Welcome to another two weekly review of energy and environmental events and developments from both here in New Zealand and around the world. As always we hope you find our collection of stories to be of interest in what continues to be a rapidly evolving area.
It should have been major headline news, but instead there was a very muted announcement this week from the NZX about the new requirement of listed companies to include non-financial reporting; things like environmental social and governance factors and practices, and performance against strategic objectives. This brings the NZX into line with what is happening globally and is a very big deal. A consequence of the Paris Agreement?
Trump may be considering withdrawing the US from the Paris Agreement, but the rest of the world is still moving in an emission’s reduction direction. The Bonn climate talks are presently underway, and making progress towards the vision negotiated in Paris. 190 countries have submitted climate action commitments, and over 140 countries so far, have formally joined the Agreement. Hopefully the momentum will continue.
Most of us probably don’t know a great deal about soil and may even assume it is all the same. Most farming soil in New Zealand is grey in colour, but then in geological terms, NZ is a relatively young country. Soils in older countries tend to be black, reflecting their far higher levels of carbon. As it turns out the amount of carbon in soil determines how much water soil can hold, as well as the fertility, diversity and length of the growing season. It is also potentially a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and a potential carbon sink. Healthy soil is a big deal. As this article discusses, abuse it with excessive tillage, over use and chemicals and we degrade the ability to sustain life.
Dairy farming and milk production has played a big part in New Zealand’s development - 150 years and counting. But it has recently undergone a massive expansion and intensification, which is now having a significant and adverse impact on our environment. For example to produce 20,000 litres of milk requires 5,000,000 litres of water, much of this now provided through irrigation.
New Zealand appears to be at a crossroad. This next article discusses our need to reduce the numbers of cattle in New Zealand and look at the efficiency of our farming practices, as we seek to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. The question is not if we need to reduce overall numbers, but by how many and how fast?
Globally, twice as much land is used to raise cattle, pigs and other animals than is used to grow crops. One clear way to remove livestock from the emissions equation, is to start eating less meat and even look to alternatives.
While eating insects may be a challenging thought for most western nations, 2,000 species of insects are already being eaten across 119 nations today. Fake or imitation meat such as tofu or textured vegetable protein is also now seeing significant innovation and development, and promises the same taste as real meat.
Another area that could provide a good source of protein (with less emissions too) is fish farming, but in this case deep water off shore aquaculture. Whilst predominantly from a US perspective, this article examines the positives associated with deep fast flowing water aquaculture and how the adverse problems with shallow water aquaculture are largely overcome.
If we are going to utilise the oceans for aquaculture, we are certainly going to have to look after them better. We next look at ‘Why Ocean is the new climate & what it means for business’. Oceans are finally getting the attention they deserve, with a UN conference to be held in early June this year. Increasing ocean acidification is damaging the entire food chain. It also doesn’t help when humans are disposing of plastic in such a poor manner, that currently there are estimated to be 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic polluting global oceans today.
Currently, whether it be share of federal taxes, voting power or federal benefits, US urban centres are being underrepresented. This is primarily due to nations historically relying on mineral and agricultural resources for income. However, things are starting to change; cities are eager to make steps towards managing a sustainable future, and some are making progress. For example, every US city that has moved away from a monopoly utility provider, has been able to source cheaper, cleaner energy. But there is still a way to go; although some cities are larger than some smaller UN nations, the World Bank will not loan to cities, so funding is still an issue. But all moving in the right path, with cities slowly being treated equitably in regards to voting power and access to public funding.
With cities increasingly driving sustainability, so are autonomous vehicles. Over the last decade investment in autonomous vehicles has increased dramatically, with Tesla, Ford and Nissan all investing hundreds of millions in the technology. But it is not only these large automobile companies leading the way towards a self-driving car future, Apple, Waymo, Uber, Samsung, Baidu, Velodyne LiDAR and Proterra are all making strong advancements in the market. This article gives a brief outline of the progress each of these organisations are making, and it’s very exciting!
One example not mentioned in the above article, is the Harry - a driverless pod operating at Greenwich, south-east London. The pod, using lasers, sensors and various other autonomous technology, is currently on trial with a full fleet to be deployed after 2 years. With the rise is ride sharing services such as Uber, the appetite to drive or own a car is slowing in younger generations. It is the hope that this attitude will help grow the autonomous vehicle market in an effort to reduce the road toll in the UK.
Finally, our last article this week takes a look at the first global standards for sustainable procurement. The standard, ISO 20400, aims to help organisations make better purchasing decisions throughout their supply chain. This is achieved through establishing guidelines that these organisations use to judge suppliers, based on ethical and sustainable issues. The committee which developed the standard said “it would help organisations avoid the financial, environmental and reputational risks associated with poor supply chain management”. This flow on effect thinking is exactly what is required to cause some organisations to shift their thinking away from short termism.
Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and we look forward to catching up with you again. If you have any items of interest you would like to submit, then please feel free to forward them.