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September 25, 2012

Air pollution still at dangerous levels in Europe, report finds

European Environmental Agency (EEA) report reveals that microscopic particles, among the most harmful forms of air pollution, are still found at dangerous levels in Europe. On average, air pollution is cutting human lives by roughly eight months and by about two years in the worst affected regions such as in the industrial parts of Eastern Europe.

“European Union policy has reduced emissions of many pollutants over the last decade, but we can go further,” EEA executive director Jaqueline McGlade said in a statement. “In many countries, air pollutant concentrations are still above the legal and recommended limits that are set to protect the health of European citizens.”

Particulate matter and ozone are some of the most serious air pollution risk in Europe. Based on the World Health Organization (WHO), whose levels are more rigorous than those set by EU law, almost all the European urban population was exposed to particulate matter and 97% to ozone above target levels.

While many pollutants are an unremitting problem, the report does indicate that there has been success in dealing with sulphur dioxide after laws on sulphur dioxide in fuels were passed. In 2010, the EU urban population for the first time was not exposed to sulphur dioxide above the EU limit level.

The report highlights the legislative need to tackle air pollution and human health in tandem with the struggle to slow global warming.

Read more at Guardian Environment Network.

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category : Topics

September 21, 2012

Japan drops plans to phase out nuclear power by 2040

Japan has effectively abandoned a commitment to end its reliance on nuclear power by 2040 amid pressure from the country’s business lobby, dropping the deadline recommended by a cabinet panel only a few days ago.

The trade and industry minister, Yukio Edano, acknowledged that meeting the target date could prove impossible. “Whether we can become nuclear free by 2030s is not something to be achieved with only a decision by policy-makers,” he said. “It also depends on the will of [electricity] users, technological innovation and the environment for energy internationally in the next decade or two.”

The change in the decision regarding Japan’s energy strategy came after sustained pressure from business and industry leaders, who said the move would harm the economy by forcing firms to shift production overseas due to high price of imported oil and gas.

The deputy prime minister, Katsuya Okada, said that ditching the deadline did not mean the government had abandoned its goal of a nuclear-free future. “We aim to have zero nuclear power by the 2030s, but we have never said we will achieve zero by that date,” he told a group of European journalists. But he conceded that a nuclear-phase out was “the wish of a large number of Japanese people”.

Read more at Guardian Environment Network.

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category : Topics

September 18, 2012

Ford cuts rare earth consumption with new hybrid system

The auto-manufacturer’s new third generation hybrid system, Fusion Hybrind and C-MAX Hybrid models were unveiled last week and Ford has announced the replacement of its nickel-metal-hydride batteries with lithium-ion alternatives that could save the company from 500,000 pounds (227kilograms) of the expensive less abundant rare earth metals from its manufacturing process.

The new lithium-ion batteries are 50 percent lighter and 25 percent smaller than the previous-generation hybrid batteries and will give its cars better fuel efficiency as well as reducing its costs by 30 percent.

“We’re continually looking to find ways to provide greater fuel efficiency as well as cost savings to customers of our hybrid vehicles, and the reduction of rare earth metals is a key part of this strategy,” says Chuck Gray, chief engineer of Ford’s global core engineering section for hybrid and electric vehicles.

Read more at BusinessGreen.

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category : Topics

September 15, 2012

Walmart bags title of top US solar power user

Retailers Walmart, Costco, Kohl’s, Ikea and Macy’s have this week been named as the largest corporate users of on-site solar energy in the US.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Vote Solar Initiative published that corporates are leading the way ahead of utilities and public bodies in terms of solar development. Walmart has an installed capacity of 65,000 kW and Costco with 38,900 kW which together is more than the entire state of Florida.

The report also lists that the top 20 companies have installed more than 1.2 million solar panels ? enough to cover 544 acres of rooftops and generated an estimated $47.3 million worth of electricity each year. SEIA says that by these installations, they have reduced the business’ utility bills by hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Read more at BusinessGreen.

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category : Topics

September 15, 2012

Japan aims to abandon nuclear power by 2030s

Japan’s government intends to stop using nuclear power by 2030s, marking a major shift in policy goals set before last year’s Fukushima disaster that sought to increase the share of atomic energy to more than half of electricity supply. Japan now aims to triple the shares of renewable power to 30 percent of its energy mix, but will remain a top importer of oil, coal and gas for the foreseeable future.

All but 2 of the 50 nuclear reactors are idled for safety checks and the government plans to allow restarts of units taken offline after the disaster if they are deemed safe by a new atomic regulator. However, with the growing anti-nuclear movement wanting an immediate end to the use of atomic power, the proposal to restart reactors to secure electric supply is certain to face opposition.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government, had also faced intense lobbying from industries to maintain atomic energy ? exiting nuclear energy in favor of fossil fuels and renewable sources such as solar and wind power will boost electricity prices, making industries uncompetitive and complicating efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Noda’s decision is unlikely to resolve the fierce debate over whether reducing atomic power’s role will do more harm or good to the economy. Nuclear power provided 30 percent of Japan’s electricity before the Fukushima disaster crippled the sector.

Read more at Reuters.

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category : Topics

September 14, 2012

Beyond energy savings: How green buildings can cut labor costs

Many sustainability-minded businesses realize that green buildings usually have lower energy costs but that may not be the most significant reason to incorporate sustainable design in facilities. Utility bills and even construction costs are relatively small part of the business costs ? the larger portion of which comes from labor and labor-related costs.

Buildings that utilize sustainable design can realize substantial savings in labor expenses. The relationship between green buildings and reduced labor costs is strong with documentable reductions in the real costs of labor and overhead. Labor benefits arise from the aspects of green buildings specifically one involving indoor environment quality (IEQ) ? indoor air quality, fresh air, daylight, view of nature and the controllability of lighting, heating and cooling all contribute to better IEQ.

From the vantage point of businesses especially one with labor costs making up a high percentage of its operations, staff in green buildings are not only healthier but also tend to feel they have more control of their environment and tend to be happier. Better IEQ leads to increase in productivity, better employee retention and reduce in overhead like absenteeism and turnovers.

Read more at GreenBiz.

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category : Topics

September 13, 2012

Kyoto carbon credit glut is far larger than expected, warn analysts

The giant surplus of carbon credits currently in the global carbon market may never recede, reducing any hope of global emissions without significant increase in national emission reduction targets.

Countries signed up to legally-binding emission targets between 2008 to 2012 as part of the Kyoto Protocol and were given a set of tradable allowances called Assigned Amount Units (AAUs) with each equivalent to one metric tonne of CO2 equivalent. But analysis published by Thomson Reuters Point Carbon finds that by the end of the period, there will be an oversupply of about 13 billion tonnes (13.1Gt) of CO2 ? higher than the estimated demand of 11.5 million tonnes.

Point Carbon says the caps being proposed by governments are higher than the expected business-as-usual emissions for 2013 to 2020 and would create a new surplus of AAUs potentially as large as 3.6Gt and as international rules allow AAUs to be carried over, the total surplus could reach up to 16.2Gt.

Read more at BusinessGreen.

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category : Topics

September 13, 2012

Europe considers suspending airline emissions charge

European officials signaled on Tuesday that they may recommend the suspension of the continent’s carbon emission fees for airlines to avert trade war with major economic powers such as China and the United States, effectively allowing time to forge a global agreement on climate charges for the aviation industry.

China and India have already prohibited their airlines from participating in the European trading system (ETS), with the United States senate also considering banning US airlines from complying with the EU law. The law requires airlines that fly to and from Europe to buy permits for all the carbon they emit en route.

EU officials have in the past defended pressing ahead with the levy after previous attempts at a global carbon charge for airlines failed. The nation has traditionally been at the forefront of international efforts to curb emissions of greenhouse gases, earning praise from environmental groups but criticism from developing nations that say that some of the measures limit their economic growth.

As serious commercial consequences of the ETS for airlines becomes clear, officials stress the need to act fast and find a global solution for this problem.

Read more at Guardian Environment Network.

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category : Topics

September 12, 2012

European Parliament votes for ambitious energy efficiency push

A wave of new energy efficiency policies are set to be adopted as the European Parliament yesterday voted in favor of demanding new energy efficiency legislation that will require large businesses to undertake energy use audits.

The directive is based around demanding new energy efficiency targets for utilities and public sector buildings that will force governments across Europe to develop new policies to drive investment in energy efficiency. The passage of the bill will also further increase the pressure on the European Commission and parliament to finalize the long-awaited plans to tackle the low price of carbon in the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS).

Read more at BusinessGreen.

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category : Topics

September 9, 2012

New report demonstrates business’ positive impact on ecosystems

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) launched a series of concrete sustainable solutions from some of the largest companies in the world with “Biodiversity and ecosystem services: scaling up business solutions,” yesterday.

The report features 25 case studies that showcase innovative actions and solutions undertaken by companies that have exponential impact and can be effectively repeated by other companies. The case studies also show how companies are positively responding to the global biodiversity targets set by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2010, so-called “Aichi Targets”. Examples from the report include Hitachi, Holcim, Mondi7s paper & packaging, Syngenta, Shell, and Vale.

Peter Bakker, President of WBCSD said, “Business is a major player in helping minimize negative impacts on our ecosystems and this new publication gives real examples from our member companies, showing how it can be done. While there is no doubt that the challenges associated with ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss are huge and complex, our case studies collection shows that business is starting to tackle them. We need to now focus on scaling them up and implementing them at speed.”


Read more at WBCSD.

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category : Topics

September 7, 2012

Blustery week generates record wind power for South Australia

The southern regions of Australia have experienced such windy conditions this week that wind generated over half of South Australia’s power.

According to data from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), wind energy accounted for 85.5% of demand on Monday ? a new record ? 57.9% on Tuesday and 55% on Wednesday. Russell Marsh, Policy Director, Clean Energy Council, announced the figure.

“All this wind is putting South Australia well ahead of the curve on Australia’s 20% Renewable Energy Target, and helping to provide farmers and local businesses in regional areas with extra income. It also means the state’s residents collectively have a lower carbon price bill, while getting fully compensated by the Federal Government under the scheme.”

“South Australia now produces more electricity from wind than from coal ? around a quarter of the state’s generaion, putting it in a world leadership position that is on par with Denmark.”

Read more at The Clean Revolution.

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category : Topics

September 6, 2012

Arctic ice melt ‘like adding 20 years of CO2 emissions’

The loss Arctic ice is effectively doubling mankind’s contribution to global warming, ice scientist Professor Peter Wadhams told BBC Newsnight.

White ice reflects more sunlight than open water. The melting of white Arctic ice, which is currently at the lowest level in recent history, is indirectly causing more absorption of the sun’s energy. Instead of being reflected away from the Earth by the ice, the sun’s energy is being absorbed and this contributes to warming. Professor Wadhams calculates that this increased in absorption of the sun’s rays is “equivalent of about 20 years of additional CO2 being added by man”.

In 1980, the Arctic ice in summer made up some 2% of the Earth’s surface. But since then, the ice has roughly halved in area, and the volume of ice has dropped to just a quarter of what it was.

Read more at BBC News.

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category : Topics

September 5, 2012

Singapore begins pilot for public housing eco-homes

Singapore’s first public housing blocks built to be environmentally sustainable have become the testing ground for future projects, according to a CNN report.

“What we have done is that we put in various eco-friendly features that helps in terms of capitalizing on the wind, enhancing greenery, reducing energy consumption, water usage, how to promote waste recycling, et cetera, all in one department,” Punggol Eco-Town project Director Ng Bingrong told CNN.

The eco-friendly methods range from commonplace and practical to highly innovative ? plant covered roofs can naturally lower the buildings’ temperature and painting them white help keep them cool and bring in sunlight. The government is also testing self-cleaning paint, which breaks down grim as it is triggered by sun exposure.

Read more at CleanBizAsia

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category : Topics

September 5, 2012

UNEP, Cities Alliance, UN-Habitat, World Bank Launch the Knowledge Centre on Cities and Climate Change

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Cities Alliance, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), and the World Bank have produced the Knowledge Centre on Cities and Climate Change (K4C), an online repository of information on climate change that advocates decision-making in local governance. The K4C was launched at the 6th World Urban Forum in Naples, Italy.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP and Under Secretary General of the UN says that with cities being home to more than half of the global population and the urban environment representing an opportunity for a more efficient Green Economy, K4C provides solutions to assist city leaders and other key players to realize the outcomes of Rio+20.

K4C has an Online Library, Interactive World Map and an overview of expert institutions that provides key documents and information relevant to climate change.

Read more at UNEP.

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category : Topics

September 4, 2012

P&G and ADB invest in waste-to-energy project

The Philippines is to be the testing ground for new “waste-to-worth” energy plants under a feasibility plan between the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Proctor & Gamble (P&G). The aim is to generate up to two megawatts of power from collected solid waste. ADB has approved USD 385,000 technical assistance, equivalent to 60 percent of the total cost, to help determine the viability and sustainability of the project.

Around 6,700 tons of solid waste is generated everyday in Manila alone but only 720 tons are recycled or composted. The remaining are hauled to dump sites, openly burned, or dumped illegally. This has lead to serious environmental problems such as air pollution, soil and groundwater contamination. This project aims to eliminate the need for landfill as less than 1 percent of the waste is expected to remain after processing.

“The disposal of municipal solid waste is a serious environmental and social problem. This is the kind of innovative project that brings the public and private sectors together to tackle a problem seen throughout the developing world. Successfully piloting an integrated solid waste management system means it could be replicated in other parts of the world,” says Jose Manuel Limjap, investment specialist at ADB.

Read more at CleanBizAsia

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category : Topics

September 4, 2012

Japan puts forward strategy to eliminate nuclear power by 2030

Japan’s Environment Minister Goshi Hosono unveiled a new strategy to boost power generation capacity of four primary renewable energy sources ? offshore wind, geothermal, biomass and tidal power by 2030. The plan, if successful, is aimed at eliminating all nuclear power plants.

The Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment was announced after the Cabinet meeting and the ministry plans to increase the combined annual capacity of renewable to as much as 19.41GW by 2030, compared with 2.96GW in 2010. This total roughly equates to the equivalent capacity of 20 nuclear reactors

The government’s Energy and Environment Council hopes all renewable energy sources, including solar energy, will be boosted from its current level of 10 percent of the nation’s power generation to 25 to 35 percent.

Read more at CleanBizAsia

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September 1, 2012

Light goes out for incandescent bulbs

From September 1, an EU directive aimed at reducing energy use of lighting prohibits retailers to sell 40W and 25W incandescent bulbs with similar bans came into effect for 60W and 100W incandescent bulbs over the past three years. The restrictions are predicted to save 39 terawatt-hours of electricity across EU annually by 2020.

Earlier this year, the UK government said that the ban would bring an average annual net benefit to the UK between 2012 and 2020 energy savings but the phase-out of incandescent have been met with resistance by some users indicating that replacement technologies do not perform as well. Also, despite the long-term savings promised, the higher upfront price of replacement bulbs has also been criticized.

“Concerns about poor performance of replacement bulbs have been proved wrong. The new LED replacements for halogen downlighters that have come into the market over the past year work just as well, for example. Price is still a barrier but that’s comeing down almost daily as volume increases,” says Peter Hunt, joint chief executive of the Lighting Industry Association.

Read more at Guardian Environment Network

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