Archive for the ‘Express 79’ Category

Profile: Karla Bell

Posted by admin on October 10, 2009
Posted under Express 79

Profile: Karla Bell

The driving force for “greening” the Olympic Games, Fiji-born, Australian educated Karla Bell wants to see voluntary carbon offsetting incorporated into emission trading schemes, more use of agricultural offsets, as well as green building retrofitting for energy efficiency and job creation. She’s the co-founder of Carbonflow Inc.

A long time pragmatic environmentalist, Karla Bell is probably best known as the driving force behind developing the Green aspect of the Olympics starting with the first Green Olympic Games in Sydney, while working for Greenpeace in the Atmosphere and Energy campaign.

She has since been an advisor to both the public and private sector on green infrastructure and emissions trading, and has been a proponent of the need to bring transparency and automation to help scale emissions trading markets.

Born in Fiji, Karla holds an undergraduate degree from Macquarie University in Sydney and is a Senior Research Fellow at the Royal College of Art in London on Sustainable Development. 

Karla is a co-founder of Carbonflow, Inc, a software company based in San Francisco, the only multi-party software company in the CDM markets under the Kyoto Protocol. The objective of this initiative was to reduce cost and speed up the transaction process involved in creating a carbon credit or CER (certified emission reduction) from the origination of a project, the validation, registration, verification and on-going monitoring process. Karla is the Opinion writer and editor of The Greenhouse Gas Blog on

Karla is speaking at Carbon Forum Asia in Singapore in the end of October on the innovators panel, another initiative that is to include Green Building offsets into the offset market in the U.S but more generally in the offset market globally particularly in the developed world ( as it already exists in CDM).

Karla had this to say to ABC Carbon on the concerns expressed in Australia about lack of Government recognition for  the Voluntary Carbon Market:

“I would support the Voluntary Carbon Market being grand-fathered into an Australian Emissions Trading scheme as the U.S national draft Kerry-Boxer Bill has proposed. The Voluntary Carbon Standard follows the same architecture as the current CDM mechanism under the Kyoto protocol, the current de-facto standard for the development of the global offset market.

“Additionally, I would support, as the proposed U.S legislation does, the wide-ranging use of offsets in both the proposed international and domestic offset market. The U.S bill has a proposed 75% domestic and 25% international split, whereas the majority of offsets being considered in Australia are international offsets, most likely REDD credits.

“The method of creating offset project types is positive in that anyone from the President to an individual project developer can propose a project type by creating a methodology and have it approved. The following project types have been so far named, including Coal mine and landfill methane collection and combustion; the capture of venting, flaring and fugitive emissions from oil and natural gas.

“From Australia’s point of view, if we are to adopt any similar parts of the proposed U.S. Bill, we should definitely consider the range of agricultural offsets that are proposed, which are wide-ranging from Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) activities: including Afforestation/Reforestation, Improved Forest Management, agro-forestry, reduced deforestation, altered tillage (no-till farming), changes in animal management practices, among others.

“My own particular interest in Green Building offsets is not included but under the process of nominating a project type, submitting it for approval, there would be nothing to stop a project developer taking that path under the Bill.

More words from Karla Bell from two recent articles which appeared in Sustainable Industries publication:

The real issue is the US bill does not go far enough. It needs to create an “energy-efficiency and renewable energy set aside” – or green building carbon offset program – which rises above the regulatory approaches to energy efficiency. The Waxman-Markey bill provides for an economy-wide cap-and-trade program. The cap reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, and 83% below by 2050. Offsets (project-based reductions) are limited to 2,000 million metric tons CO2 equivalent per year, or 30% of U.S. emission reductions, split evenly between domestic and international offsets. Domestic offsets do not include offsets from green buildings.

However, federal regulators are closely watching California, which is holding public hearings about AB32 implementation. Members of the San Francisco Carbon Collaborative, including Carbonflow, have made significant progress with the regulators on getting an “energy efficiency set aside” into the discussion for possible inclusion in AB 32. This is an important first step, as California is known as a global leader in energy related legislation.

Simultaneously, at the recent CarbonExpo in Barcelona, many expressed interest in a Global International Protocol on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy set asides. Under the Waxman-Markey bill, energy efficiency would be achieved through a renewable electricity standard, a low-carbon fuel standard, and energy efficiency programs and standards for buildings, lighting, appliances, as well as vehicles and stationery sources and fuels.

These are all good initiatives. But according to Anne-Marie Warris, author of the Voluntary Carbon Standard, “the problem is that it relies on energy efficiency measures to be applied as the natural turnover of building stock takes place,which is estimated to take anything from 500 to a 1,000 years….which is time we simply do not have to prevent climate change,” Warris says.

Indirect sources of emissions

The Waxman-Markey bill relies on capping direct sources of emissions such as power plants and other smokestack industries. The bill’s definition of domestic offsets includes agriculture, landfill, waste-to-energy projects and biomass. But, it does not include green building offsets. The conventional wisdom is that cap-and trade should be restricted to direct industrial sources, because there are fewer of them and they are already heavily regulated. The bill follows the reliance on reductions from direct sources and forecloses on the possibility to achieve reductions from indirect sources, such as buildings that consume electricity despite their cost effectiveness.

“As a result, a valuable incentive for voluntary GHG reductions is lost, the low-hanging fruit of increasing energy efficiency in buildings goes unpicked, and industrial sources are required to shoulder a greater share of required GHG reductions, all of which increase the societal cost for addressing climate change and makes it less politically feasible to accomplish,” says Donald Simon, an attorney for Wendel, Rosen, Black and Dean.

Huge potential with existing buildings

Existing regulation leading to emissions reductions through “green” construction techniques usually comes in the form of building codes that reach only new construction and substantial renovations. Yet the majority of GHG in the built environment come from existing buildings. Current government incentives “are helpful but inadequate because they do not achieve sufficient market penetration and rely on limited government funding that can disappear in lean budget years,” Simon says. Domestic green building offsets would allow regulated industries to choose between reducing their own emissions or purchasing offsets from others who are able to reduce theirs at lower cost.

This would reduce the overall cost of climate change regulation for consumers because the market would exploit the lowest cost GHG reductions. Green building carbon credits would provide a large funding source that partially finances energy efficiency improvements. Poorer communities would benefit, as credits would fund energy efficient and renewable energy upgrades to existing building stock at a more accelerated rate than building codes currently create.

Making energy upgrades affordable

Moderate House Democrats and Republicans say that under a cap-and-trade program, ordinary people would incur higher energy costs over time because most have not upgraded their homes and small  businesses with energy-efficient technologies.

However, by allowing green building offsets into the federal cap-and-trade system, subsidies to poorer communities for increased energy costs would not be necessary. Their buildings would be retrofitted by the private sector using the dollars from green building offsets. Ultimately, these people would consume up to 50 percent less energy, with no net energy cost increase. Green building offsets would allow construction companies, project developers, engineers and architects to initiate energy efficiency and renewable energy building projects. And, revenue from the sale of the credits would fund projects and create new “green” jobs. Without this small inclusion to the Waxman-Markey bill, the Democrats may miss a chance to pass sweeping climate change legislation in 2009.

Creating more green-collar jobs

Two complementary recent reports prepared by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (PERI), Center for American Progress (CAP), Green For All, and the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) outline how investment in a clean-energy economy will produce significant economic and job creation benefits. These include the generation of roughly three times more jobs than would be generated by the same investment in the existing fossil fuel infrastructure.

NRDC reports the American Clean Energy and Security bill will create 1.7 million jobs throughout America, 614,000 of which will be available to people without college degrees or extensive work experience. This will lead to a tripling of gross domestic product by 2050 and even opponents of the bill predicted a doubling of GDP by 2050.

“Clean-energy jobs are more labor intensive and require more domestically made material than the fossil-fuel industry,” says Frances Beinecke, President of NRDC. “In fact, for every $1 million spent on clean energy, we can create 3-4 times as many jobs as the same money spent on fossil fuels,” she claims.

A few states have been singled out in these reports: Almost 70,000 jobs could be created in Ohio for wind turbine manufacturing, solar panel installation and building retrofitting. In Missouri, 25 moderate-scale wind farms would result in 550 permanent construction jobs and $75 million in ongoing economic impact and in Missouri locally grown biomass would create 11,000 jobs.

These jobs are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the green jobs potential of ACES, which is expected to kick-start the U.S. economy and drive the world economy. Follow up work on a state-by-state basis should occur concerning the green-collar job opportunities across the 50 states.

State-by-state forecast

New York, California and Texas are likely to continue to be hubs for carbon technology jobs, as the states are rich in venture capital funding, high-tech workers and smart-grid, initiatives. However California and Texas can develop manufacturing and installation jobs with solar wind, wave and tidal plants. In Texas, old oil rigs could be converted to wave or tidal power.

Manufacturing jobs can re-energize existing industrial towns. Installation jobs will follow solar, wind and wave power resources. Solar, wind and wave mapping is a new science, which will help dictate where solar, wind and wave farms or bio-fuels plants will be located. 

Other states could offer opportunity. Coal states, such as Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Southern Ohio and Southern Indiana, could innovate in carbon capture (clean coal).

Energy-efficiency projects across the United States will create jobs and are potentially more attractive to conventional coal states where energy has historically been inexpensive and standards lower than the west or east coast.

If passed by the Senate before the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009, the Waxman-Markey bill could pressure other resource-rich nations to conclude their climate legislation before Copenhagen.

Source: and

Work Harder to Get Agreement

Posted by admin on October 10, 2009
Posted under Express 79

Work Harder to Get Agreement

A meaningful global agreement on climate change would unleash a wave of innovation and investment in renewable energy and low carbon products and services, but rich countries’ pledges to cut emissions are falling well short of what scientists warn is needed and the climate talks in Bangkok this past week failed to deliver consensus between the world’s developing and developed nations.


From the GlobeScan survey report:

London, Toronto, and Washington DC – A meaningful global agreement on climate change would unleash a wave of innovation and investment in renewable energy and low carbon products and services, according to a new global poll of sustainability experts conducted in August 2009

Findings from The Sustainability Survey Poll on Climate Change, conducted by GlobeScan and SustainAbility, show that thought leaders across the world believe that the achievement of a strong international agreement at the UN conference in Copenhagen in December would lead to tremendous growth opportunities in the areas of renewable energy and low carbon products and services.

Further, the survey of 1,400 influential thought leaders from companies, governments, NGOs, and academia from over 80 countries also predicts that a meaningful deal in Copenhagen would increase government regulations of emissions, raise public awareness, and result in greater leadership from global companies to limit emissions, compared to what would occur if no meaningful agreement is reached.

However, an overwhelming majority of experts do not believe that COP-15 negotiations will result in a meaningful agreement. While few experts predict a complete failure to reach an international agreement to limit climate change, more than eight out of ten experts say the meetings will likely result in an agreement that is not sufficiently stringent to avoid major, irreversible damage to human, social and ecosystem health.

Irrespective of the COP-15 outcome, experts expect increasing pressures – including higher energy prices, increased public awareness/concern, and more intense NGO campaigning – pointing to the need for companies to act now to take on more active roles in shaping government climate change policies, and enacting more aggressive corporate climate change strategies.

Jeff Erikson, Vice President at SustainAbility, comments: “The economic downturn and the climate change challenge together present the ideal opportunity for businesses to carve out new sources of competitive advantage and market leadership. Those companies that develop low-carbon solutions now will be best positioned to mitigate the risks and capitalize on the wealth of opportunities posed by climate change.”

Chris Coulter, Vice President at GlobeScan, adds: “If experts are right and a ‘Plan B’ agreement is negotiated in Copenhagen, we can expect an increase in activism from civil society, with greater attention on individual companies and industries.”


By Environment reporter Sarah Clarke for ABC News (9 October 2009):

The United Nations climate talks in Bangkok have failed to deliver consensus between the world’s developing and developed nations.

The meeting finishes today after two weeks of intense negotiations.

The gathering of more than 190 nations was hoped to deliver the foundations for a new global climate agreement to be negotiated in Copenhagen in December.

Instead, the world’s two biggest polluters are deadlocked, with the United States calling for the existing Kyoto protocol to be abandoned, and a new treaty to be discussed. China disagrees.

And a stalling point remains over finance, with developed countries including Australia yet to commit to funding clean technology to help the poorer countries adapt to climate change.

Environment groups are concerned time is running out, with less than 60 days before world leaders gather for the final round of climate talks in Copenhagen.



Adam Morton, environment reporter for The Age (8 October  2009):

RICH countries’ pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions are up to 15 per cent short of what scientists warn is needed to avoid a two-degree temperature rise.

With 60 days until the Copenhagen climate summit, an analysis found targets proposed by rich countries would cut emissions 10-24 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. These were not enough to reach the 25-40 per cent the industrialised world has agreed is necessary based on the advice of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The analysis by US-based think tank World Resources Institute is consistent with a United Nations analysis reported in The Age in June.

It found current targets added up to a 16-24 per cent cut.

Australia’s target is equivalent to a 4-24 per cent cut below 1990 levels.

A spokeswoman for Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said the Government believed all countries must increase their ambition on emissions.

”That is why, as one of the most carbon-intensive economies in the world, and 18 months after ratifying Kyoto, we increased our offer on mitigation – in an effort to provide momentum to the negotiations,” she said.

A separate report by the International Energy Agency found the financial crisis could lead to world emissions falling by 3 per cent this year, the biggest decline in 40 years.

Released at UN climate talks in Bangkok, the report said it would lead to emissions in 2020 being 5 per cent lower than estimated a year ago.

To avoid two degrees of warming, the agency estimates energy emissions must be just 6 per cent higher in 2020 than in 2007.


Prize for Peace, Energy & Climate Leadership

Posted by admin on October 10, 2009
Posted under Express 79

Prize for Peace, Energy & Climate Leadership

US President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for giving the world “hope for a better future”, striving for nuclear disarmament and for climate change leadership. Now the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev wants to make his country a superpower in energy efficiency. By 2020, he wants to cut Russian energy consumption by 40%.

Medvedev Eyes Eco-Friendly Reforms

By Benjamin Bidder for Reuters:

Russia has long been a profligate consumer of energy, but President Dmitry Medvedev would like to change that.

Russia has never made energy conservation much of a priority. But President Dmitry Medvedev would like that to change. He wants to see consumption drop by 40 percent in the next decade — but without the technological know-how, it could be difficult.

Sometimes, Dmitry Medvedev has to be brusque. Last Wednesday, the Russian president found it necessary to reprimand his audience in front of national television cameras for talking during his speech. “Whoever’s chatting can go somewhere else. And that includes the bosses,” he said. Medvedev is not accustomed to being ignored.

The problem may have been his choice of subject. The normally stoic Kremlin boss had been giving a speech on his new favorite subject: energy efficiency. It is not a topic that generally receives much attention in Russia.

Which is hardly a surprise. Medvedev’s predecessor Vladimir Putin was quick to shut down the State Committee for the Protection of the Environment soon after entering office in 2000. At the time, the nation prided itself on its natural gas fields and smoking chimneys — symbols of the country’s renewed status as a global power. Only sissies worried about climate change and carbon dioxide emissions.

These days however, Moscow’s rich and powerful must acquaint themselves with a new set of priorities — those of the man who took office in May 2008. Medvedev is now hell-bent on modernizing the Russian economy, an undertaking which has implications for the oil and gas industry. The Russian president wants to make his country a superpower in energy efficiency.

Superfluous Gas Torched

Medvedev’s choice of location to hold forth on his eco-friendly project was replete with symbolism: the Kurchatov Institute, Russia’s leading research and development facility in the field of nuclear energy and birthplace of the Soviet atomic bomb. It was here, in 1949, that researchers developed the nuclear weapons that would launch the USSR to superpower status. Now, Medvedev hopes Kurchatov researchers can develop technologies that will curb Russia’s voracious appetite for energy.

Currently, the country consumes vast quantities of energy, the result of outdated and inefficient factories coupled with subsidized energy prices. Even today, many Russians are forced to open windows in the middle of winter to combat hyper-charged district heating systems. The Siberian sky is lit up by the bright flames of gas fields as excess gas is simply burned off.

Last week, Medvedev spoke of a “depressing situation.” Russian factories use up four or five times more energy than their Western counterparts. In addition, district heating systems are profoundly wasteful, with much of the heat being lost before it even reaches consumers. In mid-September, Medvedev wrote a much-read article in which he stated that “the energy efficiency of the majority of our companies is shamefully low.”

‘Nothing Has Happened’

Medvedev’s plan is ambitious. By 2020, he wants to cut Russian energy consumption by 40 percent, a goal he outlined in his speech on Wednesday, attended by the likes of Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina and Russia’s richest man, Mikhail Prochorow. Even Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, who, thanks to his position is also chairman of the board at the national oil company Rosneft, was taking detailed notes.

Medvedev’s message was simple: “Those who save energy, save money.” He is hoping to pass energy conservation legislation by the end of October.

Russia is now looking towards Germany for assistance in meeting its efficiency goals. In July, Medvedev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel established the “Russian-German Energy Agency” in Munich.

“This is the first important step for getting vital technology into the country. It also shows, however, that Russia simply does not yet have the necessary know-how,” explains Stefan Meister, an expert on Russia at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).

Meister points out that it is also unclear how Medvedev intends to finance expensive projects such as swapping out incandescent lightbulbs for more energy-efficient bulbs nationwide. “Which business incentives will be used? How does one encourage large companies to save energy? These questions remain completely unanswered,” Meister said.

President Medvedev, as his speech made clear, is aware of the problem. However few concrete steps have been taken to date. “So far,” says Meister, “nothing has happened.”


By Wojciech Moskwa for Reuters:

OSLO – U.S. President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for giving the world “hope for a better future” and striving for nuclear disarmament.

The decision to award one of the world’s top accolades to a president less than nine months into his first term, who has yet to score a major foreign policy success, came as a big surprise and provoked strong international criticism as well as praise.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised Obama for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

The first African-American to hold his country’s highest office, Obama has called for disarmament and worked to restart the stalled Middle East peace process since taking office in January.

“Very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future,” the committee said in a citation.

In a speech in Prague in April, Obama declared: “So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

But he was not the first American president to set that goal, and acknowledged it might not be reached in his lifetime.

On other pressing issues, he faces hard decisions on the future of the war in Afghanistan and is still searching for breakthroughs on Iran’s disputed nuclear program and on the stalled Middle East peace process.

Israel’s foreign minister said on Thursday there was no chance of a peace deal for many years.

The chief Palestinian peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, welcomed the award to Obama and expressed hope that “he will be able to achieve peace in the Middle East.”

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader and a Nobel Prize winner himself, said: “I am happy. What Obama did during his presidency is a big signal, he gave a hope. In these hard times people who are capable of taking responsibility, who have a vision, commitment and political will should be supported.”

But some Arab and Muslim reaction was fiercely critical.

“Obama’s winning the peace prize shows these prizes are political, not governed by the principles of credibility, values and morals,” said an Islamic Jihad leader, Khaled Al-Batsh.

“Why should Obama be given a peace prize while his country owns the largest nuclear arsenal on Earth and his soldiers continue to shed innocent blood in Iraq and Afghanistan?”

Issam al-Khazraji, a day laborer in Baghdad, said: “He doesn’t deserve this prize. All these problems — Iraq, Afghanistan — have not been solved…The man of ‘change’ hasn’t changed anything yet.”

Liaqat Baluch, a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, a conservative religious party in Pakistan, said: “It’s a joke. How embarrassing for those who awarded it to him, because he’s done nothing for peace. What change has he brought in Iraq, the Middle East or Afghanistan?”

Obama is the third senior U.S. Democrat to win the prize this decade after former Vice President Al Gore won in 2007 along with the U.N. climate panel and Jimmy Carter in 2002.

The prize worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.4 million) will be handed over in Oslo on December 10.


Local People Save Forests

Posted by admin on October 10, 2009
Posted under Express 79

Local People Save Forests

Tropical forest under local management stores more carbon than government-owned forests. Give tropical forests back to the people who live in them and keep the forests out of the hands of government. So concludes a study that has tracked the fate of 80 forests worldwide over 15 years.

Fred Pearce in New Scientist (7 October 2009):

Give tropical forests back to the people who live in them – and the trees will soak up your carbon for you. Above all, keep the forests out of the hands of government. So concludes a study that has tracked the fate of 80 forests worldwide over 15 years.

Most tropical forests – from Himalayan hill forests to the Madagascan jungle – are controlled by local and national governments. Forest communities own and manage little more than a tenth. They have areputation for trashing their trees – cutting them for timber or burning them to clear land for farming. In reality the opposite is true, according to Ashwini Chhatre of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Hand it over

In the first study of its kind, Chhatre and Arun Agrawal of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor compared forest ownership with data on carbon sequestration, which is estimated from the size and number of trees in a forest. Hectare-for-hectare, they found that tropical forest under local management stored more carbon than government-owned forests. There are exceptions, says Chhatre, “but our findings show that we can increase carbon sequestration simply by transferring ownership of forests from governments to communities”.

One reason may be that locals protect forests best if they own them, because they have a long-term interest in ensuring the forests’ survival. While governments, whatever their intentions, usually license destructive logging, or preside over a free-for-all in which everyone grabs what they can because nobody believes the forest will last.

The authors suggest that locals would also make a better job of managing common pastures, coastal fisheries and water supplies. They argue that their findings contradict a long-standing environmental idea, called the “tragedy of the commons”, which says that natural resources left to communal control get trashed. In fact, says Agrawal, “communities are perfectly capable of managing their resources sustainably”.

Flawed plans

The research calls into question UN plans to pay governments to protect forests. The climate change meeting in Copenhagen in December is likely to agree on a formula for a programme called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. “There is a real fear that REDD will lead to dispossession of local communities [as] governments stake their claim on emissions reduction credits,” says Chhatre.

Simon Counsell of the Rainforest Foundation UK is not surprised by the findings. “In Brazil and elsewhere, we know the most enduring forests are in indigenous reserves, like that run by the Kayapo in the eastern Amazon – the largest protected forest in the world.”

Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0905308106


Toasting Land Glider & Sunswift

Posted by admin on October 10, 2009
Posted under Express 79

Toasting Land Glider & Sunswift

Nissan has unveiled a futuristic two seater concept car – the zero-emission electric “Land Glider – that tilts when going around bends so drivers feel like they are gliding through the air, while “Sunswift IV” is lean, green and can run on less energy than it takes to power the family toaster, yet will reach speeds of up to 120km/h in the Global Green Challenge race from Darwin to Adelaide starting on 24 October.

Solar car ‘uses less power than toaster’

By Kelly Lane, AAP (7 October 2009):

The only NSW entry in Australia’s solar car race is a lean machine that can run on less energy than a toaster, University of NSW students say.

It’s lean, green and can run on less energy than it takes to power the family toaster.

Yet Sunswift IV will reach speeds of up to 120km/h when it races across Australia in the Global Green Challenge race from Darwin to Adelaide starting on October 24.

Students from the University of NSW solar racing team unveiled their hand-built carbon fibre three-wheeler in Sydney’s north on Wednesday morning – the only solar car entrant from NSW in the 3000km race.

About 60 team members spent more than 10,000 hours over 18 months designing and building the car, project manager Clara Mazzone told reporters.

“I think the most exciting thing is … the educational side of it, that none of these engineers have graduated yet, working out how to apply the knowledge they’re learning at uni and design and build a car from scratch, basically,” Ms Mazzone said.

Last-minute additions were made to the vehicle before the launch to meet RTA requirements.

“All the major mechanical components are in and working, all the absolutely necessary electrical components work. It’ll drive,” team leader Jono Pye said.

Fondly nicknamed IVy, the car has the same footprint as a small sedan but is half the height and weighs less than 150kg.

IVy is expected to run on 1.3 kilowatts of power from its solar array when travelling at a speed of 90km/h – compared with 1.8 kW needed to run a four-slice toaster, Mr Pye said.

It also has a battery that will run the car for five hours without sunlight.

“Everything is thought (of) to make it as efficient as possible, because the race that it’s built for is an endurance race more than anything,” Mr Pye said.

The students will take IVy from Sydney to Adelaide before the race and test-run her from Adelaide to Darwin.

They plan to stop at schools on the way to Adelaide from Sydney to showcase their project.

“We’re hoping just to get (children) excited about renewable energy, really, and the technologies we’re developing, to kind of inspire them to keep it going and show them what’s possible,” Mr Pye said.

“I think the most amazing thing about it is that a bunch of students have built a car that runs off the sun and can race from Darwin to Adelaide in four or five days,” he said.

“And it shows you, if we can do that, imagine what companies and governments can do if they really put their mind to it.”

Global Green Challenge for solar and eco-friendly vehicles that attracts competitors from around the world.


Nissan’s concept car ‘feels like flying’

The Age (9 October 2009):

Nissan has unveiled a futuristic concept car that tilts to the side when going around bends to make drivers feel like they are gliding through the air.

The zero-emission electric “Land Glider” seats two people – one in the front and one in the back.

Just 1.1 metres wide, it can easily squeeze into tight parking spaces and through narrow streets.

“In the past a car used to move only in a two dimensional way but the Land Glider can move in a three dimensional way,” said Nissan’s Ryusuke Hayashi, who is overseeing the project.

“Although you are driving on the road, you feel as if you are flying,” he said at a preview of the car on Thursday.

Inspired by motorbikes and glider aircraft, the four-wheel car has tilting wheels and moving fenders that enable it to lean by up to 17 degrees. Special sensors calculate the best tilt for negotiating a corner.

Instead of a steering wheel, it has airplane-style controls. With a cocoon-like cabin and a body designed to look like it is protected with armour, the Land Glider also aims to give motorists a sense of security.

The vehicle will be on display at this month’s Tokyo Motor Show – which opens to the public from October 24 to November 4 – along with the electric Leaf that Nissan plans to launch late next year.

Japan’s number three automaker will also display a chunky concept sports crossover, Qazana, that looks halfway between a tank and a beach buggy and aims to put some of the fun back into driving.


Carbon Neutral City Leadership

Posted by admin on October 10, 2009
Posted under Express 79

Carbon Neutral City Leadership

City of Fremantle, which has become the sustainability capital of Western Australia, sees carbon neutrality as a leadership opportunity, reducing energy use and increasing efficiency by engaging the community, in the process constructing the largest solar farm in the state, to put 30 kilowatts into its leisure centre.

By Aaron Fernandes in Science Western Australia (7 October 2009)::

THE City of Fremantle is set to become the sustainability capital of Western Australia with the recent launch of the state’s first carbon neutral council.

For over a decade Fremantle council has been making incremental reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of its corporate operations, and in March of this year resolved to become 100 percent carbon neutral.

Less than 4 months later the target has been achieved and on Thursday October 1, locals gathered at Victoria Hall in Fremantle to celebrate the landmark achievement.

City of Fremantle Sustainability Officer Alex Hyndman says the first step was making an accurate assessment of the city’s carbon emissions.

“The first thing we did, we calculated a really precise understanding of our carbon footprint, including many things that are often overlooked.

“For example, every time we send something to landfill that creates methane, which we made sure to include in our total, something that many other organisations wouldn’t.”

Mr Hyndman says in 2007 and 2008 the City of Fremantle totaled its carbon emissions at approximately 5600 tonnes, and immediately sought to reduce its footprint.

“We started the CAT bus, installed pool blankets at the Leisure centre to preserve the temperature in the heated pools and removed ten cars from our light fleet. We also updated our IT equipment on efficiency standards and have just constructed the largest solar farm in the state, putting a 30 kilowatt solar farm at our leisure centre.

“The next step was to switch our energy sources, so we switched 100 percent of our energy over from general grid power to green power, signing up to Synergy’s natural power product and that reduced our footprint by 55 percent.”

Mr Hyndman says part of the resolution of the council was to treat carbon neutrality as a leadership opportunity, reducing energy use and increasing efficiency by engaging the community.

“We have staked a leadership position and we’re the first local government in the state to do so but that is not the end of it – we have to keep going back and identifying new ways to reduce our energy use.

“The last step for us is to offset anything that we can’t reduce. We are using greenhouse-friendly certified offsets audited by the federal government. We’re offsetting 45 percent of our emissions.”

The launch featured presentations from representatives of solar and wave power, organic wine, local native plants, free bike sharing and Living Smart.


Business Opportunities & Efficiencies

Posted by admin on October 10, 2009
Posted under Express 79

Business Opportunities & Efficiencies

The politicians are not getting anywhere, says John Durie in The Australian, but the attitude in corporate Australia has shifted dramatically from sheer panic and negativity to actually identifying business opportunities from the introduction of carbon regulation. And the Australian Stock Exchange plans to list new renewable energy futures and options contracts.

John Durie in The Australian (9 October 2009):

Coming clean on carbon

THIS week’s Carbon Disclosure Project release marked a striking change in the attitude of big companies, with more identifying benefits from increased regulation than those identifying risks.

The politicians are not getting anywhere, but the attitude in corporate Australia has shifted dramatically from sheer panic and negativity to actually identifying business opportunities from the introduction of carbon regulation: new products and business efficiencies.

The Liberal Party may debate the need for Australia to set its rules before the world makes its call, but the business community has to get a head start.

Ninety one per cent of ASX 100 companies identified regulatory opportunities against 87 per cent that saw risks and just 84 per cent in the Global 500 that saw opportunities.

Australian companies feel more exposed to climate change through reduced access to water, property damage from extreme weather and the like, with 90per cent of the top 100 identifying physical risks, compared with 78 in the global 500.

Goldman Sachs has helped sponsor the project for the past four years. Encouragingly, since its inception in 2006, its carbon disclosure leadership index has outperformed the market by 10.7 per cent.

Companies that take an interest in their carbon output tend to have better governance standards than their peers, and are better run companies.

The index covers a range of big to minimal polluters and includes the likes of AGL, Santos, BHP Billiton, Boral, IAG, Mirvac, CSL, Woolies, Telstra, Stockland, Lend Lease and Westfield among some 38 stocks.

There are seven Australian companies in the global index — BHP, ANZ Bank, Commonwealth, NAB, Rio, Westpac and Woolies. In an investment market competing for investor funds, every tick counts.

The Carbon Disclosure Project is aimed at encouraging companies to measure their carbon output. With an investor group with $US55 trillion in assets under management, the idea is they will back the best carbon managers.

Big Australian companies perform well in answering the questions, with 96 per cent of the top 50 submitting answers and 73 per cent of the top 100.

There was a 10 per cent fall in responses from the big polluters, which said it all, really.

The companies that respond are those that minimise investor risks.

Some 84 per cent of companies surveyed said climate change issues were considered at board level.


In the Sydney Morning Herald:

ASX Ltd plans to list new renewable energy futures and options contracts on its exchanges to support the Federal Government’s renewable energy target (RET) scheme.

The contracts will be based on Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) and list on November 24.

The stock and futures exchange operator said the new contracts will support the RET scheme, which is designed to ensure that 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020.

The ASX also plans to list certified emission reduction (CER) futures and options contracts in the first quarter 2010.
These securities are designed to service the requirements of prospective compliance entities in Australia and New Zealand, as well as investors and developers involved in clean development projects.

Subject to the passage of the proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme legislation in Australia, ASX also intends to list futures and options on Australian Emission Units (AEU).

The introduction of the three types of contracts will enable market participants to manage market risk and make investment decisions about climate change and related government policies, ASX said on Wednesday.

”The listing of these products will help firms in Australia and New Zealand to facilitate carbon trading, finance and investment, as well as to provide related risk and legal advisory services,” it said in a statement.

”Given the penetration and liquidity of ASX’s existing electricity futures markets in Australia and New Zealand, organisations accounting for over 50 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in both countries are already users of ASX market infrastructure.”

The new range of trading products complements existing ASX energy and environmental products.

There are currently more than 80 clean technology companies with a combined market capitalisation in excess of $10.5 billion listed its boards.


Make Voluntary Emission Cuts Count

Posted by admin on October 10, 2009
Posted under Express 79

Make Voluntary Emission Cuts Count

Consumer group Choice is among a number of high-powered organisations urging the Government to change the proposed CPRS to ensure voluntary action to cut emissions – like buying Green Power –  whether by state or local governments, businesses or households, is fully counted and has an impact on Australia’s overall emissions figures.

Statement on 7 October 2009:

Ensuring voluntary actions to tackle climate change really count

A joint statement by the Total Environment Centre, CHOICE, WWF Australia, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Alternative Technology Association, the Moreland Energy Foundation and Environment Victoria.

Australians want to lower their greenhouse gas emissions, but their voluntary efforts – like putting solar panels on their roofs, installing insulation and buying GreenPower – are being undermined by the design of the Federal Government’s proposed emissions trading scheme.

Under the proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) voluntary actions are credited to the mandatory national targets required of Australia’s largest polluters.

This means the more voluntary action reduces Australia’s total emissions, the less the big polluters’ will have to cut their emissions – in effect limiting our national climate change efforts.

Politicians in Canberra must ensure voluntary actions to reduce carbon emissions by individuals, organisations and state and local governments are counted as additional to the government-mandated cap.

An emissions trading scheme can be an important part of Australia’s response to climate change, but it cannot be the only response and it must not undermine other action. We all have the right – indeed, we should be encouraged – to act independently to go beyond Australia’s mandated caps and play a part in tackling climate change.

Voluntary action has considerable potential to create jobs and ensure Australia remains competitive in the emerging low-carbon global economy. Voluntary action encourages business innovation and new business models that achieve emissions reductions. There is also a risk that without voluntary action being additional investment in carbon offset schemes will increasingly move offshore: consumers want to invest in activities that deliver measureable carbon reductions over and above mandated emissions caps.

We urge the Government to change the proposed CPRS to ensure voluntary action, whether by state or local governments, businesses or households, is fully counted and has an impact on Australia’s overall emissions figures. This can be achieved by establishing a mechanism to measure how much greenhouse pollution is avoided through voluntary action, then strengthening national targets by this amount and reducing the number of permits available to industry. This way voluntary climate action will result in real emission reductions.

We believe this is necessary to ensure that all Australians play a part in reducing emissions globally. Making this change will create clean energy jobs, enable innovation towards a low carbon economy and empower Australians to take ambitious climate action.

We propose that the federal government amends the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme to:

Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire

Posted by admin on October 10, 2009
Posted under Express 79

Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire

Recent wildfires highlight how closely coupled fire and weather extremes are. Around 400 million hectares of vegetated surface are burned every year. Sustained fires are changing fire regimes and contributing to climate change via massive CO2 emissions and regional climate effects, says David Bowman, professor of forest ecology at the University of Tasmania.


by David Bowman in New Scientist (7 October 2009):

IF WE are lucky, an international climate agreement will be forged in Copenhagen later this year and emissions targets set in a bid to limit global warming to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. Agreement in Denmark or not, I find the breezy way so many politicians and commentators talk as if such an increase were no big deal truly amazing.

The truth is we have no idea what will happen at those places where you and I live if we raise the global thermostat 2 °C or more. Worse, there is another factor that could crank that thermostat still higher, making life quite as intolerable as the well-understood threat from rising sea levels: fire.

The fossil record shows that fires started to occur soon after vegetation was established on Earth during the Silurian, about 420 million years ago. Ancient terrestrial life’s exposure to fire gives us good reason to think fire is an important evolutionary factor and, more controversially, that life co-evolved with fire.

Fire can be seen as a physicochemical process, a “fire triangle” of oxygen, fuel and heat for ignition. Combustion can occur if the concentration of oxygen is higher than 13 per cent, and variation in oxygen levels correlates with fire activity in Earth’s history. Fluctuations in atmospheric oxygen through geological time significantly affected fire risk. For example, in the Permian, oxygen levels were substantially higher than now, and even moist giant moss forests sometimes burned.

Those Permian coal fossils flag up another key detail: the burial of decay-resistant charcoal and organic matter may have led to long-term reductions in the proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere and increased relative oxygen levels, because the carbon is geologically sequestered as coal and the oxygen left in the atmosphere (until chemical weathering draws it down). So fire in the biosphere should be considered both as a physicochemical process and as a fundamental biogeochemical process, feeding back between biosphere, geosphere and hydrosphere.

Seeing fire as biology seems odd, but landscape fires only occur because life creates fuel: so some ecologists now say fires should be seen as “biologically constructed”, drawing parallels with decomposition and herbivory.

For me, then, the Greeks had it right with their classification of fire, air, earth and water. But we have much to learn about how life and fire affect each other. Take tropical savannahs, the most flammable vegetation on Earth. Researchers think that falling atmospheric CO2 concentrations about 8 million years ago stimulated the global development of tropical savannah dominated by grasses which use the C4 photosynthetic pathway. These tropical grasses are highly productive in hot, wet climates, and under low CO2 concentrations they have a physiological advantage over woody vegetation, which uses the C3 pathway.

The Greeks had it right with their classification of fire, air, earth and water.

Savannah was stimulated because those grasses produce large quantities of fine and well-aerated fuels, greatly increasing the frequency of fire, further disadvantaging woody plants because frequent fires create a population bottleneck by killing “fire-tender” juveniles. Savannah trees had to develop rapid growth to escape the fire trap. Expanding savannahs may also have caused a climate feedback that created hotter, drier conditions, favouring yet more savannah: one of the great examples of fire-vegetation-climate feedback proposed by some ecologists.

The spread of highly flammable savannahs (the supposed home of hominins) most likely contributed to man’s eventual mastery of fire. Our ancestors appear to have used fire as far back as 400,000 years ago, with evidence of domestic use of fire dating back 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. One of the hallmarks of the transition from hunter-gatherer to sedentary economies has been to use fire to convert forest into agricultural or pastoral landscapes. This is ongoing, with tropical rainforests cleared to create farmland and cattle pasture. In the developed world, by contrast, suburban sprawl into rural and natural landscapes has resulted in homes being juxtaposed with flammable vegetation – and by increasing attempts to control fires.

Clearly, human use of fire for economic and ecological gain, even down to cooking, helped make us what we are. Yet we can’t completely control it: estimates show that around 400 million hectares of vegetated surface are burned every year but it is unclear how much is down to human activity or natural factors.

A new concern is that global climate change is driving the greater incidence of the kind of extreme weather that promotes fire. We don’t know if this year’s deadly wildfires in Victoria, Australia, the suburbs of Athens in Greece, and north of Los Angeles were ultimately a consequence of climate change, but as a biogeographer they fill me with dread. We are set to reconfigure Earth’s life zones – with potent consequences for ecology.

A key to understanding those consequences is the notion of the “fire regime”, where different vegetation has characteristic fires in terms of recurrence, intensity, seasonality and biological effects. Indeed, fire can be thought of as an emergent property of vegetation in the same way that vegetation can be thought of as an emergent property of climates. In other words, Earth has a “pyrogeography”.

Those recent wildfires highlighted how closely coupled fire and weather extremes are. A real worry is that such sustained fires are changing fire regimes and thereby changing vegetation types – by selecting for more flammable and fire-tolerant species – and contributing to climate change via massive CO2 emissions and regional climate effects.

The relationship between climate and human activity is hard to untangle, but there are things we know now which, with further research, will help improve models for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Among these is that since the start of the industrial revolution, all types of landscape fire combined produced CO2 emissions equal to 20 per cent of those from burning fossil fuels. Fire also influences climate by releasing black-carbon aerosols which absorb heat from the sun. These may have the strongest effect on global warming after CO2 levels. Crucially, fire also influences most components of radiative forcing – changes in the difference between incoming and outgoing radiation energy in a climate system.

Managing wildfire is one of the really big challenges in adapting to climate change, up there with facing rising sea levels. To paint a precise picture of the climate warming caused by fire needs improved measurements, but the indicators are that there is a positive feedback – that fire begets fire. Fundamentally, adaptation demands we rethink our place in flammable landscapes. Like it or not, fires are going to change the way we live and where we live. We will have to recognise that in our shadow there lies a flame.

David Bowman is a professor of forest ecology at the University of Tasmania, Hobart. He is building a multidisciplinary group looking at sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystem services in Tasmania, one of the world’s best natural labs for researching landscape fire. This essay is based on a Science paper (vol 324, p 481).


Traveston Dam: Travesty of Justice?

Posted by admin on October 10, 2009
Posted under Express 79

Traveston Dam: Travesty of Justice?

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has questioned the Queensland Premier’s claim that the Traveston Crossing dam will be “Australia’s greenest ever dam” and the Wide Bay Burnett Conservation Council is pleading with Federal Minister Peter Garrett to wait until after a Federal Court case on effective dam fishways before he makes a decision on whether the threatened lungfish could be protected in the proposed Traveston Dam.

By Jo Skinner FOR abc News (8 October 2009):

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has questioned the Queensland Premier’s claim that the Traveston Crossing dam will be “Australia’s greenest ever dam”.

Anna Bligh has told State Parliament the dam will be the most environment friendly dam in the country.

“The Traveston Crossing dam is set to be Australia’s greenest ever dam,” she said.

“It will bring a wealth of community benefits for the Mary Valley with $75 million allocated in this year’s budget and a long list of environmental, job creation and community support projects awaiting the Federal Government’s approval.”

But the WWF has its doubts, after the coordinator-generals’ report to the federal Environment Minister listed 16 threatened plant species and 13 endangered animal species in the dam’s footprint – and 1,200 environmental conditions that need to be met to protect them.

Nick Heath from the WWF says there is no way the Premier can make the dam environmentally friendly and the size of the report is proof the Government is struggling to prove it can be.

“The substance of it is, can you make a dam green? Whilst there may need to be a dam here and there, in this case, this dam – you can’t make it green,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ms Bligh has vowed to visit the Mary Valley when a decision is made on the fate of the controversial dam.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett is expected to announce his decision on the project within 30 days.

Ms Bligh has told State Parliament she and the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning will visit the Mary Valley community to discuss the implications of Mr Garrett’s decision.

“When we have that decision from the Federal Government and we know one way or the other, yes I will be, as will my Minister, be meeting with appropriate organisations and individuals in the Mary Valley and in affected regions to talk through what the implications of that final decision are,” she said.


Tony Moore in Brisbane Times (7 October 2009):

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett has been asked to delay his decision on the controversial Traveston Dam until after a Brisbane court ruling in November.

The Wide Bay Burnett Conservation Council (WBBCC) has taken Federal Court action in Brisbane to challenge whether Burnett Water – a State Government-owned company – breached their approval conditions when building the Paradise Dam.

WBBCC argues Burnett Water did not had an effective fishway in place before the Paradise Dam began operating in December 2005.

They believe a similar situation could happen at Traveston.

The court case is due to resume on November 9, just a few days after Mr Garrett is due to rule on the future of the Traveston project on November 5. However, he can request more time to reach his decision.

WBBCC this morning pleaded with Mr Garrett to wait until after the Federal Court case in order to make an informed decision on whether the threatened Queensland lungfish could be protected.

The conservation group presented evidence in July that just three lungfish used the fishway in the three years between March 2006 and March 2009.

Burnett Water argue the drought kept the dam levels below what was needed to make the fishway operate successfully.

WBBC vice-president Roger Currie said the Paradise Dam model had not worked, and it was essential to find a system that did work before approving Traveston.

“We know from Paradise (Dam), that you can’t get lungfish to go from below high dams to above high dams,” Mr Currie said.

“So we believe that at the very least any consideration should be made after the court case is finalised because then the Minister can make an informed decision on whether they can actually protect lungfish at Traveston or not.”

Mr Currie said Mr Garrett currently had a brief before him on whether to put in place alternative approval conditions for Paradise Dam.

A response has been sought this morning from Mr Garrett.

Queensland Co-ordinator General Colin Jensen’s report into the Traveston Crossing Dam, sent to the Federal Government yesterday, lists 1200 conditions which must be met as part of the dam’s construction.

The Queensland Government yesterday provided three letters from experts who supported efforts from Queensland Water Infrastructure (QWI) to help the lungfish, Mary River Turtle and rare frogs.

Gordon Grigg, the Emeritus Professor in Zoology at the University of Queensland, on June 4, 2009, wrote that: “I realized (sic) that the considerable mitigation measures that were proposed by QWI had the strong likelihood of improving the situation for lungfish, and indeed for the all of the four nationally-listed species which occur in the dam footprint.”