Archive for the ‘Express 190’ Category

Book your Place on Spaceship Earth

Posted by Ken on May 2, 2013
Posted under Express 190

Guess who made it to the Time 100 influential list? Not a lot of memorable, lasting contributors to all that is likely to be good for the world. Not when Australia mining magnate Gina Rinehart is there. Influential, yes, but not for a world of good.  Elon Musk is listed and profiled here because he has his heart in the right place with his Tesla Electric car production. But he is also designing a space vehicle for passengers and cargo. He and Richard Branson seem committed to get us into space travel. While exploring the outer reaches of the atmosphere might help us better appreciate what we’ve got on earth, we must question whether the cost is worth it. Yes, space research has given us some definite benefits – solar power enhancements and energy efficiency gains – but we think more is to be gained now by investing into renewable energy and better managing the resources we have for a low carbon, more sustainable life on earth. This issue has the healthy mix of good news for people and the planet and the usual warnings that we are taking too much time to change our ways. More news from the scientific world, too and word that a new form of literature has been born. Cli Fi. Believe it or not? Readers will have to wait another month or so for our own 100 most influential. Nominations are invited for the 100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders of 2013. And for a piece of my mind – in the nicest possible way – go to ubrainTv.  Sustainable media is the message. – Ken Hickson

The Price is Right! Renewable Energy is Cheaper than Fossil Fuel

Posted by Ken on May 2, 2013
Posted under Express 190

It’s a fact. Renewable Energy is cheaper than imported gas and oil. What’s more, renewable energy offers South East Asia clean and secure power at fixed long term prices which are lower than the price for power generation from marginal fossil fuel on an unsubsidised base. This came out in a just-released report by Armstrong Asset Management called “Entering a New Phase of Growth:  Renewable Energy in SE Asia”, which clearly shows the opportunities for investment and the cost advantages of coming clean. Read more

Report released 1 May 2012:

Renewable Energy Is Cheaper than Imported Gas and Oil

By Edward Douglas, Investment Director, Armstrong Asset Management, Singapore

Renewable energy offers South East Asia clean and secure power at fixed long term prices which are lower than the price for power generation from marginal fossil fuel on an unsubsidised base.

As part of its on-going analysis of the potential in South East Asia for renewable energy (RE), Armstrong Asset Management has produced a report “Entering a New Phase of Growth:  Renewable Energy in SE Asia” which shows that there are a rising number of high quality solar PV, wind, hydro and biomass/biogas investment opportunities in all of the key markets with interest from both debt and equity providers to invest in them.

Let me provide an overview of our findings and in particular highlight what we see as the opportunities for investment in the renewable energy sector in S E Asia. Some key points first:

  • It is now cheaper to produce renewable energy in some South East Asia countries than bulk grid power from imported natural gas and fuel oil;
  • The cost advantage of renewable energy continues to grow in SE Asia as pricing, environmental and security risks associated with imported fossil fuels are more accurately evaluated;
  • SE Asia has excellent renewable resources but rely on a high level of fuel oil for power generation due to their sprawling geographies and inadequate grid infrastructure;
  • ASEAN-5 (Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia) will need to install between 168 and 192 GW of new power generation capacity by 2025 to maintain its projected economic growth rate of 5.8%;
  • Governments in all South East Asian markets are significantly expanding their commitment to renewable energy (RE) as a proportion of the energy mix.

According to a recent study from Centre of Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), on Sustainable Energy Futures in South East Asia in December 2012, the ASEAN-5 (Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia) will need to install between 168 and 192 GW of new power generation capacity by 2025 to maintain its projected economic growth rate of 5.8%.

As with the rest of the world, where nearly 50% of newly installed electricity capacity in 2011 (208 GW) was RE, it offers clean and secure power at fixed long term prices which are now lower than the price for power generated from marginal fossil fuel supplies on an unsubsidised basis.

From 2000 through 2006, the emerging markets of ASEAN-5 generally adopted a cautious approach to the development of renewable energy due to its perceived high cost.

But the commitment to RE really took hold and became a significant component of national power development plans across the breadth of ASEAN-5 against the background of (i) the rise in oil prices, (ii) the declines in RE costs and (iii) the level of concern surrounding energy security.

Over the past 7 years, the impetus behind RE has continued to build in the Region and the factors necessary to support private investment have been established.

We believe the increase in the quality and quantity of RE project development and construction witnessed over the past 36 months is confirmation that the sector is already in a phase of robust and sustainable growth.

Cost Competitiveness

The first and primary driver of recent growth is cost. In a growing majority of situations, RE is simply cheaper than the alternatives and so utilities, distributors, IPPs and end consumers are demanding more. In the case of solar, wind and hydro, it is a cost that is essentially fixed for 25 – 40 years.

Investors in fossil fuelled power plants on the other hand, must accept significant long term fuel pricing and environmental risks which are increasingly being factored into policy and buyer decisions.

SE Asia has excellent renewable resources which, when combined with reductions in RE system costs, have resulted in RE now being cheaper than bulk grid power from imported natural gas and fuel oil; in many cases, significantly cheaper.

Policy Traction

Even good government policy takes time to implement and invariably evolves before gaining traction and achieving a critical mass. In SE Asia, significant renewable energy policies were first implemented between 2004 and 2006 due to the rising economic, political, environmental and social case for a greater emphasis on its deployment.

The high cost (as a proportion of GDP) and dependence on fossil fuel imports had become a rising headwind to economic growth and a key security concern for all SE Asian governments.

Energy policy rose to the top of the government agenda and policy makers started paying particular attention to the advances being made elsewhere in the world with regards to RE.

As RE costs have come down and the future pricing and security risk of imported fossil fuels better appreciated, policy support in SE Asia has continued to strengthen to the point where government targets and commitment are very much in line with those in Europe and other leading international advocates of greater RE adoption.

Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia have committed to RE targets from 2025 to 2030. The successful installation and operation of projects following early initiatives, the maturing of supply chains and the readiness of private financing sources has allowed governments to commit more aggressively to a competitively priced and credible path of RE growth which would see these targets reached.

Lowering of Non-Economic Barriers to Investment in RE

We also consider how the strengthening regulatory and policy frameworks are helping RE developers and investors in SE Asia to overcome both economic and non-economic barriers and thereby accelerate the growth of RE capacity.

In its 2010 working paper “Deploying Renewables in Southeast Asia – Trends and Potentials” the International Energy Agency (IEA) states:

“Substantial non-economic barriers, such as infrastructure and grid-related problems and regulatory and administrative hurdles, continue to be a major impediment to the deployment of renewables. These barriers can have high economic impacts by increasing the return on investment required by financiers, especially if their impact is primarily in the earlier investment-intensive project cycle phases. Investors are likely to require a high risk premium to accept the possibility of policy changes affecting renewable energy project development.”

Support from policy makers can be broken down into four main categories:

• Tariffs which better reflect the risks and are therefore able to attract capital;

• Implementation of special fast track administrative and regulatory processes for RE;

• Removal or reduction in subsidies extended to traditional energy (fossil fuels) or power generated from them [which strengthens budgets and make funds available to upgrade energy infrastructure;

• Implementation of measures and incentives which align the interests of incumbent utilities and grid operators with RE developers and investors.

Supply Chain Readiness

The quality of development and the subsequent execution risks of green field construction of RE projects are very much tied to the availability of experienced firms and individuals. As early policy initiatives took hold and the fundamental drivers of RE continued to improve, a critical mass was reached in solar, wind and small hydro which allowed supply chains to mature to the point of sustainability.

Experienced and proven project development groups, world leading RE equipment suppliers and a wide range of internationally recognised service providers now have local operations in SE Asia serving the growth in the Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines markets.

Private Capital Availability

The economic attractiveness, policy support and supply chain development has allowed many sources of both equity and debt to get comfortable with the risks associated with the construction and operation of RE power assets. There is now growing interest from a wide range of financing sources to invest in the sector. On the equity side, these include PE Funds, corporates and increasingly family offices.

Growth of New Build Accelerating

There has been significant and sustained growth in the construction and development of solar, wind and hydro projects across SE Asia over the past five years. The quality of the resource and the increasing strength of policy support are driving the deployment of each technology in each market. Policy support means both financial incentives and the removal of technical (non-economic) barriers to entry.

Breadth & Depth of Opportunities

The accumulated investment into RE globally is now paying dividends globally as it translates into a positive feedback loop of volume, experience, costs and investment.

SE Asia is moving into its own phase of positive feedback where the larger and more established the broader Asia market becomes, the higher the quality of projects and management teams, which further lowers the cost of RE, which further drives growth. Asia’s rising prominence as a focus for RE investors is detailed in a number of recent reports and market data releases including:

• Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2012 from UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance, which cites a 21% growth in investment from US$71 billion in 2010 to US$86 in 2011 making Asia second only to Europe as a region for RE investment;

• Meeting the Energy Challenge in South East Asia: A Paper on Renewable Energy, July 2012 from IPSOS Business Consulting which illustrates a growth of RE in ASEAN from 9.8 GW of installed capacity in 2010 to a projected 53.8 GW by 2030 based on a consolidation of official government data;

• Market research from IHS, the global energy research firm, which projects Asia as the largest solar PV market globally in 2013, compensating for the slow-down in Europe.

For the reasons listed above, the depth and breadth of RE investment opportunities have improved significantly over the past 3 to 4 years. There is a rising number of high quality solar PV, wind, hydro and biomass/biogas investment opportunities in all of our key markets with interest from both debt and equity providers to invest in them.

Although the fast improving economics and compelling low risk characteristics of solar PV have made it a recent focus for many RE investors looking at SE Asia, small hydro and wind remain the lowest cost sources of RE and therefore of high interest to policy makers.

Due to recent rises in feed in tariffs and implementation of supportive regulations, developers are now making good progress in developing the excellent but under-exploited hydro and wind resources of the region. We therefore expect the rate of growth of these technologies to be a major boost to the sector.

We also see increasing opportunities in biogas and biomass power generation where higher tariffs and the maturing of the sector are presenting attractive opportunities for investment.

We have looked in some detail into three key SE Asia Markets – Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia – and produced country reports.

Here are a few highlights on a country by country basis:


Thailand now has more than 2800 MW of installed RE energy and has successfully achieved all of its main policy milestones to date on its path to a RE target of 25% of energy use by 2021.

Thailand is expected to announce a significant increase in the Feed in Tariff for biomass based power generation from approximately THB 3.8/kWh to THB 4.5/kWh to further stimulate development of the sector;


The Philippines is SE Asia’s most liberalised and highest priced power market where many small to medium scale independent power producers already sell power to cooperatives/distributors and industrial off-takers under PPA’s.

Following the steep drop in the system costs of solar PV and the increasing availability of development funding for run-of-river hydro and wind projects, developers and IPP’s are increasingly looking at small scale RE solutions to meet the power needs of their off-takers.


Indonesia has had a regulatory framework for renewable energy in place since 2006 under which the state utility (PLN) is obliged to purchase electricity generated from generation facilities with a capacity of more than 1MW and up to 10MW;

In 2009 (Ministry of Energy Regulation No. 31) a new tariff was introduced for mini-hydro projects, together with measures to help deal with non-economic barriers (including a standard form PPA). This applies to projects with a capacity of more than 1MW and up to 10MW.

About Armstrong Asset Management

The Armstrong S.E. Asia Clean Energy Fund is a private equity fund that invests in small-scale renewable energy and resource efficiency projects in Southeast Asia. This strategy is driven by the high energy demand and strong market fundamentals in the region. Armstrong Asset Management will seek to provide investors with a gross return in excess of 20% per annum.

The geographic focus of the Armstrong S.E. Asia Clean Energy Fund is principally in three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The Manager can allocate up to 25% of the funds gross assets outside these primary countries but within South East Asia, including the Philippines and Vietnam.

For the full report on “Entering a New Phase of Growth”, go to

Taxed to the Hilt? Not so Bad When Sustainability Comes out in Front

Posted by Ken on May 2, 2013
Posted under Express 190

Sustainability is great for business! While some benefits of incorporating sustainable measures in conducting businesses are already well known – better corporate image, reduced overheads, increased bottom-lines – businesses now stand to gain more. Countries such as the United States, Japan and China, have introduced tax codes that encourages sustainable corporate activity, reflected in their tax incentives for energy efficiency, renewable energy and green buildings. Read more

In Environmental Leader (25 April 2013):

US Ranks No. 1 Using Tax Code To Shape Corporate Sustainability

The US ranks No. 1 among 21 countries most actively using the tax code to influence sustainable corporate activity, reflecting the country’s federal tax incentives for energy efficiency, renewable energy and green buildings, according to KPMG’s first Green Tax Index.

Japan, the UK, France, South Korea and China are also among the leading countries using tax as a tool to drive corporate sustainability, according to the index. Key policy areas explored in the index include energy efficiency, water efficiency, carbon emissions, green innovations and green building.

The Green Tax Index gives companies insight into how countries are using taxes to influence corporate sustainability, says John Gimigliano, principal-in-charge of sustainability tax in the Washington National Tax practice of KPMG. He says Japan, for example, ranks No. 1 in promoting tax incentives for green vehicle production, while the US tops the rankings for its renewable energy tax incentives. The result: more electric and alternative fuel cars coming out of Japan and strong growth in the US renewable sector.

The rankings can also help corporate sustainability decision-makers allocate budgets and evaluate global investments around the world, KPMG says. For companies to enhance the return from their green spend, tax and sustainability executives should collaborate before making investment decisions.

The KPMG index identified more than 200 individual tax incentives and penalties of relevance to corporate sustainability. At least 30 of these have been introduced since January 2011.

According to the Green Tax Index, the US tax code provides a range of tax credits, including a production tax credit on renewable energy and tax incentives construction of efficient buildings. The US also uses green penalties less than other Western developed nations apart from Canada. When green tax penalties alone are considered, the US drops to 14th.

Japan is ranked second overall but, in contrast to the US, scores higher on green tax penalties than it does on incentives.

The UK ranks third and has a green tax approach balanced between penalties and incentives. The UK scores most highly in the area of carbon and climate change.

France occupies fourth place in the overall ranking with a green tax policy more heavily weighted toward penalties than incentives.

South Korea ranks fifth, and like the US, has a green tax system weighted toward incentives rather than penalties. South Korea leads the ranking for “green innovation” which suggests that South Korea is especially active in using its tax code to encourage green research and development.

China ranks sixth with a green tax policy balanced between incentives and penalties and focused on resource efficiency (energy, water and materials) and green building.

Nine US-based companies including Molson Coors, Alcoa, Sonoco Products, Herman Miller and UnitedHealth Group have been awarded gold medals for sustainability practices in RobecoSAM and KPMG’s Sustainability Yearbook 2013. This places the US higher than any other country in the rankings.

Profile: Elon Musk

Posted by Ken on May 2, 2013
Posted under Express 190

A real life Tony Stark. A claim often used to describe Elon Musk. Since the founding and success of PayPal, he has moved on to establish spacecraft developer SpaceX, and electric car maker Tesla Motors. The cars developed at Tesla are proof that electric vehicles need not be stodgy and boring, providing a gateway for future development of sustainable vehicles. Musk’s interest in sustainable human development also led to the founding of Musk Foundation, dedicated in part to the discovery of renewable and clean energy sources. Read more

View from TED:

Elon Musk is the chief designer for SpaceX, overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft for missions to Earth orbit and ultimately to other planets. In 2008, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft won the NASA contract to provide a commercial replacement for the cargo transport function of the space shuttle. In 2012, SpaceX became the first commercial company to dock with the International Space Station and return cargo to Earth with the Dragon.

At Tesla, Musk has overseen product development and design from the beginning, including the all-electric Tesla Roadster, Model S and Model X, and overseeing the rollout of Supercharger stations to keep the cars juiced up. (Some of the charging stations use solar energy systems from SolarCity, of which Musk is the non-executive chair.) Transitioning to a sustainable energy economy, in which electric vehicles play a pivotal role, has been one of his central interests for almost two decades. He co-founded PayPal and served as the company’s chair and CEO.


Bio from

Elon Musk was born in South Africa and became a multimillionaire in his late twenties when he sold his start-up company, Zip2, to a division of Compaq Computers. He went on to more early success launching PayPal via a 2000 merger, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) in 2002, and Tesla Motors in 2003. Musk made headlines in May 2012 when SpaceX launched a rocket that would send the first commercial vehicle to the International Space Station.

“I’m very pro-environment, but let’s figure out how to do it better and not jump through a dozen hoops to achieve what is obvious in the first place.”

– Elon Musk


Early Life

Elon Musk was born and grew up in South Africa, buying his first computer at age 10. He taught himself how to program, and when he was 12 he made his first software sale—of a game he created called Blaster. At age 17, in 1989, he moved to Canada to attend Queen’s College, but he left in 1992 to study business and physics at the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated with an undergraduate degree in economics and stayed for a second bachelor’s degree in physics.

After leaving Penn, Elon Musk headed to Stanford University in California to pursue a PhD in energy physics. However, his move was timed perfectly with the Internet boom, and he dropped out of Stanford after just two days to become a part of it, launching his first company, Zip2 Corporation.

An online city guide, Zip2 was soon providing content for the new Web sites of both the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, and in 1999, a division of Compaq Computer bought Zip2 for $307 million in cash and $34 million in stock options.

An Earnest Entrepreneur

Also in 1999, Musk co-founded, an online financial services/payments company. An acquisition the following year led to the creation of PayPal as it is known today, and in October 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion in stock. Before the sale, Musk owned 11 percent of PayPal stock.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Musk founded his third company, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, in 2002 with the intention of building spacecraft for commercial space travel. By 2008, SpaceX was well-established, and NASA awarded the company the contract to handle cargo transport for the International Space Station—with plans for astronaut transport in the future—in a move to replace NASA’s own space shuttle missions.

Another Musk venture is Tesla Motors, an automobile company dedicated to producing affordable, mass-market electric cars, which he co-founded in 2003. With a stake in the company taken by Daimler and a strategic partnership with Toyota, Tesla Motors launched its initial public offering in June 2010, raising $226 million.

The boundless potential of space exploration and the preservation of the future of the human race have become the cornerstones of Musk’s abiding interests, and toward these he has founded the Musk Foundation, which is dedicated to space exploration and the discovery of renewable and clean energy sources.

Preparing for Lift-Off

On May 22, 2012, Musk and SpaceX made history when the company launched its Falcon 9 rocket into space with an unmanned capsule. The vehicle was sent to the International Space Station with 1,000 pounds of supplies for the astronauts stationed there, and it is the first time a private company has sent a spacecraft to the International Space Station. Of the launch, Musk was quoted as saying, “I feel very lucky. . . . For us, it’s like winning the Super Bowl.”


SolarCity Opens its Largest U.S. Operations Center in Riverside, California


New Facility Will Service Inland Empire, Brings Jobs to the Region

RIVERSIDE, Calif., April 30, 2013—SolarCity® (Nasdaq: SCTY), a leading provider of clean energy, has opened its largest U.S. operations center in Riverside to accommodate growing demand in the Inland Empire. The 35,000-square-foot facility is staffed by 75 employees and currently has 20 additional job openings, and SolarCity expects to hire 50 additional employees in the area this year. SolarCity has grown to become the largest rooftop distributed energy company in California and in the U.S. by making it possible for customers to install solar panels for free and pay less for renewable, solar electricity than they pay for their utility bills.

“We look forward to creating more local jobs as we expand our services for homeowners and businesses,” said Jim Cahill, SolarCity’s regional vice president of operations for Southern California. “Riverside alone has 277 sunny days per year, which is nearly 40 percent more than the national average, so solar power production in the Inland Empire region is excellent.”

SolarCity provides energy services to more than 2,500 customers through its Inland Empire operations center, including Walmart stores in Corona, Temecula, Palm Desert and the Moreno Valley; the Barstow and Murrieta Valley Unified School Districts; the U.S. Bank branch in Rancho Cucamonga; and the First Assembly of God in Lake Elsinore.

Homeowners and businesses in the Inland Empire who are interested in SolarCity’s services can contact the company directly at 1-888-SOL-CITY (1-888-765-2489) for a free, no-obligation solar consultation or visit SolarCity online at Candidates interested in available employment opportunities in the Inland Empire can contact SolarCity via its online jobs form at


About SolarCity

SolarCity® (NASDAQ: SCTY) provides clean energy. The company has disrupted the century-old energy industry by providing renewable electricity directly to homeowners, businesses and government organizations for less than they spend on utility bills. SolarCity gives customers control of their energy costs to protect them from rising rates. The company offers solar power, energy efficiency and electric vehicle services, and makes clean energy easy by taking care of everything from design and permitting to monitoring and maintenance. SolarCity currently serves 14 states and signs a new customer every five minutes. Visit the company online at and follow the company on Facebook & Twitter.

The 400 ppm Mark Breached, so Expect the Worst

Posted by Ken on May 2, 2013
Posted under Express 190

Some records are just better off left unbroken. This must be the sentiment felt by researchers at the US government’s Earth Systems Research laboratory in Hawaii when concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere breached the important 400 parts per million (ppm) mark. In what seem like an unrelenting rise in CO2 levels, we cannot avoid higher temperatures and sea level rise, making water barriers like the Thames Barrage simply not enough to stem the tide or wide-spread flooding. Read more

Global carbon dioxide levels set to pass 400ppm milestone

The concentration of carbon in the atmosphere over the next few days is expected to hit record levels

By John Vidal in The Guardian (29 April 2013):

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached 399.72 parts per million (ppm) and is likely to pass the symbolically important 400ppm level for the first time in the next few days.

Readings at the US government’s Earth Systems Research laboratory in Hawaii, are not expected to reach their 2013 peak until mid May, but were recorded at a daily average of 399.72ppm on 25 April. The weekly average stood at 398.5 on Monday.

Hourly readings above 400ppm have been recorded six times in the last week, and on occasion, at observatories in the high Arctic. But the Mauna Loa station, sited at 3,400m and far away from major pollution sources in the Pacific Ocean, has been monitoring levels for more than 50 years and is considered the gold standard.

“I wish it weren’t true but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400ppm level without losing a beat. At this pace we’ll hit 450ppm within a few decades,” said Ralph Keeling, a geologist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography which operates the Hawaiian observatory.

“Each year, the concentration of CO2 at Mauna Loa rises and falls in a sawtooth fashion, with the next year higher than the year before. The peak of the sawtooth typically comes in May. If CO2 levels don’t top 400ppm in May 2013, they almost certainly will next year,” Keeling said.

CO2 atmospheric levels have been steadily rising for 200 years, registering around 280ppm at the start of the industrial revolution and 316ppm in 1958 when the Mauna Loa observatory started measurements. The increase in the global burning of fossil fuels is the primary cause of the increase.

The approaching record level comes as countries resumed deadlocked UN climate talks in Bonn. No global agreement to reduce emissions is expected to be reached until 2015.

“The 400ppm threshold is a sobering milestone, and should serve as a wake up call for all of us to support clean energy technology and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, before it’s too late for our children and grandchildren,” said Tim Lueker, an oceanographer and carbon cycle researcher with Scripps CO2 Group.

The last time CO2 levels were so high was probably in the Pliocene epoch, between 3.2m and 5m years ago, when Earth’s climate was much warmer than today.

Climate Appeals like Crying in the Wilderness

Posted by Ken on May 2, 2013
Posted under Express 190

As members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meet again  in Bonn, Germany, to find resolution to sealing a new climate change agreement by 2015, fur is expected to fly. With fights for concessions and compromises, state representatives should take heed of Margaret Thatcher’s speech to the World Climate Conference in 1990, where she called for a greater urgency in tackling climate change.  A call that is more critical now than ever, so at least listen to the voice of Christiana Figueres! Read more

International climate talks resume

By Anne Eckstein  (26 April 2013):

Representatives of the states parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will meet from 29 April to 3 May in Bonn to relaunch negotiations with a view to sealing, by 2015 at the latest, a new climate change agreement that would take effect in 2020. While the European Commission is not expected to change the bases or key principles of the EU’s approach, it still has to spell out the position it will defend in late November at the 19th global climate conference (COP19) in Warsaw, Poland. “To carry weight, the EU will have to speak with a single voice, especially because two of its member states will chair the proceedings, Poland this year and France in 2015,” said Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard in Dublin.

The decision making process is under way. On 26 March, the European Commission launched a public debate with the release of its consultative communication, ‘Climate action: Designing the 2015 global climate change agreement’. Based on that paper, the 27 held an initial debate, on 23 April, at the informal Environment Council in Dublin (see Europolitics 4632). For the EU, the aim is not only to develop active and creative climate diplomacy, but also and most importantly to build consensus among the states, which is far from a sure thing. Some NGOs are concerned, noting that COP19 will be held in Poland, a country “known for blocking further climate action in the EU,” said Julia Michalak of Climate Action Network (CAN).

In Bonn, discussions will focus on both dimensions of the negotiations. The first concerns the scope and structure of the 2015 agreement, the methods and foundations used to define the future objectives and the principles to be respected in implementing them. The agreement will have to consolidate within a single regime the multiple binding and non-binding arrangements established under the existing UNFCCC. The EU, a few other European countries and Australia have accepted a second binding commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol for the reduction of greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions, but some 60 other countries worldwide have adopted different non-binding types of arrangements to reduce their GhG emissions or limit any increase.

In parallel with the negotiations on the 2015 agreement, discussions are continuing in the framework of the Durban Platform. The goal is, on the one hand, to finds ways to increase the scale of GhG reductions globally ahead of the entry into force of the new agreement in 2020 and, on the other, to agree on ways and means of closing the sizeable gap between emissions reduction commitments to 2020 and the reductions needed to keep global warming from exceeding 2°C.



Cool heads needed in Bonn for five-day talks on climate change

As the 2015 global agreement looms, can a session on its ‘scope, structure and design’ get negotiations back on track?

By Frank McDonald in Irish Times (27 April 2013):

More than two decades have passed since Margaret Thatcher, as British prime minister, delivered a remarkable speech to the second World Climate Conference, in Geneva, warning that global warming was a greater threat to the world than “tyrants and their tanks”.

Speaking in November 1990, long in advance of the first Earth Summit, she said: “Our ability to come together to stop or limit damage to the world’s environment will be perhaps the greatest test of how far we can act as a world community [and] the unprecedented co-operation we shall have to show. We shall need statesmanship of a rare order.”

Thatcher acknowledged the scientific uncertainties but said there was “already a clear case” for taking precautionary action. “Climate change may be less than predicted. But equally it may occur more quickly than the present computer models suggest. Should this happen, it would be doubly disastrous were we to shirk the challenge now.”

There hasn’t been much sign of rare statesmanship in the rounds of negotiations that followed year after year since Berlin in 1995; that’s when the equally formidable Angela Merkel, then Germany’s environment minister, brought down the gavel at the first conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Ironically, it was when more than 120 heads of state or government turned up for the Copenhagen climate summit in December 2009 that things really fell apart. The hopes of so many that a meaningful global agreement would be reached were dashed, while the trust between rich and poor countries – always quite fragile – was shattered.

Since then, however, 194 countries have committed themselves to reaching a comprehensive agreement in 2015 under the so-called Durban Platform. That’s why their climate-change negotiators, including all the big players, are travelling to Bonn this weekend for a five-day session on the “scope, structure and design” of such a deal.

The talks have been given added impetus by the bitterly cold weather that gripped much of the northern hemisphere this spring – which some scientists have attributed to the dramatic decline in Arctic summer sea ice – as well as record heatwaves in Australia and the devastating impact of Superstorm Sandy on the US east coast.

The catalogue of weather-related natural disasters also included exceptional flooding in China, Pakistan, the Philippines and Nigeria, and near-record droughts in Russia and the US against the backdrop of confirmation by the World Meteorological Organisation that the first decade of this century was the hottest on record.

Nonetheless, as the Economist noted on March 30th, global average surface temperatures over the past 15 years “have been flat while greenhouse gas emissions have continued to soar” – reaching a new record of 35.6 billion tonnes last year, despite the effects of a deep recession.

“The mismatch between rising greenhouse gas emissions and not-rising temperatures is among the biggest puzzles in climate science just now,” according to the Economist . After all, if the cause-and-effect link between growing emissions and increasing temperatures stood up, the world should be getting measurably hotter year by year.

It “might mean that – for some unexplained reason – there has been a temporary lag between more carbon dioxide and higher temperatures in 2000-2010. Or it might be that the 1990s, when temperatures were rising fast, was the anomalous period. Or . . . that the climate is responding to higher concentrations of CO2 in ways that had not been properly understood before.”

Although this “does not mean global warming is a delusion”, the Economist suggested that if temperatures are likely to rise by “only two degrees Celsius” in response to a doubling of CO2 emissions, “perhaps the world should seek to adjust to (rather than stop) the greenhouse gas splurge” by putting more emphasis on adaptation.

Internationally, a rise of two degrees Celcius in average global surface temperatures has been accepted as the upper limit of what would be tolerable. In some parts of the world, notably Africa and among the more vulnerable small-island states, even a two-degree increase is seen as highly dangerous; they would prefer to contain it at 1.5 degrees.

Whether something as complex as the climate can be tweaked in this way is a moot point that will undoubtedly be addressed by more research. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is now working on its Fifth Assessment Report, with publication next year likely to sharpen our focus on the scientific evidence – and the uncertainties.

There is cautious hope that President Obama’s pledge to prioritise climate change during his second term may be a sign that we can expect some of the “rare statesmanship” that Thatcher called for more than 22 years ago – and that this will be reflected in a more conciliatory stance by his usually hard-nosed negotiating team.

According to the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, the discussions in Bonn next week and throughout this year – culminating in a full conference in Warsaw at the end of November – are crucial to preparing the ground for a global agreement in 2015, perhaps based on the architecture of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change.


Creating Climate Wealth & Certifying Your iPhone for Sustainability

Posted by Ken on May 2, 2013
Posted under Express 190

How about certifying the sustainability of smart-phones? If it catches on, consumers will be able to throw in “corporate social responsibility,” “environmental requirements” and “visual ergonomics” as comparison points between iPhones and Androids. All part of “Creating Climate Wealth” maybe. So don’t miss the event this month in Singapore when Sir Richard Branson will be among those advocating and arguing for change in the way we do business for the benefit of our planet and our people. Read More

Sustainability Certification for Smartphones: How Useful Is It?

By David Sims in IMT Green & Clean Journal (25 April 2013):

If TCO Development’s idea for certifying the sustainability of smartphones catches on, consumers will be able to throw in “corporate social responsibility,” “environmental requirements” and “visual ergonomics” as comparison points between iPhones and Samsungs.

The new manufacturing certification criteria set is available in draft format for your perusal and comments during April, and TCO hopes to publish the criteria and start certifying in mid-May.

Smartphones: The logical next step.

TCO is a Stockholm-based third party sustainability certification company currently offering certification for such IT products as displays, notebooks, tablets, desktops, all-in-one PCs, projectors and headsets. Smartphones would be a logical next step.

It’s still kind of a new thing. In June 2012 Lenovo was “the first brand to announce products that meet the new generation TCO Certified, including heightened CSR requirements,” according to TCO officials, who certified the All-in-One PCs ThinkCentre M92z and M72z series with 20 inch and 23 inch displays for having “at least 50 percent post-consumer recycled plastics,” as well as meeting other “environmental, social, and economic responsibility” standards.

Niclas Rydell, product and certification director for TCO Development, said the company is now hoping to provide “smartphone buyers and users with an easier way to choose devices that meet criteria for socially responsible manufacturing, minimal environmental impact and ergonomic design.” Rydell said it will be sustainability certification which follows “guidelines of a third party certification, Type 1 eco label according to ISO14024.”

With worldwide annual sales growth around 50 percent, smartphones represent, as TCO officials say, “the fastest growing of all IT product categories. An estimated one billion smartphones will be sold during 2014.”

High production rate, “alarmingly” low recycling rate.

And according to TCO, such impressive growth has “sustainability challenges that must be addressed,” since while computers and smartphones both have hazardous substances, smartphones get replaced a lot more often — the average U.S. user replaces their device “every 18 months,” TCO officials say, adding that “the recycling rate is alarmingly low,” and a lot of smartphones are made in factories “where working conditions and wages are substandard.”

The company says certification will “focus on driving greater social responsibility into the manufacturing of smartphones as well as reducing their impact on the environment and human health.” To that end they’ll look at the manufacturer’s “commitment to international labour conventions, reduction of hazardous substances… as well as energy efficiency and ergonomic design.”

Interestingly, TCO isn’t certifying for SAR value yet. SAR, specific absorption rate, is how much radiation your head absorbs when on a cell phone. There are SAR ratings, the higher the rating the more radiation you’re absorbing. According to they’re usually expressed in units of watts per kilogram (W/kg) in either 1g or 10g of tissue.

The Criteria From 30,000 Feet

The criteria itself is broken down into five categories — visual ergonomics, workload ergonomics, electrical safety, environmental requirements and corporate social responsibility. Obviously environmental requirements occupy the lion’s share of criteria.

Visual ergonomics means considering possible health effects of the display, certifying for such things as acceptable visual levels “as determined by scientific research,” statistics from tests or “manufacturers’ knowledge and experience.” This would include luminance levels and uniformity, color uniformity, screen color characteristics and other terribly technical terms.

Workload ergonomics include such considerations as “Will I get a rash from nickel or something like that from holding the phone a lot?” and “What about using a headset with this phone?”

Electrical safety certifies for the electrical design of the phone “with respect to its electrical insulation and other arrangements that are intended to prevent accidents resulting from contact with live components,” and how likely the phone is to catch fire.

Environmental requirements are divided into six areas:

Organization. This looks at the production phase, environmental management and Corporate Social Responsibility of the company. A TCO-certified environmental management system will be one where “the company shows concern for the environment and has chosen to work in a systematic way with constant improvement of the environmental performance of the company and its products in focus.”

Climate. Energy consumption slots in here, since according to TCO “energy efficient equipment is an important and effective way to fight climate change.” Whatever your views on anthropogenic global warming, energy efficiency’s a noble goal. “To reduce energy consumption from the smartphone,” TCO officials say, they’ll certify that the external power supply (power adapter) “shall comply with the International Efficiency Marking Protocol for External Power Supplies.”

Hazardous substances. Smartphones contain heavy metals, flame retardants and plastics. TCO will look at things like does this phone contain hexavalent chromium, halogenated substances such as flame retardants, PVC, plastics with chlorine and bromine as part of the polymer and other really scary-sounding stuff such as “phthalates.” Batteries come in for particular scrutiny, as you’d expect, and TCO wants them to be easily exchangeable, among other things and free from lead, cadmium and mercury.

Recycling, product lifetime and CSR.

Product lifetime. They’ll certify for various factors to extend the life of the product, since, well, the longer it lasts the fewer of them get thrown out. Accordingly TCO will require that the brand owner — whose name is on the phone — offer at least a one-year warranty and guarantees the availability of spare parts “for at least three years from the time that production ceases.”

Preparation for recycling. Another big area of concern. TCO likes material coding, since with that “there is a better possibility for plastics to be recycled and used in new IT equipment.” They’re also big on producer take back systems where users can return the phones for recycling, with or without a fee associated with the service.

Packaging. Lots of hazardous substance are used in packaging, and there’s just a ton of it choking landfills around the world. TCO will certify that “non-reusable packaging components weighing more than 5 grams shall be possible to separate into single material types without the use of tools.”

So much for the environmental regulations. When it comes to corporate social responsibility, TCO will certify compliance with all sorts of OECD, ILO conventions, UN conventions, and local health and safety laws.

The certification checklist.

It all sounds wonderful, but frankly, so much of what TCO certifies is the validity of other certifications, that it’s probably possible to find all of the certification they offer elsewhere. We suppose that the value of the TCO certification is that they pull it all together in one place, providing a checklist of certifications — “The ILO certifies them in compliance, check; their manufacturing plant is ISO 14001 or EMAS certified, check; they’ve got a test report from a test laboratory we approve of, check; they’ve provide documented proof of third party audits, check; EICC certifies them, check; they’ve written and signed something saying they’re telling the truth, check…”

Ultimately pretty much everything about a smartphone is already certified by someone else, but if it has a TCO certification, then you can be sure that someone else has said it’s jumped through their hoops.





“Climate Change is the biggest wealth creating opportunity of our generation” Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Carbon War Room, will open the inaugural Creating Climate Wealth Workshops Summit on May 13 at the National University, Singapore, and take part in a live Q&A.

Book now:

Creating Climate Wealth (CCW) is a global convening mechanism designed for entrepreneurs, innovators, capital providers, industry leaders and experts. It aims to identify profitable opportunities that climate change offers across diverse industry sectors. Whereas other green conferences and events have typically initiated ‘calls to action’ and white papers, our end goal at Carbon War Room is to elevate theory into practice.

CCW Workshop Summits: Are Carbon War Room’s global flagship events. Each summit is a standalone two-day workshop with specially selected industry tracks (see below) and a unique mix of senior delegates. The inclusive workshop format is designed to ensure learning opportunities are maximised, your voice is heard, and solutions are found.

“CCW brings together key change makers from different industries to discuss current challenges and develop outcomes which can effectively move capital forward.”

Joern Scheller, Director, Credit Solutions Group – Shipping, Deutsche Bank AG


At CCW Singapore, participants identify and analyze the most pressing barriers to green market growth in their industries, and develop solutions for overcoming these barriers. Although CCWs consider complex issues, the resolutions they generate are concrete, actionable and ultimately capable of accelerating, deploying and exploiting clean technology.

Day One:

• Groups will be asked to identify the challenges facing their individual industries

• Ideas for overcoming problems are brainstormed.

Day Two:

• Groups take their most robust ideas and pitch them – Dragon’s Den style – to our exclusive panel of industry experts and innovators.

• Approved ideas are taken forward and developed into actionable solutions published after the event.

Beyond the Event:

• Actionable solutions are taken forward either autonomously by companies or with the Carbon War Room, depending the potential scale of impact of the solution



Maritime Shipping

Energy Efficiency in the built Environment

Machine to Machine Technologies





Currently, the world has the technology and policy in place to tackle 50% of the climate challenge: The job at hand now is how to shift existing capital to all entrepreneurial solutions that are profitable today. To do this, we must remove the market barriers that are currently stopping the successful scaling of these technologies globally.

Carbon War Room takes a global, sector-based approach. We are dedicated to breaking down industry market barriers, and get money flowing towards low-carbon opportunities. The Carbon War Room divides the climate change challenge into 7 sectors and 17 sub-sectors each containing the potential for massive C02 reductions, which are achievable via profitable business opportunities. Across these sectors, the War Room’s current Operations include: Maritime Shipping Efficiency, Green Capital, Renewable Jet Fuels, Smart Island Economies, and Trucking Efficiency.



Global Initiatives promotes partnership solutions to global challenges through film, international events and media projects. By sharing knowledge and best practices, and calling on all stakeholders to take action, we address some of the greatest challenges facing the world. Our initiatives are about partnership, inspiration and creating a better future.

Established in Singapore in 2005, Global Initiatives produces international events and television programming in more than 30 countries worldwide. Our producers, writers, designers and directors are based in Singapore, London, Hong Kong and Jakarta.

Source: and

Honey, Make a Bee-line & Save the Bees from Nasty Pesticides

Posted by Ken on May 2, 2013
Posted under Express 190

Could honey bees finally be able to catch a break? Plagued with mysterious massive die-offs, or Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), commonly attributed to multiple factors of pesticides, mites, bacteria and virus infections and malnutrition, honey bees in Europe could finally have a move in their favour. Beekeepers and supporters have staged a demonstration in London, urging support for a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides in Europe, a common culprit for CCD. Read more

Beekeepers March: Action Urged Over Pesticides

Campaigners stage a protest calling on the Government to vote in favour of a European ban on certain pesticides

In Sky News (26 April 2013):

Beekeepers and their supporters have staged a demonstration in central London, urging Britain to support a ban on certain pesticides.

The ‘March of the Beekeepers’ in Parliament Square comes ahead of a crucial vote in Brussels next week.

Campaign groups are urging the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson not to block an EU proposal to suspend the use of certain types of neonicotinoid pesticides which they claim are linked to a decline in the bee population.

Member states are due to decide whether or not to introduce a two-year moratorium on their use on Monday.

Unlike France, Spain and Italy, Britain is widely expected to abstain or vote no against the neonicotinoid ban, saying the impact of the pesticides on bees is unclear and the restrictions could harm crop production.

The demonstration began at Westminster

Celebrities including fashion designers Dame Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett and artist Rachel Whiteread will be among those protesting at Westminster.

Ahead of the march, Ms Hamnett told Sky News: “The European Food Safety Agency – who are usually very right wing and on the side of business – are saying we definitely need this ban, and if they are saying it we really are in trouble.

“We have a huge problem with the British Government failing to support it and it’s quite hard to understand when you have got the Pesticide Action Network, the Soil Association, the Beekeepers Association (and) all the scientists saying this group of pesticides, neonicotinoids, kills bees.”

Friends of the Earth, one of the demonstration organisers, said the Government needed to take urgent action to protect declining bee populations by supporting the European Commission proposals.

The group’s head of campaigns, Andrew Pendleton, said: “Ministers can’t ignore the growing scientific evidence linking neonicotinoid insecticides to bee decline.

“Their claims to be concerned about bee health will ring hollow if they fail to back European moves to restrict the use of these chemicals.

“If we lose our bees and other vital pollinators it will have a devastating impact on our food, gardens and environment. We urgently need tougher pesticide restrictions and a British Bee Action Plan to tackle all the threats they face.”

Katharine Hamnett has launched a t-shirt range to back the bee campaign

But others claim there is no evidence to suggest neonicotinoids do harm bees.

Nick von Westenholz, chief executive of the Crop Protection Association, which represents the pesticides industry, told Sky News that while laboratory tests had shown some impact, “out in the field there is no effect being shown on bee health in real life”.

Chemical firm Syngenta added: “The groups marching today … have never presented any evidence from the field that these pesticides damage the health of bees.

“Somewhat irresponsibly, they are presenting a ban on them as the silver bullet for improving bee health.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “We respect people’s right to protest but decisions that affect the whole of Europe need to be based on scientific evidence. So far studies have not shown that neonicotinoids pose a serious threat.

“We have urged the EU to carry out a European-wide study before making a decision. Instead, it is pressing ahead with a ban that could have serious unintended consequences for food production.

“Unless the EU’s proposals change we will have to vote against them.”

Last month campaign group Avaaz took their argument to Brussels

Earlier this month a cross party committee of MPs, the Environment Audit Committee, unanimously urged the Government to restrict the use of sprays containing neonicotinoids.

The demonstration was organised by nine campaign groups – Avaaz, Buglife, Environmental Justice Foundation, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network UK, RSPB, Soil Association and 38 Degrees.


Health problems of bees are due to multiple factors

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)

Paris , 28 April 2010 – Arthropod parasites such as Varroa mites as well as virus and bacteria infections, pesticide exposure, and poor nutrition resulting from other environmental issues linked with human behaviour, are all concomitant factors which threaten the survival of certain bee colonies worldwide. Similarly, the causes of honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a recently described phenomenon leading to global extensive losses of bee colonies, are unquestionably multi-factored, concluded experts of an OIE ad hoc group on diseases of honey bees.

“Honey and royal jelly are examples of precious food that we owe to bees but foremost we owe them abundant harvesting of fruits and vegetables since they contribute to pollinate the flowers which will produce the harvest” Dr Bernard Vallat, OIE Director General said and “thus, bees contribute to global food security and their extinction would represent a terrible biological disaster. That is why the OIE considers bees’ mortality and bee diseases to be a priority in its Strategic Plan 2011- 2015.” he added.

A world review of honey bee health confirmed CCD occurs in bee populations of North America, Europe and Japan. Experts agreed that the irresponsible use of pesticides might have an impact on bee health in particular by weakening bees and increasing their susceptibility to different diseases. However pesticides can not be considered as the only factor affecting bee health. Biological factors, lack of biosecurity measures to be implemented by beekeepers and climate change might also have detrimental effects on bee health.

“Resources to establish increased surveillance and registration processes, inspection, diagnoses and research capacity are missing in many countries and regions of the world,” Dr Wolfgang Ritter, chair of the ad hoc Group commented and “there is an important need for more international guidelines for bee disease surveillance and disease control programmes,” he added.

Global state of health of honey bees

Independently from CCD, the Group concluded that knowledge on the clinical signs and modes of action of most bee viruses and other pathogens is still insufficient and recommended research continues to try and unravel the multiple factors that threaten the health of honey bees and other pollinators.

Various bee arthropod parasites have been pinpointed as active in different parts of the world among which, infestation with Varroa, Nosema and Tropilaelaps mites are identified as the most frequent sanitary issue of beehives globally.

In addition, a new form of Varroa , Varroa jacobsoni, that is pathogenic to Apis mellifera was detected in Oceania in 2008 and now presents a new threat to beekeeping in the region as well as globally.

“The OIE will propose to the international community to intensify the research on the causes of the mortality of bees and to better control and fight against the numerous emerging and already known diseases on the basis of the standards and guidelines adopted by the organisation, including in the field of biosecurity of global and regional trade of bees between countries, which is a major cause of global contaminations,”, Dr Vallat further commented.

Renault’s Twin Z, Tesla’s Electric Speed &Toyota’s Hybrids Out in Front

Posted by Ken on May 2, 2013
Posted under Express 190

British Designer Ross Lovegrove added colourful LED patterns over the glass roof and down the windshield edges of the carbon fibre Twin’Z electric city car for Renault, demonstrating that clean and green does not have to be dull to be functional and fuel efficient. Meanwhile, Tesla is ahead of GM with its latest electric  car sales in the US and Toyota has passed the 5 Million mark of hydrid cars produced. Read More

News from Renault  April 2013:

British Designer Ross Lovegrove added colourful LED patterns over the glass roof and down the windshield edges of the carbon fibre Twin’Z electric city car, after Renault invited him to provide finishing details to the bodywork  of the concept car. Shown at the Milan Motor Show, it demonstrates that clean and green does not have to be dull to be functional and fuel efficient.

As the ‘Play’ petal of Renault Design’s life-cycle ‘flower’, Twin’Z is the latest concept car in the programme which sets out to illustrate Renault’s new design strategy through parallels with threshold phases of human existence. Twin’Z is a fun, modern, artistic take on the city- car which plays on emotions and excites the senses. It draws its inspiration from the heritage of some of the brand’s most emblematic models, such as the Renault 5 and Renault Twingo. The Twin’Z is an all-electric car with rear-wheel drive and a rear-mounted motor.

Ross Lovegrove’s personal vision of the automobile takes its inspiration from the world of nature, and the result combines an unprecedented play on light and organic forms to make Z28RL an endearing, almost living object.

Twin’Z is the 5fth concept car to result from Renault’s design strategy which is founded on the notion of the human life cycle, symbolized by a 6-petalled flower.

After focusing on love, exploration, family and work, it’s now time to play for Renault with tTwin’Z, a playful citycar that plays with light and opens up a whole new world of personalisation opportunities.

This 5th concept car is symbolized by the colour blue. Twin’Z blue livery pays tribute to the 20th century French painter Yves Klein. The satin finish gives a pure skin to the body which appears to be coated, almost anodised, rather than painted. The soft clear-coat finish produces a velvet-like feel, while a certain iridescence lifts Twin’Z’ ‘electro-natural’ appearance.

Renault enlisted the services of Ross Lovegrove and gave the celebrated designer a free hand to express his vision of the automobile, which draws its inspiration from the world of nature and which is guided by a quest for a harmonious encounter between the automobile and its environment.



Toyota and Lexus global hybrid sales top five million

In News Home (18 April 2013):

Fleet News

Toyota plans to introduce 18 new hybrids and a fuel cell vehicle within the next two years, with more than five million Toyota and Lexus hybrid vehicles sold globally since 1997.

Prius has gone on to become one of the world’s best-selling cars and it features today among 20 different hybrids – including the first Toyota plug-in hybrid – sold by Toyota Motor Corporation in around 80 countries and regions.

Toyota calculates that its hybrid vehicles have contributed to around 34 million tonnes less CO2 entering the atmosphere, compared to the impact of the same number of petrol-powered vehicles of similar size and performance.

In terms of fuel, it estimates on the same basis that 1.2 billion litres of petrol have been saved.

Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota Motor Corporation vice-chairman, who was responsible for development of the first-generation Prius, said: “We developed the first-generation Prius with the aim of making it a car for the 21st century and as an indication of Toyota’s response to environmental issues.

“We had to develop a hybrid system from scratch, making our task extremely difficult. Nevertheless, we took on the challenge.

“The launch of the first-generation Prius had effects beyond our expectations, with the vehicle increasing consumer environmental awareness and raising hybrid vehicle expectations.

“The understanding of consumers at launch time laid the foundation for the widespread adoption, and, since then, consumers have continued to support TMC hybrid vehicles. For this, I am extremely grateful.”

Toyota plans to continue working to further raise performance, reduce costs and expand its hybrid product range.

Hybrid in the UK and Europe

The current range of nine Toyota and Lexus hybrids in the UK will increase too, first with the arrival this summer of the new Lexus IS 300h executive sports saloon and the British-built Auris Touring Sports Hybrid, Europe’s first full hybrid family estate car.

This will give it unprecedented market reach, from the Yaris Hybrid supermini all the way to the Lexus LS 600h limousine.

UK Sales of Toyota and Lexus hybrids are nearing the 100,000 mark since the original Prius made its debut here in 2000. This contributes to a European figure of 544,184 cars sold up to the end of March – more than 10% of the global figure.

The way in which customers have come to understand and embrace hybrid is reflected in the speed of sales growth: in Europe it took seven years for the first 100,000 to be sold, while in 2012 alone the figure was more than 109,000.

In the first quarter of 2013, European sales have increased 82% year-on-year, accounting for 21% of the Toyota’s sales total.

Customers in the UK and Europe who choose hybrid enjoy lower cost of ownership and attractive tax benefits, says Toyota.

As well as reducing CO2 emissions, the hybrid system plays an important part in improving air quality by emitting less NOx and particulate matter than diesel vehicles.



Tesla Model S Tops GM Volt in North American Plug-In Race

By Alan Ohnsman in Bloomberg News (26 April 2013):

Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA), the luxury battery-car company run by billionaire Elon Musk, is North America’s rechargeable auto sales leader so far this year as its Model S sedan passed General Motors Co. (GM)’s Chevrolet Volt.

Tesla expects to report at least 4,750 deliveries of the electric Model S in the U.S. and Canada when it releases first- quarter results on May 8, said Shanna Hendriks, a company spokeswoman, reiterating a March 31 estimate. That compares with 4,421 Volt sales in North America and 3,695 deliveries of Nissan Motor Co. (7201)’s Leaf, based on data provided by the carmakers.

The sales ranking for Model S is a first for the Palo Alto, California-based company’s flagship model and coincides with Tesla saying it would report a first-quarter profit, the first in its 10-year history. The plug-in hybrid Volt, which uses both batteries and a gasoline engine, led regional sales in 2012.

“Any success for a company in this space is helpful for all other makers of plug-in vehicles,” said Jim Cain, a spokesman for Detroit-based GM. “The single most important thing we can do for plug-ins, to encourage sales, is to have them on the road.”

Tesla began selling the Model S, with a $69,900 base price, in mid-2012 and hasn’t begun shipments beyond North America. It goes as far as 300 miles (483 kilometers) on a charge, according to Tesla. Musk has set a target of delivering 20,000 of the cars, built in Fremont, California, this year.

GM and Nissan each sold about 30,000 of their respective rechargeable models worldwide last year, the companies said. Both have declined to provide current-year volume targets. The Leaf, like the Model S, is an electric model.

‘Interesting Trivia’

While Tesla’s quarterly lead is “interesting trivia,” Volt will see higher volume over time, said John Wolkonowicz, an independent auto analyst based in Boston.

“The Volt is the one that makes sense out of that whole group of plug-ins, because you can use it like a regular car when the battery runs out,” Wolkonowicz said yesterday.

Tesla’s small size, relative to GM and Nissan, will keep the electric-car maker under financial pressure, he said.

“The auto business is all about capital intensity, you have to spend money to keep improving your products and develop new ones,” Wolkonowicz said. “A small little auto company like Tesla, I just don’t think they can do it.”

GM Production

The Volt can go 38 miles on electric power before its gasoline engine engages to recharge the battery. Plug-in hybrids can also be recharged by plugging into an electrical outlet. Nissan’s 2013 model Leaf averages 75 miles per charge, the company said this week.

GM built about 9,000 Volts and plug-in Opel Amperas, which are sold in Europe, in the first quarter, said Cain, the company spokesman. The largest U.S. carmaker sold 4,244 Volts in its home market in the year’s first three months.

Leaf deliveries dipped early this year after Yokohama, Japan-based Nissan moved production of the hatchback for North America to its Smyrna, Tennessee, plant, said Brian Brockman, a company spokesman. Leaf sales hit a record 2,236 in March in the U.S.

Separately, Tesla is adding a loaner fleet including new Model S sedans and older Roadster sports cars for customer use when their vehicles are serviced, Chief Executive Officer Musk said yesterday. The company is also adding a “no fault” battery warranty covering all damage, “even if you never followed or read the manual,” he said on a conference call.

“As long as you don’t set out to intentionally destroy the battery pack, it’s going to be covered,” Musk said.

Tesla slid 1.5 percent to $51.20 at the close yesterday in New York. The stock has gained 51 percent this year, compared with an 11 percent increase for the Russell 1000 Index.


Consumers Can Create A Sustainable Living Plan for Themselves

Posted by Ken on May 2, 2013
Posted under Express 190

Creating a sustainable way of living require more than just environmentally friendly products, as Unilever, a global giant in consumer products, has learned. In its second Sustainable Living Plan progress report, a key lesson for Unilever is that consumer behaviour plays an equally important part in meeting its carbon foot print goal. That would require not just motivating sustainable habits in consumers, but also supportive government policies. Read more

Unilever’s Progress Report Provides Important Lessons in Mainstreaming Sustainability

By Raz Godelnik in Triple Pundit (26 April 2013):

Earlier this week, Unilever released its second Sustainable Living Plan progress report. Comprehensive and rich in detail, this report provides not just an update on the progress of Unilever two years into its ten-year sustainability plan, but also an opportunity to learn about the state of mainstreaming sustainability in business from one of the most advanced “labs” in the world.

So how is the sustainability work so far for Unilever? The answer, according to the report is two-thirds positive, one-third not so much. The company has made solid progress on two out of three main 2020 goals: to help more than a billion people improve their health and well-being and to source 100 percent of its agricultural raw materials sustainably.

Unilever, however, still faces big challenges with its third goal: to double its sales whilst reducing its environmental footprint by half. The challenge wasn’t so much with sales that rose in 6.9 percent comparing to 2011, but mainly with changing consumer behavior in order to reduce the carbon footprint of Unilever’s products. This doesn’t work yet for Unilever.

The report provides many lessons for those who follow Unilever and the efforts to mainstream sustainability in business. Here are four lessons we find most important:

1. Creating shared value successfuly – last week we mentioned how Nestle succeeds in adopting the shared value concept. This report shows that Unilever also becomes a successful example of creating shared value.

I believe it all starts with the fact that the company approaches social issues such as poor sanitation, water scarcity and under-nutrition both as a moral duty and a business opportunity. In the report, Unilever reports that it reached 224 million people with programs to reduce diarrhoeal disease through handwashing with soap, provide safe drinking water, promote oral health and improve young people’s self-esteem.

The results of creating shared value can be seen for example with brands like Lifebuoy soap which reached 71 million people in 16 countries in 2012 – five times as many people as in 2010. It is also one of Unilever’s fastest-growing brands – it has achieved double digit-growth over 2010-12.

In all, sales in emerging markets grew in 2012 by 11.4 percent (comparing to 6.9 percent in general), now representing 55 percent of Unilever’s turnover,

2. The hidden benefit – innovation – from the report it’s clear that Unilever’s plan helps the company to become not just more sustainable but also more innovative. “Innovation is critical to achieving our sustainable living goals. We are committing a significant proportion of our R&D budget to finding sustainability-led technologies…we have found that once we start looking at product development, sourcing and manufacturing through a sustainability lens, it opens up great opportunities for innovation,” the company explains.

One example is dry shampoos such as TRESemmé and Dove that don’t require hot water. This small change results in 90 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to washing hair in heated water. Another example is Flora/Becel margarines, where using technological innovation, the biggest of its kind for 60 years, Unilever has been able to reduce saturated fats by around 25 percent and calories by 20 percent.

3. This work can’t be done alone – Unilever is already a champion of collaborations, but reading the report you get the feeling that the company puts even more effort into it now, understanding not only that the problems it addresses are too complex for any single company to tackle alone, but also that it won’t be able to meet its own goals working solo. From increasing the supply of sustainable agricultural raw materials to finding the best ways to change consumer behavior, Unilever needs the help of others and it’s not afraid to admit it.

Nevertheless don’t confuse Unilever’s understating of its inability to solve big problems alone with a search for a way out of its ambitious goals and vision. On the contrary, even when it looks for a group effort, the company still seeks to assume a leadership role. As Paul Polman, Unilever’s CEO explains “with scale comes responsibility – so we must continue to play a leadership role in seeking solutions for global transformational issues like climate change, food security and poverty alleviation.”

4. Will consumers join? – just like last year, Unilever’s main unmet challenge remains reducing the hot water used with its soaps, shower gels and shampoos – since consumer use is 68 percent of its total carbon footprint, the company needs to find ways to change consumer behavior to achieve its goal of reducing its carbon footprint per consumer by half.

“We need to provide consumers with more products and tools which motivate them to use less water. But material change will require wide-scale decarbonising of energy grids, effective carbon pricing and courageous government policies,” the company writes in the report.

With the ongoing difficulties to change consumer behavior it’s not clear when consumers will be willing to take greater responsibility on their carbon footprint, so it might be the time for Unilever to start thinking on new ways to reach its goal. Carbon pricing, for example, as the company itself mentions is an effective wide-scale tool to drive material change and therefore Unilever might want considering greater involvement in the efforts to pressure governments to start enacting carbon pricing. It’s not an easy task but it might still be easier than convincing people to take shorter showers.


Raz Godelnik is the co-founder of Eco-Libris and an adjunct faculty at the University of Delaware’s Business School, CUNY SPS and Parsons the New School for Design, teaching courses in green business, sustainable design and new product development. You can follow Raz on Twitter.