engage people, to get more awareness of these challenges and look for new ways of collaborating. We’ve got a lot of examples of different types of collaboration that we’re working on to build understanding and to build new ways of finding solutions.”

So, for example, in British Columbia, Shell collaborated with the City of Dawson Creek to build a reclaimed water facility that virtually eliminated its need to draw on local freshwater sources for the operation of a natural-gas venture. The project treats a volume of municipal wastewater that had previously been released to a standard suitable for industrial, agricultural and municipal uses. In another project, Shell worked with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the University of Utrecht to develop a new methodology that can estimate more accurately the amount of water needed to generate energy from different sources — oil, gas, coal, nuclear and biofuels — using different technologies and in different locations. In Brazil, where Shell has a major sugarcane biofuels business, the company is working with local governments on water and land-use issues.

“Our core business is producing energy,” says Cairnie. “But as a relatively significant user of water, and recognizing the increasing stresses, we want to make sure we’re very responsible in the way that we’re developing our projects to minimize the impact that we put on scarce resources. And in the same way, businesses in general will be using energy, water, and probably land — and so this is about them becoming aware of how they can be more efficient and, therefore, reduce their call on those resources for their future operations.”

I asked Cairnie: Cynics would likely point to the stress nexus as a fig leaf to distract attention from fracking, which right now is a hot-button issue, related in large part to water use by energy companies, and the disposition of spent water back into the water tables. And that by bringing attention to water and agriculture Shell is pointing a finger in the other direction.

“We use water in many different parts of our operations, so this is not specifically about fracking,” Cairnie responded. “We believe that to make the dramatic increase in energy demand, the world is going to need resources of energy to be developed, including the type of gas through fracking. And we believe that that can be done responsibly.” She reiterated the water solutions in Dawson Creek as an example of how planning and collaboration can get everyone what they want and need.

So, how does a conversation about the stress nexus help Shell reputationally? What does the company hope to get from the exercise?

“We want to see a broader appreciation of the importance of these issues and the importance of moving forward in a very collaborative way,” said Cairnie. “We’d like to see better collaboration and working together between government and business because we think that that will be very important in finding solutions. We want to find new ways of collaborating with other companies, and we expect to find new opportunities and new partnerships that will come out of this, which will also be good for our business in the future.”

How all this inures to Shell remains to be seen. One key challenge for the company will be to balance talk with action — how much (and how loudly) Shell is talking about the problems relative to how much it is actually seen to be doing to solve them. Achieving that balance has tripped up other energy companies, for whom the say-do gap was simply intolerable in the minds of many.

There’s more to come. Cairnie says that Shell will unveil a new set of scenarios in early 2013. “We will be focusing very much on these volatility questions, and very much on the increasing importance of these stress-nexus issues.”

Whatever you think of Big Oil in general, or Shell in particular, the energy-water-food stress nexus is a conversation worth having about balancing natural resources with human needs. It goes beyond knee-jerk sound bites, feel-good marketing campaigns, and meaningless slogans, delving into the messy complexity of what’s needed, what’s achievable, and how to get there. In a world seemingly inundated with bullying and bluster around our most pressing problems, there’s a critical need for such grown-up conversations.


Business Students Learn About Sustainability the Walmart way

Posted by Ken on December 22, 2012
Posted under Express 181

Business Students Learn About Sustainability the Walmart way

Maybe the best way to learn is to follow the leader. That applies to Sustainability for Supply Chains and Walmart. CEO Lee Scott made history for Walmart when announced a bold sustainability strategy in 2005 that would impact every aspect of its business. Business researchers from the University of South Carolina and the University of Arkansas were given unprecedented access to study the process. A three-year project has culminated into a series of studies that will be used to teach business students and executives about sustainability and business development. Read More


By Sustainable Plant Staff December 19, 2012 05:00:21 pm


In 2005, Walmart made history when then-CEO Lee Scott announced a bold sustainability strategy that would impact every aspect of its business. Along the way, business researchers from the University of South Carolina and the University of Arkansas were given unprecedented access to study the process.

A three-year project has culminated into a series of studies that will be used to teach business students and executives about sustainability and business development.

“The goal of the Walmart sustainability case project is to lead students through an in-depth analysis of Walmart’s journey of formulating, implementing and measuring an ambitious corporate sustainability strategy. Because we have written multiple, interconnecting teaching cases, we are able to have students look across organizational levels and across time to evaluate and learn from Walmart’s experience,” said Andrew Spicer, an associate professor at USC’s Darla Moore School of Business.

Spicer led the Walmart Sustainabilty Case Project with David Hyatt, a clinical assistant professor in Arkansas’ Sam Walton College of Business. Their collaboration has resulted in seven case studies that provide an in-depth analysis of Walmart’s effort to develop and implement its sustainability goals of creating zero waste, being supplied by 100 percent renewable energy and selling sustainable products.

For the project, the researchers conducted more than 30 interviews, including 25 with current and former Walmart executives and employees, to get a variety of perspectives on how the giant retail company is carrying out the strategy through its businesses practices and products. In doing so, Spicer and Hyatt have examined what the company has accomplished, what has worked and what hasn’t.

At the center of each case are questions that address sustainability at a societal, organizational and individual level.  These include questions such as: Who in society should set standards for sustainability – government, consumers, scientists or companies? Who in an organization should make decisions about strategy, and how should success be measured and communicated? By what criteria should individuals make their own decisions about sustainability in their roles as leaders, employees and consumers?

“These cases aren’t meant to be a full examination of all the issues that Walmart has faced in its on-going sustainability journey,” Spicer said. “We chose these cases to identify those key decision-points in Walmart’s efforts that would lead to insightful and thoughtful discussions about the opportunities and challenges of designing and implementing a corporate sustainability strategy.”

Spicer said plans call for adding more cases and materials to the website to help professors further enhance their teaching about the relationship between business and sustainability.

Spicer will teach the full case series this spring in a course on corporate sustainability in the Moore School’s International MBA (IMBA) program. He says while the cases can be taught as stand-alone topics, they are best taught as a series so that professors and students can identify and examine the recurring issues that arise across different levels of personnel in an organization, stages of decision-making and over time.

The cases augment other Moore School resources on sustainability, including the school’s Page Prize for Sustainability in Business Curricula, a repository of the best courses and coursework in sustainability taught at business schools nationally and internationally.

In December 2013 the Moore School will open its new building, which is designed to meet the goals of earning a LEED Platinum and Net-Zero rating. The school was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to partner with its Net-Zero Energy Commercial Building Partnership program.


Carbon Farming, Super Electric Cars and Harnessing Tornado Energy

Posted by Ken on December 22, 2012
Posted under Express 181

Carbon Farming, Super Electric Cars and Harnessing Tornado Energy

Good news on the clean energy front: Funding a start-up aimed at harnessing the energy of tornadoes to generate cheap, emission-free energy. Tesla Motors is ramping up production of its Model S electric super car vehicle in Europe. And an Australian project to sequester CO2 through tree take roots in the state of Queensland starting with 20 hectares of native conifers, expanding to 1,500 hectares, with 100 year commitment from landowners. Read more

Peter Thiel Invests In Human-Made Tornadoes To Generate Clean Energy

by Mandy Adwell (17 December 2012):

Paypal co-founder and first major investor in Facebook Peter Thiel is now no newbie to environmental investments, recently investing in projects such as 3D bioprinted meat and an energy storage startup. One of his most recent investments is a small grant of $300,000 to a Canadian inventor who has dedicated years to harnessing human-made tornadoes to produce power.

The funding was made through Thiel’s Breakout Labs, part of the Thiel Foundation, which provides funding opportunities for “cutting-edge, early-stage science and technology research ideas.”

Louis Michaud, the Canadian engineer behind the project, has a startup called AVEtec, with technology called the Atmospheric Vortex Engine (AVE) that he has been working on for the past several years. The design introduces warm, humid air to a circular station, where it turns into a controlled tornado. The idea is that this will drive multiple power turbines. This process can be shut off at any time by removing the warm air source.

The energy delivered from the vortex is carbon emission-free, costing only 3 cents per kilowatt hour, which is pretty cheap compared to coal’s price, which can be as high as 5 cents per kilowatt hour – with exceptionally high emissions in comparison.

The only problem is that a large power plant is needed to create a usable amount of power, and an appropriate building has yet to be built and tested. The tornado column in a plant designed for commercial use would have to be 130 feet tall. That would be quite a tornado.

In terms of energy input, Michaud’s plan is to create tornadoes using waste heat from plants and factories, harnessing energy from the vortexes they create. He will be working with Lambton College in Ontario to develop a prototype with Thiel’s funding.

It seems that Thiel is becoming a decent source of funding for very early-tage, cutting-edge cleantech products that have serious potential. The grant issued to AVEtec sounds like just what it needed to get noticed and take the next steps. Do you think a project like this could really work?


Tesla Motors Plans European Assembly, Distribution In 2013

17 December 2012:

Now that manufacturing and deliveries of the Tesla Model S are ramping-up, the company is preparing to open a European assembly and distribution facility. The 200,000 square-foot center in Tilburg, Holland will assemble left-hand drive versions of the Model S beginning as early as March 2013.

While Tesla has a pre-order waiting list for the Model S of a reported 13,000 cars, the company is planning to also ship Model S and Tesla Roadster parts to the new facility. Apparently, this could help Tesla avoid expensive tariffs on whole cars, although it may mean there is a VAT tax applicable. The facility in Holland will involve around 50 jobs.


Good news stories: Carbon project sows seeds for climate change fight

By Kirsty Nancarrow for ABC (17 December 2012)

A far north Queensland project has become the first of its kind in Australia to be approved for carbon farming by the Federal Government.

SelectCarbon says it is partnering with a landowner near Ravenshoe on the Tablelands, south-west of Cairns, to plant 20 hectares of native conifers for carbon credits.

The company’s director, Daryl Kilin, says the first plantings should happen in about 12 months.

“These native conifers have been around for a couple of hundred million years,” he said.

“They’ve actually been through climate change and they’ve proven to be resilient to significant changes in climate over the last 200 million years, which is pretty significant.

“That’s why we think that they’re going to have a major role to play in climate change mitigation in north Queensland.”

He says the project involves a 100-year commitment from the landowner.

“We think that we can get around about 1,500 hectares in the long run planted to native conifers and that will be all over the southern Atherton Tablelands,” he said.

“We’ll be working with landowners to run this program over the next seven years.

“What this means is this is now an approved project that we can then take to a carbon tax emitter in theory and they can offset their emissions by investing in this project.”