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.
We begin this week with news that China is paving the way for an internal carbon market; although participation is voluntary there are strict guidelines that must be followed. China has recognised that this will play an important role in their economic development. This step is seen as a huge boost for the global green economy and international climate change negotiations, the team here at ETSL are watching this development with interest.
With winter well and truly here in New Zealand the temptation to head off to warmer climes is in the back of people’s minds. If you are lucky enough to travel this winter you may end up staying at one of the Hilton chain hotels. The Hilton chain of hotels is doing big things to measure and improve sustainability practices, using a system called ‘Lightstay’ which tracks energy use, waste and CO2 emissions amongst others. It’s great to see another large corporation making a difference as well as improving overall efficiencies across their hotel portfolio. Guests after accommodation in more exotic locations may be having an unknown impact on local residents. Our next article examines water use in five coastal holiday destinations. Hotel rooms have been shown to use over 3,000 litres of water a day compared with 93 litres by a local person. This difference is truly staggering and it really illustrates the differences between the people that are perceived to have more influence (money to travel) who expect a certain level of service verses local residents just trying to get by. It makes you wonder…
Our next couple of stories takes a look at sustainability and carbon labelling. The annual Greendex reports ranks 17 countries on areas such as housing, transportation, food and consumer goods. Some nations have a higher percentage of guilt about their behaviour and impact on the environment than others; I guess guilt could be considered the first step to actively improving what you do as an individual.
A trial of carbon labelling was recently carried out in a grocery store in Ballina NSW. The study showed some encouraging outcomes with shoppers certainly taking notice of the labels (green labelled sales increased from 53% to 57%). While more studies and research will need to be undertaken in this area, CO2 labelling on consumer goods would be a positive step forward. Over time we have become more conscience of labelling on products and this gives consumers more information when shopping.
Ever wondered how weather related events like floods, droughts and heat waves seem to becoming more extreme and frequent around the world? Our next two articles discuss this and give reasons for this potential ‘new norm’. It comes as no surprise that a warmer plant is distorting the complex natural processes of Mother Nature and gives rise to a greater amount of energy which means more variable and wilder weather. Ok, certainly not all extreme weather events can be attributed to climate change, but as you will read scientists and researchers are becoming more comfortable in linking the two. It underlies the need for countries to be flexible and adaptable by building more resilient and sustainable economies because no model can predict when, where and the degree of extreme the next weather event might be.
Sports are featuring very strongly in the media at present, the fast approaching Olympics and into the home stretch of the Super Rugby season (go the Chiefs). London is being touted as the 'greenest games yet'. Once it’s all done and dusted it will be interesting to see reports outlining how green these games actually are.
Our next three stories look at three major sporting teams or codes and what these organisations are doing to improve efficiencies and the message they are attempting to bring to their fans. The St Louis Cardinals baseball team had an energy audit carried out on their home stadium and they found 200 cost effective energy improvements. It didn’t stop there, a 110 panel solar array was installed atop of a ticket building. It would be great to see things like this happening in stadiums all over the world. The San Francisco 49ers American football team are buying low CO2 concrete for their new stadium. The use of this concrete will reduce their overall carbon footprint by 23 million pounds of CO2 over use of traditional concrete. NASCAR is working with the Environmental Project Agency on a number of initiatives such as a tree planting program and has also has the largest recycling program in sports in collaboration with various suppliers and partners. These organisations are making a difference not only financially to their bottom lines, but to the planet by seemingly doing the “right things” which is very encouraging to see.
As covered in previous Snippets, the next article is another good example of the business case for CSR. It all starts with measuring, quantifying and managing one’s environmental, social and economic impacts and their associated risks. Supplemented by a change in attitudes and behaviour and underpinned by leadership from management. Adoption of CSR is good enough to stand on its own, without the need for mandatory regulation. As the article discusses, the business case for CSR is simple and clear – rewards such as competitive advantage, managed risk, cost efficiency, increased productivity, positive brand image, customer and employee satisfaction, a healthier bottom and top line, greater company value amongst others are there for the taking.
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.
According to our next article, if the world did decide to act, it could do so
without having to choose between the environment and the economy. To do this
would entail a shift away from an economic model founded and suckled on fossil
fuels, to one that is substantially greener. For example, China has over 500,000
and Germany around 350,000 employed in the renewable energy sector. As the
writer of the article put it “We don’t need to choose between our environment
and economy. We need to choose both. And work toward bringing them into
balance”. The word ‘balance’ needs to be emphasised, as the way we are managing
the way we live now, is anything but balanced.
And according to the IPCC, we all need to be acting as extreme weather is on
the increase as climate change takes hold. The IPCC report compiled over
two-years by 220 scientists paints a bleak picture that unfortunately is likely
to be ignored by the world’s politicians in Durban.
As Europe's climate chief, Connie Hedegaard said, the report should galvanise
governments to act. "Last week, the serious warnings from the International
Energy Agency. Today, this IPCC report … With all the knowledge and rational
arguments in favour of urgent climate action, it is frustrating to see that some
governments do not show the political will to act. In light of the even more
compelling facts, the question has to be put to those governments in favour of
postponing decisions: for how long can you defend your inaction?'' The answer
unfortunately is probably ‘For is as long as they are in office or seeking
re-election’. Our politicians and so called democracy are failing us.
As if further evidence is needed that climate change is having a profound
impact, we consider the news that the Thailand Government is seriously
considering moving Bangkok to higher ground or building a second capital. The
city of 12 million is sinking into the marshy ground it is built on at the same
time facing increased frequency of flooding due to extreme weather events.
Changing tack, our next set of articles examines the increasing trend of
Corporate Sustainability Reporting. Even New Zealand gets a mention, although as
one of the laggards. And as DuPont attests, a culture of sustainability can save
an organisation billions of dollars, with 40% of energy efficiency improvement
opportunities being realised through low or no-cost projects rooted in corporate
And if being in a green building can be part of that corporate culture, then
there will be all sorts of additional benefits as well. These can be in the
organisation benefiting from lower levels of staff sickness, in one case a
decrease of 54% and higher levels of productivity such as a 9% increase in the
average typing speed and overall accuracy. Not surprisingly a study by Jones
Lang LaSalle found 48% of corporate real estate executives would pay up to 10%
more rent to occupy a sustainable building.
In the US the improvements available through having better buildings have
been recognised by the development of the first national green building code.
The code which is being published in March 2012, creates mandatory enforceable
standards on every aspect of building design and construction. These include
site development and land use, the use of recycled materials, energy efficiency,
water efficiency, indoor air quality and commissioning/operations.
Our final article for this week examines ‘Airdrop’, which is an innovative
creation utilising solar and wind power to extract moisture from the air for
irrigation purposes. It works by driving the air underground where it
condensates as it cools. The water is then stored underground and delivered
directly to the roots of plants through drip irrigation hosing below the soil
surface. One word sums it up - ‘Elegant’.
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.