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Look to the sun and save lives: solar power in post-Haiyan Philippines

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Amalie Obusan of Greenpeace watched on as her native Philippines was torn apart by the devastating Typhoon Haiyan last year. Here, she writes how her country is fighting back with clean energy.

It is impossible to forget the anxiety I felt for the safety of my family when supertyphoon Haiyan, possibly the most powerful ever to hit land, struck the Philippines with an unprecedented ferocity last November.

Leaving a path of destruction, Haiyan left 8,000 people dead or missing and devastated communities as millions of people lost their homes and livelihoods. Thousands of Filipinos are still grieving for the death of their loved ones.

It is a sadness I can share. My father-in-law died during Typhoon Conson in 2010 when a flash flood swept away his car as he was crossing a bridge on his way home. Fortunately, my family was luckier during Typhoon Haiyan and all survived. They were likewise spared during typhoons Washi and Bopha, which were in the area where they lived.

But in the wake of Haiyan, communities are struggling to recover and I remain fearful for the future of my beloved country. Typhoons are common in the Philippines, but it is fightening to think that the destructive power of typhoons will increase with global warming.

This is why I am in Japan this week on behalf of Greenpeace, attending a meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as it prepares to deliver its latest, and perhaps most dire, assessment on the impacts of climate change.

Here at the IPCC meeting in Yokohama, the world’s leading climate scientists will say that the future is grim if governments fail to to take approriate action. I bring a message of urgency.

More than four months after Haiyan struck, a national survey revealed that 3.9m families have experienced involuntary hunger in the last quarter of 2013. Families are also going to extraordinary lengths to obtain clean water as safe drinking water is desperately scarce in the storm-ravaged portion of the central Philippines.

Yeb Sano, lead negotiator for the Philippines at the annual UN climate talks, also points out that more than 1m farming households and 20,000 fishing households are struggling to pick up the pieces. Overall, losses in the agriculture sector could come close to $1 billion (£600m).

This is today’s climate change reality. It is not something that will happen in some distant future or in some distant land. It is here and now and it is happening in my country.

Haiyan bequeathed the country with a need for the biggest reconstruction effort since the end of the second world war. It will cost more than $8 billion (£4.8 billion) in the next four years at least to rebuild homes, create jobs and businesses, health and education services and public infrastructure.

The power sector was one of the hardest hit, as 90% of the transmission towers and electricity poles were either toppled or broken in the disaster region. Eight provinces were left without power for days, which has turned into weeks and months.

Crucial decisions now need to be made for the reconstruction of the energy systems essential to the delivery of goods and services in the devastated provinces. This is an opportunity to establish sustainable, climate-resilient communities using decentralised renewable energy systems.

In contrast to the vulnerability of centralised energy infrastructure, solar photovoltaic panels can make a huge difference to disaster-hit areas.

Life for Haiyan survivors was improved by emergency solar power, bringing a continued and affordable source of electricity and making disaster response and co-ordination much easier while centralised power lines are still down. Scaleable solar energy systems can also provide more resilience towards future climate hazards.

This is the opportunity being taken by my country. Communities affected by Haiyan are involved in the reconstruction efforts in the spirit of bayanihan, a term that refers to a spirit of communal unity or effort to achieve a particular objective.

Here in Yokohama, the IPCC will say that some climate impacts are already unavoidable. This means we must adapt and utilise energies that are more resilient to disruptions and that meet the needs of the vulnerable in an affordable way. That is the power of decentralised renewable energy.

We can choose to embrace solutions such as renewable energy and energy efficiency to avert climate chaos. This choice is our best shot at making the world a safer, cleaner, more sustainable place and to help build our resilience to face climate change.

We in the Philippines are not just waiting. Civil society has for many years campaigned for clean energy and today the country already meets close to 30% of its energy needs with renewable energy.

It’s now time to head towards a world powered 100% by renewable energy. My family, your future and our communities depend on it.

Amalie Obusan is the regional climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace South-East Asia. She can be contacted at amalie.obusan@greenpeace.org.

Further reading:

Super typhoon in Philippines ‘most damaging’ storm of past century

Typhoon Haiyan causes ‘complete devastation’

Philippines climate delegate: ‘we cannot manage on our own’

In the wake of Haiyan, we must divest from fossil fuels

Typhoon Haiyan will slow down Philippines economy, says finance minister

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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