Archive for the ‘Express 182’ Category

All Fired Up for 2013

Posted by Ken on January 10, 2013
Posted under Express 182

The intention was to start the New Year with the message– “Warm wishes for a cool change”. But it would seem to be not only an empty hope but flying in the face of everything we are coming to learn about climate and our future management of our planet. The earth is getting hotter. FACT. The US has just experienced its hottest year ever. FACT. Australia has just experienced its hottest day on record. FACT. Climate change – or global warming, if you like – is happening faster than anyone predicted. FACT. So do we, like others  in the know, just give up telling the world to face the facts? Should we, like some others in the media, bury our heads in the sand and hope for the best?  Of course, we will keep on telling the climate change story. Reporting history as it happening. But also bringing any good news we can find. Where countries, companies, organisations and individuals are being inventive and innovative. Are finding ways to clean up our energy act. And hope against hope that some sense of urgency consumes people in authority. That leaders get fired up when they see flames destroying property and thousands of hectares of farmland and forest . When they realise that extreme weather  and “catastrophic” fire storms are directly attributable to a warming world. And we can do something about it. Maybe we can only wish for a change of heart. May this be the wake up call for 2013. – Ken Hickson

Profile: Paul Polman

Posted by Ken on January 10, 2013
Posted under Express 182

He believes that humanity is heading for disaster unless politicians, companies and civil society join forces to respond to the challenges of social injustice, climate change, resource scarcity, ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss. Paul Polman, one of the 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders, has a missionary zeal about the potential to create a better world and often works 15 plus hours a day to not only embed sustainability at the heart of Unilever’s business but also to encourage a more collaborative approach with companies, NGOs and institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations. Read more

Jo Confino for the Guardian Professional Network (21 November 2011):

Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever

Unilever chief Paul Polman talks to Jo Confino about the company’s radical sustainability agenda.

Who would have thought even a few years ago that one of the world’s most powerful chief executives would be advocating a transformation in society far more radical than any mainstream politician.

Paul Polman, the CEO of Anglo-Dutch consumer giant Unilever, whose brands include Dove, Persil, Bertolli, Flora and PG Tips, says the political and economic systems are failing and that capitalism needs to be reframed to work for the common good.

He says too many companies have prospered at the expense of society and nature, and that business now has to learn to be successful while contributing to society and supporting ecosystems and biodiversity.

“We do not have to win at the expense of others to be successful,” he says. “Winning alone is not enough it’s about winning with purpose.”

He acknowledges the Occupy Wall Street movement for exposing the inequalities in society, warning that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that companies that fail to respond to the social and environmental challenges of our age, are at risk of being put out of business.

“The Occupy Wall Street movement sends out a very clear signal,” says Polman. “If you look out five or 10 years, which is my job, the power is in the hands of the consumers and they will not give us a sense of legitimacy if they believe the system is unfair or unjust. Some companies that miss the standards of acceptable behaviour to consumers will be selected out.

“I am not advocating communism or trying to turn the world into a kibbutz. Some people sometimes accuse me of being a socialist but I am a capitalist at heart. But what I want is a sustainable and equitable capitalism. Why can’t we have that as a model?”

Polman is acknowledged as one of the leaders of a small but growing band of progressive companies that believe humanity is heading for disaster unless politicians, companies and civil society join forces to respond to the challenges of social injustice, climate change, resource scarcity, ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss.

“We have increasing income disparity within the developed world. We have a political system that barely functions after the economic and financial crisis. So continuing the way we are going is simply not a solution and increasingly consumers are asking for a different way of doing business and building society for the long term together.”

Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan

Polman believes in walking his talk and last year launched the company’s Sustainable Living Plan, which covers all brands and 180 countries where Unilever operates, as well as its total supply chain, including the impacts of its consumers.

Unlike many other companies that concentrate on their environmental footprint, Unilever’s plan also incorporates the other two pillars of sustainability; social, and economic.

The plan seeks to double sales and halve the environmental impact of its products over the next 10 years. There is also a commitment to improve the nutritional quality of its food products – with cuts in salt, saturated fats, sugar and calories – and link more than 500,000 smallholder farmers and small scale distributors in developing countries to its supply chain.

At the heart of Polman’s thinking is the desire to show the Sustainable Living Plan is not just about doing good but about good business. By providing a concrete example of the business case for sustainability, he hopes it will convince other companies to follow suit and help convince the investment community to move away from their obsession with short-termism.

“If we hit all our targets on this plan, but no-one else follows suit, we will have failed miserably,” says Polman. “We are trying to show that you can be successful as a business and at the same time show the financial community this should be one of the better drivers for their investments.

“We are growing and our share price is doing well. So we will gain credibility. The more we can reinforce that link and show it to others, the more we can be a galvaniser in this world for good. That is what success will look like.”

Reconnecting business to a sense of purpose

At the root of his philosophy, and what drives him, is a recognition of the importance of reconnecting business to a sense of purpose beyond just making money and getting bigger.

“If you believe in something you have to fight for that and have the courage to take the tougher decisions that come with it,” he says “Having a deeper purpose to what we do as people makes our lives more complete, which is a tremendous force and motivator.

“What people want in life is to be recognised, to be part of, to grow and to have made a difference. That difference can come in many forms; by touching someone, by helping others, by creating something that was not there before.

“To work for an organisation where you can leverage this and be seen to be making a difference; that is rewarding.”

The importance of collaboration

Polman has a missionary zeal about the potential to create a better world and often works 15 plus hours a day to not only embed sustainability at the heart of Unilever’s business but also to encourage a more collaborative approach with companies, NGOs and institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations: “I only do things I am passionate about otherwise I am wasting my time,” he says the development of coalitions is essential, he believes, because change needs to come at a systemic level, which needs all major players in society to commit to change.

He cites as examples his work with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to see how business can work more effectively with the global institution, and the creation of the Consumer Goods Forum, which has agreed amongst other things to stop buying palm oil, paper, soya or beef from illegally forested areas by 2020.

Part of his thinking behind the Sustainable Living Plan was to set such ambitious targets that the company would be forced to work in partnership with others if it were to have a hope of meeting them.

“We cannot do it alone,” he says. “We have to work together. People felt uncomfortable about this inside the company, and to some extent also my board. People were concerned about what would happen if we miss the targets and saying to me that I will not be here anyway in 10 years time.

“I got all that stuff but the response overall was positive as this is the response of a human company. We do not know all the answers, we cannot do it all on our own.

“We have to play at a different level of co-operation. I think one of the main reasons is that people are understanding that international institutions and governments are not designed for all the answers.

“By making sustainability a strategy and operating model it opens doors that are beyond peoples’ imagination. We have a unique opportunity because people are realising the world is inter-dependent. In the past we might not have talked to Greenpeace or WWF, but now we are now on the phone with them every week.

“Who will refuse that journey, who will refuse to jump on the train for a better world. I ask people what is the alternative? Why would I distrust anyone who wants to work with us to achieve that, including the Occupy Wall Street movement.”

Why are so few companies embedding sustainability?

So why is it that so few other business leaders are taking the issue of sustainability into the heart of their organisations?

Polman points out that the average tenure of a CEO is only three years so there is often little motivation to take on the challenge and that most business leaders are fixated at the moment with getting through the current economic turmoil.

He also highlights the increasing complexity of the world which creates a feeling of disempowerment.

Polman says: “I use the term VUCA to describe the world – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. It is very difficult for people to get a total picture. The food, water, energy nexus is so inter-related that it is for most people too difficult to know where to start and where to end.”

Another concern for Polman is the motivation of the financial community. In fact Polman famously stopped quarterly reporting and drew a line in the sand by making it clear he wanted investors who were interested only in supporting the long-term health of the company.

The role of government

He believes government has a role to play here and argues for a progressive taxation system for share ownership, pointing out that equities in FTSE100 companies are held for on average just eight months.

“Most of the trading is done in nano seconds by people that you call my shareholders but who would move anywhere if they can make a quick return,” he says.

“Governments can think about frameworks to encourage longer term thinking. There could be different share structures where dividends attract a higher tax rate depending on how long you hold shares. There are options if you really want to address that issue.

“The quarterly cycles and reporting requirements, we really have to challenge those. This is the right time to do that.”

Polman says CEOs on their own cannot significantly influence the financial markets, and given that Unilever is a consumer goods company, it makes more sense to focus the company’s attention on changing the behaviour of its two billion customers, who account for the majority of the company’s environmental footprint.

“For a CEO to move the investment community is a tall order,” he says. “We are a company focussed on the consumer so we have a lot to do there.”

The role of consumers

One aspect is to encourage customers to use resources more efficiently, such as taking shorter showers and washing clothes in lower temperatures. The other is encouraging them to switch to more sustainable products.

Polman says some clear lessons have already been learnt, such as consumers will not buy ‘green’ products unless their performance is as good and they do not have to pay a premium: “If our sustainable Lipton tea does not taste good or is too expensive, they will not buy,” says Polman.

But he believes we are now entering a new era when consumers will stop buying products from companies they see are not behaving responsibly.

“Are consumers prepared to pay for sustainable tea or not – we have gone past that at 100mph,” says Polman. “The question now is are they prepared to buy from companies that are not being responsible. Consumers recognise they can drop a company instantly.


“Companies should use this knowledge to act as a force for good, become part of the responsible movement. This is not utopia, it is enlightened self interest.”

The role of progressive regulation

Polman, like other business leaders, is frustrated by the lack of clear incentives to support the transition to a sustainable society, and is a firm believer in progressive regulation that is based on incentives.

“To move things forward like carbon reduction, it would help for governments in Europe to be clear on whether they support a 30% or 40% reduction goal – and we have made it clear we don’t mind the 40% goal – but if there is not a clear framework, companies won’t invest because capital decisions take a long time.

“Business needs frameworks. I am a free enterprise person but that is not the only solution. A system where you can have positive reinforcement for the long term is more effective than rules and regulations. If I had to run my company with bibles of guidelines I would not be in business long term.

“The financial crisis of 2008 was as much a crisis as ethics and a unique opportunity to develop frameworks for the longer term.”

Polman acknowledges there is a new generation of CEOs, brought up in the 1960s, who have a more rounded view of the role of business in society.

But he believes previous generations would also have responded to the challenges facing the world “because the clarity of the issues we are facing now are so transparent. When we went into the Second World War, the business leaders combined took a decision for the greater good of the UK to fight for freedom and when they came out, to get the economy back on track. When the challenges are big enough people respond in a responsible way.”

How Unilever is embedding sustainability

It’s one thing a CEO putting his weight behind a leading-edge sustainability strategy, but how is Unilever embedding this across a company with nearly 170,000 employees operating in 180 countries, owning hundreds of brands and directly touching the lives of 5-6 million people across its supply chain.

Polman points to the importance of preparing the groundwork before going public, Cancelling quarterly reporting and changing the way employees are incentivised were two key ways of moving the company away from concentrating on the short-term. Measurement of impacts has also been critical in understanding where the company’s key impacts are and being able to set intelligent targets for improvement.

“In any company, you have to go back to what drives people. Making more money or being bigger means less and less,” he says.

“Brands with a purpose and that are values-led over time are going to be by definition more successful.

“We embed the three pillars of sustainability into our strategy, our key performance indicators, how we reward people. Our buying people have KPIs on the percentage of sustainable sourcing, we measure how many small-holder farmers we employ, we measure the full impact of water, carbon, packaging, waste, of all of our products and reward our people for moving in the right direction.”

Polman is delighted by the way staff have responded, although more work needs to be done to push change down into the middle management layers.

The engagement score in the regular staff survey leaped by 10 percentage points after the Sustainable Living Plan was launched. Polman says this shocked the survey company because they had never seen this level of change before.

“The real breakthrough is feeling it not just in the head but also in the heart and we do a lot of storytelling around that. Every country I visit I go to consumers and retailers to look at the impact of our products, the contribution our products make to society.

“People rally to this – some more than others – but it is at a critical mass.”

Reasons to be optimistic

While some people worry that the pace of change is far too slow to address the scale of problems the world is facing, Polman cautions against pessimism and suggests that the foundations for transformation are being put in place.

In the corporate world, he points to the growing number of companies reporting on their impacts and disclosing their carbon emissions and he points to the rapid growth of socially responsible investment funds in the financial markets. Beyond that he says investment banks are coming together to help halt illegal deforestation and that they are starting to think about their business models, although he recognises they are doing this under pressure from critics rather than voluntarily.

Within the field of corporate responsibility, Polman is considered to be the most influential advocate for challenging the status quo and showing that business as usual is not an option.

But he brushes aside this reputation and points out he could not have taken the position he does if the values of responsibility were not already embedded in the company’s culture.

“Don’t personalise this because this company has been a force for good,” he says. “I have the benefit of having the size of this company but there are lots of unsung heroes who do not have the resources of Unilever.

“What we are trying to do is nothing special. We are seeking to stay close to society to guarantee our future.”


Who’s Blocking Action on the Climate Front?

Posted by Ken on January 10, 2013
Posted under Express 182

As 2012 marks the hottest year ever on record in the United States (and maybe the rest of the world when figures are available sometime soon), concrete actions that lead to meeting climate targets remain mired in the decision making process. The task of mitigating climate change is no longer a technological or scientific conundrum, instead is largely limited by political will and action, or the lack of. In a paper from IIASA, ETH Zurich and other institutions, uncertainties in political action ranks top in factors affecting the meeting of climate change goals. Read more

Political action the biggest swing factor in meeting climate targets, research says

In Phys Org (2 January 2013):

The most important factor affecting the likelihood of limiting climate change to internationally agreed targets is when people start to do something about it, according new research from IIASA, ETH Zurich, and other institutions.

The new study, published today in the journal Nature, examined the probability of keeping average global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above preindustrial levels under varying levels of climate policy stringency, and thus mitigation costs.

In addition, the study for the first time quantified and ranked the uncertainties associated with efforts to mitigate climate change, including questions about the climate itself, uncertainties related to future technologies and energy demand, and political uncertainties as to when action will be taken.

The climate system itself is full of uncertainty – an oft-used argument to postpone climate action until we have learned more.

“We wanted to frame the problem in a new way and try to understand which uncertainties matter in trying to limit global warming by specific climate action,” says Joeri Rogelj, ETH researcher and lead author on the paper, who carried out the research at IIASA.

The most important uncertainty, according to the study, is political – that is, the question of when countries will begin to take serious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and implement other policies that could help mitigate climate change.

Keywan Riahi, IIASA energy program leader and study co-author says, “With a twenty-year delay, you can throw as much money as you have at the problem, and the best outcome you can get is a fifty-fifty chance of keeping temperature rise below two degrees.”

Two degrees is the level that is currently supported by over 190 countries as a limit to avoid dangerous climate change. Social uncertainties, which influence consumer energy demand, were second-most important, the study found. Social uncertainties refer to things like people’s awareness and choices with respect to energy and to the adoption of efficient technologies.

“How much energy the world consumes going forward turns out to be a much bigger swing factor for climate change than the availability of technologies like solar and wind power, biofuels, and so on,” said IIASA researcher David McCollum, another co-author.

“Energy efficiency, improved urban planning, lifestyle changes – these things on the demand side of the energy equation are so important; yet they receive relatively little attention compared to the supply side.”

The researchers examined geophysical and technological uncertainties and found that while the climate system and energy supply technologies are generally seen as the major factors for climate, they ranked below political and social uncertainties in the new study.

Geophysical uncertainties refer to the unknown – and unknowable – factors about how the climate system will react to greenhouse gas emissions. Technological uncertainties refer to questions about which energy supply and carbon capture systems will be available in the future.

The authors used scenarios to define how these factors affect the probability of staying within a given temperature target, at a variety of carbon prices. In addition to the 2°C target, the researchers also explored the distribution of costs and risks for limiting global warming to below 1.5°C and 3°C.

Even for a 3°C target, a 20-year delay in the most stringent greenhouse gas reductions in combination with a high demand future means that there would remain a one in three chance that temperatures exceed 3°C. At the same time, limiting warming to 1.5°C with at least a fifty-fifty chance (a target supported by the least-developed countries and small island states) appears only to be possible if the world starts acting on climate change now and turns towards an energy-efficient future.

Surprisingly, while much research is focused on understanding the global climate, a highly complex system with many uncertainties, the new study finds that after a certain point, there is little chance of limiting temperature rise to below 2°C. “Ultimately, the geophysical laws of the Earth system and its uncertainties dictate what global temperature rise to expect,” said Rogelj. ”

If we delay for twenty years, the likelihood of limiting temperature rise to two degrees becomes so small that the geophysical uncertainties don’t play a role anymore.”

More information: Rogelj, J., D. McCollum, A. Reisinger, M. Meinshausen & K. Riahi (2013) Probabilistic cost distributions for climate change mitigation. Nature, DOI:10.1038/nature11787 Journal reference: Nature


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The Heat is On. And there’s Worse to Come

Posted by Ken on January 10, 2013
Posted under Express 182

Devastating bushfires sweeping across large swathes of Australia on the back of the hottest day ever recorded are a sign of things to come. With average temperatures in Australia predicted  to rise by 5 degrees C by 2070,  extreme weather conditions and firestorm events are set to be the new norm. The New Scientist also reports that while the extended Kyoto Protocol takes us through to 2020, it is unlikely to achieve what it set out to do. Emissions have risen over time and it’s not likely to change that trend any time soon. Read more

Climate change looms large as Australia swelters

By Andy Coghlan in New Scientist (7 January 2013):


Australia is baking in a record-breaking “dome of heat“, threatening to unleash the worst firestorms since those that claimed hundreds of lives in 2009. Temperatures reached almost 48 °C on Monday at the Oodnadatta airport in South Australia, and 43 °C on Tuesday in Sydney. The typical January high is 37.7 °C at Oodnadatta. The average across the country is tipped to break the previous record of 40.17 °C in 1976.


“It’s likely to just beat it,” Karl Braganza of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology told The Age newspaper on Monday. “It’s just an extensive dome of heat over the continent.”


At least 90 fires were sweeping through New South Wales by Monday, and 100 people remained unaccounted for in Tasmania following major fires covering 60,000 hectares. Bushfire experts warned that things could get worse. “The current heatwave is unusual due to its extent, with more than 70 per cent of the continent currently experiencing heatwave conditions,” says John Nairn, South Australia’s acting regional director for the Bureau of Meteorology, in comments to the Australian Science Media Centre.


Lack of rainfall in recent months has left soils completely dry and unable to release moisture that would take up heat from the air through evaporation. At the same time, vegetation across the continent that had been revived by rains over the past two years is now completely dried out. “Much of this grass is fully dried and is ready to burn,” says Gary Morgan of the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre in Melbourne.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in the fourth and most recent of its assessments of the effects of climate change, predicted that in south-eastern Australia, the frequency of days when extreme fire danger threatens will increase by up to 25 per cent by 2020, and up to 70 per cent by 2050. In its most recent study of the impact of climate change, the Bureau of Meteorology noted that average temperatures across Australia have increased by almost 1 °C since 1910, and could rise by up to 5 °C by 2070.





By Fred Pearce in New Scientist (3 January 2013):

Fifteen years after its painful birth in Kyoto, Japan, the world’s first legally binding agreement to limit emissions of greenhouse gases ended this week.

For some it is a victorious conclusion. The 37 industrial nations that stuck with the protocol after the US pulled out in 2005 say they exceeded their promises, cutting their emissions for the period from 2008 to 2012 to an average of 16 per cent below 1990 levels, compared with the 4.7 per cent promised in the agreement.

But the protocol only ever applied to rich industrialised nations. Most of the cuts came from Eastern European countries when their economies collapsed after the fall of the Berlin Wall – reductions that would have happened anyway.

Emissions rise

In the same period, global emissions have risen by 50 per cent, thanks to the rapid industrialisation of nations such as China, not covered by the original deal.

Formally the protocol lives on. Climate talks in Doha in December created a second “compliance period” stretching to 2020, when diplomats promise a new deal involving all nations will come into force. But with Russia, Japan, New Zealand and Canada pulling out, this next period only covers nations which contribute 14 per cent of global emissions, mainly the European Union and Australia.

What’s more, phase 2 contains the same fundamental loophole as the first deal. Too many rich countries have met their targets by moving their carbon-intensive industries, such as steel and aluminium manufacturing, offshore to nations not covered by the protocol.

Moving to China

This allowed the UK to easily meet its Kyoto target, cutting its domestic carbon dioxide emissions by 23 per cent from 1990 levels by 2011. But several assessments of its total carbon footprint – including emissions produced from the manufacture of imported goods – reveal an increase of around 10 per cent since 1990, even allowing for the recent economic downturn.

Worse still, most of the new manufacturing nations are both highly inefficient users of energy and power their manufacturing largely with the dirtiest of the major fuels, coal. The result is higher emissions.

Energy economist Dieter Helm from the University of Oxford asked recently:”What exactly is the point of reducing emissions in Europe if it encourages energy-intensive industry to move to China, where the pollution will be even worse?”

It seems likely that, in this way, the Kyoto protocol may actually have increased global emissions. Ouch.


Cities Acting on Their Own to Deal with Climate Change Impacts

Posted by Ken on January 10, 2013
Posted under Express 182

2012 will be looked back upon as a significant year for climate change – the 20th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol, the hottest year ever in America on record, devastating wildfires and superstorms – that made the world sit up and take notice. It was also the year that cities around the world took the initiative to battle climate change instead of waiting for national governments to make their move. Responsible for 70% of global GHG emissions, it is only appropriate that cities set the field for the upcoming battle. Read more

2012: The year cities stood up to climate change — and took a beating

By Greg Hanscom in Grist (28 December 2012):

A year ago, as the curtain was closing on 2011, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stood in front of an audience at the United Nations and declared that it would be cities, not national governments, that would lead the fight against climate change. “As mayors — the great pragmatists of the world’s stage and directly responsible for the well-being of the majority of the world’s people — we don’t have the luxury of simply talking about change but not delivering it,” he said.

2012 would prove Bloomberg right. It would also lay bare just how far we still have to go before cities like New York are prepared for the havoc climate change is wreaking — and how hard urban leaders in the U.S. will have to fight to get help from Washington on this and a whole host of other issues. In the closing days of 2012, we watched Republicans in Congress balk at funding disaster relief after superstorm Sandy barreled into New York, inflicting tens of billions of dollars in damage along the Eastern Seaboard.

In the immortal words of Philip Bump: “Oh my God, some politicians are dicks.”

To put it all in perspective, here’s an overview of Grist’s cities coverage from 2012 in five acts.

Act 1 Cities step up

Bloomberg’s speech at the U.N. was part of the lead-up to the United Nations Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June. The summit marked the 20th anniversary of the original Rio Earth Summit, and for a handful of starry-eyed optimists, it represented a chance for world leaders to make bold commitments to tackling climate change and other problems.

Rio, traffic-choked and deeply divided between rich and poor, offered a glimpse of the challenges the world’s cities will face as they struggle to accommodate another 2 billion people by mid-century. It was no great surprise, then, that while international diplomats dithered, leaders of some of the world’s largest cities stepped up, committing to bump up their battle against climate change by, among other things, reducing methane emissions from garbage. (Methane is a greenhouse gas more than 20 times more powerful than CO2, and can be captured and burned to generate electricity.)

At a press conference, Bloomberg announced that the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group — a network of 59 cities, including New York and Los Angeles — had already laid plans to cut 248 million tons of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of taking 44 million cars off the road for a year. By 2030, the group could slash carbon emissions by 1 gigaton. “We’re not arguing with each other about emissions targets,” Bloomberg said. “What we’re doing is going out and making progress.”

Act 2 A green-cities arms race

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, U.S. leaders were far too busy running for office to be bothered with the climate fight. President Obama (You are our only hope, Obi Wan!) hardly mentioned climate change on the campaign trail or in the debates. His rival, Mitt Romney, turned it into a punchline.

On the local level, however, urban leaders were engaged in a sort of arms race for the title of “greenest city in America.” And perhaps they should: Cities are responsible for a whopping 70 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report released earlier this year by the Carbon Disclosure Project. They are also increasingly vulnerable to heat waves, droughts, and flooding.

In Los Angeles, where a UCLA study found this year that climate change will drive up average temperatures by an average of 4 to 5 degrees F by mid-century, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has enacted an ambitious climate action plan. In Chicago this month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled a new blueprint for creating 645 miles of bike lanes by 2020. Philadelphia, meanwhile, is sewing the seeds of a sort of green urban renaissance, replete with a burgeoning urban farming scene and a new bike share program. And there are many examples in between.

Act 3 Women take the helm

Many of the people leading the fight against climate change on the city level are women — a surprising number of them quite young and, dare we say it, smoking hot. Grist’s assistant editor, Darby Minow Smith, has talked to more than a dozen of these women for her series “Knope and change.” (The name is a nod to Lesley Knope, the main character in the TV show Parks and Recreation.)

Philly’s sustainability director, Katherine Gajewski, is leading the effort to bring the city into compliance with the Clean Water Act using “green infrastructure” — read: green roofs, rain gardens, streets with porous pavement, etc., that slow, absorb, and evaporate stormwater before it overwhelms the sewers. In Gary, Ind., sustainability chief Lauren Riga has ramped up the recycling program and helped launch an urban agriculture program in a post-industrial city that has been compared to post-evacuation Chernobyl. Fort Lauderdale’s assistant city manager, Susanne Torriente, is preparing her city for rising sea levels — and for good reason: Depending on what happens on worldwide climate action, 48 percent of South Florida could end up submerged.

“There’s been a lack of progress at international negotiations. We saw it in Rio,” Cynthia Rosenzweig, head of Climate Impacts Group at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, told me earlier this year. “There’s a growing realization that cities are the right level of governance to tackle climate change issues.”

Act 4 A violent reality check

Which brings us to Oct. 29, when superstorm Sandy roared up the Eastern Seaboard and slammed into New York City, revealing just how sinister the impacts of climate change are — and how ill-prepared we are to deal with them, even where urban leaders have drawn lines in the sand.

As Grist’s Susie Cagle wrote as New York was still reeling from the blow, “There are multiple factors that came together to whip up Sandy, and no one causal judgment, however attractive, is fair. But given the evidence, it’s likely that no matter how Sandy came in to this world, climate change has helped this storm grow bigger, go faster, and head farther than it might have in earlier times and cooler seas.” And Sandy was undeniably a taste of what is to come as warming and rising seas and a warming atmosphere whip up bigger, more frequent storms.

Five weeks after Sandy hit, with parts of New York still without power and flooded buildings still too dangerous to enter, Bloomberg appeared at a press conference with Al Gore and Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, to begin laying plans for defending the city from future storms. “We may or may not see another storm like Sandy in our lifetimes, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that we should leave it to our children to prepare for the possibility,” he said.

Act 5 A question for 2013 and beyond

Sandy brought into sharp relief what is at stake with climate change. It also made it clear that cities will not be able to tackle the challenge, or respond to its wrath, alone. And yet, on the national level, politicians continue to ignore the issue or pretend that there is still some debate over whether it is even real. And that, in a nutshell, is the challenge facing American cities today.

In recent decades, the U.S. has turned its back on urban areas, pouring billions into car-centric suburbs while allowing inner cities to crumble. As with climate change, we understand what it will take to assuage many of our cities’ worst problems — joblessness, poverty, crime — and yet we’re content to turn a blind eye, dismiss these as someone else’s problem. Many Republicans go so far as to call any policy that would help cities part of the bogus “war on the suburbs.” Urban sustainability efforts, they say, are a United Nations plot to destroy the American way of life.

In truth, cities are the key to battling the climate conundrum, as Alex Steffen eloquently points out in his new book, Climate Zero, published in Grist last month. The question for Americans — for our national and local leaders, for millennial urbanophiles, and baby boomers who say they want to live in cities again — is whether we’re really ready to commit to making our cities work again. The answer to that question will have huge implications not just for our cities, but for our warming planet as well.

Greg Hanscom is a senior editor at Grist. He tweets about cities, bikes, transportation, policy, and sustainability at @ghanscom.


ADB Promotes No Impact Week & Clean Electric Three Wheelers

Posted by Ken on January 10, 2013
Posted under Express 182

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will be putting concept into action with its No Impact Week, where environmentally friendly practices will be adopted by its staff, consultant and contractors. This is in line with its wider commitment to sustainable development, as evidenced by its financing of a project in the Philippines aimed at replacing 100,000 fuel-burning, smoke-spewing motorised tricycles with clean, energy efficient electric ones. Read more

From 14-18 January 2013, ADB will hold No Impact Week — our contribution to the No Impact Project campaign that seeks to reduce our environmental impact and make our operations — and ourselves — more carbon neutral.


To raise awareness about the impacts of our institutional and individual behavior on the environment, health, and well-being of our communities and ultimately effect long-term change.

How It Works

Each day of the week has a specific theme:

Monday, 14 January – Trash: Stop making trash

Tuesday, 15 January – Transport: Switch to more sustainable transport

Wednesday, 16 January – Food: Eat local, eat less meat

Thursday, 17 January – Energy: Conserve energy

Friday, 18 January – Water: Consume less water

Participants sign-up will be asked to sign-up for the No Impact Week challenge and commit to activities based on each day’s theme. Each day builds on the day before, so by Friday participants will have tried to consume less and make more sustainable choices n their energy, food, water, and transportation.

Target participants

All ADB staff, consultants, and contractors. External guests will be invited to observe. These include but are not limited to:

•           university students and professors,

•           representatives from the private sector,

•           NGO’s,

•           and local governments.


300 Million for Green Transportation Revolution in the Philippines – ADB

11 December 2012:

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing $300 million towards a groundbreaking project that will replace 100,000 gasoline-burning tricycles in the Philippines with clean, energy efficient electric tricycles, or E-Trikes.

“E-Trikes are a cleaner, greener transport solution for the Philippines, and provide a better quality of life for trike drivers,” said Neeraj Jain, ADB’s Country Director for the Philippines. “This project can help transform transportation in the Philippines, and positions the country as a leader in electric vehicle development in Asia.”

About 3.5 million gas-fuelled motorcycles and tricycles are currently operating in the Philippines, typically serving as short-distance taxis, with the average tricycle driver earning less than $10 a day. E-Trike drivers will save upwards of $5 a day in fuel costs, and the new E-Trikes have the capacity to carry more passengers. E-Trike drivers saw their daily incomes more than double during a pilot program in Metro Manila.

The new E-Trikes, which run on an electric motor and rechargeable lithium-ion battery, will be introduced to Metro Manila and other urban centers across the Philippines under a lease-to-own arrangement. Replacing 100,000 gasoline-powered trikes will enable the Philippine government to save more than $100 million a year in avoided fuel imports, while decreasing annual CO2 emissions by about 260,000 tons.

“This project will lessen the Philippines’ dependence on foreign oil imports, and by fabricating and assembling the tricycles domestically, it will create up to 10,000 jobs in the 5-year project implementation,” said Loreta G. Ayson, Undersecretary at the Depart of Energy.

In line with the government’s plan to develop a national e-vehicle industry, the project will support the establishment of an e-vehicle parts industry, battery supply chain, and charging stations, including five off-grid solar charging stations.

Without intervention, the Philippines is on a course to almost quadruple CO2 emissions in less than 25 years. Based on an ADB study, gasoline-fuelled tricycles are responsible for more than two-thirds of all air pollution generated by the country’s entire transport sector.

In addition to its $300 million loan, ADB is also administering another $105 million loan and grant from the Clean Technology Fund for other Philippine environmental-focused projects. The Government of the Philippines is providing $99 million counterpart funding for the project. The project will run for five years, with an estimated completion date of December 2017.

BMW & Boeing Recycle Carbon Fibre & Graphene Gets Uncorked

Posted by Ken on January 10, 2013
Posted under Express 182

With widespread adoption of carbon fibre in making light energy-efficient vehicles, the problem of properly disposing of them at the end of the vehicle’s lifespan becomes apparent. To this end, Boeing and BMW have collaborated to jointly research carbon fibre recycling  – ways to reclaim and reuse the material to make new products. Over at Australia’s Monash University, a novel method of arranging graphene in a cork-like structure unlocks its suitability for use in applications ranging from aerospace to tissue engineering. Read more

BMW, Boeing collaborate to recycle carbon fibre

13 Dec 2012:

The BMW Group and Boeing have signed a collaboration agreement to jointly research carbon fibre recycling.

In addition, the engineering giants will look to share manufacturing knowledge and explore automation opportunities.

The companies have been pioneering the use of carbon fibre in their products and recycling composite material at the point of use and end of product life is essential to both.

In combination with the SGL Group, BMW has constructed a carbon fibre plant in Moses Lake, Washington state.

Boeing and BMW will share manufacturing process simulations and ideas for automation at the location.

Herbert Diess, board member at BMW, said, ‘Boeing for us is a suitable partner for a collaboration in the field of carbon fibre.

‘Boeing has many years of extensive experience using carbon fibre in the field of aviation, while the BMW Group has earned a significant competitive advantage through its use of special manufacturing methods for series production of carbon fibre parts. Through this cooperation we can merge know-how between our industries in the field of sustainable production solutions.’

Larry Schneider, Boeing vice president of product development, added, ‘This collaboration agreement is a very important step forward in developing the use and end use of carbon fibre materials.

‘It is especially important that we plan for the end of life of products made from carbon fibre. We want to look at ways to reclaim and reuse those materials to make new products. Our work with the BMW Group will help us attain that goal.’


Cork the Key to Unlocking the Potential of Graphene

Science Daily

Dec. 4, 2012 — Scientists have taken inspiration from one of the oldest natural materials to exploit the extraordinary qualities of graphene, a material set to revolutionise fields from computers and batteries to composite materials.

Published December 4 in Nature Communications, a  Monash University study led by Professor Dan Li has established, for the first time, an effective way of forming graphene, which normally exists in very thin layers, into useful three-dimensional forms by mirroring the structure of cork.

Graphene is formed when graphite is broken down into layers one atom thick. In this form, it is very strong, chemically stable and an excellent conductor of electricity. It has a wide range of potential applications, from batteries that are able to recharge in a matter of seconds, to biological tissue scaffolds for use in organ transplant and even regeneration.

Professor Li, from the Department of Materials Engineering, said previous research had focused mainly on the intrinsic properties and applications of the individual sheets, while his team tackled the challenge of engineering the sheets into macroscopically-useable 3D structures.

“When the atomic graphene sheets are assembled together to form 3D structures, they normally end up with porous monoliths that are brittle and perform poorly,” Professor Li said.

“It was generally thought to be highly unlikely that graphene could be engineered into a form that was elastic, which means it recovers well from stress or pressure.”

The researchers used cork, which is lightweight yet strong, as a model to overcome this challenge.

PhD student, Ling Qiu, also from the Department of Materials Engineering, said modern techniques have allowed scientists to analyse the structure of such materials and replicate nature’s efficient design.

“The fibres in cork cell walls are closely packed to maximise strength and individual cells connect in a honeycomb structure which makes the material very elastic,” Mr Qiu said.

Using a method called freeze casting, the researchers were able to form chemically modified graphene into a 3D structure that mimicked cork. The graphene blocks produced were lighter than air, able to support over 50,000 times their own weight, good conductors of electricity and highly elastic — able to recover from over 80 per cent deformation.

“We’ve been able to effectively preserve the extraordinary qualities of graphene in an elastic 3D form, which paves the way for investigations of new uses of graphene — from aerospace to tissue engineering,” Professor Li said.

“Mimicking the structure of cork has made possible what was thought to be impossible.”


Uncertainties in the Wind for Turbines to Drive Clean Energy

Posted by Ken on January 10, 2013
Posted under Express 182

2013 will start out an uncertain year for wind power producers in the United States. The expiry of a federal tax credit on the 31st of December 2012 saw energy companies scrambling to get their turbines online. An unclear prospect of further extension to the subsidy, coupled with uncertainties in negotiations to sell the power generated, will see a slower expansion of wind energy production in from this year. Read more

By Matt McGrath for BBC News (29 December 2012):

Wind power deadline sees US firms rush to build turbines

US energy companies are racing to install wind turbines before a federal tax credit expires at the end of this year.

Experts say that wind power has exceeded the construction of natural gas plants in recent months.

However the financial incentive for wind could be lost as congress struggles to avoid financial deadlock.

Even if the credit is extended it is expected that new installations will decline in 2013.

According to industry analysts, the federal government’s production tax credit has played an important role in the expansion of wind energy across the US since it was first introduced in 1992.

Wind passes gas

At that point there was less than 1.5 gigawatts of power generating capacity provided by wind across the country. That figure has grown dramatically. This year has seen around 12 gigawatts of wind power capacity installed, outpacing even natural gas projects which have boomed on the back of cheap shale.

The government subsidy works out at 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour of power produced over ten years. This amounts to around $1m (£620,000) for every large turbine. However the deadline is absolute – to get the money the blades on new installations must be turning and generating power before the 31st of December.

“There’s a lot of rushing right now to get projects completed by the end of the year,” says Rob Gramlich, senior vice president at the American Wind Energy Association.

“It is not a great way to run a business with this policy-induced uncertainty.”

The tax credit has proved contentious with some lawmakers criticising it as too generous. It lapsed previously in 1999, 2001 and 2003. Each time it lead to a collapse in new construction.

The American Wind Energy Association are hoping the tax credit will be passed as part of a compromise package of legislation to help the US avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. The say the most likely outcome is a short term extension of the subsidy.

“There’s a good chance we could get this extension, it is very hard to predict, but the industry is not making bets on the Congress getting it done,” says Mr Gramlich,

Even if there is an extension there is likely to be a significant curtailment of wind installations in 2013. Wind energy companies say they need longer time frames to negotiate deals to sell the power they generate.

Iberdrola Renewables is the second largest developer of wind power projects in the United States. The company is racing to finalise new wind installations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

However the prospects for new turbines in 2013 are slim according to Paul Copleman, communications manager for Iberdrola.

“Even if the tax credit is extended, our new construction plans likely will be ramped back substantially in 2013 compared with the last few years. So much time has passed without certainty that a normal one-year extension would not be a game-changer for our 2013 build plans.”

Some analysts argue that all subsidies to wind should end and the industry should stand on its own two feet. They say that the current arrangements mean that energy companies continue to make money even when there is a surplus of wind and the market price is negative.

Dan Kish is with the Institute for Energy Research, a body long critical of subsidies for renewables. He told BBC News the extension of the tax credit was expensive, unnecessary and destabilising to the electricity grid.

“Wind produces power at a fraction of its stated capacity, and is increasingly adding unnecessary costs to consumers, just as it is in the UK,” he said

“They are creations of government and serve only to make their builders and owners wealthy at the expense of the public.”


Disappearing Act for the Alaskan Village of Kivalina

Posted by Ken on January 10, 2013
Posted under Express 182

The threat of climate change is not restricted to just more erratic weather patterns and less comfortable lives, but also to the very existence of a community. An Alaskan native village is seeing its homeland slowly eroding into the sea and having to relocate to a government specified site, severely impacting the daily lives and practices of the community. In the meantime, attempts to bring to justice those responsible for their plight have been thrown out due to technical reasons. Read more

Engulfed by Arctic Waters: Residents on the Frontline of Climate Change

31 December 2012:

Truthout contributing author and academic researcher Christine Shearer authored Kivalina: A Climate Change Story a little over a year ago. Her book recounts the story of how the inhabitants of an Alaskan Native village, whose island home is being steadily eroded and engulfed by the surrounding waters, have tried to respond to climate change and its corporate deniers. Shearer and Kivalina resident Colleen Swan “spoke” with Truthout’s Leslie Thatcher in a recent email interview:

Leslie Thatcher for Truthout: Colleen Swan, please tell Truthout’s readers about life in Kivalina and its history.

Colleen Swan: Kivalina is situated on a barrier reef island that is about 8 miles long and a quarter-mile wide. It was not the ideal place that the people of Kivalina wanted to live on. The Bureau of Indian Affairs put us there. Before that fateful decision by the federal government, our people lived in their own settlements in the geographic area of the island. The island was used only as a summer seasonal camping ground for ocean subsistence hunting.

Kivalina is the only bowhead whaling community in the Northwest Arctic Borough. We should have been a part of the North Slope Borough because we’re always treated as outcasts within our own regional organizations because some residents of Kivalina are not afraid to speak out and demand the protections that are due all United States citizens. And further, we are not afraid to fight back or to push back; neither are we afraid to share our stories of struggles and triumphs alike.

Our own belief systems are the “unwritten laws” that we live by. It is not a matter of spelling out what rules we are to follow about every part of our lives; it’s what we are born into. This is our life and our processes are a given. They are not enforced by government, neither are they written to be taught to our children. These are just part of our societal norms that are lived every day and “enforced” by family patriarchs or matriarchs.

Right now, life in Kivalina is not just physically threatened by Mother Nature’s wrath, but along with that comes the threats against our very identity as a people. Our battles throughout this relocation planning process [due to climate change] has caused our own village leadership to violate their own laws, all in the name of protecting our rights to freedom, to live and be free in the United States, a constitutional right.

LT: How is oil drilling affecting that life?

CS: Oil drilling is not physically affecting our lives. But the threat of oil spills and the threat to the migrating sea mammals is a threat to our livelihood. We live largely on the tribal resources that come from our natural environment from the land, waters and the air. Anything that threatens that is a threat to us spiritually, physically, culturally, mentally, emotionally and economically. These are not just words; this is the hard truth.

LT: What impact has climate change had on the population of Kivalina?

CS: Climate change has had a major impact on Kivalina in many ways. Even though our people are adaptable to changes, a rapid change in the climate has made adaptation difficult. Not only are we impacted in our daily lives, but our current location has become increasingly precarious having a major impact on us physically to a point where we are now required to move to higher ground and more inland, a very cost-prohibitive impact.

Ever since 2004, we have lost our peace of mind. It was then when we realized the true nature of our predicament because the shore ice that once protected us from the natural ocean surges was no longer there.

And now with the sea level rising, a University of Alaska-Fairbanks professor (Dr. Vladimir E. Romanovsky) who has conducted a study that made predictions of flooding in low-lying areas, shows Kivalina going under water within 50 years time. It was this very prediction that interrupted the process of relocation of the village that was supposed to have commenced in 2006. It was then that the relocation of our village became no longer an option, but a matter of survival.

LT: So it’s caused the need for relocation: How has climate change further affected the mechanics and time table of relocation?

CS: When we first started the Kivalina Relocation Project, it was to meet basic human needs such as having water/sewer services, more space for residential homes to alleviate over-crowding, more economic development opportunities and [to face] naturally occurring gradual erosion.

By 2004, much of the studies that were needed as required by government regulation were done on a site and other alternatives chosen by the people in a voting process. Because the government has realized the potential impacts of climate disruption, the preferred site chosen by the people appears to no longer be viable because of a flood prediction study done by the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

So, not only do we need the government and the courts to be making decisions for our short-term needs for the safety of our people, but we also need our government to be making sound long-term decisions regarding climate change. It is for people like us who are in the frontlines living with the realities of climate disruption and many others all over the world who need government leaders to take action now. Because of the rapid changes to the environment, we can only get out of Mother Nature’s way. We can’t push back on a rapidly advancing train, no one can.

On the other hand, we can’t realistically expect government to be making sound decisions for us. They have too much economic interest in this issue even at the United Nations level. For instance, the United States would not be making decisions keeping places like Bolivia or the Maldives, least of all Kivalina, in mind and neither would China.

Our only hope is in the courts where politics cannot be allowed to come into play. If people don’t see that, there is no hope for anyone, not even for the rich. Everyone’s going to have to come back down to earth and create their own survivability or eat rubber and drink crude oil. And that’s not even mentioning ocean acidification, “climate change’s evil twin” as some have called it.

LT: Christine Shearer, can you describe the specifics of the lawsuit the inhabitants of Kivalina brought?

Christine Shearer: Kivalina is eroding is because of warming Arctic temperatures – sea ice now forms later and later in the year, leaving the shoreline unfrozen and vulnerable to erosion from fall storms. In 1992, Kivalina residents voted to move, and in 2003 and 2006, US government reports said Kivalina had to be relocated within the next 10 to 15 years, due to erosion from warming temperatures.

In 2008, Kivalina filed a public nuisance claim of unreasonable harm against ExxonMobil and 23 other large fossil fuel companies for their relocation costs. They also charged a smaller subset with conspiracy and concert of action for creating a false debate around climate change – Kivalina’s representation includes some lawyers that had been involved in both sides of the tobacco lawsuits.

Under public nuisance law, you can hold people or companies accountable that make a “meaningful” or “substantial” contribution to a harm. The 24 fossil fuel companies were chosen for being among the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters, while a smaller subset face claims of conspiracy and concert of action for going – in lawyer Luke Cole’s words – “above and beyond” in their efforts to try and mislead people about the science on climate change.

So, following the logic of the lawsuit: The companies are substantial contributors to the harm now facing Kivalina, and many of the companies knew of the harm they were creating and tried to deal with it not by cutting back on emissions, but by misleading people to maintain their business. Kivalina is therefore seeking damages – the cost of their needed relocation.

LT: Your book focuses heavily on the fossil fuel industry’s promotion of misinformation on climate change. What makes that particularly relevant to Kivalina’s situation?

Christine Shearer: With Kivalina, multiple US government reports stated that the community’s shoreline was destabilizing due to warming Arctic temperatures. And yet at the same time, the George W. Bush Administration was questioning global warming and doing things like trading out government research on climate change reports for privatized research funded by fossil fuel companies and supporters. And documents have been unearthed suggesting that research was designed not to advance the science, but to sow doubt and confusion.

So there is evidence pointing to a deliberate attempt to mislead people about climate change, even as climate change grew worse and put people in danger, like the residents of Kivalina. The disinformation efforts arguably helped delay a much-needed policy response toward mitigation (lessening greenhouse gas emissions), as well as the response toward adaptation, which is absolutely critical for Kivalina’s safety.

Today we are paying the price for that delay, and coastal Arctic communities are particularly vulnerable, in part because they have few options for evacuation from large storms. Just last year a “superstorm” hit the Arctic and nearly flooded Kivalina, and all they could do was make evacuation in a school a few feet above sea level and wait and hope.

LT: What does the recent dismissal of Kivalina’s lawsuit mean for the future of climate change lawsuits?

Christine Shearer: The Kivalina lawsuit argued that fossil fuel companies could be held responsible for damages from climate change under federal public nuisance law. Kivalina’s claim was dismissed in 2009 and appealed.

The appeals court ruled this year that Kivalina’s federal claim was “displaced” by the Clean Air Act – in other words, since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is beginning to move forward with implementing greenhouse gas regulations, any plaintiffs claiming harm from climate change must look to federal regulations like the Clean Air Act and not to the federal common law of public nuisance, for a remedy.

The decision largely relied upon a 2011 Supreme Court case, American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut, in which states filed a federal public nuisance claim against utilities to lessen greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; the states went to the courts because the EPA under Bush/Cheney would not issue GHG regulations. By the time the court case reached the Supreme Court, however, the EPA was moving toward regulating emissions, so the Supreme Court ruled that the states’ claim was displaced by federal regulations. But Kivalina is seeking damages, not abatement, and there is no mechanism within the Clean Air Act to recoup the sort of damages Kivalina is facing.

Kivalina’s lawyers have therefore filed for a rehearing, pointing to a 2008 Supreme Court case, Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, in which a federal common law damages claim was not displaced by the federal Clean Water Act.

This could have large implications for any future cases seeking federal damages from climate change, as it may cut off one of the few routes available – federal public nuisance – for holding fossil fuels companies accountable for deliberately misleading people about climate change. Claims could still be filed under state law.

LT: Are there any federal relocation/adaptation policies that assist Kivalina residents now facing complete disaster? If so, how do they work?

Christine Shearer: Currently, there is no official relocation policy in the US and no national adaptation strategy. After storms began seriously eroding Kivalina, an emergency declaration was made that helped lead to funding for a sea wall to protect the residents.

The people of Kivalina still need to relocate, and right now they are trying to piece together their relocation within existing disaster management and coastal armament policies that have not been updated to reflect the reality of climate change and its effects, particularly its radical effects on the Arctic.

But we are starting to see more and more movement in this area – more communities and political representatives acknowledging climate change and the need to prepare for it. After another year of increasing droughts, superstorms, record-high temperatures and raging fires, it is becoming harder to deny climate change, and that is one thing that gives me hope – that it shakes more of us into action, finally. But we cannot forget that people in the Arctic have been facing the effects of climate change for a long time and need to be central as we start really dealing with this problem.

Engineering Sustainable Solutions for Climate Change & Events

Posted by Ken on January 10, 2013
Posted under Express 182

The organisers of the inaugural World Engineers Summit 2013 with the theme “Innovative and sustainable solutions to climate change” are calling for papers but not just from engineers. They want people with passion and expertise to “Play your part, share your ideas and promote your work”. The event at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore from 9-15 September will also be managed sustainably in keeping with its theme. Ken Hickson of Sustain Ability Showcase Asia (SASA) has this to say about making events sustainable, in line with the new Olympic gold standard ISO 20121, in the latest issue of CEI Asia. Read More

Promote your work.

If you believe that climate change is one of the most critical challenges facing humanity today and recognize the urgency to identify, develop and implement innovative and sustainable solutions to mitigate a spreading carbon footprint and ensuring the efficient consumption of Earth’s fast depleting resources, WES 2013 is your ideal activation platform!

The WES 2013 Organising Committee is inviting the submission of technical papers in the following areas:

• Corporate Social Responsibility on Climate Change

• Climate Change Opportunities for SMEs

• Environmental Engineering Education

• Environmental Policies

• Food and Water Security

• Financing Climate Change Adaptation

• Innovative and Sustainable Technology

• Integrated Environmental Management Systems

• Natural Disaster Mitigation and Management

• Professional Ethics and Conduct:

Key Prerequisites for Sustainability

• Sustainable Development

• Sustainable Energy

• Sustainable and Innovative Urban Planning

• Women in Engineering on Climate Change

Engage engineers across multi-disciplines, as well as:

• Business leaders of corporations

• Research funding organisations

• G• Scientists

• Researchers

• Technology investors

and developers government officials

Among other international audience to collaborate for further research and potential funding opportunities.

All submissions will be evaluated by the Abstract Review Committee comprising of experts from various fields, who will evaluate and screen the abstracts, and make recommendations for inclusion in the Summit programme.

The authors of the accepted abstracts will then be invited to submit full papers for presentation at the Summit. The deadline for abstract submission is 31 January 2013.

More information on the sessions and the submission process can be found at




Let’s take sustainability seriously for events in Asia:

The time for 20121 is now

By Ken Hickson

Sustain Ability Showcase Asia – SASA

It’s not rocket science to create and manage events in a sustainable fashion, but now there is a scientifically devised and certifiable standard to help the events industry do things better, cleaner and greener.

“Twenty Twelve One” – or alpha-numerically  ISO 20121 – is the new standard which is taking the event world by storm. It first saw the light of day with the London Olympics – the first major event to introduce and earn the certification. The process itself evolved out of BS8901 and now a number of venues and events have gained the Olympic gold standard.

Less is not more in Asia. So far only Thailand has officially submitted itself to the certification standard. Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau announced in July it is collaborating with SGS to introduce ISO 20121 to the MICE players. The new standards aim to elevate Thailand’s MICE industry to meet world standards.

Australia has embarked on the ISO 20121 process with a practiced hand. There is the experience offered through the Sustainable Events Alliance – – and one of its founding members, Green Shoots Pacific has worked on the implementation of ISO 20121 for its client, Sydney Festival.

In Europe there are plenty of examples of venues and events which quickly latched onto the scheme, understandably maybe as this evolved from the accepted British standard, BS8901.

The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff – venue for Rugby World Cup matches – was one of the early adopters, as was Dublin’s Croke Park, achieving ISO 20121 certification after an audit by SGS Ireland in May 2012, describing the award as “the Event Sustainability Management System International Standard”.

In June 2012 Coca-Cola Great Britain achieved ISO 20121 with SGS United Kingdom Ltd, ready for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The company’s certification covered all its London 2012 operations, including the Olympic Torch Relay, Venue Operations,  Showcasing, Hospitality and Licensed  Merchandising activities.

Closer to home, Singapore is having a serious look into the best way to introduce and manage standards for sustainability in the event industry. There are some big events in Singapore – conferences, exhibitions, festivals – as well as major venues like Marina Bay Sands, which should embark on the sustainability journey and subject themselves to the verifiable event standard.

It might be a sensitive issue, but there is no reason why the Formula One motor racing event, which Singapore has committed to for another five years, should not go through the ISO 20121 process.

No event is perfect, as the event industry has to acknowledge. In fact, staging an event of any sort in “inherently un-sustainable”, as pointed out by Phil Cumming and Fiona Pelham, authors of “Making Events More Sustainable: A Guide to BS 8901”.

We can see where some of the global events Singapore has scheduled in the year ahead are “ripe for sustainability”. We have already suggested this for the big first time World Engineers Summit, which takes place at Marina Bay Sands in September 2013, and not just because its theme is, “Innovative and Sustainable Solutions to Climate Change”!

By adopting a sustainability programme or approach means the organisers can reduce an event’s impact on the environment, for example, if they take into account the factors and opportunities (see the ten tips highlighted by the London Olympic sustainability team).

It can work just as well for a major conference or exhibition as it can for a smaller MICE event or event.

Getting the right advice and support, means any member of the MICE industry can seriously take sustainability on board. It is the future and it is the way the world of events is moving.

While there might be a cost to embark on this process, it is one that will pay off as showing leadership in sustainability is as important as showing you are professional and creative in the way you approach events.

And an important point to remember – as many major international companies have recently discovered – sustainability can produce some direct benefits to the bottom line. Reduced energy use, cutting back on paper and waste, introducing recycling programmes, can all directly give you cost savings for your events and your business.

So making events sustainable makes sense – very good business sense – and in the process it’s good for the planet, people, as well profit!

Just what does the new event standard really require? The London Olympics sustainability committee put it simply as a 10 point process of questioning and application, which in turn become ten tips for any event organiser, venue, country or company to apply:

Top ten tips for events

1.         Access: Ensure communication methods and physical access facilities mean everyone is welcome.

2.         Local area: Look after your local community. Try to reduce congestion, litter and noise.

3.         Energy and water: Think of inventive ways to reduce your energy and water usage.

4.         Transport: Walking, cycling and public transport are healthy and more environmentally friendly ways to travel to an event.

5.         Reduce and reuse: Think about what you really need – buy only what is needed and hire/reuse everything else.

6.         Responsible sourcing: Try to support local businesses and socially responsible organisations.

7.         Food and beverage: Try to showcase local, seasonal and Fairtrade produce and provide free drinking water.

8.         Keepsakes: Ensure giveaways add to the customer experience, are useful, reusable and/or recyclable.

9.         Make it easy to recycle: Try to provide recyclable packaging and provide recycling and general waste bins.

10.        Health, safety and security: A safe environment is a happy environment. Assessing the risks in advance can help ensure everyone can enjoy the event.

Source: and