Climate change, population growth, ongoing urbanization and land use conversion to agriculture is prompting government, public, non-profit and business organizations worldwide to pay greater attention and focus greater resources on finding ways to enhance the security, resiliency and overall management of water resources.
Striving to provide an organizational “toolkit” to realize these aims, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a report on November 16, Water Governance in Latin America and Caribbean: A Multi-Level Approach.
“The report underscores the importance of water governance in achieving the sanitation and water targets in the Millennium Development Goals,” the OECD explains, using “survey data and institutional mapping to examine the design, regulation and implementation of water policy” across 13 Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region countries.
Business and biodiversity haven’t mixed well, historically. The confluence of several significant trends—population growth, natural resource and materials scarcity, ongoing ecosystems services degradation, loss of biodiversity and climate change, among them—has business leaders increasingly focused on sustainability not just in economic, but in ecological and social terms as well.
The key to such efforts is internalizing economic externalities in market prices, business costs, planning and accounting. The concept of natural capital, in turn, is seen as a key for businesses to incorporate and place a fair value on the public and access goods, such as clean air, water and other ecosystems services. It is also a way for both businesses and nations to economically value and account for the depletion of natural resource stocks and the impacts of pollution, as well as degradation of ecosystems and the services they provide.
Illustrating these points was an international event in Singapore on Nov. 7, in which business, government and non-government organization leaders gathered to officially launch TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) for Business Coalition Headquarters, the aims of which are “to achieve a shift in corporate behavior to preserve and enhance, rather than deplete, the earth’s natural capital,” according to a press release.
A diverse coalition of UN agencies, international organizations and NGOs launched an international Biodiversity and Community Health initiative at the 11th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 11) that took place in Hyderabad, India this past October 8-19. Led by the UN University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS), participating organizations “collectively called for the need to put biodiversity and health on the CBD agenda.”
“The new partnership envisages a global network of centers of excellence addressing these issues of health, traditional knowledge, biodiversity and community well-being,” according to a press release. In realizing this aim, the partners aim to conduct research that examines the “flows of biophysical resources to the food and health sectors; enable participatory assessment of biological resource use and health practices; and engage with relevant policy bodies and instruments.”
The World Bank Group continues to play a leading role in international development, assisting less developed and developing nations build the organizational structures and institutional frameworks, as well as the physical infrastructure, that serve as a foundation for social and economic development. As is true for intergovernmental organizations more generally, sustainable development continues to emerge as the centerpiece of the World Bank Group’s strategic policy and investment framework.
Climate change mitigation, and to a lesser degree, adaptation, have in turn emerged as the predominant aspects driving intergovernmental organizations’ sustainable development strategies. In a new report, the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) assesses “how, and how well, the World Bank Group has incorporated climate change risks into the design and appraisal of long-lived infrastructures,” whether they be physical or institutional in nature.
The number and extent of so-called marine “dead zones”–areas of coastal ocean waters where nearly all forms of marine life have been snuffed out due to lack of oxygen—has been on the rise for decades now, posing increasing threats to commercial and subsistence fisheries, recreational fishing and human health. Terrestrial runoff containing relatively high levels of phosphorous, primarily from agricultural fertilizers, has been identified as one of the main culprits.
Wastewater discharge from cities and urban centers is also to blame. In addition to phosphorous, there are growing concerns about a wide range of chemicals and substances being poured into coastal waters from urban sources—trace organics and hormones in pharmaceuticals and in personal care products (PPCPs) prominent among them.
Conducting an eight-week study as part of a multi-year partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Veolia Water North America found that adding its Actiflo Carb technology to the traditional wastewater treatment process removed 75 percent of selected PPCPs and reduced phosphorous concentration to 0.05 milligrams per liter (mg/L) or less, a level well below the Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) 1.0 mg/L threshold, according to a company press release.
Back in August, the largest blackout in history affected between 600-700 million Indians, roughly 10 percent of the world’s population. Researchers estimate that another 300 million Indians lack access to electricity. Despite an economy that’s been one of the fastest developing and growing in the world, it’s clear that energy access and energy security still pose critical economic, social and environmental challenges for the Indian government, society and commerce and industry.
The collective choices and decisions Indians make regarding energy supply and demand will either set the nation on a path of ongoing and increasing fossil fuel reliance and dependency or a more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable path of development centered on more local, distributed power generation from cleaner, renewable energy sources.
With developing nations predicted to account for the large majority of human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as well as economic growth out to 2050 and beyond, the ramifications of their choices will extend well beyond India’s borders. One thing appears clear and certain, emulating the fossil fuel, water and natural resource-intensive and consumption-driven development path of the U.S. would not only be unsustainable, it would be doomed to failure in the first place, potentially wreaking havoc across India and beyond.
Financial innovation—particularly at the retail level—is critical to fostering ongoing growth and development of solar and renewable energy projects. To see the triple bottom line potential to be realized, one need only look at the popularity and rapid growth of residential and community solar energy providers using third-party ownership business models by making home solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems affordable for a much wider range of Americans.
Adapting a well-known and tremendously successful investment vehicle—the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)—to finance solar power projects, San Francisco’s Renewable Energy Trust (RET) sees an opportunity to significantly broaden solar energy investment opportunities for individual, as well as professional, investors while at the same time substantially reducing the cost of capital for project developers.
Significantly for solar power project developers, San Francisco-based RET says applying the REIT structure to the solar power industry can lower the cost of capital for solar power development by as much as 20 percent.
With the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission sparking rapid growth, India presents a key, strategic and sustainable business opportunity for Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar, which has forged a world-leading, lowest- cost-producer position in the thin-film solar photovoltaic (PV) power market segment.
Supporting its strategic expansion plans in the country, First Solar and the Sir Ratan Tata Trust announced plans to collaborate on a solar power pilot project to provide a reliable supply of safe drinking and irrigation water to rural communities in India’s middle Himalayas region.
Solar PV to offer Himalayan Villagers a sustainable water supply
“Reduce, Recycle, Reuse”–the three R’s–is a central plank and green mantra being used by national governments and international organizations around the world to spur sustainable development and the transition to low-carbon green economies. Aiming to boost the uptake of sustainable raw materials across Europe, Spanish “waste-to-resource” company HERA Holding and Tucker, Georgia’s “green” materials supplier Lehigh Technologies, announced a partnership on September 26 that will provide micronized rubber powder (MRP) produced from end-of-life tires and post-industrial rubber for Europe’s tire, consumer and industrial plastics and coatings industries.
Europe’s economy, society and environment, as well as HERA and Lehigh Technologies, stand to gain as a result. Lehigh’s PolyDyne MRP offers manufacturers a lower cost, sustainable source of rubber “without sacrificing the reliability and performance of traditional raw materials,” Lehigh Technologies notes. With its MRP being used by five of the world’s ten largest tire companies in the world, more than 140 million tires have been manufactured using Lehigh Technologies’ MRP.
Offshore winds off the U.S. Atlantic coast could yield enough clean, renewable electrical power for at least one-third of the entire U.S., or the entire East Coast, from Maine to Florida, according to a Stanford University study released Sept. 14. That includes some of the country’s largest urban centers, as well as the nation’s capital.
The Stanford research team employed a state-of-the-art offshore wind power model to simulate the installation of 144,000 5-megawatt wind turbines of the type typically found in European offshore wind farms at various ocean depths and distances from shore from Florida to Maine, concentrating them in the typically hurricane-free stretch of the Atlantic between Maine and Virginia, according to a Stanford University News report.
Now’s the time for U.S. offshore wind power development
Maharashtra Forest Department officials have rejected proposed development of an open-cast coal mine in an increasingly diminishing area of Central India forest. Greenpeace India and other organizations have joined with local residents in opposing the plan. They’re now circulating a petition on the Web calling on the Prime Minister and national government to protect all Central India’s forests from coal mining, and to further investigate a scandal involving the PM, government and the nation’s powerful coal mining and industrial companies.
Saving forests and the critically endangered Asian tiger or more coal for electrical power and industry growth? Both developing and developed market economies, governments and societies have faced such choices since the dawn of the modern industrial era. They’ve become much more critical, and sensitive, in recent times, however, as societies search for better, more sustainable ways to develop economically without using up the natural resources and severely degrading the natural habitat and ecosystems on which all life depends.
On September 17, Fluor announced it has been awarded a lump-sum engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract. It was also awarded a separate contract to provide operations and maintenance services for a 170 megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic (PV) facility from Centinela Solar Energy LLC, a member of the LS Power Group.
Located near El Centro in Southern California, the 170-MW solar power plant is to be built in two stages: 125-MW of capacity to be installed in Phase 1 and another 45-MW in Phase 2. Fluor has received “full notice to proceed” with Phase 1, with Phase 2 expected to commence in the first quarter of 2013.
“This significant new win for Fluor further solidifies our position as a leader in the solar power engineering and construction industry,” commented president of Fluor’s Power Group, Dave Dunning. “We look forward to expanding our solar resume and delivering our second solar PV project for LS Power. Fluor’s decades of project management expertise and our financial strength demonstrates our ability to bring a turnkey solution to our clients for their utility-scale solar developments.”
The first phase of the Kyoto Protocol’s (KP) emissions offset market is drawing to a close with just over 13 billion giga tons (Gt) of surplus of emissions offset credits, more than a thousand times greater than anticipated demand of 11.5 million mega tons (Mt). The balance of supply and demand is only going to get worse as an anticipated second phase of the KP program kicks off next year with the overall surplus reaching as high as 16.2 Gt CO2. It could possibly reach 17.2 Gt if Australia and New Zealand don’t link their national emissions offsets markets with KP’s, according to a study from Thomson Reuters Point Carbon commissioned by CDM Watch.
The combination of weak 2020 national emissions reduction pledges on the part of developed countries, leniency as to the use of offsets and the burgeoning surplus renders the Kyoto Protocol and national emissions markets ineffective and incapable of fulfilling their fundamental reason for being: achieving significant reductions in carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide.
New survey results on national energy policy from the Dept. of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories and OurEnergyPolicy.org show that a large majority of U.S. energy professionals have a clear preference for a national energy policy that places equal weight on energy security, economics and the environment. If that isn’t a Triple Bottom Line focus, what is?
Offering more detailed, refined and nuanced insight into Americans’ views on energy policy, a vast majority of the 884 U.S. energy professionals responding to the survey indicated “a clear preference for policymaking that pursues Energy Supply Security, Economics, and the Environment simultaneously,” according to Sandia National Labs-OurEnergyPolicy.org’s, “The Goals of Energy Policy” report.
The future of the first–and still largest by far–multi-lateral market-based initiative to address climate change by seeking to promote and foster development of sustainable, low carbon economies – the United Nations Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) – is in doubt. That has led to the formation of a high-level panel and the commission of a broad research project aimed at reforming the CDM in order to assure it has a future.
Established under the auspices of the United Nations and signatories to the Kyoto Protocol, the CDM is the most substantial vehicle to date for the transfer of clean energy technology and development of clean energy projects between developed and less developed countries. It enables clean energy and clean tech project developers who qualify to earn CDM carbon emission offset credits that can be bought and sold on carbon emissions offset markets for each metric ton of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions avoided.
Creation of the CDM “has spawned more than 4,500 projects in 75 developing countries, everything from wind energy and efficient cookstove projects to landfill gas and large industrial projects,” the CDM Policy Dialog panel notes in a press release.
The CDM’s future is in doubt, despite its overall success, however. “Credited with creating the first global environmental currency, [the CDM] is now under threat due to the current low prices paid for credits, the result of low demand and uncertainty over the timing and level of future demand, which is tied to countries’ emission-reduction commitments,” the panel explains.