Thursday 17 April 2014

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Sustainable Dev.

 

Will humanity take effective action against climate change?

Posted by on 14/04/14

In the fall of 2015 the international community is set to adopt a comprehensive action plan to combat climate change. Paris having been chosen as the meeting place the French government is showing more interest in climate issues and trying to mobilise the EU on a rapid agreement of its 2030 climate objectives.

The UN preparatory machinery keeps running full steam to obtain a successful outcome.

This goes above all for the scientific aspects.

In the last seven years, Humanity has accumulated a huge amount of scientific data on the climate change that has taken place during the 20th century and is likely to occur during the 21st century. Never have human beings known so much about the climate. It is therefore no longer possible for anyone to deny climate change taking place and being mostly man-made.

There is also a consensus on its main causes: C02 and methane emissions from burning fossil energies for heating, cooling, transport, industrial processes and massive deforestation are the principal villains.

If Humanity were able to contain these major causal factors within the next five decades it would still have a chance of mitigating climate change.

Theoretically this is possible.

Humanity can do without burning as much fossil energy as it does. This goes in particular for the wealthy West and China.

Wind, solar, biomass and waves can substitute fossil energy, provided storage facilities and long-distance grid interconnections are in place.

As long as they are still more expensive than coal and gas temporary subsidy regimes should offer incentives.

But why should the 2015 “big bang” in Paris be any different from the 20 preceding “Conferences of the Parties” and lay out a convincing path for Humanity to throw off the burden of climate change that will weigh so heavily on the shoulders of the coming generations?

The 195 countries that will attend the COP 21 remain deeply divided on the nature of the commitments and the burden sharing they will have to accept for a successful outcome. So far they are likely to agree only on the necessity to contain global warming within the critical margin of two centigrade; but that would be nothing new and rather meaningless without firm and verifiable commitments as to the actions to be taken.

But the international community is less than ever concerned about climate change. According to the last assessments the impact of climate change on the global economy is likely to be much lower than projected only six years ago by the Stern Report. And how many politicians care already about the impacts on biodiversity, natural catastrophes or even a steep increase in the numbers of “climate refugees”!

It is therefore not surprising to see the emphasis shifting from mitigation to adaptation. Humanity seems to prefer the costs for adaptation rather than invest in mitigation efforts, even if that will be risky because of the irreversible effects of climate change.

It is fully in line with this trend that:

  • big polluter countries like Japan, Australia, Canada or Russia are anything but keen combating climate change;
  • all major fossil energy producing countries refuse phasing out their massive oil and gas subsidies;
  • EU climate policy suffers from the global indifference. The EU rightly underlines that its efforts matter less and less as its share of global emissions is approaching 10 per cent. Contrary to the wishes of the UN Secretary General, it is not likely to play the role of a powerful locomotive in Paris, however regrettable this may be.

China and USA, the two emission giants, accounting for about half of global emissions, might be a glimpse of light in the gloomy picture.

But China will take another 20 years or so before its emissions might start falling; and the US objective of reducing its emissions by 17 per cent until 2017 compared to 2005 will not be a glorious achievement, considering its extremely high per capita emissions of 14 tons and the EU scheduled reductions and by at least 40 per cent until 2030 over 1990.

In conclusion, it looks presently unlikely that the COP 21 in Paris will turn out to be a thrilling success.

It would be a great progress if:

  • the 20 major emitter countries responsible for about 75 per cent of global emissions committed themselves to formulate 20-year strategies within a UN framework and to submit annual performance reports;
  • all rich countries, including the oil/gas exporters, offered the World Bank the financial means – say $ 100 billion per year – to help finance a big programmes for wind, hydro and solar energy;
  • the tropical forest countries were to curb illegal wood cutting and receive appropriate compensation for these efforts.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 11/4/2014

Combating climate change will be a long difficult haul

Posted by on 07/04/14

While the international community is due to finally take serious action against climate change it is worthwhile having a look at Denmark, Sweden and, to a lesser degree, Finland and Norway that have succeeded to generate two thirds of their electricity from renewable sources, mostly from wind and water.

But despite intensive efforts and favourable conditions – zero population growth, large forest areas, a very big hydro power potential and ideal wind conditions – they are still miles away from a fossil-free energy supply which Denmark aspires by 2050.

Still, the international community might learn a few lessons from their experience:

  • build a strong political and popular support.

Without such a support technical efforts will go nowhere. This support is there in each of the countries.

  • set long term objectives, buffered by short-time targets on which to focus concrete action.

    Thus by 2020 Denmark aims to cover one third and until 2050 its entire energy needs from renewable sources.

Similarly the EU operates with 2020/30 targets within a 2050 horizon.

  • put in place a strong institutional framework: a climate and energy ministry and energy agency.

    Denmark has led the way.

  • introduce cost-effective support schemes for accelerating the shift from fossil to renewable energy.

    Denmark has tried a panoply of measures, strongly focused on wind power, its principal renewable source, investment grants to enterprises shifting their energy supply from fossil to renewable sources and recently also premiums for solar power.

    Unlike Germany which has wasted huge amounts of subsidies for photovoltaic installations, not ideal in a country lacking sun during much of the year, the Scandinavian countries have concentrated their efforts on wind energy of which they have plenty. Such a focus on the most effective source of renewable energy is crucial for obtaining cost-effectiveness.

  • offer subsidies only for a limited period (10 years) and adapt them to falling production costs.

    Here too Denmark is a better example than Germany that has offered premiums unchanged for 20 years.

  • invest from the start in energy storage and interconnections for periods without wind or sunshine.

    Here Germany has also failed for a long time.

  • begin with renewable electricity even if heating and transport are more important energy consumers.
  • do not forget pushing for more effective thermal insulation of the building stock, where the Nordic countries have also been outstanding.

  • do not renounce mandatory action, for example energy efficiency standards if you can monitor their implementation.

  • last not least, phase out all direct and indirect subsidies for fossil energy.

In conclusion, if Humanity is serious with reducing green house gas emissions every major energy consuming country must without delay put in place the institutional and legal bases for reducing its fossil energy consumption.

To be effective it must draw up an appropriate strategy containing a long term vision and short term operational measures.

It is up to the UN to invite its most appropriate institution to help countries in that exercise and make sure that those countries implementing effective climate strategies will benefit from the financial assistance that has been promised by the international community.

But even with the most devoted efforts the Nordic countries` experience shows that it will take decades before such policies will produce strong results. Homework should therefore start without any further delay.

 

Only a minor detail?

Posted by on 28/03/14

It seems to be only a little very unimportant detail from an overall perspective: Paper machinery imports in China break down. It is caused by declining demand for paper products and overcapacity in the industry. This is not a new story. Everywhere internet is pushing away paper. Less printed products, less demand in paper. But it is the second part of the story that is very interesting. It is about environmental measures. In fact, paper manufacturing requires large amounts of water and wood – natural resources the Peoples Republic of China has decreasing access. That’s the reason why critics ask whether the current pursued growth in paper production is for the good of the country and really useful. This sounds like a really important mental change. It started in Europe the same way. Twenty years later we are having renewable energies and car-sharing.

Big risk

Posted by on 27/03/14

What’s the biggest risk factor on earth – causing deaths and diseases for millions? Travel by plain or car? Alcohol and Cigarettes? Bad habits in food consumption? Wars? Sharks? No! It’s not about what’s coming initially in people’s minds. It’s the bad air, too many people are breathing. In 2012, seven million people died of air pollution exposure, according to new estimates by World Health Organization (WHO). One in eight global deaths is caused by the world’s largest health risk. CO2-emmission trading and prevention schemes like we are having in Europe are far above those problems. But the approach should be a role model for the world as Europe started itself not from a very high level. And it’s worth to spend time and financial efforts on it. It’s about nothing less than the world’s biggest risk.

Watch out for more: http://www.euractiv.com/sections/health-…

Turning food waste into resource?

Posted by on 25/03/14

Food waste is food loss occurring during the retail and final consumption stages due to the behaviour of retailers and consumers – that is, the throwing away of food.1 This definition describes well what “food waste” means in legal terms, but who knows what it means in numbers.  Did you know that almost 90 million tonnes of food waste is generated annually in the EU, which is 180kg/person/year, and about 126 million tonnes a year is expected by 2020 unless actions will be taken?2

 

 

The Europe 2020 Strategy and its flagship initiative “A Resource Efficient Europe” describes that resource efficiency should be improved in the food sector and different actions need to be identified in order to halve the disposal of edible food waste in the EU by 2020.3

The European Parliament designated 2014 as the ‘European year against food waste’. Various promotional materials have been developed by the EC to change the behaviour of the public and highlight that every single person has an important role in the reduction of food waste.

Business sector is also active in this field. Food waste is a difficult waste fraction to manage which represents high waste management costs; therefore, it requires high level expertise to transform it into renewable resources. During the past years, a wide range of projects, ideas and initiatives have been launched with the aim to manage and reduce food waste.

Novel ideas and new concepts are always appreciated in this market. A team of forward thinking experts from eight European countries – the consortium of the PlasCarb project – identified that mixed food waste could be a feedstock to manufacture products for different markets. PlasCarb, the 3-year long project co-funded under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), aims to transform food waste into a sustainable source of significant economic added value, namely graphitic carbon and renewable hydrogen. If you would like to know how the PlasCarb technology will work and what the achievements of the project will be, check out the brand-new project website www.plascarb.eu.

 

This is how we aim to contribute to achieving EU’s food waste objectives! Of course managing food waste is not enough we have to reduce food waste. Reducing food waste is a shared responsibility and every single people need to contribute to this activity.

And what can you do as a person? Plan your shopping and check what items you have at home already, use up your leftovers, make compost, etc.!

Why not? Solutions are in front of you; you just have to grab them! Let’s reduce food waste!

 

1 Definition of food waste – Wikipedia

2 EPRS Briefing: Tackling food waste (2014)

3 Roadmap to a resource-efficient Europe- COM (2011) 571 final

Rights, water and the EU

Posted by on 22/03/14

Today, March 22, 2014, is World Water Day. This worldwide event has been observed by all UN member states since 1993 when the United Nations first introduced it. The event aims on promoting social awareness on water issues such as access to clean and safe water and the promotion of sustainable aquatic habitats.

This week, the European Commission officially responded to the very first successful European Citizens Initiative, the Right2Water initiative. This ECI intends to promote EU legislation that guarantees the human right to the access to water supply and sanitation.

The Commission response was rather optimistic. Maroš Šefčovič, the commissioner for inter-institutional relations and administration, stated in the press release: “Europe’s citizens have spoken, and today the Commission gave a positive response. Water quality, infrastructure, sanitation and transparency will all benefit – for people in Europe and in developing countries – as a direct result of this first ever exercise in pan-European, citizen-driven democracy. I congratulate the organisers on their achievement.

The press release also detailed the Commission’s plans on committing itself on following the initiative’s aims. The actions set by the Commission include, among others, the launch of an EU-wide public consultation on the Drinking Water Directive to assess potential improvements, the exploration of the idea of benchmarking quality, the promotion of structured dialogue between stakeholders on transparency in the water sector and the invitation of member states to act within their own competences and encourage them to prioritize the guarantee of providing safe and clean water.

But unfortunately, the response was a bit of a disappointment to the initiators of the initiative. The initiative’s aim was to persuade the Commission to prioritize a proposal, yet the question on whether the Commission will propose legislation was left unanswered. Jan Willem Goudriaan, the vice president of www.right2water.eu, expressed his regret that the Commission lacked ambition in satisfying the initiative’s aims. As he stated in a press release: “The reaction of the European Commission lacks any real ambition to respond appropriately to the expectations of 1.9 million people. I regret that there is no proposal for legislation recognising the human right to water.

The current situation obviously exposes some problems in the order. A successful initiative must have a strong influence in policymaking, but since the Commission responded in an optimistic yet insufficient way, the future of the ECI campaign remains unclear; will it influence democratic development in the EU or not?

The launching of a citizens’ initiative is via a “citizens’ committee” that’s composed of at least seven EU citizens who reside in at least seven different member states. One million citizens’ signatures must then be collected to back an initiative. Therefore, the ECI is considered the voice of EU citizens. Its essential duty is to voice the people’s concerns and bring them before the European Commission. It aims in promoting a more democratic EU in persuading the EU’s executive body to propose legislation on matters where the EU is competent, as in agriculture, energy, public health, development cooperation and humanitarian aid.

These initiatives are meant to influence EU political decision-making in a big way for it to strengthen EU democracy. The Union must realize that the progress of the ECI implies that citizens are becoming more politically active and participatory in EU-level direct democracy, and they must respond with a genuine commitment to maintain the citizens’ wishes.

Courtesy of the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI)

 

 

The EU should invest more in urban mobility

Posted by on 21/03/14

Urban mobility is bound to become one the most pressing global issues in the coming decades. By 2050, three quarters of Humanity are expected to live in urban regions, with detrimental consequences for mobility, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Europe scores substantially better than most other regions on earth; but even in Europe mobility and air pollution have kept deteriorating in recent decades. The most recent smog alarm in several French cities and Brussels should have been an alarm signal for European governments neglecting the issue.

Within Europe mobility and air qualities vary widely between cities and regions, with Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Netherlands and, to a lesser extent, Germany faring much better than Italy, Greece or Portugal.

The time necessary to get to work exceeds more than 30 minutes in most European cities and tends to lengthen rather than shorten, as it should.

About one third of the people continue to use individual cars to get to work. No surprise that 40 per cent of all C02 emissions from transport are generated in urban areas and C02 emissions per person exceed one ton in most cities.

The costs of urban traffic (congestion, pollution, noise, health impact, damage to buildings) in Europe are estimated to amount to € 100 billion annually, one per cent of the EU GDP and almost the equivalent of the EU budget. That is far too much to ignore!

The EU must therefore step up its efforts to ease urban mobility and lower emissions.

That requires courageous measures. The number of European cities having done so and offering examples is impressive.

Urban mobility and pollution do not fall under EU competences. It is therefore impossible for the EU to intervene directly.

This may explain, at least partially the lack of progress during the last 20 years, notwithstanding the Commission’s efforts in producing white papers, green papers and action plans.

In early 2014, 40 per cent of European city dwellers complained of air pollution, congestion and transport costs. That is an unacceptably high percentage.

Copenhagen, Europe’s 2014 green Capital, deserves praise for having established a long-term strategy addressing mobility and pollution: it aims at half of its inhabitants using the bicycle to go to school or work next year, and by 2025 it wants to be C02-neutral!

All European cities should follow Copenhagen’s approach and elaborate their strategies for improving mobility and air quality.

The EU can support such efforts in two major ways:

  • by making available long-term financing. The EIB should make such financing a top priority until 2030.
  • by encouraging municipalities to engage in an intensive exchange of experience , whether through the existing “ Mayors` Covenant” or a new expert group for urban mobility, as recently suggested by the EU Commission.

The big investments necessary for the improvement of urban mobility and air quality will contribute to the creation of jobs in the next years.

Whatever the ways of tackling the issue, it would be a shame if Europe were unable to successfully address a vital issue for its citizens` well-being, starting with good health!

Urban mobility and clean air should become a political top priority for the next Commission and European Parliament.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 17/3/2014

I Pollute

Posted by on 18/03/14
Imagine a religion that looks at the problems in the world and concludes that it is because others sin. “If only they could be more like me!” A faith without humility and mercy is hypocritical – a congregation of zealots. As environmentalists build their beliefs into their new temple, the eco-theologians need to remind their followers of the virtue of humility – that they are not without sin.

Will we have enough food in 2050?

Posted by on 16/03/14

A recent article (literature) mentions that by 2050, the per capita daily calorie consumption will increase 11% as a result of increased wealth. Also per capita food consumption of some food categories might increase dramatically:  14% for sugar, 15% for legumes, 33% for vegetable oil, and 26% for meat, % 19 for milk and dairy products. On the other hand no such increase is expected for cereals. National and international

researchers as well as investment strategists are surely starting to warn policy makers of these changes. The article also draws attention to the disorganized structure of the agricultural research institutions and recommends the collection of these institutions under one umbrella.

How were we able to feed the doubled world population from 1960 to 2010, despite no major changes incultivated agricultural land?  Above graphic explains the phenomena (Graphic): Improved crop varieties with agronomic innovations performed three to four folds in every corner of the world. This is a result of increased agricultural research and development investments of the public and the private sector.

Can we apply the same successful efforts to meet the 70%[1] increase in food production that will be needed in the 2050s? According to a report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) report, we can. Research suggests that we can produce more than expected consumption if we sophisticated research and development studies in all agricultural ecologies and ensure the results are leveraged by farmers. There are a number of ways to expand the agricultural production facilities:

  1. 1. Increased productivity by investment in R&D. Breeding new crop varieties which are adaptable to every existing ecology and various conditions with heat, drought, biotic (disease-pests) and abiotic (salinity, heat, cold, drought etc.) resistance, improving effective use of nitrogen varieties;
  2. 2. Application of research results to every agronomic production option, such as no-till, precision agriculture and second crop application which would aim to ensure the efficient use of existing or possible resources  conducted for every production area;
  3. 3. Increased investment in irrigation techniques, including water conservation, the most effective way to use limited water resources to determine the systems, like drip and sprinkler irrigation.

A simulation study has been conducted using these techniques for the three basic crops (corn, rice and wheat) and some of the results are summarized below (table).

Technologies Corn(%) Rice (%) Wheat (%)
Nitrogen-efficient varieties 11 20 6
No-till 16 - 16
Heat-tolerant varieties 16 3 9
Precision agriculture 4 9 10

Simply using nitrogen-efficient varieties might increase rice yield 20%. Heat-tolerant varieties boost corn yield %16 adding other alternatives like new genotypes that are resistant to diseases and pests can help achieve the 70% increase needed.

A number of the mentioned technologies have already been implemented. For example Argentina gets second crop (soybean after wheat) in its cropland over million hectares by using the “no-till” method in conjunction with biotech varieties, Such applications are need heavy R&D in every soil. Their significance stands out especially due to climate changes. However the very first thing needed is public (and political) awareness of an effective agricultural system. Unfortunately not all countries unite their manpower and financial infrastructure together like the BRIC[2] countries. Brazil has already established its EMPRAPA (Brazilian Enterprise for Agricultural Research) for all future national research activities by bringing together their federal and state experiment stations, including universities; Brazil is now the second country after the USA in agricultural biotechnology. India’s recently established ICAR (The Indian Council of Agricultural Research) with 99 institutes, 69 Agricultural Universities and 636 experiment stations is one of the largest national agricultural research systems in the world (Literature). Here are too many other countries following suit!

Nazimi Acıkgoz


[1] consumer demand will be for meat  %80, for grain % 52

[2] Bric countries and biotechnology, http://blog.milliyet.com.tr/bric-ulkeler…

 

Stay Tuned! Human Smart Cities Conference – The Future of Cities Today

Posted by on 11/03/14

On Thursday, 13 March, MyNeighbourhood and the Human Smart Cities network, will hold a Conference in Lisbon, Portugal. Stay Tuned on MyNeighbourhood’s social media channels (Facebook, Twitter) and follow the hashtag: #HumanSmartCities and post your messages @MyN_EU !

HumanSmartConf

The conference “Human Smart Cities: The Future of Cities Today” aims at setting a stage to discuss the future of the cities and how the vision of the Human Smart City can support the local development in urban ecosystems, by connecting technology, innovation and social factors.

International experts, national politians and partners of the European innovation projects that contributed to the creation of the Human Smart Cities vision and manifesto, will participate in the different panels of the conference to share their perspectives and experiences regarding the implementation of such vision.

Join us on this discussion @MyN_EU and help building the future of your city today.

HumanSmartNetwork

Membership of the Human Smart Cities Network is open to cities from all the world that share our vision and are willing to sign the Human Smart Cities Manifesto.

We believe our Network is a platform to share knowledge and experiences about the role of people in building citizen-driven digital social innovation new city services for a sustainable society.

For more information, please visit our website: conference.humansmartcities.eu

Sustainability Bias

Posted by on 07/03/14
We need a new term to be able to capture how people can be self-contradictory or outright hypocritical when pushing personal environmental decisions they have been told are sustainable. Like a symptom that finds a name (and then becomes a disease that can be treated), we can now begin to look at how we can treat sustainability bias.

Abolition of German subsidies on renewable energy is overdue

Posted by on 04/03/14
By Eberhard Rhein While the Government is busy rewriting legislation on the promotion of renewable energies a High-level Group of Scientists appointed by the German Parliament has come out with a radical proposal to abolish the legislation altogether: a complete suspension of the system. But it is unlikely that the government will have the courage to abolish one of its most cherished policies.

Circular economies: a new industrial model, not “business as usual”

Posted by on 20/02/14

The move from linear business models to circular ones is an exciting development. More and more companies are rejecting the “business as usual” model by maximizing the value extracted from resources and reusing them to generate new products as well as by improving efficiency which enable cost savings in raw materials, labour, energy, water, waste and emissions.

Articles on the circular economy are being more widely discussed in business groups. As a result, new policies are being integrated into company strategies and promoted as benchmarking tools.

I was recently invited to an industrial plant operated by the carpet tile manufactures, Interface, in Scherpenzeel, The Netherlands, where I joined in discussion with industry leaders, government employees and stakeholders from financial markets and other organizations. At the top of the agenda was the question of whether Europe’s industries can transform into “circular” businesses. Could the US-owned Interface be used as a prototype for a new industrial model in manufacturing sector in Europe?

In my interview with Rob Boogaard, Acting CEO & President EMEA, he explained how important it has been to provide economic, social and environmental goals within the company. As a listed company standing up for long-term sustainable development Boogaard says that Interface “has many eyes” on it. “[But] using the Natural Step system conditions, we have gradually increased our ambitions.”

As of January 2014, Interface has been operating on 100 percent renewable energy (both electricity and gas) and using 100 % re-circulated water in its manufacturing processes in Scherpenzeel. It has also managed to send zero waste to landfill. These are impressive achievements for the facility and a significant step towards “Mission Zero”, the company’s pledge to eliminate any negative impact on the environment by 2020 and, in doing so, become a restorative enterprise.

This mission is the result of the vision and strong leadership of Interface’s late founder Ray Anderson. The principle was established in 1996 and, by 2013, the company’s European manufacturing plants located in Sherpenzeel, the Netherlands and in Craigavon, Ireland  had reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent and their water consumption by 87 percent. In this context, the political objective of a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across Europe by 2030 does not seem particularly ambitious. It sounds more like a new, achievable definition of “business as usual”.

To aim beyond the status quo, company managers must raise their expectations and take on more ambitious goals. In Scherpenzeel I also spoke with CEO of Lavery Pennell, Greg Lavery, who has undertaken the challenge of developing a new industrial model for Europe. In a new report he presented at the meeting, Lavery demonstrated how European industry can increase its profits by 9 percent and create 170,000 new jobs through energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy. All of this can be achieved while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1,200 metric tons (or 14.6 per cent of Europe’s total).

With experience from my own values-based consultancy Respect, which uses the principles of both the Natural Step system conditions and circular economies, I have seen how important it is to use companies like Interface as an example of best practice. The organization’s process of change provides a business model that can apply in all market-driven companies, whether listed or not. Circular models can become standard practice and, in doing so, use efficiency in the name of both profits and environmental sustainability.

@KajEmbren

 

Las dos revoluciones pendientes europeas: energía y talento

Posted by on 16/02/14

Europa ha sido protagonista de las dos primeras revoluciones industriales de la historia. En el continente y las islas británicas se desarrollaron en los dos siglos pasados los procesos tecnológicos y productivos que han cambiado la vida en la Tierra. La era digital, sin embargo, la que nos ha conducido a la globalización mundial, nos vino dada en el final del siglo XX desde América bajo predominio económico de los Estados Unidos. La nueva forma de gestión del conocimiento y la implantación de una sociedad de la información ya no podemos decir que haya sido fruto del progreso europeo. Ahora que los grandes gurús consideran que Internet ya nos ha llevado al límite de donde nos podía llevar, se plantean los nuevos retos del tercer milenio y con ellos los escenarios que concebirán los avances de la Humanidad. Y si acudimos al razonamiento lógico, correspondería al continente que da vida al 60% de la población del planeta, es decir a Asia, liderar los nuevos tiempos de desarrollo. Lo cual no debe ser obstáculo para que Europa sea capaz de aportar su valor añadido al proceso. Es más, está obligada a hacerlo si no quiere ver empobrecido su paisaje productivo, ser dependiente tecnológicamente y a la postre poner en riesgo definitivo el sistema de libertades que nos hemos dado.

Cabe preguntarse y debatir, por tanto, sobre cuáles son las revoluciones pendientes que debemos acometer. Cuáles son las nuevas tecnologías que nos harán avanzar hacia una nueva era de la civilización y cuáles los pasos a dar para que su implantación nos ayude a mejorar la calidad de vida de nuestra sociedad. En Europa esa reflexión resulta fácil empezando por su principal carencia y dependencia. El continente que parió la industrialización y que es hoy la mayor potencia comercial del mundo, tiene un desbalance energético gravísimo, lo que le convierte en un gigante con pies de barro. Una crisis de seguridad en el Golfo Pérsico o en el Magreb, o el endurecimiento de las condiciones de abastecimiento del gas ruso, puede colapsar las principales economías de la zona euro y poner en peligro la estabilidad de empresas y de las propias necesidades básicas de nuestros ciudadanos. Un tema crítico al que Europa no ha sido capaz de dar una respuesta común armonizando políticas energéticas nacionales y gestionando conjuntamente un problema que a la larga es de todos los europeos. Nos hemos acomodado confortablemente en el desarrollo de las energías renovables, pese a que relación de su precio y el retorno a la red de las mismas sea claramente insuficiente.

null

Europa precisa de todas las fuentes de energía de las que podamos disponer, es absurdo encarecer nuestra factura energética o nuestras dependencias de importaciones de combustibles sin caer en la cuenta de que esos costes nos hacen menos competitivos, nos endeudan y ponen en peligro el mantenimiento de nuestro Estado del Bienestar. Trabajar por la producción de energías limpias y seguras no significa en modo alguno prescindir de fuentes que precisamos. ¿Podemos seguir anclados en argumentos de la década de los 70 para prohibir la energía nuclear en nuestros países? ¿o podemos permitirnos el lujo de excluir sin prueba o debate alguno científico las extracciones de gas pizarra? Rotundamente no. Europa necesita aprovechar todos y cada uno de los recursos energéticos a su alcance sin desestimar una sola posibilidad. Y debe desnacionalizar sus fuentes para ponerlos en común. Si tenemos una moneda común, debemos tener una capacidad energética común, algo que nos lleva a los propios orígenes de nuestro proyecto europeo que no fue otro que una comunidad del carbón y del acero, es decir, la garantía de abastecimiento interno de materias energéticas básicas.

Pero junto a la tarea de no despilfarrar y gestionar comunitariamente nuestras fuentes de energía, está el reto superior de la investigación en alternativas a los combustibles fósiles. Europa ha hecho un alto esfuerzo inversor en proyectos comunes de esta naturaleza. EURATOM o el CERN son ejemplos claros de una apuesta decidida por dar pasos definitivos en la revolución energética. Resulta difícil saber el estadio en que nos encontramos en el camino al éxito cuando ni nuestros científicos saben valorar sus descubrimientos, pero no tenemos más remedio que incrementar las aportaciones a estos campos investigadores en la certeza que tarde o temprano darán sus frutos. En el estudio del comportamiento de los elementos del átomo y las partículas es seguro que encontraremos las soluciones que requerimos para hacer el Planeta sostenible y frenando el impacto medioambiental negativo que hoy producen los combustibles que empleamos. La ecuación a resolver por nuestros físicos está en el ahorro de resistencias para frenar las necesidades de combustión. Un mundo global donde todos sus ciudadanos tienen derecho a una vida digna y confortable precisa alternativas al modelo energético actual.

Pero esa revolución energética va íntimamente ligada a la revolución del talento, es decir, a la liberación de todas las capacidades del hombre en su ecuación de tiempo y espacio. El brutal incremento de las posibilidades de comunicación e información que Internet nos ha brindado está transformando profundamente la gestión del conocimiento. Pero, sin embargo, está pendiente derivar dicha potencialidad a la generación de talento. Tenemos muchos más medios pero no estamos aprovechando las herramientas para extender nuestro recurso más sagrado, la creatividad de las personas. La incorporación acelerada de la población de los países emergentes a herramientas del saber y la movilidad que de las ideas podemos hacer hoy, debería suponer la mejor oportunidad de la historia para producir exponencialmente arte y ciencia, o lo que es lo mismo, para desarrollar al máximo las potencialidades de individuos y sociedades. Si estamos a obligados a realizar una gestión más eficiente y respetuosa con las generaciones venideras de los recursos naturales, o estamos más aún en ser mucho más productivos en la adecuada extracción del talento de las personas.

El caso es que las revoluciones para producirse siempre han contado con tres elementos básicos que prenden la mecha del cambio abrupto. Lo primero la incorporación a los procesos de una tecnología altamente novedosa y transformadora. Algo que puede que una vez más estemos cercanos a alcanzar en los próximas dos décadas según nos cuentan los científicos de vanguardia. En segundo lugar, al filósofo que observador de la realidad se encarga de describir el paradigma de futuro bajo una idea innovadora. Eso, hoy por hoy, no abunda o por lo menos no está en el top de visitas de un blog o en la lista de best sellers de un mundo que no lee y solo entiende las cosas en clave audiovisual. Y tercero, un liderazgo político inspirado en la base ideológica engendrada por el susodicho pensador, que se pone al frente de los movimientos generados por los cambios sociales que provocan las nuevas tecnologías y ejecuta las reformas necesarias del de convivencia. De este último ingrediente es del que andamos más carentes ahora mismo. En Europa tenemos algún científico insigne, escasean los filósofos y carecemos de líderes. Probablemente esto es así porque el problema de origen que debemos resolver es el del inmediatismo que rige nuestros actos. Nos comportamos mecánicamente sin darnos tiempo para pensar las cosas, el imperativo ya no es ser, sino estar para hacer por hacer. Pero no me veo a Merkel o a Rajoy enfrascados en tan estériles reflexiones como las que a mi me ocupan, tienen altas cuestiones de Estado en las que atarearse como la enésima discusión sobre los mecanismos de garantía de depósitos de los bancos europeos. Ya se sabe primum vivire y que siempre vivan mejor los mismos.

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Pushing the citizen out of the renewable sector?

Posted by on 14/02/14
Guest contribution by Molly Walsh, climate and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. A public consultation on state support for renewable energies closes today. The proposed guidelines Commissioner Almunia’s DG Competition are consulting on  have caused consternation in the renewable sector and particularly among citizens and communities involved in running smaller renewables projects. [...]

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