We talk to a lot of people and occasionally persuade a brave few to submit to a Blue & Green interview. We only interview the people we think are making a significant difference in sustainability so we don’t need to be a John Humphreys/Jeremy Paxman. We’re much nicer than that. Enjoy reading them again or the ones you missed first time round.
Troy Wiseman: The little known but critical component of our daily lives – Activated Carbon
Activated carbon has traditionally been made from coal, hardwoods, and more recently coconut shell, as well as other nut shell waste. We’ve been seeing more and more evidence that bamboo can make a good alternative, and so we set out to find out more by interviewing Troy Wiseman, CEO of EcoPlanet Bamboo. Read more.
Mather Carscallen, President, and CEO of SabrTech
Six seafood innovators capped the Fish 2.0 Competition Finals & Sustainable Seafood Innovation Forum in Palo Alto. We speak to one of the winners founder, President, and CEO of SabrTech, Mather Carscallen.
Jochen Zeitz – Visionary, Businessman, Philanthropist
How to introduce Jochen Zeitz? The youngest CEO to head a public company in Germany, a member of the Board of Directors of Harley-Davidson and chair of their sustainability committee, creator of the not-for-profit Zeitz Foundation of Intercultural Ecosphere Safety and The Long Run and co-founder, with Sir Richard Branson, of the B Team. In a word, cool. Having a rare quiet moment he answered a few of our questions. Read more.
Carl Pope, Special advisor on climate to Michael R. Bloomberg
Michael R. Bloomberg, The U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities & Climate Change, recently commented (2nd October) on India’s commitment to curb greenhouse gas emissions 35 percent by 2030. We took that opportunity to ask a few questions of Carl Pope: Bloomberg’s Special advisor on climate. Read more.
Michael Meehan, Chief Executive of GRI
Michael has been a Chief Executive, entrepreneur, and advisor in technology and sustainability for almost 20 years and has advised multinationals and governments globally, including the White House, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the California State Senate. Michael is currently Vice Chairman of the Board of the Natural Capital Coalition (NCC). Michael was voted one of the “Top CEOs to Follow” by BusinessWeek magazine and is the inventor of several clean technology patents. He has led several companies as CEO around the world, focused on the intersection of technology, sustainability, and innovation. He speaks to Blue & Green. Read more.
Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow
Andrew Behar, As You Sow CEO, has 30 years of experience as a Senior Executive and strategist in the clean-tech, communications, and life science sectors. Prior to joining As You Sow, Andrew founded and was CEO of a clean-tech start-up developing innovative fuel cell technologies. He served as COO for a social media agency focused in the sustainability space and has been a strategic consultant in the non-profit sector. He has founded and run start-ups in the medical device and communications areas and serves on the boards of several high-tech innovation companies. Andrew is also an elected board member of US-SIF, the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment. Today he talks to Blue & Green. Read more.
Raj Thamotheram, CEO of Preventable Surprises, talks about Forceful Stewardship
Dr Raj Thamotheram is the CEO and co-founder of Preventable Surprises. He is a well-recognised thought-leader on how companies and investors can adapt to put people and planet on par with profit and so deliver long-term value to their clients/customers and society. He has held senior positions in the pension fund and investment management industries and the NGO world. In 2013 he asked, “We’ve had 20 years of sustainable investment and is the world getting any better?” Today he talks to Blue & Green about Forceful Stewardship. Read more.
Dr. Moses Ikiara, PhD, MBS Managing Director KenInvest
Kenya Investment Authority (KenInvest) promotes investments in Kenya. It is responsible for facilitating the implementation of new investment projects, providing After Care services for new and existing investments, as well as organizing investment promotion activities both locally and internationally. We speak to its Managing Director Dr. Moses Ikiara. Read more.
Peter Bakker, President and CEO of WBCSD
Peter Bakker, President and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), today launched a report showing that it was possible to deliver 65% of the required carbon emission reductions to meet the UN target of keeping global warming under 2°C. He tells Blue & Green more about the report and the Low Carbon Technology Partnerships initiative. Read more.
Mark Goyder CEO of Tomorrow’s Company
After a career in manufacturing businesses, Mark initiated the RSA Tomorrow’s Company inquiry into ‘the role of business in a changing world’. The resulting report, published in 1995 led to the creation of Tomorrow’s Company as an independent, business-led think tank. It also laid the foundations the redefinition of the directors’ duties in the 2006 Companies Act. In recent years he has concentrated on the issue of board and investor responsibilities for stewardship, co-authoring a report with the Institute for Family Business on Family Business Stewardship. Today he speaks to Blue & Green. Read more.
Picture credit: media interview stevebustin via Flickr
Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?
Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?
But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?
The Big Picture
The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.
That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.
One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.
There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.
As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.
Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.
Make and Model of Car
Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.
On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.
The Bottom Line
Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?
Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.
New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035
New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.
New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.
Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.
Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”
The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.
Zero net emissions by 2050
Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.
Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.
She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.
Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”
A worldwide shift to renewable energy
Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.
Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.
Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.
Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.
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