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 a report released by the Pew Charitable Trust projecting the continuing growth in the renewable generation market. The report assesses that compound growth of 8% should see revenues increase from $200 billion in 2012 to $327 billion in 2018. It especially singles out China as the dominant mover, as it aims to obtain 15% of its energy from non-fossil sources by 2020, a dramatic increase on 2% in 2010.

Staying with China, we examine how significant breakthroughs in building construction techniques are about to transform the way we view construction timelines. Using prefabrication, a building’s wall and floor panels are first built in a factory and then installed with electrics, plumbing and HVAC, before being shipped to site. Construction costs are expected to be only 33% of buildings built using traditional techniques. Already used to build a 30-floor hotel in only 15 days, work is soon to start on what will be the world’s tallest building – the 220 storey Sky City project in Changsha, scheduled to be complete in only 90 days at a cost of $620 million - much less than the five years and $1.5 billion it took to build the existing world’s tallest building - the 160 storey Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

Our next article looks at how France is introducing a night-time ban on lighting in shops and commercial properties to save energy and cut light pollution. The measure is expected to reduce energy consumption by 2 TWh and 250,000 tonnes of CO2e per year.

This week we feature a series of articles examining the trend for people to increasingly tune out of environmental crises. Perhaps, too much bad news, a feeling of inadequacy, blissful ignorance, a lack of surety that climate change is happening at all… some if not all apply depending on how informed or uniformed one might be. One thing for sure, for those who might consider themselves to be informed, is that our ice caps and glaciers are melting; enough if they melt completely to raise sea-levels by a whopping 69 feet. Hopefully it won’t come to that, but there are lots of parties who are doing their very best to ensure we delay taking action as long as possible.

By this I mean the vested interests in big business that have a lot to lose if we do start seriously reducing our consumption of fossil fuels or living more sustainably in general. A good example of big business which appears to potentially have much to lose is Monsanto. For decades it has been claiming that its genetically modified seeds have higher yields and is weed resistant, but has never agreed to disclose the results of its tests. The consumption of fossil fuel energies also comes at a cost – in this case of around $3.4 trillion per annum by not using renewables instead. But to do this would lead to smaller profits and that is not the short term thinking of the corporate world. Never underestimate the obstacles that can be mounted by the selfish greed of the human race.

Fishing is another industry that appears to be more concerned with what happens today, rather than in ensuring fish stocks might be available for future generations. In the first of three articles we take a look at how ex United Kingdom foreign secretary David Miliband is taking a lead in seeking to increase global awareness and promote a more responsible approach to the fishing industry. As Miliband put it “The worst of the current system is plunder and pillage on a massive scale and is the ecological equivalent of the financial crisis”.

And never underestimate the cynical ingenuity of the human race. The gambling company Ladbrokes recently has been offering odds on the conservation status of various fish species. For example, they have been encouraging people to take a punt on the survival prospects of stocks of yellow fin tuna, swordfish and haddock. All at the same time the fishing industry fights tooth and nail to keep quotas as high as possible. Not sleep walking, but sprinting into the arms of catastrophe.

Closer to home we also appear to be fighting a losing battle as international talks trying to find a way to end a massive free-for-all fishing of jack mackerel in international waters between New Zealand and Chile sit on the edge of failure. As the stock is unregulated, fleets of boats from South American countries, Russia, China, Korea, the EU, Faroe Islands, Vanuatu and Cook Islands are chasing and plundering the fish. With NZ being one of the few countries operating a successful sustainable fishing management quota, it is only time before poaching in NZ waters occurs, probably on a scale never seen before.

Our final article this week examines how the Brazilian authorities are fitting trees with a wireless device, known as ‘Invisible Tracck’. Authorities hope that Invisible Tracck which allows trees to contact authorities after being felled and moved will become a powerful tool to deter illegal logging. Once Invisible Tracck comes within 32kms of a cellular network it will ‘wake up’ and send a signal so authorities can then track the tree and arrest the loggers.

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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