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Jean-Pascal Tricoire appointed to the Board of the United Nations Global Compact

  • A recognition of Schneider Electric’s long-term commitment to sustainability
  • Through its Schneider Sustainability Impact, the Group contributes actively to UN Sustainable Development Goals

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has appointed Jean-Pascal Tricoire, President of Global Compact France and Chairman & CEO of Schneider Electric, to the United Nations Global Compact Board. The UN Global Compact Board plays an important role in shaping the strategy and policy of the initiative, which acts as the United Nations flagship for responsible business action. Designed as a multi-stakeholder body, the Board provides ongoing strategic and policy advice for the initiative. Board members are considered champions who are willing and able to advance the mission of the UN Global Compact. They act in a personal, honorary and unpaid capacity.

A recognition of Schneider Electric’s long-term commitment to sustainability

With more than 13,000 participants – companies and non-business alike – from more than 160 countries, the UN Global Compact is the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, with the mission to align companies’ strategies and operations with ten universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and take actions that advance societal goals. With 10% of the participants, Global Compact France is its 2nd largest national network worldwide. It is also the network with the highest rate of companies meeting the Advanced COP level. “I am delighted to welcome Jean-Pascal Tricoire to the Board for the UN Global Compact. Jean-Pascal has shown great leadership in driving sustainability in a business, and with his extensive global experience, I am confident that his contribution to the UN Global Compact will be very valuable in helping the organisation to continue to thrive. I look forward to our collaboration,” said Paul Polman, Vice Chair of the Board of the United Nations Global Compact and Chief Executive Officer of Unilever.

Schneider Electric has signed on to the UN Global Compact in 2002 and consistently shown its commitment to its Ten Principles since then. In 2002, the Group published for the first time Our Principles of Responsibility, a foundational part of Schneider Electric’s commitment to its stakeholders (employees, partners, shareholders…) regularly updated since then. As a Participant of the UN Global Compact, Schneider Electric took an active approach to engage its suppliers in sustainability, by measuring the proportion of purchases made with suppliers who participate in the UN Global Compact since 2004, and by encouraging its strategic suppliers to apply the ISO26000 guidelines since 2012. Thanks to an annual Communication on Progress (COP) as part of its annual report, Schneider Electric meets the Advanced COP level.

Maximizing Schneider Sustainability Impact on UN Sustainable Development Goals

“I’m thrilled to keep contributing to the development of the UN Global Compact by joining its Global Board, four years after becoming President of Global Compact France and 16 years after Schneider Electric’s accession. As the world’s largest corporate sustainability organization, the UN Global Compact is a tremendous collective movement for companies to make progress in the fields of human and labor rights, gender equality, environment protection and ethical business through the Ten Principles and the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals” said Jean-Pascal Tricoire.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. As the world approaches the third anniversary of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN Global Compact is committed to be a leading catalyst of the transformation of those global goals into local business. Schneider Electric, the leader in digital transformation of energy management and automation, is actively engaged to accomplish the 17 SDGs through its core business and its five sustainability megatrends: Climate, Circular economy, Ethics, Health & Equity and Development.

To support this commitment, Schneider Electric has developed a critical instrument for its sustainability journey: Schneider Sustainability Impact. It reflects the sustainability megatrends and guides Schneider’s sustainability efforts by making our goals clear. Renewed and updated for 2018 through 2020, this fifth iteration reflects, through 21 indicators, our holistic view of sustainability, how our sustainability efforts affect the planet, its people, our profit, and that of our customers. It contains our promises to our partners, customers, and the world. It is the standard by which we measure ourselves and hold ourselves accountable. It also states clearly how the Group contributes not only to Goal 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) but also to Goal 5 (Gender Equality), Goal 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy).

Rwanda: Green Fund supports climate change

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In East Africa, the Rwanda Green Fund, which is best known in the country as FONERWA, has opened the next round for submission of proposals from all leading organisations in the country to express their interest in obtaining funds.

The invitation is open to ministries, government agencies, districts, private sector companies, academic institutions and civil society organisations to submit funding proposals for initiatives that promote the mainstreaming of environmental protection, climate change and green growth into Rwanda’s economic development programmes.

Rwanda Green Fund – primary focus

It is reported that for this intake around, the Rwanda Green Fund is aiming at projects and programmes developed primarily in line with sectors of Rwanda’s economy, including energy, agriculture, transportation, environment, urban and rural settlement, water and sanitation.

According to local media, the fund requests applicants to demonstrate in their proposals according to the various sectors –wide green and climate resilient initiatives that will improve the performance and sustainability in implementing sector programmes.

To understand the requirements, applicants are encouraged to get more information from the Programmes of Action outlined in Rwanda’s Green Growth Climate Resilience Strategy.

Alex Mulisa, coordinator of the Green Fund explained that: “Climate mainstreaming is about ensuring the environment and climate change are at the core of our development plans, policies and strategies. We want to invest in initiatives that bring all stakeholders to the table to incorporate

Mulisa continued: “By bringing everyone on board, we know the return on investment for Rwanda’s socio-economic development and natural environment will be immense.”

Electricity access

In terms of the energy sector, the procurement of this funding would mean that the sector will be on its way to achieving the target of 70% electricity access to the population by 2018. In 2015 the percentage stood at 23% access rate.

Last month, Jean-Bosco Mugiraneza , the chief executive of Rwanda Energy Group stated that to achieve the set target government is working on both on-grid and off-grid solutions to achieve the target. This will be divided into 48% on-grid and 22% off-grid.

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Scratching the Surface of African Tourism

“Tourism in Africa is on the rise, but has not yet reached its full potential,” is the rallying cry from the African Development Bank’s Africa Tourism Monitor 2015 with a view to 2016 and beyond, as it alludes to a wealth of opportunities, continent-wide, to capitalise on rapidly growing international interest.

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The third annual instalment of the study – in conjunction with New York University’s Africa House and the Africa Travel Association – was aptly titled ‘Unlocking Africa’s Tourism Potential’ upon its release at the start of the year, and through comprehensive insight into facts, figures, contributions, accounts, industry representatives and tour operators, the general consensus suggests there is so much more to come.

And this isn’t to say that the current figures make for grim reading either.

“One of the key findings of the report, as indicated in its introduction, is that the tourism sector in Africa is growing,” reported the African Development Bank upon the document’s release. “In 2014, a total of 65.3 million international tourists visited the continent, around 200,000 more than in 2013. Back in 1990, Africa welcomed just 17.4 million visitors from abroad. The sector has therefore quadrupled in size in less than 15 years.

“According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Africa’s strong performance in 2014 (up four percent) makes it one of the world’s fastest-growing tourist destinations, second only to Southeast Asia.”

The multicultural, multifaceted nature of what Africa has to offer seems to be the reason behind the ever-rising interest among international tourists; diverse attractions from the pyramids in Egypt, to Table Mountain in South Africa, the Sahara, Victoria Falls, rainforests, safaris and plains combining to present a range unparalleled anywhere else on earth.

The only drawback remains the way in which the countries in question continue to market such lures, and how they can continue to build an infrastructure and industry capable of housing the scope of people who would hope to one day grace their shores.

Africa’s Top Three tourist destinations in 2014

“Two North African countries top the list of most-visited countries in Africa. Egypt experienced the strongest growth in the sector in 2014, with 454,000 more international arrivals than in 2013, an increase of five percent in just one year.

“Second on the list is Morocco, which once again recorded more than 10 million incoming international tourists in 2014, an increase of 236,000 when compared with the previous year.

“In third place is Côte d’Ivoire, in West Africa. The country is experiencing a strong economic recovery. Although it recorded “only” 91,000 more international arrivals in 2014 than in 2013, this figure represents a 24 percent rise in just 12 months. This double-digit growth provides yet further evidence of the country’s vast tourism potential.”

–          African Development Bank’s Africa Tourism Monitor, 2015

Simplistic initiatives

Ultimately, the long-term benefits of meeting these demands speak for themselves. Already, the influx of tourists to the continent has had a dramatic effect on each country’s economies and in 2014 alone; Africa recorded US$43.6 billion in revenue from the sector.

In total, international tourism now accounts for 8.1 percent of Africa’s total GDP, and the benefits extend far beyond the initial fiscal statistics as well.

“More tourists also mean more jobs,” the African Development Bank emphasised. “Across the continent, there are around 20 million people working directly or indirectly for the tourism industry. This means that the sector accounts for 7.1 percent of all jobs in Africa.

“Jobs supported by the sector include guides, hotel staff, interpreters, aviation staff and small businesses.”

Beyond that, individual sectors are also thriving as a consequence of the rise, with industries such as hospitality experiencing particularly rapid growth in both developed and emerging nations; once again driving higher levels of employment and domestic business relationships as a result.

The Bank continued: “The hospitality sector is expanding into new countries such as Mauritania, which has, until now, remained largely on the fringes. According to the report, it is sub-Saharan Africa, rather than North Africa, that is benefiting most from the expansion of hotel chains and the corresponding increase in the number of available rooms.

“Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, comes top of the rankings in this respect, followed by Egypt and Morocco. However, the biggest hotel development project in sub-Saharan Africa can be found in Equatorial Guinea, in the Grand Hotel Oyala Kempinski, which, when complete, will feature 451 rooms.”

Again, the onus now is to not only ride the wave of the trend, but to proactively leverage it to its full extent, and numerous initiatives are beginning to manifest around the continent to this end; both to harness the increased number of tourists already visiting the continent, and to attract even more in the future.

The African Development Bank noted: “The report is particularly complimentary about recent simplifications to the visa system and regional cooperation mechanisms, including the introduction of the e-visa and the single visa scheme, enabling tourists to visit all Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states using just one visa.

“Other examples include the “KAZA” (Kavango Zambezi) common tourist visa developed by Zambia and Zimbabwe, and the single visa covering three countries – Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda – launched by the East African Community (EAC) in February, 2014.”

Untapped potential

These simple – but effective – schemes are already expected to boost tourism revenue and job creation by as much as 25 percent in the coming years, replicating a successful model adopted across Europe, North America, South America and Australasia over the decades.

It is just the beginning though, with more and more calls coming for an improvement in the infrastructure awaiting tourists once on the continent, as opposed to solely improving the logistical proposition for people choosing Africa as a destination in the first place.

“Transport infrastructure and services is one of the key constraints limiting growth of the tourism sector,” the Bank offered as an example. “As the report indicates, ‘Journeys in the African continent are not always seamless’. In fact, it is more difficult – and more expensive – to travel across Africa than to get there from Europe, America or the Middle East.

“The report also points to other barriers to tourism sector development in Africa, including a lack of dedicated incentive policies, the need for closer regional cooperation, weaknesses in infrastructure and security problems.”

As such, The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) launched its Tourism Action Plan way back in 2004 to help develop a more sustainable approach to tourism, but the effectiveness and extent of the initiative is still yet to be realised despite the potential 155,000 jobs it would create, and the US$1.3 billion extra GDP it would generate.

“Security issues have posed a particular problem for the sector since 2013, especially in North Africa, Mali and coastal regions of Kenya,” the Bank added in regards to some of the key drawbacks. “The report indicates that, of the 80 countries for which travel warnings were issued by the US State Department, 30 were located in Africa.

“Moreover, although the 2013-2014 Ebola virus outbreak only affected West Africa, it created a climate of fear that spread to many other countries on the continent; even those far from the source of the outbreak.”

Negative impacts on some of the continent’s natural lures, including the increased number of animals on the brink of extinction and damaging connotations associated with poaching and illegal trading of species are further areas which Africa needs to address in order to turn around the continent’s global perception entirely; and these epitomise a general status which highlights that the recent positive growth in tourist numbers is barely scratching the surface of what can be achieved in the future.

The African Development Bank concluded: “Although international tourism is on the rise in Africa, the continent currently accounts for just 5.8 percent of the world’s incoming tourists and 3.5 percent of global revenue in the sector.

“As such, the sector still has vast untapped potential; potential that, if exploited, could kick-start rapid economic growth.”
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SA’s first green development comes to Menlyn Maine precinct

Pretoria is rapidly attaining a new maturity as the decentralisation of the city centre accelerates and growth nodes such as Menlyn, which is increasingly being dubbed ‘Pretoria’s Sandton’, comes into its own.

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The ZAR10 billion Menlyn Maine precinct starts to come online with the launch of its Central Square in September 2016.

“The City of Tshwane has for long identified a need for additional, new growth and business centres that could provide relief for the overburdened infrastructure of the city centre, while broadening the development of the region,” says Retha Schutte, Pam Golding Properties Regional Executive for Pretoria.

“Now, with properly designed mixed-use mini-cities such as Menlyn Maine increasingly coming on stream, and the opening of the development’s impressive 60 000sqm Central Square scheduled for 21 September 2016, this imperative is finally being realised and in the process Pretoria is reaching an exciting new stage in its development cycle.”

“Menlyn Maine is an immense 315 000sqm purpose-designed green mini-city, which effectively combines office, commercial, residential and entertainment spaces. It is not only the largest project of its kind within the Tshwane municipal region but one of the most ambitious projects of its kind in Southern Africa. The developers of Menlyn Maine have partnered with the international Clinton Climate Initiative and the precinct is one of only 17 green cities that will be built in various countries and the only one in Africa.

“The precinct is already emerging as a prestigious new business centre and the address of choice in Pretoria. We truly believe that this development stands alone and that it is set to change how people throughout the region will work, live and play.”

Thys Greeff of Menlyn Maine Investment Holdings says that the soon-to-be-opened Central Square will be the focal point of the Menlyn Maine precinct. It will include a Virgin Classic Club, a 240-room 4-Star hotel by The Capital Group and 14 835sqm of office space, which will be integrated with the new 30 000sqm the specialty tenanted, boutique retail mall and the Central Square Piazza.

“The city centre will be a meeting place with coffee shops and restaurants offering a handpicked range of alternatives, from early breakfast, to all-day dining and more formal dining, all located within an exciting, accessible and safe urban green space. It will also contain an office tower.”

According to Schutte, Pam Golding Properties partnered with Menlyn Maine to assist with the purchase and assembly of 108 stands in Waterkloof Glen Ext 2 between 2006 and 2007, after which construction could commence.

“Since then, the development of Menlyn Maine has been most impressive. In addition to the launch of Central Square, we are also seeing an increasing number of leading corporates, financial institutions, law firms and a range of other professional service providers, as well as retailers and hoteliers moving into the precinct.”

According to Greeff, South Africa’s first green mini-city has been designed with the greatest attention being paid to appropriate urban planning and green design. One result of this is that the precinct will use much less energy and less water than a comparable development of this size.

“We were effectively able to develop this mixed-use city from the ground up into what we believe is an ideal urban environment. The idea behind Menlyn Maine is to create an easily accessible, exclusive and self-contained urban centre where corporate staff members and residents can work and live within a healthy, attractive and highly productive environment where everything is close to hand and within easy walking distance. Residents and visitors will also have access to a range of highly select retailers and entertainment facilities,” adds Greeff.

“The precinct is designed according to the standards set down in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighbourhood Development rating system. The streets, residential developments, office buildings, retail outlets, dining establishments, commercial facilities as well as all other public spaces are being designed to promote responsible, healthy lifestyles in a sustainable city precinct. This is establishing Menlyn Maine as an address of choice for living, working, shopping and entertainment,” observes Schutte.

On completion, the development will offer prospective tenants a variety of facilities with a total lettable area of approximately 315 000sqm. An exclusive residential component will be added as part of the second phase. All of the buildings in the precinct are required to achieve a minimum of a Four-Star Green Star rating by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA).

Sun International’s application to move their gaming licence from Morula Sun to Menlyn Maine was approved at the end of 2014.

The development of the Time Square Urban Entertainment Complex has already commenced and will include a 5-star hotel, 8 000 seat entertainment arena, a 10 000msqm casino and conference facilities.

The first building to be completed in Menlyn Maine was the regional head office for Nedbank. This is a 16 500sqm building with a 5-Star rating by the Green Building Council of South Africa. Subsequent buildings that have been constructed including the new corporate head-office for Sage VIP as well as the headquarters for Regus. The development of a 4 200sqm building, with the BMW SAP Competence Hub as primary tenant, was completed in November 2015.

“Menlyn Maine is uniquely situated to take advantage of the continued development of Tshwane and is likely to assist in energising the entire eastern region. From a residential property perspective, we believe it will spur growth within the residential property market and will serve as magnet within this eastern region of Pretoria where residential property prices continue to hold their own.”

“As South Africa’s capital, Pretoria has for long needed additional business and development centres that are viable and sustainable. Menlyn Maine goes a long way to meeting these requirements and it is heartening to see this novel mixed-use precinct finally come to fruition,” concludes Schutte.
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Africa droughts prompt calls to start pumping untapped groundwater

Despite recent heavy rains, Ethiopia is still reeling from the worst drought to hit the country for half a century, particularly in the livestock-dependent regions of Oromia and Somali. Yet studies (pdf) suggest the country could have billions of cubic metres of untapped groundwater.

The story is the same across many parts of Africa, where farmers rely on erratic rains and depleted surface water while potentially vast groundwater reserves go ignored. Africa’s subterranean water amounts to an estimated 660,000 cubic kilometres (pdf), according to research from the British Geological Society – more than 100 times the continent’s annual renewable freshwater resources.

A new initiative co-led by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) is aiming to mobilise support for greater use of Africa’s under-used aquifers. Developed in the wake of targets set at the UN Sustainable Development Summit and the Paris climate talks last year, the goals of the Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice (GRIPP) include leveraging $1bn (£770m) of investments in sub-Saharan Africa for sustainable groundwater irrigation and improving groundwater access in the region for 4m rural households.

The idea is timely given widespread drought across southern and eastern Africa, yet it is not without controversy. Decades of overexploitation in north Africa(pdf), where groundwater is more abundant, have left many sedimentary aquifers dangerously depleted and in some cases degraded by saltwater intrusion. In Morocco, for example, the water table of the Saïss deep aquifer – one of north Africa’s largest aquifers – has fallen by an annual average of 3m over the past 20 years.

If the right policies and incentives are in place, however, groundwater can be exploited sustainably, argues Jeremy Bird, director general of IWMI.

Not only is groundwater more locally available and more reliable than rain in many parts of Africa, says Bird, it also serves as a better buffer to climate shocks: “It provides an opportunity for farmers to move one step up the ladder from very uncertain rain-fed irrigation, which is subject to the vagaries of climate, to supplementary irrigation, which offers them the ability to provide water when the crop really needs it.”

Improving Africa’s irrigation infrastructure has long been a goal of national policymakers and development agencies. The World Bank, for instance, is currently trying to mobilise international funders to help double irrigation levels in six countries in the drought-prone Sahel region.

The Sahel Irrigation Initiative Programme, with input from IWMI, is now considering the use of simple, farmer-managed pump bores alongside its focus on more expensive canals, reservoirs and other centrally-managed surface water infrastructure projects.

Vincent Casey, water, sanitation and hygiene senior adviser at WaterAid, however warns these simple pumps must be managed well: “Despite the advantages of convenience and affordability, the scale of pumping is very difficult to regulate which inevitably has economic consequences when groundwater is depleted.”

Africa may have considerable untapped aquifers, but not all are able to be easily and affordably accessed, says Casey. “Rural electrification has been limited, discounting the possibility of politically motivated energy subsidies that could make high powered pumping affordable to small scale farmers”. Capacity for groundwater withdrawal is also hampered by a lack of reliable hydro-geological data (Ethiopia hasmapped less than one quarter of its groundwater resources) and relevant expertise.

All these factors contribute to a patchy experience of groundwater projects to date. According to UPGro – a DFID-funded research programme examining groundwater in sub-Saharan Africa – nearly one third of such projects in sub-Saharan Africa fail within a few years of construction. The World Bank puts the estimated cost of groundwater project failures at more than $1.2bn (pdf) in lost investment over the last 20 years.

The main aim of GRIPP, which is focusing on projects not just in Africa but around the world, is to correct this trend through the promotion of research and knowledge-sharing around sustainable groundwater withdrawal practices and policies.

A vital step in this respect centres on farmer buy-in, says Ugandan water planning expert Callist Tindimugaya, vice president of the International Association of Hydrologists, a GRIPP partner. Because groundwater is an “invisible commons”, he argues, farmers struggle to know what comprises sustainable usage. Government provision of cheap power for water pumps and other price incentives to promote agricultural productivity can lead to overuse as well, he adds.

“Local initiatives to co-manage the resource are increasingly being explored as an important element in sustainable groundwater use as farmers realise their common interest in safeguarding the resource,” says Tindimugaya.

A case in point from another part of the world is in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, where farmer groups in over 700 communities agreed to collectively monitor groundwater levels, to plan their crop planting jointly and to adopt water-saving techniques. The project, which ran from 2003 to 2009, successfully reduced overexploitation (pdf) in the semi-arid state. Since the project ended, however, and without adequate governance systems in place, most of the farmer-led initiatives have ceased.

Policymakers might find incentives the best initial defence against unsustainable abstraction, says Bird. He cites a pilot project in the Chinese province of Shanxi, where farmers access set volumes of water from the state-run pumping system with pre-paid smartcards. If they use less than their quota of pumping time, they can trade it with other farmers.

“Our role is to identify the types of policies which might work in a particular situation, learn lessons from other areas and then assess the impacts of these policy decisions over time and see what the implications have been,” says Bird.
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World Green Building Council announces plan to construct ‘net zero’ strategy

By 2050 all buildings will have zero impact on the climate, thanks to a combination of energy efficiency measures and clean energy generation.

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That is the vision of a major new project from the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), which yesterday announced plans to rapidly accelerate the trend towards ‘net zero’ certified buildings.

Entitled Advancing Net Zero, the project will initially see Green Building Councils from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Netherlands, South Africa, and Sweden work with NGO Architecture 2030 to develop net zero certification standards and promote building technologies and techniques that drastically reduce emissions across the construction and property sectors.

Terri Wills, CEO of WorldGBC, said the project builds on the commitment made by 74 Green Building Councils at last year’s Paris Summit to slash emissions across the industry by 2050 in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

“The success of our ambitions to keep global warming to within 1.5 to 2 degrees will depend on our ability to advance net zero buildings – those which generate clean energy and produce no net emissions,” Wills said. “Net zero buildings will be a defining contribution in our efforts to tackle climate change. Getting down to zero won’t be easy.

“This will be a long and challenging road but together with the dedication and expertise of our Green Building Councils and partners, we can create a thriving market for highly efficient buildings and make net zero the new normal.”

In addition to supporting the development of ‘net zero’ certifications, the project aims to provide ‘net zero’ training programmes for building professionals and demonstration buildings that prove ultra-low impact buildings can be successfully developed.

The group is also looking to quickly expand the project beyond the eight GBCs initially involved.

The stated long term goal is to ensure “all new buildings and major renovations should be net zero starting in 2030, meaning no buildings should be built below net zero standards beyond 2030 [and] 100 per cent of buildings should be net zero by 2050”.

In order to meet the target, the group has also set goals to train 75,000 building professionals trained in ‘net zero’ practices by 2030, rising to 300,000 by 2050, and ensure all national Green Building Councils that operate certification schemes have a net zero tool in place by 2030.

Romilly Madew, chief executive of the Green Building Council of Australia, said the targets were ambitious but achievable. “We have strong and credible evidence that we can reach net zero in our built environment by 2050, while delivering healthier, more productive cities using technologies that exist today,” she said. “We have the skills, the technology and the knowledge. Now it’s time to take action.”

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Greening industry, saving water in North Africa

Green industry is an approach that realizes the potential for industries to decouple economic growth from excessive and increasing resource use, thereby reducing pollution and generating additional revenues. It foresees a world where industrial sectors will minimize waste in every form, use renewable resources as input materials and fuels, and take every possible precaution to avoid harming workers, communities, climate, or the environment. Green industries will be creative and innovative, constantly developing new ways of improving their economic, environmental and social performance.

Enterprises in developing countries and countries with economies in transition are facing numerous challenges in their effort to maintain or increase their competitiveness on the local market and access to international markets with good-quality products, comply with environmental standards and reduce operational costs. In order to assist companies in dealing with such challenges and to direct them towards the “green industry” paradigm, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) designed a specific methodology, the Transfer of Environmentally Sound Technology (TEST), which exists as both an integrated approach and a global programme.

TEST combines the essential elements of tools like Resource Efficiency and Cleaner Production, Environmental Management Systems and Environmental Management Accounting, and applies them on the basis of a comprehensive diagnosis of enterprise performance. As a result of the customized integration and implementation of these tools and their elements, the key output is the adoption of best practices, and new skills and management culture, as well as corporate social responsibility, enabling the company to carry on the improvement journey towards sustainable entrepreneurship.

The first TEST pilot programme was launched in 2000 in the Danube River Basin. Since then, TEST has been replicated in several regions worldwide within industrial hot spot areas, contributing to the prevention of the discharge of industrial effluents into international waters (rivers, lakes, wetlands and coastal areas) and thereby protecting water resources for future generations.

In 2009, UNIDO launched the MEDTEST initiative with the financial support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Italian government to promote the transfer and adoption of cleaner technology in industries in three countries of the Southern Mediterranean region: Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.

The project aimed to demonstrate the effectiveness of introducing best practices and integrated management systems in terms of cost reduction, productivity increase and environmental performance. A pool of 43 manufacturing sites – mostly small and medium-sized enterprises – across seven industrial sectors in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia actively participated in MED TEST during 2010-2011.

A core objective of the MED TEST initiative was building national capacity. This was achieved by extensive training and a technical assistance programme that targeted six national institutions and service providers and 30 local professionals, in addition to the staff of the 43 demonstration companies. As a result, a network of local resources is now engaged in promoting the TEST approach and will be able to extend the experience gained to other industries in the region. The active participation of the staff of the demonstration companies in the training and in the implementation of the project ensures the sustainability of all identified actions at company level, as well as that of
newly developed projects.

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Water Is the Climate Challenge, Says World Bank

How will climate change affect you? Probably through water.

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That’s the major message of a new World Bank report that finds the way governments treat water can have a profound effect on the economy.

Good water management could lead to a six percent increase in global GDP by 2050, while bad management – or simply business as usual in some places – could reduce GDP by as much as 14 percent in the Middle East, 12 percent in the Sahel, and 11 percent in Central Asia. Poor water policy could even lead to sustained declines in GDP in some places, via losses in agriculture, health, income, and property.

The basic problem is that demand is ever increasing while supply remains finite. In addition, supply  is becoming harder to predict as climate change shifts rainfall patterns. Without major improvements in water efficiency, global demand could exceed supplies by 40 percent over the next 15 years.

To assess how climate change will affect water supply, the authors modeled water runoff in 235 river basins under different conditions and emission scenarios. They then compared those changes to current conditions to identify the most vulnerable regions. For example, Colombia is expected to see a considerable decline in runoff, but the current level of rainfall is already so high, the risks are considered minimal. For arid countries like Iraq, the same decline could have much more severe consequences.

A broad belt stretching from West Africa through the Middle East and South Asia to Japan encompasses the most vulnerable countries. Many of these countries’ river basins, home to 60 percent of the world’s population, already exist in a “state of near-permanent water stress.”

Supply and Demand

To narrow the gap between supply and demand, the World Bank recommends expanding supply, such as by building more physical infrastructure, like dams. But it also cautions that without corresponding efforts to manage use, demand tends to increase at the same rate, leading to little change in water dependence. (Indeed, though the bank is primarily focused on infrastructure and economic policy, others have noted the importance of social change to improving water security and climate adaptation.)

Water pricing is commonly misunderstood

Governments have several options to address the demand side. There are top-down planning and regulatory schemes, and bottom-up pricing and permitting changes. In areas of scarcity, groundwater withdrawals should be monitored and managed to increase performance and avoid pumping aquifers dry. The authors also recommend making it easier to import food in countries that have “no comparative advantage in food production where water resources are being degraded in the attempt to force increases in food supply.”

Market-based solutions, such as changing pricing and incentive structures, are also a part of the answer, according to the World Bank. The report says water pricing is commonly misunderstood. Where water is free or extremely cheap, poor people tend to be worse off and inefficiency and environmental degradation increase.

The Middle East, for example, is the most water-scarce region in the world, which should encourage users to take advantage of every last drop. But the opposite is true. Very low water prices and high subsidies, especially for irrigation, are in part responsible for the worst water productivity rates in the world. Some worry that Yemen, where many farmers have replaced grape vines with more water-intensive qhat, will become the first modern country to literally run out of water.

About Conflict and Migration…

The report makes clear connections between the physical processes of climate change and hydrology and socio-economic results, including economic growth, poverty alleviation, and inequality. These links are especially compelling coming from an organization that plays a leading role in international trade, investment, and financing for developing countries.

One place where the report’s arguments are a little loose is the small section on migration and conflict. Civil conflict and instability are invoked throughout the report as potential consequences of ignoring water concerns. Violent conflict and migration can result from food price spikes, drought, floods, and income inequality, according to the report.

There are indeed legitimate concerns around these kinds of risks (see the New Climate for Peace report for a comprehensive breakdown of seven), but there are also many open questions about how exactly climate change affects stability and human mobility.Oversimplifying these complex interactions can lead to poor policy and unintended consequences.

In one case, the report also seems to misstate one of its supporting pieces of evidences, citing a study that founddemocratic institutions improved after rainfall declines to argue that rainfall shocks, “by straining government budgets,” make “regime change more likely” and “ignite conflicts.”

In their Climate Change Action Plan, released early last month, the World Bank committed to producing a “flagship analytical report” on climate change, migration, and conflict next year, so perhaps we will see a fuller treatment of these dynamics then.

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Source: environmentalleader


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Will Climate Change Actually Help Crops?

As climate change brings unpredictable weather, droughts, floods, heat waves, cold spurts, and a general sense of chaos to the world of agriculture (and, well, the world, in general), one element is a little more mysterious.

Researchers from around the globe, led by Delphine Deryng, an environmental scientist at Columbia University, took a look at one curious element amongst all the disaster. Increased carbon dioxide levels are heavily associated with climate change, and it’s certainly no shocker that carbon dioxide levels are rising due to all kinds of human activities. But plants, we all learned in elementary school, actually love carbon dioxide: They take it in and expel oxygen, right? So does that mean, even if plants can’t save us, that at least they’ll be happy?

It turns out: sort of! An explanation of how this works, from the study’s release:

The concept is relatively simple; plants take in carbon to build their tissues, and if there is more carbon around, they have an easier time. Leaves take in air through tiny openings called stomata, but in the process the stomata lose water; with more carbon available, they don’t have to open up as much, and conserve moisture.

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The study takes into consideration an excess of carbon dioxide in the air and tries to figure out how that would affect the planet’s four main crops: maize, wheat, soy, and rice. This turns out to be more about water than a simple more-carbon-dioxide-means-more-yields connection; the study finds that all four crops will take in more carbon dioxide and use water more efficiently by 2080, but not that we will necessarily see higher yields.

According to these calculations, the study predicts that wheat fields fed by rain, including those in North America, could defeat increased heat and water scarcity stress and actually produce more yields. Irrigation-fed wheat, as in China and India? Nope—still screwed. Corn yields will decrease everywhere, and the jury’s still out on rice and soybeans (the study found that some projections show an increase and some show a decrease).

This study is not, of course, saying that climate change will be good for crops. The inherent unpredictability of the change makes it exceedingly difficult to expect much of anything to go right, let alone to predict it. But it is demanding that we look at all possible effects of climate change, and take note that this is all much more complex than “the planet is heating up.”

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Source: modernfarmer


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The ancient technique transforming construction

Building new homes can be a time consuming, expensive process. In Africa, communities are going back to an ancient technique to build sustainable homes that don’t break the bank.

Since the year 2000, the Nubian Vault Association has been using masons with knowledge of the Nubian Vault technique to build roofs out of mud bricks as well as training up the next generation.

This is helping to reduce communities’ reliance on materials such as costly corrugated iron and sawn timber beams.

The bricks used by the association and its builders are made from local earth and water and then dried in the sun.

Houses with this style of roof are said to be cheap to make, retain heat during the night and remain cool when the weather is hot.

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“In ordinary houses cement and raw materials are very expensive and have to be brought in, they are not found in my village,” said Bassirou Coulibaly, a Nubian Vault Mason from Niéna, a rural community in the south of Mali.

Alex Dembele is national co-ordinator for the Nubian Vault Association.

“The advantages of working with (the) NVA are not only a reduction in construction costs,” he said. “The houses have a very stable climate all year round… (and) it also provides employment for the community,” he added.

According to the association, as of September 2015 380 Nubian Vault masons – in Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Benin, Ghana and Mauritania – had been trained, with more than 1,800 Nubian Vault buildings finished in 700 locations.

“Our slogan is: Roof, job, market place,” Dembele said. “The technology is in place to be able to pass these skills onto a great number of people,” he added.

The association says that 20,000 people have benefited from their buildings, with around 55,000 tons of CO2 equivalent potentially saved when compared to other techniques.

The association also states that its economic impact on “local economies” is more than €2 million ($2.27 million).

For Coulibaly, there have been economic as well as housing benefits. “Once I’ve finished building my house, I have other clients waiting,” he said.

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Source: cnbc


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