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BRICS: renewable energy and sustainability in emerging economies



All this week on BBC Radio 4, the economist Jim O’Neill looked at the new set of emerging economies. He’s calling them MINT: Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey. Before them though came BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

In 2011, BRICS had a combined GDP of $16.039 trillion, especially thanks to China and Russia, the world’s second and fifth largest economies respectively.

Their fast-growing wealth often emerges from a specific sector or set of reforms: Russia has capitalised its huge oil and gas resources, China reformed its economy in 1978, India liberalised its economy starting from 1991, Brazil has expanded its agribusiness and South Africa benefitted from mining and tourism.

These countries have become key players on the world’s economic scene. China is the world’s biggest trader, Russia is the largest exporter of gas and oil, while much of the meat consumed in Europe has been raised on soya imported from Brazil.

This growth has not been without consequences. India, South Africa and Brazil face large income inequality and high levels of corruption. Russia has met criticism for its energy industry and has been accused of contributing to the Arctic ice melt, for which 30 Greenpeace activists were arrested and later released last year. Meanwhile, China has to deal with an ever-increasing problem of pollution, which involves both the urban and the rural environment.

However, some of these countries are indeed becoming driving forces in the renewable energy and sustainability sectors.

Brazil has consistently increased its clean energy production over the last few years. It is home to the world’s largest hydroelectric plant – the Itaipu dam. While some controversies remain over the displacement of local people and the environmental impact surrounding the projects, it meets nearly 25% of Brazil’s electricity demands. Overall, hydropower accounts for 90% of the electricity energy consumed in the country, while wind, sun and biomass production is rising.

However, the country has also faced strong criticism from environmental campaigners over issues related to large-scale agriculture, which is the primary cause of deforestation in Brazil.

India, meanwhile, has plans to expand its clean energy production, adding 20 gigawatts (GW) of solar energy capacity by 2022 and implementing the wind sector, already the fifth largest in the world. India hopes that clean energy will help rural villages, where energy transmission is often a problem. It also wants to increase the production of nuclear energy, although this form of energy has met criticism especially after Fukushima disaster.

India’s nuclear capacity and it being a non-signatory of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) occasionally become a reason of tension and distress between the country and the rest of the world.

Sustainable investment in areas like green energy, energy efficiency, responsible tourism and impact investing have arisen in South Africa, after a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report said that the country will generate growth and jobs by investing sustainably.

China has recently opened its doors to foreign investors interested in environmental protection projects and is on its way to become  a renewable energy super-power, by slowing down coal production at the same time.

Russia still remains largely behind, hooked on fossil fuels, with renewables accounting for about 16% of total electricity generation, mostly from hydro and geothermal power. As of now, Russia seems sadly more interested in drilling the Arctic than investing in clean energy sources.

While it is clear that BRICS countries have huge possibilities and resources to become leaders in the green sectors, they are not using their full potential. There are still too many issues ongoing – as of course, there are elsewhere and here in Europe – and they are dangerously putting profit before the people and the planet, something that the next world’s most powerful economies must avoid.

Further reading:

China: We are not prepared for climate change

China embarks on world’s biggest ever renewables drive

Russia and Shell’s dangerous liaison threatens the Arctic region

Brazilian soy production still unsustainable according to campaigners

Green investment will deliver sustainable growth in South Africa, says report


New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

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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How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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