Archive for the ‘Express 87’ Category

Profile: Nick Rowley

Posted by admin on December 6, 2009
Posted under Express 87

Profile: Nick Rowley

Copenhagen may still be the moment when the world proves it can come together, act in enlightened, collective self-interest and embrace a low-emissions future, says climate consultant Nick Rowley. And in contrast to the crudity of our recent domestic politics, that will be an outcome we should, and history will, celebrate.

This commentary from Nick Rowley in The Age on 3 December 2009

The involvement of heads of state bodes well for a binding treaty.

Through my role assisting the Copenhagen Climate Council, I have been fortunate enough to visit the city frequently in the past two years. Over this time it has become regarded as the place where agreement on the global effort to seriously reduce the emissions creating the climate problem will either be reached, or not.

Never will there be a perfect time, place, set of leaders or exactly the right political dynamics to agree on a more effective climate treaty that helps resolve what Ross Garnaut describes as this ”diabolical” problem. But with a change of leadership in Washington, a real focus on reducing emissions in Beijing and the issue having moved from the responsibility of environment ministers to heads of state, the meeting in Copenhagen is possibly as close as one can get.

Next week, the halls of the modern, soulless ”Bella Centre” on the outskirts of the city (where the formal UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting takes place), every hotel and the streets of the Danish capital will be overrun by more than 15,000 campaigners, negotiators, journalists, business observers, lobbyists, delegates and politicians. For these annual UN climate change conferences have become rather like a mix of grand circus and trade show: thousands of people milling around keen to be more relevant than they are. Not an atmosphere conducive to serious work, let alone the highly complex and tense job of negotiating an outcome critical to the future of the planet.

Yet with just a few days before the conference begins, it is clear that Copenhagen could still fulfil its promise. Mainly because this is unlikely to be the usual UN climate change meeting. With more than 70 leaders committed to being in Copenhagen at the end of the second week of negotiations, the key decisions will be taken in private, away from the media spotlight.

Leaders have already made their grand speeches on the podium of the UN in New York at the two-day general assembly convened by Ban Ki-moon last September. None of them will be travelling to Copenhagen to agree to another bold communique: long on rhetoric and with a far-off emissions reduction target, yet no process, money or institutions to achieve it. Not only would that be viewed as failure on a grand scale, it is also something that no democratic politician will want to be associated with.

Heads of state also know that informed awareness of climate change is now guided by more than the science indicating future risk. Whether it is through flooding in China, the European heatwave in 2003, hurricane Katrina, the observed changes in our oceans or the Arctic sea ice, decision-makers in government no longer see the issue as something described on a graph that might be right or wrong.

When I worked in Whitehall, environmental groups were far less relevant than the evidence from the Defence Department and intelligence agencies on the geopolitical risks of a failure to reduce emissions.

As the author Ian McEwan has written: ”The matter is passing from virtue, from idealism and sombre invitations to self-denial, which government, markets and the electorate distrust, to self-interest and necessity, for which they all have respect.”

The chaotic politics of the carbon pollution reduction scheme and the recent cabaret in the Liberal Party should not obscure that effective climate and energy policy has rapidly become regarded as an essential part of any domestic policy agenda – not only throughout Europe, but in the US at state and federal level, Japan, China and many of the rapidly developing economies previously disengaged or hostile to achieving emissions reduction.

And there should be no fear of Australia moving ”first” – either before or soon after Copenhagen.

In truth, we have a lot of catching up to do. Most of the world’s significant economies have been adopting and implementing progressive climate policies over the past decade. Just one statistic speaks volumes. South Africa, a far poorer economy and a society so long ravaged by political oppression and upheaval, generates more than 530 gigawatt hours of electricity from solar energy each year. Germany – a country not noted for its sun – generates more than 2200. Australia generates just over 30.

Global understanding of the climate problem and our experience of developing effective climate policy have also progressed enormously since agreement at Kyoto in 1997. The world is now a lot clearer about the policies and incentives that can reduce emissions, maintain economic growth and get our carbon cycle into greater balance. Twelve years ago no one could refer to our learning from an emission trading system in Europe, or the rapid move to renewable energy in Scandinavia, or – given the right incentives – the speed with which investment can be targeted at low emissions technology and infrastructure. Now we can.

Not everything will be achieved either at Copenhagen or through an international climate treaty. But with the parameters of a more effective treaty agreed to over the coming days, the detail of a legally enforceable treaty can be developed over the coming months.

Copenhagen this December may still be the moment when the world proves it can come together, act in enlightened, collective self-interest and embrace a low-emissions future. And in contrast to the crudity of our recent domestic politics, that will be an outcome we should, and history will, celebrate.

Nick Rowley is a director of Kinesis, a Sydney based consultancy

Nick specialises in advising on new policy and practice to achieve emissions reduction for business and government. He has a deep knowledge of the policy and other drivers required to achieve low emissions growth. Over the past twelve years he has worked at the centre of government on sustainability, climate change and broader policy and political strategy in Australia and the UK.

From March 2004 to January 2006, Nick worked at 10 Downing Street as an advisor to Tony Blair. In this role he was part of a small team advising the Prime Minister on climate change prior to the G8 Summit at Gleneagles in July 2005 and worked closely with the likes of Nicholas Stern and the Prime Minister’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir David King. From 1995 to 2004 Nick was advisor to Bob Carr, Premier of NSW, working primarily on policy on the environment, urban development and medical research.

Nick is also Strategic Director to the Copenhagen Climate Council working with senior global business CEOs and climate experts to help achieve a new global climate treaty at the crucial UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen in December 2009. He is a regular commentator on climate issues in the Australian and international media, and is a Fellow of the Australian New Zealand School of Government.

Source:,  and

On Five Wings & A Prayer

Posted by admin on December 6, 2009
Posted under Express 87

On Five Wings & a Prayer

Highly critical of Government’s failure to effectively communicate as well as implement  climate change policy and practice, ABC Carbon’s Ken Hickson has come up with a plan – or plane – with five wings which shows it is feasible – even achieveable – to commit to a target of reducing Australia’s emissions of greenhouse gases  by 25% (on 2000 levels) by 2020. 

Here is the full text of a 2000 word article which was submitted to mainstream and online media – as well as selected individuals in Government and business – on Friday 4 December.

Getting a five winged clean energy plane to fly to Copenhagen

By Ken Hickson

There’s a new emissions plan in the wind for Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong to take to Copenhagen.

A water-tight commitment to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020 – much better than the pitiful 5% – which will appeal to the Tony Abbott-led conservative (and sceptical) Coalition, as well as a deal to get the Greens on board.

This is does not involve magic – we keep being reminded that there is no silver bullet – or extreme engineering, science or technology.

It is a simple and easy to understand formula – 5 times 5 equals 25 – to deal with emissions from five main sectors of the economy which account for a more or less proportionate amount of the nation’s emissions. Some of the actions contributing to this plan are already occurring, but for some reason Government has not looked at – or told it – quite like this.

Through this approach, each sector is able to bring to the table a 5% emissions reduction towards the total, to provide an overall 25% achievement.

It is easy to mix metaphors here, but let’s think of this as constructing a five winged plane which will fly!

It looks something like a modern version of a Tiger Moth bi-plane, with two wings each side and bracketed, along with a wing in the tail to stabilise things. Each wing has a crucial role to play and all together they make it air worthy.

Here are the wings, what they are made up of and here’s how each one will make our emissions transporter fly. If it is too difficult to relate to the aircraft wings analogy, think of it as a big pie with five generous slices.

  1. Industry emissions reductions  


This includes industrial production, manufacturing, mining and energy production. Let’s say this accounts for 20% of our total emissions now (it is close to that depending on what you include or exclude).


These are the big emitters, or polluters, if you like. And they are the major industries that are targeted by the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Many observers realise that with all the concessions and allowances already proposed for up to 1000 major corporations, it is unlikely to achieve a significant reduction in emissions.


But with the stick and carrot approach, along with putting a price on carbon through an emissions trading scheme, it is very realistic to expect that this major economic sector could achieve the 5% reduction in emissions required (based on 2000 levels) by 2020.

Is this really possible? As various industry groups are on their own already taking steps to reduce emissions, it is an achieveable target.


The cement industry – one of the world’s biggest emitters – has already said it could reduce its emissions by 3% by 2010. What more could it do by 2020?


BHP has stated in its latest sustainability report that its target is for a 6% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per unit of production across the board.


  1. 2.     Buildings and energy efficiency


Existing buildings account for around 20% of the nation’s emissions, primarily through use of energy, energy waste and inefficiencies. New buildings, which can achieve a high 6 star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia, are designed to use less energy and thereby reduce emissions.


The big challenge is to deal with existing buildings – offices, homes, shops and factories – and this involves taking steps to reduce the energy used in every area.


In some cases, this will involve major retrofitting, but for many, particularly in the home, this can be achieved by better management of the electricity we use, smart metering, cutting wastage, as well as taking advantage of the Government insulation package. It might also mean lower settings for air conditioning and heating units.


Power management systems are readily available for businesses. A power management study for one Australian University, for example, found that by having an automatic cut off after hours for its 30,000 computers it could reduce electricity use by 52% and save $1.74 million a year.


Dealing with standby power used on household appliances could save 10% on an average household’s energy use.


There’s a new product coming onto the Australian market (from South Korea) which guarantees to reduce electricity use by 5% by cutting power wastage. It has been known to provide energy savings of up to 20%.


So gaining a 5% reduction overall through energy efficiency measures alone would not be difficult to achieve, particularly if Government promoted the right sort of incentives and interest free Green loans.


  1. 3.     Switching energy production to renewables


Australia already has in place a renewable energy target to get 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. There is already considerable investment going into solar, wind, wave, geothermal, as well as to enhance what we’re already getting from hydro sources.


Even though the Government has not set out a detailed renewable energy strategy, even  a breakdown of the ideal mix of renewables, or provided much in the way of incentives, it is happening all the same. There is even evidence that Wilson Tuckey has been advocating the use of tidal power in Western Australia!


There are large scale projects in the wind (and from the sun) as well as a groundswell of desire by the population at large to fit solar panels to the roofs of their homes. Think of how much more could be done to utilise all the wasted roof space on our airport terminals, factories and shopping centres.


In California, energy supply companies are paying to rent all available roof spaces so they can fit thousands of solar photo voltaic panels to generate power for the grid.


For homeowners and businesses, it would really help them make the switch to solar energy if all state governments would provide a gross feed in tariff to give a realistic return for producing additional energy for the grid. In Germany this applies to all and works very well. In New South Wales and ACT, this is now applicable to householders only.


We shouldn’t belittle the genuine efforts of people to clean up their energy act, particularly through paying extra for Green Power or buying into voluntary offsets to reduce their carbon footprints. Government recognition for this is proposed in the CPRS legislation, but it would be wise for authorities (as well as energy providers) to act sooner to acknowledge and reward the worthy citizens.


There are many other ways to reduce our dependence on coal fired power, including a switch to natural gas (which we also have plenty of and it emits far less CO2) and by incorporating

effective ceramic fuel cells in our homes and businesses.


So achieving a 5% reduction in emissions from energy by switching to renewable sources should be very easy to achieve. If the country does better than that by 2020 that’s a bonus.


  1. 4.     Land use, farming and forestry


Even without incorporating agriculture in an emissions trading scheme, by encouraging (and rewarding) farmers to be more productive in their use of land and utilise “carbon farming” can achieve a significant reduction in emissions from this sector. Agriculture is a big emitter, so this needs to be approached in a positive, constructive way.


Environment Business Australia has put together a coalition of carbon farming organisations. Soil carbon and biochar are not pies in the sky but practical means of retaining (or restoring) carbon dioxide in the soil and thereby improving its productivity.


Malcolm Turnbull latched onto this some time ago. Professor Tim Flannery sings its praises. Some ingenious work by Tony Lovell and Ken Bellamy in Queensland shows that it works effectively.


By combining effective land use – less land clearing – with carbon farming and undertaking more tree-planting will easily achieve a 5% reduction in emissions from this sector.


Forestry is a big sub-sector which could make an even bigger contribution to emissions reductions on its own, particularly when you see the size of investments by the likes of Origin Energy and BP in tree planting through the Western Australian business of Carbon Conscious.


Retaining as much as possible of the country’s old growth forests and rainforests will continue to provide a major carbon sink. Just as we’re conscious of plans to invest in “avoided deforestation” in places like the Amazon and Indonesia, we need to ensure we protect and retain our own trees as a means to keep our emissions in check.


Remember too, that it was through a major cut back  in land clearing in Queensland a few years back which gave Australia a distinct advantage, enabling it to meet it Kyoto commitments (even before it ratified the international agreement).


  1. 5.     Transportation comes clean


Private and public transport could easily account for 20% of a nation’s emissions of green house gases. So a switch to cleaner and more energy efficient transport – natural gas powered buses, electric or hybrid cars, taking more freight by rail than road – could all go towards achieving a 5% reduction in this important sector’s contribution.


Getting more of the population to use public transport, walk or ride bicycles would all help, particularly if our cities become less congested and polluted by cars. Instead of giving disproportionate tax incentives (and subsidised parking) for people to buy and drive cars to work, Government (and employers) should be finding ways to incentivise those of us who take public transport or use our own energy to move about.


We often hear talk about achieving emissions reduction through some means or other which results in “taking so many cars off the road. If we look at the transportation sector constructively, this can be done by taking more of the polluting or petrol powered vehicles off the road and replacing them with hybrid, electric, biodiesel or ethanol machines.


Electric vehicle infrastructure is one very obvious way to go and other countries – notably France, Denmark and Israel – have taken giants steps in this direction.

Australia has made a move with its Green Car Fund and has already got Better Place (the innovative electric vehicle infrastructure company) looking at what’s required to help Canberra go electric on the road.


Even though most of our electricity comes from coal fired power stations, electric cars are much more efficient (less polluting) users of energy. Also there is no reason why we cannot exploit to a greater extent renewable energy for the transport sector.


At a recent Electric Vehicle conference in Brisbane, delegates were told that one standard wind turbine can produce sufficient electricity to charge and power 1200 electric cars.


Shipping and air transport is also coming in for a lot of energy efficient/renewable energy attention. Jet bio fuels are being developed – and there is even an opportunity for Australia to get in on the ground-floor for this development, using plants and algae.


MBD has trial plants around the country for biosequestration, using CO2 to feed algae to produce clean fuel and feedstock.


It is all really too simple. But unfortunately Government has not effectively communicated these or similar solutions to show how it is possible to attain an overall 25% reduction in the nation’s emissions.


By pre-occupying itself with an emissions trading scheme – the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme – and failing to get it passed into law, the Government has also failed to address all these other measures which have the chance to contribute significantly to reduce Australia’s emissions.


But it is not too late. If it is smart, our Copenhagen-bound team can get in a huddle and bundle all the emissions producing sectors together and come up with a plan that shows it is feasible – even achieveable – to commit to a target of reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases  by 25% (on 2000 levels) by 2020. 


It is possible to get that mathematical and mythical five winged clean energy plane to fly.



World Can Afford to Cut Carbon

Posted by admin on December 6, 2009
Posted under Express 87

World Can Afford to Cut Carbon

World leaders are more than halfway towards the kind of promises needed to save the planet at Copenhagen, according to climate economist Nicholas Stern, while a comprehensive forecast in the UK on the costs for consumers of a low carbon future demonstrates that energy and other prices will not rise as much as people fear.

Jim Giles in New Scientist (2 December 2009):

TACKLING climate change will cost consumers the earth. Those who campaign for a green revolution are out to destroy our western lifestyles. Such are the cries of opponents of emissions cuts, and their message has political clout: a number of surveys, including one by New Scientist in 2007, have found that the enthusiasm of voters for policies to alleviate climate change falls off as the price tag increases.

However, a new modelling exercise conducted exclusively for this magazine suggests that these fears are largely unfounded. It projects that radical cuts to the UK’s emissions will cause barely noticeable increases in the price of food, drink and most other goods by 2050 (see the figures). Electricity and petrol costs will rise significantly, but with the right policies in place, say the modellers, this need not lead to big changes in our lifestyle.

“These results show that the global project to fight climate change is doable,” says Alex Bowen, a climate policy expert at the London School of Economics. “It’s not such a big ask as people are making out.”

Although it is impossible to precisely predict prices four decades from now, the exercise is one of the most detailed examinations yet of the impact of climate change policies on UK consumers. It provides a useful rough guide to our economic future.

Though its results speak directly to the UK consumer, previous research has come to similar conclusions for the US.

In June, one study found that if the US were to cut emissions by 50 per cent by 2050, prices of most consumer goods would increase by less than 5 per cent (Energy Economics, DOI: 10.1016/j.eneco.2009.06.016).

The findings are also consistent with analyses by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change in Washington DC. “Even cutting emissions by 80 per cent over four decades has a very small effect on consumers in most areas,” says Manik Roy of the Pew Center. “The challenge is now to convince consumers and policy-makers that this is the case.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends that wealthy nations cut their emissions to between 80 and 95 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050 in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change. The UK government aims to reduce its contribution by 80 per cent and leaders of the other G8 nations have discussed following suit.

To meet this goal, industries will have to slash fossil fuel consumption, and low-carbon power sources will have to massively expand. Companies will have to pay increasingly higher prices for the right to emit greenhouse gases.

How will this affect the average citizen’s wallet? To gauge the impact of the 80 per cent target on the UK population, New Scientist approached Cambridge Econometrics, a consultancy known for its modelling of the European economy.

The firm used historic economic data to predict the impact of emissions reductions on prices in over 40 categories of goods and services (see “How the model works”). It compared the impact of the 80 per cent cut with a baseline scenario in which the government takes no action other than the limited emissions restrictions already in place as a result of the Kyoto protocol.

See the figures

Most of the price hikes are a consequence of rising energy costs, in part because coal and gas are replaced by more expensive low-carbon sources. The price of electricity is projected to be 15 per cent higher in 2050 compared with the baseline. In today’s prices, that would add around £5 onto typical monthly household electricity bills. It will also result in higher prices elsewhere, as every industrial sector uses electricity.

But electricity and other forms of energy make up only a fraction of the price of most goods. Other factors – raw materials, labour and taxes – are far more important. The energy that goes into producing food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco, for example, makes up just 2 per cent of the consumer price.

For motor vehicle purchases and hotel stays, the figure is 1 per cent. Only for energy-intensive industries does the contribution climb above 3 per cent: for example, energy’s share of land and air travel costs is 6 and 7 per cent respectively.

As a result, most products cost just a few per cent more by 2050. At current prices, going low-carbon is forecast to add around 5 pence to the price of a loaf of bread or a pint of beer. The price of household appliances such as washing machines rises by a few pounds.

There is one major exception to the pattern. Airlines do not currently have a low-carbon alternative to jet fuel. Unless one is found, they will bear the full burden of carbon pricing, and average fares will rise by at least 140 per cent – raising the cost of a typical London to New York return trip from around £350 to £840.

Achieving the overall picture of low prices does require government action. The model forecasts that by 2050 natural gas and petrol will cost 160 per cent and 32 per cent more respectively. To avoid large price hikes in home heating and road transport while still hitting the 80 per cent target, the Cambridge researchers had to build two major policies into their analysis.

They assumed that future governments will provide grants and other incentives to help switch all domestic heating and cooking to electricity, and invest in the infrastructure needed for electric cars to almost completely replace petroleum-fuelled vehicles.

Both policies have been discussed in recent UK government strategy documents, though the detail of how they would be implemented is still pending. Firm policies must follow if ambitious emissions cuts are going to be made, says Chris Thoung of Cambridge Econometrics.

So is tackling climate change going to be easier than expected, in terms of consumer costs? While the Cambridge Econometrics model is widely respected and regularly used by the UK government’s climate change advisers, any attempt to forecast four decades ahead can be derailed by unforeseen events. That leads some economists to question the model’s results.

For example, companies could relocate to countries with less stringent carbon regulations, points out Richard Tol of the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin, Ireland. Incomes in the UK would fall, making goods relatively more expensive. Tol also questions whether it is reasonable to use historical prices as a basis for projecting beyond 2020.

Mike Hulme, a climate policy expert at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, says that social effects are also unpredictable. A repeat of the 2000 fuel price protests, when action by truckers forced the UK government to cut road fuel taxes, could scupper plans to persuade consumers to switch to electric vehicles. Conversely, social effects could make cuts easier – for example, if the high emissions associated with flying stigmatise air travel among some groups, adds Hulme.

Despite this, the Cambridge Econometrics results, together with other recent studies, do provide a useful guide for governments, says Michael Grubb of the University of Cambridge. They suggest that the overall challenge is surmountable, even if many of the details will only become clear in years to come. “No one is asking policy-makers to have everything in place for the next 40 years,” says Grubb. “But these results should reinforce the sense that this is a manageable problem.”

The figures

1% on clothing: A £500 men’s suit will become £5 more expensive

2% on electronics: A £1000 laptop would cost £20 more

1% on food: The average UK household spends £50 a week on food. This increases by less than £1

15% on electricity: A typical UK household spends £400 a year on electricity. This will jump by roughly £60

0% on communications: UK phone bills will be essentially unaffected

140% on air travel: A return flight from London to New York would jump from £350 to around £840

2% on tobacco: Barring new taxes, the cost of a pack of 20 cigarettes will rise by roughly 10 pence

2% on alcohol: The cost of a pint of beer will rise by about 6 pence by 2050

1% on cars: A new Toyota Prius, currently about £20,000, will cost £240 more in a low-carbon 2050

2% on household goods: The price of a washing machine will rise by a few pounds

How the model works

The model is based on the idea that future emissions cuts will depend on the UK government restricting the amount of carbon that companies can emit. This already happens under the European Union’s Emission Trading Scheme.

Companies that exceed a predefined cap must buy emissions allowances from firms that undershoot their target. Emissions can then be progressively cut by tightening these caps. The Cambridge Econometrics team assumed that firms not subject to these limits will have to pay a carbon tax, which will also be steadily increased.

As the cost of emitting carbon rises, so will the price of electricity from fossil-fuel power stations. Petroleum-fuelled vehicles and gas boilers will also become more expensive to run.

Technologies that use less carbon – including nuclear energy and small-scale systems that use the waste heat from power plants to run heating systems – will face smaller price increases. This leads to more investment in low-carbon technologies, which become more attractive as the cost of emitting carbon increases. Consumers will also use less of the goods and services that become more expensive, such as air travel. These effects lead to a fall in emissions.

To calculate the impact on everyday prices, the model uses historical figures that reflect the effect that energy price changes have on the prices of different types of consumer goods.



Cathy Alexander in The Age (3 December 2009):

World leaders are more than halfway towards the kind of promises needed to save the planet at Copenhagen, according to UK expert Nicholas Stern.

Lord Stern has crunched the numbers on climate change and found the pledges to cut emissions are in the ballpark of what’s needed.

“We can do this,” an upbeat Lord Stern, the UK equivalent of Australia’s climate adviser Ross Garnaut, told reporters in London.

“I think we have a moment now when we could get a strong agreement.”

The air of pessimism over the UN climate conference at Copenhagen, which starts on Monday, is lifting as countries have upped their promises to cut emissions.

Many world leaders want a deal which would restrain global warming to two degrees.

In a report issued this week, Lord Stern has calculated that the Copenhagen promises made so far go more than halfway towards the cuts needed to have a good chance of meeting the two degree goal.

World emissions are currently 47 billion tonnes of greenhouses gases a year, and are on track to reach 52 to 58 billion tonnes in 2020.

To have a 50-50 chance of limiting warming to two degrees, Lord Stern says emissions must be about 44 billion tonnes in 2020.

The Copenhagen promises would result in emissions of around 49 billion tonnes in 2020. “We’re not there, but we can see how far we have to go,” he concluded.

“The world already intends to achieve more than half of the reductions that are required.”

Lord Stern’s calculations are based on each country going to the upper limit of their promises to cut emissions.

Australia has pledged a five to 25 per cent cut, although it’s not clear how this could be achieved now that the emissions trading scheme has been voted down.

For the world to hit the magic 44 billion tonne figure – or lower – Lord Stern is banking on some countries beefing up their climate promises during the 11-day Copenhagen summit. Participants will be watching China in particular to see it if offers more.

There are also hopes the US may make stronger pledges on emissions for the period 2025-2030; it’s less likely to ramp up the 2020 target because ETS laws are stalled in the Senate.

The greatest obstacle to a strong deal in Copenhagen now appears to be money. Lord Stern’s calculations are based on the developing world taking action on climate change, but this will only happen if rich countries offer more money to help them do it.


Cop This Lot: Parties & Protocols

Posted by admin on December 6, 2009
Posted under Express 87

Cop This Lot: Parties & Protocols

It’s got parties and protocols, targets and treaties, conventions and conferences and it starts on Monday – but what exactly is all this talk of Copenhagen? Australia’s Green Blogger and columnist Graeme Readfearn presented this overview of the “greatest climate show on earth” in the Courier Mail.

Graham Readfearn in the Courier Mail (4 December 2009):

Tens of thousands of delegates are arriving in the Danish capital for two weeks of intense negotiations.

Some say the talks could decide the future of the planet as we know it.

15 Copenhagen facts

1. COP15 is the official title of the world climate talks in Copenhagen. But COP isn’t short for Copenhagen – it stands for the Conference of the Parties, the highest decision-making authority of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Some 192 countries, including Australia, the US, New Zealand, the UK and China, have ratified this convention, which came into force in 1994. Copenhagen is the 15th time the COP has met since, hence COP15.

2. More than 70 delegates from Australian non-governmental organisations – such as WWF Australia, the Australian Conservation Foundation and Greenpeace – are attending Copenhagen. So far, about 100 world leaders have said they’re going, including US President Barack Obama, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

3. Australian delegates will have to adjust to average daily temperatures of about 4C in Copenhagen but the city has the world’s largest district heating system – a by-product of the city’s electricity generators, which have also switched from burning coal to natural gas and biofuels.

4. The ultimate aim of the Copenhagen meeting is to get as close as possible to a legally binding deal among all parties to cut emissions of greenhouse gases. The current agreement – known as the Kyoto Protocol – runs out in 2012.

5. There are four main groups involved in the talks. The first are “parties” – the delegations of ministers and negotiators from governments. “Observer organisations” are there to try to influence the parties. The third group includes the UN bodies such as the World Bank, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the UN Environment Programme. The fourth group is the world’s media.

6. Protesters and campaigners will arrive in their thousands, providing a constant reminder to the 30,000 or so official delegates.

7. Commentators predict the main sticking point for the talks will come between developed nations – the US, Japan and Australia – and developing nations such as China and India. How can developing nations prosper under an agreement that looks to cut greenhouse gas emissions, when the growth of developed countries relied on burning fossil fuels?

8. Negotiators mainly use the “latest” report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was released in 2007, to assess the science of climate. The IPCC does not carry out research, but instead reviews thousands of peer-reviewed research papers.

9. Since the cut-off date for research in to the last IPCC report, known as AR4, scientists have said new findings showed the assessments and conclusions of the IPCC were too conservative. Sea-ice melt in the Arctic has been 40 per cent greater than the middle-of-the-road AR4 predictions. Sea-levels have risen 80 per cent above predictions. The 10 hottest years on record for the globe have all occurred in the past 12 years.

10. In the run-up to Copenhagen, opinion writers and some politicians have questioned climate change. One recent review from 26 of the world’s leading climate science researchers, which referenced more than 260 research papers, concluded that “no credible scientific literature has been published since the AR4 assessment that supports alternative hypotheses to explain the warming trend.”

11. The poorest nations in the world – such as Pacific Island states, low-lying Asian countries and African nations – say they are the least responsible for the legacy of greenhouse gas emissions but will be the hardest hit. Rising sea-levels rise, temperature increases and more droughts and floods are among their concerns.

12. According to the UN, about 13 million ha of forest were cut down or burnt every year between 1990 and 2005, causing about 17 per cent of the world’s emissions of greenhouse gases, second only to the energy sector. Much of this occurred in developing countries, in particular Indonesia and Brazil.

13. A solution being proposed by the UN to stop deforestation is known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (or REDD). If accepted, this would enable countries and landholders to be paid for preserving forests and also replanting trees in previously cleared areas.

14. Not everyone agrees that Copenhagen is make or break for the planet. James Hansen – head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies – has said this week that the UNFCCC process was so flawed it would be better to start again from scratch.

15. COP15 starts on Monday and ends on Friday December 18.

Follow the events of Copenhagen on Graham Readfearn’s Green Blog.


Hopes & Fears For Copenhagen

Posted by admin on December 6, 2009
Posted under Express 87

Hopes & Fears For Copenhagen

New Scientist asked leading scientists, politicians and business people to tell of their hopes and fears for the imminent climate change talks in Copenhagen. The biggest fear for R.K. Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is getting a weak agreement which does not represent any commitment to action.

30 November 2009

New Scientist asked leading scientists, politicians and business people to tell us their hopes and fears for the imminent climate change talks.

R. K. Pachauri

My best hope is that developed countries agree on commitments to reduce emissions by 2020 more or less in keeping with the stated position of the European Union. I also hope that there will be a commitment to fund mitigation and adaptation measures in some of the poorest countries, as well as some arrangement for facilitating access to technology. My expectation is that if these measures are committed to by the developed world at a reasonably early stage, several developing countries will put forward their own national action plans.

My biggest fear is that we get a weak agreement which does not represent any commitment to action. If that happened there would be a great deal of finger-pointing, and gloating on the part of the vested interests who would like to defeat any effort to get a meaningful agreement. I believe such a scenario would represent a major setback.

R.K. Pachauri is chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

John Schellnhuber

We can no longer hope for an ambitious legally binding agreement. The decision-makers have clandestinely sacked the “Bali road map”. This leaves room for better or worse. If leaders really wish to avert the imminent crisis, they can seal a political deal that limits global warming to 2 °C and sets fair principles for burden sharing, as reflected especially in the equal per-capita budget approach where national emissions budgets are set according to population. This outcome may actually be superior to a hasty pact. In the negative scenario, a combination of procrastination and pusillanimity could result in wasting time for nothing.

John Schellnhuber is director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany, and a scientific adviser to the chancellor, Angela Merkel

Richard Lindzen

I fervently hope that Copenhagen will avoid canonising the absurd notion that climate is determined by any single parameter like CO2. The dubious attempts to link this parameter to every form of catastrophe is producing unwarranted fear. Imposing this notion as a matter of international law will set science back several centuries. The accompanying policies seem designed to do the same for society as a whole. The carbon control movement, like every malicious movement, seeks to cloak itself in an aura of virtue. Sentient citizens should be able to see through this patent ploy.

Richard Lindzen is Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Jeremy Leggett

I most hope for an agreement for mass mobilisation of clean energy technology as though for war. We know we can do this if government, business and people come together in a critical mass. But if we are to do it, the days of rhetoric without action and greenwash without investment must end forever. The majority of governments have sought a treaty with teeth for 20 years now, and time is running out fast. Leaders tempted to present a non-binding framework agreement as a ground-breaking advance must not be allowed to get away with it.

Jeremy Leggett is a renewable energy entrepreneur based in London

Raúl Estrada-Oyuela

Unfortunately, the lack of clear US policy on emissions reduction will prevent the conference from achieving its aims. In fact since 2004, when Copenhagen was arranged, it was clear that the timing was wrong. A US government inaugurated in January 2009 had no possibility of adopting a new climate policy in 10 months, after eight years of denial by the Bush administration. The best possible outcome will be a serious political commitment of all parties, including “mega” developing countries and Russia, to continue negotiations in June 2010.

Raúl Estrada-Oyuela is an Argentinian diplomat. He chaired the 1997 Kyoto protocol negotiations

Richard Folland

The financial sector has a major stake in Copenhagen. Decisions there will affect investment and business. At J. P. Morgan, we are significant participants in the carbon market as traders, project developers and in voluntary carbon offsetting.

Our hope for Copenhagen is that we get clarity, to set out the long-term policy framework that investment needs. Parties could, for example, reform and improve the Clean Development Mechanism. This is criticised, sometimes justifiably, but its achievement in incentivising private finance for clean energy projects in developing countries is undeniable. Our fear is that an inability to reach an agreement puts these decisions on hold, thus delaying investment and therefore emissions reductions which are urgently needed.

Richard Folland is climate change and energy adviser to J. P. Morgan

Susan Solomon

I’m very confident that armed with good understanding, society will ultimately make good decisions. In the past few years the world has come a very long way on public understanding of climate change and agreeing on the need to deal with it. Nobody would have expected such an improved level of comprehension five years ago. That is a major advance that I hope will be celebrated no matter what the outcome of the meeting happens to be. My biggest fear is that the science will be misrepresented due to the strong emotions surrounding this meeting. Keeping emotions separate from science is hard, but it’s fundamental to a lasting and durable understanding that is needed for real progress.

Susan Solomon is a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and was co-chair of the 2007 IPCC science panel report

Boris Johnson

I want Copenhagen to be remembered not for pontification around targets, but for tangible commitments to drive change. As the source of two-thirds of carbon emissions, cities have a massive opportunity to rise above the hype and show what can be achieved. In London, for example, we are working to utilise the procurement power of large cities across the world to stimulate a global market for electric vehicles. The mass move to this zero-emission technology will have a huge impact on cutting carbon to curb climate change whilst improving air quality and noise levels for our citizens.

Boris Johnson is mayor of London

Stephen Schneider

My worst fear is that Copenhagen continues the tradition, started at the 1992 Earth Summit, of rehearsing the “blame game”: poor countries pointing out large historical inequities in the share of the atmospheric commons used by the rich, and rich countries pointing fingers at overpopulated, badly governed developing countries that lack incentives for innovation. That would just delay the required measures.

My best hope is that President Obama and Chinese leaders announce a last minute “deal” that they invite all others to join on five key points. These are: adaptation strategies for changes that cannot be avoided; mandatory efficiency standards for buildings and machines; partnerships to spur investment and deployment of green technologies; fees for dumping carbon in the atmosphere to be levied on all nations; and enhanced R&D on carbon removal.

Stephen Schneider is Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies at the Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University

Peter Wadhams

My biggest hope is that there is a genuine change of heart among politicians of the advanced industrial countries; that they will begin with genuine enthusiasm a “war on carbon” to remove our dependence on fossil fuels by the use of innovative technology. Only government-scale efforts can achieve this; individual efforts will never amount to more than well-meaning tinkering.

My biggest fear is that the politicians have not changed and are seeking the least that they can get away with. A sign of this will be if they come up with ambitious targets for a long time ahead, say 80 per cent reductions by 2050. In their minds, this means that nothing much has to be done before 2040 so it’s not their problem.

Peter Wadhams is professor of ocean physics at the University of Cambridge

Aubrey Meyer

I hope the UK government, having adopted the contraction and convergence (C&C) principle as the basis of its climate policies, will now champion its global adoption. C&C was invented by my organisation, the Global Commons Institute, and as a rational proposition it is impossible to beat. It works by contracting global emissions down to a safe level while each country’s share of that total is set according to population. In Kyoto in 1997, the C&C principle was supported by China, India, the Africa Group and the US, while the UK sat on its hands. I fear they will do that again at COP-15.

Aubrey Meyer is director of the Global Commons Institute

J. R. McNeill

The most hopeful prospect is of a rapprochement (to use the diplomats’ language) between China and the US that changes the momentum of negotiations, leading ultimately, if not at Copenhagen, to agreements on real reductions in emissions.

China and the US are the key variables, both for their leading contributions to greenhouse gas concentrations, and for their political clout. Serious commitments on their part would change the momentum and de-legitimise foot-dragging on the part of Australia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and others.

The most fearful prospect is of a face-saving accord that has no real effect. Such accords are a frequent outcome of large multilateral negotiations.

This is more worrisome than a breakdown resulting in no accord at all, because it would encourage an illusory belief that Copenhagen yielded a successful approach to the climate change problem. The resulting complacency would be the most dangerous of outcomes.

J.R. McNeill is Professor of Environmental History at Georgetown University in Washington, DC

Richard Alley

Scientists have studied climate change for centuries, and serious climate science is decades old. The scientific community needed that long to provide confident answers to many of the big questions about climate change.

Climate science looks easier than deciding how to use the scientific information to make wise policies. My hope is that the policymakers will accept the outcome of the scientific effort, and focus on their more-difficult and more-important challenges.

Richard Alley is Evan Pugh Professor in the Department of Geosciences and the EMS Environment Institute at the Pennsylvania State University

Sarah Butler-Sloss

I hope it is made clear that it need not be a choice between cutting emissions and alleviating poverty, nor between cutting emissions and economic growth.

There are tremendous sustainable energy technologies ready right now if only the political will and financial support was there. These are technologies that cut emissions whilst improving the lives of the poor, stimulating economies and creating jobs.

I fear that the wealthy nations – those most responsible for filling the atmosphere with dangerous levels of greenhouse gases – will stall negotiations and nothing will be agreed. The consequences will be most painfully felt in the developing world.

Sarah Butler-Sloss is executive chairman of the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy.


Serious Economic Disadvantage

Posted by admin on December 6, 2009
Posted under Express 87

Serious Economic Disadvantage

Australia’s Chief Scientist has warned that a failure to act on climate change immediately will place the country at an economic disadvantage and the world has five years to avoid the dangerous damage generated if average global temperatures increased by more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Bridie Smith in Sydney Morning Herald (3 December 2009):

Australia’s Chief Scientist has warned that a failure to act on climate change immediately will place the country at an economic disadvantage.

On the same day the Government’s emissions trading scheme failed to pass the Senate for the second time, Penny Sackett said the economy was dependent on the environment and that there were genuine opportunities for countries wanting to be leaders in ”a new global green economy”.

Professor Sackett said she had ”serious concerns” that Australia would be at ”an economic disadvantage if we don’t act now”.

”By acting now we are learning how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we are learning the technologies that we need to do it … by starting now we can be leaders in the global green economy,” she said. ”That’s where I would like to see Australia.”

While stressing she was not a politician – Professor Sackett is a physicist by training and an astronomer by profession – she said Australia not having a legislated agreement before the Copenhagen climate talks would be ”one of the challenges” at the global meeting.

Yesterday’s defeat of Labor’s emissions trading scheme means Australia will arrive in Denmark with a 2020 target for an emissions cut of between 5 and 25 per cent below the country’s 2000 levels.

Like the world’s leading climate scientists, Professor Sackett argues that there are about five years to avoid the dangerous damage generated if average global temperatures increased by more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

As it stands now, she said, a 1.3 degree temperature rise is all but ”locked in”.

”To meet the 2 degree target, we must halt increases in global emissions by about 2015, and then decrease them dramatically and steadily thereafter.”


Planting the Seeds of Change

Posted by admin on December 6, 2009
Posted under Express 87

Planting the Seeds of Change


With the current focus on Climate Change, it’s fitting that the first winner of the new global Seed Award – Banyan Tree’s four resorts in the Maldives – is located in one of the world’s most spectacular yet vulnerable destinations. The Seed Award is the brainchild of EC3 Global, which provides sustainability solutions for the Travel and Tourism sector.


From EC3 Global:


While world struggles with how to prosper in a carbon-constrained economy, some organisations have been quietly planting the seeds of change. An increasing number of hotels have guests who will readily tell you that, when it comes to deep-cushioned comfort and guilt-free luxury, their preference is to vacation where their values are aligned.


However, for travellers who wish to leverage their purchasing power, it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish the heroes from the pretenders. The world is awash with certification logos that all look the same from the outside.


It’s almost impossible to tell which logos recognise high standards of operational sustainability and which amount to little more than tick-box action. In some cases, the only thing green is the money changing hands, with the certification being used as a marketing ploy.


Finally though, a new award pegs the green washing to the line and allows organisations to reveal their true colours. Launched this year, the Seed Award was the brainchild of EC3 Global, which has been providing sustainability solutions for the Travel and Tourism sector since long before it became fashionable.


“We wanted to cut through the myths of sustainable tourism and encourage organisations to share their learnings with a global audience,” explains CEO Stewart Moore. “You Tube offers the next best thing to actually visiting these remarkable properties and the videos demonstrate how a commitment to sustainable practices can actually define market success.”


The inaugural 2009 Seed Awards attracted a bevy of entries from leading properties the world-over. Each entrant was required to submit a short video documentary, which offered insight into their organisation’s sustainability practices.


Of these, the best were uploaded to EC3 Global’s You Tube channel ( ); allowing users to look back-of-house and see that the proof is indeed in the pudding. The Awards were then judged by an international panel of experts, who assessed each according to a strict set of criteria.


With the current focus on Climate Change, it’s fitting that the winner is located in one of the world’s most spectacular – yet vulnerable – destinations. Banyan Tree’s four resorts in the Maldives (Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, Angsana Ihuru, Angsana Velavaru, and Banyan Tree Madivaru) don’t limit sustainability experiences to guest activities; they can be seen in every facet of resort operations.


Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts have long been known as offering a sanctuary for the senses, with its intimate retreats featuring a blend of romance, rejuvenation and exotic sensuality. Located in destinations that appear at the top of most Wish Lists, each of its properties has been designed to create a sense of place, with the environment in mind.


The Maldives is a remarkable diving and snorkelling paradise, but in 1998, record high water temperatures killed most of the corals throughout the Indian Ocean. Maldivian reefs, the best in the region, didn’t escape the trend.


Coral reefs are the most complex ecosystems in the sea and often described as the “rainforests” of the ocean. All around the world and also throughout the Maldives, these rainforests have been severely affected by rising global temperatures responsible for the bleaching and death of corals.


In response, the team at Banyan Tree sought out a solution that would help nurture the reef back to a state of vibrant health. They decided upon on an experimental suggestion that would allow guests to become actively involved; one where pieces of live coral were attached to a steel frame on the sea bed, and through this an electrical current was directed. 


This innovative approach resulted in the regeneration of an entire reef system in an unprecedented short amount of time. Such commitment is a credit to the staff and the company, who understood that in order for a hotel to continue to prosper, it must be aware of its responsibilities to protect the surrounding environment.


“We are especially thrilled that our efforts were recognized even amid the high quality of projects and organizations represented,” says Ms Claire Chiang, Chairperson Banyan Tree Global Foundation. “EC3 Global’s effort to push the sustainability message through new media channels  has massive potential for sharing best practices to enable sustainability minded enterprises to collectively push for effective alignment of social, environmental, and business interests.”


It is hoped that in sharing stories of an increasing number of properties who are awakening to the benefits of integrating sustainability practices into planning and ongoing operations, more will follow suit. EC3 Global has already assisted over 1000 operators in more than 60 countries, but with tourism being one of the world’s largest industries, it will take the commitment of all to help preserve the beauty we travel great distances to enjoy.



How Green is My Airport?

Posted by admin on December 6, 2009
Posted under Express 87

How Green is My Airport?

Management of Melbourne International Airport is looking at ways to lessen the airport’s carbon emissions, possibly by generating its own electricity. What have other leading airports around the world been doing to go green and become carbon neutral?

Andrew Heasley in The Age (3 December 2009):

Management at Tullamarine is looking at ways to lessen the airport’s carbon emissions. Melbourne Airport could generate its own electricity in a quest to cut carbon emissions.

The airport’s management is investigating the feasibility of installing wind generators, a gas fired plant or even a power plant fired by woodchip on its Tullamarine site.

“We’re always looking at smart ways to cut our energy costs,” said the airport’s chief executive Chris Woodruff.

The airport’s executive general manager Simon Gandy said it might be preferable to generate electricity on site rather than buy “green” power from a retailer.

“If we can do our own generation…that might be a better way forward than procuring green energy,” he said.

Big wind turbines would not be suitable for an operating airfield.

“Some of the areas in the UK are using (power) co-generation by waste woodchip. We’re looking at all of those, whether we go to wood chip, I don’t know,” Mr Gandy said.

Solar electricity generated by panels probably couldn’t keep up with demand as they were relatively inefficient, he said.

Environmental design attributes have been included in a $330 million redevelopment of the international terminal, unveiled yesterday.

The first phase of that was unveiled with the opening of a new $108 million departures wing that features natural lighting through 10-metre high glazing, low-carbon-emitting carpet and seat fabrics, carbon dioxide sensors to monitor the new concourse’s air quality, automated sun blinds, floor slab heating and cooling, rainwater harvesting and grey water recycling.

The new wing features three more aircraft bays, two of which accommodate the double-decker Airbus A380, with aerobridges to upper and lower decks.

The next stages will include a remodelled international passenger area with better security screening facilities and passport control, and new shops, including more duty free.


In November 2007, Airports Council International called on its airports to develop plans to reduce emissions, with the ultimate goal being carbon neutral airports.

An airport operator can achieve carbon neutral status by reducing carbon emissions from operations and buildings to a strict minimum.

The remaining emissions (that cannot be further reduced) are mitigated through economic and market-based measures until long-term technological solutions are developed.


The United Kingdom’s Manchester Airports Group (MAG) announced in 2006 that the operations of the four airports in the Group – Manchester, East Midlands, Bournemouth and Humberside  - would be carbon neutral for 2015.  

As the Group takes on the concept of sustainable development forward, Manchester Airport Developments (MADL), the property development arm of the business, is now asking designers at the briefing stage for projects to look at ways of generating their own power sources through ground source heat pumps, biomass, solar energy or wind turbines.

Modern design is capable of removing carbon emissions at source. The construction of a new hangar to house Concorde at the Aviation Viewing Park at Manchester Airport, the new Terminal facility at Bournemouth Airport and on a low carbon pier at East Midlands Airport utilise natural light and sources heat from ground source heat pumps.

MAG also has a long standing commitment to recycling, ensuring that despite plans to grow the business, the amount of waste does not increase and the strict targets are adhered to.


In New Zealand, the Christchurch International Airport vehicle fleet was audited and a new vehicle replacement policy implemented to include fuel efficiency considerations for new vehicle purchases.

Recycling programmes, including the re-use of up to 10% of runway asphalt during replacement works.

All electricity is purchased from Meridian Energy – a fully carbon-neutral electricity supplier using renewable sources.

A comprehensive programme to identify and resolve energy inefficiencies in the terminal building.

Christchurch International Airport invested in three local offsetting schemes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – a combination of windfarm, forest regeneration and landfill gas recovery credits, all earned from local programmes.

New Zealand’s Christchurch International Airport has received carboNZero certification from Landcare Research following a detailed measurement and analysis process. The certification process has seen the airport company measuring, managing, reducing and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions arising from its operational business activities.

It is the first airport in the Southern Hemisphere to be certified carbon neutral.


As of 1 August 2009, Canada’s Gander International Airport became North America’s first Carbon Neutral airport.

The Gander International Airport Authority (GIAA) and its tenant companies are implementing a comprehensive carbon emissions reduction program that involves a number of infrastructure and employee initiatives.

The remaining emissions have been reduced by the purchase of carbon offsets through The CarbonNeutral Company®, the world’s leading carbon offset and climate consulting business. The GIAA has invested in green energy projects in Europe and Asia.

In early 2008, the Gander International Airport Authority engaged InterVISTAS Consulting to quantify its annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The airport authority has set a goal of reducing its carbon emissions by 33% by 2020.

The airport has engaged an energy engineer to recommend the adoption of renewable next generation energy systems that will reduce emissions and cost.

The airport has formed a Green Committee, comprised of airport workers, partners and tenants, to implement a green culture and practices at the airport, including reducing paper consumption, a procurement policy that gives preference to green vendors, reducing electricity use, more comprehensive recycling, anti-idling policies, energy retrofits. A carbon neutral culture will become an intrinsic part of Gander International Airport’s workplace culture, operations and planning.

Gander International Airport is among airports around the world that are signatories to the 2008 Aviation and Environment Summit Declaration, which commits to carbon-neutral growth and a carbon-free future.

Aviation is responsible for an estimated 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions. The best estimate of aviation’s climate change impact is about 3.5% of the total contribution by human activities.

Concern for the environment, and progressive practices to protect the planet, will become an intrinsic part of our workplace culture, operations and planning. We commit to ongoing investment and auditing of our Greenhouse Gas Emissions with the aim of maintaining carbon neutrality.


Gas Fuel Cells Come Clean

Posted by admin on December 6, 2009
Posted under Express 87

Gas Fuel Cells Come Clean

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has uncovered a greener way to get electricity from natural gas, using solid-oxide fuel cells to produce power without emitting greenhouse gases. But it will only become economically feasible when there’s a price on carbon.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A new type of natural-gas electric power plant proposed by MIT researchers could provide electricity with zero carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, at costs comparable to or less than conventional natural-gas plants, and even to coal-burning plants.

But that can only come about if and when a price is set on the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases — a step the U.S. Congress and other governments are considering as a way to halt climate change.

Postdoctoral associate Thomas Adams and Paul I. Barton, the Lammot du Pont Professor of Chemical Engineering, propose a system that uses solid-oxide fuel cells, which produce power from fuel without burning it.

The system would not require any new technology, but would rather combine existing components, or ones that are already well under development, in a novel configuration (for which they have applied for a patent).

The system would also have the advantage of running on natural gas, a relatively plentiful fuel source — proven global reserves of natural gas are expected to last about 60 years at current consumption rates — that is considered more environmentally friendly than coal or oil.

Present natural-gas power plants produce an average of 1,135 pounds of carbon dioxide for every megawatt-hour of electricity produced — half to one-third the emissions from coal plants, depending on the type of coal.

Absent any price for carbon emissions, Adams says, when it comes to generating electricity “the cheapest fuel will always be pulverized coal.” But as soon as there is some form of carbon pricing — which attempts to take into account the true price exacted on the environment by greenhouse gas emissions — “ours is the lowest price option,” he says, as long as the pricing is more than about $15 per metric ton of emitted carbon dioxide.

Such a pricing mechanism would be put in place, for example, by the Waxman-Markey “American Clean Energy and Security Act” that was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in July, through its “cap and trade” provisions. (A corresponding bill has not yet reached the floor of the U.S. Senate.) If the program becomes law, the actual price per ton of carbon would vary, being determined through the free market.

Natural gas already accounts for 22 percent of all U.S. electricity production, and that percentage is likely to rise in coming years if carbon prices are put into effect. For these and other reasons, a system that can produce electricity from natural gas at a competitive price with zero greenhouse gas emissions could prove to be an attractive alternative to conventional power plants that use fossil fuels.

The system proposed by Adams and Barton would not emit into the air any carbon dioxide or other gases believed responsible for global warming, but would instead produce a stream of mostly pure carbon dioxide. This stream could be harnessed and stored underground relatively easily, a process known as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). One additional advantage of the proposed system is that, unlike a conventional natural gas plant with CCS that would consume significant amounts of water, the fuel-cell based system actually produces clean water that could easily be treated to provide potable water as a side benefit, Adams says.

How they did it: Adams and Barton used computer simulations to analyze the relative costs and performance of this system versus other existing or proposed generating systems, including natural gas or coal-powered systems incorporating carbon capture technologies.

Combined-cycle natural gas plants — the most efficient type of fossil-fuel power plants in use today — could be retrofitted with a carbon-capture system to reduce the output of greenhouse gases by 90 percent. But the MIT researchers’ study found that their proposed system could eliminate virtually 100 percent of these emissions, at a comparable cost for the electricity produced, and with even a higher efficiency (in terms of the amount of electricity produced from a given amount of fuel).

Next steps: Although no full-scale plants using such systems have yet been built, the basic principles have been demonstrated in a number of smaller units including a 250-kilowatt plant, and prototype megawatt-scale plants are planned for completion around 2012.

Actual utility-scale power plants would likely be on the order of 500 megawatts, Adams says. And because fuel cells, unlike conventional turbine-based generators, are inherently modular, once the system has been proved at small size it can easily be scaled up. “You don’t need one large unit,” Adams explains. “You can do hundreds or thousands of small ones, run in parallel.” Adams says practical application of such systems is “not very far away at all,” and could probably be ready for commercialization within a few years. “This is near-horizon technology,” he says.

Source: Journal of Power Sources: “High-efficiency power production from natural gas with carbon capture”

Funding: The research was partly funded from the BP-MIT Conversion Research Program


Breath of Fresh Air for Shoppers

Posted by admin on December 6, 2009
Posted under Express 87

Breath of Fresh Air for Shoppers

A visit to the most environmentally-friendly shopping centre in Australia and the first retail centre in the world to be awarded a six star rating by the Green Building Council Australia, in the same week as Local Governments for Sustainability USA launched a comprehensive resource to guide cities and countries through the process of greening their communities.

A visit was arranged this past week by the Green Building Council of Australia to see Mirvac’s Orion Springfield Town Centre.

ABC Carbon’s Ken Hickson went along to see for himself why it has officially been confirmed as Australia’s most environmentally friendly shopping centre and the first retail centre in the world to be awarded a six star rating.  

From the moment one arrives by bus at Orion Springfield, eyes cannot help but focus on the symbolic solar panel tower, suggesting there’s something special about this shopping centre.

While the facts and figures speak for themselves when it comes to energy and water savings, it is always wise to see for yourself to evaluate if the shopping experience itself suffers in any way with a sustainable approach to building and management.

A breath of fresh air? Yes, its true there’s ten times more fresh air in Orion Springfield due to greater use of natural ventilation. The building is designed to minimise the use of air conditioning, even in a warm south east Queensland location.

See the light? Yes, there’s much more natural lighting coming into the public space inside the buildings than you’d normally expect in a shopping centre, thereby minimising the use of the massive lighting and electricity use.

What about water? No problem. There’s 68% reduction in potable water used here compared with standard industry practice. Recycled water is used for all the non-drinking, non-washing purposes.

Waste not, want not? Besides the reduction of waste during construction, this building encourages all occupants to deal with waste in a responsible fashion, managing to achieve a very high level of recycling and reducing the amount of waste going to landfill.

The management team will tell you – and you can check this out in the brochures and online – that overall, Orion Springfield manages to achieve the following:

  • A 42%saving in power use (enough to power 500 Queensland homes per year).
  • A saving of 5000 tonnes of green house gas emissions – equivalent to taking 1162 cars off the road per year.
  • A saving of 5000 tonnes of landfill waste.

So in design and construction, Mirvac has achieved top marks for sustainability and reduction in energy and emissions. The test comes with management as well, and it’s here that the shopping centre company has also excelled.

So much so, that management is currently looking at ways to further enhance its high sustainability position, which has already won for it many national awards.

Maybe it will come with even greater use of renewable energy, going beyond the attractive, but largely symbolic solar tower, to fitting photo voltaic panels all over its extensive roofs.

There’s also work to be done to reduce the dominance of the private car as the primary means of getting to and from Orion. There is a bus service, but shelter and access for public transport users (and pedestrians), is not as good as it should be.

There will come a time when a rail service will bring shoppers (and workers) directly to the place, but there’s a wait expected of some years for that.

Since the first stage was completed in 2007, and as work is about to begin on the second phases, there’s technology and innovations now available that could lead to additional savings in energy, water and waste.

Keeping an eye on any competitors. Mirvac will be making sure that it keeps its reputation intact in this the first six star green shopping centre, taking advantage of new energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities.

Source: and


By GreenerBuildings Staff (3 December 2009):

OAKLAND, CA — ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability USA launches a comprehensive resource today to guide cities and countries, step by step, through the process of greening their communities.

The 55-page Sustainability Planning Toolkit is modeled after the city of New York’s highly successful PlaNYC guide and was developed by ICLEI in collaboration with the New York Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability.

“Our toolkit is a roadmap to guide any local government, big or small, through the process of creating a sustainability plan,” ICLEI USA’s Senior Communications Officer Don Knapp said in a statement provided to 

“Staff from ICLEI’s local government members have been telling us how eager they are for a resource like this toolkit, because creating a sustainability plan can be a complex and lengthy endeavor,” Knapp said.

“There are so many steps to go through, so many individual initiatives to consider, so many stakeholders to involve, and it’s hard to know where to begin. Municipal staff didn’t want to have to reinvent the wheel and create their own process from scratch, especially when their resources and manpower are often so limited. Fortunately, big cities like New York have acted as the trailblazer.”

The toolkit is replete with best practice examples, checklists, templates and guidelines that provide an explicit how-to for users. Steps covered include building the planning team, structuring the planning process and a look at the strategies and measures to include in plans.

The guide is premised on “five milestone” tasks that authors say local governments must complete to in order to move forward:

Milestone 1: Conduct a sustainability assessment

Milestone 2: Establish sustainability goals

Milestone 3: Develop a local sustainability plan

Milestone 4: Implement policies and measures

Milestone 5: Evaluate progress and report results

By following that path, local governments can devise effective, measurable goals that can be measured over time, the organization says.

“Our toolkit shows local government staff how to create a plan that won’t just sit on a shelf, but will become an integral part of government operations,” Knapp said. “We believe this toolkit is going to empower and accelerate the efforts of our local government members, who are already the leaders in sustainability initiatives.” 

The toolkit is the first of two key resources that will offered by ICLEI USA. The second is the STAR Community Index, which is expected to formally launch in 2011 and is to provide a framework for “gauging the sustainability and livability of U.S. communities,” the organization says.

A soft launch of municipal goals for the framework is targeted for early 2010. One-hundred-sixty-five people representing 135 groups — among them 60 cities and 10 counties — are helping to develop the framework.

The U.S. organization has 600 cities, counties and towns as members. The international group is made up of 1,107 member towns, cities and counties in 67 countries. The organization was founded in 1990 and initially was called the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.

More information about the organization is available at