What’s the most important step governments can take to combat climate change?
Surprisingly, building codes in developing countries are #1 for Faith Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency.
Developing countries are where growth is concentrated and if all buildings going up aren’t extremely efficient, we’ll be locking in high greenhouse gas emissions for decades, she told The Guardian.
This can be done through regulations and incentives fairly easily but enforcement may take longer, he says, pointing to the often lax standards in many countries.
In the US, for example, a home built to 2012 codes uses about half the energy as one built in 1975, and there’s room for even more efficiency, says Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Not only would they consume less energy, buildings would be much safer from disasters and more comfortable for occupants as the world warms. Birol also calls for more incentives for electric vehicles and for carbon capture in order to meet the Paris Climate Agreement goals.
Luckily, green buildings are now the preferred choice around the world, with the number doubling every three years, but that doesn’t mean plenty of energy hogs aren’t being constructed.
China In Africa
China is investing heavily in Africa, a scary prospect, given its outsized development appetite.
China ranks #3 for LEED-certified buildings, but it only has about 2000 green buildings compared to 54,000 in the US.
Whether they are building green in Africa we don’t know, but we do know they are building entire cities including infrastructure like highways, light rail and electric grids.
A walled-off city next to Lagos, Nigeria, is called a “special economic zone,” designed specifically to attract investors. After Shenzhen, China became a “special economic zone” in the 1980s, it grew from 20,000 people to about 15 million today, becoming the “factory of the world,” reports Fast Company. Inside the walls will be the new city’s airport, electric grid, harbor and police force. Separation from Lagos is necessary, say developers, because the city is dangerous and chaotic.
Another “special economic zone” is outside Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where a Chinese shoe factory employs local workers.
50 economic zones are planned in Africa and six are built.
Will China be allowed turn Africa into a continent of megacities and epic sprawl?
Photographer Nick Brandt’s life-sized panels show where Africa’s wildlife used to roam, but no longer, because of development.
The World Bank Group has inaugurated a multimillion climate innovation centre to support Ghana’s growth strategy to help more than 100 local clean technology businesses develop and commercialise innovative solutions to mitigate effects of climate.
The launch of the first technology hub in the country on Tuesday came barely four months after the World Bank approved a financial package of $17.2 million to fund the Ghana Climate Innovation Centre located at Ashesi University College in Berekusu in the Eastern region.
The centre will support the country’s climate change policy to help over 300,000 Ghanaians increase resilience to climate change in the next 10 years.
It is also expected to support local clean technology ventures to mitigate 660,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the emissions of almost 140,000 cars in a year, World Bank said, and it will contribute to the production of over 260 million kWh of clean energy in the West African country.
Environmental scientists warn that if global temperatures rise by more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the consequences will be severe and, in some cases, irreversible and projected glaciers will continue to shrink, heat waves will be more frequent and the oceans will get warmer and more acidic.
UN special envoy on climate change and former Ghanaian president, John Kufuor, said at the launch that emerging countries like Ghana would be unable to mitigate climate change effects unless they joined global forces.
“I believe global action is crucial to fight the impact of climate change, I believe science and technology should be deployed at every stage, the effort must be global, this is what the world must be awakened to,” he said.
“If we are seeking green solutions to fight the impact, which is global, I believe public policy, donor community support, as well as private ventures should share the risk of investment to transition from fossil fuels to green energy.”
Kufuor urged donors to fulfil their pledges in terms of financial commitments and developed nations to extend technology to back developing countries in Africa’s fight against climate change.
“Africans cannot deal with the problem without global partnership,” he stressed, “we need the global community, the promises and pledges have been there for some time, unfortunately the pledgers have not fulfilled their pledges in terms of financial support, in terms of technological extension.
“No country is an island now, unless the world moves together to do something by 2020 or 2030 to put temperatures under two degrees Celsius, it will be like all of us being on the same boat, we either sail together or we sink together.”
Henry Kerali, World Bank country director for Ghana said, in a speech read on his behalf: “The Ghana CIC solidifies the role of the private sector in helping Ghana manage the effects of climate change.
“By enabling entrepreneurs and green innovators to test and scale new clean technologies, home grown business solutions can help the country build climate resilience, while also contributing to job creation and economic development.”
According to the World Bank report, Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change, without a proper green growth strategy, Ghana’s agricultural gross domestic product is projected to decline by 3 per cent to eight per cent by the middle of the century.
Coastal erosion from rising sea levels could result in significant loss of land and forced migration, while extreme weather events could further strain the country’s infrastructure.
To reduce the long-term cost of climate change and create opportunities for sustainable growth, the bank said the GCIC will provide local companies with the knowledge and resources they need to develop prototypes and market innovative clean technologies in sectors like climate-smart agriculture, waste water treatment, and off-grid renewable energy.
The services offered by the centre will include sea financing, policy interventions, and market connections, as well as technical and business training.
Similar centres have been established in the Caribbean, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morroco, South Africa and Vietnam.
Organisation urges better city planning and defensive measures to defend against rapid rise in climate change-linked disasters.
The global community is badly prepared for a rapid increase in climate change-related natural disasters that by 2050 will put 1.3 billion people at risk, according to the World Bank.
Urging better planning of cities before it was too late, a report published on Monday from a Bank-run body that focuses on disaster mitigation, said assets worth $158tn – double the total annual output of the global economy – would be in jeopardy by 2050 without preventative action.
The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery said total damages from disasters had ballooned in recent decades but warned that worse could be in store as a result of a combination of global warming, an expanding population and the vulnerability of people crammed into slums in low-lying, fast-growing cities that are already overcrowded.
“With climate change and rising numbers of people in urban areas rapidly driving up future risks, there’s a real danger the world is woefully unprepared for what lies ahead,” said John Roome, the World Bank Group’s senior director for climate change.
“Unless we change our approach to future planning for cities and coastal areas that takes into account potential disasters, we run the real risk of locking in decisions that will lead to drastic increases in future losses.”
The facility’s report cited case studies showing that densely populated coastal cities are sinking at a time when sea levels are rising. It added that the annual cost of natural disasters in 136 coastal cities could increase from $6bn in 2010 to $1tn in 2070.
The report said that the number of deaths and the monetary losses from natural disasters varied from year to year, but the upward trend was pronounced.
Total annual damage – averaged over a 10-year period – had risen tenfold from 1976–1985 to 2005–2014, from $14bn to more than $140bn. The average number of people affected each year had risen over the same period from around 60 million people to more than 170 million.
Although developed countries have been responsible for the bulk of historic global emissions, poorer countries are more vulnerable to the impact of climate change and they demanded financial help from the west as part of last December’s breakthrough global deal to reduce emissions.
Oxfam this week called on rich countries to make good on the pledges made at the Paris conference to provide the funding to help developing countries adapt to the effects of global warming.
“Climate change is a brutal reality confronting millions of the world’s most vulnerable people. Their need for financial support to adapt to climate extremes is urgent and rising,” Oxfam said in its Unfinished Business report.
“International support for adaptation falls well short of what is needed. Latest estimates indicate that only 16% of international climate finance is currently dedicated to adaptation – a mere $4bn–$6bn per year of which is public finance.”
According to the the facility, disaster risk is affected by three factors. It said these were: hazard – the frequency of potentially dangerous naturally occurring events, such as earthquakes or tropical cyclones; exposure – the size of the population and the economic assets located in hazard-prone areas; and vulnerability – the susceptibility of the exposed elements to the natural hazard.
It added that hazard was increasing due to climate change; exposure was going up because more people were living in hazardous areas and that vulnerability was on the rise because of badly designed and poorly planned housing.
The World Bank-run body said the population was expected to rise by at least 40% in 14 of the 20 most populated cities in the world between 2015 and 2030, with some cities growing by 10 million people in that period. “Many of the largest cities are located in deltas and are highly prone to floods and other hazards, and as these cities grow, an ever greater number of people and more assets are at risk of disaster.”
Francis Ghesquiere, head of the secretariat at the The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, said: “By promoting policies that reduce risk and avoiding actions to drive up risk, we can positively influence the risk environment of the future. The drivers of future risk are within the control of decision makers today. They must seize the moment.”
Cape Town – The department of energy has unveiled a new green standard label, as a means for consumers to recognise clean energy measures, as the 16th annual African Utility Week and Clean Power Africa conference kicks off at the Cape Town Convention Centre.
South Africa has just officially signed the Paris Climate Change agreement and a number of key state departments are involved in ensuring the country meets its 2020 objects, with clean energy also forming an integral part of SA’s 9 point-plan for the national economic turnaround as outlined by President Jacob Zuma during the 2015 State of the Nation Address (SONA).
As a result the Department of Energy (DoE) in collaboration with the Departments of Public Works (DPW);Trade and Industry (the dti), are collaborating on a planned energy efficiency programme – of which the new South African Energy Efficiency Label and the Building Energy Savings Campaign Identity form a part.
The aim is to encourage all South Africans to use energy efficiently, including purchasing energy efficient household appliances, says the department.
“We believe that a nation knowledgeable of the benefits of energy efficiency and the dedicated activation of the appropriate behaviour by all of us will ensure that the country achieves its set energy efficiency objectives,”the DoE says.
“Energy Efficiency Building Regulations as promulgated by government in 2012 have already laid the ground for the regulatory framework by stipulating the requirements for energy usage in buildings and setting the minimum standards for energy efficiency within which all new buildings and major renovations in South Africa are required to comply.”
Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom also recently outlined the departments of tourism’s positive prospects for the SA Tourism sector to go Green in 2016. Six of South Africa’s iconic tourism attractions will be equipped with solar powered energy sources. Recognising the environmental and cost benefits of moving towards renewable energy, the tourism department says it is supporting major destinations to install renewable energy sources as part of the Tourism Incentive Program.
The DoE says the Energy Efficiency Label will further guide and impact positively in changing behaviour towards energy efficiency measures and compel citizens to individually take the lead in whatever platforms they find themselves in.
While no specific responsible tourism or green criteria are currently in place, Tourism Grading Council of South Africa Chief Quality Assurance Office Darryl Erasmus told Traveller24 at Indaba 2016 that these factors are being considered in accordance with other partnerships as the council prepares to upgrade its criteria, after what it describes as rigorous consultation with industry (it was last upgraded in 2012).
The DoE says appliances such as air conditioners, washing machines, electric ovens, refrigerators, electric geysers, audio and video equipment, dish washers and electric lamps will now have energy efficiency labels which have been designed to meet minimum energy efficiency standards.
Having industry wide responsible measures or criteria in place across the tourism accommodation sector would also go a long way into achieving South Africa’s energy efficiency and clean energy targets, as Responsible Tourism becomes a fierce factor across the board.
At World Travel Market Africa in April, Deputy Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa also advocated that Responsible Tourism needed to be ingrained more strongly within the industry beyond just surface engagement, as she encouraged retrofitting tourism attractions and accommodation for energy and water efficiency, as well as universal accessibility.
Climate change and conflict pose challenges; joint action to deliver on commitments needed – FAO Director-General.
Africa has made great strides in tackling hunger — achieving a 30 percent drop in the proportion of its people facing hunger over the 1990-2015 period — but climate change, conflict and social inequality continue to present major challenges in the continent’s quest for a future free from hunger and want, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today.
While the overall proportion of Africans who are food insecure has dropped, there are “significant variations” in the numbers of food insecure can be seen from country to country, he noted.
“Africa’s economic performance remains robust with growth rates above the global average. However, vulnerability to climate change is high, post-harvest losses are considerable, natural resources are being depleted, and not everyone is benefiting from the proceeds of the current strong economic growth. Access to remunerative income, social protection systems and decent employment opportunities remain narrow for too many rural households,” FAO’s Director-General said.
He was speaking at the official opening of the FAO’ Regional Conference for Africa, taking place this week in Abidjan with the participation of the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, Daniel Kablan Duncan..
Graziano da Silva urged his listeners to continue to work together to harness the power of the food and agriculture sector as a catalyst for inclusive growth, poverty reduction and fighting hunger, saying: “In spite of the many hurdles along the way, today I urge you to look at how far we have come in the journey to end hunger in our lifetimes.”
The conference’s theme ”Transforming African Agri-food systems for inclusive growth and shared prosperity” mirrors the vision of the African Union and its NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency to realise a renewed vision for Africa’s agriculture sector.
“This conference adds momentum to the push for a fundamental shift in the orientation of Africa’s agricultural and rural development towards transforming the lives of Africans under the 2014 Malabo Declaration and outlined in the Africa’s Agenda 2063”, the FAO Director-General said.
More than 300 people are participating in the event, including 51 African ministers of agriculture and related sectors, as well as technical experts and development specialists, representatives of regional organizations and institutions, members of civil society, and the private sector.
El Niño and other crisis pose challenges
Graziano da Silva highlighted climate change and conflict as two particularly pressing challenges for Africa.
The ongoing El Niño cycle is affecting large parts of the African continent, especially the southern sub-region as well as parts of East Africa, notably Ethiopia and Tanzania, and has taken a major tool on agriculture, he noted, while conflicts in the Central African Republic, Somalia, and South Sudan continue to have serious food insecurity repercussions.
FAO is working in all these hotspots, providing farmers with seeds, tools, and other support vital to maintaining and strengthening their ability to produce food and earn income.
“These crisis vividly remind us of the importance of scaling up resilience interventions targeting vulnerable populations whose livelihoods mainly depend on agriculture, livestock, fisheries forestry and other renewable natural resources,” according to Graziano da Silva.
He also underscored the importance of preventing future disease epidemics like Ebola, which impacted food security and people’s livelihoods in West Africa. FAO has recently launched a five-year programme in Africa to monitor and tackle emerging pandemic threats at their source in animals, working in 13 countries, he said.
The best way to gather hundreds of qualified leads
Africans for Africa
Delivering on the 2025 Zero Hunger challenge as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will require the efforts of an alliance of partners, and
“FAO stands ready to support Africa member states in the delivery of the SDGs in firm collaboration with the African Union, other regional institutions and humanitarian and development partners,” Graziano da Silva said.
In support of CAADP, FAO has participated in the formulation of 95 agriculture and food security investment projects in 40 countries in Africa, with financial support from partners such as the AfDB World Bank and IFAD, the agency’s Director-General pointed out.
And in 2012 FAO helped pioneer the innovative Africa Solidarity Trust Fund (ASTF), which mobilizes funds donated by African countries in support of food security projects in less-well off parts of the continent. So far, $34.5 million have been allocated to 15 programmes and projects in 36 different countries, boosting efforts to eradicate hunger.
He encouraged governments to continue to resource the fund, which is working to transforming African agriculture and make it an engine for shared growth and prosperity.
Minor Hotel Group (MHG) has moved to cement itself as one of the global leaders in sustainable tourism by implementing the Green Growth 2050 (GG2050) sustainability solution.
MHG has committed its 35 resorts and hotels under the Anantara brand to the Green Growth 2050 program, launched in 2015, with many already undergoing certification. A further 35 hotels under different MHG brands are currently implementing the Performance Measurement solution planned for live operation later in 2016.
“In identifying a sustainability partner for the Hotel Group, Minor was looking for a solution that could take our hotels to the next level. A program with the potential to operate across our entire portfolio”, said John Roberts, MHG Director of Conservation Efforts.
“We found Green Growth 2050 was the only solution that brought together a GSTC recognized Certification Standard, aligned with international conventions including the UN Global Compact, with true measurement of our sustainability initiatives across over 200 GRI and tourism based metrics. The ability to measure and manage performance across all our hotels in the one place, standardizing the group wide recording, was crucial to our decision in moving to Green Growth 2050,” said Mr. Roberts.
Green Growth 2050 CEO, Wayne McKinnon, said: “MHG has one of the most impressive hotel portfolios in the industry combining luxury properties with outstanding service. It is a privilege to have many of them as our current members.”
“When we developed the sustainability framework for GG2050 we wanted to provide a solution designed to take leading organizations like MHG beyond the one-dimensional legacy certification systems currently being used and provide a true cloud-based solution that brought together certification, performance measurement and online learning overlaid with full business intelligence and analytics.”
“Minor’s sustainability performance can be managed across their entire portfolio and segmented by business type, city, region, brand, or any defined grouping. They can compare the performance of their Asian hotels against their Middle Eastern hotels or owned hotels against managed hotels; certified or not certified, etc. to provide both individual hotel management teams and head office executives with unrivalled granularity in managing their sustainability initiatives.”
“All this information is available in user-defined dynamic dashboards specifically tailored to the needs of each organization, and at the touch of a button. Full reporting and data export is also supported.”
Green Growth 2050 Chairman, Professor Geoff Lipman, a long-time industry leader and sustainability advocate, praised the Minor Hotel Group for its commitment to corporate social responsibility: “We decided to create Green Growth 2050 to help move traditional environmental indicators for the sector into the mainstream of industry response to climate change and sustainable development. We spoke to a number of hotel groups – all of whom were positive, but it took the long-term vision of the Minor Hotel Group to join us as a launch partner for the program – we are incredibly pleased to be working with them.
“2015 has been a watershed year for the International Community with three Heads of State Summits – on Development Finance, Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Change; setting the agenda for a new socio-economic paradigm. The overarching aim is to stabilize climate change by 2050 but the broader goal is a more caring, inclusionary, resource efficient, low carbon society. Green Growth 2050 is a key tool in the armory of creative and positive change,” he concluded.
Minor Hotel Group (MHG) is a hotel owner, operator and investor, currently with a portfolio of 145 hotels in operation under the Anantara, AVANI, PER AQUUM, Oaks, Tivoli, Elewana, Marriott, Four Seasons, St. Regis, Radisson Blu and Minor International brands. Today MHG operates in 22 countries across Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Europe and South America. With ambitious plans to grow the hotel group to 190 properties, MHG continues to expand the home grown brands of Anantara and AVANI, plus continues to announce strategic acquisitions. For more information, please visit www.minorinternational.com.
Green Growth 2050 is a new dynamic product and service set that links sustainable tourism and corporate social responsibility in support of Green Growth. It has been developed by Greenearth.travel, based in the EU and Vision CSR based in Australia. It draws on their multi decade experience as leaders and innovators in creating sustainable travel and tourism frameworks, as well as their extensive partnerships and alliances focused on green economy transformation and climate response.
A ‘cluster research’ model that worked for seaweed growers in Zanzibar should be widely adopted, says Flower Msuya.
The results of scientific studies are of little use to farmers unless they stem from applied research that can enhance the work they do to make a living. Such research could, for example, lead to innovative methods that help seaweed farmers earn more by producing high-quality crops or adding value to their seaweed by processing it rather than selling it raw.
But research results often fail to reach the people who can benefit from them. To avoid this, the Zanzibar Seaweed Cluster Initiative (ZaSCI) has been practising cluster-based research, an approach that has improved the applicability of research over the past ten years with interesting results.
Direct line to research
Two features differentiate cluster-based research from other forms. One is that it tackles challenges brought to scientists by a particular community, such as farmers. The other is that the research findings are given back to this group as direct feedback, which they then use to improve their day-to-day activities. ZaSCI is a good, current example of how cluster research programmes can link farmers directly with research institutions.
“Because of the initiative, farmers are now communicating with each other through mobile phones to discuss challenges and day-to-day needs that they can then take to research institutions for answers.” Flower Msuya
Two types of seaweed are farmed on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar: cottonii and spinosum. Cottonii is in higher demand because it has more applications in industrial processes than spinosum (for example in food and cosmetics manufacturing), and so at 50 US cents per kilogram, its price is double that of the other seaweed. But cottonii has failed to thrive in recent years because of the impact of climate change: increased surface seawater temperatures and diseases have kept it from growing at all in many areas, and have cut its production in the few places where it still grows.
Farmers were troubled by the failure of this higher-value seaweed to grow, and brought the issue to ZaSCI meetings. Researchers listened to their concerns and focused on developing innovative methods to both produce the higher-valued seaweed and add value to the lower-priced seaweed.
They developed bamboo rafts, floating lines and recently a novel method of using tubular nets to do this. These methods can be used in water that is one to three metres deep as opposed to water of a few centimetres in depth, where seaweed is currently farmed. Conditions such as temperature and salinity are more stable in deeper waters, and so they favour better growth: more seaweed is produced per unit area, and die-offs are minimised.
Over the past ten years, ZaSCI research has enabled farmers to farm more of the higher-valued seaweed and produce a number of value-added products — such as foods including juice, jam and cake, and powder used to make products or against infections — that sell at a much higher price than raw seaweed. A good example is seaweed powder, which sells at US$6 per kilogram compared with 25 US cents per kilogram of unprocessed spinosum.
And the benefits go beyond the direct economic impact of research: because of the initiative, farmers are now communicating with each other through mobile phones to discuss challenges and day-to-day needs that they can then take to research institutions for answers.
ZaSCI operates using a ‘triple helix’ model that promotes interactive relationships between universities, industry and government. The presence of the government is important but not sufficient: policy issues are addressed by soliciting opinion from a variety of people, and assessed alongside views from government representatives.
In practice, this means ZaSCI links farmers (60 per cent of whom are women) with research institutions and government departments responsible for seaweed farming. It also links farmers or processors with each other as well as with exporters.
The Green Innovation Center, which was inaugurated at AfricaRice in Benin this month (3 January), aims to boost agricultural productivity, increase the incomes of smallholder farmers and create job opportunities, particularly for youth and women in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Togo, Tunisia and Zambia.
“The main gap that the centre seeks to close is the low capacity of the present extension service.”
Bernard Marc Winfried, AfricaRice
The Green Innovation Center is supported by the Federal German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), in partnership with other institutions such as Benin Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, and AfricaRice.
BMZ has given 2.7 million euros (almost US$3 million) to AfricaRice to implement the centre’s activities in 2016 and 2017, according to Bernard Marc Winfried, a knowledge management specialist at AfricaRice.
Gerd Müller, minister for BMZ, said during the inauguration that agriculture does not only need water and fertiliser but also knowledge and innovation.
Wilfried added that in Benin the initiative will facilitate the exchange of knowledge and interaction between researchers and development experts in 17 communities.
He explained that the centre will focus on strengthening the agricultural innovation system by promoting partnerships and developing an operational framework for innovation.
According to Winfried, researchers will develop a set of services and innovation that will serve as youth training tools and help increase sustainable productivity and incomes of agricultural producers.
“The main gap that the centre seeks to close is the low capacity of the present extension service. The activities will decisively improve access for farmers and traders to advisory, technical and business development services,” Winfried says.
David Arodokoun, the director-general of National Agricultural Research Institute of Benin, praises the creation of the centre, noting that the centre could address hunger and aid growth because “a development without innovation technology is a blind development”.
Arodokoun adds that African countries have not understood and managed to develop innovative technologies, and hopes the centre could also help create innovations that are friendly to the environment and can address climate change-related impacts.
Winfried tells SciDev.Net that the new centre will initially focus on four key commodities — rice, soybeans, small ruminants and poultry — but is open to work on other commodities upon request.
South Africa’s first commercial green star-rated building has been unveiled. The cutting-edge building – the E block in Upper Grayston, a small multi-purpose development in Johannesburg’s Sandton business district – is the first small office building to receive five green stars from the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA). “We want to get the message out to other developers,” says Martin Evans of Upper Grayston’s developer Bryprop, “that South Africa can produce green buildings economically.” Green buildings are attractive to the property market, he says, and they offer a good return on investment. “Green buildings command a higher rental price and capital value, they have lower running costs, they let better, and they retain tenants better,” says the GBCSA’s executive chairman Bruce Kerswill. This green mindset is catching on in South Africa, he says. Five stars are not enough for Bryprop, though, and the firm is aiming for the coveted six-star rating with its newest building, Upper Grayston F, which is under construction right next to the E Block. This will make it the only six star-rated commercial building in the country. Rental space should be available around the end of June 2013, according to Bryprop.
Green buildings mitigate climate change
South Africa is following a new trend noted in a report titled “Rethinking Consumption: Consumers and the Future of Sustainability”, which has found that people in developing nations have a keener sense of responsibility towards the earth than those in developed nations. “Two-thirds of consumers globally say they ‘feel a sense of responsibility to society’ (65%), including 81% in emerging markets and 50% in developed markets,” notes the report. “Buildings can be a big part of the solution to mitigating the effects of climate change,” says Kerswill. “Good planning can reduce their use of power and water by up to 70%, and together with waste reduction this can have a significant impact.” Office buildings especially contribute heavily to global warming and pollution, and consume large amounts of energy and water. “But buildings are the cheapest way to make savings on carbon emissions,” says Warren Gray of Solid Green Consulting. “Overseas they use around 30% of the world’s energy. In South Africa the situation is a little different because our economy has been geared towards mining and we are still constructing the buildings that other countries already have.” Savings realised in a green building will come mainly from running costs and electricity. Although the largest part of a company’s expenses goes towards salaries, says Gray, people who work in green buildings perform better, they get discharged from hospital sooner, and they give the employer more value for the salary. “A 10% increase in productivity outperforms a 5% saving on electricity.”
Bringing in the tenants
Bryprop says that its tenants are becoming more and more interested in green features. In the new building, lessons learned from Upper Grayston E will be applied, with some extra features that the developers are confident will earn the six green stars. All timber used in the project comes from a sustainable forest and is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Most of the building’s water will be reclaimed from rain and filtered and purified, and municipal water will only be used when the tanks are empty. Solar panels for both power and heating will ensure that no energy is used to heat water, and in terms of space heating, says Gray, good architectural principles and passive design means that a minimal amount of heating is needed. The building also has big glass windows which let in natural light and air, reducing the need for artificial lighting and climate control. A mixed-mode ventilation system will allow the building to use mechanical ventilation when necessary. People in the building will be able to monitor energy consumption in real time, via a screen in the entrance and a page on the web, which will supply a graph of energy consumption measured at one-minute intervals. The graph for Block E is already available online. The amount of concrete used in construction has been reduced through the addition of fly ash into the mixture. Fly ash is a residue generated during combustion, for example at coal-burning power stations. “This means that the building itself is constructed from recycled material,” Gray says. Carpets and paint used in the interior contain low levels of volatile organic compounds. Cycle parking and special cycle routes around the office park are aimed at encouraging this eco-friendly alternative means of transport.
Going green and saving the planet
Green buildings, according to GBCSA, are energy- and resource-efficient and kind to the environment because of the practices used in their design, construction and operation. They have also been proven to be healthier for residents and workers, leading to higher productivity. For green buildings, these practices will usually include the optimal circulation of fresh air and use of natural light, resulting in a lower use of air conditioning and heating. Lighting will be energy-efficient and controlled through motion detectors, and there will be greater use of renewable energy sources. The builders will make use of recycled or sustainable materials, and there will be other sources of water, such as rainwater harvesting, besides the municipal supply. Locally sourced products are essential to shrink the construction footprint, and if any existing structure is demolished to make way for the new building, as much material as possible, such as windows, doors or floors, must be re-used. When a company applies for green star certification for a building, there is a rigorous process that must be followed. Once the building has been registered – which is only the first step towards certification – the project team will prepare the necessary documentation to prove that the building complies with GBCSA standards. Assessors will not award points, says the GBCSA, unless they can see that all the requirements have been met exactly as detailed in the technical manual. By this stage the full assessment fee must have been paid. Once the fee and the documentation have been received, a panel will evaluate the submission and make their recommendations to the GBCSA, who will then contact the project team. At this point the team gets another chance to earn their green stars by including extra supporting documentation or making alterations to their designs if necessary, and resubmitting their application. The panel will again scrutinise the application and make their final pronouncement and the project team will be notified of their score. A score of 45 to 59 earns the building four green stars and is an indication of best practice locally; a score of 60 to 75 earns five green stars and signifies South African excellence; and a score of 75 to 100 earns six green stars and is indicative of world leadership. Upper Grayston E scored 67 points, which is currently the highest five-star score in the country.
Hydropower — often considered a renewable source of energy that is key to meeting global climate goals — is big business in the Amazon, Congo and Mekong river basins, where more than 450 dams are on the drawing board.
But dam building in tropical rainforests comes at a huge cost to biodiversity and the tropical rain forest ecosystems that provide humans with clean air and water, according to a Texas A&M University study published Thursday in the journal Science.
“Far too often in developing tropical countries, major hydropower projects have been approved and their construction begun before any serious assessments of environmental and socioeconomic impacts had been conducted,” study lead author Kirk Winemiller, an aquatic ecologist at Texas A&M University, said.
The tropics, the earth’s most biologically diverse and forested region, stores more carbon than any other region. Hydropower’s impact on biodiversity is an important factor because biodiversity loss may reduce the rain forest’s ability to withstand and help mitigate climate change, recent studies have shown.
Biodiversity is being threatened throughout the tropical forests of Asia, Africa and South America, according to the Texas A&M researchers.
The dam-building rush, especially in the Amazon, impedes tropical fish migration and vastly expands deforestation because of the construction of new roads. Brazil, for example, gets two-thirds of its electricity from hydropower, and 334 new dams are being proposed in its diverse tropical rainforests.
In Southeast Asia, the Mekong River Basin already has 370 dams, and there are plans for construction of nearly 100 more, including dams on the river mainstem, Winemiller said.
“The Lower Mekong River supports important inland fisheries, recently valued at about $17 billion a year,” he said.
Fishery losses in the wake of new dam construction poses a food security challenge in Thailand, where 99 new dams planned for the Mun River Basin would require up to a 63 percent expansion of agricultural land, which leads to further deforestation, the study says.
The study adds that economic projections often exclude or underestimate the costs of environmental improvement following the construction of major dams. China, for example, spent $26 billion to reduce the ecological impacts of the Three Gorges Dam — the world’s largest hydropower dam — on the Yangtze River.
“Long-term ripple effects on ecosystem services and biodiversity are rarely weighed appropriately during dam planning in the tropics,” the study says. “Institutions that permit and finance hydropower development should require basin-scale analyses that account for cumulative impacts and climate change.”
Scientists unaffiliated with the study say it illustrates the possibly outsized impact that dam building in the tropics has on biodiversity, and possibly the climate.
José Maria Cardoso da Silva, an environmental geography professor at the University of Miami, said the study shows that three of the most biologically diverse river basins on earth are under high pressure from dam building, and countries are doing too little to prevent significant environmental harm from such development.
New roads built for dam construction create new economic opportunities, or “economic frontiers,” such as logging in previously untouched rainforests, creating unregulated access and deforestation, which is a major source of carbon dioxide emissions fueling climate change, he said.
Methane emissions from newly-built reservoirs only increase hydropower’s impact on the climate, he said.
“Nothing is going to change if we do not propose feasible solutions so that megadiverse countries can produce the clean and renewable energy to sustain their development without damage to their extraordinary biodiversity,” Silva said.
Mauro Galetti, a Sao Paulo State University conservation biologist in Brazil who published a study in December showing that a decline in biodiversity in tropical forests reduces their ability to store carbon, said dam building is a “major disaster.”
“Many politicians and engineers proclaim that hydroelectric power dams is a ‘green energy,’ but this is a big mistake,” he said. “Hydroelectric dams create a huge impact on climate, biodiversity and people’s health. This study alerts us to the large-scale impact of dams in tropical forests, and if these projected dams are built, we will have a worse scenario for climate change than we would expect.”