Showing posts with label EU. Show all posts
Showing posts with label EU. Show all posts

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Waste not, want not

Waste not, want not.

Did you grow up with this homily? I seemed to hear it quite often when I grew up — mostly when I pushed vegetables around on my dinner plate. But then, I grew up in a time and place that is now foreign, even to me.

When I was five, I lived on a dairy farm and attended a rural one-teacher school. Electricity came from the diesel generator, water came from rainwater tanks, and the school even had a horse paddock for the couple of kids who rode horses to school.

That was post-WWII Australia — a foreign land compared with my current life in Sydney, one of the world's most liveable cities.

So, why am I thinking about "waste not, want not" when I could be thinking about Luke Nguyen's new restaurant?

It was triggered by this Eurostat data that ranks European countries on their use of renewable energy. One column of data shows the proportion of their energy that comes from 'Biomass and renewable wastes'. Here's a graph of the top countries.

Share of biomass/wastes in gross inland energy consumption, 2009

Latvia already gets 29% of its energy from biomass and renewable wastes!

These countries are so much better-prepared for the future than countries like Australia where we rely so heavily on fossil fuels for our energy. Less than 1% of our energy comes from biomass/renewable wastes.

It seems to be taking enormous effort for Australia to move to more sustainable energy, however our new carbon tax, starting 1 July, will make a difference. For example, it will give an incentive for major rubbish dumps to harvest their methane emissions and generate power, instead of letting the methane leak into the atmosphere where it contributes to global warming.

Another helpful measure is our State target to increase the proportion of ethanol in petrol. Ethanol in NSW is made as a byproduct from processing wheat into protein and starch. After these food elements are produced, ethanol is made, and finally the waste from ethanol production is turned into feed supplements for cattle. Waste not, want not. 

Nevertheless, it will take us decades to catch up with countries that already get more than 10% of their energy from biomass and renewable waste. Our efforts now will build a bridge to the new Clean Energy Economy that will appear when the Dinosaur Economy based on fossil fuels collapses.

Human societies are fast approaching the limits of some critical resources. The earth has only limited quantities of oil and gas. It is foolish to waste things that are in short supply.  Indeed, it is foolish to waste anything at all.

In a world of constrained resources, coming generations will re-learn what our grandparents knew. They will live again in a world where "waste not, want not" is the rule to live by.


News from the Transformation tab. 

Vale, the world’s second-largest mining company, and leading Australian renewable energy company Pacific Hydro will jointly build and operate two wind farms in Brazil’s northeast. The power produced will be used by Vale in its mining operations. Source: Pacific Hydro.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Small island nations: Throw them a lifeline

Everyone loses with climate change. Many countries will lose productive farmland to desertification while others will lose lives and infrastructure to extreme storms or flooding. Small Island States will lose the most, because their homelands will be engulfed by rising sea levels.

Low-lying Pacific island nations, such as Kirabati and Tuvalu, and the Maldives in the Indian ocean, are set to disappear altogether when sea levels rise a meter. 

We know that someone will have to throw them a lifeline.

New Zealand is the first country to throw a lifeline to its neighbours. Since 2001, a limited quota of citizens of Fiji, Tonga, Kiribati and Tuvalu have been able to enter New Zealand under the Pacific Access Category, effectively as environmental refugees displaced by climate change.

OK, it's a miserable quota which make it more of a gossamer thread than a lifeline, but Australia has been even less forthcoming. When Tuvalu requested immigration assistance for its population of 12,000 to move to Australia, the Australian government said its humanitarian obligations were to people who require ''assistance urgently''.

That's not exactly creative thinking, is it? And far from humanitarian.

These small countries are doing what they can to help themselves. The Maldives has established a sovereign wealth fund, drawn from its tourist revenue, to be used to buy land overseas and finance the relocation of the country's population of 350,000. They also aim to be the first country in the world to be carbon neutral.

But direct action is not all they are doing to help themselves, Small Island States have become a force to be reckoned with in international climate negotiations. At Durban, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) joined with the EU and Least Developed Countries to play a lead role in forging agreement to  keep the Kyoto process alive.

Going into the Rio Earth Summit, AOSIS argues that the Blue Economy (ocean-based economic life) needs as much attention as the Green Economy.

If these Small Island States are regarded as expendable collatoral damage it will be a loss for all of us. Their plight can be a catalyst for preventative action that would benefit everyone. Afterall, degraded ocean life and rising sea levels will affect most countries, not just the Small Island States.

The lifeline we need is preventative action, not migration quotas that try to deal with the mess.


News of the day on the Transformations menu tab.

The Maldives plans to be the world's first carbon neutral nation by 2020. It has set a mandatory target to generate at least 60% of its electricity from solar power by 2020. The latest initiative, funded by Japan, will install 675kW of solar power at schools and other public facilities. Source: PowerEngineering.