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News Archives

August 30, 2021

HLPF Ministerial Declaration references importance of 10YFP

The Ministerial Declaration adopted by Member States on July 15th includes language on mainstreaming environment in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including commitments to progressively improve global resource efficiency and consumption and production, and decouple economic growth from environmental degradation.
It furthermore calls for intensified efforts to scale up the 10YFP by 2022 and beyond, indicating Member State commitment to the framework originally adopted at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, and which the One Planet network is implementing.

Learn more at UN doc.

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category : Topics

August 23, 2021

Are climate-friendly cooling chips the future of refrigeration?

Chemicals used in air conditioning, freezers and refrigeration have long hurt the environment by destroying the ozone layer and polluting water sources, but technology is starting to change the way we keep cool.

Phononic, a startup based in Durham North Carolina, is using a material called bismuth telluride to make so-called cooling chips.

On Wednesday this week, it said it has secured $50 million (€42,470,000) from Goldman Sachs Asset Management in funding.

So how do cooling chips work?
When electricity runs through the chip the current takes heat with it leaving one side of the chip to cool and the other to heat up, says Tony Atti, Phononic co-founder and CEO.

The chips can be as small as a fraction of a fingernail or as big as a fist depending on how many coolants are needed. So far they have been used to create compact freezers for vaccine transportation or for ice-cream at convenience stores.

It's about "cooling and heating our modern world responsibly, without toxic refrigerants," states the company.
A more recent and fast growing use is to prevent overheating in 'lidars', laser-based sensors in autonomous cars, and optical transceivers for 5G data transmission.

"The historical refrigerants that had been used for vapor compression systems, they are both toxic and global warming contributors," adds Atti.
While the global warming impact has been reduced in recent years, refrigerants still had issues with toxicity and flammability.

Can they be recycled?
While the bismuth telluride powder itself is toxic, when it is processed into a semiconductor wafer and made into a chip, it is "benign" and can be recycled or disposed as its meets all chip safety and disposal standards.

The cooling chips are manufactured in Phononic's own factory in Durham and for mass production the company is working with Thailand-based Fabrinet. The freezers for vaccines and ice-cream are built in China by contract manufacturers and carry the brands of Phononic's customers or in some cases are co-branded, he said.

The funding will be used to build out high-volume manufacturing and to expand Phononic's markets and product line.

Atti declined to share the latest valuation of Phononic but said it was "north of half a billion dollars". Previous investors include Temasek Holdings and private equity and venture capital firm Oak Investment Partners.

In future, the company suggests that it will have the ability to invent things "previously unimaginable", from cooling mattresses and motorbike helmets to cooling outdoor installations.

Learn more at here.

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category : Topics

August 16, 2021

[SCP] Hong Kong's urban farms sprout gardens in the sky

[The Japan Times, 09 July 2021]-With their heads in the clouds and their hands in the soil, a group of office workers are busy harvesting the fruits of their labor on the roof of a Hong Kong skyscraper.

Invisible to those below, a sprawling garden of radishes, carrots and rhubarb is flourishing at the top of the 150-meter tall Bank of America tower, a stark and colorful contrast to the monotone shades of concrete, steel and glass of the city's financial district.

The farm is among more than 60 that have sprouted across the space-starved city since 2015 — on decommissioned helipads, shopping mall rooftops and public terraces — thanks to initiatives like Rooftop Republic, a local social enterprise that promotes urban farming.

Co-founder Andrew Tsui sees the rooftop farms as a way for people to reconnect with how sustainable food can be produced in what he calls the current "instant-noodle city lifestyle" that sees so much waste.

"What we are looking at is really how to identify underutilized spaces among the city and mobilize the citizens, the people, to learn about food," the 43-year-old said during a blustery site inspection of the skyscraper's garden.

Tsui believes Hong Kongers need to re-establish a relationship with what they eat that has been broken "since we started outsourcing our food and relying so much on industrialized production."

Piles of food waste
According to government statistics, Hong Kong throws out some 3,500 metric tons of food waste a day — the equivalent weight of 250 double-decker buses. Less than a quarter is recycled.

And around 90% of the food eaten by the city's 7.5 million inhabitants is imported, mostly from mainland China.

But while Hong Kong is one of the most densely packed places on earth, there is still considerable space to grow food locally.

Tsui said some 7 million square meters of farmable area is currently cultivated. But more than 6 million square meters on the city's rooftops remain unused.

"So we could have the potential of doubling the supply of land for growing food," he said.

"The challenge for us is to design urban farming as a lifestyle to integrate into our daily life," he added. "And the first step for that, of course, is to be accessible."

To incorporate urban farms into the blueprints for office buildings, Rooftop Republic closely collaborates with architects, developers and property managers.

Major companies are signing up.

As well as the Bank of America garden, financed by property consultancy giant JLL, Singaporean banking giant DBS has partnered with Rooftop Republic to set up an academy that runs workshops for beginners as well as professional courses.

"In Hong Kong, most of the people focus on the commercial value of the properties. But we want to promote the concept of sustainability," said Eric Lau, the group's senior director of property management.

New skills
Urban farmers say the projects also help build community spirit among those who cultivate the crops.

After retiring from the public service, Lai Yee-man said she turned to farming to connect with nature and her neighbors.

The 60-year-old initially learned techniques and tricks from professionals to develop her farming plot in the New Territories region of Hong Kong — a rural area close to the border with mainland China.

But now she is passing on her knowledge to fellow residents working the Sky Garden, a 1,200-square-meter facility on top of a mall.

There residents cultivate edible flowers and fruit trees and can attend lifestyle classes like mindful gardening.

"People attach greater importance to their health now, they will buy organic food," said Lai.

"Here, we teach them not to waste … and to cherish their food," she explained, adding that the majority of what the mall farm grows goes to local food banks.

Tsui recognizes that few young Hong Kongers currently have an interest in learning how to grow food.

But younger people are often concerned about the environment and climate change, so the opportunity to generate enthusiasm is there for the taking.

"If coding is the skill set to learn for the 21st century, growing your own food is a necessary new skill that we all need to learn to ensure a regenerative and green planet," he said.

Learn more at here.

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category : Topics

August 16, 2021

[HOUSING] 5 ways to make buildings climate change resilient

1. Building resilience to heatwaves
Studies show that by 2050, 1.6 billion people living in more than 970 cities will be regularly exposed to extreme high temperatures. Coupled with the ‘urban heat island effect’ which makes cities warmer than the surrounding rural area, this puts urban dwellers at high risk.

But nature provides powerful solutions. Communities can create urban forests and green spaces to reduce heatwaves in cities as trees and other plants cool the surrounding environment by offering shade and releasing water through their leaves.

Structural designs can also help reduce heat inside buildings. In Vietnam, traditional housing designs such as the optimum orientation of buildings, high-rise rooms, and large openings improve ventilation. Trombe walls - heavyweight structures of concrete, stone, or other heavy material that capture solar heat are used in China, Chile, and Egypt. Green roofs and reflective surfaces can also reduce temperatures in and around buildings.

2. Building resilience to drought
Climate change is affecting rainfall patterns across the world. Rainwater harvesting and recharge systems that capture water on the roofs of buildings are commonly used to store water during drought and reduce flood risk during heavy rains. The collected water can be stored in tanks and used inside the building during periods of drought.

Another cost-effective, nature-based way to address droughts and flooding is to plant trees or other vegetation around buildings. The roots of the plants act like sponges to recharge groundwater, and during heavy rainfall, the roots allow water to penetrate the soil and reduce the risk of flooding. In China, the Sponge Cities Project is piloting eco-engineering solutions to absorb and reuse rainwater in over 30 metropolises to reduce flooding risks.

3. Building resilience to coastal flooding and sea-level rise
By 2025, 410 million people in coastal communities could be at risk of coastal flooding and sea-level rise. In Kerala, India, flood-resistant houses are constructed on pillars to allow floodwater to flow underneath. On Malaysia’s coasts, buildings elevated 2 meters above the ground allow waterflow and wetland vegetation to grow underneath, with houses and public areas connected through elevated passages.

One approach proposed in Bangladesh is to build a buoyant multi-purpose building that would rest on pillars with buoyant tanks that raise it during floods. The building would function as a community center and also provide emergency shelter during flooding.

4. Building resilience to cyclones and strong winds
Cyclones and storms are expected to become more frequent and stronger with climate change. They can affect buildings in many ways, such as blowing off roofs and damaging the structures and foundations of the building. To mitigate this damage, communities can build round-shaped houses and consider optimum aerodynamic orientation to reduce the strength of the winds.

Roof design also plays an important role. Strong connections between foundations and the roof are critical to building wind-resilient houses. Roofs with multiple slopes can stand well in strong winds, and installing central shafts reduces wind force and pressure to the roof by sucking in air from outside. Roofs that cover balconies or patios can also be designed to break during strong winds to prevent additional structural damage to the essential parts of the house. This is called frangible architecture or ‘planning for damage’ approach.

5. Building resilience to cold
Adapting to cold and temperate climates requires capturing heat and minimizing heat loss. Insulations in roofs, walls, ceilings, and double-glazed windows help to minimize heat loss and lead to more energy-efficient buildings.

In colder regions, Trombe walls can absorb heat by day and radiate it out by night when it is colder. Water has a high capacity to store heat and can be used in “water walls” – that instead of concrete, contain drums of water to store heat. Buildings should be also be oriented to maximize sun exposure, and external surfaces of walls should be painted dark.

Green roofs that support plant growth on rooftops are used in many cities around the world and have been shown to provide insulation and reduce the energy demand for cooling during summer and heating during winter.

Learn more at [UNEP Website]

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category : Topics

August 4, 2021

[MONEY] Green pensions could be the ‘most powerful weapon’ we have to protect the planet

Switching to a sustainable pension could be 21 times more powerful in the fight against climate change than giving up flying, becoming vegetarian and choosing a renewable energy supplier combined.

According to research from the Make My Money Matter campaign, greening your pension might be the single most effective action an individual can take to reduce their carbon footprint.

For those with an average size pension pot (£30,000 in the UK) transitioning to a sustainable option could save as much as 19 tonnes of carbon a year, the study found. If you have more saved, at least £100,000, a greener pension might cut as much as 64 tonnes of emissions every year - that’s nine years worth of the average UK citizen’s carbon footprint.

"Our pensions are the most powerful weapon we have to help protect the planet" (Richard Curtis Film writer, director and co-founder of the Make My Money Matter campaign).

The Make My Money Matter campaign, co-founded by film writer and director Richard Curtis, believes it is important that where our money is invested complements our other environmental actions, rather than undermining them.

“We have taken real collective steps in our society to become greener in our day-to-day lives. However, I helped create Make My Money Matter after being alerted to the fact that our pensions could be undoing all of our hard work without us even knowing,” says Curtis.

“These findings confirm just how important our money is in the fight against climate change. In fact, our pensions are the most powerful weapon we have to help protect the planet.”

How can greening pensions help cut our carbon footprint?
Although we might like to think that our pension contributions are simply locked away for us to use once we retire, the reality is that this money is being invested. Despite many companies now choosing to divest and individuals being more aware of sustainable options, it’s likely that some of that money is financing the use of fossil fuels.

More than half of adults in the UK now want their pensions to help tackle climate change, according to a recent study by Royal London, but only 15 per cent currently invest it responsibly.

“We need the entire UK pensions industry to go green – making their default funds more sustainable so all savers can have a pension to be proud of,” adds Curtis.

“As individuals, we have a critical role to play in driving this change by showing providers that we want our money invested in a way that does good, not harm and, so that we can retire into a world that isn’t on fire.”

How could a green pension be more effective than other environmental actions?
To work out how much carbon switching to a green option could cut, Make My Money Matter worked out the reported emissions from companies each pension invested in. It looked at both the sectors and countries for the businesses included.

The amount of carbon linked to each £1,000 (€1,160) invested for both a standard pension and a sustainable one was worked out using this data. The emissions saved from switching to a green pension were then compared to those from other environmentally friendly actions such as going vegetarian, giving up flying or using a renewable energy provider.

Alongside the Make My Money Matter Campaign, the study also involved UK insurance company, Aviva and Route2, a data analytics company. Nick Robins, professor in practice for sustainable finance at the London School of Economics says that it is a “very powerful piece of analysis”.

“Shifting investment is an important way of sending signals to companies to accelerate action to support the net-zero transition,” he explains.

“The study points to the need for individuals to build up their capacity to make informed climate choices over all aspects of their lifestyle, not least finance.”

Lear more at [Euronews, 09 July 2021]

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category : Topics

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