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 issue, we open with the commencement of the latest round of climate change negotiations, this time in Durban, South Africa. And as with Copenhagen, a flurry of hacked emails suggesting leading climate scientists are distorting the facts are doing the rounds. Unlike Copenhagen however, this time it has been met with more of a yawn than real concern.

Maybe in part, as unlike earlier rounds, there is a significant lack of optimism in that anything substantive might result. Indeed, quite the opposite, with rumours abounding that India, Brazil, US, Japan, Russia and Canada will refuse to enter into any new binding greenhouse gas agreements. With existing Kyoto agreements expiring in 2012, this seems to be a statement by the majority of the world’s big emitters that they want to be free to pollute at will.

Understandably, this has prompted a furious reaction from AOSIS – the Association of Small Island States, stating “It is a betrayal not just of small island nations, many of whom would be destined for extinction, but a betrayal of all humanity. There are no plausible technical, economic or legal impediments for not taking the actions required by science – we need to act now!” And this is from diplomats who normally wrap everything up in subtlety.

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 culture change.

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.

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