Welcome to our Snippets newsletter which as always endeavours to provide coverage of developments in energy and environmental issues, from both here in New Zealand and around the world. We hope you continue to find our fortnightly collection of articles to be of interest in what is a rapidly evolving area.

China, through its rapid expansion, has become responsible for global emission increases, with its emissions exceeded only by America. As well as emissions related problems, China has also suffered in all environmental areas. The Chinese government has acknowledge these issues, and things are about to change very quickly. Their new eco-civilisation plan calls for 23% forest cover by 2020, and it doesn’t stop there. The plan calls for cutting water consumption by 23%, energy consumption by 15% and carbon emissions by 18%. No doubt China will meet these goals, even within the 4 year timeframe![1]

China is also looking at how much meat they eat. As wealth has increased, so has meat consumption (also a factor in the emission loop). New dietary guidelines, set out by the government, recommend halving consumption to between 40g to 75g of meat per person per day. These recommendations are designed to improve public health, and provide a significant cut to GHG emissions. If the guidelines are followed, livestock emissions are expected to drop by up to a billion tonnes.[2]

If the above measures weren’t enough, China is looking at ways to finance the $1 Trillion cost of cleaning up its cities air pollution and emissions. Research focuses on how green loans, bonds, industry funds, carbon finance, and government policies, can spur private investment in the types of infrastructure that are essential for cities to peak and then reduce their carbon footprints. Go China![3]

Next we look to America, where a number of cities have lost the primary industries that attracted workers to live in the area. With steel factories disappearing, their population is ever decreasing, with more than half leaving over the last 50 years. Gary, Indiana, is one of these towns, and is reinventing itself. The plan is to turn crumbling buildings and streets into green areas such as tree farms, storm-water management parks and urban vegetable gardens. The hope is to create more liveable and sustainable neighbourhoods, to attract people back. These areas may have died in a traditional sense, but are definitely entering a phase of regeneration.[4]

China may be heading towards 23% forest cover by 2020, but New Zealand isn’t. Forests are well known for their ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, and as such, are an area where a country like ours, with large areas that could be forested, could make a difference. Unfortunately, New Zealand is currently trending towards deforestation, but this next article calls for a national forestry strategy to be implemented, with 1.3 million hectares of new forest being planted. This would be enough to offset our agricultural emissions and position NZ on a feasible course for a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions future. It proposes focusing on three priority areas: erosion-prone land, waterway margins, and urban forest. And it recommends four principles of action: (1) expansion, (2) permanence, (3) appropriate diversification, and (4) guardianship.[5]

And the following article continues the story, but investigates the smorgasbord of funding options for the reforestation strategy. The main option discussed is the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and creating a realistic carbon price, but also discussed are a carbon tax and some other ideas.[6]

Increasing forested areas as a major mitigation strategy against global warming, is a concept that has been studied in South America in detail. This study shows that natural processes of forest regeneration on unused land can contribute significantly to a solution to the excess carbon dioxide threatening the planet. The amount of carbon that can be trapped is huge. All it takes is a bit of effort in looking after and protecting the natural regrowth.[7]

Too many people trying to protect the environment, including forests around the world, have been murdered, with 2015 being the worst year to date, when a total of 185 people were killed. Many people standing up for their environment have often taken risks, but is this risk acceptable?[8]

CEO’s used to ask, "Why should I invest in sustainability? Where is the benefit in addressing social and environmental issues?" Answering this question proved challenging for sustainability directors as developing abstract value drivers such as brand loyalty only produced fuzzy figures. This has all changed. Regulators have woken up, consumers expect companies to be sustainable and there is solid proof that sustainability can be highly profitable. A trickle of businesses taking sustainability seriously has turned into a flood. [9]

Such is the speed of this transition means ‘business as usual’ thinking no longer applies. Climate change is forcing businesses to view their operations and risks in ways that not many old school business leaders can, or want to, accept or recognise. From being a source of leadership and vision, many are now an impediment to change. This requires a new way of addressing things, a new culture of innovation and communication – a sense of purpose that transcends simply making profits.[10]

Of course it is not simply about navigating a way blindly forward. It requires data to understand if the route being taken is the right one, and also to ensure that the organisation optimises the journey and outcomes. We give two examples of how data is being used to provide guidance on this. The first is how Marks and Spencer – one of the world’s largest retailers, is transparently managing its supply chain, so that it can improve both operational efficiencies and protect its brand.[11] The second is how introducing electrical sub-metering can identify wastage and lead to improvement in the operation of assets.[12]

Finally, we look back home to New Zealand, and our current dairy exports. New Zealand has, for a long time, operated on a high volume, low value business model. This article discusses the implications of such an unsustainable model, touching on soil quality and research lead by AgriSea who is looking to help NZ businesses switch to a more sustainable model.[13]

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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