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In the headlines: Australia's low carbon leaders and London plans to become a smart city

Date
11 March 2013
In the headlines: Australia's low carbon leaders and London plans to become a smart city

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Global

The chances of the world holding temperature rises to 2C – the level of global warming considered "safe" by scientists – appear to be fading fast with US scientists reporting the second-greatest annual rise in CO2 emissions in 2012. Carbon dioxide levels measured at Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii jumped by 2.67 parts per million (ppm) in 2012 to 395ppm, said Pieter Tans, who leads the greenhouse gas measurement team for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The record was an increase of 2.93ppm in 1998. The Guardian, March 8.

Institutional investors such as pension funds and insurance companies could provide up to half the finance needed to develop renewable energy projects through to 2035 if policy barriers can be overcome and short-term investment practices reformed. That is according to a new report by the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), which argues that the long-term, reliable returns offered by green energy should align with institutional investors' objectives, rather than those seeking short term gains. BusinessGreen, March 7.

Australia

Climate change was a major driving force behind a string of extreme weather events that alternately scorched and soaked large sections of Australia in recent months, according to a report issued by the government’s Climate Commission. A four-month heat wave during the Australian summer culminated in January in bush fires that tore through the eastern and southeastern coasts of the country, where most Australians live. Those record-setting temperatures were followed by torrential rains and flooding in the more densely populated states of New South Wales and Queensland that left at least six people dead and caused roughly $2.43 billion in damage along the eastern seaboard. New York Times, March 4.

A team at Crikey has put together a list of the top 25 business chiefs, lawyers, bankers, regulators and bureaucrats it believes are doing the heavy lifting to shift Australia to a low-carbon economy, from its current dubious position as the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases per capita. Says Crikey‘s deputy editor Cathy Alexander, these are the people who “write the rules” and who control the green purse strings. Renew Economy, March 5. List in full: The Power Index.

China

The $77 billion solar-energy industry is forecast to expand the most since 2011, as China becomes the biggest market for the first time and drives annual global installations to a record. New generation capacity will rise about 14 percent this year to 34.1 gigawatts, equal to about eight atomic reactors, according to the average estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. That would beat the 4.4 percent growth in 2012, when demand shrank in Italy and France after subsidies were cut. Bloomberg, March 8.

Environmental protection and food safety were highlighted among issues concerning people's livelihood in Premier Wen Jiabao's Government Work Report delivered to the National People's Congress on Tuesday. With dense smog and haze covering more than 10 provinces five times in January, and half of the country's groundwater polluted as revealed by media reports in February, environmental issues have triggered continued anxiety. Wen addressed the issue in his suggestions to the country's new leaders. "The government should take solid preventive and regulating measures to promote changes in the mode of production and lifestyle, should be determined to solve prominent environmental pollution problems that concern the public interest, such as airborne, water or soil pollution, and should give hope to the public with practical action: improving environmental quality and safe guarding people's health," he said. China Daily, March 6.

Europe

Coal fired power plants in Europe should be banned by 2040 as their emissions cause high levels of sickness, health campaigners have warned. The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) says the pollutants from burning coal cost the EU €43 billion a year. The elderly and the young are at particular risk, with lung damage sustained in childhood reducing the chances of achieving maximum lung function in adult life. The pollution also increases the risk of blood clots and strokes. Significantly, it has found that the effects of the pollution which coal incineration causes are not confined to people living close to power stations, but can affect entire populations in varying degrees. RTCC, March 8.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Thursday that time was of the essence if Germany was to shift to renewable energy and power intensive industries should expect cuts to their benefits and exemptions. Merkel's ambitious switch to green energy from nuclear, known as the 'Energiewende,' is seen as a key domestic policy of her second term. Renewables are expected to account for 35 percent of German power in 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. Reuters, March 7.

India

The new and renewable energy sector is estimated to have created over 50,000 direct jobs in the last three years. The job creation has taken place in off-grid and other applications of the sector, according to information made available by the ministry of new and renewable energy. It is estimated that employment for nearly 40 people is generated during erection and commissioning of a 1-2 mega watt photovoltaic project. This number increases by approximately 15 for every additional 1 mega watt capacity. In the case of solar thermal projects, it is estimated that up to 500 personnel are employed in a 20 mega watt capacity power project. In last three years, 419.21 MUs of solar energy has been generated. The Times of India, March 6.

Welspun Energy outlines $2.72bn investment for renewable power generation in India. The company, as part of the plan, is expected to install 1,750MW renewable power generating assets over the next three years. Welspun borrowed INR 8.85bn ($161m) from a group of banks led by Central Bank of India in non-recourse financing to fund the development plans, reported Live Mint. The company will invest INR30bn ($0.54bn) in solar and wind projects for the year 2013, with a development pipeline of 200MW. Power Engineering, March 7.

North America

Almost 90 per cent of insurance companies lack a comprehensive plan to address climate change and fewer than half of them view it as a likely source of financial losses, according to a report. Only 23 of 184 insurers surveyed demonstrated a “comprehensive climate change strategy” and 88 said they consider climate change a future loss driver, Boston-based Ceres said in a report. “Climate change exists, it's happening, it's going to have an impact,” Mike Kreidler, Washington State insurance commissioner, said in a phone interview. “It has the potential of being a real game changer” for investments and underwriting. Industrywide, insured losses from natural disasters in the US reached $US58 billion in 2012, more than double the average from 2000 to 2011, according to reinsurer Munich Re. Superstorm Sandy, last year's most costly event, caused insured losses of about $US25 billion, Munich Re said. Sydney Morning Herald, March 8.

The U.S. sold more renewable-energy and power-management products to China in 2011 than it imported, contradicting wide-held views that the Asian nation is becoming the world’s dominant supplier, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. U.S. suppliers had a $1.63 billion trade surplus for solar manufacturing equipment, specialty materials, power-management control systems and other high-margin products, according to a report from the Philadelphia-based nonprofit group. A total of $8.5 billion of clean energy goods and services were exchanged between the two countries in 2011, the last year for which data are available. Bloomberg, March 6.

UK

London has been officially selected as one of only eight cities around the world to host a race as part of the upcoming Formula E electric car racing series. The capital beat stiff competition from 23 cities around the world that expressed an interest in hosting one of the 10 races planned for next year. It now joins Rome, Los Angeles, Miami, Beijing, Putrajaya, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro as the selected locations for the inaugural season. Formula E Holdings, the promoter of the FIA Formula E Championship, said two more races would be announced at a later date. BusinessGreen, March 11.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has unveiled a push to turn London into a “smart city” with technology boosting its transport, administration and infrastructure. The “Smart London” board was unveiled on Friday on the Mayor’s behalf by Deputy Mayor for Business Kit Malthouse, who is tasked with implementing the board’s recommendations. It will be chaired by Imperial College professor of innovation and entrepreneurship David Gann and will investigate ways that London could use technology better to become a better city. Other board members include LSE’s urban studies professor, Tech City chief Joanna Shields and Intel VP Martin Curley. London Loves Business, March 4.

Electric Vehicles

Beijing is set to introduce a series of new policies designed to accelerate uptake of electric cars and improve the city's air quality. According to state media reports, officials are working on plans to introduce a new maximum purchase subsidy of 120,000 yuan (£12,850) for electric cars, while also allowing electric vehicles to obtain licence plates without participating in the city's plate lottery. Chen Guiru, deputy director of the Beijing New Energy Auto Development Centre, told local news agencies that the city will also expand public charging facilities to cater for the predicted 5,000 electric cars that are expected to hit Beijing's roads this year, of which about 3,000 will be taxis and buses. BusinessGreen, March 8.

LED Lighting

A four-year contract to install LED lighting across the transport network in Paris will see work begin in April this year. RATP, the company that runs the transport network in Paris, France, has awarded multi-year contracts worth a total of EUR 11 million to install LED lighting across its properties. The overall project involves the replacement of the 250,000 light points in 302 metro stations and 66 RER stations with LED lighting. The tender was divided into six lots, of which five were awarded to a partnership between Philips and French professional lighting company Solutions Techniques d’Eclairage Professionnel (Step). The sixth lot went to Soitec, a French company best known for its work on semiconductor materials. LEDs Magazine, March 5.

Changing the lightbulbs could help supermarkets reduce the estimated 300,000 tonnes of food waste they produce each year, according to one lighting company. Welsh firm Sedna LED reckons illuminating fresh produce with lightbulbs that emit heat causes food to sweat in its packaging, contributing to the food waste mountain that costs retailers millions of pounds each year. As a result, the company is arguing that in addition to cutting energy bills, LED lights could also help keep food fresh. BusinessGreen, March 8.

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