Sustainable Development News

UNOSSC Launches Partnership Fund with India to Advance SDGs

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – The United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) was established to promote South-South and triangular cooperation globally and within the UN system. UNOSSC enables developing countries to effectively face their development challenges and harness opportunities to address them.

Record Green Energy Levels Not an Existential Threat to UK Utilities

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — The future is now, or at least it was on Sunday, June 11th in the UK. That’s because on that day, a combination of bright sunshine and blustery winds, along with nuclear generation, managed to provide a full 70% of the electricity being consumed that day. Even more significant, the energy mix produced the required kW-hours of energy while emitting less than 100 grams of CO2 for each one. That’s good enough to meet the ambitious target for the year 2030, whcih pretty well proves it can be done.

The UK has also seen other impressive milestones in the past few months, including a day where solar exceeded nuclear, and one day entirely without burning coal.

Of course, this signifies a big change, and big changes often have winners and losers. In Germany, for example, which took a bold leap into clean energy, there were serious financial impacts to traditional utility providers. Does a similar fate await utilities in the UK? After all, the UK has taken off the gloves, when it comes to renewables, with substantial investments in offshore wind as well as solar, and appears to be closing in on Germany in terms of generation capacity.

There is no doubt that the presence of solar and wind on the grid reduces prices and lowers demand. With variable pricing in place, we have seen moments when electricity prices have gone negative, meaning that power plants have actually had to pay people to use their electricity. This might be great for end users, but it can’t be good for the power plant operators. This has indeed been the German experience.

G20 Groups Condemn Trump Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — Yesterday, the chairs of the G20 climate and energy taskforces released a joint statement regarding the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. The statement called the action “shortsighted and irresponsible.”

The letter was written in anticipation of the G20 summit which is scheduled to take place next month in Hamburg. There are already tensions rising between some of the other G20 members, over how confrontational they want to be with the US at that meeting. Some, like German chancellor Angela Merkel, want to feature climate as a central issue, while others like Canadian President Justin Trudeau, want to focus more on those things that can be agreed upon.

In the statement’s own words, “This decision not only ignores the reality of climate change and the opportunities of an international framework for the necessary transformation but also undermines the standing of the United States as a reliable partner in solving global problems. Ignoring the threat posed by climate change endangers a sustainable future for today’s youth and coming generations. Today’s challenges are global in nature and require coordinated solutions and international cooperation. We need globally agreed upon targets and frameworks – like the Paris Agreement and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – to transform huge challenges into opportunities and to create a perspective for innovation, decent jobs, and a vivid civil society.”

The authors ask for the remaining 19 members of the G20, to remain committed. The document was signed by the B20 Energy, Climate and Resource Efficiency (ECRE) Taskforce leaders; the C20 Sustainability (Energy and Climate) Working Group leaders; the leaders of the L20, which represents the interests of workers; the T20 Climate Policy and Finance Task Force leaders; the leaders of the W20, which  is the official G20 dialogue focusing on women’s economic empowerment; leaders of the Y20, the official Youth Dialogue of the G20; and the leaders of the F20, the new G20 platform of foundations.

Floating Tidal Power in Scotland Could Challenge Offshore Wind

(3Bl Media) — There was some exciting news in the world of renewable energy made off the coast of Scotland last week. While solar and wind power have been making tremendous inroads around the world, a new player is emerging that could have advantages over both. We’re talking about floating tidal generation. A company called Scotrenewables Tidal Power Ltd., commissioned the SR2000 tidal turbine last December, connecting to the Orkney power grid. Last week, during a grid-connected test, the 2MW turbine produced 18,000 kWh over a 24-hour period. The 500-tonne SR2000 is an integrated turbine-generator. It looks like a ship that rides low in the water, consisting of a floating hull, with two turbines on the lower half of the body that sit just below the surface of the water. Each turbine has a 52-foot diameter rotor. The turbines are designed to stow up against the hull for transportation, and in “survivability mode” during storms and periods of rough seas. Most of the internal components are situated in the hull for ease of maintenance.

According to the company’s website, the technology has been optimized for “fast tidal current regions, such as those of Scotland, Northern France and Canada,” although modifications can be made to suit local conditions elsewhere. 

According to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) an onshore wind turbine produces 16,400 kWh per day. Offshore turbines are larger and can produce as much as 36,300 kWh per day. So, while this fledgling first effort is not quite up to the level of the largest offshore wind turbines, it’s already in the same ballpark.

REN21 Global Status Report Shows More Renewables for the Money

 

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - REN21, the Paris-based, multi-stakeholder, global renewable energy policy network, just released their Renewables 2017 Global Status Report (GSR), the world’s most comprehensive annual overview of the state of renewable energy. Over 800 individuals contributed to the report. Highlights include the fact that a record-setting 161 GW of new capacity was added, a 9% increase from last year. Although that’s an impressive achievement, it actually represents a 23% decrease in financial investment from the year before. Christine Lins, Executive Secretary for REN21, told Justmeans that “the key message for 2016 was that investors could get more for their money.” While it’s good news that costs have come down enough to enable this, if we are to meet the targets set in Paris, especially in light of President Trump’s withdrawal of support for the agreement, we need to see investments increasing rather than decreasing.

Still, the decreasing costs will be the prime driver for continued investment. Recent deals in Denmark, Egypt, India, Mexico, Peru and the United Arab Emirates saw renewable electricity being delivered at USD 0.05 per kilowatt-hour or less, well below equivalent costs for fossil fuel and nuclear generation in each of these countries.

When asked about the Trump withdrawal, Lins said, “What we’ve seen so far is that President Trump’s announcement has created a lot of united voices around the globe, of countries announcing that they are going to stick to the Paris agreement. Right now, renewables are cost-competitive in many situations with fossil fuels. With him as a businessman, it’s quite surprising to see him taking that step.”

As others have pointed out, it will take three and a half years to fully withdraw from the agreement, and by that time, we could be looking at another administration. Lins also pointed out that within the US, numerous state and companies were reaffirming their commitments to the goals agreed upon in the Paris accord. It was concerns over what Trump might do that hastened the ratification of the accord last year.

Sustainable Brands Detroit 2017 Confronting Challenges, Building Bridges

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — Here are some more takeaways from Sustainable Brands17 Detroit.

If we are to realize any kind of vision of a sustainable society, we must confront the idea that truth is negotiable. As author and consultant Andrew Winston said, “We need a working democracy, checks and balances, a free press.” We need the truth.  But what is the truth? For scientists and judges, the truth is found in facts. For most of the rest of us, the truth lies in the stories we choose to believe. As Upworthy’s Jennifer Lindenauer said in her “Trust is Tribal” talk, “facts fade, stories stick. Donald Trump tells stories that stick even though they are lies.” Why do they stick?  How does a liar get away with calling the bastions of journalistic integrity fake news? According to Lindenauer, it’s because the opposite of fake is authentic. Trump may have a myriad of deplorable qualities, but he is authentically Trump, and for better or for worse, for many, that authenticity begets trust. What that means for us is that we need to confront self-serving lies, with authentic stories of a sustainable future, that people will trust.

In 1987, Ronald Reagan said, ‘trust but verify,” with respect to a nuclear-arms deal with the former Soviet Union. Author Andrew Zolli described an ongoing effort by Planet Labs to take a complete, high-resolution picture of the entire Earth every single day. This will allow us to not only verify, but discover countless things that are happening on Earth, both as a result of human activities and the everything-else that we refer to as nature. For example, the images were able to detect a rapidly expanding illegal gold mining operation in Peru. As a result of the discovery, the operation was quickly shut down. While some might consider this type of truth and its consequences a form of “burdensome government regulation,” most of us would applaud it as a win for the planet. These photos could also be used to track deforestation, the growth of electricity, agricultural productivity, the growth or decline of deserts, rivers and lakes, the expansion of refugee camps, and with the help of sophisticated algorithms-- the loss of carbon due to land use changes. All these facts, could be used to fuel new and urgent stories that could potentially cut through the ideological fog. For example, as Zolli said, once we have a price on carbon, we can put a value on the forest that is being lost every day. At a time when EPA administrators are making policy that could impact the future of the entire biosphere, based on rumors and amateur science, such as the notion that there was a leveling off of warming over the past two decades, we need to verify before we can trust, as a number of scientists just did.

European Companies Align Business Goals with UN SDGs

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide not only a vision for the world, but from a business perspective, they are also a roadmap to shareholder value. SDG engagement is therefore part of all of future business models in one way or another. Policy-makers need to support them and create an enabling environment where they can incorporate global sustainability goals locally.

Sustainable Brands Detroit 2017 Looks For and Finds Common Ground

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — At the onset of Day Two of SB17 Detroit, the thinking behind the conference title, “Redefining the Good Life,” began to reveal itself. A subtext running through the event, like an underground spring, has been the notion that the polarization of our society has become a major barrier to the achievement of a sustainable, flourishing future. That’s why a number of workshops on topics such as “Breaking Through Gridlock,” and “ How to Have Difficult Conversations: Building Bridges in a Divided Country,” are being presented, acknowledging and attempting to address this challenge. The data presented by Solitaire Townsend of Futerra, and later by others, offered some hope that this challenge could  potentially yield.


According to Harris poll data, taken across generations and political parties, all people essentially agree on the fundamental constituents of the good life. These consist of the following four elements: balanced simplicity, meaningful connections, financial independence, and personal goals. If we all want the same things, it will be far easier to come up with a plan that we can all agree on—it’s only the “how do we get there” part that needs to be resolved. That’s not exactly a walk in the park, but its far easier than if we’d all wanted different things.


Solitaire also shared a pertinent quote from the Bard, “All things are ready if our minds be so,” and an invocation of what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey. Erica Parker of Harris, carried the story forward with the thought that “If you are not disrupting, you will be disrupted.”
Sharing more data, Parker said that 71% of adults today said that their lives were different than their parents, while 45% said it would be different for their children. As consumers, 51% believe that companies care, though 65% feel that products do , to contribute to a better life. At the same time, while 65% feel that they, as consumers, can influence companies, only 28% say that they have actually tried.


Chris Coulter of GlobeScan and Raphael Bemporad of  BBMG shared results of another survey in which 16,000 people from around the world said that these were the four primary elements of a good life: health & well-being, financial security, meaningful relationships,  and a sense of purpose. Note the similarities to the other poll.  So what’s the problem? For starters massive income inequality, lack of access, and a disconnect between, “aspirations and capacity.”
Oxfam reported that the wealthiest eight people on the planet own as much as the  lowest 3.4 billion people. Trust in institutions is very low. So what to do?

Sustainable Brands Detroit 2017 Sets Out to Redefine the Good Life


(3BL Media/Justmeans) — Sustainable Brands kicked off their 2017 event in downtown Detroit with a record crowd of over 2,000 attendees.  After a day filled with extended interactive workshops, the official welcome ceremony featured a who’s who of sustainability thought leaders. Koann Vikoren Skrzyniarz, Founder and CEO of Sustainable Brands, welcomed the crowd that packed the Cobo Center’s main hall. She set a somewhat sober tone for the event, citing that we live in an age of unintended consequences, and that we have clearly gotten off track in our pursuit of happiness. “Our push for productivity and efficiency has inclined us to forget how inextricably connected we are.”
But, she said, “Businesses are uniquely equipped…to help us shape our collective future.” Describing the decision to move from San Diego to Detroit, she called the actively rejuvenating Motor City, ‘a fantastic living lab.” Indeed Detroit could be the poster child for a place where the industrial age has run its course and is now ready for what comes next. Citing Harris poll data, she said that a clear shift is happening across the US in the definition of the good life.


Next, Kim Patel Ford’s VP of Sustainability spoke. Quoting her boss, Bill Ford, who she was standing in for, she said, “You can do good work for the planet and for the company.” Describing the company’s shifting commitment to mobility, she quoted Mayor Mike Dugan, who said, “Great if you have a good job, but if you can’t get there, what’s the point.” 

 
Cradle to Cradle originator Will McDonough made a number of terse, but punchy points.   
How do we make the world better because we are here?
Being less bad is not being good.
We need to think differently about carbon. There are three types: Fugitive carbon, Durable Carbon, and Living Carbon  We need less of the first one and more of the other two
By 2050, the weight of plastics in the ocean will be equal to the weight of all the fish.
As a roadmap for making things better he suggested five goods, to take the place of the numerous less bads.
Good Materials are safe, healthy, biological.
A Good Economy is circular, sharing, and shared
Good Energy is clean and renewable.
Good Water is clean and available.
A Good Life is creative and dignified.
What’s next is what’s now.
How much can we give for all that we get?  
Goodness is a living things.
It’s going to take forever, but that’s the point.

"Better Hydro" Shows That Hydropower Can Be Sustainable Too

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — Before they went belly up, the automotive brand Oldsmobile ran a series of TV ads saying, “this is not your father’s Oldsmobile,” trying to shake off the stodgy image that the brand had come to represent.

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