The first official meeting of the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was held on 14-15 March at UN Headquarters in New York and was open to all Member States. It was remarked that SDGs are the single most important element of the post-2015 development agenda. A group of international researchers argued that in the face of increasing pressure of population on land, adherence to the prevalent understanding of sustainable development might threaten to reverse the progress made in the developing countries over the past decades. They believe that ending poverty and safeguarding Earth’s life support system should be the twin priorities for the SDGs.
Other researchers also expressed their viewpoints about the threats environment is facing. One of them remarked that Climate change and other global environmental threats will increasingly become serious barriers to further human development. He believes that humans are transforming Earth’s life support system — the atmosphere, oceans, waterways, forests, ice sheets and biodiversity that allow us to thrive and prosper — in ways “likely to undermine development gains. Similarly, mounting research shows that we are now at the point that the stable functioning of Earth systems is a prerequisite for a thriving global society and future development. Thus, the team of international researchers claims that the classic model of sustainable development, of three integrated pillars — economic, social and environmental — that has served nations and the UN for over a decade, is flawed because it does not reflect reality.
As the global population increases towards nine billion people, sustainable development should be seen as an economy serving society within Earth’s life support system, not as three pillars, remarked a researcher from from the South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics, Nepal.
The researchers further have analysed that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set to expire in 2015, have helped focus international efforts on eight poverty-related goals. However, despite successes in some areas — the number of people living on less than one dollar a day has been more than halved — many MDGs have not been met, and some remain in conflict with one another. Economic gains, for example, have come at the expense of environmental protection. Politicians are struggling to link global environmental concerns with addressing poverty.
In such a scenario, it appears beneficial to have a set of SDGs which is comprehensive and attends to the multi-dimensional sectors. The new set of goals — thriving lives and livelihoods, food security, water security, clean energy, healthy and productive ecosystems, and governance for sustainable societies — aim to resolve this conflict.
The key point is that the SDGs must genuinely add up to sustainability. The SDGs have the potential to lock in the spectacular gains on human development that we have achieved in the past two decades and help the globe transition to a sustainable lifestyle. The purpose of SDGs is to address the broad challenges of poverty eradication, environmental protection and sustainable consumption and production. The SDGs address the shortcomings and challenges of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and promise to provide the foundation for a global green economy.
Obama to announce Energy Security Trust Fund
President Barack Obama aims to get the country off oil. He plans to ask the Congress to direct the cars, trucks and buses to a realm that does not include gas stations. For this purpose, he will announce a $2-billion energy security trust fund dedicated to research to boost automobile efficiency, enhance battery technology and expand the use of biofuels, among other clean-energy efforts. The energy security trust fund will serve as a means of providing long-term, reliable stream of money to researchers. The White House is of the opinion that energy innovation is not only good for cutting carbon emissions to tame global warming, but it also plays an important part in growing the economy.
Before the announcement for this security fund was made, a preview of the plan’s details was offered. The trust fund of $2 billion, spread over 10 years, would come from leases of offshore oil drilling. The money for the fund would come from an increase in expected revenue generated by a more efficient permit approval process and other reforms.
Weaning the nation off fossil fuels entirely for its transportation needs may not be practical or realistic. But the idea of this energy security trust fund is to “double down” on the opportunities for achieving a cleaner-energy future. As far as bets go, this one at least seems worthwhile.
China may face shortage of Coal Supply
With energy consumption on the rise, China is facing a challenge with regard to the supply of coal. It is estimated that by the year 2015, China’s coal consumption will reach record high of around 4 billion tonnes per year. According to the first energy outlook report from China’s Energy Research Institute (ERI), the country will have to fight for coal security in order to ensure an uninterrupted supply of coal.
As a result of rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, China’s energy consumption pattern is showing an upward trend. In pursuit of better housing, appliances and vehicles, the increasing urban population continues to drive the shift from low-end, non-commercial energy like firewood to high-quality commercial energy like piped gas. The spread of urban centres increases the demand for electricity, more than 75 percent of which in China is generated from coal-fired power plants.
The biggest challenge in making coal available for energy generation is the pressure it puts on transportation. Coal has to be transported from the mineral-rich northwest part of China to the highly populated southeast coastline. It is estimated that by 2015, coal demand in the southeast will reach 23% of the total coal demand in the country. Experts at ERI have recommended that China should move away from transport dependent system for availability of coal and should instead increase imports to ease pressure on transportation. China needs to use more effectively the international coal market to import more coal, especially for the southeast coastline. The ERI also suggests setting up global coal futures trading centres in coastal cities like Shanghai to ensure long-term supply of coal and ease supply bottlenecks. China’s focus on maintaining steady coal supply indicates how unprepared China is to keep its economy away from the cheap but dirty fuel.
China has been taking steps in addressing climate change and the mitigation of greenhouse gases including reducing its energy intensity per unit of gross domestic product by 19 percent. The reduction, however, came at the cost of closing small power plants and iron and steel production facilities. China has committed to cutting its carbon dioxide intensity by between 40 and 45 percent by 2020 compared to 2005 levels and increasing its share of non-fossil-fuel energy to 15 percent. The government has undertaken to further cut energy intensity by
17 percent from the 2010 level by 2015.
However, it will not be easy for China to switch to other fuels. One alternative can be the use of natural gas which has benefited the United States but is not cheap or abundant in China. A specific difference is that in the near future, the United States can replace its traditional coal use by power generation plants using gas, but China cannot. This implies that China cannot, like United States, control its large emissions. Although a lot of work is done in renewable energy and some other clean energy, but coal still is the dominant fuel in China.
Solar Powered Carto hit the US
Hollywood filmmaker Jordan Bloch has launched the ‘Gallons of Light’ campaign, a commercial film about the Tesla Supercharger—a game changer in social innovation for the next generation of cars. Bloch has brought together technology, sustainability, cars, and film, and says, “When I discovered the network of free, solar-powered “Superchargers” that Tesla and Solar City were building across the U.S., I was driven to make a film about it. It reflects my vision of a sustainable future, where we can enjoy nature without harming it.” Bloch, who directed and produced this film enlisted the help of James Taylor, the famous voice actor behind Scooby Doo, Star Wars – the TV Series for this project.
Jordan Bloch’s film is a short social innovation documentary that goes on the road, filming a new Tesla Model S owner and his family on their solar-powered journey; this is a road trip about not taking from or exhausting the earth. Bloch’s project is not officially affiliated with Tesla, yet it provides a glimpse into the new Superchargers that will provide clean, free, and fast-charging for drivers of the Tesla Model S up and down the West Coast.
Tesla’s first six charging stations have already been built in secret, and a social innovation solar-powered carport provided by Solar City is used to generate more energy than Tesla estimates Model S drivers will need in a year of driving! This means these Superchargers will generate more power than is required, resulting in the extra energy going back into the grid.
Elon Musk, Tesla Motors co-founder and CEO, says “Tesla’s Supercharger network is a game changer for electric vehicles, providing long distance travel that has a level of convenience equivalent to gasoline cars for all practical purposes. However, by making electric long distance travel at no cost, which is impossible for gasoline cars, Tesla is demonstrating just how fundamentally better electric transport can be. We are giving Model S the ability to drive almost anywhere for free on pure sunlight.”
The Supercharger is substantially more powerful than any charging technology to date, providing almost 100 kilowatts of power, with the potential to go as high as 120 kilowatts in the future.
The 85 kWh battery of the Tesla Model S can be fully charged in about an hour from a Supercharger, while 30 minutes of charging will provide three hours of driving. Tesla has ambitious expansion plans: more stations will be set up this year, as the company plans to install Superchargers in high traffic corridors across the continental U.S., enabling fast, purely electric travel from Vancouver to San Diego, Miami to Montreal, and Los Angeles to New York. Tesla will also begin installing Superchargers in Europe and Asia in the second half of 2013.
Belgian firm Umicore tops Global Sustainability List
A firm based in Belgium has come out top in the Global 100 list of the world’s most sustainable companies.
Umicore, a materials technology and recycling company, raises revenue from clean technologies including catalysts that reduce pollution from vehicles.
The business achieved high marks for its across-the-board sustainability performance and came top on six of the 12 indicators used in the study, which included water productivity (revenue/total water use) and carbon (revenue and GHG emissions).
Corporate Knights, the Toronto-based media and investment research firm that compiles the annual list, also announced that Brazil’s Natura Cosmeticos, Norway’s Statoil, Finland’s Neste Oiland Denmark’s Novo Nordisk completed the top five.
In total, the Global 100 list had revenues of $3 trillion and a workforce of nearly 5.3 million in 2011, according to Corporate Knights, whose list drew companies from a total of 22 countries on six continents.
Corporate Knights screens companies according to their sustainability disclosure practices, financial health, product types and recent legal payouts.
Those companies that remain are then scored, relative to their same-sector peers, on a set of key performance indicators. A different set of indicators are used for companies in each industry, depending on recent reporting trends in each industry group.