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.

December is approaching fast, and with it key talks in Paris around global climate change action. Can we afford to think these talks will lead to meaningful action? French President Francois Hollande believes nations must make a greater effort to reach agreement. If not, millions face the risk of becoming climate refugees. The time for nice words has passed and firm action is required. Hopefully Paris will be the launching point for this.

An important step towards making these talks a success is assessing the INDC's (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions). These must be submitted by October 1st. The INDC is basically a nation's commitment to addressing emissions ahead of the talks. In the example given, China has pledged to increase forest stock and increase non fossil fuels in primary energy consumption. Two important steps among a number listed.

How are New Zealand and Australia fairing ahead of these vital talks? A very good question. Our INDC plans have been best described as inadequate. After criticism that they are doing too little to tackle climate change, the political line by both Australia and New Zealand is to say they face “unusually high” costs to cutting greenhouse gas emissions because of their respective dependence on coal and livestock. Each government's current approach seems aimed at achieving lower costs or increased profit, rather than the wellbeing of residents!

Why is firm action required? A number of reasons. One of those currently highlighted by NASA is that oceans are going to rise much more than previously predicted. From 1992 to 2014, NASA satellites have measured our planet's changing sea levels. Overall, seas around the world have risen an average of nearly 3 inches (7.62cm) over this period. NASA are now warning that recent projections have been too conservative. What does this mean? Definitely more detailed studies are needed, and there are probably some very concerned coastal cities and smaller island nations.

Bringing New Zealand and Australia's lack of real action together, plus drop in a hint of sea rises and we have some very concerned Pacific neighbours. These issues will likely dominate this week's Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Summit in Port Moresby, ahead of the United Nations climate change conference in Paris. Pacific leaders want the world to work on restricting the global warming temperature rise to 1.5oC, fearing a 2oC target will risk the survival of many tiny islands. Host nation Papua New Guinea is facing what could be its worst drought in 20 years and a potential food crisis. Recent cyclone damage to Vanuatu and heavy flooding on Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands are all very real for those living in these areas.

Better action and support for these small nations is important, and New Zealand and Australia must deliver. Fiji's Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, urged Tony Abbott to abandon the "coalition of the selfish" and look to help its smaller neighbours.

Climate change is thought to be caused by carbon emissions blanketing the Earth, keeping the reflected heat trapped in. So what can be done to limit the amount of carbon compounds going into the atmosphere? One thing we can do is limit the use of vehicles, and it seems that people have begun to do this.Our next series of articles looks at some things happening in this area.

“Peak Car” is a term that refers to the declining individual use of cars, and there is emerging evidence of this in developed economies. City living, and government's investment in public transportation may be major contributors to this phenomenon, seen in London, for example, where journeys by car now are only 37% of all trips, compared to 50% in 1990, even with its increased population. There is evidence this “Peak Car” is also happening in other cities.

Los Angeles City Council are taking steps to increase public transport use , along with making it a more pedestrian and cycle friendly city. Not only will their 'Mobility Plan 2035' hopefully lower individual car journeys and help limit carbon emissions, it aims to improve travel efficiency and safety for all.

And in the UK, plans are underway to develop a system to make the highways electric – to charge your EV as you drive. South Korea already has a small electric highway. Imagine if you could have your car charging up as you drive along. Who wouldn't want an electric car then, especially if the power used in the electric road was renewably sourced?

So after electric cars – what else does the future hold? Driverless cars are being tested at the moment, and the flow at intersections is a major area of the research being undertaken by the University of Texas. A system of “reserving” a slot to cross the intersection is being studied, and when this project is completed, the efficiency and safety of crossing intersections will be increased. This increased efficiency would ultimately reduce carbon emissions as well.

The future of transport is, necessarily, changing. We hope all these attempts at change make the required difference, and influence other cities/countries to make these changes too.

We finish this week with a comprehensive article on the “battery revolution”. This article is a great rundown on some battery types currently available and how they work, and what may be available in the future. Battery storage is and will be such a major component of any renewable energy system, all attempts to get the best capacity and fastest charging storage for the least resource use and cost must be applauded. Maybe the best solution will ultimately be for everyone to “renewably” produce and store their own power requirements, with the ability to be tied into the grid for any surplus to be used elsewhere.

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.

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