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Economy

Would sustainable investments survive a stock market crash better than unsustainable ones?

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The answer to the headline of this piece is, at the moment, no. But it’s the wrong question. The current investment risk is systemic. Sustainability means that our economy, ecology and society are interconnected and need to be in balance. The risk to the system is the dominance of unsustainable economic activity at the expense of sustainable alternatives, and the irreversible harm being done to our environment and society.

This week we passed the point at which the Earth can, for this year, no longer sustain current levels of consumption – an event occurring earlier and earlier each year. We will overshoot Earth’s viability by 37% in 2013, during a period of relatively sluggish economic growth. We blow the planet completely if the global economy recovers.

In a recent speech, Financial Times sage Martin Wolf clearly articulated the continuing global debtor-saver imbalances between developed and emerging economies, over-leverage in banking (finance represents 20% of the FTSE 100) and the continuing failure to address climate change.

Until the over-consumption of resources and instabilities in capitalism and the environment are addressed, another crash is inevitable and will probably make 1929 and 2008 seem like walks in the park. This is not an inheritance we at Blue & Green Tomorrow, along with many others, wish to leave future generations.

But there is an alternative. And it takes political leadership, corporate responsibility and individual acts of enlightened self-interest.

What do I do?

The threat to our way of life is greater than any since 1939. We are at war, and for us, it’s not the planet that is the enemy.

Punish any politician, media operation or business that lies or fails to act on climate change. Look in the mirror and ask if what you’re doing is harming your children and their children’s future.

“Daddy, what did YOU do to stop global warming?”

Use your vote sustainably

Do not vote for a politician unless they affirm their commitment to sustainability. The fossil fuel mafia has infiltrated and taken over parliament. By voting Green, you may find that you have more friends that you thought.

Here’s a handy list of names to avoid, courtesy of the Campaign against Climate Change: “Peter Lilley, Christopher Chope and Andrew Tyrie, as they all voted against the Climate Change Act 2008. However, they are not the only sceptics in parliament. Other Conservative members include John Redwood, Douglas Carswell, David Davis and previously Roger Helmer (now UKIP, as of March 2012). From the Labour Party, the key name that arises is Graham Stringer.”

Read about sustainability in Blue & Green Tomorrow and please, please spread the word (like usfollow us)

Do not buy the Telegraph, Times, Sun, Daily Mail or Daily Express or their Sunday stablemates. These newspapers are spreading disinformation (deliberate misleading) to protect their own economic self-interests from fossil fuel advertisers. If you believe that climate change is not caused by human activity, you are reading the wrong newspapers by choosing one of these.

Use your money sustainably

In terms of consumption, switch to Good Energy, travel responsibly, spend ethically and invest sustainably.

Anything a government, company or individual does to reduce systemic risk through improved sustainability is a step in the right direction.

Could the infant sector that is sustainable investment survive a stock market crash similar or larger than 2008? We’re not sure that there would be much left of anything in those circumstances, as unsustainable and reckless investors will drag everyone down with them.

Sustainable innovation equals sustainably growth

All that said, innovation leads to growth. Sustainable innovation could lead to sustainable growth. Clean technology is one such innovation. A fossil fuel economy is an 18th century economy and this is the 21st century – renewable energy, energy efficiency and carbon capture could be the major industries of the future – harnessing our ingenuity and creativity and natural resources, creating valuable exports today and making our economy energy self-sufficient in the future.

The answer therefore, is not to do nothing. Vote, spend and invest sustainably.

Yes, we may be fighting the long defeat. The forces arrayed against us are formidable and see vast short-term profits in exploitation, pollution and waste. The odds are against us and the situation is grim. The media and political class have been weighed, measured and bought wholesale. Never in the field of human endeavour has so much been owed by so many and so much owned by so few.

Powerful people and corporations will make us claw any viable future out of their cold dead hands. They need to win at any cost so that their rapacious, unsustainable machine can continue rolling forward, crushing anyone and anything that stands in the way.

We must not let them win. There is a chance, however slim, as long as we act today.

Over to you.

Further reading:

Not over the long-term? Unsustainable investment’s ‘black swan’ moment

Are capitalism and conservation incompatible?

Climate change aside, we’re harming our children with dirty energy

From austerity to scarcity: the coming global crisis

The Guide to Sustainable Investment 2013

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
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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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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