The wheel of climate action turns slowly, but in Paris it has turned. There’s much in this deal that frustrates and disappoints me, but it still puts the fossil fuel industry squarely on the wrong side of history.
Parts of this deal have been diluted and polluted by the people who despoil our planet, but it contains a new temperature limit of 1.5 degrees. That single number, and the new goal of net zero emissions by the second half of this century, will cause consternation in the boardrooms of coal companies and the palaces of oil-exporting states and that is a very good thing. The transition away from fossil fuels is inevitable.
Now comes our great task of this century. How do we meet this new goal? The measures outlined simply do not get us there. When it comes to forcing real, meaningful action, Paris fails to meet the moment. We have a 1.5 degree wall to climb, but the ladder isn’t long enough. The emissions targets outlined in this agreement are simply not big enough to get us to where we need to be.
There is also not enough in this deal for the nations and people on the frontlines of climate change. It contains an inherent, ingrained injustice. The nations which caused this problem have promised too little to help the people on the frontlines of this crisis who are already losing their lives and livelihoods for problems they did not create.
This deal won’t dig us out the hole we’re in, but it makes the sides less steep. To pull us free of fossil fuels we are going to need to mobilise in ever greater numbers. This year the climate movement beat the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, we kicked coal into terminal decline and put coal into terminal decline. We stand for a future powered by renewable energy, and it is a future we will win.
This is why our efforts have never been confined to these conference halls. Just as we've carried our messages of justice, equity, and environmental protection into the venues of the climate negotiations, and echoed the collective demand to speed the end of fossil fuels to the faces of our leaders, we will continue to raise our voices long after these talks are over.
We came to the COP with hope. Not a hope based on the commitments we wished our leaders would make, but a hope built on a movements that we have built together with many others. Together we are challenging the fossil fuel oligarchy, we are ushering in the era of solutions, and we are moving the political benchmark of what is possible.
While our political leaders walk, our movements run, and we must keep running.
From the High Arctic to Brazil, from the Alberta tar sands to Indonesia’s peatlands, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Mediterranean we will stand against those faceless corporations and regressive governments that would risk our childrens' future.
We will push our beautifully simple solution to climate change - 100% renewable energy for all - and make sure it is heard and embraced. From schoolyards in Greece, to the streetlights of India, to small Arctic communities like Clyde River in Canada, we will showcase the clean, renewable solutions that are already here, and pressure our governments to make them available for everyone, fast.
Finally, we will stand with those communities on the front lines of this struggle. They are the leaders of this movement. They are the ones facing the rising seas, the superstorms, and the direct effects of our governments’ collective inaction. We will amplify their voices so the world is forced to hear our call for change.
In 2016 we - the entire climate movement - will escalate the fight. Together we will show the world that if our governments won’t act to stop the carbon bullies, then we will.
History is waiting in the wings, and we’re standing on the right side of it.
As part of its commitment to being a sustainable bank, Nedbank supports its clients as they take steps to reduce their impact on the environment.
In following this philosophy, Nedbank has released the Carbon Footprinting Guide and the Nedbank Green Living Guide, to enable both businesses and individuals to participate in reducing carbon emissions and committing to sustainable living. Even the smallest change can make a difference, when enough people make that change and greening the home is an effective place to start.
How Do I Green My Home?
Did you know that around 29% of the average energy consumption by middle-to-upper-income households is used to heat water in an electric geyser? There are several solutions to this, which will see electricity savings and, of course, more money in your pocket. Start by looking at water heating options that offer immediate savings:
- Solar Heating – Solar water heaters can save you between 25% and 40% of the electricity used by conventional geysers. There are various options for homeowners to choose from to take advantage of Africa’s abundant sunshine.
- Heat Pumps – These use between 50% and 70% less energy than a traditional electric geyser, and do not require roof space of direct sunlight.
- Geyser Settings, Timers and Insulation – For homes with geysers, reducing the temperature at which the geyser is set can save you around 10% for every 1℃ you reduce -. Installing a geyser timer means you won’t have to pay the costs of your geyser maintaining a high temperature all day, but will enjoy hot water when it’s needed. You could also turn your geyser off manually and back on again an hour before you need it. Whichever method you choose to save on electricity, a geyser blanket is an ideal way to save electricity and cash, as the insulation keeps the geyser hotter longer.
Space Heating And Cooling
With temperatures dropping drastically during winter nights and rising considerably in summertime, using electric heaters and air conditioners is commonplace – and costly. There are ways of heating and cooling living spaces without overdoing electricity usage. Here are some of them:
- Ceiling insulation – In 2011 it became compulsory for new homes to have ceiling insulation, but adding insulation to older homes is a simple job and can save you a lot of money. Call in a reputable company for a quote and ensure they offer you sustainable options.
- Draft proofing – Gaps in your doorways and windows allow cold air in and heat inside to escape. Sealing tape is easy to use, inexpensive and effective at keeping drafts out.
- Window dressings – Thicker curtains in winter can help to keep the cold out and leaving them open for the sunlight to enter during the day warms up a home – providing you close them as soon as the sun goes down to retain the heat.
- Air conditioners – Electric air conditioners are massive electricity hogs and should be used sparingly, if at all. Use a floor fan when necessary – they use about 100 watts on the highest speed, where an air conditioner can use up to 1 500 watts. If you must use an air conditioner, set it to no more than 10℃ lower than the outside air temperature.
- Use the breeze it’s free – Open windows and doors at night to let hot air out and make sure they’re open on both sides of your home to encourage a good through-draft. During the hot summer days, blinds and shutters can help to keep direct sunlight out of your living space; and light coloured curtains won’t absorb as much heat as dark ones.
There are many simple ways to use less electricity – which means a cost saving to you while also lessening your impact on the environment. Share these easy-to-implement tips with your family, and have all family members play their part.
For more tips on how you can save energy and costs every day,
Set your washing machine to 30°. Go and have a look at your washing machine. No rush, I’ll wait … Any idea what all those dials and settings mean? No, me neither. If you’re anyone other than an R&D specialist for one of the big washing machine companies, I’m prepared to bet that apart from some early fiddling when you first got the thing, you just leave your machine on one setting and be done with it. So if you’re going to leave it on one setting, it may as well be a green one. Modern washing powders are such that you can get away with washing clothes at much lower temperatures than was needed in the past. A whole movement has sprung up in Europe encouraging people to set their machines to wash at 30°. This simple act should save around 40% of the energy used to wash your clothes.
Only run dishwashers when full. Your dishwasher is actually an energy- and water-saving device provided you only run it when it’s full. Then you’re deriving maximum benefit as it uses the same amount of water and energy whether you’re cleaning the detritus from a debauched dinner party or just one tea cup. And limit the amount of rinsing you do before you pack the dishwasher (you can see a husband is writing this, huh?). I’ve seen plenty of very sweet, well-meaning little old ladies who insist on just about polishing plates until they glow before popping them in the washer. If you’re going to do that, you may as well cut the washer out entirely and do your dishes by hand. Dishwashers are actually pretty good at what they do, provided you pack the stuff properly. Let them do their work.
Don’t overload your fridge The more stuff in your fridge, the harder it has to work at keeping everything cold. Don’t pack your fridge with bottles and jars that haven’t been opened yet or scraps of food and leftovers that you know you aren’t going to eat. Rather than waste the energy required to keep it cold, be honest with yourself about the stuff that you know is going to land up as compost and direct it straight to the earthwormery without storing it lovingly for four days first. On that note, allow food to have cooled naturally first before refrigerating it. All you’re achieving by putting warm food into the fridge is forcing it to work a bit harder and running the risk of cracking any glass panels, as the shelves try to expand from the heat and contract from the cold at the same time. Also, leave space between items in your fridge to allow efficient cooling. The more spread out everything in your fridge is, the more efficiently it’s cooled, thus saving you power. This is also true of leftovers. Rather than keeping food in a narrow pot that will be difficult to cool, decant food into a thinner flatter Tupperware, which will retain less heat and probably be easier to store too.
Small Appliances vs. Your Stove
Use small appliances rather than your stove whenever possible. If your recipe calls for boiling water, it is much more efficient to boil the water in your kettle and then transfer it into your pot on the stove rather than to boil water from scratch on the hot plate. Using smaller appliances rather than larger ones will save you energy. Boiling using a kettle, reheating small amounts in the microwave and blending or liquidising using a hand-held mixer are all better than using large appliances for the same functions.
Many of us are slaves to our phones, tablets, laptops etc. When we are not working on them, we are busy surfing Facebook, Instagram and other social media that captivates our attention for hours. I find myself spending hours on my laptop and social media, writing blog entries, posting photos and uploading recipes onto my social media pages. In a world run by modern technology, we almost have no choice but to take part in this techno-behaviour. We do however have a choice in HOW and WHEN we use these technologies outside of the workplace.
Think about this for a second: How often do you find yourself scrolling through Instagram or Facebook just before bed, thinking to yourself “I am just going to take a quick peek and then go to sleep.” 45 minutes later you find yourself 150 posts down the timeline of your childhood friend ‘Jason X’s’ page – thoroughly enthralled in a full history review of his life since last you saw him (which by the way was 15 years ago). So yes, you now know what happened in Jason X’s life, but was it really worth losing those 45 minutes that could have been better spent on relaxation and sleep?
Social media has a funny way of grasping our undivided attention. We spend hours surfing – automatically comparing our lives to those of others – perhaps in the hope that we will feel better about ourselves and our lives – although, rather the opposite usually ensues. As humans, we are also inquisitive by nature and want to know what everyone else is up to – where they are holidaying, who they are dating, what work they are doing, where the next party is - who is going? etc. It is as if we have forgotten to think for ourselves. Social media has become our go-to for what to do, when, and how.
Don’t get me wrong, social media is an incredible tool through which people and businesses are able to connect using a community-based approach. I love social media, and am so grateful that it has enabled me to connect with so many incredible people both in my personal and work domains. What is key here though, is HOW we use this technology – it is now confirmed that social media addiction is real, and so many of us are addicted, without even knowing it! That constant surging desire to check your Facebook or Instagram is a form of addiction. Whether it be for personal validation (through photo likes or popularity), fear of missing out, wanting to know what is happening within your social circle, or simply being inquisitive, these are all ways in which we utilize social media to fill a certain emptiness - and so we become addicted, as we persist in a constant attempt to fill these voids.
Within all of this, what we don’t realize is that social media can induce stress along with mental health concerns, as can any work or personal concern. Most of the stories or images we see our friends post reflect the best times of their lives. However, in seeing such posts regularly, we begin to believe that our lives are dull and boring in comparison, which in turn makes us feel inferior. For those of us who follow favorite celebrities or idols, daily exposure to posts depicting perfect bodies, unattainable beauty and lavish lifestyles dampens moods and diminishes self-esteem. Social media has also become a source of major information overload which in turn can trigger stress. Developing bad habits and fixations with social media can trigger negative states of emotion and intensify stress. Therefore, it is important for us to set boundaries for this technology.
Simple Steps To Detach Yourself From Social Media
- Stick to a “no technology after 9pm" rule. This will remove all distractions or temptations, and enable you to fully relax and unwind. If your tablet or phone are lying next to you all the time, chances are you will end up browsing, so keep them away after 9pm.
- Keep a diary of how many times a day you check your social media pages – this will help you become more aware of your behaviors, and be prepared to be shocked. When a given action becomes habitual we often don’t process what it is that we are actually doing.
- Try to limit your social media viewing to two to three times per day at most, and don’t allow these browsing sessions to be longer than 5 minutes.
- Stay clear of all social media before bedtime – the amount of data that social media provides is huge. Just think how much your brain is having to process as you scroll down the page. Because your brain is busy processing information, it is very active, which may impede your sleep – you are basically waking your brain up when you are browsing, which causes your mind to race. The bright light omitted from your phone, iPad or laptop also doesn’t help with sleep either. These interfaces emit blue light; nearly identical to the light you are exposed to outdoors during the day. This tricks your brain into thinking it is still day time, thereby shutting down melatonin secretion.
- Try to avoid social media completely during the weekend. If this is too much to handle, try allocating 1 day per week during which you cut yourself from social media completely. The more often you do this, the more you will see how much you don't need it, and how much more productive your day is without it.
- Train yourself to use social media for the purpose it was originally intended –communication. Use social media to connect with friends, find events or businesses. Don’t spend hours stalking exes, old friends or current circles - it’s not healthy! If you are having trust issues with a partner, confront them face to face, stalking their social media activity, or hacking their accounts really isn’t going to solve any problems.
- Lastly, seek adventure outside of technology. Go for a hike, take a walk in your neighborhood, invite a friend out for lunch, cook for your loved ones, go to the spa, rest, meditate, go to the gym…stop living in a virtual world, get out there live your real life!
Connecting people across continents. Delivering breaking news. Enabling government transparency. Facilitating social revolutions. Stopping global warming?
The Internet is capable of doing so much, but perhaps the idea that it can help rescue the planet from runaway global warming comes as a surprise to you.
Every time we post a Facebook status to our friends, watch the latest episode of our favorite show on Netflix, or tweet to our followers, that information is housed in giant data centers which require a lot of electricity. These data centers are a key part of the cloud, and a single one can require as much energy as a medium-sized city.
If cloud computing were a country, it would rank sixth in the world on the basis of how much electricity it uses, and the amount of data shuttling around the world is expected to triple in the next few years as more and more people get connected.
The Internet we love, and the companies that run it, are at a crossroads in terms of where their energy comes from. Many of these companies have already chosen the road to a green internet and a sustainable future. Facebook, Apple and Google have committed to 100 percent renewable energy, in response to users around the world who have asked them for a greener internet. Other fast-growing technology companies, like Salesforce, Rackspace and Box, have joined them in making the same commitment, proving that 100 percent renewable energy is 100 percent possible for any company with the will.
By contrast some of the most popular online companies, including social media sites that we use every day like Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr, still power their platforms with fossil fuels and nuclear energy. The largest cloud company currently is Amazon Web Services, a division of Amazon.com, and hosts the data for some of the most popular online brands in the world. But unlike other major online brands like Google and Apple, Amazon is still primarily powering its digital empire with the dirty sources of energy that threaten our communities and our climate. Of course, Amazon doesn't have to remain stuck in the energy sources of the 1800s. Energy sources like wind and solar made up for more than half of all the new electricity in the United States in 2012.
Meanwhile digital pioneers are making our world greener, both online and offline. Apple is operating the largest privately owned solar installation in the U.S. at one of its data centers. Facebook pushed a U.S. power company to supply its data center with 100 percent wind energy. Google has pioneered the use of clean power purchases, buying wind energy to provide electricity for its services like Gmail and YouTube, as well as the rest of the power grid.
If Amazon and others want to stay innovative and relevant, it's high time they made the switch to the abundant, sustainable, renewable energy of today.
Simply put, we need a greener online to preserve a greener offline.
The Internet has helped move the world to more freedom, transparency and democracy. It's only natural that it moves the world to a clean energy revolution that will last for generations to come. These companies can make that happen, but only if they hear from you.
Join me in asking our favorite Internet companies to commit to 100 percent renewable energy for their data centers.
Project Sunroof uses information that’s in Google Maps to figure out how much sun falls on a roof and takes into account stuff like the angle of the roof, the weather, and obstructions like trees and chimneys. Then it uses those measurements to figure out how many panels you’d probably need and how much you could save on your electric bill, including solar incentives in your area. You can see how buying or leasing panels affects your savings, and then send your estimate to installers in your area, instantly.
Greece is facing a depression on a scale arguably comparable to the US Great Depression of the late 1920s. Huge unemployment rates and a dramatic drop in family incomes of over 40 percent have Greek citizens pondering what the impacts will be of the new bail-out agreement. Unending austerity and lack of hope are all it seems the future has to offer.
But there is a way to start changing things for the better. With energy poverty emerging as one of the most dramatic symptoms of the recession – six out of every 10 households are struggling to pay their energy bills – it is high time that Greece seized upon its greatest and still largely unexploited asset: the Sun.
The new 'Solarize Greece' campaign by Greenpeace Greece aims to bring together all those who dream of a brighter and more sustainable future, not only for Greece but for all European countries. Its objectives are to help Greece kickstart solar power as a driver of the economy, to rid the country of the burden of fossil fuels that are holding it down economically and for Greece to fight its way back out of the crisis.
Solar power has worked minor miracles for Greece before. In the turbulent decade of the 1970s that saw two major global energy crises, the Greek government offered tax incentives to households for solar water heaters, and a national policy was aimed at saving power. That led to hundreds of thousands of households installing solar heaters and significantly reduced energy bills. Equally important, a new industry was born and soon solar heaters became one of Greece's finest export products. It seemed then that the Sun had done its part to help Greece work its way out of a tight spot.
Now, crushing national hardship together with climate change are urgent and even more compelling reasons for revisiting solar photovoltaic (PV) power and, this time, on a massive scale.
Greece's short-lived 'PV Spring' of 2009-2013, driven by a feed-in tariff scheme, provided a glimpse of the country's real solar potential. Within five years installed solar capacity jumped from 47 to over 2,500 megawatts. A total of €4.5 billion was invested in modernising the energy sector and created around 50,000 jobs. In all, around 100,000 Greek families benefitted from the rise of the solar PV industry in one of the European countries most renowned for its sun.
Today, Greece is in a position to do much more.
Driven by the rapid fall in the costs of solar power, new legislation allows Greek citizens to generate cheap solar power for their own consumption, rather than selling it to the power grid. It means that, despite all of its economic hardships, Greece can seize on the enormous comparative advantage it has in solar power relative to northern European states. The tremendous untapped solar potential is a way to combat energy poverty and to cheaply kickstart economic growth.
Hundreds of thousands of households and small and medium enterprises could generate their own power at a fraction of the cost that they buy it from the grid. Tens of thousands of new jobs can be created.
With the costs of solar energy and storage expected to fall even further in the near future there is the potential for Greece to save billions of Euros on its fuel import bill – money that would stay within the country and be redirected to where it matters most: sustainable investments, social welfare policies, saving pensions, and stimulating prosperity.
So where could Greece find the funds for this initiative? Currently, through their electricity bills, Greek consumers pay around €800 million a year to subsidise oil imports to provide power to the country's many islands. This is a huge amount by Greek standards, and one that is equivalent to the newly proposed cuts in pensions from the national budget in 2015.
This burden is set to increase as yet more oil-related power investments are scheduled for the islands. If these polluting and expensive projects are selected over investments in renewable energy and improvements in the power grid, Greek consumers will continue to throw away money for decades to come. That would not only steal resources from the economy but also compromise the chances of recovery.
The Africa Progress Panel welcomes the commitment made by the G7 to make deep cuts in emissions and to phase out of fossil fuels by the end of the century.
In this year’s Africa Progress Report, “Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities”, the Panel calls on the countries that emit the most to raise their level of ambition and implement their promises at the December climate summit in Paris. With its 2015 summit communique, the G7 has signalled its collective intention to do just that.
Stringent price on emissions – tax instead of subsidise them
Governments in the major emitting countries must now place a stringent price on emissions of greenhouse gases by taxing them, instead of continuing effectively to subsidise them, for example by spending billions on subsidies for fossil-fuel exploration. The G7’s reaffirmation of its pledge to work for the elimination of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies is thus notable. Africa is well positioned to play a leading role in the global low-carbon transition, and will be able to do so fast, if significant investments are made now. Much of this financing will need to come from rich nations. International climate financing is chronically underfunded and uncoordinated and must improve.
At the Financing Development Summit in Addis Ababa this month, G7 countries can set a clear timetable for the previously agreed US$100 billion in annual climate finance each year. At the G7 summit, leaders reaffirmed their strong commitment to mobilizing this financing. This should be used to generate clean power. Germany as the leader in clean energy globally, and current Chair of the G7, can spearhead this process. In that context, the Panel also warmly welcomes the G7 commitment to assist in the acceleration of access to renewal energy in Africa.
Kofi Annan, Chair of the Africa Progress Panel, said this after the release of the G7 communique:
Future generations will judge this generation by their actions
“I applaud Chancellor Merkel’s leadership in steering the G7 to a firm agreement to decarbonise the global economy over the course of this century. The communique’s recommitment to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies is encouraging and an essential first step to ensuring that agreement is honoured. The G7 has also heard the call from Africa and Africans to massively scale up investment in renewable energy across our continent. The G7 pledge to mobilise resources to accelerate the creation of a low carbon energy system in the region could be “a game changer”; helping Africa grow and leapfrog to a sustainable low carbon future. This is good for Africa and the global fight against climate change.”
The latest G7 communique is a clear statement of ambition and leadership from the world’s richest countries, which the Africa Progress Panel fully supports. Future generations, however, will judge this generation of leaders not solely by the principles they set out in communiqués, but by their actions. The Panel looks forward to the timely honouring of these pledges.
image: European Parliament
Our current economic projection which focuses on extraction and drawing down of resources without concern for planetary limits is unsustainable. From an environmental and social perspective we can’t continue with exponential growth on a finite planet.
How then do we shift towards a more sustainable economy – one that considers people, the environment and the economy as an integral part of planetary living?
Here are 10 ways to make the shift towards a sustainable economy:
Our economy focuses on import/export to maintain levels of economic growth. Valuable resources in third-world countries are exported to wealthier ones at the expense of local social and environmental models. Globalization has resulted in us losing our sense of place in the world. Relocalization, with a focus on cooperatives and worker-run businesses that take into account the environment would result in a more sustainable economic system.
2. Use open source information
We live in an interconnected age – a time where any and all information is accessible at the click of a button. We can use the internet and social media to help spread the use of valuable information to enable us transition to a more sustainable economy.
3. Don’t overuse resources
Living locally, we shouldn’t need to spend huge amounts of energy on excessive resources. We can instead use what we need to live well so that we don’t draw down too many resources, thereby putting undue strain on the environment. Deforestation and industrial fishing are examples of putting excessive strain on the environment by exploiting resources for profit. We all have the right to clean air, water and non-toxic food – we don’t need excessive resources to satisfy such basic needs.
4. Remain in harmony with the environment
An economic system that’s out of balance with the environment creates negative feedback loops. Our economic system is built on separation – separation from each other and separation from our environment. Conversely, a more connected and integrated economic system is aligned with environmental and social feedback loops. A consciously aligned economic and environmental system would inevitably result in more sustainable outcomes over the long-term.
5. Stop pollution
As mentioned in point 3 above, we all have the right to clean air, water and soil. To pollute these basic systems puts into jeopardy our very existence. For example, excessively burning fossil fuels pollutes our air and warms the planet. Similarly, using too many chemical fertilizers to grow crops pollutes our soil and water. All these systems are inter-connected; to pollute one has negative effects on other systems. By polluting our rivers, which all eventually run into the sea, we contribute to ocean acidification. Heavy taxes or penalties should be enforced on companies who pollute and don’t take responsibility for their waste.
6. Enhance closed-loop systems
Our current economy doesn’t consider the impact of waste on the environment. When most products reach the end of their life-cycle they either end up in landfills (which contributes 20% more toxins to the environment than carbon emissions) or in our oceans. If companies want to make the shift to a sustainable economy they’ll need to take responsibility, not only for reducing energy inputs, but also for recycling waste. By closing the loop and recycling waste into new products, companies immediately give themselves a competitive advantage.
7. Capture and store energy
There are numerous ways to capture and store energy. Technology is advancing at a rapid rate, with more efficient products entering the market consistently. These innovations – none more so recently than the Tesla powerwall battery, will change the way the world uses energy. Capturing the sun’s energy with solar panels to be converted into electricity is a decentralizing technological innovation. On a smaller scale, capturing rainwater off your roof can be used either for your garden or your morning shower. At a macro level companies are capturing excess carbon to be recycled and reused in their production lines.
8. Integrate diversity
Diversity, if well integrated, can become a useful allie in the transition to a sustainable economy. Different cultures, local traditions and indigenous knowledge are all valuable aspects of diversity. Such cultures, with their inherent link to land and place can lead the way in adjusting to more ecological ways of doing business. Here’s an article outlining diverse grassroots movements changing our view of the world. Similarly, a local forest has multi-layered diversity. A mature forest functions well because of its ability to integrate diversity. All parts of the system work for the greater good of the whole. Diversity not integrated results in chaos, imbalance and inequality. However, integrate diversity at every level of growth and you can create sustainable economic development.
9. Turn waste into a resource
There’s no better exponent of turning waste into a resource than the earthworm. The earthworm enriches soil by converting organic matter into nutrients for plants and animals. What can we learn from the earth worm? Waste nothing. Instead of letting grey water clog our sewage system, why not divert it into our gardens (if we use biodegradable soaps), for example? A company in South Africa is using the Black Soldier Fly to turn human faecal waste into valuable products like compost, animal feed and biodiesel. This example of closed-loop recycling turns waste into a resource. Innovation, technology and design has a crucial role to play in helping companies convert waste into valuable products.
10. Don’t oversupply
We have an oversupply of oil, coal, labor and other capital. Oversupply puts unnecessary strain on our environment and signals we are reaching what’s been dubbed as Limits to Growth. What does this mean? Essentially it means we have to work harder for less. If for example, we try to grow our economy at 4% per annum for 40 years, we would have to essentially almost double the amount of energy we use to keep pace with development. Take into consideration that on top of this we are reaching peak oil (where it takes more energy and capital to exploit oil in risky environments eg. arctic drilling or the tar sands), as well as overburdened amounts debt (peak debt) and you arrive at a tipping point. To continue to oversupply resources and other capital in the name of growth would be suicidal.
To create an economy that’s more sustainable – environmentally, socially, and economically – we need to become more aware of how our business models define our actions at every level.
image: Neil Kremer
In the global transition from fossil fuels to wind and solar energy, wind has taken the early lead. Wind is abundant, carbon-free, and inexhaustible. It uses no water, no fuel, and little land. It also scales up easily and can be brought online quickly. Little wonder that wind power is expanding so fast.
Over the past decade, world wind power capacity grew more than 20 percent a year, its increase driven by its many attractive features, by public policies supporting its expansion, and by falling costs. By early 2014, global wind generating capacity totaled 318,000 megawatts, enough to power more than 80 million U.S. homes. Wind currently has a big lead on solar PV, which has enough worldwide capacity to power more than 20 million U.S. homes.
The leaders in wind generating capacity are China and the United States. At the start of 2014, China had 91,000 megawatts of wind generating capacity, followed by the United States with 61,000 megawatts. Germany ranked third, with 34,000 megawatts, followed by Spain and India with around 20,000 megawatts each. The United Kingdom, Italy, France, and Canada were clustered together in the 8,000–10,000 megawatt range.
With some impressive wind power achievements in several countries, it is becoming easier to visualize the new energy economy. In 2013, wind farms generated 34 percent of Denmark’s electricity. Portugal’s wind share was 25 percent. Spain and Ireland came in at around one fifth each. In fact, Spain’s wind farms overtook coal plants as that country’s number two electricity source in 2013 and narrowly missed overtaking nuclear power for the lead.
Within Germany, four states in the north are leading the world into the wind century: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern gets 65 percent of its electricity from wind, Schleswig-Holstein gets 53 percent, and Sachsen-Anhalt and Brandenburg each get 51 percent. Each of these states has passed the halfway mark in the transition to the new energy economy.
The year 2013 ended with a bang for wind energy in Europe. In the United Kingdom, strong winds in late November 2013 greatly boosted wind generation and allowed utilities to power down 7,900 megawatts of high-cost gas-fired generators, dramatically cutting their gas expenditures. Wind power met 13 percent of U.K. electricity needs during the week before Christmas. For the year, wind farms generated close to 8 percent of all U.K. electricity.
In December 2013, wind supplied 28 percent of Ireland’s electricity. At times during the year, wind was responsible for half of the country’s electricity. Denmark, however, won the wind sweepstakes: wind supplied 55 percent of its electricity during December. The next month, Denmark broke its own record, getting an incredible 62 percent of its electricity from wind.
Denmark—a country of fewer than 6 million people that is about one third the size of New York State—embarked on its path toward such impressive wind generation as a result of the 1970s oil crises. Realizing that being more than 90 percent dependent on oil to satisfy its energy needs was no longer viable, Denmark initially turned to coal and to the prospect of building nuclear power plants. (Anti-nuclear public sentiment led to the abandonment of the latter idea.) The Danish government also used electricity taxes to fund research and development of renewable energy, helping nurture a fledgling wind power industry. The Danish wind company Vestas, which installed its first turbine in 1979, was the leading installer worldwide in 2013.
Wind turbine orders in the early 1980s from California—also spooked by the unpredictability of oil markets—were key in getting Denmark’s wind industry going. Now, after nearly 40 years of Danish policies promoting renewable energy—including environmental taxation favoring efficiency and renewables over polluting energy sources—Denmark is well on its way to meeting a goal it set in 2012: getting 50 percent of its electricity from wind by 2020. Energinet.dk, Denmark’s state-owned grid operator, reports that the share reached 39 percent in 2014.
Countries are adding wind power to their energy mix for a host of reasons. One of wind’s attractions is its small footprint. Although a wind farm can cover many square miles, turbines occupy little land. Coupled with access roads and other permanent features, a wind farm’s footprint typically comes to just over 1 percent of the total land area covered by the project.