Sustainable Energy for London Transport & European Investment Bank

Sustainable Energy for London Transport & European Investment Bank

The London Olympics is a timely opportunity for companies to set in place a long-term strategy to change employee travel habits, says Trewin Restorick. An extra 2,000 Boris bikes and 4,000 docking points will be laid on, but will London’s transport gain long-term sustainable benefits? And is the European Investment Bank as green as it is expected to be? If it put its clout behind renewable energy and energy efficiency, it could help to reconcile energy security and the fight against climate change, says Manana Kochladze.

Trewin Restorick of Global Action Plan in the Guardian (17 January 2012):

The Olympics is a timely opportunity for companies to set in place a long-term strategy to change employee travel habits, says Trewin Restorick in Guardian Sustainable Business.

An extra 2,000 Boris bikes and 4,000 docking points will be laid on, but will London’s transport gain long-term sustainable benefits?

It is easier to get people to think about changing their behaviour when their normal routines are disrupted. Such a disruption is heading London’s way during the Olympics. It’s an opportunity that could be used to encourage employees to adopt more sustainable travel behaviours.

Research from Global Action Plan shows that this opportunity could be missed unless companies change from just considering the short-term implications of the games to a longer-term, more strategic view.

Over the 100 days of the London Olympics, an anticipated 5.3 million visitors are expected. On some of the busiest days this will create 855,000 games-related trips. There will be more than 100 miles of roads designated as the Olympic route network. Some of these roads will have lanes for accredited vehicles only, while other roads in the capital will be used for Olympic events.

Despite the best endeavours of planners, this level of activity is certain to disrupt travel for many Londoners. The question is: can the disruption be used to encourage more long-term sustainable travel behaviour?

The travel dilemma

Recent research by Global Action Plan with 138 organisations shows that cutting carbon emissions from travel is one of the biggest challenges they face. Our research discovered that almost 40% of respondents do not have a strategic approach to cutting travel costs and emissions. Companies’ data collection is patchy at best and, if it is collected, only one in five use it to encourage staff to change their behaviour. Significant barriers also exist, including lack of senior leadership, the expectations of line managers and inadequate technology. These barriers mean that, although policies may be in place, they are not being widely implemented.

Will the Olympics help overcome these barriers and provide the momentum for significant long-term change? The results from Sydney after the 2000 games suggest that they do have the potential for stimulating action: 24% of Sydney employees changed their working hours and 22% worked remotely during the games. Interestingly, 27% chose to take annual leave.

Transport for London is certainly doing as much as it can to help organisations cope. Extensive advice is already included on its website. Particular emphasis has been placed on deliveries, where guidance includes changing delivery times, consolidating orders, pre-emptive maintenance and co-ordinating deliveries with neighbouring firms. More than 4,000 new Barclays cycle-hire docking points will also be installed and 2,000 new bikes will be provided.

The moped solution

Case studies are publicly available from companies such as Sainsbury’s, who acknowledge that usual methods of supplying stores and delivering to customers may not be possible. Their solutions include “first-response mopeds” designed to get engineers to stores rapidly to deal with maintenance problems. The initiative has many potential benefits, including greater efficiency, lower carbon emissions and the ability to maximise store sales. If successful, Sainsbury’s will extend the idea to all its stores within the M25.

Our research suggests that other organisations in London are also starting to realise the potential implications of the games: 69% believe that they will cause significant or medium disruption.

The most popular solution being considered is to allow more flexible working: 65% of companies are assessing this idea but, rather worryingly, only a quarter of them are looking to ensure that IT systems can cope with this significant change. Other popular solutions include negotiating fewer client meetings, negotiating changes with suppliers and encouraging greater use of video conferencing.

But what about the legacy?

All of these solutions are good business planning designed to address the travel disruption that the games might cause. However, our research shows that most companies are not thinking about how they can use the change to embed long-term sustainable solutions.

Only 17% of companies in our survey indicated that they would use the games as an opportunity to change employee travel habits. This is a huge opportunity that could be missed and suggests that organisations need to start thinking.

Trewin Restorick is chief executive of Global Action Plan



Manana Kochladze writes about Greening the European Investment Bank (23 December 2011):

BRUSSELS – Over the past four years, the European Investment Bank – the European Union’s house bank – has loaned €48 billion ($62 billion) to energy projects around the world. Indeed, the EIB lends more to the energy sector than to any other, except transport (and its €72 billion total loan portfolio in 2010 made it a bigger lender than the World Bank).

Investment on this scale can help countries worldwide to make vital progress on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions at a time when political solutions based on international agreement remain elusive. Unfortunately, the EIB’s lending priorities and energy-investment portfolio are making the problem worse.

In 2007, the EIB adopted its first energy policy – “Clean Energy for Europe: A Reinforced EIB Contribution.” Since then, the Bank has significantly increased its lending for renewable energy, which totaled €13 billion in 2007-2010.

Yet, over the same period, the bank compromised this performance by lending €16 billion ($21 billion) for fossil-fuels projects, one-third of the institution’s total energy lending. Indeed, the EIB’s fossil-fuel lending grew from €2.8 billion in 2007 to €5 billion in 2010, including new coal units in Germany and Slovenia.

In new EU member states, the EIB has supported mostly high-carbon energy, which traps these countries in unsustainable energy systems. The EIB also loaned North Africa and Syria €1.6 billion for fossil fuels between 2007 and 2010, which constituted 30% of total lending to the region.

Make no mistake: these are long-term investments. The energy infrastructure constructed today will be used for at least another 40 years, thereby tying countries to carbon-dependent paths. In Slovenia, for example, if the government implements EU-wide climate targets, the new EIB-financed Sostanj lignite unit will consume most of that country’s CO2 emissions quota by 2050. Meanwhile, the EIB invests only 5% of its energy portfolio in energy-efficiency programs.

The EIB argues that fossil-fuel lending supports strategic projects that safeguard European energy security. That is partly true: EU members’ political interests do drive some of this lending, particularly investments in oil and gas import infrastructure. The EU’s goals therefore embody an inherent contradiction – energy security versus climate-change prevention – which makes it difficult for the EIB to clean up its energy portfolio.

Yet a closer look shows that  €6.7 billion of the €16 billion that the EIB loaned for fossil fuels went to coal, gas, and oil-fired plants, both inside and outside the EU – not to EU energy-security projects. These figures suggest that the EIB may simply find dirty energy projects more familiar, easier to access, and more profitable.

But the EIB, which is both an investment bank and the EU’s public bank, is uniquely placed to lead markets, and should not merely be following them. As a public bank, its financial operations are guaranteed by European taxpayers’ money, and its capital is immense. Moreover, it benefits from the information and know-how of EU institutions.

If the EIB were to put its clout behind renewable energy and energy efficiency, it could help to reconcile energy security and the fight against climate change. And Europe could lead that fight if it fully exploited its renewable and energy-efficiency potential. The EU would then have little need to rely on dirty-energy imports from politically unstable parts of the world.

The EIB must act more courageously to clean up its energy-lending portfolio. Coal investments must be stopped immediately, and a plan to phase out all fossil-fuel lending should be prepared and implemented as soon as possible. The capital from fossil-fuel investments could be redirected towards green projects instead.

For regions such as Central and Eastern Europe, where the EIB argues that it is more difficult to find investment opportunities, the bank must develop targeted instruments and technical assistance that supports small-scale renewable-energy projects. It must also encourage governments to build flexible power grids.

Weaning Europe from its addiction to fossil fuels will not be easy. But if the EU’s house bank will not accept the challenge, it is difficult to imagine who will.

Manana Kochladze is a campaigner at CEE Bankwatch Network, an NGO that monitors international financial institutions active in Central and Eastern Europe. She is the winner of the 2004 Goldman Environmental Prize.


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