D is for Deforestation, Diamond Energy, DNV GL, Dell, Du Pont & Denmark
Deforestation is the most important, immediate and urgent challenge, Unilever’s Paul Polman told the Global Landscapes Forum at Lima before the close of the UN climate change conference. Dell sets some new sustainability standards for recycling and packaging, while DNV GL does the verifying for Australia’s first Climate Bond for renewable energy. Diamond Energy makes its mark as it opens Asia’s first energy demand response centre, as DuPont announces a new clean energy move with JA Solar in China. Denmark keeps ahead as the world’s most wind powered nation by generating 41% of its electricity consumption in the first half of 2014. Read More
From the Danish Wind Industry Association
It’s windy in Denmark. And that fact helps explain why Denmark is leading the way in integrating wind power into the electricity system.
It’s windy in Denmark, which helps explain why Denmark is so skilled at capturing the power of the wind. With 28 per cent wind power in the electricity system, Denmark is a nation that many others are looking to in order to discover sustainable energy solutions for the future. However, plentiful wind is not necessarily synonymous with a strong wind industry. Denmark’s achievement in bringing 28 per cent wind power into the electricity system is built on several key factors, that together have made Denmark the world’s Wind Power Hub. It generated 41% of its electricity consumption from wind in the first half of 2014
First-mover in wind power
Denmark’s role as a first-mover in both onshore and offshore wind power has been important. The lessons learned through the early years of setting up wind turbines across the nation have been pivotal. The industry has developed through innovative thinking and experience which have helped create core competencies in production, design and installation of wind turbines that are sought after worldwide. To date, Danish companies have installed more than 90 per cent of the world’s offshore wind turbines. With a constant aim of bringing down the cost of energy, Denmark expects to remain the dominant player in the offshore wind turbine market for years to come. Europe’s offshore wind power capacity is expected to see a tenfold increase, just in this decade!
Wind power – a strong competitor
Danes are positive about wind power. Recent surveys show that most of the population would welcome more wind energy in the electricity system. Denmark is also a progressive country in its energy policy, which supports an increase in renewable energy – and wind in particular. Political support rests on the fact that onshore wind power is cost competitive with any type of newly built electricity generating technology and that wind is inexhaustible, stable and forever free-of-charge. Based on the above factors, the wind industry today is part of the backbone of the export earnings of the Danish economy.
Moving towards a sustainable future
The world faces many obstacles in the battle against fossil fuels and climate change. Denmark sees many good reasons for continuing the development of wind power, and the government has set the target of 50 per cent wind power in the electricity system by 2020. Although ambitious, the target is in line with the overall vision to make Denmark completely free of dependence on fossil fuels by 2050. At that time the Danish energy system will consist purely of renewable energy, with wind being the main contributor. Denmark is looking towards a greener and windy future!
From National Geographic (12 December 2014)
LIMA, Peru — The man behind the podium Sunday at the Global Landscapes Forum, an offshoot of the annual United Nations negotiations on climate change being held here, spoke in blunt terms:
“Commercial agriculture accounted for 71 percent of tropical deforestation in the last 12 years. That translates into the loss of 130 million hectares (321 million acres) of forests. In fact, that loss contributes about 15 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire transport sector. These are the inconvenient facts.”
In other words, the massive companies that grow our food are in part responsible for aiding and abetting practices that are slowly killing the earth by recklessly tearing down forests to grow crops.
The speaker was pointing a finger of blame at one of the most environmentally damaging industries on earth. In doing so, Paul Polman, the CEO of England-and-Netherlands-based Unilever, the world’s second-largest consumer goods conglomerate, was in essence pointing a finger at himself. It was both disarming and, well, breathtaking.
“For those of us in the food sector, like my company, we know that climate change cannot be tackled without a fundamental change in the way that agriculture – the world’s oldest and largest industry – is practiced,” Polman told an audience of several hundred.
“In fact, most CEOs, I’m convinced of now, know that their companies cannot prosper in a world with runaway climate change. This is increasingly evident. They understand the need to work together with political leaders to address these challenges.”
THAT’S A STUNNING statement, one that environmentalists would love to believe. That is, until they slam head-on into other inconvenient facts, like The New York Times investigation over the weekend. That in-depth story revealed that leaders of the U.S. energy industry have bankrolled the campaigns of an array of Republican state attorneys general in the express hope of seeing undermined the Obama administration’s stringent environmental regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
If there are any oil, coal or gas honchos in Lima for the UN negotiations, they were not among the speakers at the landscape forum. But Polman, who is gaining an international reputation as one of the world’s greenest CEOs, was there. And for one morning, that was enough to reveal that some corporate leaders possess values that transcend quarterly returns and shareholder demands – both of which Polmon insisted need to be de-emphasized for – he actually said this — the greater good of society.
When it comes to climate change, Polman is certainly out of synch with the oil baron Koch brothers in saying, “The cost of inaction is becoming greater than the cost of action.”
By example, he added, “Natural disasters linked to changing climate already cost us (at Unilever) more than $300 million a year. We see increases in food costs, water scarcity, reduced productivity in many parts of the agricultural supply chain — all linked directly to climate change. Left unchecked, climate change has the potential to be a significant barrier to our gross, and that of nearly every other (business) sector.”
For the record, Unilever – which owns Ben & Jerry’s, Knorr, Lipton and Bertolli olive oil, not to mention Dove, Vasoline and VO5 – ranks No. 140 on the Fortune 500. It has revenue exceeding $66 billion and profits of $6.4 billion. For his part, this bleeding-heart CEO brought home $11 million in total compensation last year, with a healthy bonus for exceeding growth expectations.
But just because he’s rich and successful doesn’t mean he doesn’t get it. Because Unilever sources raw materials from tropical regions around the world, it has come to understand that massive deforestation in Latin America, Africa and Asia is increasing carbon emissions, intensifying erratic weather and hurting his business – in both the short and long term.
“There is a strong business case for taking climate change out of the value chain,” Polman said. “It’s one of the reasons why we’re committed to sourcing 100 percent of our agricultural raw materials sustainably by the year 2020.
“To Unilever, sustainable agriculture sourcing includes eliminating deforestation from the entire supply chain. Our priority is therefore to preserve high conservation-value forests, forests with high carbon stocks, and tropical forests on peat surfaces. We are also implementing a responsible sourcing policy that we’re driving up the value chain for our suppliers.”
THAT’S HOW the needle moves. When Walmart decides that energy-efficient lights are not a leftist plot to kill profits, but rather a long-term money saver, large-scale change comes. When Unilever decides that it will not source palm oil from Indonesian suppliers that are rapaciously deforesting, change comes there, too.
None of this is easy, Polman notes. The world is moving toward a population of 9 billion people. Food output will need to increase by 80 percent to meet future demands. But large and small farms can do far more to increase yields on the same amount of land, while restoring land back to forests that have been destroyed, he said.
To speed things along, food industry giants such as Minnesota-based Cargill and Singapore-based Wilmar are also getting on board. Both are among the 170 governments and companies that pledged at a UN climate summit in September to halve the rate of deforestation from the production of commodities like palm oil, soy, paper and beef products no later than 2020, and eliminating deforestation by 2030 as part of the New York Declaration on Forests.
“Deforestation is not just one of the great challenges in the fight against climate change,” Polman said. “It is the most important, immediate and urgent challenge, in my opinion. We are not yet acting at either the speed or scale that the problem demands. But we can win this battle.”
Justin Catanoso is a freelance journalist based in North Carolina and director of journalism at Wake Forest University. His reporting is sponsored in part by the Wake Forest Center on Energy, Environment and Sustainability, and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in Washington, D.C.