The ongoing global climate negotiations in the Polish town of Poznan are all about financing, insiders say. So what proposals are on the table? A roundup of some headline generating plans:
The future of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is at the heart of the discussions. New projects in this mechanism, which allows emission-reduction projects in developing countries to sell credits to industrialized countries wishing to meet their emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol, are worth $25 billion. Last year alone, $82 billion worth of carbon credits were traded globally. The certificates are aimed at boosting technology transfer to developing countries.
It’s one of the biggest issues currently being addressed in Poznan: How can we stop the burning of forests as poor people burn firewood to make a living? Wood is also increasingly popular as a biomass fuel. So what’s the deal? Can we burn wood and not impact the environment?
The quick answer is that so long as the wood comes from a well managed forest, you’re more or less in the clear. And in case you are worried about the ecological impact of the smoke and the carbon dioxide emissions, this recent article in The Telegraph newspaper points out that because wood is a biomass fuel, burning is is carbon neutral – when you burn wood, it releases the exact amount of carbon dioxide that it absorbed when growing. It may actually be better to burn wood in some cases because when wood decomposes, it slowly lets go of the carbon it soaked up, a process which in many cases goes by unaccounted for (also read my article Clearing Forests Of Dead Wood Prevents Massive CO2 Emissions). So long as replanting matches harvesting your burning it will not lead to an increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. Far more serious is what happens in the rainforests in Asia. The impact of people’s burning of firewood is dramatic because it leads to the loss of natural forests.
Alternative energy schemes are going to be making important inroads around the globe. But the social implications of this should not be underestimated. A recent study by the Energy Savings Trust in the UK outlines how the scenario is likely to unfold in Britain.
The study, entitled Power in Numbers, underscores the vast untapped potential of schemes that are organized at local and community level. “Today energy generated by communities could produce about 13% of all household needs. With the right policies in place this potential could rise to 54%,” according to the report.
The two-week COP14 climate talks which start today in Poznan Poland, are the halfway mark in a two year negotiation effort by no less than 190 countries on a replacement for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
The new concept is way more ambitious than Kyoto which was signed by only 37 industrialized countries who committed to reducing carbon emissions to below 1990 levels by an average 5% by 2012. China, which had been hesitant about some of the issues on the table made a u-turn in its policy last December when it agreed to commit to a target in emissions reductions – on condition that it wouldn’t be bound to the same limits as industrial countries, and only if the rich world assists the poor countries in transitioning to cleaner production methods.
The Poznan conference will begin reviewing ideas on how to help poor nations in their efforts to combat climate change. A major part of this will be ideas as to how to finance the technological transfer that’s needed and what kind of targets are fair. Another focus point will be how to incentivize countries to successfully cut back on deforestation. Efforts will be made to agree to a time table for all these issues and achieve agreement by December next year.
Investment managers at cleantech funds are looking at the world with totally new eyes these days – the financial crisis, which has ravaged stock prices and wiped out major financial institutions, offers buying opportunities that are unprecedented. Now’s the best time to snap up bargains, they say.
The hard numbers prove this ain’t illogical. Investment in the US clean tech sector rose 55% to more than $2.4 billion over the past twelve months. One of the main drivers of this could be the US government’s $700 billion Housing and Recovery Act stimulus package. The tax concessions boosted wind energy, geothermal and biomass projects and are expected to have a long lasting effect on the capital markets.
The German solar panel company SolarWorld has installed solar panels on the roofs of the Vatican. The Pope switched to the system earlier this week and is expected to announce drastic plans to expand on the project. The solar panels are placed on top of the massive roof of the Vatican’s Nervi Hall, where the pope receives general audiences.
A total of 2,400 photovoltaic panels have been attached to this 5,000 square meter roof. They are not noticeable from the ground below and can provide all of the energy for the hall and a few other buildings adjacent to it. Exact output is 300 kilowatt hours (kWh) annually.
Petroleum Development Oman, the state owned oil company of Oman (partly controlled by Shell), is in discussions with geologists who claim they’ve found a type of rock that can be used to soak up huge quantities of carbon dioxide.
The rock, known as peridotite, is layered just under the surface of a desert in Oman. The peridotite was found to react chemically with CO2, forming solid minerals. What’s more, it absorbs hot water infused with a concentration of CO2 that engineers can drill deep into it.
Theoretically, the peridotite in Oman alone could take in 4 billion tons of atmospheric carbon a year and transform it into marble and limestone. Total global annual carbon emitted is around 30 billion tons.
In most places in the world, peridotite usually resides some 20 kilometers or more below the earth’s surface. But in Oman, it’s been pushed upwards due to geologic activity making it far more accessible.
The COP14 climate talks next week are taking place amid circumstances that are drastically changed compared to the last round of negotiations; the world’s economy is in severe turmoil. That means one thing – global leaders’ resolve to combat climate change will be put to the test.
The talks, which will take place December 1-12 in Poznan, Poland, could be the scene of intensified difficulties and any climate action may be seen as a trade off against economic growth. The experts at the United Nations are prepared for it. In a recent interview with Reuters news agency, they said their calculations show that the maximum sacrifice rich nations will be making to avert the worst effects of global warming is less than 0.12 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) annually until 2030.
What do you get when an advertising creative is allowed to let loose their creative juices on global warming? Right. The party continues! Glamorous places like New York and Paris are simply re-styled and being submerged under water – something that’s made out to be fun and luxurious. We have boats, after all.
In the last two years a silent revolution has taken place in the US wine industry. Thousands and thousands of California’s wineries have switched to sustainable practices. But most of the efforts are self monitored and it’s difficult to work out from labels which wines are really organic.
The easiest advice to people on the lookout for eco friendly wine that’s drinkable is to buy biodynamic wine. The wine is certified by a third party and most of the bottles have a tiny logo on their labels indicating it’s biodynamically produced. However, the number of biodynamic vineyards is dwarfed by the organic businesses. And this is where it gets confusing. Ask anyone what the difference is between an organic and a biodynamic wine and the chances that you get a correct answer are low.
Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo are reportedly readying their manufacturing units to replace artificial sweeteners in their beverages with an all natural sweetener called Stevia. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to give thumbs up this week to Stevia, a natural plant extract which has been in use for hundreds of years already in Latin America.
Cokes enriched with Stevia, also known as sweet leaf or sugar leaf, will have all the sweetness of sugar but none of the calories or carbohydrates, and a zero glycemic index. The plant, which already has holy grail status in the industry, will likely be adopted in many fizzy drinks and other beverages if it gets approved.
Electronics giants have various options to produce devices that are less damaging for the environment. Among the easier options is to design products that are less energy consuming. But the companies are increasingly devoting their talent and know how to the creation of proprietary power generating systems for their own manufacturing plants to run on wind or solar energy.
Many of the larger electronics companies have announced intentions to this end. The latest manufacturer to reveal details to the public of plans to ‘green’ their internal energy consumption is Hewlett Packard. The computer producer which recently concluded its conversion to solar energy for its San Diego research center, said it will now get into wind energy for its Austin operations.
European and US researchers who claim they’ve found a better way of measuring the melting ice cap say they’re quite sure that Greenland’s melting ice cap makes sea levels rise by half a millimeter annually.
The Europeans are serious about nanotechnology to wean countries off using fossil fuels in the next century. There¬¥s considerable interest in setting up a solar grid that is global because the sun consistently shines on some part of the planet.
The technologies European scientists say are going to dominate the sustainable energy sector include Dye Sensitized solar Cells (DSCs) and biomimetics. These two technologies are popular because they show great promise for capturing or storing solar energy. At the same time, nanocatalysis already has begun to churn out efficient methods for energy-saving industrial processes convincingly.
Recycling gadgets is a headache. Many of the few gadgets that actually are kept out of the landfill are painstakingly taken apart in the Third World under hazardous conditions and creating environmental problems. A new method called Active Disassembly using Smart Materials could be the problem that producers and consumers are looking for.
Product disassembly offers an attractive alternative to manual methods for reducing the landfill and helping countries to get on the legal targets they at the moment fail to achieve. That’s because the method optimizes the recovery of hazardous and valuable components during the recycling process.
David Harrison and Habib Hussein, two scholars who investigated ADSM, claim that by inserting fasteners within the materials of the gadgets, a solution might be at hand. At the end of a product’s life the fasteners can be heated directly, which causes the device case to fall apart without screws having to be undone or stiff clasps opened manually. “This is one important design feature that might make recycling electronic devices with plastic cases much easier”, the two scholars believe. They researched the method at the School of Engineering and Design at Brunel University, UK and have set up a dedicated website (ActiveDisassembly.com) to the issue.