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.

This week we are pleased to draw attention to the New River ‘Green 50’, which is a list of the top fifty New Zealand green companies. The list which was compiled by the Auckland based market research firm New River, appeared in the NZ Herald Friday last week and we are delighted to note includes ETSL at number 46.

This week we are going to feature on the outcomes from Rio +20. Before we do, let’s take the opportunity to view the global picture of energy consumption and energy derived greenhouse gas emissions. Personally, I was staggered to see how the consumption of coal, oil and natural gas has absolutely sky rocketed in Asia Pacific and how it now far exceeds consumption in either the US or the EU. Unsurprisingly, world carbon emissions have also risen substantially – up 48% from 1992, when the original Rio summit took place.

So with that gloomy backdrop you might expect world leaders could be feeling a tad dissatisfied with progress since the original Rio summit. Maybe, but apparently not enough to accept that the time for talk is over and that firm action is now required.

The next three articles discuss how progress, or lack of it, was made, depending what group you represented. For example, if you were representing the politicians, or best called the Policy Crowd, then you will have realised that little has been achieved. If you were representing the Non-Government Organisations sector, then you will be likely feeling anger, deception and betrayal by government officials and the whole drawn out United Nations process. If you were a CEO representing the Corporate Sector, then at least you would be feeling a sense of relief that at least the good work you were already engaged in could continue.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of Rio +20, if there might be one, is that it crystalized beyond any further doubt that the United Nations and the political process could ever provide the required leadership. That mantle has now been decisively seized by the Corporate Sector. The emergence of leaders such as British Telecom, Walmart, Dow Chemical, Toyota and Sovereign Insurance are driving real change as they respond, react and shape changing consumer attitudes towards sustainability. The greatest confidence that we can be serious about them delivering on this, is that they are increasingly linking CEO salaries to sustainable measures and outcomes.

And it is not exclusively the corporate sector leading on this. Cities too, have shown they have an important role to play as our next article discusses. For example Copenhagen has announced bold plans to be the first Carbon neutral capital in the world by deploying a raft of measures such as how energy is supplied, used and in adopting low carbon transport strategies, etc.

So the future is really going to be a partnership between consumers and the business sector/local government, in what will be a new economic model, where the single measurement of GDP no longer rules supreme.

As if you need any convincing that the present economic and banking system is madness, then the article on how Big Banks Run the World – at your expense should go some way towards convincing you that change is well overdue. Whilst it is a US-centric article, it is a reflection of the global Ponzi scheme built around derivatives and debt, with scant regard for what might be true value.

When we say real value, we refer to the value that the sort of things like clean air and water means to society. It is therefore timely that the United Nations launched a new index at Rio +20, that seeks to change the way we measure prosperity - the Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI). As Achim Steiner, Head of the UN Environment Programme said “It is time to phase out the GDP as a proxy for growth in the 21st century. GDP completely ignores the central themes of human welfare as social issues and the importance of natural resources.”

Talking of natural resources – our next article discusses the importance nature plays in providing much needed infrastructure and how accounting for natural capital should seek to add in the $72 trillion that companies presently get to use without paying for them. We, the people, enduring continuing degradation of the natural capital are the ones paying for them.

So really, if we change the way we account for things such as moving to IWI and factor things like natural capital into the equation, then we might be able to feel more secure and confident in our accounting system. Or, as the next article puts it – How accountants can save the World. Imagine having a whole bunch of accountants running around in their skin tight superhuman outfits with a Big A on the front… you can?

While we are on topic – how bad might a Carbon Tax end up being? If you listen to the doomsayers in Australia – pretty bad. This is not however the experience of other schemes such as those launched in Sweden in 1991, Denmark in 1992 and more recently in British Colombia in 2008. In other words – relax Australia, you may be on to something good as long as it is allowed to run its course and isn’t repealed as the Opposition is pledging to do if elected.

Our final story examines the campaign to reduce and recycle cigarette waste. I don’t know about you, but most smokers I know don’t see themselves as litterers – yet they flick their used cigarette butt into the gutter when finished. These are often flushed out to sea where they can end up damaging marine life, or to landfill, where they eventually break down, but never lose their toxicity. A company has now launched a programme to collect and recycle cigarette waste. Starting in Canada, the aim is to recycle this waste into plastic pellets for industrial use. I would have thought they would have to be a dark shade of brown.

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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