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.

One term that has been used more and more of late is ‘neoliberalism’, or a modified form of liberalism tending to favour free-market capitalism. In recent times it has been seen by many Western nations, including New Zealand, as the preferred governing ideology. A recent opinion piece (21st April 2017) by the former NZ Prime Minister Jim Bolger, however, went as far as to say that neoliberalism has failed NZ.

If neoliberalism has indeed failed NZ, what then might be an alternative? We take a look at Singapore, a nation of some five million people with a land area roughly the size of Lake Taupo, where their government has taken a more interventionist approach. And the result is pretty amazing, with 90 percent of households owning their residences and 92 percent satisfied with their neighbourhoods. Singapore also boasts the world’s third highest per capita income, despite having virtually no natural resources. Perhaps the alternatives to neoliberalism are not so bad after all? [1]

A corporate example of the Singapore model might be the giant Indian conglomerate Tata, which is in the process of mainstreaming natural and social capital.[2] Two examples out of Asia – coincidence, or culturally just a different way of looking at governance and social responsibility?

Another example of corporations taking a lead on becoming more socially and environmentally sustainable is Apple, who have just announced an extremely ambitious goal of shifting all of its manufacturing to use 100% recycled material. [3] It is, of course, also a more profitable way of running a business, as evidenced by nearly half the companies in the Fortune 500 setting targets for Greenhouse Gas Emissions and improving energy efficiency. Collectively these 190 companies are reporting annual savings of US$3.7 Billion. [4]

We are also pleased to see the NZX joining the UN Sustainable Stock Exchange initiative. This sees the NZX join the 60 other global exchanges, and the NZX’s commitment to promote more sustainable and transparent capital markets, and improved environmental, social and corporate disclosure. [5]

Our next article discusses a world first research programme looking into negative carbon emissions. The research, headed up by the UK, is designed to investigate the potential of negative emission technologies (NETs) and any political, social and environmental issues that may arise surrounding their deployment. The research comes as the UK look to address their Paris Agreement pledges, with NETs being essential to achieving these. The article is very in depth, and gives compelling arguments for the need for NETs, as well as potential roadblocks. [6]

Recently, the International Energy Agency predicted the international carbon price could go as high as US$190. Firms with obligations to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), or with high emissions that cannot be rapidly reduced, may have to look towards alternative reductions to afford or offset these credits. This is where native forest comes into the picture. Only 8% of forest land registered in the ETS is native, and since 2008 only 500 Ha of new native forest has been added. If NZ were to establish another 10,000 Ha, this would open up an additional 65,000 NZUs per year in the current market. Looking at these numbers, it is clear that future planning in carbon management, may lie in native forest for some NZ organisations. [7]

Whilst utilising our land to its best potential with native forests, we must also try be efficient with all our resources. One resource constantly overlooked is waste water. The name itself an oxymoron, as wastewater can be a valuable resource. A UN report published earlier this year highlights the potential for waste water to be used to produce biogas using the treated sludge, or fertilizer using the nutrients contained in the water.[8]

The opportunities are also far greater then you may expect, with the American Biogas Council saying the organic matter in wastewater has the potential to produce almost 5 times as much energy as the plant requires to operate. Overall, through biogas recovery and fertilizer production the quality of the water being released into waterways will help to clean the world’s rivers, whilst reducing carbon in the atmosphere. Perhaps all that is needed to kick-start this much required shift is a change in name from "waste", to "secondary resource".[9]

We have been looking at ways companies and countries are taking steps towards a more sustainable future. Sweden has recently taken a step further in this direction, with one local municipality opening a mall for repaired and recycled goods. Not only does this help with minimising waste, a large expense for any local government, but also creates jobs and profits. You can sell, buy, and get an organic coffee at the same time! [10]

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are something to aspire to - these goals set forth a challenge for humanity to decouple economic growth from climate change, poverty and inequality. Green buildings can help achieve many of these goals, and this article describes how; be it promoting good health and well-being through improved lighting and better air quality, or promoting “Life on Land” by using responsibly sourced building materials such as timber. [11]

Compliance with the SDGs requires systems of reporting that are consistent, so many interested parties are currently working together to develop a coordinated set of global standards and guidelines for indoor and outdoor environmental monitoring systems and sensors. “The use of common standards is a monumental step in terms of helping building owners and occupants operate healthy buildings” according to Raefer Wallis, founder of RESET, a building standard and certification programme. [12]


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