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Upping the ante at COP21

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With 12 weeks until the close of the COP21 climate summit, we already know that nations’ commitments must become much more ambitious in order to keep global warming below 2 degrees – the threshold for preventing the “severe, pervasive, and irreversible” impacts of climate change.  Nick Hay, director of Edelman’s UK Cleantech Practice, writes for Blue & Green.

Reportedly, the combined pre-submitted climate pledges (or INDCs in UN jargon), could only limit us to 2.5C of warming, only slightly below the 3C deemed likely without such pledges.

To an outsider, the UN process may seem Kafkaesque.  UN Secretary-General, Ban-Ki Moon knew back in June “…that these INDCs (would) not be sufficient to place us on a less-than-2-degree pathway.” And whatever agreement is made, it won’t enter into force until 2020; then taking a decade for us to know how countries have responded when the pledges close in 2030.

So is the system flawed?  To quote the UN’s top climate official Christiana Figueres, COP21 is not a “one shot deal”.  A key deliverable for Paris is to create a clear line of sight of the task ahead and a process for reviewing and updating the pledges beyond 2020.  In many ways, the INDC process is a communication device for levelling the playing field before a full reconfiguration of the economy in-line with 2 degrees.

The Paris negotiations represent a classic ‘prisoner’s dilemma’.  To successfully manage climate change, each leader must pledge their commitments to carbon abatement.  The diverse range of clean technologies can be thought of as cheap and expensive poker chips, which can assure a country’s COP21 commitments.

The unknown quantity at the table is Mother Nature – the entity demanding an appropriate investment of ‘chips’ to keep global warming within a safe threshold.  If the group fails to put in a sufficient number of chips to keep within the 2 degree threshold – the resulting environmental disaster will cost each player a much larger stack of chips.  In reality, the cost of staying below a 2 degree temperature rise (according to Stern et al) is between 1% – 2% of global GDP.  Whilst the costs of adapting to a 2 degrees world are at least 15-20% GDP lost by the end of this century.

Science has lurked in the background of the climate debate for the last decade, poring over data sets behind closed doors to gauge the risk climate change represents to our socioecological system.  In proposing the 2 degrees trajectory, scientists have asked Government, business and the public to fundamentally change their habits – but without providing the necessary tools for us to understand why it has to happen.

However, now we are seeing increasing democratisation of climate science, bringing new clarity to the debate.  The Global Calculator, for example, is a powerful new tool (built by a team of scientists led by Climate-KIC and DECC) for modelling the impact of lifestyle, land use, fuels and technology advances on a 2 degrees trajectory.  The datasets in the Calculator can show where we stand today and where we need to get to, by geography.  They allow us to set science-based goals computed on a per capita basis – which can be ratcheted up – to share the carbon debt equitably across nations.

The increasing interplay between science and business gives a clearer view of how the economic system can evolve.  Increasingly science, not politics, is setting the pace and the terms of engagement. Providing that certainty to business is key, since public sector financing alone is totally inadequate for the job ahead.

Will this increased engagement on science have an impact at Paris?  Social science tells us that it will.  Studies show that human beings – among them global leaders are sensitive to social feedback. A clear line of sight of how a 2 degrees trajectory can be achieved, within our existing political framework, is vital for encouraging generosity from countries in achieving an effective deal at COP21.

Economy

A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon

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energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.

1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.

3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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Economy

IEMA Urge Government’s Industrial Strategy Skills Overhaul To Adopt A “Long View Approach”

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IEMA, in response to the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, have welcomed the focus on technical skills and education to boost “competence and capability” of tomorrow’s workforce.

Policy experts at the world’s leading professional association of Environment and Sustainability professionals has today welcomed Prime Minister Teresa May’s confirmation that an overhaul of technical education and skills will form a central part of the Plan for Britain – but warns the strategy must be one for the long term.

Martin Baxter, Chief Policy Advisor at IEMA said this morning that the approach and predicted investment in building a stronger technical skills portfolio to boost the UK’s productivity and economic resilience is positive, and presents an opportunity to drive the UK’s skills profile and commitment to sustainability outside of the EU.

Commenting on the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, Baxter said today:

“Government must use the Industrial Strategy as an opportunity to accelerate the UK’s transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient economy – one that is flexible and agile and which gives a progressive outlook for the UK’s future outside the EU.

We welcome the focus on skills and education, as it is vital that tomorrow’s workforce has the competence and capability to innovate and compete globally in high-value manufacturing and leading technology.

There is a real opportunity with the Industrial Strategy, and forthcoming 25 year Environment Plan and Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan, to set long-term economic and environmental outcomes which set the conditions to unlock investment, enhance natural capital and provide employment and export opportunities for UK business.

We will ensure that the Environment and Sustainability profession makes a positive contribution in responding to the Green Paper.”

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