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South Africa’s First Water Fund

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The City of Cape Town and The Nature Conservancy are looking to establish South Africa’s first water fund.

The aim will be to safeguard water supplies and biodiversity, while supporting local livelihoods. The Cape Town Water Fund will be based on a proven model that builds financial and institutional mechanisms to mobilize investments in conservation of natural areas that are the sources of municipal water supply.

“The City of Cape Town and The Nature Conservancy have agreed to explore the development of a local water fund to address our long-term water security concerns, while also unlocking the opportunities that this could bring for job creation and ecological infrastructure priorities,” says Councilor Johan van der Merwe, the City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental, and Spatial Planning.

The Nature Conservancy is working with 60 water funds around the world, in different stages of development and operation.  In 2015, the Conservancy worked with partners to launch Africa’s firstwater fund in Nairobi, Kenya. The fund is designed to help provide a cleaner, more reliable supply of water to over 9.3 million people and to maintain hydropower generation capacity that accounts for half of the nation’s energy supply. Conservancy scientists have found that targeted conservation actions upstream of Nairobi will generate more than US$2 of long-term benefits for every US$1 invested.

Water security is a pressing challenge in Africa, and could be a limiting factor in economic advancements.

“Water is at the center of the world’s growing demands for food, energy, and material goods, and the foundation of life,” said Colin Apse, Africa Freshwater Conservation Director, The Nature Conservancy.  “Water security is a pressing challenge in Africa, and could be a limiting factor in economic advancements.  As competition for finite water resources escalate, the demand for solutions that meet human needs without jeopardizing freshwater systems is urgent. Water funds open new pathways for collaboration across sectors to find solutions and for attracting the investments needed to put them into action.”

The Conservancy has released a new study showing that the water fund model could be applied successfully in additional major cities on the continent. The Sub-Saharan Africa’s Urban Water Blueprint found that more than 80 million urban residents across 28 cities could improve their water security by investing in conservation activities such as forest protection and good farming practices in lands that drain into the rivers, lakes, and aquifers that supply their drinking water.

For half of the 30 cities assessed — including Cape Town — the resulting benefits for improved water quality could offset the costs of conservation activities through reduced water treatment expenses.  Given the exceptional ecological significance of Cape Town’s adjacent natural areas, the city emerged a prime candidate for a water fund.  Savings on future water treatment and desalination costs alone could offset much or all of the costs of watershed conservation in Cape Town’s supply and recharge areas, providing dramatic return on investment.  Additional details http://bit.ly/2aFPybP

The Cape Town metro is 2 445 km² in size and has a population of approximately 3,8 million people, growing at a rate of almost 3% a year.

The City has responded to this growth in demand by implementing the award-winning Water Conservation and Water Demand Management Programme, thereby reducing annual water demand from 4% to 2,3%. It was named the winner in the Adaptation Implementation Category in the 2015 C40 Cities Awards in Paris. However, water security during current and future droughts remains an important objective of the City. A well-managed and continuous water supply is regarded as the key to ensure sustainability for future development, for communities, and for economic growth.

The City’s water supply system is inter-connected and dependent on a range of water catchment areas that lie inside and outside of the city boundaries, including 14 reservoirs and two aquifers, the largest of which is Atlantis Aquifer. Cape Town and these water sources sit in the heart of one of the most spectacular and unique natural areas on the continent — the Cape Floristic Kingdom — which includes Table Mountain National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with an estimated 2,200 plant species of which 67 are found nowhere else on Earth.

A Cape Town Water Fund would likely first focus on the Atlantis Aquifer protection zone, directing investments to conservation activities that will address the largest threat to the area’s ecological health and aquifer recharge: the spread of invasive plants that consume more water than native plants and limit rainwater recharge. By removing invasive plants, such as various non-native Acacias, and restoring natural cover at scale, the water fund could help catalyze a significant increase in aquifer recharge and associated water availability.

These initial investments could provide a boost to the economically disadvantaged towns of Atlantis, Mamre, and Pella. It is hoped that the Cape Town Water Fund, which is being explored with the collaboration of partners in the national government, Western Cape government, CapeNature, and the Dassenberg Coastal Catchment Partnership (DCCP), will ultimately help secure water quality and quantity improvements throughout much of the City’s system using ecological infrastructure investments.

Going forward, the City of Cape Town and The Nature Conservancy hope to work with other additional partners and investors from the beverage, manufacturing, food, and energy industries to:

·       Complete a feasibility study to evaluate the potential of a water fund to deliver the desired benefits for people and nature.

·       Launch a water fund institution with a strong body of public and private stakeholders providing governance and financial support by the end of 2017. 

·       Accelerate ecological infrastructure investment work in the Atlantis Aquifer Protection Zone to reduce threats to biodiversity, and the City’s source of water, while creating local jobs.

“Water funds offer the promise of a transformative and lasting approach to finance and governance for critical source water protection needs in South Africa,” said Apse.

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

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.

Driver Reduction?

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

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.

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Environment

Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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