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.

Late last week, Christine Figueres, the former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, released a bold plan to radically reduce emissions in as little as three years. The plan, which is endorsed by dozens of prominent climate change scientists and experts, focuses on six key areas: energy, infrastructure, transport, land use, industry and finance. The plan, which has been labelled “completely crazy” but “achievable” is underpinned by rapidly falling prices for renewable energy. [1]

Perhaps not as crazy as it might be. At the recently concluded G20 talks, the G19 reaffirmed their strong commitment to the Paris Agreement, labelling it as irreversible.[2]And it is not just national government leaders confirming their commitment to the Paris Agreement, it is mayors of 7,400 cities from all around the world, who are also vowing to increase local efforts to combat climate change. As Kasim Reed, the mayor of Atlanta put it, “My firm belief is that President Trump’s disappointing decision to withdraw from the agreement will actually have the opposite effect in terms of execution.” Maybe having a polarizing figure like Donald Trump may not be so bad in every way after all. [3]

One thing for sure is that the youth vote isn’t likely to be voting against climate change action. A recent Interface poll of 300-plus respondents aged between 18 and 35 years, found that 95% feel companies are not doing enough to reverse the effects of climate change, but are very clear on the action that businesses should take. More than half of those polled said they want business leaders to raise the ambition of their organisations, whether that is thinking about closed loop cycles of production or ensuring there is zero carbon footprint in a firm’s value chain. But as they are the generations who will be left with the legacy of a warming world, they have every reason to care. [4]

And for those who think that society can’t be transformed, we suggest taking comfort in what happened in both Sweden and Norway in the 1930s. Both of these countries had a very class dominated hierarchy, where 1% of the population used their dominance to supress the remaining 99%. Over many years this changed to become what is now regarded as two nations with their cultures founded on socialism, where high taxation also means a large range of generous social benefits and a largely content population. [5]

Like what happened in Norway and Sweden, there are constant reminders that the real power lies in the hands of the people, yet often this has been forgotten. Examples of these include the Arab Spring movements, the Bolshevik Revolution and the Rose Revolution. When people rise up, they can indeed make a difference. Although sometimes they are thwarted by things beyond their control such as extreme media bias, censorship and vote rigging. And even if a movement fails to succeed in the first instance, that does not mean that the energy fades away, and it may well surge again and bear fruit. Climate change activism is starting to look like one of those ‘people inspired’ events.

We have two other examples of ‘people power’ to consider. The first of these is how 1.5 million Indian people came together to plant 67 million trees in just 12 hours.[6] The second, whilst on a far more modest scale, is here in New Zealand, where local community groups such as Pest Free Plimmerton are coming together to confront our declining biodiversity, one backyard at a time. Whilst the group received seed funding from DOC and has grown from 80 to 185 trappers in a year, it has entailed a huge time investment and it shouldn’t be falling to volunteers to organise conservation operations.[7] That said, it still shows what can be achieved when people come together.

Energy TS is an innovative company and therefore we are great fans of alternative technology that can have a positive impact of how we live our lives. We have been observing the ever accelerating rate of change in the automotive industry where inroads, first by hybrids, and now electric vehicles, have transformed the public perception of what their new car might look like.

Only a few years ago, few would have predicted the speed of this transformation. It really took what is now known as the ‘Tesla effect’ to shift the market. Right from its first release, the Tesla gleamed and performed like a high end sports car. Suddenly, the electric vehicle became imbued with a glimmer of desirability. Not as something that would save the environment, or cut the weekly gas bill, but as something that was cool.

Last week, in perhaps the biggest sign yet of how the ‘Tesla effect’ is shifting the market, Volvo became the first traditional automaker to announce plans to abandon the traditional combustion engine from 2019 and switch to electric alternatives. The race is on! [8]

If we had technology that could decrease paper use by reusing over and over then that too would also have a positive impact. Toshiba has just unveiled a multi-function printer with in-built erasable printing that could slash paper use in offices by as much as 80%. The eraser unit works in a way similar to the popular brand of erasable pens, where it applies heat and pressure to erase the toner on a printed page. Certainly ideal for documents that don’t need to be permanently archived, such as emails, document drafts, and reminders. [9]

We finish this week with a look at plastic straws and how we really need to look at alternatives to the single use plastic straw. In the US alone, an estimated 500 million plastic straws are used daily – enough to fill 127 school buses and circle the earth’s circumference 2.5 times. Five hundred million straws weigh about the same as 1,000 cars (close to 1,500 tonnes), which is a massive amount of plastic to throw in landfills on a daily basis. Add into the mix that straws don’t break down and if burnt, release toxic fumes! The article thankfully provides alternatives such as straws made from glass, metal, paper, bamboo, straw and even pasta. How cool is that, have a drink and then cook your pasta for dinner! [10]

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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