Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: RIA | Phase: SC5-16-2014 | Award Amount: 15.99M | Year: 2015
Terrestrial and marine ecosystems provide essential services to human societies. Anthropogenic pressures, however, cause serious threat to ecosystems, leading to habitat degradation, increased risk of collapse and loss of ecosystem services. Knowledge-based conservation, management and restoration policies are needed to improve ecosystem benefits in face of increasing pressures. ECOPOTENTIAL makes significant progress beyond the state-of-the-art and creates a unified framework for ecosystem studies and management of protected areas (PA). ECOPOTENTIAL focuses on internationally recognized PAs in Europe and beyond in a wide range of biogeographic regions, and it includes UNESCO, Natura2000 and LTER sites and Large Marine Ecosystems. Best use of Earth Observation (EO) and monitoring data is enabled by new EO open-access ecosystem data services (ECOPERNICUS). Modelling approaches including information from EO data are devised, ecosystem services in current and future conditions are assessed and the requirements of future protected areas are defined. Conceptual approaches based on Essential Variables, Macrosystem Ecology and cross-scale interactions allow for a deeper understanding of the Earths Critical Zone. Open and interoperable access to data and knowledge is assured by a GEO Ecosystem Virtual Laboratory Platform, fully integrated in GEOSS. Support to transparent and knowledge-based conservation and management policies, able to include information from EO data, is developed. Knowledge gained in the PAs is upscaled to pan-European conditions and used for planning and management of future PAs. A permanent stakeholder consultancy group (GEO Ecosystem Community of Practice) will be created. Capacity building is pursued at all levels. SMEs are involved to create expertise leading to new job opportunities, ensuring long-term continuation of services. In summary, ECOPOTENTIAL uses the most advanced technologies to improve future ecosystem benefits for humankind.
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: RIA | Phase: WASTE-2-2014 | Award Amount: 9.44M | Year: 2015
The overall aim of the REFRESH project is to contribute significantly towards the objective of reducing food waste across the EU by 30% by 2025 (which amounts to between 25 to 40 million tonnes of food not being wasted in 2025, worth tens of billions of Euros a year) and maximizing the value from unavoidable food waste and packaging materials. To achieve this ambitious goal, we will adopt a systemic approach and use cutting edge science to enable action by businesses, consumers and public authorities. A central ambition of the REFRESH project is to develop a Framework for Action model that is based on strategic agreements across all stages of the supply chain (backed by Governments), delivered through collaborative working and supported by evidence-based tools to allow targeted, cost effective interventions. Success will support transformation towards a more sustainable and secure EU food system, benefitting Europes economy, environment and society.
Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP-IP | Phase: ENV.2008.2.2.1.2. | Award Amount: 10.98M | Year: 2009
The HERMIONE project is designed to make a major advance in our knowledge of the functioning of deep-sea ecosystems and their contribution to the production of goods and services. This will be achieved through a highly interdisciplinary approach (including biologists, ecologists, microbiologists, biogeochemists, sedimentologists, physical oceanographers, modelers and socio-economists) that will integrate biodiversity, specific adaptions and biological capacity in the context of a wide range of highly vulnerable deep-sea habitats. Gaining this understanding is crucial, because these ecosystems are now being affected by climate change and impacted by man through fishing, resource extraction, seabed installations and pollution. To design and implement effective governance strategies and management plans we must understand the extent, natural dynamics and interconnection of ocean ecosystems and integrate socio-economic research with natural science. The study sites include the Arctic, North Atlantic and Mediterranean and cover a range of ecosystems including cold-water corals, canyons, cold and hot seeps, seamounts and open slopes and deep-basins. The project will make strong connections between deep-sea science and user needs. HERMIONE will enhance the education and public perception of the deep-ocean issues also through some of the major EU aquaria. These actions, together with GEOSS databases that will be made available, will create a platform for discussion between a range of stakeholders, and contribute to EU environmental policies.
Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP-IP | Phase: ENV.2008.4.1.1.1. | Award Amount: 7.91M | Year: 2009
EuroGEOSS demonstrates the added value to the scientific community and society of making existing systems and applications interoperable and used within the GEOSS and INSPIRE frameworks. The project will build an initial operating capacity for a European Environment Earth Observation System in the three strategic areas of Drought, Forestry and Biodiversity. It will then undertakes the research necessary to develop this further into and advanced operating capacity that provides access not just to data but also to analytical models made understandable and useable by scientists from different disciplinary domains. This concept of inter-disciplinary interoperability requires research in advanced modelling from multi-scale heterogeneous data sources, expressing models as workflows of geo-processing components reusable by other communities, and ability to use natural language to interface with the models. The extension of INSPIRE and GEOSS components with concepts emerging in the Web 2.0 communities in respect to user interactions and resource discovery, also supports the wider engagement of the scientific community with GEOSS as a powerful means to improve the scientific understanding of the complex mechanisms driving the changes that affect our planet.
News Article | December 22, 2016
Vast amounts of plastic clog the seas and beaches of Lamu. With support from Mike and his team, who work all hours of the day and night in some of the most remote and risky parts of Kenya, a women’s enterprise has been established to collect the plastic and turn it into trinkets, crafts and art pieces to sell. Mike and his team also support several microfinance village savings and loans associations (VSLAs), enabling people in the community to access financial credit by pooling their resources. I met Mike when he was training young people in monitoring marine turtle nesting. One young man told me he wanted to grow up to be like Mike – a sentiment I heard repeated by young people across the community. Nominated by Alexis Barnett Edith oversees Sightsavers’ Connecting the Dots project, which trains young Ugandans with disabilities and places them in internships and jobs. “It’s so much more than a job for her. Edith doesn’t just ensure their practical wellbeing or ability to earn a living; she works to build up the confidence that so many other people have knocked out of them,” says Kate McCoy, who nominated her. Edith works tirelessly to ensure they know their potential, stresses that they have as much to offer as anyone else, and empowers them to stand up – not just for themselves but for all people with disabilities. After the 2001 economic crisis left 50% of the Argentinean population living in poverty, Mario started a social movement to kick poverty’s ass. He created the El Desafío Foundation and developed a theory of change focusing on two areas: youth development and stimulating civic participation. He created an urban innovation lab for actions in public space, including free, public mini libraries in the city, urban art and a Happy Cities Festival. He took personal risks to do this; taking a second mortgage on his home and quitting a comfortable job at Nike. “Mario has inspired thousands, changed the lives of hundreds of children and given hope to people in a country that is desperately looking for honest leaders,” says Jorn Wemmenhove, who nominated him. “He is a true changemaker and gamechanger. His innovative ideas are making a revolution on how social work should be done and how to approach real solutions to poverty.” Alin has worked tirelessly to promote the human rights of his community in south central Somalia for more than two decades. He founded Isha Human Rights Group in Baidoa in 1999, where warlords were committing serious human rights violations against local clans. In 2009, when al-Shabaab took control of areas where Isha Human Rights Group operated, the group continued to be a vocal and visible figure in the community. Hilowle was arrested and tortured by al-Shabaab, but managed to escape the country with the help of other human rights defenders in his community. He now lives in exile in Sweden but still continues to support and defend his community. Nominated by Linnea Gelot Bassam Hawas Quru was one of many Yazidis forced to flee their homeland before the Islamic State-led genocide in Iraq in 2014. Finding himself in a refugee camp, Quru decided to use his experiences to help others. He joined the International Medical Corps as a community health worker and helped thousands gain access to medical supplies, despite considerable personal risk. “In the remotest areas, where children have no access to vital vaccinations, Bassam organises trips to local towns where they are available,” says Larissa Schneider who nominated him. “He has worked in Kapartu camp, supporting a 28,000-strong population, leading health promotion services and working to address psychological scars from the conflict. Not only have disease outbreaks decreased, but health and hygiene practices among residents have leapt forward meaning that many more can avoid succumbing to common diseases.” In the past year, Ruth has provided counselling to hundreds of people who have passed through the hospitalAnandaban Hospital in Nepal. This includes people who have experienced anxiety and depression due to being excluded or discriminated against because of leprosy; some have even been disowned by their families. “Ruth is a humble lady with a huge heart and has spent her life supporting the mental health of those most in need,” says GuardianWitness user SianTLM, who nominated her. “Many have said that Ruth’s care and compassion has helped to rebuild their sense of dignity and self-esteem.” Robert travels many miles every day, crossing rough terrain to support the newest generation of HIV/Aids orphans in Uganda. He visits families to offer them emotional support and teach them about basic sanitation and hygiene, farming and household management – life skills they haven’t been able to learn from their parents. “Young people look to Robert for guidance and they often come to see him as part of the family. Many of them call him ‘uncle’,” says Azita Shamsolahi, who nominated Tamuzade. Noelene Nabulivou wears many hats. She advocates for action on climate change, sustainable development, and gender equality – and she has an amazing ability to link all the work she does. She founded the Diverse Voices and Action for Equality, which has emerged from a grassroots collection of advocates to a respected and well-regarded NGO. The organisation focuses on climate justice, violence against women, human rights and LGBTQI rights – creating a space in a devout country where young people can express themselves and their sexuality. Noelene represents her community, specifically women, to ensure that the voices of the Pacific are heard locally and globally. Nominated by Marita Manley Hongthong Sirivath works in Laos to educate local people on their land and legal rights. “Hongthong always impresses me with his optimism and energy,” says Justine Sylvester. “Since he was a teenager, he has worked to improve the lives of rural people in Laos. He is an expert in so many areas and he inspires everyone to stay positive and keep focused when things are tough. Hongthong is one of the busiest people I’ve ever met, yet he always has an aura of calm, a ready smile and a kind word.” As a first responder and mentor, Mauricio plays an instrumental role at the Honduran Red Cross, but his unwavering dedication to migrant human rights has made a major impact within his community. “Mauricio was part of the initial efforts to address the humanitarian needs of migrants being deported from Mexico back to Honduras,” says Kari Williams, who nominated Mauricio. “For more than three years, he led the migrant reception centre in Corinto, a town along the Honduras-Guatemala border, with a dedicated team of volunteers and limited resources. His leadership, advocacy, and dedication helped to lead the way for a new Honduran Migrant Reception Centre, which continues to provide much needed services to Hondurans being deported back from Mexico daily.” Máxima Acuña has become one of the leading voices in Peru’s anti-mining movement: speaking for the thousands of Peruvians affected by projects destroying their land and water supplies. Máxima has bravely stood her ground against the second biggest gold mining company in the world, Newmont, which sought to drain the pristine Lake Azul (near her 18-acre farm) and turn it into a waste pit for mine by-products. The lake is one of the only freshwater sources for the local community, and Máxima often risks her own wellbeing while standing up for the right to live on her own land. Nominated by GoldmanPrize via GuardianWitness Grace Makonyola was a dedicated volunteer for years before becoming Maternity Worldwide’s Malawi regional director. Working with a small local team, Grace has established women’s groups in 80 villages to provide maternal and newborn healthcare information. She has facilitated income generation programmes to empower women to become financially-independent, and trained skilled birth attendants to safely deliver babies. Nominated by Kirsty Erridge When international aid failed to provide countless Yemenis with their basic need, two friends decided to take action. Fatik Abdullah al-Rodaini, a Yemeni journalist in Sana’a, and Riaz Karim, a humanitarian in London, founded the Mona Relief Organisation, a grassroots charity for humanitarian relief and development aid. The Mona Relief Organisation is committed to offering critical aid to the poorest and and most vulnerable people in Yemen, and since its conception, has fed more than 7 million people in the country. Nominated by Alkarim Haji via GuardianWitness Esther Nyambu works to give women and girls in Niger, Burundi and Nigeria access to lifesaving health services. She recently spearheaded the IRC’s reproductive health response, enabling more than 20,000 women to access reproductive health services in Borno State, Nigeria. Esther also helped to open the only health care facility in Bakassi IDP camp, focusing on women who were pregnant or had experienced complications due to mismanaged deliveries. “Esther has tirelessly served, sacrificed and spoken out on behalf of the needs of women and families affected by crisis,” says Rita Nehme, policy and practice officer at IRC. “She has demonstrated extraordinary courage, working in some of the world’s most difficult environments. Her career is a reminder of our collective responsibility to ensure reproductive health services are available in crises, and of the immense potential and impact we stand to make when we live up to it.” Nominated by Rita Nehme Driven by the piles of refuse washing ashore Versova beach each day, lawyer Afroz Shah founded Versova Resident Volunteers, the biggest beach clean-up initiative in the world. Since its conception in October 2015, the group has been recognised by United Nations Environment Programme’s executive director, Erik Solheim, who visited the site on the first anniversary of the clean up. “On any given weekend, between 20 and 40 volunteers scavenge for garbage, joined by around eight municipality workers,” says GuardianWitness user cruisechelsea who nominated Afroz. “Together they pick up, on average, three tonnes of garbage in two hours each Saturday and Sunday. During the week, the unforgiving tide brings more.” Is there someone you’d like to recognise as an NGO hero? Why not tell us about them in the comments. Join our community of development professionals and humanitarians. Follow @GuardianGDP on Twitter.
News Article | November 15, 2016
HONG KONG, Nov. 15, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Group (ZDHC) and China National Textile & Apparel Council (CNTAC) jointly hosted the 4th CNTAC-ZDHC Conference on Hazardous Chemical Control & Sustainable Manufacturing in Shanghai, China. Over 800 participants representing international buyers, signatory brands, value chain affiliates, associates, and manufacturers took part in this event. TUV Rheinland attended the conference as an active proponent of ZDHC, and committed itself to promoting reforms in supply-chain management for chemical-related industries through open collaboration in order to improve environmental safety and human health. Representatives from the textile industry, United Nations Environment Programme, CNTAC Office for Social Responsibility, and ZDHC experts each delivered presentations on the meaning of ZDHC signatory brands, the Chemicals in Product (CIP) project, Chemicals Stewardship Initiative 2020, Joint Roadmap Project, ZDHC MRSL, and the execution of other tools. The discussions highlighted the next steps in engaging with supply chains to implement the tools and methodologies for chemical management, and in supporting chemical manufacturers and suppliers with training and capacity development. Mohammed Dkhissi, TUV Rheinland Global Business Field Manager Softlines & Vice President Global Key Accounts, said during his speech at the cocktail reception: "TUV Rheinland is delighted to be joining over 20 leading brands and working together. We aim to employ TUV Rheinland Group's knowledge of the impacts of textile and leather production processes and products in a preventative and foresighted manner." For modern consumers, "environmental friendliness and ethics" is not just an option. It is what they expect from products. Considering the fact that today's fashion supply chain is an intertwined web of chemical suppliers, global commodity farmers, synthetic material developers, mills, and factories, a holistic solution to address the aforementioned challenges would require awareness and capacity development via Technical Training, improvement monitoring via Audits, and conformance via Testing at all relevant steps of the supply network. The chemicals in products have been of significance ever since the first RSLs came out in the 1990s. TUV was glad to contribute as a sponsor at this event, and we have launched our web-based training platform, based on gamification, focused on the "Sound management of chemicals," said Rakesh Vazirani, Program Manager for Textile Sustainability Solutions. "Based on experience pertaining to chemicals management in other industries, this could set the platform for EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) policy for textiles. TUV Rheinland feels privileged to be working together with the apparel and footwear industry, to better understand the chemicals, their process implications, and means to mitigate adverse impact on human health and the environment." Additionally, with our membership in the SAC, TUV Rheinland joins over 170 global brands, retailers, and manufacturers, as well as government, non-profit environmental organizations, and academic institutions, which are collectively committed to improving supply chain sustainability in the apparel and footwear industries. Along with the ZDHC project's emphasis shift from tool development to tool application, TUV Rheinland's experts are also involved with Training and Assessment activities related to the Higg Index. The ZDHC Programme has identified four key areas and two cross-cutting areas which are critical towards eliminating hazardous chemicals from the global textile and footwear industries. The key areas are the Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL), Wastewater Quality, Audit Protocol, and Sound Management of Chemicals (SMC) Training Services. As an independent technical Testing, Inspection, and Certification services provider, TUV Rheinland's comprehensive network of testing laboratories and education centers in Germany, China, India, Bangladesh, Turkey, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and elsewhere can provide chemical suppliers, farmers, synthetic material developers, manufacturers, and factories with testing, inspection, certification, quality control improvement, and technical training services. Specific services include: training on sound management of chemicals, chemical inventory management with our proprietary TOGS database, SDS interpretation, SAC Higg Index assessment, auditing services according to "Sound Management of Chemicals" principles, wastewater testing, and MRSL testing of chemical formulations.
News Article | June 2, 2010
A global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change, a UN report said today. As the global population surges towards a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050, western tastes for diets rich in meat and dairy products are unsustainable, says the report from United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) international panel of sustainable resource management. It says: “Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.” Professor Edgar Hertwich, the lead author of the report, said: “Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as [burning] fossil fuels.” The recommendation follows advice last year that a vegetarian diet was better for the planet from Lord Nicholas Stern, former adviser to the Labour government on the economics of climate change. Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has also urged people to observe one meat-free day a week to curb carbon emissions. The panel of experts ranked products, resources, economic activities and transport according to their environmental impacts. Agriculture was on a par with fossil fuel consumption because both rise rapidly with increased economic growth, they said. Ernst von Weizsaecker, an environmental scientist who co-chaired the panel, said: “Rising affluence is triggering a shift in diets towards meat and dairy products - livestock now consumes much of the world’s crops and by inference a great deal of freshwater, fertilisers and pesticides.” Both energy and agriculture need to be “decoupled” from economic growth because environmental impacts rise roughly 80% with a doubling of income, the report found. Achim Steiner, the UN under-secretary general and executive director of the UNEP, said: “Decoupling growth from environmental degradation is the number one challenge facing governments in a world of rising numbers of people, rising incomes, rising consumption demands and the persistent challenge of poverty alleviation.” The panel, which drew on numerous studies including the Millennium ecosystem assessment, cites the following pressures on the environment as priorities for governments around the world: climate change, habitat change, wasteful use of nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilisers, over-exploitation of fisheries, forests and other resources, invasive species, unsafe drinking water and sanitation, lead exposure, urban air pollution and occupational exposure to particulate matter. Agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, says the report, which has been launched to coincide with UN World Environment day on Saturday. Last year the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation said that food production would have to increase globally by 70% by 2050 to feed the world’s surging population. The panel says that efficiency gains in agriculture will be overwhelmed by the expected population growth. Prof Hertwich, who is also the director of the industrial ecology programme at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said that developing countries – where much of this population growth will take place – must not follow the western world’s pattern of increasing consumption: “Developing countries should not follow our model. But it’s up to us to develop the technologies in, say, renewable energy or irrigation methods.”
Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: CSA-SA | Phase: ENV.2009.5.1.0.2 | Award Amount: 987.39K | Year: 2010
KNOSSOS seeks to address the gap between science and society in the field of environmental research with a focus on policy makers and civil society, who are the main recipients of the project. We propose to take stock of available research results that are useful for policy-making. KNOSSOS will then add a knowledge management system, with innovative tools to guarantee fast and easy access to relevant information. This initial phase will also yield collaborative workshops on evidence-based policy making and training for policy makers in the field of environmental research. KNOSSOS puts an emphasis on disseminating research findings beyond Europe: through a number of Knowledge Fairs as side events of international conferences, but also by including DG Research findings in one of the worlds largest collections of Environmental Science Research, the Online Access to Research in the Environment (OARE). In order to ensure swift uptake of European environmental research into policy making, KNOSSOS, with its partner IEEP, the Institute for European Environmental Policy, will issue monthly policy briefs for European, national and international policy makers. Aiming for enhanced visibility of European mission to raise public awareness about emerging environmental issues. KNOSSOS strength lies in the composition of its consortium: UNEP, the worlds leading environmental authority, joins forces with the Institute for European Environmental Policy, a renowned independent not-for-profit institute with a strong reputation in giving policy advice; and with GLOBE EU/Europe, an excellent partner in training policy-makers and disseminating deliverables. KNOSSOS will have an impact on both policy makers and civil society in and beyond Europe. Our goal is to make European environmental science not only understandable, but also actionable and a preferred reference for all who seek information to pressing ecological questions of our time.
News Article | August 23, 2016
Renewable energy investment is gaining momentum at Mach speeds and tech companies want a piece of the pie. On the global scale, record-breaking investment in renewable energy reached $285.9bn in 2015, according to the latest United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report. Based on Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) data and analysis, the UNEP report states that installed capacity also broke global records in 2015, reaching 134 GW of renewables – up from 106 GW in 2014. Around the world, analysts are monitoring the impending revolution in renewable energy markets. Morgan Stanley, focusing lately on Australia, states that “the broader energy market in Australia still underestimates what’s about to hit them.” Reporting on Australia’s economic future for 2016 and beyond, Morgan Stanley predicts that one million Australian homes will install energy storage systems over the coming four years. In the coming 20 years, the report indicates, residential rooftop solar and battery storage will more than double. Morgan Stanley is optimistic that Australia’s economic infrastructure will evolve to accommodate renewable energy market expansion. It states that the future offers “plenty of potential for energy, infrastructure, financial and technology players across the spectrum.” Darryn Van Hout, CEO of Australian Solar Quotes*, is keeping a close watch on the exciting renewables expansion. With over ten years experience in the energy industry, Darryn sees challenges ahead for businesses adapting to the new energy economy. Citing Accenture‘s recent report, The New Energy Consumer: Thriving in the Energy Ecosystem, Van Hout agrees that the energy market is “going through a reinvention that will forge the way to future prosperity in an environment where consumers can and will choose to move completely off the grid and take more control of their energy choices.” “The energy war is truly underway around the world,” explains Van Hout, “and there’s one word on everyone’s lips: storage, or more specifically, the solar-plus-storage revolution.” He believes that renewable energy tech companies are uniquely poised to win this war, especially along the primary frontlines of battery storage, electric cars, and electricity retailing. Clearly, the swirling, merging war of renewable energy is nowhere more mesmerizing than among leading tech companies like Tesla, Google, and Apple. As Van Hout notes, energy storage is the new currency of the renewables realm. Elon Musk is the uncontested king of storage, blessed with marketing prowess that grows exponentially as the realm under his throne expands. At the heart of this empire, Musk wants to ensure that all renewable energy roads lead to the Tesla Gigafactory, the “machine that builds the machines.” Located on a 3,000-acre lot of land in Nevada, the Gigafactory itself currently occupies over 5.5 million square feet – the equivalent of 126 acres. All this space and more to come is solely dedicated to supplying the coming demand for energy storage systems. Not only supplying the batteries for Tesla’s spectacularly popular electric vehicles, the Gigafactory also produces top-of-the-line solar energy storage systems for commercial and residential markets. Exploring sustainable energy markets on every avenue with remarkable passion, Musk is driving Tesla expansion from EVs into autonomous vehicles, and energy storage systems into one-stop solar shopping, and even into eventual grid services. Musk envisions, “You’d walk into the Tesla store and say: ‘I’d like a great solar solution with a battery and an electric car,’ and in five minutes you’re done.” He continues, “It’s completely painless, seamless, easy and that’s what the customer wants.” Well on its way in the renewables expansion, Google has already mapped most of the roads–including the road to self-driving electric vehicles. And, with the recent announcement of $22 million in Department of Energy (DOE) funding for EVs and sustainable transportation technologies, investor attention is only just beginning to warm up. Sustainable transportation technology is a lucrative Google keyword. Since 2009, Google reports, its fleet of 55 autonomous cars has driven over 1.4 million miles on California’s SF Bay Area roads, as well as roads around Austin, Texas. Simulations, according to Google, are now racking up 3 million miles a day. Well in the lead, Google is dedicated to reaching its 100 percent renewable energy goal. In fact, Google is now the world’s largest non-utility customer of renewable energy. With over 15 contracts signed to date, Google’s purchases top 2 GW of clean energy, equivalent to taking a million gas guzzling cars off the road. “We’re buying clean electricity directly from wind and solar farms around the world through Power Purchase Agreements (or PPAs),” explains Google, “and we’re additionally working with our utility partners to make more renewable energy available to us and others through renewable energy tariffs and bilateral contracts.” It looks like a very short ride to get from Google Cars to electricity retailing, doesn’t it? Completing the current triumvirate of reigning tech companies, Apple is a perennial prize-winner, and always full of surprises. The company’s electric car project is currently in development and Apple is lately expressing interest in electric charging stations “for refueling their future EV.” More importantly, ‘Apple Energy LLC,’ the company’s new renewable energy subsidiary, was quietly formed to sell excess electricity generated at its solar farms. With a goal to go 100 percent renewable, Apple needs to offset ‘net-metered’ grid electricity used during evenings and cloudy days. To do this, Apple will now ‘trade’ excess energy generated during sunny days. Apple’s solar power investments include 130 MW in California, 50 MW in Arizona, and 20 MW of installed capacity in Nevada. Suggesting that Apple may have even bigger goals, however, filings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) indicate that Apple “plans to sell electricity across the whole of the US.” Explaining its case to the FERC, Apple notes that it “meets the legal criteria for selling electricity at market rates because it is not a major player in the energy business and thus has no power to influence electricity prices.” Darryn Van Hout notes, “It’s now only a matter of time until the shift in the way that we buy, store and consume electricity will be available.” It may well turn out that electricity retailing will be the Tech companies’ favorite slice of the renewables pie. [News Flash!!! The FERC just approved Apple’s application to start selling electricity at market rates. GTM Research analyst Colin Smith explains, “If they’re buying power at 10 cents per kilowatt hour and wholesale power prices happen to move up to 15 cents, they can actually sell power directly and pocket the difference. This turns them much more into an independent power producer and really enables them to work the energy markets more freely.”] In Australia, Darryn sees telecommunications companies nudging their way to the dessert table. With plenty of money, millions of consumers, and significant market influence, Australian telecom company Telstra is planning to launch home solar-plus-storage solutions. Cynthia Whelan, Telstra’s head of new business, explains, “Telstra is looking at the opportunities to help customers monitor and manage many different aspects of the home, including energy.” She adds, “We see energy as relevant to our ‘connected home’ strategy, where more and more machines are connected in what is called the internet of things.” Van Hout predicts that “other large telcos will follow suit when the adoption of solar-plus-storage increases, and everyone wants a piece of the pie.” The renewable energy pie is sitting in a quickly ripening market. In alignment with the rapid growth of solar storage solutions, energy consumer empowerment is changing the power dynamics behind traditional utility company dictatorships. Darryn Van Hout notes that “demand for self-sufficiency in energy consumption is high.” Voting with their pocketbooks, purchasers are starting to split the renewables pie into fair shares for all kinds of consumers. Splitting the renewables pie will require similar fair sharing between renewable energy suppliers and tech companies. The traditional relationship between consumers, businesses, and technology may serve as a useful guide. As a leading consumer care organization, Australian Solar Quotes has been on the front lines, helping protect consumers from unfair electricity prices driven by the Australian utility companies. CEO Darryn Van Hout (Twitter: @DarrynVanHout) sees himself as a sustainability ambassador, “with a keen interest in the solar energy sector in particular.” Optimistic about the renewable energy future, Darryn says, “the next huge boom in the solar industry is imminent.” *This post has been generously supported by Australian Solar Quotes. Drive an electric car? Complete one of our short surveys for our next electric car report. Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.
News Article | November 4, 2016
On Friday, a major milestone will arrive for global climate change diplomacy. The so-called Paris climate agreement, an international accord forged last December by countries across the world, will become a legal reality far sooner than almost anyone anticipated. The rapid pace with which countries have ratified the agreement underscores the urgency many nations feel in the wake of a string of record hot years and ever more severe climate impacts. Next week in Marrakesh, Morocco, leaders from around the globe will gather to celebrate the achievement and to begin ironing out the details of how individual countries plan to live up to the ambitious commitments they’ve made to slash their emissions of carbon dioxide. When it comes to efforts to combat climate change, “it’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times,” said David Sandalow, the inaugural fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. Leaders have moved with unprecedented speed recently to combat global warming: In addition to the Paris accord, there has been progress this year on limiting international airline emissions and powerful greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs. But most scientists agree that the world continues to move too slowly. [The world is racing to stop climate change. But the math still doesn’t add up] The current pledges countries have made under the Paris agreement would still allow the world to warm by 3 degrees Celsius or more above pre-industrial levels, an amount well beyond the 2-degree threshold that many experts agree is likely to trigger severe changes to the environment. In the meantime, 2016 has offered a litany of grim reminders of an already changing climate, from extensive coral death at the Great Barrier Reef to particularly sharp Arctic temperatures in a year virtually certain to become the warmest in recorded history. “The signals the climate system is sending are profoundly disturbing,” Sandalow said. The consequence is that as the much-anticipated Paris agreement goes into effect Friday, the world faces a sort of race between politics and physics. The central question that will hover over the international meeting in Morocco next week is whether humans can wean themselves from fossil fuels and halt carbon emissions in time to stave off the worst effects of a changing climate. Can nations move quickly enough to combat a problem that for so long has seemed distant and intangible to many citizens? “There’s so much that needs to be done,” said Heidi Cullen, chief scientist for the nonprofit environmental organization Climate Central. “The easy part is over. Friday, in many ways, marks the beginning of the rubber hitting the road. All of us see how much will be resting on every country’s commitment. We’re all going to be in this together, and we all have to hold each other accountable.” William K. Reilly, who led the Environmental Protection Agency under President George H.W. Bush and has served as president of the World Wildlife Fund, said one key challenge for countries will be to identify precisely how they plan to meet — and eventually exceed — their commitments in coming years. Another is figuring out how to fund the kind of energy transformations that will be necessary to stay “well below” the 2-degree Celsius temperature red line laid out under the Paris agreement. “One has to hope that the engines are gearing up to ensure that those financings, which are absolutely necessary to the success of the Paris agreement, are forthcoming,” he said. Cullen agreed that finding funding for the projects that countries must undertake to slash their emissions and transform their energy sectors will be key. “We’re going to really need to develop these green financing mechanisms,” she said, adding that it will require a mixture of public and private investment. Even then, the reality of effectively ending fossil fuel emissions in coming decades will be a difficult proposition. “It’s going to take actors from every level, from every sector,” she said. “It’s far from where we are now. But we’ve managed to make tremendous progress.” [A key part of Obama’s climate legacy gets its day in court] The Paris climate agreement, in effect, pools together individual commitments by countries to lower their emissions, channeling that collective energy in an effort to bend the planet’s current climate trajectory. The trouble, though, is that while the current commitments help avoid a worst-case scenario of very extreme warming by 2100, they fail to put the planet on a “safe” path that would prevent serious climate impacts, such as rising seas, melting polar ice caps and more intense floods and droughts. Meanwhile, in the scientific world, the evidence has grown ever clearer that each incremental increase in temperature, if sustained over a considerable period, corresponds to a notably different planet. In particular, researchers today are drawing more and more on analogies with warm periods in the Earth’s past, which allow them to make connections between key parameters such as planetary temperatures, carbon dioxide levels and sea levels. And the news isn’t good: For instance, there were past eras not much warmer than our own, or with comparable levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, that had far higher seas than we have now. Compared with those daunting possibilities, the to-do list for Marrakesh next week appears relatively mundane. “The parties are going to roll up their sleeves and lay out the key issues in the fine print of the agreement that need to be ironed out so the architecture has meaning,” said Mariana Panuncio-Feldman, who is co-leading the World Wildlife Fund’s delegation to Marrakesh. Only in 2018, at the earliest, will a future meeting actually focus on ramping up pressure on countries to put forward more ambitious commitments that alter the trajectory further, Panuncio-Feldman said. That’s cutting it uncomfortably close, in light of a United Nations Environment Programme report released Thursday suggesting that if the planet’s overall emissions don’t peak by the year 2020, it may no longer be possible to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the more ambitious and aspirational target contained in the Paris agreement and a goal particularly desired by developing countries and vulnerable small island nations. None of this factors in the potential fallout from the upcoming U.S. election. While Hillary Clinton has vowed to honor the Paris agreement and make sure the United States continues to play a leading role in combating climate change, Donald Trump has pledged to “cancel” the accord. That might technically be difficult to do, given that the agreement will already be in force in January, but a Trump administration undoubtedly could slam the brakes on the political momentum for cutting carbon emissions, at least in the United States. And such a move would reverberate in the global community that has rallied, as never before, behind the Paris process. “This is a binary choice,” said Reilly, the former EPA administrator, noting that Clinton has vowed to live up to the country’s commitments under the Paris agreement, while Trump has promised to “disavow” them. “We have a choice between a strong leader on climate action and a climate denier,” Sandalow added. “The choice between Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump will make an enormous difference for the future of the planet.” That might be true. But if Paris has revealed anything, it’s that on a global scale, Trump is an outlier. Far from questioning the reality of climate change, other world leaders have shown remarkable swiftness in the past year in trying to take the steps necessary to slow global warming. And that action isn’t limited to governments. “This is the first year in history where investments in renewable energy have outpaced those in fossil fuels. So the market is moving ahead much, much faster than most people understand,” John Morton, the White House’s senior director for energy and climate change, said Thursday in a call with reporters. He added that “what we have seen in recent months, and in fact in recent years, is [the] inevitability of the transition to a low-carbon economy. And so the international community — the international business community, the international policy community — is moving forward and will continue to move forward, and there’s no questioning anymore about the commitment at both the government and policy levels.” Global warming could be breaking up this 200 million year old relationship We’re adding record amounts of wind and solar — and we’re still not moving fast enough It could be the nation’s first carbon tax. And environmentalists are fighting over it For more, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here and follow us on Twitter here.