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 open with an article outlining the five components of a virtuous cycle for energy efficiency. These being 1) Executive engagement – where senior management buy into the process; 2) Resource investment – where resources are made available to implement the programme; 3) People – staff and stakeholders are engaged and resources deployed; 4) Identification, implementation and results measurement and verification and 5) Stories and sharing – where successes are celebrated and the case studies developed followed by duplication of these projects elsewhere within the organisation.

One of those key stages 4) should always be able to benchmark the success of the initiative, facility or process, which our next article discusses. In this case using the world’s most widely used benchmarking system – Energy Star Portfolio Manager, to leverage and track 35,000 buildings which saved an average of 7 % over a three-year period. Topically, NZ is seeking to introduce their own building benchmarking system – NABERS where it is presently about to go through its pilot stage.

This issue of SnippETS we look at the role of Business and sustainability. N.B. We discuss Business rather than just businesses. With politicians and governments apparently unwilling to be effective leaders in this space, we examine whether Business might be our last great hope for acting on climate change. Of course Business can come in many different hues and guises, so we examine a number of these and also both their upsides and downsides. One thing they all have in common however is to be successful requires good management and governance. And there are many rewards associated with good governance, not least to the bottom line.

Businesses are also able to implement sustainability measures through a number of ways. Streamlining internal processes and driving efficiencies, better management of their supply chain and also in improving the way they relate to their consumers. For example using the new Amazon portal, a shopping site that sells only green produce, including organic food, apparel, accessories and cleaning supplies.

Business also doesn’t have to be a single company such as Telecom, BP, Wal-Mart, etc.; it can also be an industry association like the International Golf Federation, which in their case intends to use its member organisations from 150 countries to encourage clubs to adopt sustainability measures such as water conservation and increasing awareness amongst players.

Business also encompasses Not-for Profit or organisations that might be publicly funded, but are so large they are like a virtual country in their own right. For example, the US Department of Defence, which is the largest consumer of energy in the world, surpassing the consumption totals of more than 100 nations. To get this into perspective this comprises around 3.8 billion kWh or nearly 100 times the entire annual electricity consumption of New Zealand. There is also an additional 120 million barrels of oil per year – a total expenditure of $20 billion per year. Driven by a combination of legislation, national and international policy, strategic imperatives, and operational requirements, clean technologies are now moving into the mainstream of DOD activity. As the DOD has a total annual budget of around $1 trillion, this in turn is providing a massive boost to the sustainability sector as the DOD seeks to procure technology that has a renewable energy or cleantech component focus. Consequently, the DOD is now one of the most important drivers of cleantech markets in the US, if not the world.

But not all activity by Business is positive. For example, speculation into acquiring land by foreign investors for biofuels that could otherwise be used for producing food is leaving tens of millions hungry and homeless. Analysis by Oxfam of land deals completed in the last decade, shows an area eight times the size of the UK has been left idle by speculators or is being used largely to grow biofuels for US or EU vehicles. This land could feed up to 1 billion people.

Another example of Business taking the initiative in a way that may not necessarily be seen as positive, is what is regarded as the world’s biggest geoengineering experiment. Apparently a Californian businessman has headed a project that saw around 100 tonnes of iron sulphate dumped into the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Canada in July. Satellite images appear to confirm the claim by Russ George, that the iron has spawned an artificial plankton bloom as large as 10,000 square kilometres. The intention of the scheme was for the plankton to absorb carbon dioxide and then sink to the ocean bed – a geoengineering technique known as ocean fertilisation that he hopes will net lucrative carbon credits.

The interesting thing is that it appears to have been undertaken with the knowledge of the Canadian Government. Given that the dumping is in violation of two international moratoria, the news sparked outrage at a UN environmental summit taking place this week in India. Canada has been criticized as being one of “four horsemen of geoengineering”, joining Britain, Australia and NZ in opposing southern countries’ efforts to beef up the existing moratorium on technological fixes for global warming. NZ being included in this club makes me wonder what has been going on behind the scenes.

Our last two articles are rather technical in nature. The first of these examines just what is causing global warming and discusses the many scientific studies that have been conducted over the years. The summary and conclusion of all these studies is that humans are the dominant cause of global warming over the past century, and particularly over the past 50 years – hence the scientific consensus. Our final article looks at what is climate mitigation and adaptation and how the distinction between the two is very far from clear.

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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