Jamble Magazine Green Economy – Green News

September 16, 2018

Agropolis: The Future of Urban Agriculture?

Category: Green Earth,Green Stories – Admin 6:30 pm

Environmental News Network: Last week at the Nordic Exceptional Trendshop 2010, held in Denmark, one presentation  took urban agriculture to the next level. A collaboration with NASA, you might even say it launched urban agriculture out of this world, and into the future.The idea is called Agropolis, a combination grocery store, restaurant, and farm all in one building, employing the most advanced technologies in hydroponic, aeroponic, and aquaponic farming.

As it stands, Agropolis is still just a mere idea, with little more than some cool graphics to back it up. But regardless, Agropolis ushers forth a new wave of thinking about urban food systems.The team behind the Agropolis concept proposes that this new generation of store would be an ecosystem  unto itself, a finely tuned orchestra of parts in balance, that would not only be totally environmentally sustainably and friendly, but also just plain producing the freshest food around.

But what would all these innovative, NASA-inspired state of the art hydroponics and other high-tech solutions look like in practice? According to the vision of Agropolis, a customer would walk into a store that is covered in green. Vegetables growing on the walls as far as the eye can see. And below the floors one would see tilapia swimming, working in tandem with vegetables in an aquaponic system. You would buy a tomato that was literally just picked, from a plant that you can see in front of you. The store would bring a whole new meaning to local, and one-up the notion of hyper local, since all the food available to eat or buy would have traveled zero miles from the farm to the store. At most, just a few steps.

It all sounds grand, and more than a little space-age. But the challenge given to the team that came up with Agropolis wasn’t entirely outside reality: Create a farm without relying on arable land. As the Earth’s healthy soil and other resources dwindle, it may not be out of the realm of possibility that a system like Agropolis be needed, particularly in urban areas. And while urban agriculture has come a long way, incorporating all kinds of creative and innovative ideas and technologies, in order to make it work on a large and global scale it may be time for something as futuristic and high-tech as Agropolis.

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U.K. unprepared for climate change, must do more to adapt — report

Category: Green Earth,Green Stories – Admin 6:30 pm

Climatewire: The United Kingdom is woefully unprepared for the inevitable impacts of climate change, despite efforts to curb carbon emissions. It must quickly do far more to prepare for impacts on water, weather, resources and health, a key government advisory body said today.

The adaptation subcommittee of the independent Committee on Climate Change, created by the 2008 Climate Change Act, said a lot of preparatory work has already been done, but there are scant signs of concrete actions actually being taken, despite the fact that there is clear evidence Britain’s climate is already changing.

“The U.K. must start acting now to prepare for climate change. If we wait, it will be too late,” said adaptation subcommittee Chairman John Krebs. “It is not necessarily about spending more but about spending smart and investing to save. If we get it right, we can save money in the short term and avoid large extra costs in the future. The time has come to move from talking to acting.”

The report notes that the problems at home would not just stem from local or regional climate change effects. Across the world, the impacts would alter trade flows and population movements, and with them, political networks.

The timing of the report, the first of an annual series, is in part designed as a clarion call to the United Kingdom’s new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government to keep its nerve on climate change action when it issues a major spending review next month.

Facing crippling debts inherited from the banking crisis and the global recession, the government, which took power in May after 13 years of Labour rule, has set its sights on massive spending cuts in a bid to quickly bring the budget deficit down.

But the report runs strenuously in the opposite direction. It says adaptation should not take the place of efforts to cap and cut climate-changing carbon emissions — the United Kingdom has a legal goal to cut them by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. Up to now, adaptation had been the poor relation and urgently needed to be bolstered, the committee said.

An attempt to spur government planning

Even if global talks on peaking and starting serious reductions of carbon emissions within the next decade do come to fruition, there remains a 50-50 chance that average temperatures would rise by 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by the end of the century, with resulting major impacts on water, ecosystems, food, human settlements and health, the report says.

It says average temperatures in central England have risen by 1 degree Celsius since 1970 — and by 0.8 degrees in Scotland and Northern Ireland since 1980. Meanwhile, seasons have been arriving on average 11 days earlier since the 1970s.

Seas have been rising, coastlines eroding, species moving steadily north, and heat waves becoming more frequent, and there have been more intense rainfall events. Insured losses from weather-related events currently cost the United Kingdom £1.5 billion a year on average, and events like the 2003 heat wave that killed 2,000 people in the country could become the norm by the end of the century.

“By planning ahead and taking timely adaptation action, the UK could halve the costs and damages from moderate amounts of warming. Forward planning may also allow the UK to take advantage of opportunities, for example developing new products and services for a warmer climate,” the report says.

It says the government has to set clear goals on adaptation; provide timely and practical information on why and how to go about meeting them; and ensure that climate change adaptation is integral to all planning, infrastructure, resource and building design decisions and relevant policies.

For instance, new buildings have to be designed to be able to withstand weather extremes like heat waves and floods as well as minimize water usage, while work needs to be done to climate-proof as far as possible existing buildings.

Also, new developments should also not be sited on likely future floodplains or risk simply shifting the problem onto another area. Energy, water, transport, waste and communications systems must also have climate change resilience built into their construction and locations, the report says.

A note of caution to budget-cutters

But given that natural disasters will occur either with greater intensity or frequency or both because of climate change, emergency planning has to have the probabilities and likely consequences built in, specifically to reduce the impacts and ensure continuing care for the most vulnerable groups.

At the same time, business continuity plans should be drawn up to try to make sure that inevitable disruptions could be minimized as far as possible, the report adds.

There have already been reports that the government is contemplating backing away from some big-ticket renewable energy projects, such as a multibillion-pound major tidal barrage across the mouth of the River Severn — seen by some as crucial to meeting steep renewable energy commitments but by others as environmental hooliganism.

Ministerial budgets are already being cut to the bone in what some observers describe as a desperate slash-and-burn exercise, with extra spending on adaptation well down the list of priorities.

Given the almost total silence from the government on green issues in recent months, there are fears that other climate change-related projects could be in the firing line, despite declarations from Prime Minister David Cameron from the outset that his government intends to be the greenest ever.

“Climate change will have a massive impact on us all, so it is essential that the coalition takes urgent steps to protect us from its impacts, while pulling out all the stops to prevent more extreme temperature rises,” said climate campaigner Craig Bennett of environmental group Friends of the Earth.

“Failure to invest in climate action would be a dangerous and expensive mistake, leaving a far bigger bill for future generations to pick up. Ministers mustn’t shortchange the climate when the spending review is unveiled next month,” he added.

Jeremy Lovell, E&E European correspondent

September 15, 2018

Clean energy trade dispute with China is amplified in political season

Category: Green Earth,Green Stories – Admin 9:49 pm

Climatewire: Small business coalitions are blaming the Senate for American job losses resulting from a failure to embrace climate legislation that would build up U.S. markets for clean energy technology. Further, the political stalemate opens the door to costly U.S.-China trade disputes as China steams ahead to expand its green technology manufacturing base.

“So long as you have industries propped up by government subsidies, you’re going to have these fights,” said Tim Greeff, political director of the Clean Economy Network, which joins energy financiers and environmental groups.

Companies working on wind and solar power projects, advanced batteries and cutting-edge technology for generating cleaner electricity aim to produce their products cheaply enough to compete in energy markets dominated by oil and coal. For the most part, the United States, Europe and China subsidize nascent technologies through loans and grants to companies and tax breaks for consumers.

But China is now under fire from U.S. labor unions for being too heavy-handed and using unfair trade practices that benefit Chinese companies at the expense of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

The United Steelworkers last week filed a 5,800-page petition with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) that called on the Obama administration to launch a formal investigation into whether China has ignored international trade agreements to help its clean energy technology sector. It cited a fleet of government export subsidies, including low interest rates and access to cheap land, that allegedly give China’s lower-cost manufacturers an unfair advantage.

A fight over China’s role in luring away U.S. clean energy jobs to a cheaper labor market and a growing Asian consumer base places the White House on the hot seat just ahead of congressional elections in November.

If Congress passes legislation putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions, contends Greeff of the Clean Economy Network, capital would stay in the United States to fund domestic manufacturers of low-emissions technology. It would dampen the political pressure to battle China’s energy policy at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“The real question is, when those markets are created for new emerging technologies, will we be able to capitalize?” he said.

Does China gain jobs from climate bill’s fall?

Greeff’s group and others, including the Small Business Majority, American Businesses for Clean Energy and the Main Street Alliance, issued a report yesterday claiming China and other countries “gained more than $11 billion in job-creating clean energy investments” in the two months since the U.S. Senate abandoned climate legislation in July. According to modeling data, the groups say nearly 2 million jobs have been lost because of the Senate’s inaction.

The trade union’s claims about China’s trade practices are grabbing some attention on Capitol Hill.

In a statement yesterday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) warned that China is positioned to corner alternative energy markets in their early stages through illegal trade practices. The senator called on the USTR to investigate whether China’s system of propping up domestic industries violates WTO rules. China’s economic powerhouse is the fastest-growing new member of the WTO.

“Over the past decade, China is accused of providing its local firms with assistance ranging from export subsidies for Chinese alternative energy firms to export restrictions on key components and resources needed to develop green technologies,” Gillibrand said.

She cited China’s practice of working with U.S. and other foreign companies on joint ventures under the assumption that Chinese companies can adopt Western technologies. “This potentially undermines years of American investments in research into clean energy technology and makes America less competitive,” she said.

The WTO prohibits export subsidies that give domestic companies an advantage when they sell into the global market. It also restricts tariffs and subsidies that could thwart foreign competition.

According to the union’s complaint, China subsidizes companies based on export performance or on the use of Chinese-made goods during the manufacturing process. It notes that one program, called “Ride the Wind,” grants access to loan benefits and connections to the power grid if a wind power project can show it uses Chinese-made equipment. China gives preferential treatment to foreign companies that use Chinese-built products, according to the petition.

Export restrictions and ‘local content’ rules

The union also asserts that China has imposed export restrictions on rare earth minerals needed to build wind turbines, solar panels and advanced batteries. China is rich in those resources, the petition notes, and export restrictions increase prices for companies outside of China and create a new incentive for U.S. companies to build factories in China, closer to the minerals supply. China uses export quotas, taxes and a complicated licensing process to restrict mineral exports.

The complaint also asserts that China rigs bidding processes for wind power projects by forcing consideration of “local content” in the project. Much of this is done through power purchase agreements with local governments, which the union asserts don’t fall under a WTO exemption allowing “local content” discrimination for government procurement.

The politics of clean energy jobs played out Monday, as President Obama called and congratulated the executives of A123Systems Inc. for opening North America’s largest lithium-ion auto battery manufacturing plant in Linovia, Mich.

The plant was funded through a $249 million federal stimulus grant and a host of state incentives. China also has a big share in the battery manufacturing, but analysts say the giant U.S. car market and the cost of shipping batteries are major incentives for building factories in North America.

Academic observers and trade attorneys are taking a wait-and-see attitude about the merits of a potential WTO case against China and the Obama administration’s willingness to pursue it. But with the economy and job creation dominating the midterm election season, the union’s petition has stirred up discussions among labor unions, environmental groups and foreign policy experts trying to get a handle on China’s impact on the U.S. economy.

The BlueGreen Alliance unites nine labor unions, including the USW, the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council. “Every day America delays action is another day that China capitalizes on jobs created in the production of clean energy technologies that could and should be developed, manufactured and installed in the United States,” it said.

Who wins and who loses?

But not everyone agrees that, without China’s heavy-handed clean energy subsidies, the United States would build thousands of new factories to assemble wind turbines and solar panels. American science and high-tech ingenuity are positioned to profit on their role at the start of the supply chain — for example, a U.S. company with a patent for a low-cost solar wafer or silicon technology.

Michael Levi, an energy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, challenged the union’s underlying assumptions. “Indeed if the United States were to insist that all parts of the solar value chain stay in the United States, the result might not be more jobs, it might be less,” he wrote in a Sept. 9 blog post. “Unable to reduce the cost of cell and module manufacturing, the cost of solar might stay too high, reducing the overall solar market, and with its jobs in wafer and silicon production, too.”

Other sectors work the same way, he said. “China assembles computers that used to be made in the United States. Does anyone think that this means America is losing from the computer and IT revolutions? Of course not.”

If China and the United States focus on their strengths, Levi contends it’s a win-win for solar power.

Still, on his blog yesterday, Levi challenged the notion that the United States automatically wins if Chinese manufacturing enables cheaper clean energy. Producing cheaper electricity made by Chinese-made solar panels would stimulate areas of the U.S. economy that use solar power, but it would hurt U.S.-based solar producers. Whether China’s position in the solar market is a net positive for the U.S. economy “is an open question,” he said.

“Chinese industrial policy may give us nice cheap solar panels in the near term,” Levi said, “but if it drives competitors out of the market, and China then withdraws its supports, things could be much uglier in the long term.”

China’s dominance in silicon-based photovoltaic panels could damage a rising U.S. thin film solar industry, Levi said for example, which could make solar more expensive in the longer term.

Joel Kirkland, E&E reporter

Ecuador passes the hat for Amazon protection plan

Category: Green Stories – Admin 1:41 pm

Reuters: Ecuador is launching a one-of-a-kind initiative to protect a jungle reserve that contains not only a huge variety of plants and animals but 20 percent of the country’s crude oil. In exchange for not drilling for crude in a 200,000-hectare area of Yasuni national park, the government is asking rich nations, foundations and individuals to give it $3.6 billion. That’s about half of what President Rafael Correa says Ecuador would get from drilling in this part of Yasuni, where the …

CBI raises the temperature on heat incentives

Category: Green Stories – Admin 1:41 pm

Business Green: The CBI is urging the government to develop a clear strategy to reduce carbon emissions from heat, including encouraging the use of surplus industrial heat to warm homes. At its energy conference in London today, the CBI launched The Heat is on: Delivering an integrated heat policy, a report which says cutting emissions from heat is crucial to meeting legally-binding carbon reduction targets by 2050 and mitigating rising energy costs. "Heating for domestic homes and industry …

Women More Likely To Accept Global Warming

Category: Green Stories – Admin 12:52 am

redOrbit: Women tend to believe the scientific consensus on global warming more than men, according to a study by a Michigan State University researcher. The findings, published in the September issue of the journal Population and Environment, challenge common perceptions that men are more scientifically literate, said sociologist Aaron M. McCright. "Men still claim they have a better understanding of global warming than women, even though women’s beliefs align much more closely with the …

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