Geoff Bennett - Editor

Welcome to another two weekly review of energy and environmental events and development issues from both here in New Zealand and around the world. We hope you find our collection of stories to be of interest in what continues to be a critical and rapidly evolving area.

The current growth in renewable energy investment is driving changes in the way energy utility companies do business. Amory Lovins sees the growth of cleaner energy technologies continuing into the future at an increasing rate. Some first time electricity users in developing countries are getting their energy supplied from solar power and a village in Germany has managed to switch from agriculture to production of wind power, bypassing the power utility infrastructure they were denied access. Given the potential for new type of investors entering the energy sector the 20th century power utility business models may soon become obsolete.

An article from Sustainable Business News recognises the progress that is being made by countries in wind power investment. Spain, Denmark and Germany are mentioned as leading intensification of grid electricity from wind energy. As national grids adopt renewable energy, the co-benefits that accrue through more stable pricing and improved economic performance even in times of general decline are becoming more visible. Falling fossil fuel reserves are no-longer the sole driver for adoption of renewable energy.

In the Guardian David Robert Grimes discusses how people with selfish interests tend to deny scientific evidence. Climate change as a result of human activity faces continued denial by those with conservative views. The climate change sceptics are therefore motivated by self-interest to find reasoning against current scientific evidence. The same can be said of renewable energy solutions when global benefits are overvalued at the expense of local environmental impacts. The featured articles seem to guide us to a conclusion that science has a responsibility to communicate more effectively with decision makers at all levels.

Joseph Romm alerts us to the potential for atmospheric carbon suddenly increasing when the ocean loses capacity to absorb carbon. The ocean is a known sink for carbon and some of the lower than expected observations of global warming could be a result of the ocean being able to absorb large volumes of carbon. This ability is however set to diminish due to climate change driven changes in wind and water circulation. The result will be a more rapid accumulation of atmospheric carbon.

Farmland can be used as a carbon sink while still producing livestock. Nathanael Johnson discusses the Mari Carbon Project by UC-Berkeley. Despite being sceptical the researcher in the project found that adding compost was an effective way to rejuvenate soil carbon storage whilst at the same time increasing production of pasture.

Increasing global demand for protein threatens sustainability. At the G20 summit in Davos this year The Executive Director of UNEP, Achim Steiner, explained that the World is facing a sharp decline in ecosystem services. This in short means the natural environment is failing to sustain current rates of consumption. Expanding crop land is not the ideal solution and high protein foods are less efficient in terms of food production. More efficient food production methods are key to achieving a sustainable consumption rate.

As more and more corporates adopt sustainability as a risk mitigation opportunity the responsibility of spearheading sustainability is increasingly falling to, Chief Financial Officers, CFO's. Coro Strandberg says an increasing number of CFO's is reporting sustainability as one of their responsibilities. This in a way should not come as a surprise because CFO's are traditionally responsible for reporting performance to investors and other stakeholders. Given that sustainability comes with innovative investment opportunities it would be natural that CFO's integrate this with mainstream business roles.

In a related article Adrian Tylim gives a concise overview of how corporates can pilot sustainability. The key steps include communicating sustainability at all levels and targeting win-win opportunities where benefits are easier to demonstrate. Energy efficiency comes out as an opportunity to build foundations of a sustainability strategy since the processes and tools for energy efficiency are well developed.

Success in sustainability at corporate level is based on success in policies at national, regional and global levels. While making an address in Indonesia, John Kerry defined Climate Change as a “fearsome weapon” of mass destruction. However he did not identify the creator and benefactor of this weapon. Given that Indonesia, which is an archipelago, and faces risk of flooding or inundation due to sea level rise and is also an ecosystem hotspot due to deforestation and a high population growth rate, one can translate the statement into that of sympathy. The irony is that for Indonesia the weapon is made of destruction of the local ecosystem and will have a global destructive impact. Rogue “big companies” and “shoddy scientists” cannot possibly survive a transparent and effective policy environment.

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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