Geoff Bennett - Editor

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.

Last week we held our annual e-Bench™ training workshop followed by the EMANZ Conference and AGM in Christchurch. One of the keynote speakers was Bob Dixon, Siemens’ global head of efficiency and sustainability, who provided an excellent presentation on the benefits of energy efficiency and why companies needed to catch the ‘Green Wave’ or risk being left behind.

One of the key points Bob made during his presentation, was that buildings use about 40 percent of world energy and are responsible for 21% or greenhouse gas emissions. He also added that the more energy efficient ‘green buildings were up to 5 percent more expensive to build, but attracted on average 6 percent higher rental yields and 16 percent higher capital value or sale price. This is borne out by our next article that discusses the brilliant economics of green buildings and how tenants are willing to pay a premium for space in green buildings, because of lower operating costs, higher worker productivity and reputational benefits associated with green buildings.

Of course being green or sustainable encompasses much more than just green buildings. So how best to approach all the other elements that makes up sustainability? Our next article recommends taking a long-term approach and one where a focus on only financial short-term gains is to be avoided. I must admit that I have always been perplexed why an organisation might limit projects to a maximum payback of two or three-years. That is a 50 and 33 percent return on capital and I have often wondered where else the organisation might realise that sort of financial return. If we want to really maximise the overall benefits associated with a transition to a sustainable economy, then we need to take a longer-term approach, as after all a project with a payback of 10 years is still an annual 10 percent rate of return.

With World Water Day happening on the 22nd March, we decided to take another look at what might be arguably mankind’s most precious resource – yes, water. The first article examines how back in July 2010, 122 countries formally acknowledged the “right to water” in a United Nations General Assembly Resolution. This was followed in September 2010, by the UN Human Rights Council adopting a resolution recognising that the human right to water and sanitation are a part of a right to an adequate standard of living. It is rather disturbing therefore that we learn that some states, including Canada and United Kingdom, are now apparently proposing the removal of an explicit reference to the right of water and sanitation for all from the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development outcome document.

It is also interesting that the United Kingdom Energy Secretary recently told a conference that growing pressure on water resources could worsen existing war and lead to new ones. As perhaps a case in point, our next article examines how Palestinians have lost access to water as the Israelis take over their springs. If there is any part of the world where we are sure to see conflict and flashpoints it is in the Middle East.

NZ also its own sets of water challenges, albeit not on the scale as many other parts of the world. Whereas NZ still has plenty of water for all, the quality has plummeted in recent years. Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright acknowledged that whilst NZ could never realistically expect water quality to revert to a pristine state, there is much that can be done to improve things. For example, initiatives such as planting erosion-prone hills with poplars, restricting stock access to water and planting riparian strips of grass to limit phosphorus from entering the water.

Our next three articles look at permafrost, how it relates to climate change and how as it melts it poses significant risks in releasing large amounts of Methane. These articles also examine whether the release of these large deposits of Methane might in fact prove to be a climate change tipping point as it enters a positive-feedback loop and whether there is in fact sufficient time to prevent widespread thawing of permafrost.

We end up this week discussing how it is quite possible to live a low-carbon life. This Australian article examines where carbon appears in our daily lives, such as in the energy we consume, the houses we live in, the consumables we acquire and our choices of transportation. It has five clear messages 1) Build a reasonable sized house to more than 7 stars; 2) Purchase best of breed appliances and focus on high quality goods; 3) Become a low-consumption and high-savings household; 4) Consume mostly fresh non-processed foods grown locally and 5) Live close to public transport, walk or cycle and use the car sparingly.

Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and 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.

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