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Never Turn Your Back on the Ocean

Road sign warns of flooding in Wachapreague, Virginia on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Photo by Aileen Devlin / Virginia Sea Grant) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Road sign warns of flooding in Wachapreague, Virginia on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Photo by Aileen Devlin / Virginia Sea Grant) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

ISPRA, Italy, August 14, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – Famous Hawaiian swimmer and surfer Duke Kahanamoku always warned, “Never turn your back on the ocean.” He wanted people to watch out for the physical dangers of being hit by a wave from behind, and he wanted humankind to show respect for the ocean – a warning that today is more urgent than ever.

The findings of two Joint Research Centre (JRC) studies released on Monday show that without increased investment in coastal adaptation, the annual damage caused by coastal floods in Europe could increase from €1.25 billion today to between €93 billion and €961 billion by the end of the century.

One in three citizens of the European Union lives within 50 kilometers (30 miles) of the coast. Due to an increase in extreme sea levels driven by global warming, coastal floods could impact up to 3.65 million people every year in Europe by 2100, compared to around 102,000 people affected today.

In the JRC studies scientists project both how global extreme sea levels will change during the present century, and also how rising seas combined with socioeconomic change will affect future losses from coastal flooding.

Sea levels are rising, and the trajectory is expected to continue beyond the year 2100, even if greenhouse gas emissions are stabilized right now. Most scientists expect the sea to rise by at least one meter (39 inches) during this century, and many believe sea levels may even rise three meters by 2100, in view of new evidence on ice-cliff instability of the Antarctic.

Antarctica alone has the potential to contribute more than a meter of sea-level rise by 2100 and more than 15 meters by 2500, if emissions continue unabated, finds a 2016 study by Robert DeConto of the University of Massachusetts’ Department of Geosciences, and David Pollard of Penn State University’s Earth and Environmental Systems Institute.

DeConto and Pollard warn that atmospheric warming will become the dominant driver of ice loss, and prolonged ocean warming will delay ocean recovery for “thousands of years.”

With continued ocean and atmospheric warming, sea levels are likely to rise for many centuries at rates higher than that of the current century, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Flood damage to the city of Ōfunato, Iwate Prefecture, Japan caused by the 2011 tsunami that caused a meltdown at the coastal nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. July 2011, (Photo by George Olcott) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Flood damage to the city of Ōfunato, Iwate Prefecture, Japan caused by the 2011 tsunami that caused a meltdown at the coastal nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. July 2011, (Photo by George Olcott) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Global warming is expected to drive increasing extreme sea levels and flood risk along all the world’s coastlines. This year sea levels continue their upward movement, rising about three inches higher than levels measured in 1993.

Higher sea levels mean that deadly and destructive storm surges push farther inland than they once did, causing more frequent flooding.

In cities, rising seas threaten infrastructure underpinning local jobs and regional industries. Roads, bridges, subways, water supplies, oil and gas wells, power plants, sewage treatment plants, landfills – virtually all human infrastructure – is at risk from sea level rise, NOAA warns.

European scientists are issuing equally urgent warnings of “unprecedented flood risk unless timely adaptation measures are taken.”

The JRC researchers considered two scenarios – one where moderate policy efforts are made to mitigate climate change and a business as usual situation.

They concluded that in order for Europe to keep future coastal flood losses constant relative to the size of the economy, defense structures need to be installed or reinforced to withstand increases in extreme sea levels ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 meters (1.64 to 8.2 feet).

The researchers identified climate change as the main driver of the projected rise in costs from coastal flooding. This is a change from the current situation globally, where increasing risk has been driven by socioeconomic development.

In the United States, almost 40 percent of the population lives in high-population-density coastal areas, where sea level plays a role in flooding, shoreline erosion, and hazards from storms.

Globally, eight of the world’s 10 largest cities are near a coast, according to the United Nations Atlas of the Oceans . These are the cities most at risk of sea level rise. They are: Tokyo, Japan; Mumbai, India; New York City, USA; Shanghai, China; Lagos, Nigeria; Los Angeles, USA; Calcutta, India; and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

A flood inundates St. Marks Square in Venice, Italy, October 10, 2017 (Photo by Konstantinos Tamvakis)

A flood inundates St. Marks Square in Venice, Italy, October 10, 2017 (Photo by Konstantinos Tamvakis)

The frequency and severity of coastal flooding throughout the world will increase rapidly and eventually double in frequency over the coming decades even with only moderate amounts of sea level rise, according to a 2017 study in “Scientific Reports” from scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Hawaii.

The study, led by Sean Vitousek, a engineering professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, projects increases in flooding for Pacific islands, parts of Southeast Asia and coastlines along India, Africa and South America in the years and decades ahead, before spreading to engulf nearly the entire tropical region.

Alarming projections by Climate Central, a U.S.-based climate change science and advocacy group, show that approximately one million South Africans live in areas that will be inundated by rising seas as the climate warms, unless carbon emissions are cut steeply by the year 2100.

A World Bank study  published in March identified coastal areas with low elevation, and assessed the consequences of continued sea-level rise for 84 developing countries, using satellite maps of the world overlaid with data on population growth.

Including 12 Southeast Asian nations: Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, D.P.R Korea, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – the World Bank study found that the impact of sea-level rise will be particularly severe for this region.

A one-meter rise may displace some 37 million people, the World Bank concluded. The number of vulnerable people would increase to 60 million with a two-meter rise. A three-meter rise can impact 90 million people, nearly equivalent to the population of Vietnam, the fourth most populated country in East Asia.

China and Indonesia are the two countries most vulnerable to permanent inundation.

In March, China’s oceanic authority called for measures to cope with rising sea levels.

A report released by the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said that the average sea level along China’s coast in 2017 was 58 mm (2.28 inches) higher than the average level between 1993 and 2011.

Over the past six years, the sea level along China’s coast has remained high compared with the previous 24 years.

The situation is the result of climate change and global warming, which have increased the temperature of China’s coastal regions and the ocean, according to the SOA report.

Rising sea levels will increase the area inundated by sea water, aggravate marine disasters, and harm the ecosystem, Chen Zhi, an SOA official, told the state-run Xinhua news agency in March.

The report said China’s ability to prevent and respond to disasters should be improved. The layout of coastal cities and infrastructure planning should take the rising sea levels into account, and emergency shelters and warehouses for disaster relief supplies should be located a safe distance from high-risk areas.

The SOA report advises that China’s coastal cities should verify the flood protection ability and upgrade design standards for important infrastructure projects in the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta, and the northern coastal area of Bohai, near Beijing.

The report calls for protecting ecological resources, including coastal mangroves and wetlands.

The management of coastal water resources must be strengthened, the SOA advised, saying that the overexploitation of groundwater and land subsidence in coastal regions should be controlled in order to reduce harm from salt tides, sea water encroachment, and soil salinization.

China’s State Oceanic Administration report proposes pushing forward international cooperation in global marine governance, such as observation and prediction, risk assessment, and the response to rising sea levels.

One response that promotes safety, as Duke Kahanamoku said, “Never turn your back on the ocean.”

Featured Image: Wave breaks on the coast of Ireland, September 29, 2013 (Photo by John Twohig) Creative Commons license via Flickr



Civil Society Pressures G20 to Decarbonize

SolarTowerGermany

The Solarturm Jülich about 60 km west of Cologne, Germany is a test facility for commercial solar tower power plants. (Photo courtesy German Aerospace Center, DLR) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

HAMBURG, Germany, July 7, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The German Presidency of the G20 meeting in Hamburg this week has put energy and climate high on the agenda as civil society groups call for 100 percent renewable energy across Europe by 2030.

Addressing NGOs in June, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave her view of the importance of climate in the G20 talks this year. “What we need to do is pool various interests, so that we can find answers to the big questions of our time. One of these is protecting the climate,” she said. “The aim is to as rapidly as possible reduce the carbon emissions of our economies.”

“The Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will guide us along the way,” said Merkel. “I believe this is true more than ever now that the United States has announced it is leaving the Paris Agreement.”

U.S. President Donald Trump announced in June that he is pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement on Climate, the first global agreement to limit the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities that are sending the global temperature into the record high territory.

Merkel said that as host of the G20 meeting this year the German government has a message for the world. “The message, in a nutshell, is: First, the G20 is assuming responsibility for life here and now – through its partnership with Africa, by tackling the causes of displacement, by fighting terrorism and corruption, and with constant efforts to achieve food security and development.”

“Second,” she said, “the G20 is also assuming responsibility for the world of tomorrow and beyond – by pursuing climate protection, by implementing the ever so important 2030 Agenda, and by shaping digitalization and strengthening global health.”

“All of this is easy to say – but much harder to do,” Merkel acknowledged.

Germany is moving quickly to implement renewables, and on April 30, the country set a new national record for renewable energy use. During part of that day, 85 percent of all electricity used in Germany was produced from renewables: wind, solar, biomass and hydroelectric power.

With these goals in mind, the 25-year-old nonprofit European Association for Renewable Energy, known as Eurosolar, sees renewable energy as central to the G20 discussions, saying it plays “a decisive role for current and future economic structures and dynamics.”

Based in Bonn, Germany, Eurosolar members are: solar associations engaged in renewable energy expansion, companies, scientific institutes, trade unions, regional and local governments, municipal and county district administrations, members of the European Parliament and regional parliaments, scientists, architects, engineers, tradesmen, farmers and teachers.

Eurosolar is demanding that the G20 heads of state and government “take concrete steps towards the rapid conversion of the energy industry to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. This expansion is urgently necessary, and it is also possible,” the association said in a statement this week.

Eurosolar wants a clear commitment “to a decentralized energy supply, which is entirely based on renewable energies.”

With offices in 14 countries including Austria, Italy, Turkey, and Ukraine, Eurosolar says it conducts its work independent of political parties, institutions, commercial enterprises or interest groups.

Eurosolar points to progress on the renewable energy front over the past five years. The share of renewables in power generation grew by 70 percent in the G20 countries from 2011 to 2016 and by 300 percent in the UK. Germany was able to increase its share by 360 percent.

Eurosolar President Professor Peter Droege says the G20 leaders “should remove restrictions on renewable energy in their countries, such as regressive limits, eliminate fossil and nuclear subsidies, and stamp out the systemic corruption that permeates the conventional energy sector and its influence on the captive public policy environment.”

“The governments of the G20 must finally fulfill their responsibilities and show real global leadership by removing all national and international obstacles to the rapid and comprehensive local and regional expansion of renewable energy systems,” said Droege.

“In doing so, they will not only support peace, harmonious development and democratic justice, but also build the necessary foundation for the rapid achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

As holder of the G20 Presidency this year, the German government believes that resolutions taken at G20 meetings can move the entire world.

Climate policy is the latest example. After the G7 expressed its commitment to adopting an ambitious world climate agreement in order to limit global warming to a maximum of 2°C, the G20 issued a similar signal in support of this goal.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015 adopted a legally binding international climate agreement, which is designed to keep global warming significantly below 2°C. Germany adopted its national climate plan before the 2016 UN climate conference in Marrakech, Morocco was over last November.

But on behalf of Eurosolar members, Droege says, “Subscribing to the Paris Agreement clearly does not contradict the continued subsidy of coal, gas, oil and uranium.”

Eurosolar sees the Paris Agreement as “an agreement for the de facto promotion of nuclear power.”

Renewable energies are actually mentioned only once in the Paris Agreement, Droege points out, and only in relation to Africa.

However, he argues, a reasonable climate protection agreement is not possible without a decentralized global use of renewable energies.

Many European energy companies are interested in cleaner renewable energy generation that finds success in the marketplace.

In late June, 13 industry leaders and groups, including SolarPower Europe, launched “Make Power Clean,” a joint initiative to promote a European electricity market designed to deliver cleaner energy for all.

The European Union’s electricity market must become more flexible, secure and sustainable to put Europe on track for the energy transition, the group maintains.

The new Make Power Clean initiative supports the European Commission’s proposal for a carbon eligibility criterion in the Regulation on the Internal Market for Electricity, saying it is a most needed step in the right direction.

“We call on the Council and the European Parliament to endorse the 550g CO2/kWh carbon criterion, which is critical to the overall consistency and efficiency of EU climate and energy policy,” said the coalition.

As proposed by the European Commission, making the eligibility for capacity mechanisms conditional to a 550g CO2/kWh carbon criterion is transparent and in line with the European Investment Bank’s investment lending policy.

The carbon criterion is consistent with Europe’s 2030 decarbonization goal and supports the effectiveness of the EU Emission Trading Scheme.

The Make Power Clean initiative currently includes: ENI, ESIA, Eurogas, Gas Natural Fenosa, Iberdrola, Nordex/Acciona Windpower, Shell, SNAM, Siemens, SolarPower Europe, Statoil, Total and WindEurope.

“It is high time,” said Droege of Eurosolar, “to reassign the trillions of dollars in currently wasted armament costs and conventional energy subsidies for peaceful, future-minded purposes and to rapidly implement local energy systems worldwide in the paramount challenge of our times: the fight against the manifest and imminent existential threat of climate change.”

The G20 countries meeting in Hamburg account for 85 percent of all global economic output. They govern more than 62 percent of the world’s population, almost 4.7 billion people.

At the same time, these 19 countries and the European Union are responsible for 80 percent of polluting emissions worldwide.

The G20 includes: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States and the European Union.


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Europe Finds Funds for Rewilding

Europe Finds Funds for Rewilding

At the signing ceremony in Brussels, from left: Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Frans Schepers, Managing Director of Rewilding Europe, Christopher Knowles, European Investment Bank, Head of Climate Finance and Jyrki Katainen, European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness. April 11, 2017 (Photo courtesy European Commission) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, April 25, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Catching on in Europe, rewilding is large-scale conservation to restore and protect natural processes and core wilderness areas, provide connectivity between such areas, and protect or reintroduce apex predators and keystone species.

The Dutch nonprofit Rewilding Europe says rewilding ensures that natural processes and wild species will play a much greater role in both landscapes and seascapes. Rewilding helps landscapes become wilder, while providing opportunities for people to reconnect with such wilder places for the benefit of all life.

Now the concept of rewilding Europe has attracted substantial investment to turn these goals into reality.

Earlier this month, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank announced the first loan agreement backed by the Natural Capital Financing Facility.

The €6 million loan agreement with Rewilding Europe Capital is expected to provide support for more than 30 nature-focused businesses across Europe.

Rewilding Europe Capital (REC) is Europe’s first conservation and rewilding enterprise financing facility. With this first project, an ambitious new initiative to protect biodiversity and support climate adaptation in Europe has been realized.

The REC investment capital available is €6.5 million. This loan finance contract represents the first project of the Bank on Nature Initiative, set up by the European Commission. The signing ceremony took place April 11 in the Berlaymont Building, headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels.

The Bank on Nature Initiative builds on the Natural Capital Financing Facility, an established financing partnership between the European Commission and the European Investment Bank supporting nature and climate adaptation projects through tailored loans and investments, backed by an EU guarantee.

It recognizes and fosters the business case for investing in natural capital for biodiversity and climate change adaptation purposes.

Nature is essential for our lives, well-being and also underpins our economy,” said Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, at the signing ceremony.

The recent evaluation of the EU Nature Directives has shown that creating new means to attract investment in nature protection and its sustainable use is more important today than ever before. I am particularly pleased that the first project signed under the Natural Capital Financing Facility will directly contribute to the implementation of our EU Nature Directives and also boost our rural economies and create jobs,” Vella said.

Since its formal launch in September 2013 and supported by the Adessium Foundation and Dutch Postcode Lottery, REC has demonstrated its potential through a pilot phase which Rewilding Europe has now extended in this new partnership with the European Investment Bank and their Natural Capital Financing Facility.

REC provides loans to small and medium-sized enterprises that catalyze, support or achieve positive environmental outcomes.

Loans may go to fund natural forest regeneration, natural water systems, natural grazing, safe corridors for wildlife, natural habitat extension, reduced hunting and fishing pressure, operational support of wildlife breeding areas including spawning sites, and direct natural comeback of wildlife.

“In places like Namibia and Costa Rica, significant nature-based economies have been developed by stimulating private sector involvement and investment,” says Frans Schepers, managing director of Rewilding Europe. “In Europe, where such economies are still in their infancy, we can learn a lot from these countries.”

“The Bank on Nature Initiative has the potential to stimulate the development of nature-based economies and I am excited that Rewilding Europe Capital can help facilitate it,” said Schepers. “Both nature and people will benefit.”

Since the launch of its pilot phase in 2013, REC has provided €445,000 in loans to 17 enterprises in five countries – Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Netherlands and Romania.

These are collectively leveraging the protection of 20,000 hectares of natural landscapes and will inject over €25,000 of direct cash funding per year towards protecting and sustaining these host natural environments and their wildlife.

Naturally, this investment also directly and indirectly stimulates local socio-economic growth and employment.

“Signed today, this contract with the EIB is a great step forward for Rewilding Europe Capital,” says Ilko Bosman, executive director of Rewilding Europe Capital B.V. “It will allow us to really scale up our efforts and beneficial outcomes. But more than this, it also throws a spotlight on the ability of commercial finance to contribute positively to nature conservation and rewilding.”

The long-term goal of Rewilding Europe Capital is to create 250 jobs through the businesses which it supports. Going forward, it will continue to stimulate and underpin wildlife and nature-based businesses in rural areas, thereby making an essential contribution to the comeback of wild nature and wildlife in European landscapes.

Rewilding Europe Capital was established and developed with business and financial expertise from Conservation Capital, an initiating partner of Rewilding Europe, and who will also support the investment management of the portfolio.

The entire effort is supported by the European Commission’s LIFE Programme, the EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental, nature conservation and climate action projects throughout the EU.

Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed some 4,306 projects. For the 2014-2020 funding period, LIFE will contribute roughly €3.4 billion to the protection of the environment and climate.


Featured Image: One of the resident Konik ponies on the UK’s Ashdown Forest. These wild horses originate from Poland, bred from the original, now extinct, wild horses of Europe known as Tarpan. Konik ponies show numerous primitive features, associated with their ancestors: adaptation to harsh climates, intelligence and resilient immune systems. February 13, 2017 (Photo by Tom Lee) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Women Innovators Empower the World

Winners and presenters of the 2017 EU Prize for Women Innovators at the awards ceremony, from left: Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness; Petra Wadström, founder and CEO of Solvatten AB; Claudia Gärtner, founder of microfluidic ChipShop; Kristina Tsvetanova, co-founder and CEO of BLITAB Technology; Michela Magas, founder of Stromatolite; Carlos Moedas, EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Brussels, Belgium, March 8, 2017 Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, March 9, 2017 (Maximpact News) – Four innovative European women won rich prizes last night at a ceremony in Brussels in celebration of International Women’s Day March 8. All winners have recently founded or co-founded a successful company based on their groundbreaking ideas, and all have received research and innovation funding in the past.

Funding for the EU Prize for Women Innovators comes from Horizon 2020, the largest-ever EU research and innovation program  with nearly €80 billion of funding available over seven years, 2014 to 2020, in addition to the private investment this money is attracting.

The winners of the 2017 EU Prize for Women Innovators are:

1st Prize (€100,000): Michela Magas, of Croatian/British nationality, is founder of Stromatolite, a UK Design Innovation Lab with a studio in Sweden, building a new generation of incubation and creative technology toolkits for innovation.

The Design Innovation Lab has built the Music Tech Fest platform – one of the first real Innovation Ecosystems with a community of over 5,000 innovators. With this, Magas has established a unique innovation ecosystem, policy context and support structure for radical and disruptive innovation by a wide community of creative developers.

Her practice-based PhD research investigated music interpretation systems and led to her co-authoring Sonaris, an innovative music search technology, as well as launching the Open Product Licenses, enabling design by attribution.

Magas directed MIReS.cc, investigating the future of music technology with seven top European research centers. She founded the global Music Tech Fest, which brings music industry, SMEs, innovators and researchers together.

Rather than taking a single product to market, her ecosystem has created a fast track to innovation, yielding multiple innovative products and services.

Stromatolite has participated in four projects funded by Horizon 2020 and the 7th Framework Programme for Research, coordinating two of them.

2nd Prize (€50,000): Petra Wadström from Sweden, is founder of Solvatten, which produces a portable water purifier and water heater that are powered by solar energy. Solvatten is a durable, efficient and easy-to-use way to make water safe and hot.

Wadström is a biochemical research technician and mother of four. After years of research she turned a passion for art into a career. She says being an artist has helped her to think outside the box, combining elements of science and creativity.

3rd Prize (€30,000): Claudia Gärtner from Germany is founder of microfluidic ChipShop, which provides “lab-on-a-chip” systems as miniaturized solutions for better diagnostics. Microfluidics are considered to be the enabling tool for a novel approach to analytics and diagnostics, enabling the production of a wide range of tailor-made products and on-chip applications.

She leads a wide variety of research projects for the development of lab-on-a-chip systems for life science applications.

In 2002 Dr. Gärtner was nominated for the German Founders Prize and received the Thuringian award for the best business concept for ChipShop.

Microfluidic ChipShop coordinated the EU-funded Multisense Chip project funded by the 7th Framework Programme for Research.

A new category was introduced this year – the Rising Innovators Award – which recognizes excellence in female entrepreneurs aged 30 years or under.

The first winner of the prize worth €20,000 is Kristina Tsvetanova from Bulgaria, co-founder and chief executive of the Austrian company, BLITAB Technology, which has produced the first tablet for blind users, called BLITAB®. Tsvetanova is the co-inventor of BLITAB, the first tactile tablet for blind and visually impaired people.

This is the fourth edition of the contest, which began in 2011. To be eligible to compete, participants must have founded or co-founded a company before January 2015 with a turnover of at least €100,000, and either they themselves or their companies must have previously benefitted from public or private funding for research and innovation, whatever the source.

At the award ceremony, EU Commissioner Carlos Moedas and Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness announced the four winners of the this year’s EU Prize for Women Innovators.

Moedas, commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said, “The winners of this year’s EU Prizes for Women innovators are truly inspiring. Europe needs more women innovators like them, with great ideas and the courage and determination to take risks and succeed.

The innovations that the four winners have brought from idea to market are remarkable not only from a business point of view but also because they will benefit and improve the lives of many people in Europe and beyond,” said Moedas.

McGuinness, vice-president of the European Parliament, said, “This prize demonstrates the significant contribution of women innovators in bringing many life-changing innovations to the market. It is very fitting that on this International Women’s Day 2017 we recognize and celebrate their entrepreneurial spirit and achievements.

We do so in a very visible way to give inspiration to other women and, in particular, to young women and girls to look towards innovation and entrepreneurship,” McGuinness said.

Following an open call for submissions in autumn 2016, the winners were chosen by a high-level jury of independent experts  from business, venture capital, entrepreneurship and academia.

Forty-seven applications were submitted from across the 28 countries currently in the European Union and additional countries associated to Horizon 2020. These associated countries include: Albania, Armenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Faroe Islands, Georgia, Iceland, Israel, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine.

The other nine women chosen as finalists for the 2017 EU Prize for Women Innovators are also interesting.

Here’s a little more information about the 12 finalists, presented in alphabetical order.

1) Gema Climent is the founder, R&D director and the only administrator of Nesplora technology and behavior. Nesplora is a company funded with the objective of analyzing human behavior using emerging technologies, making it more scientific, functional and objective. It offers a disruptive conception of evaluating human cognition and behavior using standardized and scientifically validated virtual reality scenarios.

2) Barbara Demeneix is professor of Physiology at the Natural History Museum in Paris, where she studies evolution of hormone systems. She invented and brought to market the first method for screening chemicals and environmental samples using genetically-engineered fluorescent embryos. She co-founded WatchFrog, a company marketing biological tests for screening chemicals and assessing water quality. Demeneix was recognized for her mentoring, particularly of young women scientists, with the Nature Mentorship Award, 2011. WatchFrog has participated in six actions that received EU funding from the 7th Framework Programme for Research; two are ongoing.

3) Mary Franzese cofounded Neuron Guard, a start-up that is developing a life-saving medical device for brain damage directly at the site of the event. Having both an economic and communicative soul, she dreams of being “Chief Love Officer” of a company leader in the development of standard of care technologies for Therapeutic Temperature Management, where gender equality and the inclusion act as master. The company has received funding from the Emilia Romagna (Italian Region) Start Up Innovative fund.

4) Dr. Gemma Galdon Clavell is a policy analyst working on the social, ethical and legal impacts of data-intensive technologies. She is the founder and director of Eticas Research and Consulting, a rapidly-growing organization with aninternational presence that brings together social scientists, computer scientists and IT experts to help clients tackle the challenges and opportunities of the data society by building values into the design process. The company has received EU funding from both Horizon 2020 and the 7th Framework Programme for Research.

5) Dr. Claudia Gärtner is a founder of microfluidic ChipShop in Jena, Germany. Microfluidics or “lab-on-a-chip” systems are considered to be the enabling tool for a novel approach to analytics and diagnostics, enabling the production of a wide range of tailored-made products and on-chip applications. In 2002 she was nominated for the German Founders Prize and received the Thuringian award for the best business concept for ChipShop. She leads a wide variety of research projects for the development of lab-on-a-chip systems for life science applications. Microfluidic ChipShop coordinated the EU-funded Multisense Chip project funded by the 7th Framework Programme for Research.

6) África González Fernández is a full professor in Immunology and Director of the Biomedical Research Center (CINBIO) at the University of Vigo in Spain. She is also co-founder of the company NanoImmunoTech, the first European company dealing with biomedical characterisation and synthesis of nanomaterials, bioconjugation and biosensing. NanoImmunoTech has received EU funding under Phase 1 and 2 of the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument, to develop the Heatsens technology.

7) Michela Magas is the founder of Stromatolite, a Design Innovation Lab that has built the Music Tech Fest platform – one of the first real Innovation Ecosystems with a community of over 5,000 innovators. Her ecosystem has yielded multiple innovative products and services enabled by her ideas of Open Product, Market Adoption, and Innovation IP, creating a fast track to innovation. Stromatolite has participated in four projects funded by Horizon 2020 and the 7th Framework Programme for Research, coordinating two of them.

8) Dr. Kamila Markram is a neuroscientist at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne and co-founder and CEO of Frontiers, one of the largest and most influential Open Access publishers in the world. Frontiers is a digital-age scholarly publishing company with a mission to bring Open Access publishing and Open Science IT solutions to academics and the general public. In 2014, Frontiers received the ALPSP Gold Award for Innovation in Publishing. In 2016, Markram was named a L’Hebdo Forum 100 personality, a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and recipient of the Gold Stevie Award for Women in Business. Frontiers has taken part in one project funded by the 7th Framework Programme for Research, and is participating in two projects funded by Horizon 2020.

9) Sandra Rey co-founded Glowee which develops a biological lighting system that works due to the natural properties of bacteria to revolutionize the way we produce, consume and illuminate. Glowee has received funding from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) InnoEnergy programme.

10) Isabel Trillas Gay is full Professor at the Faculty of Biology, Universitat de Barcelona and has co-founded the spin-off Biocontrol Technologies, S.L. for the development of her discovery, a pesticide based on the natural microorganism, Trichoderma asperellum strain T34, to control crop diseases. In Biocontrol Technologies she is partner, member of the direction committee and scientific adviser. In 2016 the company was awarded a Seal of Excellence under Horizon 2020’s SME Instrument Phase I.

11) Kristina Tsvetanova is the co-founder and CEO of BLITAB Technology GmbH – the World’s Most Creative Start-up 2015 and European Winner of Social Entrepreneurship and Disability. She is the co-inventor of the award-winning innovation BLITAB®. Thanks to the international recognition that she has received in Europe, USA, Mexico, Singapore, China and Japan, and her persistance in empowering unprivileged children via technology, Tsvetanova was named as one of the “Social Movers” of today by Agora+D in 2015. Blitab has received EU funding from the 7th Framework Programme for Research’s CREATI-FI calls

12) Petra Wadström, born in Stockholm and mother of four children, is the founder and CEO of Solvatten AB. Solvatten is a portable, durable, highly efficient and easy-to-use way to make water safe and hot, just by harnessing the power of the sun. She is a biochemical research technician but after years of research she turned a passion for art into a career. Being an artist has helped her to think outside the box, combining elements of science and creativity. Solvatten has received EU funding from Phase 1 of Horizon 2020’s SME Instrument.

The aim of the EU Prize for Women Innovators is to raise public awareness of the need for more innovation and more women entrepreneurs, to recognize the success of women in innovation and create strong role models.

Women are underrepresented in terms of creating innovative enterprises. Only 31 percent of entrepreneurs in the European Union are women. Prize organizers say this imbalance between the genders represents an untapped potential for Europe, which needs to use all its human resources to their full potential to remain competitive and find solutions to economic and societal challenges.


Featured image: First Prize winner Michela Magas has engaged in 20 years of innovation. Her work brings together science and art, design and technology, academic research and industry. (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use

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Europe’s ‘Clean Energy Revolution’

solarpowertower

Gemasolar was the first commercial-scale plant in the world to apply central tower receiver and molten salt heat storage technology. The molten salt storage tank permits independent electrical generation for up to 15 hours without any solar feed. May 7, 2009, Seville, Spain. (Photo by Markel Redondo / Greenpeace)

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, December 8, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – To keep the EU competitive as renewables displace fossil fuels, shaking up global energy markets, the European Commission has proposed a new package of measures to “equip all European citizens and businesses with the means to make the most of the clean energy transition.”

The “Clean Energy for All Europeans” legislative proposals are designed to show that, as the Commission said, “the clean energy transition is the growth sector of the future – that’s where the smart money is.”

The measures are aimed at establishing the EU as a leader of the clean energy transition, not just a country that adapts to a renewable energy future as required by the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate, which more than 100 nations have now formally joined.

In October 2014 the European Council, composed of the heads of state or government of the EU member states, agreed on the 2030 climate and energy policy framework for the EU.

That’s why the EU has committed to cut emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) by at least 40 percent by 2030, less than 15 years away.

Europe is on the brink of a clean energy revolution,” said Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete.

And just as we did in Paris, we can only get this right if we work together.

With these proposals, said Cañete, the Commission has cleared the way to a more competitive, modern and cleaner energy system. “Now,” he said, “we count on European Parliament and our Member States to make it a reality.”

If the new proposals become law, EU consumers of the future may have the possibility of producing and selling their own electricity, a better choice of supply, and access to reliable energy price comparison tools.

Increased transparency and better regulation give civil society more opportunities to become more involved in the energy system and respond to price signals.

The package also contains several measures aimed at protecting the most vulnerable consumers.

The EU is consolidating the enabling environment for the transition to a low carbon economy with a range of interacting policies and instruments reflected under the Energy Union Strategy, one of the 10 priorities of the Juncker Commission.

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Caption: Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker briefs the European Parliament, Oct. 26, 2016 (Photo © European Union 2016 – European Parliament”) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

In his State of the Union Address to the European Parliament, September 14, President Jean-Claude Juncker emphasized investment.

The €315 billion Investment Plan for Europe, which we agreed just 12 months ago, has already raised €116 billion in investments in its first year of operation. And now we will take it further,” said President Juncker, doubling down on the EU’s future.

We propose to double the duration of the Fund and double its financial capacity to provide a total of at least €500 billion of investments by 2020,” Juncker said.

The Commission has already offered CO2 reduction proposals. In 2015, the executive body proposed to reform the EU Emission Trading System to ensure the energy sector and energy intensive industries deliver the needed emissions reductions.

Last summer, the Commission proposed ways of accelerating the low-carbon transition in other key sectors of the European economy.

Today’s proposals present the key remaining pieces to fully implement the EU’s 2030 climate and energy framework on renewables and energy efficiency.

All the Energy Union related legislative proposals presented by the Commission in 2015 and 2016 need to be addressed as a priority by the European Parliament and Council.

Modernising the EU’s economy is key, said Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefcovic. “Having led the global climate action in recent years,” he said, “Europe is now showing by example by creating the conditions for sustainable jobs, growth and investment.

Clean energies, in total, attracted global investment of over €300 billion in 2015, and the Commission sees opportunity for the EU in the clean energy wave of the near future.

By mobilising up to €177 billion of public and private investment a year from 2021, this package can generate up to one percent increase in GDP over the next decade and create 900,000 new jobs, the Commission said.

The Clean Energy for All Europeans legislative proposals cover energy efficiency, renewable energy, the design of the electricity market, security of electricity supply and governance rules for the Energy Union.

The Commission also proposes a new way forward for Ecodesign, the law that sets minimum mandatory requirements for the energy efficiency of household appliances, information and communication technologies and engineering.

The package includes actions to accelerate clean energy innovation, to renovate Europe’s buildings and a strategy for connected and automated mobility.

Commissioner Cañete said, “I’m particularly proud of the binding 30 percent energy efficiency target, as it will reduce our dependency on energy imports, create jobs and cut more emissions.

Our proposals provide a strong market pull for new technologies,” he said, “set the right conditions for investors, empower consumers, make energy markets work better and help us meet our climate targets.

Links to all documents in the Clean Energy package:


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Climate Change Takes Its Toll

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A wildfire devours the forest next to Highway 63, 24 kilometers south of Fort McMurray on Saturday, May 7. The “Beast”, as it was called by Wood Buffalo fire chief Darby Allen, caused the mass evacuation of nearly 90,000 people from the northern Alberta city. (Photo by Chris Schwarz / Government of Alberta) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

MUNICH, Germany, September 21, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Monetary losses caused by natural disasters in the first half of 2016 were “significantly higher” than the corresponding figures for the previous year, although fewer people died in these events, according to a report by the German insurance and re-insurance firm Munich Re.

In total, losses to the end of June came to US$70bn (previous year US$59bn), of which US$27bn (US$19bn) were insured.

The main loss drivers were powerful earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador, storms in Europe and the United States, and forest fires in Canada.

A raging wildfire consumed the parched forest south of the oil sands city of Fort McMurray, Alberta on May 7. The 1,500 square kilometer inferno caused the evacuation of nearly 90,000 people.

The European storms are likely linked to climate change, explains Peter Höppe, who heads Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research Unit.

 “Scientific studies have shown that heavy rainfall has become more frequent in certain regions of Europe over the last few decades. For example, in the period 1951–2010 severe spring rainfall events that used to have a mathematical occurrence probability of once every 20 years have already increased by a factor of 1.7. Climate change is likely to have been partly responsible for this,” said Höppe.

Natural catastrophe figures for the first half of 2016:

Overall losses were above the inflation-adjusted average for the last 30 years (US$63bn), but below the average for the last 10 years (US$92bn).

Insured losses were in line with the inflation-adjusted average for the last 10 years and above the average for the last 30 years (US$15bn).

Just 3,800 people lost their lives to natural disasters in the first six months of 2016, fewer than during the same time period in 2015, (21,000) and the averages for the last 10 and 30 years (47,000 and 28,000).

The greatest number of fatalities was caused by an Mw 7.8 earthquake which hit the Pacific coast of Ecuador at almost the same time as the quakes hit Japan. Many buildings were destroyed and shopping mall roofs collapsed. Nearly 700 people were killed. As is so often the case in emerging countries, a relatively small share of the overall loss of US$2.5bn was insured: US$400m.

The highest losses were caused by two earthquakes on the Japanese island of Kyushu in April (US$25bn, just US$6bn was insured).

 Munich Re Board member Torsten Jeworrek said, “These events clearly show the importance of loss prevention, such as protection against flash floods or the construction of earthquake-resistant buildings in high-risk areas. The good news is that improved building codes and a more intelligent approach by emergency services and authorities offer people much better protection than used to be the case.

Catastrophe activity in the United States led to $3.8 billion in insured losses in 29 states during the 2016 first quarter, with much of the damage hitting Texas. Those events were the worst in a decade in terms of frequency and severity, according to a new industry report.

The first quarter is usually mild … since the major perils are hail and winter storm,” the Property Claims Services unit of Verisk Insurance Solutions explained in its first-quarter 2016 catastrophe review, which encompassed 13 catastrophe events.

But this year, said PCS, some of the first-quarter U.S. storms “packed a serious wallop.” One storm alone caused $1.1 billion in insured losses when it hit Texas in March.

The Global Federation of Insurance Associations (GFIA) , a Brussels-based industry group, warned as far back as 2013 that “loss trends and climate scientists indicate that, in the future, more and more insurance will be needed to help economies recover from a growing frequency of weather related losses: tornados, hailstorms, hurricanes/typhoons.

Natural disasters triggered by climate change are tragic and costly, but these are not the only losses people are experiencing due to the warming climate.

The rising price – in money and in health – of extreme weather events amid rapid urbanization, and the value of applying science and technology to reduce these risks, is explored in six research papers released at a United Nations forum in Malaysia on July 19.

Assembled by UN University’s Malaysia-based International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH), the research is published in a special issue of the “Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health.”

The papers include a stern warning about productivity loss due to heat stress. The latest estimates show productivity in many jobs will fall by up to 40 percent by 2030 due to heat stress. The global economic cost of this reduced productivity may be more than US$2 trillion by 2030. 

 The jobs most susceptible include the lowest paid – heavy labor and low-skill agricultural and manufacturing.

In Southeast Asia alone as much as 15 to 20 percent of annual work hours may already be lost in low-paid, heat-exposed occupations, a figure that may double by 2030. 

Author Tord Kjellstrom of the Health and Environment International Trust, New Zealand, said, “Current climate conditions in tropical and subtropical parts of the world are already so hot during the hot seasons that occupational health effects occur and work capacity for many people is affected.

Dr. Kjellstrom’s paper cites estimated GDP losses due to heat stress for 43 countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Costa Rica, Denmark, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Fiji, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Russia, Saint Lucia, Samoa, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Tanzania, Thailand, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, United States, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

The situation in Malaysia is typical of the Southeast Asian countries. As work slows or stops to avoid dangerous heat stress, the country’s Gross Domestic Product is projected to decline by an estimated 5.9 percent (value: US $95 billion) by 2030, more than double the estimated 2.8 percent GDP lost to heat stress in 2010.

 In 2030, in both India and China, the GDP losses could total $450 billion, although mitigation may be made possible by a major shift in working hours, among other measures employers will need to take to reduce losses.

This situation already is straining electricity infrastructure, Dr. Kiellstrom observes. The additional energy needed for a single city the size of Bangkok for each 1°C increase of average ambient temperature can be as much as 2000 MW, roughly the output of a major power plant.

It is very important to develop and apply adaptation measures now to protect people from the disasters that current climate and slowing changing climate brings,” said Kjellstrom. “However, adaptation is only half an answer; we must also take decisive action now to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases.

Failure will cause the frequency and intensity of disasters to worsen dramatically beyond 2050, and the situation at the end of this century will be especially alarming for the world’s poorest people,” he warned.

Climate change will bring increasingly difficult situations, according to the papers:

  • Disastrously heavy rains can expand insect breeding sites, drive rodents from their burrows, and contaminate freshwater resources, leading to the spread of disease and compromising safe drinking water supplies.
  • Warmer temperatures often promote the spread of mosquito-borne parasitic and viral diseases by shifting the vectors’ geographic range and shortening the pathogen incubation period.
  • Climate change can worsen air quality by triggering fires and dust storms and promoting certain chemical reactions causing respiratory illness and other health problems.
  • In extreme disasters, harm is often amplified by the destruction of medical facilities and disruption of health services
  • Central and south China can anticipate the greatest number of casualties and highest economic losses from extreme weather events in the Asia Pacific region – the world’s most disaster-prone region – and a more integrated, multidisciplinary approach is needed to upgrade the nation’s emergency response system for natural disasters.
  • From 1980 to 2012, roughly 2.1 million people worldwide died as a direct result of nearly 21,000 natural catastrophes such as floods, mudslides, extreme heat, drought, high winds or fires. The cost of those disasters exceeded $4 trillion (US) – a loss comparable to the current annual GDP of Germany.
  • In Asia Pacific 1.2 billion people have been affected by 1,215 disasters since the millennium. Some 92 percent of human exposure to floods occurs in Asia Pacific, along with 91 percent of exposure to cyclones and two-thirds of all exposure to landslides. Between 1970 and 2011, two million people in the region – 75 percent of the world total – were killed by disasters.
  • From 1993 to 2012, the Philippines experienced the highest number of extreme weather events (311), Thailand experienced the greatest financial loss (US$5.4 billion) and Myanmar experienced the highest death rate (13.5 deaths per 100,000 people).
  • In just 40 years, from 1970 to 2010, the regional population exposed to flooding risk more than doubled from about 30 million to 64 million while those in cyclone-prone areas rose from roughly 72 to 121 million.
  • Cities cover two percent of world land cover, generate 60 to 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and half of all waste, and are expanding at a rate of one million people per week. In a single generation – from 2000 to 2030 – urban land extents are expected to have tripled.

The authors underline that fast-rising numbers of people are being exposed to the impacts of climate change, with much of the increase occurring in cities in flood-prone coastal areas or on hills susceptible to mudslides or landslides. Especially vulnerable are people living in poverty, including about one billion in slums.

Cities, concentrated sources of energy consumption, heat and pollution, covered in surfaces that absorb warmth, create local heat islands and impair air quality, both threats to health.

And rising demand for cooling contributes to warming the world. Air conditioners not only pump heat out directly, the electricity required is typically produced by burning fossil fuels, adding to atmospheric greenhouse gases. As well, people acclimatized to air conditioning become less heat tolerant, further increasing demand for cooling.

On the other hand, better urban planning presents “tremendous opportunity” to mitigate the health impacts of more extreme weather events, authors emphasize.

Urban planners, the authors say, can help by designing cities “in ways that enhance health, sustainability, and resilience all at once,” incorporating better building design, facilitating a shift to renewable energy, and fostering the protection and expansion of tree cover, wetlands and other carbon sinks, for example.

To mitigate the health impacts of longer, more severe extreme weather events, the authors stress the need to replace piecemeal reactive responses with integrated, multi-disciplinary planning approaches.

Beyond better preparation and warning systems to improve disaster response, recommended steps include enhancing drainage to reduce flood risks and strengthening health care, especially in poor areas.

The six papers, published by the “Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health,” are:

  • Climate Change, Extreme Weather Events, and Human Health Implications in the Asia Pacific Region, by Jamal Hisham Hashim and Zailina Hashim (http://bit.ly/29AXLlM)
  •  Urbanization, Extreme Events, and Health: The Case for Systems Approaches in Mitigation, Management, and Response, by José G. Siri, Barry Newell, Katrina Proust, and Anthony Capon (http://bit.ly/29N9IBA)
  • Impact of Climate Conditions on Occupational Health and Related Economic Losses: A New Feature of Global and Urban Health in the Context of Climate Change, by Tord Kjellstrom (http://bit.ly/29BL0Dn)
  • Impact of Climate Change on Air Quality and Public Health in Urban Areas, by Noor Artika Hassan, Zailina Hashim, and Jamal Hisham Hashim (http://bit.ly/29EX6y4)
  • Review of Climate Change and Water-Related Diseases in Cambodia and Findings From Stakeholder Knowledge Assessments, by Lachlan McIver, Vibol Chan, Kathyrn Bowen, Steven Iddings, Kol Hero and Piseth Raingsey (http://bit.ly/29EWWXw)
  • Emergency Response to and Preparedness for Extreme Weather Events and Environmental Changes in China, by Li Wang, Yongfeng Liao, Linsheng Yang, Hairong Li, Bixiong Ye, and Wuyi Wang (http://bit.ly/29UhBI7)

Featured Image: Rescue vehicles address Cypress Creek flooding near Houston, Texas, April 19, 2016 (Photo by muypronto) Creative Commons license via Flickr