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Intelligence Squared: Water, Food, Energy, Climate – Smart Solutions for 2050

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All things are connected. This sentiment, which goes right to the heart of sustainability, was the central theme at a recent Intelligence Squared event.

Water, Food, Energy, Climate: Smart Solutions for 2050 took place at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London. Supported by oil giant Shell (I know – I’ll get to that later), it brought together four leading thinkers to discuss what the world needs to do to avert food riots, water wars and energy crises when its population hits the expected 9 billion mark in 2050.

Unlike most Intelligence Squared debates, which follow a standard for-and-against format, Monday’s event was described to me as a “panel with friction”. The four panellists, each with their own area of expertise, were likely to agree on some things and disagree on others.

Master of ceremonies was Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). He opened by describing the interconnectedness of the event’s four themes – water, food, energy and climate – and the “stress nexus” that runs throughout them all.

The first panellist to deliver an opening speech was Gabrielle Walker, a writer and broadcaster specialising in energy and climate change. She echoed Taylor’s remarks, saying we shouldn’t be looking at any of the four areas individually. Her analogy was that of the children’s game whack-a-mole – saying that problems will continue popping up (like the moles) unless you tackle them as one.

Following Walker was Jay Rayner – the popular writer, journalist and broadcaster perhaps best known for being a judge on BBC1’s Masterchef and resident food expert on The One Show. Rayner opened by pointing out the irony in event sponsor Shell’s introductory video about food, water, energy and climate problems.

The oil giant’s involvement was a continued source of questioning from the audience all evening. The panel agreed that the fossil fuels it burns are to blame for climate change, but added that they were also responsible for much of human development. Walker went on to say later on that scientists, the media and politicians are not going to fix any of the world’s problems and that if big corporations don’t help, then we’re “completely screwed“.

After receiving support from many in the audience for his point about Shell, Rayner went on to speak specifically about food. He said the debate shouldn’t always be about food miles and where in the world food is grown; we should be talking about how we grow our food instead.

His latest book, A Greedy Man In A Hungry World: How (almost) everything you thought you knew about food is wrong, contains a chapter called ‘Supermarkets are not evil’ followed by another titled ‘Supermarkets are evil’. He explained that big supermarkets are not always bad, and often necessary, pointing out that without them, shopping would take so much longer (there’s nothing romantic about watching a man chop a lump of butter off a block, he said, or words to that effect).

Third to speak was Mark Lynas, the author and environmental campaigner on areas like climate change, biotechnology and nuclear power. He began by saying how the environmental movement had “demonised” genetically modified (GM) crops in the same way as it had nuclear power – yet both represent huge solutions to environmental problems.

Lynas has always been open about his shift in stance from anti-GM to pro-GM. He said that in his previous life working at an NGO, he realised that he was urging politicians and businesses to look at what the science tells us about climate change, but then not saying the same about GM crops. He added it was therefore important to debate facts – and not the myths spread by the anti-GM lobby.

Jeremy Woods, an expert in bioenergy and biorenewables from Imperial College London, was the final panellist to take to the floor. He explained that one of the main benefits of renewable energy was that it connects us with the environment – and none more so than biofuels. Answering a question from the audience, he described the choice between growing crops for fuel or food as a “false dichotomy”.

The event was then opened up to the audience. Those who asked particularly good questions were rewarded by Taylor with a stress ball (as in the ‘stress nexus’). He amusingly ended up handing them to the woman who asked the very first question, a man with a particularly difficult-to-pronounce name and another woman who asked whether humans will still be around in 1,000 years.

Asked about organic food, Rayner said such a tag doesn’t necessarily mean a product will be better for the environment. Woods noted the difficulty in reducing fossil fuel usage. If we want to mitigate climate change we have to make fossil fuels more expensive, he said, but if we do that, we’re harming the developing world. Meanwhile, Walker noted that the education of women was perhaps the most important tool in reducing population growth.

The debate was interesting and important. It may have benefitted from input from those not in the sustainability space, but there was enough difference of opinion among the four panellists to make it lively.

There are real and serious problems in water, food, energy and climate – and this event by no means had all the answers. But what it did was create vital discussion, which can only be useful.

That said, if some of the solutions on offer fail to live up to their expectation, Walker suggested a novel – if slightly disgusting – idea to solve both obesity and the fuel crisis: liposuction. She was given a stress ball for the weird suggestion. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Further reading:

The IPCC’s stark warning: no nation will be untouched by climate change

IPCC findings demand investment in a sustainable future, say investors

Healthy Planet UK conference: is climate change bad for your health?

Climate change puts more people at risk of water scarcity

How Britain’s biggest supermarkets fare on sustainability

Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

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.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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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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