Category Archives: Climate

Can We Design Cities for Happiness?

 

“Happiness itself is a commons to which everyone should have equal access.”

This is a quote from Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, who now travels the world spreading a message about how to improve quality-of-life for everyone living in today’s cities.

Peñalosa spends a lot of his time dealing with Third World countries which even with their poverty and immense problems will absorb much of the world’s population growth over the next half-century. Based on his experiences in Bogotá, Peñalosa believes it’s a mistake to give up on these cities as good places to live.

“If we in the Third World measure our success or failure as a society in terms of income, we would have to classify ourselves as losers until the end of time,” declares Peñalosa. “So with our limited resources, we have to invent other ways to measure success. This might mean that all kids have access to sports facilities, libraries, parks, schools, nurseries.”

Peñalosa uses phrases like “quality of life” or “social justice” rather than “commons-based society” to describe his aim of offering poor people first-rate government services and pleasant public places. He himself has an impressive track record during his three years as a mayor of Bogotá. Peñalosa’s Administration accomplished the following:

  • Led a team that created the TransMilenio, a bus rapid transit system (BRT), which now carries a half-million passengers daily on special bus lanes that offer most of the advantages of a subway at a fraction of the cost.
  • Built 52 new schools, refurbished 150 others and increased student enrollment by 34 percent.
  • Established or improved 1200 parks and playgrounds throughout the city.
  • Built three central and 10 neighborhood libraries.
  • Built 100 nurseries for children under five.
  • Improved life in the slums by providing water service to 100 percent of Bogotá households.
  • Bought undeveloped land on the outskirts of the city to prevent real estate speculation and ensured that it will be developed as affordable housing with electrical, sewage, and telephone service as well as space reserved for parks, schools, and greenways.
  • Established 300 kilometers of separated bikeways, the largest network in the developing world.
  • Created the world’s longest pedestrian street, 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) crossing much of the city as well as a 45- kilometer (28 miles) greenway along a path that had been originally slated for an eight-lane highway.
  • Reduced traffic by almost 40 percent by implementing a system where motorists must leave cars at home during rush hour two days a week. He also raised parking fees and local gas taxes, with half of the proceeds going to fund the new bus transit system.
  • Inaugurated an annual car-free day, where everyone from CEOs to janitors commuted to work in some way other than a private automobile.
  • Planted 100,000 trees.

These accomplishments boosted the quality of life for the citizens of a city characterized by vast disparities of wealth. Today, Bogotá is seen as an international benchmark for sustainable innovation, even for cities in the developing world.

 

 


South Africa – Energising Alternatives

In an attempt to reduce the negative environmental externalities related to heavy-coal-fired electricity generation, South Africa is stepping up efforts to increase the role renewable energy plays in its progressively overstretched electricity sector, pushing ahead with a series of programmes aimed at harvesting the nation’s infinite alternate resources.

The government has moved to bring the agencies charged with promoting this new sustainable energy use under one roof, launching the South African national energy development institute (SANEDI) on July 19. The new organisation, which will power the research and development of indigenous green-energy innovations in partnership with science councils, universities and private industry, combines two previous bodies, the National Energy Efficiency Agency and the South African National Energy Institute.

The country is already adapting to reinforce the contribution of renewables to its energy sector. The Department of Energy (DoE) is in the final stages of sealing up to 28 renewable energy proposals that were first accepted back in December 2011, with the signing of implementation, connection and power purchase agreements for a raft of projects set for August.

The initial projects – the first part of the department’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPPP) – is comprised of 18 solar photovoltaic projects with a total capacity of 631.53 MW; two concentrated solar power projects, with 150 MW of combined capacity; and eight onshore wind developments, representing 633.9 MW.

An addition round of 19 projects were assessed in May and a call for the third series of proposals will be issued in the near term, part of the government’s programme to be creating at least 3725 MW of renewable energy and have the tools installed by 2016, with the first projected forecast to come online by 2014.

While the government is keen to promote renewable energy, the delays in its first round of REIPPP projects do highlight difficulties, including financial backing for less-conventional and smaller-scale developments.  Investors may take a renewed outlook on later generations of renewable power generation depending on how successful these initial round of REIPPP projects can prove to be.

However, while SANEDI and schemes such as REIPPP represent the government’s commitment to green energy, the country is keen to maintain as diversified a portfolio as possible, not only to avoid repeats of the load=shedding issues it faced in 2008 but also to reduce exposure to potential swings in commodity prices.

This is most evident in the government’s continued efforts to expand nuclear power generation in the country. Dipuo Peters, the minister of energy, used the introduction  of the new SANEDI agency to underscore the government’s commitment to nuclear energy, as well as with the more traditional use of coal as an energy source.

“We need to use and will continue using nuclear energy for feeding, healing, energy and water provision,” Peters said.

South Africa has plans to construct nuclear power stations with a combined capacity of 9.6 GW by 2030, with at least six such plants being considered along with the sole station already in operation, with their output dwarfing that of the proposed alternative energy programme. Firms from Russia, China and South Korea are among the contenders for the lucrative contracts that will stem from South Africa’s atomic energy programme, with Russian state-owned nuclear energy group Rosatom opening a local office in mid-July to promote its interests.

Coal currently dominates South Africa’s energy mix accounting for 73.4% of primary energy and 90% of electricity in 2010, whilst diversification is a primary, the carbon-based fuel will likely maintain it’s primary position for decades to come. The DoE estimate that coal will continue to be used for the next 100 years, with the minister saying it was indispensable, “as long as we want to keep the lights on”.

South Africa’s push for the promotion of renewable energy is attracting interest from abroad as Chinese firm Powerway Renewable Energy announced it would be investing $1.2m to build several factories and produce mounting and tracking systems for solar photovoltaic plans in July.

Benson Wu, the CEO of Powerway, said the investment aimed to take advantage of the anticipated growth in solar energy in the South African market, with his firm foreseeing the need to supply mounting structures for over 500 MW of solar farms annually.

If the government can sustain the private sectors thirst for alternative energy projects and lure financers in to back such schemes more developments will get up and running in the years to come. However, the challenge will ensure the survival of the project through to its formative and stages and the ability to expand into businesses that generate profits, as well as power.

 

Smart Cities in Action

The world’s first total-concept smart grid deployment project, PowerMatching City, has been placed on the Sustainia 100list of solutions. Sustainia 100 describes itself as “More than a model and a vision, Sustainia aims to be the world’s one-stop toolbox for sustainable solutions.”

PowerMatching City, The Netherlands, is the first real-life smart grid community in the world which delivers the world’s first results from a total concept smart grid deployment project.

The city currently involves 25 households connected with each other and fitted with fully functioning micro combined heat and power systems (CHP). Systems in place include high efficiency boilers, hybrid pumps, smart meters, PV panels, electric vehicle charging stations and other smart household appliances which when combined together make up the smart energy system.

“With the share of renewable energy going up strongly over the next decades, the rising demand for electricity, and consumers who are increasingly providing their own energy supply, it is evident that smart grids will have an essential position in our future energy system. PowerMatching City plays a pioneering role in the development of smart grids and in the transition towards a sustainable energy system,” said Frits Bliek, Program Coordinator, PowerMatching City.

It is hoped that the grid will continue to grow, with the next phase set to include a further 70 homes. Follow the link below for the video!

PowerMatching City (www.PowerMatchingCity.nl)

 

 

EU on the RIO+20 summit

The first Earth Summit took place twenty years ago in Rio. The global community created this summit because they wanted a more equitable and sustainable model for the course of human development. These days, sustainable progress has been made and the world has changed a lot. The RIO+20 summit will have different challenges than last year. They need to think about the changing global landscape, the international economic crisis, rising population levels, global resources and the still unacceptable level of poverty in the world. So there is a great responsibility on the community of state to make new strategies on this RIO+2O summit  and search for more inclusiveness and sustainability.

The irresponsible behavior of the financial sector, lax regulatory oversight and deep-seated imbalances were the causes of today’s economic crisis. These deep-seated imbalances need to be corrected if we want a more sustainable growth for the world. And  it’s not just the global economic imbalances but also the imbalances in the ecological footprints. And although, in the 20th century, the quality of life rose very much, this came at the price of unsustainable use of scarce global resources like fuel, metals, minerals, timber, water and ecosystems.

A Challenge in the world of today is to work together, especially when you realize that by 2050, the world population will have reached 9 billion. If we don’t work together and think about how to best use our precious resources, we will need two planets to sustain us. It’s up to the RIO Summit to take the discussions about stable economies and increased growth, discussed at the G20 Summit in Mexico, and include an inclusive and sustainable path to reach these goals.

The EU really wants a concrete Rio agenda so they can discuss all their goals and targets for key areas that underpin a green economy. They want to talk about water, the oceans, land, ecosystems, forests, sustainable energy and resource efficiency. And the goals they have are all linked to sustainable growth, poverty, social development, food security and nutrition. But the EU won’t be able to make their case at Rio if they don’t get the support, engagement and mobilization of both the public and private sector. So it’s up to RIO+20 to strengthen engagement of the private and civil sector, because these are the real engines behind our economies in sustainable development.

The  Millennium Development Goals make that the EU remains committed to achieve their goals. And they are also ready to engage in a discussion on Sustainable Development Goals suggested by some G77 countries. An example of their commitment to global sustainability is the EU Sustainable Energy for All Summit that was organized, in coordination with the UN, in Brussels on April 16 of this year. A new EU Energizing Development initiative was announced. This initiative should provide sustainable energy services to 500 million people by 2030. And the European Commission is currently also establishing a technical assistance facility to provide governments with the expertise to engage in reforms and to develop their own National Energy Access Strategies. The EU wants to mobilize at least 400 million euros over the next two years to go into these two strategies.

Because we are in an economical crisis, we need to find innovative ways of developing financial assistance. A valuable resource to fund development could be a global Financial Transaction Tax. This could also ensure that it’s not just the financial sector that needs to pay a contribution to the economy. So the revenue generated by a European Financial Transaction tax should be put into the future EU budget to help ensure that the EU continues to be one of the world’s biggest providers of development assistance.

UK as first country where companies need to measure carbon footprint

Nick Clegg announced that the UK wants to measure how quickly natural assets are being lost by recording them as part of GDP. The UK will be the first country in the world to force major companies to measure their carbon footprints. More than 1,000 companies have to measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions so they realize how much they are polluting. The plan is that these companies will stop polluting and start looking for more sustainable ways to form a business.

This is all part of a concept called GDP+, where all countries have to start measuring their natural capital. The main goal is that countries start thinking about more than their material wealth. They will also need to reveal their natural wealth, like rainforests, clean rivers and fresh air. They can put a value on precious resources like forests so they understand what it means when they start chopping them down. Because keeping them would boost the GDP of the country.

GDP shows the growth of a country, but when we think about it, it only shows a little part of a country’s welfare. The GDP doesn’t take into account the quality of the growth, like the natural environment needed for a future prosperity. And an average environmental degradation costs the world around 9 per cent of GDP every year.

So GDP needs to have a broader look, it should be a measurement for individual countries to measure what is important, like the forests, so countries can make informed decisions.

Clegg spoke at the Rio Earth Summit where world leaders came together to discuss global issues on sustainable development. He said that Britain will lead the way for other countries by forcing their businesses to act first in measuring their carbon footprint. And this is the first step to managing the greenhouse gases that create global warming.

Hiding greenhouse gas emissions isn’t a good way to lead a business. Reducing them is has many positive outcomes. Not only for the planet but also for the business, they can save money on energy bills and attract companies with their green reputation.

The treasury plans to bring a ‘green tax’ in next year as part of the Carbon Reduction Commitment. But this will be a burden for lots of companies. Ian McCafferty, CBI Chief Economic Advisor, said that measuring carbon is useful for companies, but taxing carbon makes companies uncompetitive with companies abroad and less attractive for foreign investors. So he want the plans for the Carbon Reduction Commitment to be scrapped.

Starting from April 2013, the businesses listed on the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange will have to start the carbon reporting. In 2015, they will be reviewed and ministers will then decide if they want to extend the program to all large companies.

The EEF, representing UK manufacturers, complained that Mr Glegg should have thought about the impact on the home economy before announcing all these new regulations internationally. British businesses already have to cut carbon and reduce greenhouse gases by 2025 under European regulations.

Glegg also believes that investing in renewable energy  is the best way for the UK to boost their economy in the future. For example he wants to boost the energy subsidies on green technology like wind energy.

The UN Rio+20 summit will probably not be as spectacular as the last Earth summit in 1992, where a large number of global agreements to tackle climate change were made. Now they want to decide on new sustainable development goals like switching to renewable energy and cutting pollutions. But environmentalist say that the summit is too weak to force actions. There is also some anger because David Cameron didn’t attend the summit himself but sent Clegg.

The idea of putting a price on nature has been protested against by many, including Sarah Reader, campaigner from the World Development Movement. She said that putting a price on nature allows multinationals and governments to buy the right to destroy landscapes without having to feel guilty because they paid for it. She said that ecosystems should be protected by law.