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Health and wellbeing initiatives take centre stage at UK-wide Sustainable City Awards

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The City of London Corporation has announced that the 2016 Sustainable City Awards are now open for entries. For 14 years, the awards have celebrated and honoured outstanding contributions to sustainability across sectors as diverse as buildings, health and wellbeing, climate change and food.

This year’s awards focus particularly on the health and wellbeing category. In April, a YouGov survey found that more than half of all employees suffer from burnout, severe anxiety and physical and emotional exhaustion in the workplace. The City of London Corporation hopes to recognise those organisations across the UK who put staff wellbeing at the forefront of their business strategy.

The prestigious awards, run by City of London Corporation attract the best UK organisations which are committed to sustainable initiatives.

Simon Mills, Head of Sustainable Development at the City of London Corporation, says: ‘The UK-wide Sustainable City Awards are designed to recognise the sustainability initiatives of all businesses big or small across the full range of sectors.  This year, we are recognising those businesses and organisations which put the health and wellbeing of their staff at the top of their business agenda.

“We have had previous winners including the sustainable food initiatives, green entrepreneurs and ethical fashion. As an organisation, we are proud to be recognising the sustainability initiatives of such a wide range of businesses and organisations who have worked hard to ensure they are the pioneers of sustainable business development.’

The Sustainable City Awards are open to all types of UK organisations from the private, public and third sectors. Whether entries are from a multinational corporation or a community-run action group, the City of London Corporation would like to hear how businesses are ensuring staff wellbeing. The awards have been designed to allow all organisations, no matter how large or small to compete on an equal basis.

The diversity of the awards reflects the City of London Corporation’s commitment to sustainable growth and its recognition that organisations and firms, no matter what sector, collectively contribute to a sustainability agenda that will benefit current and future generations with jobs and growth underpinning the City’s mandate. From financial markets to fish-markets, and from parks to the arts, since 2001, hundreds of organisations – from cycling and traffic management initiatives to fashion up-cyclers and supermarket chains – have been recognised for their efforts to drive green growth.

The Awards this year will be held in the Lord Mayor’s residence, Mansion House, in March 2016.

To apply for any of this year’s Sustainable City Awards, visit the website for application and entry details.

Critical dates

– 30th November 2015: Closing date for applications

– December-February 2016: Judging

– March 2016 Awards Ceremony

Sustainable City Awards Categories

Sustainable Finance: In association with UKSIF

This category recognises and rewards innovation and best practice in all areas of sustainable investment and finance that support sustainable economic development, enhance quality of life and safeguard the environment.

The Farsight Award: In association with Gresham College, USS and Z/Yen

The Farsight Award recognises the best individual piece of analysis by an investment research institution which integrates traditional financial analysis with longer term issues such as climate change, corporate governance and human capital. Contributors to the London Accord will automatically be entered.

Tackling Climate Change: In association with The Institute for Sustainability and the Worshipful Company of Fanmakers

This category recognises and reward organisations who are taking steps to mitigate the effects of their activities on climate change or to adapt their operations to reflect the impacts climate change will have on their business.

Sustainable Travel and Transport: In association with Campaign for Better Transport

This category recognises and rewards innovative schemes which encourage people to make more use of sustainable forms of travel, transport and logistics, or which reduce the impact of traffic and transport on the environment.

Resource Conservation: In association with the Worshipful Company of Launderers and the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators

This category recognises and rewards organisations that are taking positive steps to improve resource conservation through reducing the consumption of water, gas or electricity.

Building Sustainable Communities (London only): In association with the Worshipful Company of Patten Makers and the City Bridge Trust

This award is for voluntary organisations that can demonstrate their work makes a tangible difference to the sustainability of their locality by bringing people together, especially from across different communities.

Sustainable Buildings: In association with the CIOB and the Worshipful Company of Chartered Surveyors

This category recognises and rewards excellence and innovation in sustainable building design for new build and refurbishment projects.

Health and Wellbeing: In association with the City of London Health and Wellbeing Board

This category recognises and rewards businesses that have outstanding practice in relation to sustaining the health of their workforce: organisations that are doing really innovative work to recognise that their people are their most important assets, and creating work environments and cultures that promote and sustain all aspects of health and wellbeing

Sustainable Places: In association with British BIDs, the London Sustainability Exchange, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners

This category aims to recognise and reward organisations who work to create unique sustainable characters for town centres and industrial parks- not only enhancing the quality of life of all those who visit, work or live there but acting as a significant attractor for business investment.  For more information see the “This Year’s Theme” page on our website.

Responsible Waste Management: In association with the Clean City Awards Scheme

This category recognises and rewards best practice with respect to responsible waste management. Applicants should demonstrate innovative waste management practices particularly with respect to implementing the waste hierarchy of minimising waste, reusing and recycling materials. Judges will also be looking for evidence of how the organisation is tackling wider waste issues, such as compliance with Duty of Care Regulations and engendering pride in the local environment.

Air Quality: In association with Building and Engineering Services Association and Kings College London

The Air Quality Improvement category recognises and rewards innovation and best practice in reducing emissions of air quality pollutants and mitigating the effects of business activities on local air quality.

The Sir Peter Parker Award: In association with BCE Awards and WRAP

An award will be made to the organisation which best demonstrates leadership in sustainability. This organisation will be chosen from the winners and highly commended entries in each of the above categories.

Sustainable City Awards Overall Winner

The organisation that best demonstrates a pioneering approach to innovation and leadership in sustainability will be presented with the Overall Winner’s trophy. This organisation will be chosen from the winners and highly commended entries in each of the above categories by a high level judging panel comprising category partners and eminent guests.

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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