Sunday 20 April 2014

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Sustainable Dev.

 

Forecast for EC economic forecasts: A threefold error

Posted by on 11/02/14
At the end of this month, the European Commission will present its winter economic forecasts. We could expect that they will continue with its cautiously optimistic tone from the last autumn: “Eurozone is slowly stabilising, economic recovery is on the way, all we need is to continue the “sound economic and fiscal policies” and “necessary [...]

IKEA’s unauthentic concept of sustainability

Posted by on 10/02/14
The Risk-Monger understands that IKEA is considered one of those sweet, well-loved retail chains that most consumers want to believe does good things. Unfortunately, if IKEA were to be looked at beyond their Allen key PR, their sustainability record would be rather sour. Why don't we look?

How will food consumption habits change by 2050?

Posted by on 28/01/14
By Nazimi Açıkgöz It is expected that, world will need 50%-70% more food by 2050. The main reasons are global warming, increasing population and much more daily calories due to raising welfare. The question “how will we make up the gap?” is not answered easily. Will yield increase per unit area be a solution? Don’t we need to increase or decrease cultivation area some of basic crops? Here, agriculture strategists are obliged to know the expectation, which products at what quantity or in which ratio will be consumed in future.

Fourrure : Pourquoi il est temps d’arrêter

Posted by on 24/01/14
Guest blog post de Arnaud Gavard, chargé de campagne chez “merci la mode” pour une mode sans fourrure et responsable de la collecte “ethicScience”. Cette semaine, les acteurs de la filière fourrure sont attendus au Parlement Européen pour exposer leurs arguments. Une communication séduisante et inventive qui ne suffit pas à cacher la vérité. Les arguments en [...]

‘Green diesel’ identified as sustainable aviation biofuel

Posted by on 22/01/14

Boeing researchers have identified green diesel as a potential aviation biofuel of high sustainability, cutting carbon dioxide emissions by at least half over its lifecycle. Boeing said last week that it is working to gain approval from government agencies for aircraft use of renewable green diesel, which is already used in ground transport.

Biofuel research in a Boeing laboratory in Seattle.

Biofuel research in a Boeing laboratory in Seattle.

Green diesel — chemically distinct from biodiesel — is made from fats and oils, and Boeing’s researchers have found it to have a chemical profile similar to today’s sustainable aviation biofuels, meaning it could be blended directly with conventional jet fuel. Moreover, U.S. and European industry has existing capacity to provide 600 million gallons per year, accounting for up to 1 percent of current global aviation fuel needs at a price — $3 per gallon, given government incentives — competitive with conventional fuel.

“Green diesel approval would be a major breakthrough in the availability of competitively priced, sustainable aviation fuel,” says James Kinder, a Technical Fellow in Boeing Commercial Airplanes Propulsion Systems Division. “We are collaborating with our industry partners and the aviation community to move this innovative solution forward and reduce the industry’s reliance on fossil fuel.”

The green diesel initiative is part of Boeing’s long-term commitment to sustainable growth in aviation, following its Optimal Flights programme and ecoDemonstrator aircraft. Boeing is also part of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, an alliance of aviation industry participants seeking to develop sustainable biofuels that avoid adverse local land-use and environmental effects while lowering CO2 emissions overall.

“Boeing wants to establish new pathways for sustainable jet fuel, and this green diesel initiative is a groundbreaking step in that long journey,” adds Boeing executive Julie Felgar, managing director of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Environmental Strategy and Integration. “To support our customers, industry and communities, Boeing will continue to look for opportunities to reduce aviation’s environmental footprint.”

With or without fracking, decarbonisation is the best bet for Britain

Posted by on 16/01/14
By Nick Molho for WWF This week’s announcements on fracking, including David Cameron’s pledge to “go all out on shale gas”, triggered yet another shale gas frenzy in the UK media. Regardless of one’s views on fracking, the shale gas hype should not distract the UK away from its decarbonisation goals.

2013 a year of typical climate change in Europe?

Posted by on 09/01/14

In 2013 weather conditions in Europe have been marked by high instability and unpredictability.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish the seasons.

In March winter weather prevailed, in December spring time. The rain distribution has become very uneven, with heavy rains causing massive inundations, especially in Northwestern Europe.

Strong and frequent winds have become a familiar component of European weather, making wind power generation an increasingly reliable and attractive renewable power source.

The weather vicissitudes have caused unusually high insurance damage, mostly from inundations and storms.

They are also hurting winter sport activities. Hardly any winter resort below 2000 m can survive without artificial snow, particularly visible in preparation of the Olympic Games in Sotchi where snow had to be collected and stored over months to be available in February 2014.

Climate change is thus becoming a cost factor of rising importance. If it continues like this many resorts will have to painfully adapt to “green winters” in the coming 30 years.

Compared to milder and stormier winters summer heat spells have not been a prominent aspect of climate. If this trend continues expenditures for heating will fall, especially if helped by more effective insulation.

Thanks to its geographic position surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea tiny Europe seems far less threatened by the arrival of severe climate change than other continents, especially Asia and North America. The waters around, combined with the heat provided in winter by the Gulf Stream, shield Europe against excessive changes.

At the same time, its geographic diversity offers plenty of wind, solar and marine energy to supply a rising chunk of Europe’s energy needs from non-fossil sources. Its scientific prowess should enable it to develop additional technologies for mitigating climate change globally.

All these factors combined place Europe in a privileged position for the forthcoming negotiations on a global climate compact in 2014-15. China, India, many parts of Africa and the USA need such an agreement far more than Europe.

We should keep this in mind, without forgetting our responsibility to fight against climate change. After all, we are a rich continent with huge financial and technological means. Moreover, we should always keep in mind the rising risk of being overwhelmed one day by millions of climate refugees having lost their livelihood in their home countries! If that were to happen it is likely to be the end of European civilisation.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 8/1/2014

Welfare at stake?

Posted by on 07/01/14
Dear friends,
The new year marks new challenges and opportunities. In 2014 we will see two tests of two major political systems – the Swedish general election and the EU’s parliamentary election. Are politicians ready to face the challenges of the welfare state, climate change and other global issues?
Let me propose one of the means by which politicians, businesses and their stakeholders can be brought to the table – pension funds. Our pension funds need a new roadmap. If they are restructured responsibly, Sweden can create a new model that encourages more serious discussion about what we do with future investments.
How much CO2 is emitted by companies that Swedish citizens are inadvertent shareholders in by virtue of such public investments? Pension funds are some of the biggest actors in the country’s financial sector, so why aren’t they supporting the development of clean energy, especially in fields like bioenergy where Sweden is a global leader?
Now is the time for Swedish politicians to lead from the front.
Read my full article on how pension funds can overhaul the direction of energy markets – http://bit.ly/19rPQhp
For my Swedish network I also recommend the debate featured in the Daily Newspaper Dagens Industri - http://bit.ly/1gcEkbs – written by CEO of EON Sweden Jonas Abrahamsson, Professor at Karolinska Institutet’s Center for Social Sustainability Stefan Einhorn, TCO President Eva Nordmark, President of Global Utmaning Kristina Persson, Publicist Mats Svegfors, Archbishop of the Swedish Church Anders Wejryd, and President of the Club of Rome Anders Wijkman.
More links that could be interesting for you
English: The GuardianReuters The Atlantic cities
Swedish: Swedish RadioSydsvenskan
Best wishes for 2014!
Kaj
Follow me on Twitter – @KajEmbren -  https://twitter.com/KajEmbren – to receive updates on issues related to sustainable development and the challenges facing the welfare state.

The Need for an Academic Chair in Chemical Policy Management

Posted by on 07/01/14
As issue managers in chemical companies lurch from one policy catastrophe to another, seeing public trust disintegrate and policies work against them, now is the time to do some basic thinking. What is needed are more philosophers and fewer lawyers

Romanian environmental policy in European context: which direction?

Posted by on 06/01/14
Does an environmental policy at the European level have a chance? Most EU states want to keep it a national competency, although the economic crisis pushes them to do frequent cost-benefit analyses. In a time when every job counts, governments are not comfortable in taking measures that lead to layoffs in industries, regardless of pollution. [...]

Prevent, recycle and reuse

Posted by on 25/12/13

As urban consumers our use of resources leaves a huge footprint on the planet. In Europe alone, 8 billion plastic bags find their way through to waste disposal systems, creating unnecessary environmental problems.

The OECD expects that its member countries will generate 45 percent more waste than it did in 1995. A new EU directive in 2013places greater demands on European nations to cope with the increasing amount of garbage and the systems needed to take process it.

Studies show that a more effective system and smarter regulations can save financial resources and create new jobs. The research suggests savings in the region of € 72 billion and the creation of 400,000 new jobs in recycling industries.

But of course there is plenty of ways that both consumers and producers can take greater responsibility today. As consumers we can make more conscious choices at the store or when shopping online. Similarly, producers can make it easier for us, by offering appealing, well-designed products that are recyclable and resource-efficient.

There are also a number of pioneering technological advances in this field. A few weeks ago, I spoke with Jonas Törnblom of Envac, a company that develops systems for waste disposal and separation in residential areas.

He told me about the company’s new optical sorting technology now being launched in several Swedish cities including Stockholm and Eskilstuna, as well as the Norwegian capital, Oslo. Using camera technology, this fully automated system is able to separate waste on the basis of the color bag that it is contained in.

This new tool can contribute to more efficient garbage disposal in many sustainable urban development projects. Let’s hope that the EU directive instigates more examples of innovation in waste collection and management.

Kaj Embrén

 

My dinner with Axel

Posted by on 19/12/13
Last month the Risk-Monger was seated at a table with Axel Singhofen, the adviser on health and environment for the Greens in the European Parliament and former toxics campaigner for Greenpeace's European Unit. Axel spent a good part of the evening telling those around the table his stories about how "industry" had been so wrong over the last decade.

Sweden may have moved first to break fossil fuel dependency, but it’s no thanks to the pension funds

Posted by on 15/12/13

The planet’s atmosphere is constantly being flooded with more greenhouse gases. The more that we unleash, the more we warm the planet. Put simply: now is the time to let our fossil fuel reserves rest in peace.

If we are to create a sustainable future, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says that at least two-thirds of the coal, oil and gas reserves that the market believes to be economically recoverable must remain in the ground. We must instead use our resources to invest in cleaner sources of energy.

But while may feel somewhat removed from the direction of the energy markets, there are pension funds making decisions on our behalf using society’s collective assets. How much CO2 is emitted by companies that Swedish citizens are inadvertent shareholders in by virtue of these investments? Pension funds are some of the biggest actors in the country’s financial sector, so why aren’t they supporting the development of clean energy, especially in areas where Sweden is a global leader, like bioenergy?

Here’s an idea of both the scale of the problem and pension funds’ potential to change the market.

Let us first assume that our planet’s resource “budget” until 2050 is based on the agreed target of limiting the global temperature rise to 2 degrees. There are 200 companies listed on global stock market that hold 745 gigatonnes of CO2 in fossil fuel reserves, which is 180 gigatonnes more than the world’s remaining carbon budget combined, according to an analysis by the Carbon Tracker Initiative. Of these companies, there are 133 that enjoy investment from Swedish pension funds (to the tune of 32 billion SEK) and collectively hold 643 gigatonnes of CO2  - this figure itself more than 14  percent higher than the world’s remaining carbon budget, according to findings presented by environmental group WWF Sweden at a conference in November.

At the event, I interviewed the President of Carbon Tracker, Jeremy Legget, who warned that we risk a global fossil fuel bubble.  “Companies and stock exchanges are currently being allowed to account coal, oil and gas reserves as assets at zero risk of standing by climate policymaking,” he told me. “As a result, such is the enormity of carbon-fuel-based value on stock exchanges that the risk of systematic financial failure builds with every new reserves of fossil fuel discovered.”

This bubble could be burst by pension funds. WWF argues that if all of such funds were to withdraw their stakes in six coal companies – Secerstal, Anglo American, BHP Billiton, Peabody, Alliance, and Xstrata – the emissions savings would equate to two times those produced by all of Sweden.

So, will pension funds in Sweden continue with an investment policy that fails to take into account the dependency on fossil fuels? Action from politicians in the pension system has the power to further strengthen the leading position that bioenergy and other non- fossil fuels have in Sweden at present.

That pension plan money finances climate change is a global theme. The US-based mass-movement 350.org calls for “divest from fossil fuels” and provokes a badly needed discussion by tweeds like this, read and spread by millions: “If you invest in fossil fuel corporations, you have a share in Typhoon Hayan: Count your profits in lives lost”.

Politics is becoming increasingly aware of the role of large investors financing climate change, so the European Union’s Climate-KIC recently promoted an initiative, where five asset owners were selected to receive a climate impact assessment for free. Maximilian Horster of South Pole Carbon, the organization running the assessment, was overwhelmed: “The interest among asset owners was enormous. We received a large amount of applications from all over Europe and it was very tough to select just five of them”.

Among the winners was also the Church of Sweden that has divested from fossil fuels already five years ago – without giving up on generating financial returns: «We hope to get our case even stronger so that we can present it better to others in the investment industry» says Gunella Hahn who runs the Responsible Investment unit and wants the Church to serve as a role model for other investors.

It is not surprising that organisations with strong ethical grounds such as churches and foundations are taking climate change and investments seriously: The pension plan of the Church of Finland has also screened its investments for climate impact in order to line up mission with investments: «This climate impact assessment of our investments will give us a new tool to continue our work» says Ira van der Pals, the Chief Investment Officer of the pension fund.

While such a climate impact assessment might be an obvious task for a church, it should also be the duty of a pension plan: For any organization with a societal mandate, it should be logic that the investments should not contradict the mission. The money managed for future retirees should be invested in a way that preserves a world that is worth retiring into. Knowing about climate impact of investments is only the first step and yet, very few large investors have taken that. The second step is then about taking action, climate-optimizing investments and divesting.

Ahead of the Swedish election in 2014, voters should look carefully at where each party stands on matters like these. Will any of them take heed of WWF’s pleas and completely phase out pension funds’ holdings in the production of oil, gas and coal?

Kaj Embren

 

 

 

Far From Having to ‘Cost the Earth’, Going Green Makes Business Sense

Posted by on 12/12/13

Yesterday’s intervention by leading businesses, investors and trade associations showed that far from being a drag on the economy, stable climate policies makes business sense says Nick Molho, Head of Climate and Energy Policy at WWF-UK.

In a statement out yesterday, over 100 organisations comprising mainly of major businesses, investors and trade associations from various sectors of the UK economy called on the government “to stick to ambitious emission reduction objectives for the 2020s to give business the certainty it needs to commit significant investments to the UK’s promising low-carbon economy”.

This statement coincided with the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) providing its latest recommendations today on the so-called ‘Fourth Carbon Budget’. This is the budget under the Climate Change Act that essentially governs the rate at which the UK’s emissions of greenhouse gases need to go down during the 2020s for the UK to meet its legally binding goal of reducing emissions by at least 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. Back when the Act was passed with cross-party support in 2008, this goal was described as the “minimum conceivable contribution” that the UK should make as part of a global effort to prevent dangerous levels of climate change.

The Fourth Carbon Budget was actually approved by the Coalition back in 2011 but following tense discussions between Government departments, it was agreed that the ambition set out in the budget would be reviewed in 2014. This resulted in today’s report by the CCC, who were essentially tasked with reviewing whether there had been any material changes in economic, scientific or international circumstances to warrant changing the ambition set out in the budget.

Reinforcing a point made repeatedly in recent years by major organisations such as theInternational Energy Agency and the OECD, the CCC’s recommendations today make clear that delaying action to reduce emissions would be a false economy. It would simply result in the UK leaving itself with a lot more decarbonisation to do and very little time to do it in, which would push costs up. Therefore, the CCC argues, the UK should stick with its current objective of reducing emissions by at least 50% by 2025, as this will be the most cost-effective way of meeting its long-term obligations under the Act.

But as today’s joint statement shows, supporting ambitious and stable climate policies isn’t just about cost-effectively reducing our emissions, it also makes business sense.

Today’s statement follows growing recognition that the low-carbon sector already represents an important part of our economy. Latest figures from the Department of Business show that the UK’s “low-carbon environmental goods and services sector” employs close to a million people and generated sales of £128.1bn in 2011-2012, growing 4.8% from the previous year. And the CBI forecasted in a report last year that this sector “could roughly halve the UK’s trade deficit” in 2014/15, before pointing out however that lack of policy stability could also result in “a risk of losing almost £0.4bn in net exports in 2014/2015″.

Going forward, the growth opportunity for the UK economy should not be underestimated. The UK is currently a leader in the development of new low-carbon technologies such as offshore wind, wave and tidal power, carbon capture and storage and electric cars to name a few. If seized upon, this position of leadership could provide significant macro-economic gains for the UK economy.

In a report last year, Cambridge Econometrics estimated for example that investing steadily in offshore wind power (currently one of the more expensive forms of renewable energy) over the next 20 years would provide the UK with higher net GDP and employment by 2030 than if the UK invested heavily instead in gas-fired generation, with minimal differences in electricity prices between both scenarios.

The potential for offshore wind technology to significantly go down in costs, provide savings on future fuel and carbon costs and create employment opportunities in the UK’s engineering, offshore servicing and manufacturing sector were key to the study’s findings. But as Terence Watson, UK President at Alstom says, attracting the investment needed to deliver such benefits requires policy stability and a move-away from “stop-go politics”, which deters investment and “raises costs for everyone”.

That’s not to say that the transition to a low-carbon economy is without challenges. The move towards a low-carbon energy system has important upfront costs and can in the short to medium term have impacts on the profitability of energy intensive firms. According to the Department of Business, these are firms that spend over 10% of their gross value added on energy costs and which represent around 2% of the UK’s workforce.

Where climate and energy policies in the UK put some of these firms at a disadvantage against international competitors, there is clearly a case for them to receive financial support during the transition to a low-carbon economy, as long as that is done in a way that is transparent and proportionate to policy impacts.

Climate and energy policies don’t just create a burden for energy intensive companies however, they could also create a significant opportunity for the sector and this should be recognised as well. The UK is currently a leader in the development of a wide-range of low-carbon technologies. If seized upon, these growth opportunities could have positive knock-on impacts for energy intensive sectors in the supply chain such as the chemicals, cement, electronics, heavy engineering and constructions sectors.

As a service-based economy that invests in and insures infrastructure globally through its influential financial and insurance sector in the City of London, we should also not forget that the UK will feel the economic impacts of unmitigated climate change far beyond the immediate physical impacts seen within its borders. In this light, taking early action to reduce emissions and strongly urging the rest of the world to do so makes sense from a pure risk management perspective. As Steve Waygood, Aviva’s Chief Responsible Investment Officer, puts it: “as insurers and investors, we are quite accustomed to dealing with financial arguments that point towards the benefits of taking preventative and mitigating action before a much more expensive disaster unfolds.”

The Chancellor of the Exchequer remarked in his Autumn Statement last week that “going green shouldn’t cost the earth.” Far from it, a long-term “going green” strategy could provide significant gains for the UK economy. As Lord Adair Turner says, “the time has come to give to the decarbonisation agenda the importance and stability it deserves.”

You can follow Nick on @NickMolho

 

Réduction de la consommation énergétique : se donner les moyens de ses ambitions

Posted by on 05/12/13

L’Europe l’oublie trop souvent, mais elle se doit d’être en première ligne dans les domaines qui feront notre futur. Que ce soit sur le plan social, économique ou environnemental, l’Union européenne doit montrer l’exemple et faire en sorte que la vie de ses citoyens soit rendue meilleure en mettant en place des bonnes pratiques. Les « objectifs 20-20-20 » sont plus que louables, mais encore faut-il se donner les moyens de les atteindre. Pour réduire la consommation énergétique, les smart grids – réseaux intelligents en français – sont la solution. Dommage que les instances européennes ne soient pas pleinement mobilisées sur ce sujet.

Si l’Union européenne fait figure de moteur dans les conférences et sommets internationaux sur le climat, on peut quand même s’étonner de voir que les projets mis en œuvre ne sont pas toujours à la hauteur des discours et objectifs fixés. Réduire de 20 % « la consommation d’énergie primaire par rapport aux niveaux prévus au moyen d’une efficacité énergétique » ne peut pas se faire d’un coup de baguette magique. L’investissement en recherche, temps et argent doit être conséquent. Ce n’est pourtant pas toujours le cas…

La Commissaire européenne à l’Action pour le Climat, Connie Hedegaard, a le mérité d’être très explicite : « Il faut des objectifs ambitieux pour encourager l’innovation, inciter les entreprises à investir dans des technologies transitoires, et faire en sorte que les gouvernements ne laissent pas retomber leur attention, même dans des périodes difficiles ». Malheureusement, nous ne sommes pas sur la voie royale pour atteindre l’objectif, ou si nous y sommes, nous l’empruntons à un pas de sénateur. La Commissaire l’affirme : « il est peu probable que nous atteignions l’objectif non contraignant, qui concerne l’efficacité énergétique ».

Varsovie patine et les smart grids prennent un coup

Malgré les quelques commentaires des politiques au pouvoir, le Sommet de Varsovie qui s’est achevé le 22 novembre dernier fait presque figure de coup pour rien tant ce qui a été arraché est insignifiant au regard des enjeux. Si le ministre polonais de l’Environnement et président de la Conférence s’est déclaré « heureux d’avoir obtenu de si bons résultats (et d’avoir) posé les bases pour un accord clé dans le future », on est en droit de tempérer l’enthousiasme de Marcin Korolec. Le simple fait que les ONG aient quitté la table des négociations avant la fin de la Conférence montre la vacuité du compromis finalement trouvé.

Quel dommage d’en arriver là, alors que les Européens n’ont jamais été aussi sensibilisés aux questions environnementales et que les solutions technologiques existent, mais sont encore trop peu utilisées. Si l’on veut réduire notre impact sur l’environnement, il faudrait commencer par baisser notre consommation d’énergie et utiliser les ressources dont nous disposons de manière bien plus raisonnable. Pourquoi fabriquer de l’énergie si c’est pour en gaspiller une grande partie quand celle-ci ne se perd pas dans les méandres des réseaux électriques.

Les projets de réseaux intelligents se multiplient, mais leur mise en place est longue et les pouvoirs publics doivent inciter les entreprises à se montrer toujours plus innovantes dans le domaine. Lyon, Paris, Nantes et bien d’autres villes font de réels efforts et c’est à l’échelle locale que doivent être puisées les solutions des grands sommets  internationaux. A force de manquer d’ambition (et pourtant l’Europe en a eu avant Varsovie), l’Union européenne pourrait finir par manquer la marche de la transition énergétique.

 

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