Welcome to our 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 articles to be of interest in what continues to be a rapidly evolving area.
Human beings are destroying the environment. The human population has ballooned and industrial activity has grown with it. In so doing, this excessive consumption of resources has effectively overcome the ability of natural systems to regenerate. In our first article, Eco-Business quotes Nobel Laureate Paul Cruzten, saying “Our survival is in our hands”. Impacts of climate change, over consumption of water, disturbance of atmospheric ozone balance and loss of top soil are all impacts of careless human consumption. We have laws meant to keep us from doing this, but, unsurprisingly, the current GDP driven development model which does not value natural capital, allows constant violation of these laws.
2015 is a big year for climate change developments, culminating with the December COP in Paris. Whilst we all hope and expect to see an important agreement to come from these discussions, we however already have the legal tools to demand that countries act against climate change. Julia Powles and Tessa Khan author our next article on the Oslo Principles. This is a collection of existing legal instruments that a work group of ex-judges, advocates and professors, from different regions of the world have compiled. They show that under the existing human rights law, international law and environmental law, countries have the required flexibility to take action against climate change. The detailed report might make good reading for some, especially those political leaders that should be enforcing them.
But then, politicians are known for simply making decisions so they can be re-elected. It would appear however that their constituencies are increasingly thinking about sustainability. We include an article by Chip Giller, who observes that people are increasingly seeking to control the energy they use, where their food comes from, how it is produced, and how their companies produce goods and services. Even the American dream is no longer about the acquisition of ‘stuff’ or increased consumption, but to value community, be more sustainable and have a better life experience. Doesn't it naturally follow then, that the politicians should adopt sustainability according to the wishes of their electorates?
And a move towards sustainability doesn’t necessarily mean a loss of economic growth. As Kumi Naidoo writes in our next article, carbon emissions may already be decoupling from economic growth. In 2014, economies grew but not their emissions from energy. People in China are benefiting from reduced pollution, and in India legislators regard pollution as anti-nationalistic. Sustainability therefore has to be part of the economic models, rather than be seen as some mere fashionable blip or passing trend.
Furthermore, how can natural capital be included in this economic model? In our next article we learn from Keith Larsen about the Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) network that Prince Charles is working with. These are CFO's who are working to standardise methods for accounting sustainability. With the release of Integrated Reporting and GRI G4 standards, investors are increasingly becoming used to being aware of the non-financial or ‘material’ issues facing the companies they are investing in. One of which is their exposure to the continued consumption of fossil fuels, and the risks a future carbon tax, or negative consumer perception to this behaviour, might be posed by stakeholders.
Possibly this is motivation enough for fossil fuel companies to keep spending millions on climate deniers? Despite publicly withdrawing funding to anti climate groups, fossil fuel companies continue to secretly fund anti climate change politicians and scientists. This is evidenced in our next article by Peter Frumhoff and Naomi Oreskes.
And they are being called out. In February 2015, Ben van Buerden, CEO of Shell made a presentation calling oil companies to stop ignoring climate change. John Ashton of E3G rips through this speech and asks why the Shell CEO acts contrary to his statements. If people, who are the market for the oil companies, are not happy, who then are they working to serve? Are there any politicians left who are still courageous enough to stand with the arrogance of these oil companies?
Mexico has just announced an ambitious target to reduce emissions. If Mexico, a major player in the oil industry and also a developing country, can take such bold steps then there must be little reason, other than greed, left for oil companies to rely on. We might urge them and other oil companies to take note of the opinion of technical people.
In our next article Barbara Grady discusses a survey of 1600 experts by DNV-GL.
Of these, 80% believe renewable energy could supply the bulk of energy by 2050, with some actually predicting
it can be achieved in as little as 15 years. The major constraints to achieving
this goal would appear to be technical. Large industry players are already
working to address issues of storage and controls. Experience from observing
changes in the telephone industry has shown that people are willing to pay and change quickly when they see value.
We end this week with a Jeremy Clarkson article. This time for a change, not being self-obsessed in the pursuit of a cooked steak. According to the article he has reconsidered his goals and joined the Guardian's campaign for fossil fuel divestment. His humour and wit come with the package. That's another “big” foot off the pedal! We did however observe that it was
1st April when this article was first published.
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.