Connect with us

Economy

Third of world’s remaining carbon budget could be determined by urban policy decisions

Published

on

US Secretary of State John Kerry & Michael Bloomberg are today welcoming city mayors to the State Department at the culmination of the Our Cities, Our Climate program. The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) and Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) announced a new report today, which demonstrates that urban policy decisions before 2020 could determine up to a third of the remaining global carbon budget that is not already ‘locked-in’ by past decisions.

Existing research has shown that investing in low carbon infrastructure in the next five years will be four times less expensive than building high carbon infrastructure now, and then having to replace it in the future. Mayors and local leaders in power today thus have a major role to play in determining whether or not we have a cost-effective and, therefore, realistic path to a climate safe world.

“This report provides hope for the future because it shows that we don’t just have to rely on the outcome of the critical COP21 negotiations, but that mayors and city leaders in office right now have the opportunity to protect a large share of the world’s carbon budget,” said C40 Chair and Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes. “The report calculates that moving from a business as usual scenario to low carbon urban development across all the world’s cities would save 45 Gt CO2 by 2030 – equivalent to eight times the current emissions of the United States.”

Scientists have previously calculated that we can emit a ‘carbon budget’ of just 1,000 Gt CO2 without creating an unacceptable risk of run-away climate change, and that much of this budget may be locked-in by investments such as fossil fuel power stations, highways and energy-hungry buildings that have already been made.

Previous research has suggested that decisions about the remaining infrastructure will be taken in the next five years, by 2020. Fortunately, C40 and SEI’s new analysis shows that a third of the decisions will be made in cities, meaning local leaders in office right now, many of whom have already demonstrated leadership on climate change, can grasp the opportunity to move on to a low-carbon path.

“This report shows how important urban policy decisions are to tackling climate change – and how mayors have great financial incentives to act,” said UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, Michael R. Bloomberg. “Investing in modern and efficient infrastructure now, rather than continuing to expand traditional high-carbon infrastructure, will be four times less expensive over the long run. It’s the latest example of how fighting climate change is good for taxpayers.”

Negotiations for a critical new climate treaty, taking place in Paris this December at COP21, concern action to be taken after 2020. But mayors can, and are, taking action right now. More than half of all C40 cities have committed to the Compact of Mayors, a global platform where cities publish their current emissions inventories and commit targets and action plans to cut future emissions. Hundreds more cities around the world are following suit and making ambitious commitments. None needs to wait for the outcome of treaties and talks to take action.

This new report is thus both a major boost in ongoing efforts to deliver a climate safe world, and provides further evidence that there needs to be a major focus on supporting mayors and action in cities.

The report was launched at an event honoring international and US mayors, including many C40 cities, and held today at the US State Department; the event served as the culmination of Our Cities, Our Climate, an historic initiative by the US Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, to leverage the leading role cities play internationally in advancing innovative climate change action.

About the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group

The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, now in its 10th year, connects 82 of the world’s greatest cities, representing 640+ million people and one quarter of the global economy. Created and led by cities, C40 is focused on tackling climate change and driving urban action that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks, while increasing the health, wellbeing and economic opportunities of urban citizens. The current chair of the C40 is Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes; three-term Mayor of New York City Michael R. Bloomberg serves as President of the Board. To learn more about the work of C40 and our cities, please visit www.c40.org, follow them on Twitter @c40cities and like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/C40Cities.

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

Published

on

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

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Facebook

Trending