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.
Cities seem to be more proactive than national governments in responding to issues dealing with limiting climate change. Our lead article shows how many city officials are trying to achieve the changes needed to maintain their local environment, as desired by those who are electing them. This is causing conflict and tension with national governments who want to retain control, but also have other big issues they need to focus on, along with environmental ones, for example international trade. As a consequence, some national governments are putting up barriers to stop or slow down local government initiatives.
The Paris mayor, Ann Hidalgo, has high hopes for creating a greener city, and finds that, being a woman, she has had to become stronger than many of her male counterparts to overcome the challenges of attaining her office. In doing so, she thinks this hardiness, and the ability to stand up to those that resist change, has made it easier for her to now tackle the challenges that leading the way in climate change policy requires. The number of women in charge of large cities and leading in the climate change area is increasing exponentially, and Ms Hidalgo sees these female mayors as key to making change happen globally.
The average person is set in their ways about many things, and the way they find news is one of these. Low public awareness of issues like climate change is fuelled by the fact that many news channels and websites don’t report on this, and those that do are sometimes regarded as issuing “fake news”. Busy politicians are also influenced by news articles, as they may not have the time needed to do their own research. It is therefore important that news sources are not having their content controlled by their owners, when under-reporting of issues can then occur. More awareness of climate change issues is vital.
Maybe more female national politicians and owners of news media is what the world really needs…?
Have you been noticing that the common honey bee is no longer quite as common? The humble bee, which plays such a vital part in the pollination process, is under a lot of pressure due to manmade influences, with some species dying out altogether. Pollinator’s help over 85% of the world’s flowering plants and more than 100 crops reproduce, with insect pollination services put at $20 billion in the US alone. Such is their importance, Haagen Daz started investing in more bee friendly ‘communities’. These provide plenty of food and a safe environment, which encourages the bee to flourish and of course provide their pollination services. As with anything, they flourish in the right environment.
Other companies also looking to better protect the environment and their business supply chains are L’Oréal, Chanel and Nespresso, who are pioneering ‘carbon insetting’. As opposed to offsets, insets are carbon sink or reduction projects within an organisation’s supply chain. Insetting takes a holistic approach, tackling both environmental and social challenges. For example, Nespresso is planting 10 million trees throughout a number of South American countries to reach carbon neutrality by 2020. These inset projects build resilience and restore the ecosystems on which their growers depend.
Efficiencies can always improve an organisation’s performance and one of these areas is waste, particularly in the food industry. Champion 12.3 (named after Target 12.3 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals) evaluated financial cost and benefit data for 1,200 sites across 700 companies in 17 countries and found that nearly every site had a positive return on its investment to reduce waste.
Investments included: quantifying and monitoring food loss and waste, training staff on practices to reduce waste; changing food storage and handling processes; changing packaging to extend shelf-life; changing date labels; and other staff and technology investments. Some pretty basic steps provided a saving of $14 in operating costs for every $1 invested in reducing food waste. Pretty impressive outcomes, with the question “why didn’t they do this before?” coming to mind.
Rice is a staple diet item for nearly half the world’s population and is under pressure from climate change. Drought, flooding and salt intrusion due to sea level rise are among the most difficult conditions for rice farmers to manage. New, stress-tolerant rice varieties can help make farmers more resilient against the increasingly destructive effects of climate change, says Dr. Matthew Morell, of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), based in the Philippines.
Another agricultural group under pressure are small niche seed producers. Pressure from the likes of the patent crazy Monsanto has forced seed producers to go open source. The Open Source Seed Initiative, where U.S. breeders take a pledge committing their seeds to remain available for others to use for breeding in the future, is in stark contrast to the practice of patenting seeds and crop traits. Here’s hoping the seeds of change have been planted, and growth is assured in this space.
Whilst much agricultural production serves local markets, there is still a significant portion being shipped to international markets. And the shipping industry itself is facing significant disruption in the forms of having to manage an over-supply of capacity, aging fleets and the need to reduce carbon emissions. Not only does the shipping industry face disruption, so do their banking institutions that have an estimated $400 billion of debt at risk. It would appear that many banks are ill prepared for the financial risks posed by owners of aging and inefficient fleets otherwise seen as ‘stranded assets’. An ironic oxymoron.
One way for shipping to reduce emissions would be to cut fuel consumption. A couple of smart, yet simple examples of how this could be achieved are using Sky Sails or Rotor Sails – technology first deployed in 1926, but still capable of reducing consumption by up to 10%.
We round up this issue with an article revealing that corporate spending on sustainability and the circular economy continues to be on the rise. A survey by consulting firm Pure Strategies, advises that spending on sustainability is undergoing substantial growth, with companies reporting a hike in sales, savings through efficiencies and that the link between their sustainability programme investment and business benefits is very clear and evident.
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.