Archive for the ‘Express 195’ Category

Changing Our Ways

Posted by Ken on July 28, 2013
Posted under Express 195

Changing Our Ways

Nothing really changes. Every issue we have something important to say – or we report what others are saying and doing because we believe it is significant, newsworthy and/or contributes positively to our collective body of knowledge. Issues and opportunities, all for the good of the planet and its people. Climate change yes, but also where we hear of other things changing for the best. So we don’t hesitate to draw attention to some wise words and deeds this issue from Jose Maria Figueres – who famously said a few years back that “there is no planet B!” Carbon War Room releases a land mark report on removing the barriers and achieving some real results from energy efficiency for buildings the world over.  Energy efficiency takes centre stage in reports from the US and Singapore, as well as news on what’s changing faster than evolution; a reminder that extreme weather is a new economic risk to be faced up to, and the economic gains from switching to a clean energy, low carbon economy. IEA comes out with a new report on achieving change for good in urban transport, while Copenhagen and Houston come up tops for “urban change management”. Food and coffee come under “sustainable scrutiny”, while Rolls Royce changes tack and goes out to sea. Bill McKibben – for a change – sounds off about unwise investments. Last word goes to David Fogarty and the Reuters “change of heart”. – Ken Hickson

Profile: Jose Maria Figueres

Posted by Ken on July 28, 2013
Posted under Express 195

Profile: Jose Maria Figueres

“The world can no longer afford to be intimidated by the magnitude of the climate crisis, nor into believing that we must choose between economic prosperity and environmental security.” So said President of Carbon War Room and joint head of the new Global Ocean Commission. The former Costa Rican President also said: “Overcoming that challenge will result in one of the greatest wealth creation opportunities ever—a modern industrial revolution that could radically reshape society and our planet.” Read More

Jose Maria Figueres:

Who he is and what he’s said:

When and where he said it – and he has repeated it many times – this is what Jose Maria Figueres is reported to have said when he was CEO of the World Economic Forum (from 2003). Costa Rica’s former president said – “there is no Planet B, we have no second chance, we need to act now. What we are currently doing is re-arranging the deck chairs on Titanic”.

From the editor:

You can Google Jose Maria Figueres and find out a lot about him and his illustrious family. I have met him twice now and talked to him in his position as president of the Carbon War Room. I sat at the same table as him for the CNBC Energy Opportunities brain storm last October – reported in abc carbon express and at   We have quoted him previously in this newsletter, including this issue when he introduces the new Carbon War Room report on Energy Efficiency for Buildings. This issue we give a little more insight into this “remarkable revolutionary” , a leader in the world of sustainability and climate change action. – Ken Hickson

In a ‘letter to our readers’, as an introduction to the latest Carbon War Room report “Raising the Roof”, Jose Maria Figueres had this to say:

Climate change presents one of the greatest challenges in human history—a challenge that transcends national boundaries, income, ideology, race, and ethnicity. Overcoming that challenge will result in one of the greatest wealth creation opportunities ever—a modern industrial revolution that could radically reshape society and our planet.

The world can no longer afford to be intimidated by the magnitude of the climate crisis, nor into believing that we must choose between economic prosperity and environmental security.

The Carbon War Room takes a global, sector-based approach. Our mission is to accelerate the adoption of proven clean technologies and innovative business models in order to achieve profitable, gigaton-scale reductions of carbon emissions. One sector in which the Carbon War Room is a sector with an estimated market potential of $87 billion per year, and an equally substantial opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2010, the Carbon War Room launched the Green Capital Global Challenge (GCGC) to help cities around the world use innovative mechanisms to support energy efficiency in their built environments, thereby bringing capital, energy technologies, and jobs to their citizens in a sustainable and profitable way.

Having concluded the GCGC, we are now, with this paper, able to share the insights we gained over the course of that Challenge with cities and building management groups around the world. We hope that this information will be used to stimulate new initiatives or accelerate existing initiatives in readers’ own cities.

This publication, “Raising the Roof: How to Create Climate Wealth Through Efficient Buildings”, is a collection of observed global best practices as they relate to finance, technology, and policy. Whether discussing San Francisco’s benchmarking ordinance, the UK’s Green Deal, or Melbourne’s 1200 Buildings program, this guide is meant to provide real estate owners, capital providers, entrepreneurs, and policy makers with a point of reference on how energy efficiency projects are currently working (or not) around the world. We also provide a selection of further resources to facilitate more in-depth research.



He famously said at a Creating Climate Wealth forum in 2010 (but the statement “there is no Planet B!” is attributed to him during his time at the World Economic Forum):

“There is no planet B!” In politics, he said, “The long-term perspective is the next election. The short-term is the next poll.” In Costa Rica, he had a single term, by law, so he was able to pass a carbon tax in the 1990s! And on land-based carbon assets, he said, “As long as the price of a tree standing is less than the price of a tree cut for timber, we won’t save the forests.”


In February 2013 he said at the Launch of the Global Ocean Commission, London, which he jointly chairs:

‘The world urgently needs to find better ways of managing the oceans, to stop abuse of its precious resources and ensure its protection for present and future generations,’ said José María Figueres.

‘The global ocean is essential to the health and well-being of each and every one of us. It provides about half of the oxygen we breathe and absorbs about a quarter of our carbon dioxide emissions; but we are failing to manage it in ways that reflect its true value. The Global Ocean Commission will help highlight its worth in our lives and indicate ways in which we can ensure its resources are used sustainably.’



In abc carbon express in October 2012, when he was in Singapore for the International Energy Week:

Jose Maria Figueres, President of the Carbon War Room and Former President of Costa Rica, was concerned that the door to 2°C has already closed. He asserts that 2°C is “no more a possibility under our present way of conducting our sales”. Citing the population in Bangladesh that will be displaced by floods and rising sea levels, Figueres said future climate change dialogue would also need to be anchored on values. For example, should countries accept climate refugees?

The Figueres family led Costa Rica’s revolution, and now its green revolution

As the Bonn climate talks begin, John Vidal speaks to former president José María Figueres about Costa Rica’s journey towards sustainability

John Vidal, environment editor  for, Monday 14 May 2012:

Jose Maria Figueres, former president of Costa Rica

Say the name Figueres in Costa Rica and it’s bound to get a reaction. José “Don Pepe” Figueres led the 1948 revolution, was president three times, nationalised the banks and gave women and black people the vote. His daughter Christiana is the UN’s climate chief trying to steer almost 200 countries through the most complex international negotiations ever attempted; and her brother José María was one of Latin America’s youngest ever presidents at the age of 39.

Now José María – who coined the phrase “there’s no planet B” when head of the World Economic Forum – has joined his sister in the fight for a global energy revolution by taking over as head of the climate change business thinktank Carbon War Room, which aims to get business to cut gigatonnes of carbon by sharing best practice information.

She hopes to lead the world’s public sector into a low carbon future, he the private sector. But is it an accident of history or sibling rivalry played out on the international stage that accounts for so many revolutionaries in one central American family?

“I call her ‘Hermanita’, or Little Sister,” says José María. “We pulled each other’s hairs out [as children]. It’s always been a fierce but friendly rivalry between us. We have worked together before. When I was minister of agriculture she was my chief of staff. I was the boss, but she solved the problems. When I was president she was on the government’s climate negotiating team. I like to think she is responsible for finding solutions for 50% of the carbon cuts needed and I must find them for the other half. I’d love to be her chief of staff.”

Their father was a landowner and coffee grower who launched a revolution of intellectuals and farmers from the small family ranch he called “La Luccha sin Fin” (the endless struggle) high in the central mountains. The revolution was, he says, based on a liberal, Scandinavian model of universal healthcare, public education, and strong institutions.

“Mother was an MP and later a diplomat. Father taught us the values of no wastage and austerity and of a life in harmony with the natural habitat. We learned politics at the family table. We ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every conversation was about politics, the challenge of development, inequalities and legislation. A table with all of us was so argumentative. There must have been something in the water we drank,” he says.

But José María says that when 18 he wanted a change and chose to go to leading US military academy West Point, whose alumni included presidents Ulysses Grant and Dwight Eisenhower as well as five people who have walked on the moon. This is remarkable, he accepts, because his father is the only president in modern history to have abolished a standing army. “Father had a fit when I went to West Point. He never went there. Perhaps it was my challenge to him,” he says.

There followed years at Harvard, as an engineer, a farming boss and then in public service. “I was invited to turn around the railways and then I was made minister of agriculture and forests. We concentrated on resource management and efficiency. We moved to the biological control of pests instead of pesticides.”

When he was elected Costa Rican president in 1994, the Berlin wall had come down, the Soviet Union had imploded, the Gulf war had been fought and the Rio Earth summit had been held. He says the world had changed and Costa Rica would not be able to compete in the new world without new ideas – so he turned to business and sustainable development.

“I brought in economists like Jeffrey Sachs. I was strongly influenced by people like Maurice Strong [who headed the Rio earth summit] and his adviser on business, the Swiss industrialist Stefan Shmidheiny who set up the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

His single term – all that was allowed – was the start of Costa Rica’s move towards an economy based on eco-tourism, conservation and national parks. “It began my thinking about the ethical and moral necessity to be efficient with natural resources,” he says.

Today, “eco-travel” is the country’s biggest industry, worth billions of dollars a year, and sustainable development has proved lucrative. Most farmers benefit in some way from eco tourism, and, from a country in real danger of losing all its forests in 1970, 25% is now dedicated to conservation.

“Climate change is the ultimate challenge. But I am convinced that the development opportunity of our lifetimes lies in the transition to a low carbon economy. If we are to solve it we need to scale up our responses. We need to attract capital and resources to get there.”

The Carbon War Room has addressed shipping and aviation and will move to become a major international NGO, says José María. “Business needs to learn from civil society. The world can live far better than it does now. Six billion people aspire to live like the other one billion. That is a just aspiration. I really believe that moving to a low carbon economy would unleash entrepreneurship.”

But how would Don Pepe, the old revolutionary, see his two children today? “He would be at the forefront of the renewable energy revolution. He’d be enjoying it. He’d get a kick out of smart grids. Meanwhile, big brother is not waiting for little sister. I wish her the best but we in business are going full steam ahead. At the moment I think business is doing better than countries on climate change, but the jury is out. I know if it were up to Christiana alone that governments would be leading ahead by leaps and bounds.”


Bio rom Carbon War Room

After a successful business career (1979-1987), José María Figueres Olsen served as Minister of State and was later elected President of Costa Rica (1994-1998) at the age of 39. As President he created a comprehensive national development strategy based on the tenets of sustainability: sound economics, investment in human development, and a strong alliance with nature.

José María pioneered the linkage between sustainable development and technology, which he continued after government by helping create and then leading the United Nations ICT Task Force as its first Chairperson (1999).

He was the first person to become CEO of the World Economic Forum (2003), where he strengthened global corporate ties to social and governmental sectors. Later he was named CEO of Concordia 21 (2006), dedicated to supporting organizations that promote development and democratic values around the world.

Figueres joined the Carbon War Room in 2009, currently serving as its President. The organization accelerates entrepreneurial solutions to achieve profitable, gigaton-scale reductions of carbon emissions.

In 2013 Figueres helped launch the Global Ocean Commission to formulate politically and technically feasible recommendations that address key issues facing the high seas. He serves as co-Chair.

José María holds an Engineering Degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and a Masters in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.



Energetically Making Industry More Efficient

Posted by Ken on July 28, 2013
Posted under Express 195


Energetically Making Industry More Efficient

Energy efficiency is good for the economy! It is a policy pursued aggressively, with the White House announcing a goal of increasing industrial energy efficiency by 50% by 2020, partly by addressing the heat wasted in power generation. Energy efficiency is also the focus of the upcoming Build Eco Xpo, to be held in Singapore from 11th to 13th of September. Products and services aimed at increasing building efficiency will be the highlight of the expo, with new offerings from around Asia. Read more

By Tracy Schario for Pew Charitable Trust (23 July 2013):

Most power plants operate at efficiency levels of just 33 percent to 45 percent. That means as much as two-thirds of the fuel used to produce electricity is released into the atmosphere and wasted.

But, we can turn wasted heat into additional power through proven energy efficiency technologies, such as combined heat and power, waste-heat recovery and district heat, which could achieve energy efficiencies of 75 percent or greater. In the United States, more than 3,700 power plants, manufacturers, hospitals, and other facilities generate 82 gigawatts of electricity annually—about 12 percent of total U.S. production—using these efficient technologies. But we can do more.

According to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, doubling the amount power produced with these industrial energy efficiency in the country to 164 GW would create as many as one million highly skilled jobs in this country. A study by the Industrial Energy Consumers of America found it also would generate more than $200 billion in investment over 10 years. Improving industrial efficiency would help make U.S. manufacturers more competitive in the global marketplace by lowering energy costs and ensuring that our electrical grid is more resilient in the face of extreme weather events.

To get there, we need national policy and the right incentives. Last August, the White House announced a goal of increasing industrial efficiency 50 percent by 2020. This is an excellent first step, but Congress must act as well.

If lawmakers improve tax incentives for private investment in industrial energy efficiency projects, we could increase the national generating capacity to 164 GW—double the current capacity—and reap the rewards of new jobs and investment, reduced energy costs, less pollution, and greater resiliency. –

Increasing our industrial energy efficiency could spur more than $200 billion in new private investment in the United States and create up to one million jobs, according to Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Manufacturing and power generation creates large amounts of heat, which typically escapes through smokestacks into the air. With currently available, proven technologies we can capture this energy and use it to heat additional buildings or generate more electricity cheaply and reliably. Simply put, improving industrial efficiency means we can get more power from the same amount of natural gas, coal, and other fuel sources.

The country’s first power plant—Thomas Edison’s Pearl Street Station built in 1882 in New York—took advantage of the useful heat generated when making electricity both to produce additional electricity and warm neighboring buildings. Edison’s same technology can be used nearly everywhere—in large and small industrial factories, hospitals and college campuses, commercial buildings, apartment buildings, and single-family homes.

This readily available technology is already at work in every state. Altogether, utilizing harnessed heat contributes 85 gigawatts of electricity capacity annually, or almost 9 percent of the nation’s electricity. We could double that amount. Greater energy efficiency for the industrial and manufacturing sector will:

Create new American jobs. Oak Ridge National Laboratory estimates up to one million, highly skilled jobs could be created.

Save money making American companies more efficient and competitive.

Industrial manufacturers across the country are also generating electricity with no incremental emissions like the ArcelorMittal Steel Plant in East Chicago where 75MW of emission free electricity is being generated from the byproduct heat of an onsite blast furnace. New technology advancements are making it possible for industrial manufacturers to capture low temperate heat for onsite electricity generated with no additional emissions as well. Iron, steel, paper, chemical, oil and gas processing, cement and other manufacturers are key to our nation’s pursuit of clean energy and energy independence.

Increasing America’s industrial energy efficiency can produce more power from natural gas, coal, landfill gas, and biomass with less waste. There are benefits for the consumer, businesses, and the environment. It also means reducing the pressure on our commercial electricity grid making it more reliable. Getting more energy from the same amount of fuel also helps communities avoid the need to build new power plants at an additional cost to ratepayers.



Southeast Asia gears up in Green City Drive:

Green lighting solutions will be in focus of the BEX Asia Energy Efficiency Trail.

BEX Asia 2013 will be held in conjunction with the inaugural edition of World Engineering Summit (WES) 2013 and also the International Green Building Conferences (IGBC) 2013, making it a truly holistic and an all-encompassing green show.

With new partnerships and greater content, BEX Asia 2013 is set to lend strong support to Asia’s green agenda

As part of the plan for sustainable development for Singapore’s built environment, Singapore rolled out its second Green Building Masterplan in 2009, with focus to green the large stock of existing buildings by 2030. Also, just early this year, Singapore launched the Sustainable Blueprint under the Sustainable Singapore drive which aims to make the city a lively and livable one. This blueprint consists of strategies and initiatives needed for Singapore to head in this direction and beckons individuals, companies and the government to all play their part.

Singapore is certainly not alone in her efforts and is joined by other nations in the region. Thailand has its “Low Carbon City” initiative which aims to help achieve reductions in GHG emissions and catalyse this shift to a low carbon society. The Philippines too has its green initiative that will serve to enhance the quality of life for citizens.

As the region forges ahead with its green agenda, Singapore in particular, has also repeatedly highlighted the importance of Public Private Partnership (PPP) for its green-city drive to gain greater momentum. A city can only be considered truly green if infrastructure in the form of residential, industrial and commercial all consciously incorporates green elements into design and functionality.

“Since 2009, BEX Asia has taken the lead to drive the industry green movement by providing a platform for regional interaction,” said Ms Louise Chua, Project Director of Reed Exhibitions which organises BEX Asia.

She also added that, “Through the provision of this platform to facilitate the exchange of technologies and ideas, we hope to be able to help propel the industry to its next stage and encourage companies to take a more integrated approach in terms of adopting green technologies and methods.”

BEX Asia 2013 – Greater emphasis on energy efficiency solutions

As a key green show in the region that promises a multi-disciplinary showcase of the latest green solutions for residential and commercial developments, it is imperative that BEX Asia to be always ahead and aware of the latest market trends. Noting an increase in demand for energy efficiency solutions, BEX Asia 2013 will see a brand new Energy Efficiency Trail that aims to offer a comprehensive range of green solutions from green system software to Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems.

In particular, green lighting solutions will be in focus on this Energy Efficiency Trail.

“When it comes to solutions on energy efficiency, the potential savings from lighting has not been fully exploited,” says Mr Tiew Chew Meng, President of the Lighting Association Singapore (LAS), which is collaborating with BEX Asia 2013.

“Lighting forms approximately 20 per cent of total energy consumption of typical office and residential buildings. Now more than ever, people are aware that with a little more attention to lighting, energy consumption for lighting can be reduced by as much as 50 per cent. While demand for green lighting solutions is picking up, advances in lighting technologies and efficiencies in recent years also mean there is still a lot to be done to encourage quicker adoption of energy-saving lighting. It is very heartening to see that BEX Asia 2013 has taken note of this,” he added.

Green lighting firms who will be participating in BEX Asia 2013 includes Asto Systems, Dr. LED and EP Lite, amongst others.

BEX Asia 2013 – New participation and collaborations

On top of the greater focus on its energy efficiency content offered this year, BEX Asia 2013 will also cover more green issues and see new country participation; Japan, will be coming in as a country pavilion for the very first time.

Japan has always been a strong advocate of the green movement through the use of state-of-the-art technology. Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO), a government affiliated organisation, works not only to help Japanese SMEs promote regional collaborations and maximise business potentials, but also to push forward the regional green agenda leveraging on an excellent platform like BEX Asia.

JETRO will be leading more than 15 Japanese companies and delegates to BEX Asia 2013.

While BEX Asia 2013 offers green solutions for residential and commercial properties, the WES focuses on larger issues like infrastructure, industrial developments and climate change. Together, they complement each other to provide a comprehensive platform of thought leadership and practical architectural, design and engineering solutions for the industry in the region.

To be held between 11 and 13 September 2013 at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre, BEX Asia 2013 will see more than 300 international exhibitors come together showcasing the largest range of green products in South East Asia.

About Reed Exhibitions

Reed Exhibitions is the world’s leading events organizer, with over 500 events in 41 countries. In 2012 Reed brought together seven million active event participants from around the world generating billions of dollars in business. Today Reed events are held throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Africa and organized by 34 fully staffed offices. Reed Exhibitions serves 44 industry sectors with trade and consumer events and is part of the Reed Elsevier Group plc, a world-leading publisher and information provider.

About BEX Asia

BEX Asia is Southeast Asia’s premier business platform for the green building and construction industry. It is a one-stop sourcing destination for cutting-edge products, innovative technologies and sustainable designs in building materials, energy efficiency systems, fittings and fixtures, and much more. It is an event that enhances your competitive edge in the world of Build Green. BEX Asia brings together skilled professionals, key industry practitioners, major specifiers and buyers from the region to build networks and create business opportunities, in support of the global trend to build greener communities for a greener future.


What is Changing at 10,000 Times the Rate of Evolution?

Posted by Ken on July 28, 2013
Posted under Express 195

What is Changing at 10,000 Times the Rate of Evolution?

Climate change will leave countless species floundering in the heat and water. Researchers from University of Arizona and Yale University have found that the rate of climate change is 10,000 times the rate of evolution of many vertebrate species. While this could spell extinction for many of these species, climate change may provide a more conducive environment for others to thrive. The landscape of the future may be very different from what we are used to today. Read more

Climate Change 10,000 Times Faster Than Evolution

By Larry O’Hanlon in Discovery (18 July 2013):

Evolution can be fast, but not fast enough to keep up with the rate of human-caused climate change, say two researchers who have studied the evolution rates of hundreds of species in the past.

When it comes to species extinction, it’s not all doom and gloom.

In fact, many vertebrate species would have to speed up their evolution rate 10,000 times to match today’s pedal-to-the-metal rate of global warming, according to John Wiens, an ecology and evolutionary biology professor at the University of Arizona, and Ignacio Quintero, a postgraduate research assistant at Yale University.

“A big question is ‘Can some species adapt quickly enough to survive?’” said Wiens. “So we looked at 17 groups of animals” comprising 540 species that included amphibians, birds, reptile and mammals, to see how they adapted to temperature changes in the past. “We estimated the rate of climate change for these species.”

Specifically, they looked at when these species split into new species based on genetic data, which is a measure of their rate of evolution, and compared that to climate changes in the niches where those animals lived at those same times in geological history. What they found was that the species could handle a global temperature change of about one degree centigrade per million years. Their results appear in a paper in the latest issue of the journal Ecology Letters.

The problem, of course, is that humans are un-sequestering and burning millions of years worth of carbon-rich fossil fuels and releasing their heat-retaining gases into the atmosphere at a rate that’s causing a temperature rise of perhaps 4 degrees Celsius by the year 2100. So if a species can’t move to a nearby cooler habitat, it will be unlikely to evolve out of its predicament and survive.

All this seems to fly in the face of a variety of special cases of rapid evolution that have been documented in birds, reptiles and amphibians. But that’s not quite so, explained evolutionary biologist Robert Holt of the University of Florida.

The rate of evolution of a particular group of animals probably has a lot to do with how big of a genetic tools, or flexibility to develop new traits, a species has to work with. Some species have more than others, Holt said.

“There is a lot of rapid evolution in the world as well as a lot of animals that don’t evolve when you thought they would,” said Holt. Horseshoe crabs, for instance, haven’t changed much in 300 million years, he said. But their ecological niche hasn’t changed much either. So evolutionary “stasis” is key to that animal’s survival.

But the same talent for not evolving could be a serious liability for a species being directly affected by rapid climate change – like a bird, reptile or amphibian, for instance. And even those species that are more capable of changing may not always make it.

“Even if they have the genetic variation, it may not be enough,” said Holt. “The rate of population decline may still be so much that they can’t avoid extinction.” This is especially true of species that are already small in numbers, he said.

On the other hand, there are clearly some species that are great at adapting quickly and thrive in a changing world. Unfortunately, said Holt, these are often the same species we call pests and invasive species. If so, there’s a chance our 22nd century descendants could be raised on kudzo smoothies and python burgers and learn about rare frogs and birds only from books documenting the casualties of climate change.


Vulnerable Coastal Communities Need to Better Protect Themselves

Posted by Ken on July 28, 2013
Posted under Express 195

Vulnerable Coastal Communities Need to Better Protect Themselves

The future may turn out to be a lot soggier for some. Coastal communities may have to contend with more frequent and intense storms and hurricanes in the future, due to climate change. The potential damages and lost economic output of these weather phenomena will require a reworking of current insurance schemes to encourage vulnerable communities to better protect themselves against these future threats. Read more

The Costs of Climate Change and Extreme Weather Are Passing the High-Water Mark

Hurricane Sandy made it clear: as the climate warms, population grows and sea level rises, extreme weather will hurt more. That’s why we need to fix flood insurance

By Bryan Walsh for Time (17 July 2013):

Hurricane Sandy cost the U.S. some $70 billion in direct damages and lost economic output. This is, obviously, a lot of money — Sandy was the second most expensive hurricane in U.S. history after a small tropical storm called Katrina. Much of that cost was borne by the government — local, state and federal — and some of it was absorbed by those of us who lived in the storm’s path. But about $20 billion to $25 billion of the damage from the storm was eventually covered by the insurance industry. Much of that bill in turn was covered by the big reinsurers, the companies that take on insurance policies from primary insurance companies looking to spread out their risk. And if you were an insurance company affected by Sandy, you better hope you had a reinsurer behind you.

One of the biggest of the reinsurers is Swiss Re, and yesterday I had a chance to talk with the CEO of Swiss Re Americas, J. Eric Smith. Smith was in New York City to speak at an event for the Climate Group, an international nonprofit that works with companies, cities and states on sustainability. The event was held at the NASDAQ headquarters in Times Square, where the temperature threatened to push past 100°F. Global warming was on everyone’s mind, even though the air-conditioning inside was on full and shades blocked out the droning city sun. “What keeps us up at night is climate change,” Smith said. “We see the long-term effect of climate change on society, and it really frightens us.”

Heat waves alone, though unpleasant, aren’t foremost on Smith’s mind. Instead it’s the more direct risk — to insurers and the public — of bigger and badder storms, compounded by rising seas. Even putting the effect of climate change on storms aside — though recent research suggests that warming could indeed intensify tropical storms — more people and more property are moving into flood-prone areas. As of 2003, 153 million Americans lived in coastal counties — an increase of 33 million since 1980— and 3.7 million lived within a few feet of high tide. The cost of the storms and the damage and destruction that follows will grow, unless we can create a much more resilient society.

Usually that’s taken to mean building a tougher electrical grid, or improving weather forecasting to more precisely track brewing storms. But as Smith made clear yesterday, it will also mean changing how we insure those who live in high-risk, flood-prone areas. Since 1968, the federal government has taken the responsibility of insuring those communities that are most at risk from flooding. More than 5.5 million homes are protected via the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and a little less than 20% of those homes — usually those who live in the most dangerous areas — receive flood insurance at heavily subsidized rates. The result is a perverse incentive for homeowners to continue to live in areas that are likely to be hit by storms and floods, knowing that the cost of rebuilding will be effectively socialized by the rest of us. At a time when we should be seriously thinking about retreating from the most high-risk coastal areas, government policy inadvertently supports living on top of the sea.

Smith thinks that needs to change. “The program that exists today is not fundamentally sound,” he said. The NFIP is expected to go $25 billion to $30 billion in debt after it fulfills claims from Sandy, and both climate change and population growth will put further pressure on the program. A report released last month by the Federal Emergency Management Agency found that by the end of the century, NFIP could have to insure 80% more properties than it does today, and the average loss on each property could rise by as much as 90%. Keeping up a system that provides subsidized flood insurance for those who live in the riskiest areas is barely doable now — if those risks increase thanks to sea-level rise, it will be impossible. “To keep risks manageable and therefore insurable, all of us need to get serious about broad-scale financial solutions to this crisis,” said Smith.

Change is likely on the way. In 2012, before Sandy hit, Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. That law will require those households receiving subsidized flood insurance via NFIP to pay large premium increases of about 25% per year over the next five years. It also directs FEMA to draw up new flood maps and phase in increases for homes in newly designated higher-risk flood zones over the next four years. That will be painful for many — and indeed, a major battle is brewing in Congress over the implementation of the law, with Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, a state that gets more from NFIP than any other, revealing that her 2014 Homeland Security spending bill will include a policy rider that delays the increases in flood-insurance premiums for a year. But protecting those in the highest-risk flood areas will raise the rates on those who live in comparatively safer territory — which isn’t fair — and will continue essentially promoting development on the very coastal areas that will become increasingly vulnerable as the climate warms and the sea rises.

“The current setup is unstable,” said Smith. The change “will help homeowners understand the true risk that national disaster poses to homes and possessions.” We can’t afford not to listen to the insurers.



Carbon War Room Raises the Roof for Energy Efficient Buildings

Posted by Ken on July 28, 2013
Posted under Express 195

Carbon War Room Raises the Roof for Energy Efficient Buildings

A recent report by Carbon War Room, “Raising the Roof: How to Create Climate Wealth through Efficient Buildings”, highlighted that global energy efficiency market has not lived up to its full potential. However, this is about to change due to a variety of innovations in finance, technology and policy. Rapid expansion of the market is expected over the next 18 months, resulting in abatement of carbon at gigaton-scale. Read more


“Today we are on the brink of a significant acceleration in adoption of energy efficiency solutions due to major technological and financial innovations.”

José María Figueres, President, Carbon War Room

New York, 13 July 2013: Although the global energy efficiency market could be worth $245 billion per year by 2020, project uptake has been miniscule in comparison to its potential. This situation is about to change due to a variety of innovations in finance, technology, and policy, according to a new report released today by the Carbon War Room.

The report, “Raising the Roof: How to Create Climate Wealth through Efficient Buildings”, cites significant upfront capital costs, risk misperceptions, misaligned financial interests, and the lack of information as key barriers undermining the potential of the global market. Despite the nascence of the market, rapid expansion is expected over the next 18 months due to:

• A whole suite of “Big Data” products hitting the market, ranging from digital audits, retro commissioning, and optimization, will enable asset owners to save up to 25% on their energy bill with little or no upfront capital expense.

• Significant progress in financial innovations, like Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), On-Bill Repayment, and Energy Savings Agreements (ESAs) are now maturing and expanding in scope. Also, new proposed structures like using Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT) for Energy Efficiency have the potential to vastly grow the capital available for retrofits.

• Market-enabling policy innovations, ranging from benchmarking ordinances like Australia’s NABERS program, Singapore’s Energy Conservation Act, the UK’s “Green Deal”, and utility de-coupling in the United States, are helping drive retrofits.

Currently, there is an opportunity worldwide to abate carbon at a gigaton-scale using profitable, market-based energy efficiency solutions. These solutions do not require government subsidy or changes in policy and regulation. For example, the United States alone currently spends more than $400 billion each year to power its homes and commercial buildings and is responsible for almost 40% of the nation’s CO2 emissions. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that commercial buildings could be made up to 80% more efficient with new and existing technologies. Yet, despite the macro-opportunity, individual asset owners or sustainability directors of municipalities still face the challenge of determining the best approach and the best options available to them. To help, the report provides a step-by-step guide on how to differentiate between the various technologies and financial mechanisms, as illustrated by the graphic below.

The report represents the culmination of three years of work by War Room across 30 cities around the world. It assesses the current ‘state of play’ on market barriers and solutions facing multiple sectors, with case studies offered from a range of cities, including Singapore, San Francisco, Washington DC, Vancouver, and Wellington, New Zealand.

To access and download the full report, go to:–How_to_Create_Climate_Wealth_through_Efficient_Buildings.pdf

About the carbon war room

The world today has both the technology and the policy in place to tackle at least 50% of the climate challenge. Now, across a range of major global industries, we must break down market barriers in order to shift capital towards the low-carbon technologies and business models that will prove extremely profitable – thereby creating climate wealth.

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 profitably achieving massive CO2 reductions via private sector innovations. Across these sectors, the War Room’s current Operations include: Maritime Shipping Efficiency, Green Capital, Renewable Jet Fuels, Smart Island Economies, and Trucking Efficiency.


One Day We Will See a Rolls Royce Sailing on the High Seas

Posted by Ken on July 28, 2013
Posted under Express 195

One Day We Will See a Rolls Royce Sailing on the High Seas

Hybrid cars have wheeled themselves into the hearts and minds of drivers worldwide, due to their fuel and cost efficiency. Hybrid vehicles will also soon hit the high seas, if Rolls Royce has its way. Sailors around the world will soon again hear the flutters of sail in the wind, with a hybrid ship that combines sails and fuel-burning engine to cut emissions and increasing fuel costs. This hybrid system can see a potential efficiency gain of 55%. Read more News (12 July 2013):

The hybrid car may be the latest thing in road transport, but hybrid ships that combine sail and steam were plying the oceans in the 19th century – and they’re set for a comeback.

Rolls Royce – better known for luxury cars and aero engines – is developing a ship that uses sails to cut emissions and soaring fuel costs.

Today, the shipping industry contributes almost 3% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, because of the dirty bunker fuel that powers most of the world’s ocean-going fleets.

A ship under development can carry 4500 tons fueled by an 180-foot sail and backed up by bio-methane engines.

“We’re at the dawn of a transition,” Oskar Levander, vice president for innovation at Rolls’s marine unit, tells Bloomberg. He predicts a switch from high-polluting bunker fuels to alternatives such as dimethyl ether and liquid natural gas, as well as “high-tech wind”.

Rolls Royce is working with B9 Shipping, a Northern Ireland-based firm, on the hybrid ship, which will be 330-feet long and will be primarily powered by a Dyna-rig automated sail system.

The company says all the technologies needed are proven and readily available. The Dyna-rig sail system was originally conceived in the 1960s by German hydraulics engineer Wilhelm Prolls and was first used by Italian shipbuilder Perini Navi in its 289-foot clipper, The Maltese Falcon, which made its maiden voyage in 2006.

The free-standing and free-rotating system has no rigging and comprises numerous relatively small sails that are operated electronically from the bridge. This allows them to be trimmed quickly to maximize wind power and turned out of the wind in the event of sudden squalls.

Rolls Royce will provide a back-up power plant based on its Bergen model, which can burn methane produced from municipal waste by another unit of B9 Energy Group. The sail and engine can also be used together for optimal efficiency.

While the hybrid design increases upfront capital costs, B9 says the pay back is 3-5 years for a ship with a 30 year lifespan.

The shipping industry faces tighter controls on sulfur emissions from the International Maritime Organization. These require owners to use clean but more expensive grades of fuel. Trimmer designs and hybrid power systems offer a potential 55% efficiency gain, according to B9’s Diane Gilpin.

“Operational budgets are trumping build costs at the moment,” she says, adding that B9 is seeking £15 million ($22 million) to put a ship in the water within two years.

The cruise industry is notorious for its unregulated emissions and garbage disposal. Some like Norwegian Cruise Lines, which introduced carbon offsets last year, are trying to slowly change some business practices.


Economic Gain from Investing in a Clean Energy, Low Carbon Future

Posted by Ken on July 28, 2013
Posted under Express 195

Economic Gain from Investing in a Clean Energy, Low Carbon Future

Weather-related disasters aggravated by climate change impose significant economic costs. Conversely, activities aimed at mitigating climate change bring considerable economic benefits. Investments in energy efficiency, clean energy, and related fields not just reduce emissions and costs, but are also big creators of jobs, and inject billions of dollars into the economy. Recent policies by private and public entities reflect a greater awareness of these benefits. Read more

By Nicole Lederer for Huffington Post (17 July 2013);

Nicole Lederer Co-Founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs, The Independent Business Voice for the Environment

The economic costs of climate change are now clear. From weather-related disasters like Superstorm Sandy to droughts that have wiped out family farms and fueled devastating fires, the United States suffered 11 climate-related disasters last year alone that cost $1 billion — each.

But the economic benefits of addressing climate change by investing in clean energy and energy efficiency are now clear too.

Over the last four years, we’ve doubled the electricity we get from wind and solar. We’ve seen dramatic increases — and dramatic savings — from efficiency in our automobiles, buildings and appliances. Along the way, we’ve created more than 3.4 million jobs in renewable energy, energy efficiency and related fields, and injected billions of dollars into our economy in clean energy investments and energy efficiency savings.

These jobs are being created in every corner of our country. My organization, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), tracked more than 300 clean energy and clean transportation job announcements nationwide last year that are expected to create more than 110,000 made-in-America jobs — jobs growing next-generation biofuels in places like Iowa; jobs building solar panels in North Carolina and jobs creating next-generation battery technology in Michigan and California.

It is for these reasons that more than 250 members of E2 recently signed a letter supporting President Obama’s plan to cut carbon pollution and address climate change with commonsense initiatives that will help both the environment and the economy.

E2 members know that sound climate and energy policies like the president’s plan will grow our economy and create jobs and businesses. Our members have collectively financed, started or helped develop more than 1,400 companies that have created more than 500,000 jobs. E2 members currently manage more than $108 billion in private equity capital that over the next several years will flow into new companies and fund a new generation of new entrepreneurs.

But E2 members aren’t the only ones who get it.

– U.S. companies from Nike to Coors to Starbucks have all warned that climate change is — and will continue — to affect their bottom lines.

– Munich RE, the world’s largest reinsurer, found that weather-related loss events in North America have quintupled in the last three decades, growing faster than anyplace in the world.

– And a recent economic study by Synapse Energy Economics and the Natural Resources Defense Council (of which E2 is an affiliate) found that cutting carbon pollution from power plants — the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate initiative — will help create more than 210,000 U.S. jobs in clean energy, energy efficiency and other areas.

President Obama’s plan to reduce carbon pollution and increase our supply of renewable energy achieves another pivotal objective for the American economy. It finally sends a clear market signal to businesses that our nation is serious about developing and deploying the next generation of energy technologies. That will continue to drive American innovation and job creation across our country.

It’s the kind of policy that should be welcome by anybody who cares about America’s economic resilience and prosperity in the 21st century.


Are You Driven to Road Rage When Commuting? IEA has the Answer

Posted by Ken on July 28, 2013
Posted under Express 195

Are You Driven to Road Rage When Commuting? IEA has the Answer

Morning commute driving you nuts? You are not alone, as urban commuters worldwide face traffic congestions and vehicular exhaust fumes. It does not have to be so for long – a report from the International Energy Agency shows how to improve transport efficiency through better urban planning and travel demand management. This improvement also produces lower greenhouse gas

By GLOBE – Net (12 July 2013):

A tale of renewed cities: Getting around is getting better

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” begins Charles Dickens’ celebrated “A Tale of Two Cities,” published in 1859.

It’s a phrase that might come to mind to a frustrated urban commuter trying to get about in one of the world’s larger cities, often gridlocked by traffic congestion and blanketed with vehicular exhaust fumes.

But a new report, “A Tale of Renewed Cities,” shows that policies that improve the energy efficiency of urban transport systems could help save as much as $70 trillion in spending on vehicles, fuel and transportation infrastructure between now and 2050.

The report from the International Energy Agency (IEA)  draws on examples from more than 30 cities across the globe to show how to improve transport efficiency through better urban planning and travel demand management. Extra benefits include lower greenhouse-gas emissions and higher quality of life.

And often these changes do not involve expensive infrastructure upgrades. Simply changing policies can have enormous payoffs.

The report comes at a critical time: More than half of the world’s population already lives in cities, many of which suffer from traffic jams and overcrowded roads that cost hundreds of billions of dollars in lost fuel and time, and that harm environmental quality, health and safety.

“As the share of the world’s population living in cities grows to nearly 70 percent by 2050 and energy consumption for transport in cities is expected to double, the need for efficient, affordable, safe and high-capacity transport solutions will become more acute,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven as she presented the report.

“Urgent steps to improve the efficiency of urban transport systems are needed not only for energy security reasons, but also to mitigate the numerous negative climate, noise, air pollution, congestion and economic impacts of rising urban transport volumes.”

She urged policy makers to take a systems perspective and a long-term view to address the challenges.

“Governments must think beyond individual technologies and electoral cycles, and consider how to build — and how to renew — cities that will accommodate and transport nearly 6.3 billion people by 2050. We must plan infrastructure, logistics and energy systems now that make sense today and over the coming decades,” she said.

Among the three broad categories of policies recommended in the report are those that allow travel to be avoided, those that shift travel to more efficient modes and those that improve the efficiency of vehicle and fuel technologies.

The report notes that if fully implemented across the transportation sector, this “avoid, shift and improve” approach could save up to $70 trillion in terms of lower spending on oil, roadway infrastructure and vehicles.

The report offers three case studies — Belgrade, Seoul and New York City — to show how those cities already have improved their transport systems. It notes, for example, that within the first six months of refurbishing its urban rail system, Belgrade tripled passenger levels.

When Seoul pushed through reforms that no longer rewarded bus operators for carrying more people, ridership, speed and safety all increased. And New York City shaved 11 minutes off travel times within a year of introducing express bus services, while at the same time attracting more passengers.

“A Tale of Renewed Cities,” supported by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, sets forth a pathway outlining the essential steps and milestones for policy development and implementation to transform cities by improving urban transport systems.

The pathway is divided into four sections that present the necessary planning and actions for supporting development, financing, implementation and evaluation of policies to improve the energy efficiency of urban transport systems.

To assist planners and policy makers in addressing many common issues and challenges, the pathway also provides a list of policy references and practitioner’s guides that are noted throughout the report and on the IEA Policy Pathway Series web page.

To download the report, please click here.,39940,en.html

Source:  &

Time for an ethically produced coffee & a sustainable food snack

Posted by Ken on July 28, 2013
Posted under Express 195

Time for an ethically produced coffee & a sustainable food snack

Nothing could be more fundamental than the need for food, though production and consumption often cause significant environmental impact. To counter this, major efforts have been introduced in New York City; including the Restaurant Sustainability Survey launched by the non-profit group Sustainable Restaurant Corps aimed at helping restaurants make sustainable food choices. Meanwhile, professors from Cornell University are seeking agricultural, economic and environmental sustainability for the world’s smallholder coffee bean growers. Read more

New York City Nonprofit Launches Restaurant Sustainability Survey

The Sustainable Restaurant Corps aims to reduce restaurant food waste

By Vivian Mac (16 July 2013):

This year, the city has introduced major efforts to reduce food waste in New York City. For example, Mayor Bloomberg got over a hundred restaurants to participate in the Food Waste Challenge, and the City Council conducted discussions about residential composting. At a City Hall press conference Tuesday, a nonprofit called Sustainable Restaurant Corps (SRC) announced the launch of their Restaurant Sustainability Survey, which is designed to help New York City restaurants reduce food, water, and energy waste and make sustainable food choices.

Christine Black, the founder of Sustainable Restaurant Corps, hopes that restaurants will complete the voluntary survey. “The survey will help us understand what restaurants are doing or may not be doing,” she said to the crowd. The data will be used to address the challenges that restaurants face and tailor the nonprofit’s services neighborhood by neighborhood.

Being sustainable makes for good business, Black added, since it can help restaurants save 20-30% off of their monthly utility bill. Thus far, SRC has sent the survey to more than 500 restaurants in the city, with questions such as, “How much organic food do you serve?” and “Have you had an energy audit?” The nonprofit plans to develop a sustainability rating system and set basic, voluntary guidelines that any restaurant can achieve. The SRC will also introduce green products and services to restaurants, such as T&S Brass and Bronze Works and the EnviroPure organic waste disposal system.

Democratic mayoral candidate Sal F. Albanese supports the SRC’s plans, calling it a “great start.” “I want a zero waste New York City,” he said. Council Member Gale Brewer, who is a candidate for Manhattan Borough President, agrees. “There’s been a lot of talk on how to be green, but not a lot of people are stepping up to the plate to do the work,” she told the crowd. “A survey is a phenomenal way to get information from restaurants to see what’s helpful to them.”

Christine Black has more future plans for her nonprofit organization. “We’re going to have a number of things on our website for restaurants to use,” she told The Daily Meal. The site will show restaurants how to get their sustainability rating, and feature articles and product services that will help them stay green.” She also hopes to “have coaches to focus on each neighborhood to come up with solutions specific to each place” and offer “education workshops and seminars for restaurateurs, to help them implement sustainable practices at restaurants.”

Her plans echo what Council Member Gale Brewer said. “It’s the collaboration, it’s the education— that’s what’s going to make our city green.”




From the grounds up, study seeks sustainable ‘java’

16 July 2013:

Baristas rejoice! Cornell professors seek to brew agricultural, environmental and economic sustainability together for the world’s smallholder coffee bean growers.

Looking to improve conditions for small farms in Colombia, professors in economics and soil science are examining the entire supply chain – from the tiny producers to the coffee drinkers – to gain insight into consistently delivering quality coffee at a fair price for all.

“I think we’re the first team to measure the environment and biodiversity in a systematic way,” says Miguel Gómez, professor at the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. The comprehensive study, funded by the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, will measure the diversity of the fauna, examine the energy, measure the water use and train farmers to pollute less – all to develop a sustainable, viable coffee system.

In a partnership with Gómez, Harold Van Es, professor of soil and crop sciences, will focus on land management. Van Es explains that soil samples will be studied for physical, biological and chemical properties. “We hope to see a relationship between a farm’s soil characteristics and how the farmers manage their land,” he said.

Ximena Rueda, a research associate at Stanford University, will link the biophysical and socioeconomic data, and examine land use for sustainability.

Later in July, graduate students Juan Nicolas Hernandez and Colleen Anunu, (who is a buyer for Ithaca-based Gimme! Coffee) will visit Colombia for six weeks to gather socioeconomic data from small farms and evaluate sustainability factors. Also, the graduate students will measure the impact of economic supply-chain models.

The researchers will partner with Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers, who use the up-and-coming Relationship Coffee Model, or RCM. This model offers roasters and small farmers the opportunity to establish a direct, long-term trading partnership for high-quality coffee. In return for the strong relationship, the farmers earn a sustainable fair price in the market – and RCM is less vulnerable to market fluctuations, says Gómez.

Small farms can become fair-trade certified (a different model), but must pay to participate. Many small farmers – who have two acres or less and earn less than $6,000 a year – can’t afford the fair trade certification fees and are thus impeded from participating.

Said Gómez: “Specialty coffee is becoming more like wine. High quality will get you good prices.”

Provided by Cornell University