Tag Archives: greenhouse gas

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.

UN Conference on sustainable development

On the last conference on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro 20 years ago, countries could sign the UN framework convention on climate change. This convention should have stabilized global annual green house gas emissions at 1990 levels. And since the industrialized nations have done  most polluting to the atmosphere, the convention has placed the biggest responsibility to lead by example on these countries. And now that the United Nations is holding another conference in sustainable development, it are these rich countries that need to prove the most.

But the convention isn’t really working. Annual global emissions have continued to rise and the rich countries didn’t lead so far. Rich and poor countries took pledges for action by 2020, but it still seems like the world is heading towards a global warming of 3°C or more. That means there will be temperatures that the earth hasn’t seen for about 3m years.

While approaching this new summit, poor countries are sceptical. This is because it are always the rich nations that express lofty ambitions but they don’t seem to be able to keep up to their promises. An example is the Kyoto protocol that the US and Canada signed, and they weren’t able to honor their signature.

So these rich countries will need more than just words to restore the trust of poorer countries. They are tackling climate change but they are taking their time and in the meantime, they are also criticizing the developing world. But they don’t realize that these ‘poor’ countries are also taking steps in finding solutions to climate change. Some of them, like China, India, Mexico, Brazil and other emerging powers, even have ambitious plans to tackle problems like deforestation and emission. So it’s normal that they’re sceptical when looking to the richer countries since they are the ones who are actually implementing their plans.

And it’s not fair. These poorer countries are most exposed and vulnerable to the impact of climate change, but they have done least to raise the atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases. So they must, with the small budgets they have, fight poverty, develop and grow economically and now also manage the risks of climate change. But when they invest in a low-carbon economy, they will also need a clear and credible policy and they can start building new technologies and markets. This will all help to create the only truly sustainable growth path for the future and it might even help these developing countries to get out of the depression of their own making.

So it is up to the rich countries to accelerate their own actions but also support the developing countries with technologies and resources.

Europe’s Smart City Initiative

Last year, Europe has set up an Initiative on Smart Cities. The Initiative fosters the dissemination throughout Europe of the most efficient models and strategies to progress towards a low carbon future. European countries should be progressing towards the energy and climate objectives at a local level while maintaining or improving the quality of live. Investments in energy efficiency and reduction of carbon emission can be used to improve local economies.

The Initiative wants a 40% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 (with start year 1990), which is very ambitious. This reductions can be obtained by using and producing sustainable energy. The Initiative will support cities and regions in creating a systematic approach and organizational innovation to encompass energy efficiency, low carbon technologies and the smart management of supply and demand. The main components of the Initiative is the measures of buildings, local energy networks and transport. Local authorities have to propose and implement holistic problem-solving approaches that use appropriate technology and policy measures.

Things that have to been done is for example the refurbishment of existing buildings so they use as less energy as possible while increasing performances and comfort. A good example of these sort of buildings are passive buildings, using vacuum insulation, windows, cool roofs,… New buildings have to be build with zero energy requirements or net zero carbon emissions.

In terms of energy, smart grids, smart meters, energy management systems, smart appliances and equipments can be used. And when thinking about transport, we think about sustainable mobility. Advanced smart public transport, intelligent traffic management and more encouragements to walk and cycle.

And all these objectives have to be turned into actions. The Initiative helps with this according to a city’s ambitions and the risk that’s involved. So ambitious cities could get funding for technical assistance to facilitate access to loans and risk sharing loans. And pioneer cities, taking much greater risks because they use radical technology and organizational transformations, could in addition receive grants to support the implementation of the proposed package of technologies and measures.

For more information about the Initiative, its objectives and the actions that will be taken: http://setis.ec.europa.eu/about-setis/technology-roadmap/european-initiative-on-smart-cities