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Achieving Circularity

Armacell foam component

Armacell foam component of the KAFD World Trade Center in the King Abdullah Financial District, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is lifted into place. The façade cladding is built out of advanced composite materials and covers a surface area of more than 40.000 m². (Photos courtesy Armacell)

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, May 12, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Companies looking for innovative ways to give the circular economy a spin can check out insulation foams producer Armacell, which is giving PET plastic bottles a second life in wind turbine rotor blades.

Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, is the most common thermoplastic polymer resin of the polyester family. It is made into containers for liquids and foods and used in combination with glass fiber for engineering resins.

Headquartered in Luxembourg, Armacell has started up an extrusion line at its Brampton facility in Ontario, Canada to convert recycled PET resin into PET foam for use in the production of wind turbine rotor blades.

Around 75 percent of Armacell’s PET foam makes up the core for the blades, with some 50,000 PET bottles converted to form the core of a single wind turbine.

The first of its kind in Canada, the new extrusion line joins similar Armacell PET foam extrusion lines in Belgium and the United States. Armacell plans to install a PET foam line in China and launch production by the end of 2018.

The company claims its foaming process reduces carbon dioxide emissions when compared with standard PET foaming using virgin resin. The process generates “52 percent less CO2 than PVC foam and 62 percent less than polyurethane foam,” the company states.

The company estimates that its ArmaForm PET is already used in more than 30,000 wind turbine blades globally. Among their many uses, Armacell foams made from PET bottles can also be used for insulation in buildings and ships.

The circular economy is becoming a driving force, particularly in the plastics sector, now that the business community is getting involved.

The New Plastics Economy Initiative was launched in London in May 2016. In January 2017, the Initiative launched the report “The New Plastics Economy – Catalysing Action” at the World Economic Annual Meeting in Davos.

The report sets forth an action plan to increase recycling or reuse of all plastics packaging globally to 70 percent, up from today’s recycling rate of 14 percent.

Led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation , headquartered on the Isle of Wight in the UK, the initiative is bringing together companies, governments, NGOs, scientists, students and citizens to build a global plastics system that works.

The foundation defines a circular economy as one that is “restorative and regenerative by design, and aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times.”

“A circular economy is a continuous positive development cycle that preserves and enhances natural capital, optimizes resource yields, and minimizes system risks by managing finite stocks and renewable flows,” the foundation says.

Focusing on designing better plastics packaging and creating circular material streams, Excelrise, KKPKP, Nestlé, Re-Poly, and Schwarz Zentrale Dienste, are joining the active group of stakeholders to increase cross value chain collaboration.

The Initiative’s Core Partners include: Amcor, The Coca-Cola Company, Danone, MARS, Novamont, Unilever and Veolia.

Unilever in January committed to ensuring that all of its plastic packaging is fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Unilever called on the entire fast-moving consumer goods industry to accelerate progress towards the circular economy.

Paul Polman, Unilever CEO, said, “Our plastic packaging plays a critical role in making our products appealing, safe and enjoyable for our consumers. Yet it is clear that if we want to continue to reap the benefits of this versatile material, we need to do much more as an industry to help ensure it is managed responsibly and efficiently post consumer-use.”

Swiss group Nestlé and its French rival Danone are partnering to create a greener plastic bottle. The food and drinks companies are funding Origin Materials, a Californian biotech company to develop plastic made from waste such as sawdust or old cardboard instead of petroleum.

The Coca-Cola Company may have tried to identify itself with the circular economy, but Greenpeace says the company is not doing enough to protect the Earth from its plastics.

On April 10, Greenpeace activists blocked the entrance to Coca-Cola’s UK headquarters in London with a giant sculpture featuring a seagull regurgitating plastic, and demanded that the company do more to help prevent plastic pollution.

The campaign group said the sculpture, which depicts an idyllic family beach scene interrupted by birds choking on plastic, was intended to highlight what it claims are failings by the company.

In a report “Choke – The case against Coca-Cola“released April 10, Greenpeace claimed that Coca-Cola, the world’s largest soft drinks company, sells more than 100 billion plastic bottles every year. Single-use plastic bottles make up nearly 60 percent of the packaging produced by the company globally, the report says.

“Coca-Cola is always keen to emphasize the importance of recycling to its customers, but is failing to substantially increase the amount of recycled material it uses to make its own bottles globally,” Greenpeace said in its report.

The company refused to provide Greenpeace with a breakdown of how many tonnes of virgin plastic packaging versus recycled

plastic packaging it sells globally each year, but Greenpeace calculates that the company uses just seven percent recycled PET content on average across its global product line.

Coca-Cola says a drop in oil prices reduced the cost of virgin plastic, which made recycled PET uptake a challenge.

Greenpeace said in its report, “100% recycled bottles are feasible and have been rolled out for a number of soft drinks products over the past decade. In 2007, Suntory’s Ribena became the first major UK soft drink brand to use 100% recycled plastic. Then Naya Natural Spring Water started using 100% recycled plastic bottles in Canada in 2009, followed by PepsiCo’s 7Up with 100% recycled ‘EcoGreen’ bottles in 2011. Hong Kong-based brand Watsons Water has offered customers ‘Go Green’ bottles since 2015 and Nestlé’s Natural Spring Water began using 100% rPET bottles in the US in 2015.”

The European Commission has adopted an ambitious Circular Economy Package, which includes revised legislative proposals on waste to stimulate Europe’s transition towards a circular economy. The Commission says a circular economy will boost global competitiveness, foster sustainable economic growth and generate new jobs.

The Circular Economy Package consists of a program of action, with measures covering the whole cycle: from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials, complete with a timeline through 2030.

The proposed actions will contribute to “closing the loop” of product lifecycles through greater recycling and re-use, and bring benefits for both the environment and the economy, the Commission says.

The revised legislative proposals on waste set clear targets for reduction of waste and establish an ambitious and credible long-term path for waste management and recycling.

Key elements of the revised waste proposal include:

  • A common EU target for recycling 65 percent of municipal waste by 2030;
  • A common EU target for recycling 75 percent of packaging waste by 2030;
  • A binding landfill target to reduce landfill to maximum of 10 percent of municipal waste by 2030;
  • A ban on landfilling of separately collected waste;
  • Promotion of economic instruments to discourage landfilling;
  • Simplified and improved definitions and harmonized calculation methods for recycling rates throughout the EU;
  • Concrete measures to promote re-use and stimulate industrial symbiosis – turning one industry’s by-product into another industry’s raw material;

Finally, a key element of the proposal is economic incentives for producers to put greener products on the market and support recovery and recycling schemes for packaging, batteries, electric and electronic equipment and vehicles.


Featured Image: Cola Consumption – Plastic Coca-Cola bottles (Photo by tk-link) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Private Transport Sector Embraces Climate Action

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Young people at COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco will live with the consequences of the decisions made there. (Photo by UNFCCC) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

MARRAKECH, Morocco, November 15, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Sustainable transport leaders from the private sector met at the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech (COP22) on Saturday for the Global Climate Action event on Transport to move the world towards a cooler future.

They discussed how progress made on 15 initiatives covering all transport modes and more than 100 countries demonstrates that tackling emissions from transport is both possible and cost effective.

The transport sector has made a great start, leading by example and spearheading the development of the broader Global Climate Action Agenda,” said Ségolène Royal, France’s Minister of the Environment, Energy and Marine Affairs, responsible for International Climate Relations.

The 15 non-state actor transport initiatives whose progress are being reported in Marrakech have such a scope and scale that they are well on the way to triggering a broad transformation of the transport sector, as required to deliver on the Paris Agreement,” said Royal.

Prepared for the Marrakech conference, a report on the 15 Global Climate Action Agenda Transport Initiatives was released earlier this month.

The 15 initiatives are:

1. Airport Carbon Accreditation: Airport Carbon Accreditation, developed and launched by Airports Council International (ACI) Europe in 2009, is the only global carbon management standard for airports. The initiative aims to increase airport accreditations in all regions with a commitment for 50 carbon neutral airports in Europe by 2030.

 2. Aviation’s Climate Action Takes Off: Collaborative climate action across the air transport sector aims to control growth of international aviation CO2 emissions through measures that include a goal of carbon-neutral growth through a global market-based mechanism.

 A landmark agreement, adopted at the last International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly in October 2016, makes the aviation industry the first sector to adopt a global market-based measure to address climate change.

3. The C40 Clean Bus Declaration, led by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, aims to decarbonize urban mass transport.

Participating cities will incorporate over 160,000 buses in their fleets by 2020 and have committed to switching 42,000 buses to low emission. Greenhouse gas savings will be almost 900,000 tons a year, with a potential overall savings of 2.8 million tons each year if the cities switch their entire bus fleets.

To date, 26 cities around the world have signed the Clean Bus Declaration, demonstrating strong global demand.

4. Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GEFI) aims to double the average fuel economy of new light duty vehicles globally by 2030, and all vehicles by 2050.

For COP21 last year in Paris, GFEI launched “100 for 50 by 50,” a campaign to encourage new countries to commit to GFEI’s fuel economy improvement goals by developing and adopting national fuel economy policies, and to dedicate time and resources to supporting GFEI’s work. At COP21 GFEI announced funding for 40 new countries joining their work, with more expressing interest.

5. Global Green Freight Action Plan: Reducing the climate and health impacts of goods transport. The three main objectives are: 1) To align and enhance existing green freight programs; 2) To develop and support new green freight programs globally; and 3) To incorporate black carbon reductions into green freight programs.

Steering group partners include Canada, United States, International Council on Clean Transportation, Clean Air Asia, Smart Freight Centre, and the World Bank. The initiative has received support from 24 countries, 28 nongovernmental organizations, and four private sector companies.

6. ITS for Climate: Using Intelligent Transportation Systems to work towards a low carbon, resilient world and to limit global warming below the 2-degree target and contribute to adaptation to climate change in large cities and isolated territories.

7. Low Carbon Road and Road Transport Initiative: Led by the World Road Association (PIARC), with its 121 government members, the initiative is committed to reducing the carbon footprint of road construction, maintenance and operation through technological innovation, green tendering and contracting. Will develop road networks in line with electric propulsion, autonomous cars, road-vehicle and vehicle-vehicle interactions, and enhancing intermodal cooperation.

8. MobiliseYourCity: 100 cities engaged in sustainable urban mobility planning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in urban transport in developing countries. This initiative was unveiled during the World Climate and Territories Summit that took place in July in Lyon, France.

9. Navigating a Changing Climate: Think Climate, a multi-stakeholder coalition of 10 associations with interests in waterborne transport infrastructure, is committed to promoting a shift to low carbon inland and maritime navigation infrastructure.

10. The UIC Low Carbon Sustainable Rail Transport Challenge: This challenge sets out ambitious but achievable targets for improvement of rail sector energy efficiency, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and a more sustainable balance between transport modes.

Implementation of the Challenge will result in 50 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from train operations by 2030, and a 75 percent reduction by 2050, as well as a 50 percent reduction in energy consumption from train operations by 2030, and a 60 percent reduction by 2050.

11. UITP Declaration on Climate Change Leadership: UITP, the International Association of Public Transport, brings 350 future commitments and actions from 110 public transport undertakings in 80 cities. UITP’s goal is to double the market share of public transport by 2025, which would prevent half a billion tons of CO2 equivalent in 2025.

12. Urban Electric Mobility Initiative: The UEMI aims to boost the share of electric vehicles in urban transport and integrate electric mobility into a wider concept of sustainable urban transport that achieves a 30 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in urban areas by 2030.

The UEMI is an active partnership that aims to track international action on electric mobility and to initiate local action. Current partners include: UN-Habitat, Wuppertal Institute, the International Energy Agency, Michelin, Clean Air Asia and the European Commission.

13. World Cycling Alliance and European Cyclists’ Federation have committed to increase the modal share of cycling worldwide and to double cycling in Europe by 2020. The commitment is supported by ECF and WCA, representing about 100 civil society organizations worldwide.

14. Worldwide Taxis4SmartCities: This initiative aims to accelerate the introduction of low emission vehicles in taxis fleets by 2020 and 2030 and promote sustainability. Nineteen companies representing more than 120,000 vehicles have committed to date.

15. ZEV Alliance: The International Zero-Emission Vehicle Alliance (ZEV Alliance) is a collaboration of governments acting together to accelerate the adoption of zero-emission vehicles – electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles.

British Columbia, California, Connecticut, Germany, Maryland, Massachusetts, the Netherlands, New York, Norway, Oregon, Québec, Rhode Island, United Kingdom, Vermont have signed up to the ZEV Alliance.

Scaled-up actions taken by the Global Climate Action Agenda Transport initiatives since COP21 in December 2015 include:

  • The Global Fuel Economy Initiative is supporting an additional 40 countries to realize the financial and CO2 benefits of improved vehicle fuel economy.
  • The Airport Carbon Accreditation Scheme now has 173 certified airports worldwide, including 26 carbon neutral airports; and 36 percent of air passengers now travel through an Airport Carbon Accredited airport.
  • The MobiliseYourCity initiative secured 35 million euro in funding over the last 12 months and is making use of COP22 to announce the start of developing Sustainable Urban Mobility plans in Morocco and Cameroon.

As the COP22 host country, Morocco is taking a leading role in reducing transport emissions. Morocco’s Transport Minister Mohamed Boussaid said Morocco is launching the new African Association for Sustainable Road Transport at COP22.

For a growing region like Africa which is heavily impacted by climate change we need affordable and locally appropriate transport solutions that support economic and social development, provide access to mobility, and create local value,” said Boussaid.

Through the “we want to share experience and catalyse the development of resilient and intelligent highway infrastructure and the deployment of e-mobility in Morocco and beyond,” said Boussaid.

Transport is already responsible for one fourth of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. under a business as usual scenario, transport emissions can be expected to grow from 7.7 Gt to around 15Gt by 2050.

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Nissan Leaf electric taxi charging at a Petrobras station in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2013 (Photo by mariordo59) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

This is a global problem. For 45 percent of countries, transport is the largest source of energy related emissions, for the rest it is the second largest source.

But discussions at COP22 indicate that tackling emissions from transport is possible and cost effective, sustainable solutions are available.

“Transport initiatives by non-state actors are key for a successful implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions submitted by over 160 countries on the occasion of COP21 in Paris,” said Dr. Hakima El Haite, Minister of Environment and Climate Champion, Morocco.

“The transport initiatives, by creating a new reality on the ground, increase popular understanding and support for climate action which, in turn, drives up governments’ ambition to tackle climate change.”

To find out more about the 15 initiatives, please read: Global Climate Action Agenda (GCAA) Transport Initiatives: Stock-take on action on the Implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and contribution towards the 2030 Global Goals on Sustainable Development Report


 

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Paris Climate Pact ‘Unstoppable’

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Celebrating the adoption of the Paris Agreement, from left, then UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and President of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21), President François Hollande of France, December 12, 2015. (Photo courtesy UNFCCC) posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis,

NEW YORK, New York, October 6, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The Paris Agreement on climate change is set to enter into force on November 4, less than a year after it was adopted by world leaders. With the ratifications deposited Wednesday, enough countries have approved the landmark accord to bring it to the emissions threshold that will trigger its implementation.

 “What once seemed unthinkable, is now unstoppable,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he accepted the latest instruments of ratification that pushed the agreement over the threshold.

Strong international support for the Paris Agreement entering into force is a testament to the urgency for action, and reflects the consensus of governments that robust global cooperation, grounded in national action, is essential to meet the climate challenge,” Ban said.

 Ban, who will step down as secretary-general on December 31, has made adoption of the world’s first global climate agreement a priority of his 10 years as UN leader.

 Over the past decade, Ban has labored to accelerate the global response to climate change. He has visited communities on the climate frontlines, from the Arctic to the Amazon, and has witnessed how climate impacts are already devastating lives, livelihoods and prospects for a better future.

On Wednesday, he reminded world leaders that the work of implementing the agreement still lies ahead, saying, “Now we must move from words to deeds and put Paris into action. We need all hands on deck – every part of society must be mobilized to reduce emissions and help communities adapt to inevitable climate impacts.

Adopted in Paris by the 195 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at a conference known as COP21 this past December, the Agreement calls on countries to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low-carbon future, as well as to adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change.

It seeks to limit global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels to well below two degrees Celsius, and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The pact was signed in New York on April 22, Earth Day, by 175 countries at the largest, single-day signing ceremony in history.

It will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification, acceptance or accession with the secretary-general.

The requirements for entry into force were satisfied today when Austria, Bolivia, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Malta, Nepal, Portugal and Slovakia, as well as the European Union, deposited their instruments of ratification with the Secretary-General.

Earlier this week, New Zealand and India signed onto the Agreement, following the 31 countries which joined at a special event at the United Nations on September 21 during the UN General Assembly’s general debate.

Early in September, the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters, China and the United States, joined the Paris Agreement.

Wednesday in the Rose Garden at the White House, President Barack Obama said, “Today, the world meets the moment. And if we follow through on the commitments that this agreement embodies, history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet.”

Now, the Paris Agreement alone will not solve the climate crisis. Even if we meet every target embodied in the agreement, we’ll only get to part of where we need to go,” said Obama. “But make no mistake, this agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change. It will help other nations ratchet down their dangerous carbon emissions over time, and set bolder targets as technology advances, all under a strong system of transparency that allows each nation to evaluate the progress of all other nations.

By sending a signal that this is going to be our future – a clean energy future – it opens up the floodgates for businesses, and scientists, and engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation at a scale that we’ve never seen before,” Obama said. “So this gives us the best possible shot to save the one planet we’ve got.

Mindy Lubber, president of the non-profit Ceres, said, “The world must ratchet up global investment in clean energy by an additional $1 trillion a year to achieve the Paris Agreement goals. Global investment in clean energy is currently tracking at about $300 to $350 billion a year, which is far short of the Clean Trillion target we need to hit every year to avoid catastrophic climate warming.”

 Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Ceres mobilizes investor and business leadership to build a sustainable global economy.

We have much more to do to navigate the transition to a sustainable economy, but today represents a major step forward,” Lubber said.

The Paris Agreement will enter into force in time for the Climate Conference (COP 22) in Morocco in November, where countries will convene the first Meeting of the Parties to the Agreement. Countries that have not yet joined may participate as observers.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said, “Above all, entry into force bodes well for the urgent, accelerated implementation of climate action that is now needed to realize a better, more secure world and to support also the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.

It also brings a renewed urgency to the many issues governments are advancing to ensure full implementation of the Agreement,” Espinosa said. “This includes development of a rule book to operationalize the agreement and how international cooperation and much bigger flows of finance can speed up and scale up national climate action plans.”

 In Strasbourg, France, European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said, “Our collective task is to turn our commitments into action on the ground. And here Europe is ahead of the curve. We have the policies and tools to meet our targets, steer the global clean energy transition and modernise our economy. The world is moving and Europe is in a driver’s seat, confident and proud of leading the work to tackle climate change.

Congratulating all of the signatories of the Agreement, the Secretary-General encouraged all countries to accelerate their domestic processes to ratify the Agreement as soon as possible.

 Specifically, the Agreement calls on countries to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low-carbon future, and to adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change.

It also aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. The Agreement calls for appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity-building framework to support action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries in line with their own national objectives.


Featured Image: Open water in the usually frozen Canadian Arctic, Labrador, February 18, 2015 (Photo by Sterling College) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Ranking the Top 10 Global Green Cities

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Gardens by the Bay, Singapore (Photo by Jean Baptiste Roux) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

 SINGAPORE, August 3, 2016 (Maximpact.com News ) – Mirror, mirror on the wall, whose city is the greenest of them all? The mirror held up by the corporate strategy consulting firm Solidiance reflects the answer in a new report  that compares the performance of 10 global cities and their green buildings.

To rank these cities’ green building performance, Solidiance developed a set of criteria across four categories. Three focused on the total number of green buildings, their performance and their initiatives, while one category examined each city’s supportive infrastructure, which has a lot to do with fostering a healthy green building movement.

After assessing the 10 Global Cities for green building performance, Paris was determined to be the leader, followed by Singapore and London

Sydney, Tokyo and Hong Kong came in the fourth, fifth and sixth positions, while New York, Dubai, Beijing, and Shanghai filled in the other four slots.

 “Singapore can certainly be considered a leader in the field of green building. The city target for 80 per cent of buildings to achieve BCA Green Mark standards by 2030 is ambitious but achievable, and the Singapore Green Building Council will play a key role in delivering this,” said Terri Wills, CEO of World Green Building Council, United Kingdom.

 Singapore is the “standout leader” in the Green Building Codes and Targets assessment Solidiance reports. While all the Global Cities have outlined city-level green building codes, only three cities have achieved their green building targets. Singapore, Beijing and Shanghai are the only cities with both a green building code and green building targets set out by the city.

Paris and Singapore took the top spots by excelling in all four assessment categories: city-wide green building landscape, green building efficiency and performance, green building policies and targets, and green city culture and environment.

They were the only cities that ranked within the Top Five in every category.

Both Paris and Singapore have strong building efficiency and performance, which shows that both local and international certification standards are yielding high-performance on green buildings.

 London benefits from high yield of green buildings in the city, which can be linked to the fact that the United Kingdom was the first country ever to introduce a green building certification system.

Paris fell just slightly short of Singapore in the absolute number of green buildings in the city, and by not setting out a clear city-wide green building target.

Although Sydney, Tokyo, and Hong Kong performed well on the green city culture and environment criteria, Sydney and Hong Kong were negatively affected with the poor results they achieved on their green building landscape and performance.

Sydney, with 67, had the fewest absolute number of green buildings in the city.

Finally, Dubai, Beijing, and Shanghai were the last cities on the Top 10 list. These three cities are among the most recent to join the green building movement, and Solidiance analysts expect that these rankings will change in the future as these newer ‘green building cities’ are setting ambitious targets in order to catch up to other cities’ levels.

Dubai launched its local green building standard last among these 10 Global Cities, in 2010, resulting in fewer locally certified buildings (8th), and only launched its green building regulations and specifications in 2012.

Despite the slow start, Dubai ranks 5th in internationally certified green buildings (104), and has a total of 147 internationally and locally certified green buildings erected on its cityscape. Dubai already ranks 6th for ‘green buildings as a percentage of total buildings’

The current green building development has been focused on new buildings but is shifting towards existing buildings,” said Vincent Cheng, director of building sustainability at ARUP, Hong Kong, an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists. “For significant progress, the focus of stakeholders in Hong Kong should shift from new to existing buildings which make up the bulk of the building stock. Potentially, more effort can be made to incentivize sustainability for existing buildings, promote microgrid/ renewable systems to reduce dependence on coal-powered electricity, and divert waste from precious landfill space.

When considering the limited number of years that Beijing, Dubai and Shanghai have been working to green their built stock, the achievements of these cities are profound, especially when considering the large number of highly internationally-certified buildings currently standing within these cities,” says Solidiance, explaining the rankings.

Saeed Al Abbar, chairman of the Emirates Green Building Council, United Arab Emirates, states in the study, “It is important to note that a building can be sustainable and incorporate green best practices without having a certification behind it. Certifications, however, are useful tools for measurement and can serve as guidelines for best practice. Nonetheless, Dubai does not have a specific certification or rating systems such as Estidama in Abu Dhabi, but the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system is used and recognised broadly.”

By contrast, Singapore stood out as a pioneer in the industry by setting forth a comprehensive and bold set of policies and targets for greening the city’s built block.

As a city that has committed to greening 80 percent of its built stock by 2030, Singapore proved to be one of the most ambitious on the list of cities evaluated.

Finally, the assessment of the city-level green initiatives established that both Sydney and Hong Kong have set higher than average carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction targets amongst the 10 Global Cities, and have also proven themselves as they perform noticeably well with low CO2 emissions city-wide.

 Paris, Sydney, and Singapore take the highest ranking spots with regards to each city’s green building efficiency. This is due to the three cities not only being very low CO2-polluting cities in general, but also because they each have a very low percentage of emissions which can be attributed to the city’s built-environment.

Roughly eight to 10 million new buildings are constructed each year, worldwide, and now more of them are greener than ever before. Solidiance finds that the number of green buildings is doubling every three years as a response to the current accelerating demand for sustainability.

 Michael Scarpf, head of sustainable construction at the Swiss building materials giant LafargeHolcim told Solidiance, “Singapore and London are the cities which have the highest green building activity, and Costa Rica, France, Singapore, and the United Kingdom are the countries that witness high demand for green building materials.

Buildings are the largest energy-consuming sector, accounting for more than 40 percent of global energy use and responsible for an estimated 30 percent of city-wide emissions, calculates Solidance, which points out that buildings also hold the most promise for global energy savings.


 Featured image: Montparnasse Tower views: Les Invalides, Paris, France (Photo by David McSpadden) Creative Commons license via Flickr

EU Emissions Deal Founders on Flexibilities

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Smog in Warsaw, Poland, November 4, 2015 (Photo by Radek Kołakowski) Creative Commons license via Flickr

by Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, July 19, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The European Commission and Parliament (EUROPA) are trying to enact ambitious targets to cut air pollution, but Europe’s largest federation of environmental groups warns that EU Member States have agreed on a weak directive that puts industry interests before people’s health.

On June 30, the EU Council and the European Parliament reached a first reading agreement on a new National Emissions Ceiling Directive (NEC) to reduce emissions of air pollutants.

The revision of the current National Emissions Ceiling Directive aims to slash the large number of premature deaths caused by air pollution across the European Union. Each year 400,000 premature deaths in the EU are linked to poor air quality, according to the European Environment Agency.

The new directive sets stricter national limits from 2020 to 2029 and from 2030 onwards.

The EU’s Environment Commissioner is in favor of the new law.

Commissioner Karmenu Vella of Malta, who has charge of Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said, “I very much welcome the provisional agreement between the Council and European Parliament on the Commission’s proposal for a revision of the National Emissions Ceiling Directive – an important instrument to improve air quality and reduce cross-border pollution.

Air pollution is the number-one environmental cause of death in the EU, leading to over 400,000 premature deaths each year. The agreement reached today will cut those impacts by half over the coming years,” said Vella. “It will also deliver direct savings to the economy from fewer lost working days and lower health-care costs and stimulate investments in new technologies and green growth.

 “The negotiations were difficult and complex, but the institutions came together in a spirit of compromise,” the commissioner said. “With this agreement, the EU has acted decisively on an issue of crucial importance to our citizens.

But the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), a federation of more than 150 groups in 30 countries, points out what it considers to be serious flaws in the directive.

The Commission included three flexibilities in the original proposal, to which the Council has added five more. Together, these flexibilities will delay action to tackle air pollution while making the Directive a complex, incomprehensible and unenforceable instrument,” the EEB says.

 The flexibilities are drafted in such a way that “compliance is likely to become the exception rather than the rule,” says the EEB, which says the law will not be effective in achieving the targeted air pollution reductions by 2025 and 2030.

The Commission proposed a flexibility that allows a change from the absolute emission ceilings in the 2001 NEC Directive to percentage reduction commitments based on 2005 emissions. EEB says this change increases uncertainty about the extent to which the targeted environmental objectives will actually be achieved.

 Another flexibility enables EU Member States to adjust their emissions inventories in cases where improved emission inventory methods would lead to non-compliance with a reduction commitment.

 A third flexibility proposed by the Commission provides that while in 2025, Member States should be on a linear trajectory towards the achievement of their 2030 Emission Reduction Credits (ERCs), this obligation does not apply to the extent that the necessary measures would entail “disproportionate costs.

Yet, no definition of “disproportionate costs” is provided, so Member States could ignore their 2025 commitments entirely if they think that the cost of any additional measures is disproportionate.

A clear and binding obligation for 2025 would be much more effective in ensuring timely emission reductions, providing clarity to the public and certainty to business,” declares the EEB.

The Council proposes to introduce further flexibility around the 2025 ERC. First, Member States would be under no obligation to achieve a linear trajectory by 2025; this would merely be an “indicative level.” Member States may set themselves a non-linear trajectory if this is economically or technically more efficient. Without any definition, the term “economically or technically more efficient” is practically meaningless, says the EEB. This amendment “essentially allows Member States to set their own ERC for 2025.

 Second, Member States are not even under a clear obligation to achieve this self-determined target, as their obligation is only to “endeavour” to limit their emissions by 2025 rather than the Commission’s wording of “take all appropriate measures (not entailing disproportionate cost)”. In the event that they breach their self-determined target, they need only explain the reasons for this to the Commission.

Taken together, these further flexibilities render the Commission’s already very weak obligations for 2025 almost worthless,” warns the EEB.

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Air pollution near Amsterdam, The Netherlands, April 13, 2013 (Photo by Gisela Gerson Lohman-Braun) Creative Commons license via Flickr

 In addition, the Council proposes to allow Member States to calculate their emissions based on a three-year average in the event of a particularly cold winter or dry summer or unforeseen variations in economic activities.

But the EEB worries that dry summers and cold winters exacerbate air quality problems as they are dominated by high pressure weather systems and low wind speeds, which prevent dispersion of pollutants.

A three-year average would allow Member States to pollute more at the very time it is most important that they reduce pollution. Member States need to anticipate such weather conditions and include specific measures in their national programmes to deal with them,” the EEB says, among other objections.

The Council also proposes a new flexibility that would excuse breaches of an ERC for a maximum of five years where the Member State cannot comply after having implemented all cost-effective measures.

The EEB explains that whether measures are cost-effective or not has been a point of disagreement between Member States and the Commission throughout the course of negotiations. “Without an agreed common basis for determining whether measures are cost-effective, Member States will inevitably claim that they have taken all cost-effective measures. The Commission will have to take this information on trust. These ERCs will therefore be practically unenforceable.

 In addition to adding new flexibilities, the Council position weakens the actual level of ambition of ERCs by changing the percentages in Annex II, the environmental groups warn, saying, “ERCs have been weakened for the large majority of Member States and for all pollutants, with some drastically lowered ambition for PM2.5 and ammonia – by as much as 10 percentage points in some cases.

In his speech at the Environment Council’s debate on December 16, 2015, Commissioner Vella estimated that every percentage change from the 52 percent health improvement target proposed by the Commission would result in around 4,000 additional premature deaths in the year 2030.

The four percentage cut proposed by the Council is therefore estimated to cause around 16,000 additional premature deaths in the year 2030.

This combination of lower and more flexible targets is the worst outcome for human health and the environment,” the environmental federation warns. “The cumulative death toll for the 10-year period 2021-2030 will be far higher. We therefore call upon the three institutions to minimize the use of flexibilities in the directive.


Carbon Pricing Gathers Momentum

SteelWorksTeesside

@Maximpactdotcom

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, April 26, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – “There is a growing sense of inevitability about putting a price on carbon pollution,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim on the eve of the April 22 signing ceremony at UN Headquarters of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Kim joined government and corporate leaders in issuing a set of fast-moving goals – to expand carbon pricing to cover 25 percent of global emissions by 2020, and achieve 50 percent coverage within the next decade.

“In order to deliver on the promises of the historic Paris Climate Agreement, a price on carbon pollution will be essential to help cut emissions and drive investments into innovation and cleaner technologies,” said Kim.

“Prices for producing renewable energy are falling fast, and putting a price on carbon has the potential to make them even cheaper than fuels that pollute our planet,” he said.

Currently, some 40 governments and 23 cities, states and regions put a price on carbon emissions, accounting for 12 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. This is a three-fold increase over the past decade.

The latest call for action comes from members of the Carbon Pricing Panel, including: Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, together with World Bank Group President Kim, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, California Governor Jerry Brown, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes and OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.

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World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, left, and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde at the Spring Meeting, Washington, DC, April 16, 2016. (Photo courtesy World Bank Group) Creative Commons via Flickr

The Vision Statement accompanying their announcement defines three steps to widen, deepen and promote global cooperation on carbon pricing.

First, the number of countries and businesses that participate in a carbon pricing system needs to increase.

Second, prices need to be significant enough to account for pollution as an operating cost, and incentives for investments in low carbon solutions need to be established.

And third, better links between the various regional and national pricing systems already in place need to be set up.

There are two main types of carbon pricing – emissions trading systems and carbon taxes.

An emissions trading system, such as the EU’s pioneering system established in 2005, is sometimes called a cap-and-trade system. It caps the total level of greenhouse gas emissions and allows those industries with low emissions to sell their extra allowances to larger emitters, establishing a market price for greenhouse gas emissions.

The cap helps ensure that the required emission reductions will take place to keep all emitters within their pre-allocated carbon budget.

A carbon tax directly sets a price on carbon by defining a tax rate on greenhouse gas emissions or on the carbon content of fossil fuels. It is different from an ETS – the emission reduction outcome of a carbon tax is not pre-defined but the carbon price is.

Other forms of pricing carbon emissions can occur through fuel taxes, the removal of fossil fuel subsidies and regulations that incorporate a “social cost of carbon.”

Greenhouse gas emissions also can be priced through payments for emission reductions. Private entities or sovereigns can purchase emission reductions to compensate for their own emissions (so-called offsets) or to support mitigation activities through results-based finance.

In any case, say the carbon pricing leaders, carbon emissions must be priced so that pollution becomes an operating cost.

Speaking at this month’s high level meeting of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, the IMF’s Lagarde emphasized the value of cutting emissions.

“If the top 20 emitters in the world were to impose carbon charges that reflect only their domestic and environmental benefits, this would already reduce global emissions by over 10 percent,” she explained.

The Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition is a global initiative that includes more than 20 national and state governments, more than 90 businesses, and civil society organizations and international agencies, aims at garnering public-private support for carbon pricing around the world.

As 175 world leaders signed the Paris Agreement at United Nations Headquarters on April 22, Earth Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the next critical step is to ensure that the landmark accord for global action on climate change enters into force as soon as possible.

“Today is an historic day,” Ban told reporters after the signing event. “This is by far the largest number of countries ever to sign an international agreement on a single day.”

Ban said the participation by so many countries and the attendance by so many world leaders leaves “no doubt” that the international community is determined to take climate action. He also welcomed the strong presence of the private sector and civil society, saying they are “crucial to realizing the great promise of the Paris Agreement.”

Adopted in Paris by the 196 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at a conference known as COP21 last December, the Agreement’s objective is to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius.

It will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification.

“If all the countries that have signed today take the next step at the national level and join the Agreement, the world will have met the requirement needed for the Paris Agreement to enter into force,” Ban said, congratulating the 15 governments that have already deposited their instruments for ratification.

Ban has said, “We must put a price on pollution and provide incentives to accelerate low carbon pathways. Market prices, market indices, and investment portfolios can no longer continue to ignore the growing cost of unsustainable production and consumption behaviors on the health of our planet.”

At the Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group earlier this month in Washington, DC, Kim said more action is needed on carbon pricing to help halt global warming and spur more investments into clean technologies.

“The current situation won’t put us on a pathway to limiting global warning. We need greater ambition, and greater leadership,” he said.

Globally, momentum for putting a price on carbon emissions is growing. At least 90 countries included mention of carbon pricing in their national plans, called the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), prepared for the Paris climate conference.

In addition, more than 450 companies around the world report using a voluntary, internal price on carbon in their business plans and more plan to follow suit in the next two years.

The number of implemented or scheduled carbon pricing plans has nearly doubled since 2012, amounting to a total value of US$50 billion.


 

Main image:  A steel works emits carbon dioxide at Teesside, England. (Photo by Ian Britton) Creative Commons license at Freefoto.com

 

China Plans World’s Largest Carbon Market to Curb Climate Change

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By Sunny Lewis

BEIJING, China, October 7, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Within two years China will open a national market-based cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas emissions from some of its largest industrial sectors, President Xi Jinping announced late last month during his visit to the United States.

Carbon emission levels will be capped and companies will have to pay for the right to emit carbon dioxide, the most abundant climate-warming greenhouse gas.

China is the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, is the top oil importer after the United States and is struggling with a public health crisis caused by severe air pollution in its largest cities.

China’s new carbon emissions trading system will cover key industry sectors such as iron and steel, power generation, chemicals, building materials, paper-making and nonferrous metals.

The carbon market – similar to the European Union’s and also similar to two regional markets in the United States – is part of an effort to help China meet its climate targets and move toward energy supplies based on nuclear power plants and renewables.

President Xi said China will implement a “green dispatch” system to favor low-carbon sources in the electric grid.

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In a U.S.-China Joint Presidential Statement on Climate Change issued on September 25, the two nations describe a common vision for a new global climate agreement to be concluded in Paris this December. It is scheduled to take effect from 2020.

President Xi said, “We have decided to continue to work together to tackle global challenges and provide more public good for the international community. We, again, issued a joint announcement on climate change. We have agreed to expand bilateral practical cooperation, strengthen coordination in multilateral negotiation, and work together to push the Paris climate change conference to produce important progress.”

President Obama said, “When the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers and carbon emitters come together like this, then there’s no reason for other countries – whether developed or developing – to not do so as well. And so this is another major step towards the global agreement the world needs to reach in two months’ time.”

The Joint Statement builds on last November’s historic announcement by President Obama and President Xi of ambitious post-2020 climate targets.

In their Joint Statement, the two leaders expressed a concrete set of shared understandings for the Paris agreement. On mitigating the impact of climate change, they agreed on three elements of a package to strengthen the ambition of the Paris outcome.

First, they recognized that the emissions targets and policies that nations have put forward are crucial steps in a longer-range effort to transition to low-carbon economies. They agreed that those policies should ramp up over time in the direction of greater ambition.

Second, the two presidents underscored the importance of countries developing and making available mid-century strategies for the transition to low-carbon economies, mindful of the goal that world leaders agreed at the UN’s 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius as compared to pre-industrial levels.

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Third, they emphasized the need for the low-carbon transformation of the global economy this century.

These announcements complement the recent finalization of the U.S. Clean Power Plan, which will reduce emissions in the U.S. power sector by 32 percent by 2030.

Both countries are developing new heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency standards, to be finalized in 2016 and implemented in 2019.

Both countries are also stepping up their work to phase down super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used as refrigerants. Besides destroying the stratospheric ozone layer, HCFCs are greenhouse gases many times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

China’s government has been planning to implement a carbon trading market for years.

The cap-and-trade system will expand on seven regional pilot carbon trade programs that China began in 2011.

Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group Vice President and special envoy for climate change, has been working closely with China in providing technical support to the pilots.

“As China began to pilot through different ways of creating emissions trading systems or emissions reductions systems, we have, through what is called a partnership for market readiness, provided a mutual platform for techno-crafts from different economies in the world to share their experiences of introducing emissions trading systems so that we can all learn from each other,” she said in an interview with China’s state news agency Xinhua on September 30.

“An emissions trading system has existed in Europe for some time. Now we have an auction in California. We have pilots in China. We have a trading system in Korea. Some countries are putting carbon taxes in place,” Kyte said. “We provide a mutual technical platform to let these experiences be exchanged.”

“China is ready to learn from those pilots and move to a national system,” Kyte said, “This will immediately create the largest carbon market in the world. Other carbon markets in the world will want to link with China. This does put China in a leadership position in helping the global economy move to low-carbon growth.”

To ensure a successful carbon trading system, Kyte emphasized the importance of setting the right prices.

“The prices must be set in such a way that the prices reflect the ambition, that the emissions are reduced, that the poor people are treated fairly, that they are transparent and that they can be understood by the consumer,” she said.

China says it will set an absolute cap on its carbon dioxide emissions when its next five-year plan comes into force in 2016.


 

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: China’s President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, September 25, 2015 (Photo by Huang Jingwen courtesy Xinhua)
Image 01:Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama meet with the press after their talks in Washington, DC, September 25, 2015. (Photo by Huang Jingwen courtesy Xinhua)
Image 02: This parabolic solar-thermal power plant is adjacent to a large-scale wind farms in China’s north central Shanxi Province. It came online in 2011. (Photo courtesy Shanxi International Electricity Group Co Ltd.)
Image 03: The Fangchenggang nuclear power plant is under construction in China’s Guangxi Province. Operated by China General Nuclear Power Group Co Ltd., it is expected to come online in 2016. (Photo courtesy China General Nuclear Power Group Co Ltd.)