(3BL Media/Justmeans) – According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), a sustainability revolution in the global financial industry is quietly gathering pace. A range of financial institutions are beginning to incorporate sustainable development considerations in their financial decision-making. Investors increasingly realize the need for such forward-looking approach to protect the global economy from climate-induced financial distress.
France recently introduced the world’s first mandatory climate disclosure requirements for institutional investors. The sovereign wealth fund of Norway is divesting from coal. South Africa has incorporated sustainable development into listing requirements on its stock exchange. The new banking regulations in Brazil require accounting for environmental risk. The Swedish government is pushing an ambitious sustainability agenda featuring a series of proposals aimed at improving information for investors.
Private financial companies are also preparing to act decisively on the sustainability front. Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager, is launching a fossil-fuel-free index. Axa, one of the largest insurance companies in the world, has pledged to divest from coal. Altogether, institutions worth more than $2.6 trillion have committed to divest from fossil fuels.
Axa’s CEO Henri de Castries said that divesting from coal helps remove risk from investment portfolios and contributes to building a more sustainable society. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney recently said in a speech at Lloyd’s of London that a delayed transition to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius would increase risks to financial stability.
McKinsey and the Carbon Trust have estimated that 30 to 40 percent of the value of fossil-fuel companies could be endangered because of a “carbon bubble,” or an overvaluation of fossil-fuel reserves. The European Parliament has established an informal cross-party grouping, called the Carbon Group, which aims to tackle the carbon bubble and promote sustainable finance. Within the European council, a number of countries, most notably Sweden and France, are working for greater integration of sustainability metrics into financial markets.
To help ease the high unemployment levels throughout the continent, organisations need to be innovative and create new commercially viable business opportunities.
eWaste has captured the headlines in recent months and is no doubt an attractive proposition for companies to help stimulate economy growth.
At the recent national consultative conference on electronic and electrical waste (eWaste) management, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa reaffirmed Government’s commitment to working with the waste sector in meeting its challenges.
The conference focused on issues around the contextualisation of the eWaste challenges in South Africa, the management of eWaste in Municipalities, eWaste Recycling and Policy and legislative environment. eWaste makes up 5 – 8 percent of municipal solid waste in South Africa and is growing at a rate three times faster than any other form of waste.
Xperien CEO Wale Arewa says the challenge in the proper management of eWaste is a result of a lack of recycling infrastructure, poor legislation and inadequate funding. “The eWaste sector is a catalyst for socio-economic development, it is the source of new businesses and jobs.”
“As part of the overall concern for the environment, the Department of Environmental Affairs has already seen many new job opportunities created in other areas of recycling such as tyres and plastic packaging. Neither of these, however, have the same challenges as those faced by eWaste,” says Arewa.
He says the range of products to be recycled, the diversity of their contents and recoverable components and materials, provide significant challenges and present hazards that need careful management.
Company executives need to consider regulatory compliance, cost and more importantly, the protection of company information. eWaste disposal challenges facing companies in today’s environment include legislative requirements, compliance to Protection of Personal Information Act 2013 (PoPI 2013), the National Environmental Waste Management Act 2008 (NEMWA 2008) and the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 (CPA).
Echoing a warning by the e-Waste Association of South Africa, Arewa says Africa is becoming a dumping ground for America and Europe under the guise of donations. “If we do not manage our eWaste, South Africa could find itself and its people in a high risk health and environmental crisis.”
This is aggravated by low levels of consumer awareness as well as unregulated disposal, collection and recycling eWaste processes, amongst others. Research shows that unrestricted use of the informal sector to handle eWaste can create more problems than it solves. Metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic are all present in eWaste. For those workers who spend endless days exposed to dangerous levels of toxic elements with little to no protection, while breaking down electronics by hand, are at huge risk.
“eWaste contains a number of hazardous materials, which if not handled correctly, present huge risks to those who process eWaste as well. That’s why we believe any initiative to boost employment in the field of eWaste needs careful consideration. There is certainly an increase in eWaste disposal compliance awareness, customers realise this importance of choosing the correct partner for eWaste disposal,” he adds.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for example forecasts that obsolete computers, both in China and in South Africa, will rise by 500% in 2020 compared to their 2007 levels. Statistics show for instance that developed countries will increase their exports of eWaste into China and Africa by 50-80%.
“The World Bank is one of many international institutions that fully appreciate the importance of evaluating the impact of any initiative,” says Dr Peter Tobin of IACT-Africa, one of the companies helping Xperien explore the implications of the opportunities and threats presented by eWaste.
The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative estimates the construction trades contribute as much as 30% of all global greenhouse gas emissions and consume up to 40% of all energy used worldwide. Today, climate change is having a powerful effect on how buildings are designed and constructed.
Marius Esterhuyze is the major accounts manager at Autodesk, which markets 3 dimensional design software to architects around the world. He recently told a reporter for Business Day Live , “[D]evelopers need to move away from industrial and commercial construction modeled on ideals. Buildings, manufacturing plants and business parks have to be designed to withstand the infrastructure challenges that face (the world).”
“Good, sustainable building design starts with a clear understanding of the climate of the building site. Building Information Modelling allows for data to be captured and displayed through visualization tools that can help to consider factors such as temperature, humidity, wind conditions, and sky conditions in a design,” he added. “The achievement of a net zero energy build should always be the end goal.”
Mr Esterhuyze said a key to Autodesk’s software was how it made iterative testing possible. “Today’s software technology allows architects and engineers to iteratively test, analyse and improve on building design. This means that performance, including energy consumption, airflow ventilation, solar radiation, water use, can be optimized before a single brick is laid.”
Reducing water use is becoming critical to sustainable building design. Skillful design and planning can reduce water usage by 50% or more. Strategies include water efficient fixtures and equipment, water efficient irrigation and landscaping, recycling water so it can be used more than once, and capturing rainwater. Purification of water on-site and advanced septic systems have also been shown to be effective.
The Green Building Council of South Africa announced this week the 100th building in the country have now received a 5 Star rating. It says it is now cheaper to build a 4 Star building than it is to build one that with a lower environmental and sustainability rating. The GBCSA has its own suite of design software that incorporates strategies for sustainable building practices.
According to Brian Wilkerson, the CEO of the Council, “A 4-star rating refers to best practice. It is something that all buildings can aspire to and achieve by using commonplace green methods and it is not relatively expensive. He said being green should be a “given” in any construction today.
Designing buildings that are energy efficient and conserve precious resources like water is made easier by advanced computer programs like AutoDesk and Edge from GBCSA.
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The potential to power growth sustainably is there. Policy makers must just rise to the challenge, a new UN report says
AS Africa looks to keep economic growth numbers healthy and improve the well-being of its citizens, many of its initiatives have understandably tended to follow those undertaken by industrialised countries.
The challenge increasingly has been to fund such steps, such as a focus on manufacturing and export-oriented growth, in addition to other bottlenecks such as high-carbon emissions and destruction of the environment.
But a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) shows that a switch to green investments provides a huge opportunity for progress in a continent where nearly half of sub-Saharan Africans live in extreme poverty; three in four households have no grid power; and 70% do not have access to improved sanitation.
Currently a buzz phrase, green economies are those that achieve growth through investments that cut carbon emissions and pollution, in addition to using resources efficiently and protecting the environment for future generations.
To make its case to policymakers, the Green Economy Africa Synthesis Report offers staggering numbers obtained from its findings across 10 African countries, with the region, perhaps of necessity, identified as among the global front runners in leading the transition to green economies.
“Enormous sustainable, renewable, and untapped resources exist on this continent. Africa receives 325 days per year of sunlight and is using less than 7% of its hydroelectric potential, and less than 2% of its geothermal capacity,” UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said.
Mail and Guardian Africa picked out eight examples of other such staggering numbers from the report:
1: Under green investment scenarios, the national real GDP in fast-growing Kenya would increase by an estimated 12% by 2030. This would lead to an additional 3.1 million people being lifted out of poverty. One small solar LED lamp could for example save a Kenyan family more than $1 a week, in a country where an average 13% of income is spent on kerosene.
2: Investments in expanding solar and wind capacity in Senegal would by 2035 create up to 30,000 additional jobs. This would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 9%, or about 27 million tonnes, helping the country realise its undoubted potential.
3: South Africa, which has been battling a water crisis, could save billions of tonnes of water if it makes further investments in natural resource management, especially land restoration. This could create up to 737,000 new jobs, helping alleviate a persistent unemployment headache in Africa’s richest economy. Making energy efficient improvements could further reduce electricity demand by 5% in 2030.
4: Renewable energy investment scenarios in Burkina Faso, which is in the throes of Sahel region desertification, could save up to 100,000 hectares of forest area by 2050, reducing carbon dioxide by 16,000 tonnes. If the country invests further in green electricity generation, it could see this category rise from 20% in 2012 to 60% in 2050.
5: Struggling Egypt could save 30% of its energy consumption if it used efficiency measures. The North African country currently consumes 33 billon KW. And just replacing faulty farm pipelines and introducing drip irrigation could save up to 40% water losses, as it frets over downstream use of its lifeline Nile River.
6: In power-choked but quick-growing Rwanda, expanding its grid-connected renewable energy supply could replace its emergency diesel generators, in place since 2004. The country has an installed off-grid hydro capacity of just 1.54 MW, showing just how power deficit economically cripples countries, from Rwanda to South Africa
7: In Mauritius, a green economy scenario results in over 25% more employment that in a conventional growth scenario. Green sectors tend to be more labour intensive than resource intensive, hence creating space for new jobs in a continent where 11 million African join the labour market every year.
8: In Africa, where agriculture accounts for 32% of its GDP and supports the livelihoods of 80% of its population, investments in green practices such as organic agriculture could provide a cash boom. Uganda for example increased its certified organic exports from $3.7 million in 2004 to $22.8 million four years later. The global market for organic foods and beverages is expected to grow to $105 billion by 2015, from $62.9 billion in 2011.
Source: Mail and Guardian Africa
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