Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Picturing carbon over time

Having trouble with lots of carbon numbers and Copenhagen claims? A solution is the World Bank's Data Visualizer. It does a great job in turning numbers into pictures.

It's hard to visualise greenhouse gas emissions, and more difficult still to conceptualise the numbers over time, across countries and against other important measures like economy and health. In the image, the bubble size is total emission plotted against economy (horizontal) and per person emissions (vertical).

Go to the Data Visualizer site, chose what you want to compare - from the left hand side menu - and then press play and watch the changes over time.

And a suggestion for the World Bank. Add future scenarios to this visualiser. It would be great to see the data map a path for contraction of total greenhouse emissions and, convergence to equivalent per person emissions, in the future.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

More than GDP

Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France with his high powered Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (CMEPSP - including Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen and Jean-Paul Fitoussi) form the latest group to join the call for a better measure of progress than GDP.

The CMEPSP's report (3Mb pdf) highlights current well-being alongside the assessment of sustainability - whether this well-being can last over time. It's recommendations focus on changing our emphasis from measuring economic production to quality of life, equity and our well being over time and into the future.

It's not a new argument - famous examples included Bhutan's Gross National Happiness, Redefining Progress and, The New Economics Foundation. But it is a very prominent call for change.

Nicolas Sarkozy is encouraging a great revolution to economic and well being measurement. Others in France however see GDP here for a long time into the future. GDP criticisms include the non measurement of state expenditure, such as some public health and, the positive value it places on destructive economic activity.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Climate Wisdom

Large groups of people are smarter than an elite few argues The Wisdom of the Crowds. If this is the case and, to the extent twitter is representative of the Australian population, Joe Hockey should pay attention to the twitter results on his climate change question. He twittered hey team re The ETS. Give me your views please... on Friday.

A random sample of responses to his climate change question finds:
  • 51.6% say support the ETS and/or don't sell out on your previous support for these laws
  • 43.2% say no ETS and/or delay it, it's just a tax
  • 2.1% say become the leader, presumably implicitly saying no to the ETS as well
  • 3.2% say twitter discussion about this is silly
Details of this sample are here.

Joe Hockey asked this question as the opposition liberal party is pushing him to become leader. This change will overturn his previous position - and the party's decision last week - to take action on climate change by passing the Australian emissions trading legislation (ETS).

And the current leaders views? “This is not a game . . . We're talking about the future of our planet. We're talking about whether we, the Liberal Party, will want to be a credible, progressive political movement of the 21st century” 27/11/09 Malcolm Turnbull quoted in The Age.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Nobel Economics

Alongside Barak Obama there's a second Noble prize surprise this year - Elinor Ostrom for the Economics Nobel Prize.*

Elinor is a groundbreaking economics win as her work covers how humans look after shared resources - we often collaborate to protect environments such as water resources and fisheries. That is humans do not inevitably act as 'economically rational' - out to maximise our profit.

It's often assumed that without outside intervention we will inevitably see a tragedy of the commons. This tragedy occurs as individuals overuse resources - e.g. the global atmosphere's ability to absorb carbon - reducing the quality of life for everyone.

In fact there are many examples where people do collaborate and can achieve far better outcomes than purely government action. The graph above is one such example. It compares the lobster catch in Maine (community driven management - red line) with fish (government management - blue line).

So what do we need for a triumph of the commons? Mark van Vugt's recipe for success is here.

Image: Comparison of landings of ground fish in Maine and lobsters. Source: The Struggle to Govern the Commons, Thomas Dietz,Elinor Ostrom and, Paul C. Stern Science | * The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cut the Jam - add pedestrians!

Cutting traffic jams in cities is often about more roads and keeping pedestrians safe from cars - off the road. The idea of shared space is turning this logic on its head - mixing traffic with pedestrians and observing real improvements.

The picture, left, shows Zentralplatz in Biel, Switzerland. Biel's town square has become an encounter zone mixing cars with pedestrians, removing traffic lanes and markings and often traffic lights. Traffic improves for everyone.

This is not just happening in Europe. Bendigo Australia has an ambitious program for shared space* - removing pedestrian crossings and creating an city where people prefer walking over cars.

Dr Rodney Tolley, Director Walk21 and author of the Bendigo transformation study says a study of such shared spaces finds they are incredibly safe. 'We are yet to find a death' in such spaces worldwide, he said in Adelaide today.

As a bonus car traffic is actually cut. Previously people drove between shops in the Bendigo space. Now it appears they walk. This has real economic benefits - shopping district come alive, along with more obvious community and environmental outcomes.

* See page 5 | Pictures: Christian Thomas

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Exponential take-off: Solar equals all the world's current electricity in 8 years?

Wubbo Ockels describes the incredible speed he experienced lifting off into space in the Challenger space shuttle. Within 2 minutes blue sky fades to black, 8 minutes later he's weightless just 200 miles from earth and outside the atmosphere. Minus 200 degrees outside. No oxygen.

From Challenger astronaut to Professor of Sustainable Engineering and Technology at Delft University in the Netherlands Ockels, speaking in Adelaide after the World Solar Challenge, is a passionate solar advocate. He says 'solar is growing exponentially'. From 2007 to 2008 growth was greater than 100%.

If we continue to grow at this rate, 8 years from now solar panels will equal today's global electricity generating capacity. Sound's extraordinary? The numbers are in the table below.

Solar Installed
Global Total Solar
Global installed

Monday, October 26, 2009

Its waste - not savings

You've seen the banners: It's simple. Save energy, save money and the environment; Save yourself $350; Cost effective energy savings opportunities for industry.

Is it too good to miss an offer like this? Turns out we often do.

People generally try to avoid a future loss more than they try to achieve a future gain. This can occur even when the size of the financial loss or gain is similar. We know such an outcome occurs for finances and money and researchers David Hardisty and Elke Weber have just shown the same applies for environmental decision making.

In other words, if we are trying to encourage people to take action today - action that has long term benefits for themselves and the broader environment - we are likely to be far better off saying stop wasting $350 rather than the save yourself $350 message.

The UK Energy Saving Trust, despite it's name and proclaiming energy saving week rather than stop wasting money and energy this week, does have a bet both ways. Stop wasting energy and money is on it's home page. | Picture:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Climate Talks lead-in

In the lead up to the Copenhagen Climate talks, amid the carbon cut numbers, cap and trade or tax policy there are some real, smaller picture, stand out initiatives being announced. A few include the French government's announcement of 2.2 billion for electric car charging stations and making it mandatory for office car parks to have charging stations by 2015 (picture

In Korea it's hydrogen from landfill gas for hydrogen vehicles and a commercial hydrogen fuel cell that powers 3000 homes (cost comparisons here).

In a slightly different vein - but a sign of the times none the less - Apple, Nike, PG&E and Exelon quit the US Chamber of Commerce over it's climate stance. And UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has put a size on the low-carbon sector. It is now larger than defense and aerospace combined.

Clearly there's some business and government action at these levels. For the moral imperative, Simon Longstaff of the St James Ethics Centre documents the uncomfortable similarities between climate responses and slavery, as argued in the UK Parliament in 1806!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Home power over your phone

For anyone who's wondered what's actually going into their quarterly power bill, electricity at home just got smarter.

Google's powermeter promises to show your electricity use from any internet connected device, including your mobile phone. By knowing your power use every day, rather than every three months, the aim is to give you information that helps cut wasted money on power bills.

Trouble was you had to have a smart meter and buy electricity from one of two - Florida and Germany - power companies. And, as Nicholas Stern highlights in his Climate Change review for the UK government: Behaviour is driven by a number of factors, not just financial costs and benefits (see summary). Easy access to information is a step towards such change.

The answer? The Energy Detective a monitor that sends your home's power use to the web. It's not quite all there yet however, 240 volt Australian / Europe versions are due early 2010.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Green Will Save Us - Harvard Business Review

In a sign of the times, this month the Harvard Business Review proclaims Green Will Save Us on its front cover while Newsweek has published green rankings for the USA's 500 largest companies.

The Harvard Business Review's bold statement sees that "Once and inconvenient truth, climate change is now an incontrovertible problem... Consumers are ever greener, and their support for sustainable products and practices is growing worldwide."

The Review's writers argue that: "organizations can turn sustainability into innovation’s new frontier – achieving competitive advantage and influencing economic recovery in much the same way that the breakthrough products and business models of computer companies led the way out of previous recessions."

We can think of such development in stages - for example:
  1. Viewing Compliance as an opportunity
  2. Making Value Chains Sustainable
  3. Designing Sustainable Products and Services
  4. Developing New Business Models
  5. Creating Next Practice Platforms
It's all adds up to big call to find your business's sustainable and carbon advantages.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Google Earth and climate change

Google Earth has just released climate change layers showing the world as it responds to and is impacted by climate change. Narrated by Al Gore, you can tour the world from large scale renewable energy to the Greenland icesheet - as illustrated in the picture - and from Amazon community reforestation to the impact of climate change on global human health.

The world climate change tours are also on youtube. And try the Carbon Footprint project for maps of emissions etc. in the UK.

In Australia, the ACF's Consumption Atlas provides local information.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Green Pharmacy is Gold!

Whatever your business, the truth is that there are green advantages waiting to be found. The case for small and medium business is just as compelling as for big business as this Pharmacy article shows. At the very least there are competitive supplier and direct profits to be found.

At the big end Wal-Mart is a leading example. Its CEO, Lee Scott, says “our goals are to be supplied 100% by renewable energy … to create zero waste … and to sell products that sustain our resources and our environment. Helping customers buy more sustainable products ... is something that I think all of us can be proud of.”

Boots in the UK ran a 2007 trial putting a carbon footprint reduction label on products. It’s now working with the UK Carbon Trust for a country wide labelling standard. At a store level it’s spent £5 million cutting energy use – expenditure that helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the company’s power bills. And in 2007, 99% of the UK Cooperative Pharmacy’s electricity came from green (renewable) sources.

So where’s the Gold for the Green pharmacy? Read more here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Green Living Revolution

A revolutionary example of progressive and sustainable development, says the Murray Valley Standard, is on its way for Murray Bridge in South Australia. It’s a fully commercial residential site setting new world-class and affordable standards. These include the:

  • Reuse of all water (including stormwater, grey and black water).
  • A cut to the Carbon Footprint associated with home use by 85%.
  • Cutting potable water use by a factor of 10.
  • Highly energy efficient households.
  • Initiatives that deliver a significant cut to the Ecological Footprint associated with the homes and living in them. 
  • Fitting all 320 houses with 1 kW of Solar PV each.

At this site GreenMode is helping SAID Property Developments deliver a unique package. Many of the initiatives are likely to cost less, or no more, than those that would have a much greater environmental impact at a similar but conventional residential site. The initiatives are detailed here and the work shows how we can simultaneously get excellent results for the environment and economy.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Half price solar

As you produce more of a specific product - like a solar panel - the price comes down.

Is it really that simple? Over the last year, the price of a solar panel at the factory gate has come down by nearly 50%. From a US$4.20 cents per watt to under $2 and 'still profitable' is the finding from UK's New Energy Finance company.

This positive news is however complicated by the market and global financial crisis. None the less, only a few years ago people installing solar electric power on their houses were calculating 20 to 25 year payback periods. For some the good news, according to the Boston Business Journal, is this payback is now only 5 years.

Picture: Solar power at the same cost as UK grid power by 2013

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ten times better

Factor Ten – is about making a ten-fold improvement in the use of energy and resources. It can also mean a 90 percent cut in your business or personal costs and its possible to achieve this today - possibly saving ourselves $9 out of every ten dollars.

The picture shows one example – LED downlights. Costing between about AUD 10 and 20 dollars per light, the lights use 2 to 3 watts each. A normal downlight would use 50 watts.

The lights shown in the picture will pay for themselves within 6 months. After this, it’s money in the bank. In addition they should last many times longer than an ordinary 50 watt halogen downlight. This saves you or your business the time and cost of replacing ordinary bulbs.

Of course the answer to climate change is not just about light – although the International Energy Agency finds we could cut global electricity consumption by almost 10% with similar changes. Nor is it (only) about changing light bulb jokes.... But it is a great illustration of profitable and meaningful change that delivers economic and environmental carbon advantages.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Kick The Habit

Clear simple communication really helps when dealing with a complex global problem like climate change. The United Nation's book, Kick the Habit, is a great example with plenty of useful comparisons.

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, launched the book. He says:
Addiction is a terrible thing. It consumes and controls us, makes us deny important truths and blinds us to the consequences of our actions. Our society is in the grip of a dangerous greenhouse gas habit. The message of this book is that we are all part of the solution. Whether you are an individual, a business, an organization or a government, there are many steps you can take to reduce your climate footprint.

Picture - examples of greenhouse gas emission amounts generated by different activities or goods. Pictures like this are throughout Kick the Habit.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Climate for Change - Active Business Responses

In the world of hard climate science, carbon pricing schemes and emissions targets you could be forgiven for thinking that human attitudes are of lesser importance. Nothing is further from the truth. For example - Nicholas Stern, ex Chief Economist of the World Bank and author of the UK government’s seminal Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change highlights the importance of behaviour change. He emphasises:

Three elements of policy for mitigation are essential: a carbon price, technology policy, and the removal of barriers to behavioural change. Stern Review p.xxviii

Its one of the reasons I (Simon) am thrilled to win a scholarship for a Harvard, China and Australia joint climate change symposium. My excitement is not just for the event but also as it merges science with society. It recognises there is as much to be gained working with people’s attitudes, views and perspectives as with science, technology and pricing.

The humble light bulb is a great illustration. Look around you. In nearly any country you will see incandescent light bulbs or halogen down lights. As Amory Lovins puts it, each of these lights, remaining in its socket unchanged, is the same as walking past a $50 note on the pavement. But, for the last two decades while effective alternatives have been available, many people have nevertheless continued to walk past the light bulb.

Why? Read the full article here>>>

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Billion dollar green business

50% off electronics' greenhouse gases, the world's largest tidal plant, and a hydrogen fuel cell that powers 3000 homes are just some of the impressive Korean green business initiatives.

The first, Samsung has just announced over 4 billion dollars of investment to green its electronics. It will cut the greenhouse gas embodied in its products by 50%. Once past the factory gate goods also use power and, Samsung says, its TVs, refrigerators and air conditioners will be the most efficient (lowest power use) products available.

Efficiency is also central to the stationary hydrogen fuel cell. The plant producing heat & electricity for 3000 homes does so by using 80% of the available energy from gas for a current cost of about AUD 0.23 per unit.

And the world's largest tidal power plant - it will deliver power at approximately half the cost of wind power. Hydrogen and tidal power plant pictures and detail are here. Cost comparisons here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Business action

Over a third of Australian businesses are already taking action to cut greenhouse emissions and reduce energy use according to a recent Australian Industry Group and KPMG survey. The report finds nearly 70% of businesses - from a random sample across construction, service and manufacturing industries - are currently acting or plan to act to manage carbon footprints.

For any company there are many reasons to address climate change. Increasingly major companies will demand a supplier understands its carbon footprint. The international Carbon Disclosure Project reports this is already occurring with Cadbury, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, P&G, Unilever, Vodafone (1) and Walmart (2) among the companies asking suppliers to report on carbon footprint and climate change strategies.

The Carbon Disclosure Project represents Investors with assets of $55 trillion. Its just one of the major reasons why, across the world, companies are looking to find carbon advantages.
The picture shows a stationary hydrogen fuel cell power plant in Seoul, Korea.

Monday, June 29, 2009

1 million green jobs

As governments around the world move to implement green stimulus packages a standout initiatives is in Korea.

The country is spending $38.5 billion on clean technology and environmental restoration. The Korean Presidential Committee on Green Growth says it will deliver 956,000 new green jobs. The four year package is about 2.6% of Korea's yearly gross domestic product (GDP). Funding goes to rivers, forests, clean transport and bikeways and, green homes and neighbourhoods.

At the same time this strategy is driving private investment. JP Morgan has just announced that it is raising $1 billion to invest in Korean solar, LEDs (high efficiency lighting) and green cars.

Picture: Back to A future, the restoration of Cheong gye cheon. 5.8kms of freeway back to a river.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Network City – Giving Back to China’s Environment

China is growing and urbanising at an extraordinary rate. With its economic growth there is increased environmental pressure. Among the initiatives to change this – have growth while giving back to the environment – is the Network City by Brearley Architects with GreenMode. Its initiatives include:
  • Green roofs and walls plus light coloured hard surfaces and/or vegetation across roads – increasing amenity, cutting heat and consequently power use.
  • Building energy efficiency through the use of green roofs and walls as well as solar hot water, efficient lighting and high efficiency appliances.
  • The network city integrates commercial and industrial uses throughout its residential, agricultural and recreational areas. This reduces the demand for motorised private transport.
  • Throughout the city food production is integrated into the street plantings, arbours, parks and gardens plus, roof spaces and walls. The net impact of creating edible landscapes is to reduce the city’s food footprint.
The improvement is illustrated by comparing it to a standard city of 45,000 people. The reductions, such as halving people's power and home footprints, are illustrated in the figure above.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Point and power

Its a well known and obvious fact that when a surface faces the sun it is exposed to more light. Tracking the sun with a solar panel gives you up to 35% or more power over a similar sized fixed installation. But the motors to make this happen impose extra costs.

In the natural world, plants have evolved to follow the sun. So could we artificially mimic a sunflower and use this to point solar panels at the sun? MIT has demonstrated just such a system using a curved arch made from two different metals. Simple systems like this should be cheap and the techniques, known as biomimicry, have many applications beyond just tracking the sun.

But brining the natural world into today’s society is not just about hi tech applications. The picture illustrates living furniture, grow your own garden settings, certainly unique!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The race to lead

Traditional perspectives about renewable energy are increasingly being challenged. China's wind and solar growth is one example. Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice-chairman of China's national development and reform commission, talking to the UK Guardian sees 100GW of wind power coming from China by 2020.

That's 50 to 100 coal fired power plants worth of electricity. On top of this solar electricity is set to expand 75 fold. Cummulatively he sees renewables providing close to 20% of China's power in 2020.

In 2008 China ranked second behind the USA for wind power growth. It's been doubling every year for the last four years. With nearly 38% of China's financial crisis stimulus package being spent on green initiatives, western countries will be challenged for clean technology development leadership.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

White is the new green

Image first on roofs and surfaces could be worth a staggering $1,100 billion according to recent research.

Nobel prize winner Steven Chu, Obama's Energy Secretary, is promoting this change. Chu says just changing the colour of roofs and blacktopped freeways and streets is equivalent to taking all of the automobiles in the world of the road for eleven years.

White reflects heat and a worldwide change would help cool the world. As a bonus, light surfaces can help reduce the cost of cooling buildings which reduces emissions. However, Hashem Akbari, the lead scientist behind some of this research is careful to point out that converting to cool urban surfaces does not address the underlying problem of global warming.

These impressive numbers from white roads and roofs are not the only option. Living green roofs and walls can drop temperatures (and associated air conditioning costs) by as much as eleven degrees.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Winds of Change

In just eleven years, since 1997, the proportion of the world's electricity generated from wind has almost quadrupled. There are some impressive absolute numbers behind this global proportion.

In 2008 Australia's total capacity increasing by over 50%, China doubled its total installed wind power and growth was 50% in the USA.

With this impressive growth comes an equally impressive challenge. Coal still provides over 40% of the world's power. While wind is growing at 29% a year, versus coal's 4.5%, in absolute terms coal still dominates over wind. The International Energy Agency wedges illustrate the challenge.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Big Solar for Oz

10MW Solar Tower - wiki media commonsThe 2009 Australian budget delivers 1.4 billion dollars - over 6 years - for solar power. So how much solar electricity will Australia get?

The government subsidy is for new solar plants that together produce a coal plant's worth of power - up to 1000MW. Abengoa Solar, a leading solar power company currently constructing solar plants worldwide, put the cost of a 300MW plant at 1.2 billion euros in 2007. In 2009, the Arizona state government announced a 200MW plant for 1 billion US dollars.

The actual cost and reliability of the power generated is as important as the government subsidy for construction costs. The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates, for solar plants generating power 24 hours a day by storing the sun's heat, electricity will soon cost about US 13 cents a unit.

On this scale, sun power is starting to become competitive with expected future power prices.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Three into One

Can you fit three houses into one without compromising amenity? If you can then the environmental impact of a home would be cut – significantly!

Click for larger Housing Ecological Footprint imageRecent work by Lend Lease (through Delfin Lend Lease) with the Queensland EPA and GreenMode shows how it can be done. The results, appearing in the Queensland Government's Smart and Sustainable Homes newsletter, are for 35 different homes of the types typically constructed in South East Queensland.

By implementing simple measures - such as insulation, orientation, high efficiency cooling and heating, and window shading - the Ecological Footprint of a home with people living in it is cut by a factor of five.

When construction and the physical maintenance of the house are also included, three of these sustainable homes could fit in the footprint of one 'standard' house (of the type commonly constructed in Queensland).

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cheap 24-7 Sun Power

Cheap, clean, reliable and continuous electrons are not as elusive as we might think.

A new large scale solar electricity plant for Arizona, USA, shows the way forward. It will generate electricity by turning sunshine into heat and storing power overnight as molten salt.

It's also competitive and big. Using South Australia as a comparison, the plant will generate about a fifth of Adelaide's everyday basic electricity use. And the cost? In 6 years time, $115 per thousand units of electricity. That compares favourably with electricity from gas and also $120 for Adelaide power.

$120 was in the first 3 months of 2008, before any further inflation. It is also before a price on carbon pollution is introduced in Australia.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Solar boom

Sales of solar electricity systems to Australian households are growing exponentially.

Australian Solar InstallationThe graph, from Australian government figures, shows solar electricity installation per month.

This growth is occurring despite the Australian government imposing a means test on its rebates. The test currently limits rebate payments to households earning less than $100,000 a year. It was introduced in an effort to cool what Peter Garrett, Australia's Environment Minister, referred to as an overheated market.

In the middle of 2008, when the solar rebate means test is introduced, there is a momentary pause in growth but sales quickly expand again.

The results support reports from many in the solar industry. The industry says people on lower incomes, particularly pensioners, are willing to invest in smart green power. People will pay capital now for future savings.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Real Green Deal

436 billion US dollars and counting. This dollar figure is the global stimulus funding, according to HSBC, which is helping to address climate change.

Globally, nearly sixteen percent of economic stimulus expenditure goes to such green initiatives.

In Australia this figure is just over nine percent, China it's nearly thirty eight percent and in the USA it's close to twelve percent.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A new industrial revolution

The latest 43 billion dollar Australian announcement, for a broadband network, is a good example of economic growth that can build a more sustainable economy. Communications are inherently more climate friendly than many other businesses. In Australia, the CSIRO shows every dollar spent on communications produces a third of the greenhouse gas than an average dollar across the whole economy.

This is part of a clean future. It is much easier to supply clean power for economic activities that pollute less.

And there's a big future in clean business. Currently, renewable technologies drive 170,000 jobs in the German economy. By 2020 clean tech, say analysts, may be an industry rivalling or exceeding the information technology sector.

This then is the next industrial revolution - growth in clean technology and, significantly more growth in new and emerging low carbon sectors of the economy.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Carbon Advantage

It's a curious state of affairs - we don't want Growth Neutral businesses or Neutrally Beneficial social organisations so why Carbon Neutral? The very term implies that there is not a major opportunity to be found in addressing climate change.

Thomas Friedman highlights this and the coming revolution for business, societies, countries and organisations to seek a carbon advantage.

As we transform our economy and build renewable, smart, reliable, efficient power throughout all our activities, we create jobs, social outcomes and also new norms for business. Paul Gilding recently pointed this out arguing the global financial crisis will not sideline sustainability.

Yesterday, Nick Stern author of the UK’s 2006 economic climate change report spoke of this directly to the G20 countries. The opportunity is to invest heavily in energy efficiency and green technology using stimulus funding. It’s a call that some countries have already begun to act on.

Which leads back to the Carbon Advantage - companies and organisations acting now will not just help to answer society's challenges. It also delivers real benefits for the businesses and organisations that do so.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Local food

The Obamas are about to plant a veggie patch at the Whitehouse. It's not a new idea - Eleanor Roosevelt helped lead the way during the Second World War. But it is a great example of fast change - change that could create a more sustainable world.

Within a couple of years from the start of the war, by 1942 to 43, these home gardens were producing about thirty to forty percent of the US's veggies - not bad for backyard patches...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

GFC and Climate - Our Biggest Opportunity

Nicholas Stern, ex World Bank Chief Economist and author of the UK Government's economic review of Climate Change, recently linked recovery from the Global Financial Crisis and responding to climate change.

He says the good news is that there are great returns to handling these two things together. While there are undoubted pitfalls to avoid, current circumstances are also a huge opportunity - climate change and the financial crisis are intrinsically linked. Stern says now is precisely the moment to change to a low carbon economy.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Financial Recovery and a Sustainable New Deal

UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, is about to address the USA Congress and a global New Deal plus financial stimulus is on the agenda. So will this be a financially and environmentally sustainable new deal? There are some signs.

A snapshot - we have far more funding for energy programs in the US than any bill in history. The UK aims to access a £1 billion economic boost from energy. 3.9 of the 42 billion Australian financial stimulus goes to home insulation and solar hot water.

It is not just government. Recently investors, with US$ 3 trillion in assets, highlighted that climate actions can create $144 billion in savings. McKinsey, in its revised global Pathway to a Low Carbon Economy, finds the global investment required to address climate change is reasonable and "many of the opportunities would see future energy savings largely compensate for upfront investments."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Yes they are - solar powered cars

In 1998 fast sustainable change was occurring in Delhi. People may think Delhi was unlikely to prioritise environmental and social change. But, within 4 years, the city converted its private rickshaws and bus fleet from diesel and smoky two stroke to compressed natural gas. 

Then Delhi built an underground system - on budget and three years ahead of schedule.

Now India's solar powered car is hitting the mainstream, having completed a tour. One of these solar cars travels 90kms on a charge - more than most Australian's daily commute. The tour, highlighted in the New York Times, traveled 2,100kms showcasing entrepreneurs and sustainable solutions across the country.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Co-generated Scotch - och aye

When Scotland, where I was brought up, announces it's national icon - whiskey - is going green you know substantial change must be underway. Using co-generation Speyside will convert waste left over from the whiskey process into heat and power.

Using the heat, as well as generating electricity, means that far less energy is wasted. Localised schemes like this also save a substantial amount of power by avoiding transmission line losses.

Similar systems can be used for residential homes as well. There's a small demonstration in Sydney and Alan Jones has led the way for UK's Borough of Woking, near London.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wireless Energy World is Comming

The wireless world that will monitor and check your home energy use is about to be mainstream. "Google plans to launch a new service, Google PowerMeter, to provide homeowners with access to a Web-based display of electricity use at their home in real time." 

It will not just put power information infront of you at home, it brings it to your desktop. Tom Friedman must be happy to see some of his solutions to a hot flat crowded world coming through so quickly! See the greenbuildingadvisor story.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

John Brumby and an Expanding Awareness

Climate Change - Amid the heroes, tragedy and horror that is now approaching 200 dead in Victorian bushfires a new reality, recognising we are in new terrritory, is starting to emerge.
On Lateline (Feb 10) John Brumby (Vic Premier) has been pointing to "the new climatic conditions in which we are operating”. He says "the climate is changing, we are seeing more extreme events... weather events". 

Its an encouraging and brave recognition given the present, ongoing, human trauma that is still unfolding. It may also see us charting a different course - away from Clive Hamilton's prediction that "the major political parties will not want to acknowledge the association between global warming and the fires".

Meanwhile Time Magazine Why Global Warming may be Fueling Australia's Fires looks straight at this threat and Australian Firefighters are asking the government to "halve Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 2020." The Age prints the full letter.