+44 01483 457477

Op-ed: Solving the climate crisis

Advertisements

Op-ed: Solving the climate crisis requires more than switching to renewables—everyone needs equal access as suggested in the Environmental Health News of 2 November 2021 is literally nowadays a must if any agreements at the COP26 were to go through and above all last.

Environmental justice policy is the best path to energy equity.

Carolyn E. Ramirez

In 2020, the International Energy Agency named solar the “cheapest electricity in history,” marking a significant victory for solar energy over fossil fuels in affordability.

This economic turning point is the next step in our global energy journey from wood to coal to oil to gas to renewables. Transitioning to 80% renewable electricity generation in the United States would alleviate an estimated 81% of the industry’s emissions. As a chemical engineer researching solar cell materials, the long-sought economic viability of solar energy is exciting to me—and long-awaited. But it only solves one of a laundry list of problems with the U.S. energy infrastructure, and it will not actually protect those most vulnerable to climate change.Stay in the know: sign up for the Agents of Change newsletter

A roundup of the month’s essays, podcast episodes, fellows in the news, exciting updates and more. Delivered to your inbox monthly.Full NameEmail*Submit

Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and low-income communities bear the brunt of climate change’s negative impacts, as discussed in-depth by the NAACPUnion of Concerned ScientistsNature Conservancy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and many more. However, renewable energy technologies like solar cells primarily benefit wealthy and predominantly white communities rather than the aforementioned environmental justice communities. Mandates, like the 2020 law in California, which requires all new homes built in the state to have solar panels, price low-income communities out of such housing due to high upfront costs of renewable technologies.

The pivot in U.S. energy infrastructure must be more than just adopting a few new technologies—we must completely change the system by centering environmental justice. Why? Because for centuries that system has disenfranchised and discriminated against BIPOC and low-income communities.

Racial wealth disparities require more than new tech to bridge gaps

Our capitalistic society exploits energy resources rather than equitably utilizing them. Environmental justice is intrinsically anti-capitalist in the sense that for everyone to have equal and just access to clean air, water, food, and energy, there must be some level of government regulation and oversight of these commodities due to unreliable resource access throughout different parts of the U.S.

Racial and ethnic inequality in energy access largely originates from housing inequality, which remains a paramount issue today. In 1934, the U.S. government established the Federal Housing Administration to administer loans to families looking to buy homes. Approximately 98% of the loans granted between 1934 and 1968 were given to white people, and this practice was known as (legally allowed) redlining, a form of segregation that still plagues cities around the country. White families purchased homes and accrued generational wealth while Black families mainly rented homes. This contributed to the racial wealth gap that today also affects all other BIPOC communities and results in stratification of energy and utility access.

Related: How financial institutions engineered climate injustice and the clean energy colorline

Coupled with this were the discrimination and violence against Black people in the work force. Specifically, Jim Crow era segregation in the early- and mid-1900s made workplace discrimination in the government not only legal but encouraged, making it more difficult for Black people to hold well-paying civil service jobs. The effects of Jim Crow still resound today. The segregation and gap in generational wealth between white and BIPOC families determined what commodities and luxuries families could afford.

Because of this immense inequality, BIPOC households are more likely to suffer from energy poverty, whereby they pay a larger proportion of their income than average on utilities. This disparity stems from a lack of energy efficiency in homes accessible to BIPOC and low-income families. Additionally, BIPOC families have less reliable access to utilities, facing more frequent blackouts and utility shutoffs than white families.

None of these problems are intrinsically connected to the source of energy producing that electricity or heat. They are instead products of a racist, capitalist society that allows white wealth to prosper at the expense of racial equity and justice.

Corporate greed won’t change with a different energy product for sale

A march against climate injustice. (Credit: Friends of the Earth International/flickr)

Oil companies have a history of concentrating their industry and environmental impact in BIPOC and low-income communities. ExxonMobil and other oil and gas companies spent decades convincing the public and the government of doubt surrounding anthropogenic climate change to ensure their pockets would stay full. While renewable energy sources like solar and wind could alleviate the harmful emissions and pollution that plague fence-line communities, many other environmental justice issues would remain unless other changes are made.

As a glimpse into this future, one renewable energy giant called NextEra Energy emerged in the last few years rather quietly, gaining significant ground economically and beginning to rival the market capitalization of oil behemoths like ExxonMobil. NextEra began as a utility company in Florida and has since expanded nationwide providing solar and wind to cities and states all over the country. While the growing popularity of a renewable energy company is exciting, their path to success feels eerily familiar.

They grew profits by slowly and quietly using federal tax credits to fund new solar and wind projects and growing in market valuation until they could significantly undercut other renewable energy companies’ prices, becoming the largest renewable energy company in the country. Their board is composed of mostly white and male leadership, and while they support environmental stewardship, none of their company objectives available on their website mention environmental justice.

So, while the country is finally excited about transitioning to renewable energy, rebranding our capitalistic energy industry with shiny solar cells instead of oily black gold will still leave BIPOC and low-income communities with most of the same problems they face today.

We need environmental justice now

The problems of inefficient energy infrastructure in homes, energy poverty, frequent blackouts, and loss of power in natural disasters will continue to disproportionately affect BIPOC and low-income communities regardless of the type of energy fueling their homes. True alleviation of climate change requires many policy initiatives including: household and utility plant weatherization funded at the federal and local levels; government regulation of energy companies to prevent price gouging and provide strong consumer protections; and involvement of stakeholders at all levels of local communities in the implementation of renewable energy.

I recently proposed a series of policies addressing these needs which fit into the Biden administration’s current budget and promise to provide significant financial support to environmental justice communities. We cannot wait any longer to support our most marginalized communities. We need policy action centering environmental, climate, and energy justice, now.

Carolyn E. Ramírez is a Chemical Engineering Ph.D. Candidate at Northwestern University researching new materials for organic solar cells. Follow them on Twitter @CRami77.

Banner photo credit: Dept of Energy Solar Decathlon

.

Why the MENA region is sorely lagging behind in RE growth

Advertisements

Zeenat Ganie wondering Why the MENA region is sorely lagging behind in RE growth in ESI Africa of today could not find better than “The MENA […] is home to geopolitical tensions, global interests and a wide variety of multifaceted contexts. […] Untapping MENA’s renewable energy potential will be crucial to equip the region with the right tools to face these challenges.”

In a new study, RES4Africa and Enel Green Power address the reason why only 1% of the global renewable energy (RE) growth occurred in the MENA region over the last decade.

The Middle East and Northern Africa region reached just 1% of global RE capacity addition in the last 10 years, despite remarkable potential in renewables generation. To examine the situation and propose targeted solutions, RES4Africa Foundation in collaboration with Enel Green Power launched its new study Connecting the Dots, 10 Years of Renewable Energy in MENA: What Has (not) Happened? The analysis was presented during the homonymous virtual event.

“Connecting the Dots” is a series of studies aimed at unveiling insights into the renewable energy sector in high-potential regions. The last analysis focused on the main features of MENA, examining them against three dimensions:

– what has happened in the last 10 years,
– what limited the growth of RE sources, and
– what would be needed to achieve a full energy transition.

The MENA region has seen major changes in the last 10 years, but not always for the best. Climate change is tangibly affecting the region (droughts, rise in the sea level, increasing migration) as well as worrying temperature rises. Moreover, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the outputs of the region shrank by 3.9% and the youth unemployment rate has seen a remarkable increase of up to 27%.

The worsening environmental and economic situation is not matched by a proper development of renewables. In the region, more than 90% of electricity still comes from fossil fuels, with per capita emissions among the highest in the world. Despite wind and solar having reached 36% of RE capacity in the last decade, further clues of unevenness can be traced: just five countries out of 19 (Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Jordan and Israel) accounted for more than 80% of the additional solar and wind capacity.

The study identifies the main obstacles to full development and growth of RE in the region.

The regulatory and policy framework, with a few exceptions, is still far from meeting its goals and from showing adequate standards of openness, attractiveness and readiness. Additionally, the power sector is still affected by a lack of sufficient cross-border trading as well as frequent outages and a quasi-fiscal deficit of utilities, the latter costing up to 4% of the GDP.

The key actions identified by the analysis highlight the need to diversify the energy mix and to formulate clear energy transition plans. According to the analysis, targeted reforms should also be implemented in order to move away from highly subsidised and distorted fossil fuel-based markets while reducing the inefficiencies of utilities, supporting the creation of independent regulatory authorities and the implementation of transparent tender procedures.

President of RES4Africa Foundation and CEO of Enel Green Power, Salvatore Bernabei said: “Unleashing MENA’s green capability can be a driving force for a sustainable socio-economic development. Joining efforts for a more sustainable and prosperous future for all can therefore promote dialogue and mitigate the already tangible effects of climate change”.

Secretary-General of RES4Africa Foundation, Roberto Vigotti added: “The MENA […] is home to geopolitical tensions, global interests and a wide variety of multifaceted contexts. […] Untapping MENA’s renewable energy potential will be crucial to equip the region with the right tools to face these challenges.”

Access the report: Connecting the Dots, 10 Years of Renewable Energy in MENA: What Has (not) Happened?

Have you read?
How SOEs could generate inclusive growth in MENA region

MENA energy investments to exceed $805 billion over next 5 years

.

How to know if a country is serious about net zero

Advertisements

A good question to ask after Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia declared targeting net zero emissions by 2060 would be how. That is How to know if a country is serious about net zero because achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2060 should follow a plan to phase out all usage of fossil fuels.
In any case, here is Fergus Green, Lecturer in Political Theory and Public Policy, University College London thoughts on the current problematics of greenhouse gas emissions. Would we turn a blind eye until 2060? Anyway, would we still be there by then?
The COVID-19 lockdown shed some light on the relationship between emissions and consumption. So why focus on the production side only and not on the biggest emitters of GHG’s?

The above image is for illustration and is of Phys.org.

How to know if a country is serious about net zero: look at its plans for extracting fossil fuels

Fresh emissions targets from Saudi Arabia and Australia – two of the world’s largest fossil-fuel producers – are due to arrive just in time for global climate talks in Glasgow. These would commit the two countries to reducing domestic emissions to net zero by around mid-century – though both are expected to continue exporting fossil fuels for decades to come.

For the leaders of countries and governments that produce fossil fuels, UN climate summits are a public relations boon. They get to talk up their commitments to a green and clean future without being held to account for their disproportionate role in fuelling the problem. It’s hard for experts, let alone the average citizen, to tell fact from fiction.

Because it’s only domestic greenhouse gas emissions that are counted for the purpose of the UN climate negotiations, burning exported fossil fuels counts towards the emissions of the importing country. Accordingly, the role that major fossil fuel exporters like Saudi Arabia (oil and natural gas) and Australia (coal and natural gas) play in stoking global heating is not accurately reflected in the talks.

Unlike some areas of international cooperation, like limiting the spread of nuclear weapons, climate-change summits aim to control something which evades easy calculation. Nuclear weapons and their production facilities are tangible, chunky and relatively few in number. Greenhouse gases are everywhere, invisible and caused by lots of different processes – from cow digestion to steel production.

These gases are also in constant flux. Emissions are produced from ubiquitous sources, but there are also natural systems – especially forests and soil – that suck carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere. These natural removals of carbon are known as sinks. That is why scientists and governments speak of net greenhouse gas emissions: emissions minus removals.

It’s relatively easy to monitor aggregate levels of CO₂ in the global atmosphere. This is why scientists have a clear picture of how badly off-track the world is with tackling the climate crisis. But all this complexity concerning sources and sinks makes it easy for governments and corporations to obfuscate their real contribution to climate change.

For example, countries with lots of uninhabited land, like Australia, have become especially adept at gaming the systems of accounting for net emissions of CO₂. Australia effectively gets credited for large amounts of carbon stored in forests, which make it look like overall emissions have been falling, even though emissions from burning fossil fuels have been growing for decades.

The Australian government claims the country’s natural sinks offset its emissions elsewhere. Norman Allchin/Shutterstock

One sure-fire way of telling whether a government official is hoodwinking you when lauding their government’s climate credentials is to look upstream and see whether they’re producing the coal, oil or gas that ultimately causes about three-quarters of global emissions, and if so, what they’re doing about it.

Extracted fossil fuels are much easier to monitor and verify than greenhouse gas emissions. They come from a relatively small number of sources and are already measured by multiple parties for a range of purposes. Customers need proof that the shipments they receive reflect their contracts with suppliers. Governments collect production information to assess a company’s compliance with licensing requirements, tax liabilities and customs obligations.

Fossil-fuel infrastructure and projects are even easier to monitor. Oil rigs, gas pipelines and coal mines are large, making them easy to see both on the ground and via satellite. These features make it simpler to hold fossil fuel-producing countries to account for their contribution to global heating, compared with the more slippery measure of net emissions.

The fossil fuel production gap

In a new report, the UN Environment Programme and other research institutions found that governments plan to produce more than twice the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – the goal of the Paris Agreement. Countries’ fossil-fuel production plans and projections in aggregate even exceed, by close to 10%, the levels of global fossil-fuel production implied by their own climate pledges.

The production gap helps reveal how serious many national net zero pledges really are. SEI et al. The Production Gap: 2021 Report, Author provided

Shockingly, governments are pouring fuel on the fire. G20 countries have directed more than US$300 billion (£218 billion) in new funds towards supporting fossil-fuel production, such as subsidies and tax breaks, since the beginning of the pandemic – about 10% more than they have invested in clean energy.

The report echoes recent calls for greater transparency around fossil-fuel production and the support – financial and otherwise – governments provide at home and abroad. Research by various organisations has provided a better understanding of this, but the information is incomplete, inconsistent and scattered.

Governments could help by disclosing plans, funding and projections for fossil-fuel production, and how they intend to manage a just transition away from coal, oil and gas. Fossil-fuel companies should disclose their spending and infrastructure plans, as well as all the greenhouse gas emissions their product is responsible for, and financial risks to their business from climate change.

Numerous environmental organisations are working to build a global picture of the sources and flows of fossil fuels. So even if governments fail to illuminate the activities of fossil-fuel companies and their role in it, they can still be named and shamed.

Talking only about a country’s net greenhouse gas emissions gives fossil fuel-producing companies and governments a free pass to bullshit their way through the climate negotiations. If we want to force the PR managers to really earn their money, we should turn the conversation to fossil-fuel production.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Use of Fossil Fuels Must Stop

Advertisements

John Scales Avery – TRANSCEND Media Service explains how in the following article, the Use of Fossil Fuels Must Stop. It is a matter of vital importance and he gives solid and easily understandable reasons.

The above image is for illustration and is Human Rights Watch, 2020 Martin Meissner/AP Photo ©

Use of Fossil Fuels Must Stop

EDITORIAL, 11 Oct 2021

The IPCC Report

The 4,000-page report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was not due to be released until February, 2022, but a copy was leaked to Agence France-Presse. The report calls for a total transformation of our way of life if we wish to avoid catastrophe. The window of opportunity is closing rapidly. Urgent action must be taken within less than a decade.

The report states that,

“We need transformational change operating on processes and behavior at all levels: individual, communities, business, institutions and governments. We must redefine our way of life and consumption.”

Recent Extreme Weather Events

The second recent event that helped to wake us up to the seriousness of the climate emergency was a record-breaking wave of extreme heat in the western part of the United States and in southwest Canada. Unprecedented temperatures were recorded, roughly a billion tidal animals died, and many human heat-related deaths also occurred.

Extremely severe recent floods in Western Europe and in China are also thought to be linked to climate change.

The north and south poles are warming at twice the rate of the remainder of the earth. Recently rain was observed for the first time on the high-altitude plateau above Greenland’s inland ice sheet.

Wildfires throughout the world have also become increasingly frequent and severe.

The Threat of a Very Large-scale Famine

Unless efforts are made to stabilize and ultimately reduce global population, there is a serious threat that climate change, population growth, and the end of the fossil fuel era could combine to produce a large-scale famine by the middle of the 21st century.

As glaciers melt in the Himalayas and the Andes, depriving India, China and South America of summer water supplies; as sea levels rise, drowning fertile rice-growing regions of Southeast Asia; as droughts reduce the food production of North America and Southern Europe; as groundwater levels fall in China, India, the Middle East and the United States; and as high- yield modern agriculture becomes less possible because fossil fuel inputs are lacking, there is a threat that a very large-scale famine will occur, involving billions of people, rather than millions,

Long-Term Effects of Catastrophic Climate Change

The problem of mobilizing the political will needed for effective climate action is a contrast between timescales. Effective action must be taken immediately if catastrophe is to be avoided. However, the worst effects of runaway climate change lie in the long-term future. Therefore it is difficult to mobilize the strong public opinion needed for political action. The politicians themselves, being few in number, can be bribed by the enormously wealthy fossil fuel corporations, whose profits are at stake. We should almost be grateful for the recent extreme weather events and wildfires, which have helped to make the public aware of the dangers of climate change.

Suppose that we fail in our efforts to avoid runaway climate change. What then? Then, in the long-term future, most of the earth’s surface will become uninhabitable, starting with tropical regions and regions that will be underwater due to sea-level rise. If this worst-case scenario takes place, the global population of humans will be much reduced.

Extreme Action Is Needed Immediately

It is not enough to stop subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. It is not enough to talk about future technologies for sequestering carbon. It is not enough to stop banks and pension funds from investing in giant fossil fuel corporations. It is not enough to give more television time to climate change. All these steps are helpful, but they are not enough.

What is enough? We must very rapidly stop the extraction and use of fossil fuels. At present, U.S. President Joe Biden authorizes drilling for oil on public lands. This must stop. At present, both Canada and Venezuela produce oil from tar sands, an extremely greenhouse-gas-polluting process. This must stop. At present, both China and India depend on coal for power. This must stop within less than ten years. Hopefully, the worst-case scenario discussed above can motivate these urgently-needed climate actions.

Links to Other Books on Global Problems

Other books and articles on global problems can be found on the following links:

https://www.johnavery.info/

https://wsimag.com/authors/716-john-scales-avery

http://eacpe.org/about-john-scales-avery/

WOHA designs a truly green pavilion for Expo Dubai 2020

Advertisements

FLOORNATURE ARCHITECTURE & SURFACES News produced this article on how WOHA designs a truly green pavilion for Expo Dubai 2020. It somehow relates to the cities of Dubai and Singapore with some additional views on other Pavilions.

WOHA designs a truly green pavilion for Expo Dubai 2020

5 October 2021

Starring: WOHA Architects

Photographer: Quentin Sim, Singapore Pavilion Dubai Expo 2020,

Singapore-based architecture firm WOHA, known for its green architecture many years before forests on towers became fashionable, has designed Singapore’s pavilion for the World Expo 2020 in Dubai. The pavilion is a prototype that demonstrates how the built environment can coexist with nature.


Other photos…A year late, the Dubai Expo 2020 opened on 1 October 2021. Among the many architectural highlights is the Singapore pavilion commissioned by Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority from WOHA. In essence, it is a structure designed to welcome visitors to a sustainable oasis in the desert that integrates nature, innovation and architecture. In addition, the structure addresses Singapore’s vision of becoming a city in nature.
That is why the pavilion was designed as a prototype to demonstrate how the built environment can coexist with nature. It also reflects Singapore’s history. It is a city-state that manages to thrive in a difficult environment on a limited area, as the pavilion is also located on one of the smallest lots in the Expo. But this is certainly not to the detriment of either the design solutions adopted or its tremendous visual impact.
To maximise the usable area of the site, the architects of the WOHA studio, known for its distinct approach to biophilic design and integrated landscape planning, opted to stack multiple levels and functions on top of each other. Thus, visitors are treated to an experiential journey as they make their way along the canopied walkway that meanders through multiple levels of the pavilion, surrounded by verdant palms, trees, shrubs and orchids. The Hanging Garden and three thematic cones all wrapped in vertical greenery add to this immersive, three-dimensional biophilic experience. Next comes the Open Sky Market on the upper level, crowned by a canopy of solar panels that shelters the pavilion from the elements and generates electricity, making the Singapore pavilion a net-zero energy consumer. To reduce the use of energy and other resources, passive strategies such as natural cross-ventilation, shading and planting were implemented to create a comfortable climate for visitors and plants. A solar reverse-osmosis desalination system will meet all of its water needs.
The Singapore Pavilion also houses more than 170 varieties of plants that will grow during the Expo period. As well as providing a wonderful immersive experience, the plants provide measurable ecosystem services such as reducing solar heat, sequestrating greenhouse gases, reducing other pollutants such as PM10 particles, producing oxygen, reclaiming rainwater and providing habitats for animals.
By means of exhibitions and experiences, the Singapore pavilion investigates how we can build resilient, self-sufficient, biophilic, attractive yet highly functional structures that coexist with nature. These are flexible solutions in that these design strategies can be adapted to different climates and geographies, and even be scaled up to district or even city level.
As the architects of WOHA say: “Our climate crisis shows us that the impact of human actions on the planet cannot be ignored, and that urgent action needs to be taken. This reinforces the aspirations of the SG Pavilion: to design a different future and to create a sustainable, resilient environment in which humans coexist with nature.”

Christiane Bürklein

Project: WOHA
Location: Dubai
Year: 2021
Images: Quentin Sim. Singapore Pavilion Dubai Expo 2020

.

.