Sunday 21 December 2014

Currently browsing 'Sustainable Dev.'

Sustainable Dev.


2015—Can We Make It Different?

Posted by on 18/12/14

The beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect on where we are compared to where we want to be. A few days ago I came across a post by British MEP, Richard Corbett. He wrote about how the pragmatism of the EU is important for solving problems, but “when we focus exclusively on self-interested arguments, we risk forgetting the underlying motivation for what we do – and this is dangerous.”

Mr. Corbett describes three reasons why this is dangerous, and why we should avoid isolationism. I would like to focus on one particular suggestion that he makes there: “The best way to fight the negativity of narrow-minded nationalism is to present an alternative, positive story which shows the myths up [about Europe] for the nonsense they are.”

The problems of self-interest and narrow nationalism that Mr. Corbett points to are definitely on target. And yet, merely pointing out the problem won’t make it disappear. The forces that push for segregation are far greater and deeper than meets the eye, and require a conscious effort on the part of many organizations working in sync to provide a sustainable, long term solution.

Self-interest is at the core of our society. It is the mindset of every society, even social-democratic ones. It is at the foundation of human nature. It is not bad in and of itself, but when idolized and cultivated to an extreme, it becomes nocuous. This is where we stand now on every level—personal, social, national, and international. We’re living in the Me, Me, Me, era, a culture of narcissism. But every therapist will tell you that narcissists don’t see reality for what it is. When the whole of the Western civilization is approaching that state, it is very dangerous indeed.

The cure, therefore, has to include steps toward reversing that trend and establishing a more cohesive society, where solidarity and mutual responsibility are deemed greater than self-promotion. I do subscribe to Corbett’s words that “The best way to fight the negativity of narrow-minded nationalism is to present an alternative, positive story which shows the myths up for the nonsense they are.” And I believe that if we build an education program that gives people a personal experience of social cohesion, we won’t have to worry about narrow-minded nationalism, or any other narrow-minded self-centered approach.

At the ARI institute, we offer such a method, called Integral Education (IE), where people learn to communicate and relate to one another in a completely new way, and on a completely new level. We have implemented it all over the world, from the US to Europe, to the Middle East, and more often than not, in conflict weary societies. The results have been outstanding. Using a few simple rules of discussion, people discover, then cultivate, a new sense of kinship, and wish to preserve it.

The logic behind IE is simple: the world is interconnected and interdependent. Our values, on the other hand, are the complete opposite: self-indulgence, brutal competition, and alienation. By learning the new method of connection among us, we align ourselves with the reality of our lives. This eliminates the conflict between our need to feel superior (due to our ego-prone education) and the interdependent reality of life. When that happens, the “positive story which shows the myths up for the nonsense they are,” as Corbett so nicely put it, emerges by itself, effortlessly.

I encourage you to visit my site, where you will find more information about IE, and please contact me for further discussion about promoting Europe toward a better, more united future.

May 2015 be a year of positive shifts for all of us.


What aviation means for growth

Posted by on 15/12/14

With Boeing’s support, the Euractiv Institute recently held a forum at the European Parliament on why aviation matters in order to draw the attention of EU policy-makers to aviation’s contribution to economic growth and the need for the appropriate policy framework in support of the aviation sector. The event attracted a broad range of stakeholders, including airline personnel, industry associations, aerospace manufacturers, and NGOs.

The forum was hosted by Marian-Jean Marinescu, MEP of Romania, who introduced the conversation by emphasising the contribution the aviation sector makes to job growth and economic mobility. Referring to the Single European Sky II Plus programme — which is currently in the co-decision process between the Parliament and EU member states — he expressed hope it can be completed in the next six months.

Emmanuelle Maire, the head of unit for internal aviation market and airports at the Commission’s Transport Directorate, also discussed aviation’s role in growth, which she called a catalyst for value production, generating 2.7 million direct and indirect jobs. Maire cautioned that aviation is not growing as fast in Europe as it is in other regions and called for the Commission to project an integrated vision for strong hubs, regional airports and airlines in the EU. However, Guillaume Xavier-Bender of the German Marshall Fund warned that the traditional US/EU business model for airlines, airports, and aerospace firms is under pressure from emerging models from the Persian Guld states and Southeast Asia.

Other speakers explored the technological aspects of aviation’s contribution to growth. Aviation is rapidly developing new sustainable biofuel capabilities to reduce the sector’s environmental impact. Jens Nilsson, MEP for Sweden, pointed out that political targets and R&D investment are crucial for new fuels. Boeing’s President for EU & NATO Relations, Brian Moran, discussed how research and new products such as the B787 Dreamliner are addressing challenges associated with emissions and aircraft noise.

Moran called for “smart regulations” and investments to help aviation fulfil its promise of growth. As far as policies are concerned, Hhe urged EU policymakers to continue working through ICAO to develop a global system to address aviation emissions, recognizing that no one country or region can address a worldwide challenge on its own. Moran also stressed that chemical regulations should take into account aviation’s unique ecosystem and high safety standards, that increased policy support is needed to advance aviation biofuel development and commercialisation, and that capacity constraints both on the ground and in the air need to be addressed.

Effective climate policy requires action by governments and people

Posted by on 09/12/14

COP 20, the 20th annual climate conference, has started in Lima in a mood of increasing realism. Those who still believe in containing global warming within two degrees Celsius target are becoming rarer. The issue becomes more and more if Humanity will get away with acceptable conditions of survival or succumb to famine, non-ending natural disasters, tens or even hundreds(?) of millions of climate refugees and conflicts for water and fertile land.

The 20-year history of “combating” climate change has been a succession of “too little, too late”, starting with the Kyoto Protocol that turned into a failure because of its late entry into force and the non-participation of the biggest emitter countries.

For the last 20 years, we have continued to live as if climate change did not exist. The political elites in major emitter countries like Australia, Russia or, until most recently, even USA have continued to simply ignore it, whatever the rising numbers of natural catastrophes across the planet.

No political leader has dared to impose hardship on potential voters, say gasoline prices of €3/litre or electricity rates of €0.15/kWh. Our life has remained as comfortable as ever, with no restrictions on heating, cooling and lightening our homes and using planes or cars as before the climate challenge.

The global “climate policy elite” seems satisfied with the few “positive” developments in 2014, from the bilateral China-USA“deal” with the Chinese promise to peak its emissions latest until 2030 and generate 20 per cent of its energy from non-fossil sources and the US commitment to lower emissions by close to 30 per cent until 2025.

It puts a lot of faith in the bottom-up/top-down approach for the Paris Climate Summit in December 2015, under which each of the 190-odd participant countries is expected to present a strategic road-map for reducing green house gas emissions.

Judging by the response given by China to start reducing emissions latest by 2030 and the more than wary reactions from India,which will become the biggest emitter country in a few decades the outcome from Paris will not have a a positive impact on the global climate in the first half of the21st century. After all, it will have taken the EU from 1990 to 2030 to reduce its emissions by 40 per cent and, if everything works to schedule, 60 years to reduce them by 80 per cent until 2050. And the rest of the world is far behind the EU in terms of preparedness.

Climate scientists have not stopped warning policy makers about the need to go fast. But their calls have gone unnoticed because policy makers have constantly been engaged in more pressing day-to-day issues and have not dared to confront their citizens with painful measures to be taken.

Let us therefore hope that the international community will finally get serious and step up its joint efforts, focusing on mitigation and considering adaptation as the secondary issue. Indeed, if humanity fails to mitigate emissions dramatically financing adaptation will no longer help. We must prevent the natural glaciers storage of the Himalayas from melting instead of financing artificial dams for storing water.

On December 15th, at the end of the Lima Conference, which so far has not been very successful in solving the well-known technical details, we should be better able to assess the chances of success of the crucial meeting in Paris at the end of 2015.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 6/12/2014

Energy access, development and decarbonisation: uneasy bedfellows in the UNFCCC

Posted by on 07/12/14
By Jason Anderson, WWF The UN is a slow grind of thousands of negotiators meeting regularly to hash through minutiae is the world’s biggest intercultural exchange project, creating understanding one coffee break at a time.

Germany to EU: if your climate policies aren’t up to the job, we’ll have to solve it ourselves

Posted by on 04/12/14

By Jason Anderson, Head of European Climate and Energy Policy at WWF European Policy Office

Yesterday Germany announced that it will continue its national commitment to achieve a cut of 40% in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, despite EU policy that is insufficient to support that aim. It will put in place measures to cut energy use and emissions, including from sectors covered by the ailing EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Germany’s announcement is important and ambitious, considering the reduction achieved up to 2013 was only 24%. It also makes the national commitment for 2020 more binding and concrete.

When the European Council endorsed a 2030 framework that would allow the EU to continue its weak approach, pressure mounted in Germany to drop or delay its 40% 2020 target. The government has countered by reinforcing its resolve instead. This this a clear signal to the EU: if your policies aren’t up to the job, we’ll have to solve it ourselves.

On the one side it’s a challenge to the system. On the other, it is exactly the spirit that the EU and others are explicitly encouraging in the UN climate talks, now underway in Peru: countries should strive to do more than they have put on the table, and seek diverse ways to achieve those reductions.

The reaction in Europe should be for those countries that are serious about fighting climate change to push for more ambitious legislation – starting with reform of the EU ETS through what is called the ‘market stability reserve’ (MSR). It will take tonnes out of the oversupplied ETS, but only starting in 2021, and only to store them for later return – an insufficient approach. The MSR should start sooner, and include mechanisms to retire excess tonnes that world otherwise continue to drag the system down.

See WWF Germany’s reaction to Germany’s announcement of its climate action programme

Innovation Summit: better policy-making, beyond R&D programmes

Posted by on 26/11/14
The Innovation Summit hosted by the European Parliament on 17-20 November reviewed policies under the headline ‘a mandate for innovation’. The MEP-led organiser, K4I (Knowledge for Innovation), gathered 4 Commissioner, including for example the one for research , many MEPs including several committee chairs, and a large number of corporate and association representatives. Below are [...]

Boeing 787 ecoDemonstrator begins new round of sustainability tests

Posted by on 24/11/14

Boeing has launched a new round of tests with its specially outfitted B-787 ecoDemonstrator, employing it to test more than two dozen technologies to improve the aircraft’s environmental performance. The tests will evaluate software to improve the plane’s operational efficiencies, remote sensors that cut down on wiring, improvements in flight controls and special anti-icing wing coatings.

Other tests include automated, satellite-based continuous-descent spacing to make landings more efficient, new greenhouse gas sensors, real-time turbulence reports, cutting edge instrument landing systems and wing access doors made from recycled carbon fiber.

“The ecoDemonstrator is focused on technologies that can improve airlines’ gate-to-gate efficiency and reduce fuel consumption, emissions and noise,” says Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Ray Conner. “Through the ecoDemonstrator Program, Boeing continues to invest in innovation that benefits the environment and our customers.” The 787 joins a B-737 ecoDemonstrator that included wing and fan nozzle improvements.

The ecoDemonstrator program is part of Boeing’s commitment  to improving sustainability in flight and its goals are aligned with the EU focus on sustainable transport. The 787 Dreamliner itself represents a 20 percent improvement in efficiency compared with similarly sized aircraft.

Smart Cities, el escenario ciudadano de la nueva realidad híbrida

Posted by on 19/11/14

Según el cálculo realizado por Naciones Unidas la población mundial llegará a 8.000 millones en 2025, 9.000 millones en 2043 y 10.000 millones en 2083. Y… vamos a un ritmo constante. En el año 2000, la población mundial alcanzó los 6.100 millones y está creciendo a un ritmo anual de 1,2 por ciento. Cada año 77 millones de personas se suman a la población mundial. La expectativa de vida promedio en todo el mundo ha aumentado en 20 años, pasando de 48 años de edad en 1950 a 69 o 70 años en la actualidad. Dos tercios de la población mundial tienen menos de 40 años de edad. Más de 1,4 millones de personas viven con 1 dólar diario. Ese crecimiento demográfico está produciendo un continuo éxodo del campo a la ciudad, de lo rural a lo urbano. Una de cada diez personas vive en una ciudad y dentro de 35 años lo harán dos de cada tres. Eso significará un terrible reto para las ciudades por lamayor demanda de bienes y servicio que las megalópolis generan. El ser humano que ha vivido 5 revoluciones – las rutas comerciales a las indias, la colonización, la industrialización, la sociedad de consumo y hoy la digitalización computerizada – se enfrenta por vez primera en la historia de la humaniad al paradigma de la total y completa globalización. Y ese desarrollo de nuestra sociedad va a encontrar en la ciudad el escenario de hacer posible la sostenibilidad del planeta.

De ahí que el termino Smart Cities, “Ciudades Inteligentes”, resulte más que acertado si tenemos en cuenta que la nueva realidad urbana requiere de toda la inteligencia posible para resolver los grandes problemas de uso de recursos a los que tenemos ya que hacer frente. Miles de millones de personas viviendo on line que tienen que ser alimentadas, educadas, atendidas sanitariamente, que trabajan en movilidad y que producen residuos en cantidades capaces de anegar la tierra de basura. La «ciudad inteligente» a veces también llamada «ciudad eficiente» o «ciudad super-eficiente», se refiere a un tipo de desarrollo urbano que es capaz de responder adecuadamente a las necesidades básicas de instituciones, empresas, y de los propios habitantes, tanto en el plano económico, como en los aspectos operativos, sociales y ambientales. Una ciudad o complejo urbano podrá ser calificado de inteligente en la medida que las inversiones que se realicen en capital humano (educación permanente, enseñanza inicial, enseñanza media y superior, educación de adultos…), en aspectos sociales, en infraestructuras de energía (electricidad, gas), tecnologías de comunicación (electrónica, Internet) e infraestructuras de transporte, contemplen y promuevan una calidad de vida elevada, un desarrollo económico-ambiental durable y sostenible, una gobernanza participativa, una gestión prudente y reflexiva de los recursos naturales, y un buen aprovechamiento del tiempo de los ciudadanos. Una especie de carta a los reyes magos si tenemos en cuenta que de las 35 grandes ciudades del mundo, 22 están en Asia y son de crecimiento reciente y acelerado. De ahí que promover estándares de ciudad, de maneras de hacer las cosas en el espacio urbano de forma correcta sea uno de los objetivos fundamentales del milenio.


Barcelona ha sido sede del Smart City Expo World Congress, un escaparate de ofertas tecnológicas y de soluciones de eficiencia urbana, a la vez que foro de reflexiones sobre el camino emprendido por las ciudades en los cinco continentes por dotarnos de núcleos de desarrollo social estables. Urbanistas, arquitectos, sociólogos, ingenieros, políticos, empresarios, agentes sociales, una feria mezcla de inventos de cacharrería y robótica, con el pensamiento más vivo investigativo de lo que está sucediendo en las ciudades del mundo. Entre los popes que han asistido al plenario, el líder en estrategia mundial, Parag Khanna, este indú que ha lanzado el concepto de realidad híbrida – que da nombre a su propia firma de consultoría – que define la mezcla de realidad física y virtual en la que vivimos actualmente. Este viajero mundial, autor de bestsellers y asesor personal del presidente Obama, cree que las ciudades están ocupando el espacio de los viejos Estados y van a ser las protagonistas del cambio social y político más rápido de la Historia. En sus propias palabras pasaremos de la era de la diplomacia a la de la diplomacity. Es evidente que vivimos en la acelerada era de la innovación, del aprendizaje, de la inteligencia, de la educación. Todo al tiempo.

Que cientos de millones de personas sean capaces de pensar porque han sido formadas para ello es una novedad tal para el ser humano que podemos hablar de la “Ciencia del talento”, como la ha denominado el filósofo José Antonio Marina. Aquella que se ocupara de integrar todo lo que sabemos sobre la inteligencia en acción, sobre cómo generarla y gestionarla. Comienza en la neurología y acaba en la ética. Es la ciencia de la memoria y del progreso. Una de sus funciones es “generar talento”, el gran recurso de las personas, de las naciones y las ciudades. Ya saben que el talento no es previo, sino posterior a la educación. Y necesitamos mucho talento para resolver los problemas cada vez más complejos con que nos enfrentamos. La “realidad aumentada”, que antes era un alarde de tecnólogos viene a toda velocidad al mundo cotidiano.  En este momento, nos encontramos ante la posibilidad de vivir en una “realidad híbrida”. Paul MilgramFumio Kishino acuñaron el concepto de Milgran-Virtuality Continuum. Según este modelo, viviremos en una realidad mixta de experiencia real y datos informáticos. En el fondo la clave de este nuevo modelo de gestión del conocimiento será la capacidad que tengamos sacar partido y valor del Big Data que se genera en las ciudades fruto de la monitorización a través de sensores de la realidad.

La Comisión Europea ha lanzado en el marco del programa Horizon 2020 de investigación e innovación la política de Smart Cities europeas. Pretende que la UE tenga un estándar de buenas prácticas en ciudades sobre la base de cinco pilares fundamentales: eficencia energética, gestión de residuos, sostenibilidad medioambiental, conectividad y movilidad y participación ciudadana en la gobernanza. Es mucho lo que se ha hecho ya en el ámbito comunitario como van a ser muchas las inversiones público-privadas que se van a llevar a cabo en las ciudades europeas. Os invito a que conozcáis esa realidad en el “Market Place of the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities” - -. Una forma de conocer cómo se está actualizando el espacio urbano europeo y de trabajar proyectos en red.

En Europa nació la polis griega, la primera forma democrática de organización de la convivencia. De ahí que lo primero a lo que no deberíamos renunciar en la UE a la defensa de la ciudad como lugar idóneo para consagrar el respeto de los derechos humanos. Si queremos avanzar en un modelo urbano de desarrollo social que haga sostenible el planeta, lo primero que tendremos que firmar es esa carta de ciudades que anteponen a cualquier fin los derechos de sus ciudadanos. Unos ciudadanos que a su vez debemos ser conscientes de la necesidad de uso de nuestros datos para el buen gobierno y para la correcta gestión de los recursos. En el fondo, estamos hablando de renovar el contrato social mediante una mayor y mejor colaboración entre las instituciones públicas, el sector privado y el individuo expresado como persona o en colectividad. El proceso tecnológico no se va a parar a expensas del acuerdo que seamos capaces de suscribir unos y otros. La tecnología nos empuja y la necesidad de dar cabida a cientos de millones de personas que se incorporan al mundo en civilización nos pone al borde del precipicio del correcto uso de los recursos naturales. Para que nadie crea que estamos hablando de ciencia ficción o de una hiper realidad sirva el siguiente dato. En 2000 había en China 3 megalópolis, ciudades de más de 25 millones de habitantes, en 2020 habrá 13 en las que vivirán cerca de 500 millones de habitantes, tantos como los que hoy conforman la Unión Europea. Seamos inteligentes en esta nueva realidad.


I, the Risk-Monger, am a climate sceptic

Posted by on 04/11/14
I, the Risk-Monger, am a climate sceptic. There, I said it. I came out and it is a relief.

Technological breakthroughs against climate change brighten the horizon

Posted by on 28/10/14

Humanity will be unable to combat climate change without profound transformations in the way it generates energy.

Two such transformations have been recently announced, one in Singapore, the other in USA.

In Singapore, a team of scientists of the Nanyang Technological University have developed a new type of ultra-fast recharging batteries which are claimed to charge a car battery up to 70% of capacity within five minutes. This breakthrough will revolutionise e-mobility in terms of range and costs and make electric cars superior to the most efficient diesel vehicles.

European manufacturers should therefore urgently reassess the situation and adapt their proven, but old-fashioned engine technology at the risk of losing out to US and Chinese competitors.

The new batteries will provide us with truly clean motor vehicles and give a powerful boost to solar and wind energy, because millions of cars may form big energy storage systems helping to overcome the inherent intermittences of renewable energies.

Separately, the US defence company Lockheed has announced a breakthrough in fusion energy. Within a year it will build a test reactor to be followed five years later by a prototype of a 100 MW reactor of tiny dimensions (2×3 meter!).

Assuming the problems linked to nuclear fission, in particular safety and waste storage, to be solved this might usher in an era of non-fossil electricity generation based on wind, solar, biomass and nuclear fusion.

The demand for oil and gas will also fall dramatically as the global car, shipping and possibly even aircraft industry will phase out the internal combustion engine, say by 2050, reinforcing the decline of C02 emissions.

Add to these two technological breakthroughs the introduction of a magnetic super high-speed train by the Japanese railways until 2045.

Running at a speed of up to 500 km/h the train will largely replace domestic air transport, also a significant source of C02 emissions. The Japanese industry will no doubt export the new train to other parts of the earth, from North America, to Brazil, Argentina, Russia and Europe, with the consequence that there too it is likely to replace domestic air traffic on distances of less than 1500 km.

The news from Singapore, USA and Japan unfortunately show that Europe has lost its momentum in coming up with courageous technical and political solutions both to tackle climate change!

We are closer than ever to technical solutions allowing for a largely emission-free future. By establishing strict emission targets heads of government will help accelerate the technological breakthroughs that are arising on the horizon.

In conclusion, one year ahead of the World Climate Conference in Paris, there is reason for guarded optimism, provided policy makers will show the courage to fix ambitious long-term targets and avoid getting again lost in minutiae.

Brussels 20.10 2014 Eberhard Rhein

Boeing partners with Chinese firm on sustainable biofuel from waste cooking oil

Posted by on 23/10/14

Boeing recently announced a partnership with Chinese aerospace company COMAC to test turning waste cooking oil — also known as “gutter oil” in China — into sustainable aviation biofuel. Boeing and COMAC estimate that used cooking oil in China can result in 1.8 billion litres of biofuel, none of which comes from feedstocks and cropland that competes with food production. The joint facility in Hangzhou will produce 650 litres of biofuel daily with a goal of assessing the feasibility and cost of producing higher volumes.

The initiative continues Boeing’s efforts to support the production of sustainable aviation biofuels suited to local ecosystems around the world — working with partners in the United States, Europe, China, the United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Japan, South Africa, Australia, and other countries. When produced sustainably, aviation biofuels can reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 80 per cent compared to conventional jet fuel. On the EU policy side, Boeing continues to advocate for policy measures that can support aviation biofuels development and commercialization.

“Strong and continuing teamwork between Boeing and COMAC is helping our industry make progress on environmental challenges that no single company or country can solve alone,” says Boeing China president Ian Thomas. “By working together for mutual benefit, we’re finding innovative ways to support China’s aviation industry and build a sustainable future.”


Mayors network listed – will Mayors take the lead on a climate deal?

Posted by on 19/10/14

National governments have proven that they do not have what is required to meet the global challenges of climate change and the unsustainable use of our planet’s resources. The shortcomings of the COP meeting since Copenhagen acts as testament to this. With the burden of recession and austerity, short-sighted national governments have thus far shown themselves unable to handle sustainable development issues.

Within the arena of sustainable development, the boundaries of responsibility are undergoing a monumental shift. This allows new actors to take pole position in the creation of new opportunities. Old infrastructures are being replaced by new ones that are better designed to cope with the challenges facing cities and regions.

We should stop directing our attentions and frustrations towards impotent governments. Instead we must focus on more localized models that simmer from below but come to influence and inspire national actors to greater action.

Better levels of engagement and the development of local and international networks have prompted a wider range of actors to become involved in sustainability, from both within and outside the market.

Over the past five years we have seen several strong international networks emerge from municipalities and regions. To get a wider understanding of this phenomenon I undertook some research that shows just how many locally-focussed organizations use their involvement in these networks to bring about sustainable solutions that can have a real impact.

Sweden’ s biggest Political Week event in 2015 – A Challenge for National Governments in front of UN Climate Meeting Paris

Next summer – between the 28 to the 30th of June – the Mayor of the Swedish Island Gotland will invite Mayors from all over the world to the event to debate and prepare to challenge national governments in front of the Paris UN Climate meeting in December 2015. The event is organised by Region Gotland, Stockholm Environment Institute, WWF, The Think Tank – Global Utmaning, The Nordics association, Kairos Future, Club of Rome and Respect Climate.

Send me an e-mail if you are interested to find out more –  kaj at

Mayors 33 networks that can act are:

1. United Cities and Local Governments -

2. United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLGA) -

3. Federación Latinoamericana de Ciudades, Municipios y Asociaciones (FLACMA) / Latin American Federation of Cities, Municipalities and Associations of Local Governments -

4. UCGL Euro-Asian Regional Section -

5. UCGL- Asia-Pacific -

6. Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) -

7. UCLG-Middle East and West Asia (MEWA)  -

8. METROPOLIS Network (World Association of Major Metropolises) -

9. Union of the Baltic Cities  -

10. Local Governments for Sustainability – ICLEI  - and ICLEI USA / National League of Cities / U.S. Green Building Council’s Resilient Communities for America Campaign:

11. C40 (Large Cities Climate Leadership Group) -

12. Clinton Foundation’s Climate Initiative -

13. World Mayor Council on Climate Change -

14. Sustainable Cities Network  -

15. United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) -

16. United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) -

17. World Bank -

18. Cities Alliance -

19. World e-Governments Organisation of Cities and Local Governments (WeGO) -

20. Mercociudades -

21. Unión Iberoamericana de Municipalistas (Iberoamerican Union of Municipality Authorities – UIM) -

22. Federación de Municipios del Istmo Centroamericano (FEMICA) – Federation of Central American Municipalities -

23. Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA) -

24. CAI-Asia – The Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities  and CITYNET (The Regional Network of Local Authorities for the Management of Human Settlements) -

25. Committee of the Regions (CoR) and Covenant of Mayors


27. Association of Cities and Regions for Recycling and Sustainable Resource management (ACR+) -

28.Brazil – Frente Nacional de Prefeitos (National Front of Mayors – FNP) -

29.India – City Managers Association of India (CMA)

30. China – China Association of Mayors (CAM) -

31. South Korea – Governors Association of Korea -

32. Canada – Federation of Canadian Municipalities -

33. Sweden – Klimat Kommunerna –

Ask the question – mobilise network, organisations and give your voice below or at LinkedIn  Rio+



Ebola: Scary? Yes! Significant? No!

Posted by on 13/10/14
While the latest outbreak of Ebola is certainly a tragedy, its use by the media and political activists is sadly opportunistic. This crisis should provide the opportunity for us to consider fast-tracking development programmes in these poor West African countries.

‘Save the Bees’ Ban: Who is to Blame?

Posted by on 29/09/14
The recent precautionary ban on neonicotinoid pesticides to save the bees has gone badly wrong in less than a year. Oilseed rape crops are being devastated and Member States are now allowing neonics to be used as emergency measures. Farmers and scientists had warned anyone who would listen, but no one in the European Commission was interested in dialogue. Remember the basic maxim: Never outsource policy-making to campaign-driven activists.

Sustainable energy means business in the Port of Amsterdam

Posted by on 15/09/14

Profitability and sustainability go hand in hand with the Amsterdam Investment Fund; a network of financing tools that is propelling the city towards energy transition.

Four years ago, Amsterdam chose to sell its shares in NUON, a former local utility company. Its next move would change the future of the city and produce a paradigm-shifting contribution to European sustainability efforts. The city dedicated €75 million of the NUON sale earnings to perpetuating a cycle of lowering CO2 and increasing energy efficiency. To do so it devised a powerful financing instrument – the Amsterdam Investment Fund (AIF).

The Amsterdam Energy Strategy

The realities of climate change and resource depletion are an immediate concern for the Netherlands. The country is at high risk from floods resulting from global warming, and natural gas resources are expected to expire in approximately ten years. The Netherlands is facing these challenges head-on with a plan that places the capital at the centre of rapid energy transition for the whole country. The Amsterdam Energy Strategy 2040 is an ambitious, realistic and absolutely necessary plan to achieve a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions between 1990 and 2025, a 75% reduction by 2040, and ultimate independence from fossil fuels. According to this strategy, Amsterdam must strive to make the city sustainable in every way – it must become financially sustainable as well as energy independent. This will ‘require new forms of cooperation.’

‘If we want to achieve our goal,’ says AIF founding fund manager, Maarten van Casteren, ‘We need to mobilise the whole city.’ This year, the fund has won a place among finalists for the City Climate Leadership Award for its role in generating the contribution of citizens, building owners, housing corporations, schools and SMEs in this drive towards sustainability.

Multiplication through know-how

‘When we established the fund a lot was already happening in the city without government involvement,’ says Casteren, ‘but they had trouble getting started. Residents were more focussed on lowering their energy bills, but funding was not available from the market.’

Lack of initial cash-flow is often a key barrier to sustainable initiatives seeking bank loans or investments. ‘The AIF helps them with technical knowledge and funding from the very early stage,’ explains Casteren. The fund does not offer subsidies, but soft loans and equity deals for viable projects. The loans can be repaid through the savings or profits generated by increased energy efficiency. The technical and economic feasibility of projects is ensured before the loans are made, thus making AIF-approved projects more attractive to other investors.

Built to last

The structure of the AIF is characterised by a rigorous rating system based on economic returns as well as qualitative assessment criteria: innovation, duplication, diversification and visibility. Its success in generating both sustainable energy solutions and a healthy fund lies in the complex interaction of different financing strategies aimed at different target groups. The fund dedicates 20% to social returns, and 80% to commercial ones. Large scale, high-interest commercial investments generate the profit to fund smaller scale social investments with low or zero interest rates. All projects require a minimum outcome of at least 45kg of CO2 savings per project euro invested and commercial investments require a minimal return of 7.5% per annum so that the sum can be reinvested. ‘The fund has to revolve,’ explains Casteren, ‘because it must stay intact over several years.’

Mobilising the city

‘The public response to the fund has been very good,’ says Casteren, ‘We invested a total of EUR 22 million in less than a year for over 40 projects, varying from large scale commercial projects to solar panels for a sports club.’ All of these projects are led by citizens wanting to contribute to an energy efficient future.

New business models

Earlier this year, the AIF-funded Rockstart Smart Energy Programme received applications from start-ups in 39 different countries looking for support to get their ideas off the ground. Based on energy-efficiency potential and economic viability, ten of these companies were chosen and invited to Amsterdam to receive all the support that the programme could offer them. As well as a cash investment of €20,000, the young entrepreneurs were provided with office, legal and fiscal support, intensive coaching from 80 different mentors, and the opportunity to pitch their business in front of over 200 investors. In return for all of this, the fund owns an 8% share in each business.

Ideas range from simple but effective energy-awareness solutions like TheCityGame andGive O2 – apps designed to motivate and spread sustainable behaviour – to ambitious platforms like We Share Solar, which sets out to create a solar energy revolution.

Care to save wants to change attitudes to energy by educating the next generation, ‘often it is they who educate parents,’ says founder, Andrily Shmyhelskyy. But great intentions alone would not create a viable business. That is where Rockstart came in, ‘The mentoring helped us a lot to understand how the market works and how to manufacture this product. The programme allowed us to assess the market and learn how to develop our business.’

‘Accelerating start-ups is key to the global energy transition,’ says Marcel Peters, CEO and founder of another chosen business, Bundles, ‘It is of course mostly about technological innovations, but without changing business models the adoption of these technologies will not prosper. Creating a new business model is 1000 times easier for a start-up than for an existing company…’

After the huge success of this first edition, the 2015 Rockstart Acceleration Programme is already underway, with applications flooding in from all over the world.

Energy means business

Last October, the AIF used €45 million to create The Amsterdam Climate and Energy Fund (AKEF). The fund is dedicated to commercial projects with commercial interest rates. The Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) helps to evaluate investment applications in terms of sustainability, energy conservation and technical feasibility, and all investments must actively lower CO 2 emissions. E3 , a consortium of business, climate and energy experts, ensures financial returns in line with the prevailing market, and manages the fund according to the mandate of the AIF. ‘This allows them to act swiftly and smoothly in the market place,’ explains Casteren, ‘operating under investment rules, and taking business decisions without political influence.’

In its first year, AKEF has helped to bring about OrangeGas gas stations, where vehicles can be refuelled using gas made from biological waste and sewage sludge. By providing the Ajax Football Stadium with an initial investment of 1.6 million, AKEF is also behind the installation of a 4,200 solar panels on the roof of the stadium, bringing the Amsterdam Arena closer to the goals of its exciting sustainability project, Amsterdam ArenA. Naturally sustainable. It is not only the profits of this investment that will lead to changes in Amsterdam; the high-visibility solar roof has provoked competition with other buildings vying for the title of largest solar roof in the city, thus fuelling the sustainability drive in the city.

Braving the future

Already the AIF has a direct impact on global energy transition, actively sharing information and best practices with other global cities through its participation in the C40 Sustainable Infrastructure Finance Network. ‘There is a change in approaching sustainable projects from a business perspective,’ says Casteren. Revolving loans are keeping the wheels turning for perpetual energy improvements in Amsterdam, and the approach may have the potential to accelerate the energy transition elsewhere in Europe in preparation for 2020.

Next year holds exciting and challenging developments for the city: only climate-neutral buildings will be constructed from 2015; electric transport will be further increased to 40,000 electric vehicles; and the city aims to make solar energy cost-effective for businesses. These changes will require the support of businesses and citizens, innovative technology and the clever use of funds, and the Amsterdam Investment Fund is there to help it happen.


Read more about the Amsterdam Climate and Energy Fund

Read more about the role of the ECN in the fund

Click here to view last year’s exciting Rockstart demo day!