Sustainablog

This blog will cover some news items related to Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stewardship, Environmental management, etc.

24.3.07

Green parking schemes catch on across Britain


Green parking schemes catch on across Britain

AFP, 27 February 2007 - A decision by a London borough to introduce different rates for parking permits based on vehicle fuel emissions has led a string of other areas around Britain to follow suit, AFP has learnt.

A third of the British capital's 32 boroughs are now looking into similar schemes following a controversial decision by Richmond Council in south-west London last month that attracted both outrage and applause.

Before the end of May, the local authority in Camden, north-west London will adopt the new parking measures, while Lambeth, in the south, is set to vote on the measures this week.

Camden is also encouraging owners of electric vehicles to charge their batteries with power generated from renewable energy sources by setting up free charging points around the borough.

Some six out of 10 residents could pay less than the current 90 pounds (133 euros, 177 dollars) per year for their parking permits, the council said. The most polluting vehicles face an increase of 61 percent.

Affluent Richmond started the trend in January by adopting a seven-tiered payment structure for parking permits which will be brought in before May.

The scheme will offer free parking for electric cars but would see a 200 percent increase on current rates for the most polluting vehicles such as gas-guzzling four-wheel drives.

Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, has welcomed the initiative and called on other areas to take the same decision.

His call seems to have been heeded -- as well as Camden and Lambeth, the London boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, Tower Hamlets, Barking and Dagenham, Haringey, Southwark, Brent and Hackney are set to vary parking permit prices on the basis of emissions.

The trend has also caught on outside London -- the seaside towns of Brighton and Hove in south-east England last week agreed a 50 percent increase in the price of permits for the most polluting vehicles within a few months, taking it to 120 pounds.

This should affect around 18 percent of permit holders and the proceeds will be used to fund environmental projects, including green modes of transport, the council has said.

The city of Manchester, north-west England, has developed a green badge parking scheme, which allows drivers of eco-friendly vehicles to park in town at a significantly reduced rate.

Authorities there are hoping to carry out trials later this year.

York, in north-east England, is also offering motorists an eco-friendly carrot in the shape of a 50 percent reduction in the cost of residential parking permits for small and less polluting cars.

In London, Livingstone is looking to bring in a daily 25-pound charge on vehicles with high carbon dioxide emissions if they want to drive into the centre of the capital.

The controversial congestion charge road pricing scheme was set up four years ago to tackle traffic logjams and mounting pollution and was extended to west London earlier this month.

A substantial daily fee for lorries and coaches is also being mooted. In 2005, vehicles in Britain emitted an average of 168.1 grammes of carbon dioxide per kilometre, compared to a European average of 159.8 grammes.

U.S. alt-fuel vehicle sales set record, smash projections


U.S. alt-fuel vehicle sales set record, smash projections

Greenwire, 13 March 2007 - U.S. auto dealers sold a record 1.5 million alternative-fuel vehicles last year, beating automakers' sales expectations by 50 percent.

The robust 2006 sales bumped up the total number of hybrid gas-electric, ethanol, biodiesel and other alternative-fuel vehicles to 10.5 million, according to a report today by industry analyst R.L. Polk & Co. The report was commissioned by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM), a trade association that represents BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen.

The Washington, D.C.-based trade group reports that the nation's manufacturers are offering consumers 60 models of alternative-fuel vehicles, up from just 12 models in 2000. The 10.5 million alternative-fuel vehicles reported by Polk represents about 4 percent of the 240 million vehicles on the nation's roads today, said Monica Sakala, AAM's communications director.

"It would seem that market forces like gas prices would influence the sale of these vehicles," Sakala added.

But will 2007 be another banner year for alternative-fuel vehicles? An emerging trend in gasoline prices could be one strong indicator.

AAA, formerly the American Automobile Association, reported yesterday the average national price of gasoline has jumped 36 cents to $2.55 a gallon since the first week of February.

Ben Brockwell, an oil analyst with the Oil Price Information Service, which supplies fuel data to AAA, noted that U.S. oil demand for the past four weeks has been running 7 percent higher than the year-earlier period. He explained that production is not keeping pace with higher demand because of the seasonal switch to cleaner-burning summer gasoline blends at refineries.

"The combination of declining inventory and rising demand makes some worry there may not be enough of a gasoline supply cushion going into summer -- the heaviest gasoline demand season," he added.

Carmakers push for CO2-based taxation


Carmakers push for CO2-based taxation

EurActiv.com, 13 March 2007 - EU members must give up their sovereignty on taxation issues if they are serious about cutting greenhouse gases from cars, says the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA). A Commission proposal to harmonise tax rates on diesel, due 13 March, is also set to test EU countries' resolve.

A survey, presented by the car lobby on 12 March 2007, points to the fact that 11 EU countries have already taken steps to link their passenger car taxation to CO2 pollution, with "a significant influence on consumer behaviour and demand".

However, it notes that the current variety of different systems fails to send the clear market signal needed to mollify increasing consumer demand for bigger, safer and more powerful cars.

A harmonised tax system, completely based on cars' CO2 emissions, could tempt consumers to buy more environmentally friendly cars, with the potential to lower car- fleet average emissions by 5%, says ACEA.

A 2005 Commission proposal for an EU-wide car tax that would be based on CO2 up to 50% has been put on the backburner because of member states' opposition to greater EU co-operation on taxation issues.

But ACEA's spokeswoman Sigrid de Vries told EurActiv that dismissing this option purely because it touches upon the issue of taxation is "simply not good enough" if the EU wants to be a world leader on climate change.

"It may be politically easier to target the car industry but it is not necessarily the most effective," she said, noting that measures aimed at influencing demand and behaviour "are clearly lacking".

"All measures are needed – not only those aimed at developing new technologies…Car manufacturers have already created models that produce less than 120 grammes of CO2 per kilometre, but there is no market for them," she said, adding: "Taxes can create incentives for consumers. And, in the end, it's consumers that buy the cars."

Green group T&E (European Federation for Transport and Environment) has also noted how useful car taxes based on CO2 can be to promote the introduction of greener vehicles. But it also accuses the auto industry of trying to shirk its responsibilities by insisting on non-technological measures.

The Commission's new strategy on CO2 and cars, presented in February, calls on the Council to adopt its proposal on car taxation "without delay". In 2007, it should present a "thorough" impact assessment on how member states can facilitate compliance with mandatory targets through taxation.

The agreement of all 27 member states will also be needed to pass a Commission proposal, due on 13 March, to harmonise tax rates on commercial diesel and ensure that countries no longer place higher taxes on the more CO2-friendly diesel than on petrol. The proposal aims to stamp out so-called 'fuel tourism', where trucks deviate from their routes to fill up their tanks in states where fuel is cheaper, generating more greenhouse-gas emissions.

Links

EU official documents

Industry federations NGOs

Auto execs give nod to cap-and-trade policies


Auto execs give nod to cap-and-trade policies

E&E Daily, 15 March 2007 - Top executives from four of the world's largest automakers yesterday informed Congress they would support a mandatory cap-and-trade program to address global warming.

Under questioning from the House Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee, executives from Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor North America, General Motors Corp. and the Chrysler Group of DaimlerChrysler all said they would back a new U.S. climate law with cap-and-trade regulations.

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the full House Energy and Commerce Committee, asked for "yes or no" answers to the question of whether the companies would accept climate change regulations through a mandatory program that also included other sectors of the U.S. economy.

All said yes.

Rick Wagoner, chairman and CEO of GM, said his company would be open to climate regulations that cover transportation fuels "upstream" at the refinery gate -- a concept that to date has appeared in draft legislation offered from Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).

"To be honest, the devil is in the details," Wagoner added.

Responding to Dingell's inquiry, Toyota's Jim Press said: "We're open to considering any national program."

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the ranking member of the full committee and an opponent of mandatory climate programs such as a cap-and-trade system, said he was alarmed by the auto industry's positions.

"I'm not happy with that answer, but if that's your answer, that's your answer," Barton said.

The auto industry executives also urged lawmakers to address global warming through increased use of biofuels and other alternative fuels. They all signalled opposition to legislation that would increase corporate average fuel efficiency standards, also known as the CAFE program.

A 'major breakthrough'

Environmental Defense spokesman Tony Kreindler described the auto industry's support for a mandatory cap-and-trade program as a "major breakthrough."

"It's been the biggest hurdle in the debate," Kreindler said. "Having them on board changes the game."

In an interview, Dingell said the auto industry's perspective would help "develop a record."

Asked if their comments could improve the Democrats' chances of moving a cap-and-trade bill, Dingell replied, "We're not playing that game. What I want to know is how we're doing and what we're doing and how we're meeting our responsibility in terms of getting the Congress to have a workable response to the problems we have before us."

Also during the hearing, Dingell repeated his desire to shift away from the "old debate" over changing CAFE standards and instead focus on addressing climate change, most likely through a cap-and-trade plan.

Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), the former speaker of the House now serving as the top Republican on the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee, said the auto officials' viewpoint "opens the door to try to find out something that's workable."

While he has previously signalled opposition to a cap-and-trade bill, Hastert added: "I think we all want a good piece of legislation. We want to use all the resources we have. We want to make sure we can preserve American jobs. We want to make sure our automobiles are safe. So we have all these things we've got to deal with."

Ron Gettelfinger, the president of the United Automobile Workers of America, also appeared at the hearing and urged Congress to adopt an "economy-wide, mandatory tradable permits program" that affects industries across the U.S. economy.

Gettelfinger said legislation to increase CAFE standards would be the "least desirable" of the climate change options in front of lawmakers.

And the UAW president said the labor group would support legislation that forced cuts in the carbon intensity content of fuel, as well as mandates to increase the number of automobiles capable of using alternative fuels.

New WBCSD report calls for decisive, concerted, sustained actions to combat climate change


New report calls for decisive, concerted, sustained actions to combat climate change

Montreux, Switzerland, 21 March 2007 – Policy Directions to 2050: A business contribution to the dialogues on cooperative action ( 25.3 MB), launched today, asserts that the only way to combat climate change is through decisive, concerted and sustained actions between governments, businesses and consumers.

The publication, produced by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), identifies policy options to sustain economic growth while transforming the ways we access, produce and consume energy. Presented as an illustrative roadmap from which routes must be chosen, it explores policy ideas and concepts for the transition to a low greenhouse gas (GHG) economy. It calls for the development and deployment of leading-edge technologies through partnerships and incentives and an approach to mitigate long-term market risk and deliver secure benefits for large-scale, low-carbon, new-technology projects.

"Governments must start building the future policy frameworks, and it is necessary for us in business to begin to respond to those policies in time to meet the future emission reduction targets. We can not continue the 'you first' mentality. We need leadership and action by both governments and business," says WBCSD President Björn Stigson.

Policy Directions to 2050, launched at a key WBCSD members' meeting here, says that "international efforts on climate change must recognize the sovereignty of national energy policy decisions, but at the same time provide the necessary global context for those decisions and the tools to optimize GHG emissions management. Systematically decarbonizing the global energy mix will require a broad and efficient mix of policies and programs, and there is a need to learn from current approaches and instruments that are being used and continue to evolve at international, regional and domestic levels."

"The world has reached an unsustainable trend in greenhouse gas emissions, so we now need to take action to decarbonize as much as possible the world's energy mix. Resources are to be used more efficiently at the same time as we meet growing energy needs," says Anne Lauvergeon, CEO of French energy company Areva and Co-Chair of the WBCSD's Energy and Climate Focus Area. "For that to happen one key element is to collectively define a global, long-term and quantifiable pathway for annual greenhouse gas emissions. This shared diagnosis could then be a point of reference for the development of national energy and climate policies."

The publication puts forth four policy priorities:
1.        Establishing by 2010 a quantifiable, long-term (50-year), global emissions pathway for the management of GHG emissions.
2.        Closing the gap that will exist after 2012 (when the Kyoto Protocol expires), using the existing international framework as a basis, and modifying it to build up from local, national, sector or regional programs.
3.        Building robust programs at the national level, and in support of the international pathway. Such programs would include encouraging energy efficiency; broadening the range of fuels in the transport sector; and country-wide boosting of awareness and incentives for consumers across all levels of society toward low-carbon products, services and lifestyles.
4.        Developing and commercializing a number of low- and zero-GHG technologies over the coming decades. These will require supporting policies and programs to address technical and cost challenges.

Policy Directions to 2050 explores and introduces ideas for a new international framework and addresses key policy issues within power generation, industry and manufacturing, mobility, buildings and consumer choices, asking three basis questions: What is needed? Why is it needed? How could it work? Through this approach, the WBCSD hopes to stimulate the debate by contributing business insights that can help encourage the required technological and behavioral changes.

"Demand for energy will increase by 60% by 2030. As demand increases, so will GHG emissions. All stakeholders, whether they be customers, shareholders, NGOs or the communities in which we work, will expect us to meet this increase in a sustainable way. But business cannot do this alone; it needs government to establish the necessary policy frameworks to get the ball rolling and put the technology into place," says Eivind Reiten, President and CEO of Norsk Hydro and Co-Chair of the WBCSD's Energy and Climate Focus Area.

The publication is the third in the Energy & Climate series and reflects the WBSCD's continued engagement with governments in the search for solutions. Earlier publications included Facts and Trends to 2050 ( 1.9 MB) and Pathways to 2050 ( 2.5 MB), which sought to create a basis for dialogue and action by translating the scale and complexity of these challenges into simple, illustrative pathways to 2050. This trilogy has helped a variety of stakeholders think about the ways in which energy flows through the global economy and affects the climate.

Download Policy Directions to 2050

For press information, and interviews please contact:

World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Hybrid Big-Rigs To Green Wal-Mart's Supply Chain


Hybrid Big-Rigs To Green Wal-Mart's Supply Chain

GreenBiz.com, 21 March 2007 - Wal-Mart, which owns the country's second-largest private shipping fleet, intends to replace its Peterbilt 386 big-rigs with hybrid versions of the same truck by 2009, saving millions of gallons of fuel per year.

Peterbilt Motors Company and Eaton Corporation have jointly developed the advanced hybrid technologies and integrated them into an aerodynamically styled heavy-duty vehicle for superior fuel efficiency and greater environmental stewardship.

The transition is part of Wal-Mart's recently announced "Sustainability 360" program that will aggressively promote environmental stewardship among customers, suppliers and associates through a number of global innovation projects.

"During the past five years, we've clearly demonstrated our leadership in the hybrid marketplace with the success of our patented hybrid power system in the medium-duty marketplace. We're excited that Wal-Mart's fleet is now seeing the value of our hybrid technology," said Jim Sweetnam, president of Eaton's truck group.

During third-party testing, the Eaton Hybrid Power System has routinely achieved a 5-7 percent fuel savings versus comparable, non-hybrid models. It may result in a savings of one gallon of fuel per hour when idling. At the current average diesel price of almost $2.50 per gallon, those savings equate to about $9,000 to $10,000 a truck per year in operation.

"Wal-Mart is careful to consider the civic and environmental impact its operations have in the communities it serves around the world," says Tim Yatsko, Wal-Mart's Senior Vice President of Transportation. "We are continually looking for new, innovative ways to improve the fuel economy and reduce the emissions of our fleet. We currently operate the Peterbilt Model 386, and we anticipate that the hybrid version will help us move toward our goal to increase our fleet efficiency by 25 percent over the next few years."

20.3.07

New York Times -- Business of Green: A Special Section


Business of Green: A Special Section
What's So Bad About Big?
By MATTHEW L. WALD
What's So Bad About Big?
Chris Richards for The New York Times
A solar-power installation in the Arizona desert uses 100,000 square feet of mirrors.

Renewable-energy technology isn't just for the roof anymore.

Consumers
Attention Shoppers: Carbon Offsets in Aisle 6
By CLAUDIA H. DEUTSCH

Companies that have been touting their own environmental responsibility are now letting to their customers make donations to offset their energy usage.

Restaurants
It Takes More Than Veggies to Make a Kitchen Green
By KIM SEVERSON

Restaurant owners are finding ways to handle the garbage and mess of a professional kitchen while reducing the effects on the environment.

Homegrown Industry
Vermont Wants You to Fill Its Open Spaces
Vermont Wants You to Fill Its Open Spaces
By KATIE ZEZIMA

Officials are trying to use the clean air, open space and connection to the earth to attract businesses.

New Conquests
For Internet Barons, Uncharted Investment Territory
By MATT RICHTEL

When it comes to Energy 2.0, are some of the nation's most successful investors in over their heads?

'Corporate Hippies' Seek Their Bliss in a New Environmental Economy
'Corporate Hippies' Seek Their Bliss in a New Environmental Economy
By FELICITY BARRINGER

Those interested in environmental work are looking to financial firms, small businesses and even corporations.


Multimedia
Big Is BeautifulAudio Slide Show
Big Is Beautiful

Matthew L. Wald discusses green energy technologies that work on an industrial scale.

Products
Friend of Nature? Let's See Those Shoes.
Friend of Nature? Let's See Those Shoes.
By AMY CORTESE

Consumer products are beginning to bear details about their environmental impact.

Step By Step
A Coal Executive With a Cleanup Mission
By STEVE LOHR

James E. Rogers, the chief executive of Duke Energy, is walking a climate change tightrope.

As the Climate Heats Up, Lawyers Sharpen Their Wits
By BARNABY J. FEDER

Emission-management tools pose the kinds of questions that the legal community eats up.

Call of the Truck Stop: Gentlemen, Stop Your Engines
Call of the Truck Stop: Gentlemen, Stop Your Engines
By MICHAEL ERARD

If idling is now a popular topic among truckers, it is because the practice is endangered.

Across the Atlantic, Slowing Breezes
By JAMES KANTER

A closer look shows that Denmark is a far cry from a clean-energy paradise.

Big Blue Goes Green


Big Blue Goes Green
By Jack Uldrich
March 6, 2007

It was only a matter of time, really. General Electric (NYSE: GE) did it a few years ago, Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) began changing its tune last year, and so far this year at least a dozen more leading companies -- including a group I call the Jolly Green Giants -- have also jumped on the bandwagon.

The bandwagon is, of course, the growing "green" or environmental movement, and the latest company to hop on is IBM (NYSE: IBM), which recently unveiled a program called Big Green Innovations.

It's a smart move that will pay dividends for investors because Big Blue has a lot to bring to the environmental table. There's a minimum of four ways I see the initiative as generating substantial new revenue for the company.

First, as a leader in chip design, IBM has already taken the lead in developing and producing more energy-efficient computer chips. On its face, such a move might seem like small peanuts, but it isn't. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) are currently spending a great deal of money to power their massive data centers. The problem has gotten so bad, in fact, that the U.S. government has recently gotten involved to help the industry forge innovative solutions to the problem.

To the extent that IBM can continue to design more energy-efficient computer chips, it could help alleviate the problem and, in the process, distinguish itself from competitors like Intel (Nasdaq: INTC).

Big Blue can also make serious inroads by equipping businesses with sophisticated networks of sensors and software to help manage electricity more efficiently. On a larger scale, the company could apply the same expertise to make the U.S.' aging electricity grid operate more intelligently.

As I've recently written, Big Blue can also turn its strength in the field of supercomputing to a host of energy-related issues. For example, these powerful computers could be used to speed the development of everything from new energy-saving materials for next-generation photovoltaic cells to the creation of new biofuels.

Finally, in an era of looming government mandates (such as a cap-and-trade system), IBM's team of consultants can hawk their services to help any number of businesses reduce their environmental footprint.

The vice president in charge of the new Big Green Innovations program has indicated that she believes the business will ultimately be larger than IBM's life science program. That's an ambitious goal, and while I'm personally not quite that confident, the program is a bold strategic move that offers additional evidence as to why Big Blue remains a solid selection as the best blue chip of 2007.

Interested in reading more about IBM? Check out these articles:

Wal-Mart and Yahoo! are Stock Advisor picks, while Intel is an Inside Value selection.

Jack Uldrich owns stock in IBM and GE. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.

Clean-Energy Trends 2007: Report


CE|reports

Clean-Energy Trends 2007

http://www.cleanedge.com/reports/Trends2007.pdf

The following is an excerpt from Clean-Energy Trends 2007. To read the full report, please download the PDF file by clicking on the link to the left.

Maybe it was the changing global climate, or perhaps the changing business climate, that fueled clean-energy markets in 2006. More than likely, it was both of these, among several other factors, that pushed markets for solar, wind, fuel cells, biofuels, and other energy technologies along their inexorable upward march.

We have reached the point where the steady and rapid growth of clean energy has become an old story. Each year, it seems, brings an ever-higher plateau of success. This appears to be the future of clean energy: a rolling series of technology breakthroughs, landmark corporate investments, industry consolidation, and the not-infrequent emergence of new and sometimes surprising players entering the field.

Since the publication of our first Clean Energy Trends report in 2002, we've provided an annual snapshot of both the global and U.S. clean-energy sectors. In this, our sixth edition, we find markets for our four benchmark technologies — solar photovoltaics, wind power, biofuels, and fuel cells — continuing their healthy climb. Annual revenue for these four technologies ramped up nearly 39% in one year — from $40 billion in 2005 to $55 billion in 2006. We forecast that they will continue on this trajectory to become a $226 billion market by 2016.

A number of developments put clean energy definitively on the map over the past year. These include a near tripling in venture investments in energy technologies in the U.S. to more than $2.4 billion; a new level of commitment by U.S. politicians at the regional, state, and federal levels; and significant corporate investments in cleanenergy acquisitions and expansion initiatives. One indicator: There are now a half-dozen stock indexes tracking the clean-energy sector in North America, including WilderHill's ECO, Ardour Capital's AGINA, and Clean Edge's own CELS and CLEN indexes. Clean-energy investing has now become accessible to the mainstream.

Two thousand and six also marked the year that even the most ardent naysayers about global climate change began to change their tune — and scientists, investors, business leaders, and politicians moved the conversation from whether climate change was occurring to what we are going to do about it. That acceptance of climate change as "real" helped to unlock latent interest in clean-energy technologies on the part of corporate and political leaders. In Washington and other capitals, clean energy is now a bipartisan issue. In corporate boardrooms, it is fast becoming an imperative.

As we highlight in our forthcoming book, The Clean-Tech Revolution, co-authored by Clean Edge's Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder (to be published by Collins in June 2007), six key forces are rapidly reshaping the global energy landscape. We refer to them as the "Six Cs": Cost, Capital, Competition, Consumers, China, and Climate.

These potent forces have moved clean energy from the fringes to the mainstream, and created dynamic new markets in some regions. Combined, they are accelerating the growth of technologies, companies, and markets faster than even many optimists might have imagined. At last, clean energy is having its day in the sun.

According to Clean Edge research:
  • global markets for biofuels (global manufacturing and wholesale pricing of ethanol and biodiesel) reached $20.5 billion in 2006 and are projected to grow to $80.9 billion by 2016;
  • wind power (new installation capital costs) is projected to expand from $17.9 billion in 2006 to $60.8 billion in 2016;
  • solar photovoltaics (including modules, system components, and installation) will grow from a $15.6 billion industry in 2006 to $69.3 billion by 2016; and
  • the fuel cell and distributed hydrogen market will grow from a $1.4 billion industry (primarily for research contracts and demonstration and test units) to $15.6 billion over the next decade.
Together, we project these four clean-energy technologies, which totaled $39.9 billion in 2005 and expanded 39 percent to $55.4 billion in 2006, to quadruple to more than $226.5 billion within a decade.

Venture Capital Investments


U.S.-based venture capital investments in energy technologies nearly tripled from $917 million in 2005 to $2.4 billion in 2006. As a percent of total VC investments, energy tech increased from 4.2 percent in 2005 to 9.4 percent in 2006. Over the last seven years, venture investments in energy technologies have increased from less than 1 percent of total venture investments to nearly 10 percent.

Download the full report

19.3.07

Carbon labelling scheme launched


Thanks to Peter for this one

Carbon labelling scheme launched

Packet of Walkers crisps
Walkers will be the first brand to carry the label


A labelling scheme designed to help shoppers identify firms committed to environmentally-friendly policies is set to be launched.

Walkers crisps will be among products with a carbon label, showing their carbon footprint and committing the firm to cut that figure.

Carbon footprint is a measure of carbon dioxide emitted during the production and life of an item.

The scheme, run by the Carbon Trust, will run on a trial basis for a year.

'Credible benchmark'

Its backers hope that the label will eventually serve as a universal indicator of the amount of carbon emitted in the manufacture, packaging and transport of a product.



Establishing one standard, credible way of measuring a product's carbon content will empower consumers to make informed decisions

Tom Delay, Carbon Trust chief executive

The label will appear first on packets of Walkers cheese and onion crisps next month, showing that each packet accounted for 75 grams of carbon.

Two new ranges of Boots shampoo - Botanics and Ingredients - will also sport the mark while drinks firm Innocent will be using the label on its website for all its smoothie recipes.

The Carbon Trust, an independent body whose aim is to help companies reduce their carbon emissions, said companies would have to commit to reducing their carbon footprint over a two-year period or risk having the label withdrawn.

"We believe this label, with its built-in commitment to reduce the product's carbon footprint, will act as a powerful bridge connecting carbon-conscious companies and their customers," said Tom Delay, the Trust's chief executive.

"Establishing one standard, credible way of measuring a product's carbon content will empower consumers to make informed decisions as well as driving business to invest in lowering the carbon content of their products."




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The Corporate Climate Juggernaut: The relentless march of climate studies, research reports, and major initiatives that has come forth during this fledgling year has been breathtaking, to say the least. There's a new one this week. But first, consider that the following have been unleashed during 2007


The Corporate Climate Juggernaut

The relentless march of climate studies, research reports, and major initiatives that has come forth during this fledgling year has been breathtaking, to say the least. There's a new one this week. But first, consider that the following have been unleashed during 2007's first 50 days:

  • A group of large companies formed a group aimed at developing an effective global climate protection policy for the period following the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol in 2013. Combat Climate Change, a.k.a. the 3C Initiative, began its life with 18 major corporate members, many from the energy sector, including both power companies (Duke Energy, Endesa, Eskom, PG&E, Suez, Vattenfall) and manufacturers of power-generating equipment (ABB, Alstom, GE, Siemens). The group has issued an "urgent request to the global community and all its representatives" to join in.
  • Ten major corporations formed a partnership with four major environmental groups to seek a U.S. cap on greenhouse gas emissions along with a reduction of up to 15 percent within 15 years. The broad coalition, known as U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), laid out the most aggressive proposal for legislation endorsed by any group of major corporations to date.
  • UBS Wealth Management released a report report, Climate Change: Beyond Whether, that breaks down sector-by-sector into detailed key investment opportunities and risks for the individual investors. Among other things, the report noted that companies with low greenhouse gas exposure within a particular polluting industry are in a relatively strong strategic position, and that "The risk of future climate change events on companies and industries includes heightened regulation, increased impairment of physical property, loss of revenues and erosion of reputation, individually or in combination."
  • Lehman Brothers issued a report, The Business of Climate Change, warning that companies that do not respond quickly and effectively to changes in the physical and economic environments will face extinction. "The pace of a firm's adaptation to climate change is likely to prove to be another of the forces that will influence whether, over the next several years, any given firm survives and prospers; or withers and, quite possibly, dies," the report says. It called climate change a "tectonic force" similar to globalization and aging populations, that leads to gradual economic change and "causes periodic sharp movements in asset prices."
  • Marsh, part of the Marsh & McLennan empire of financial services companies, issued a report, Climate Change: Business Risks and Solutions, in which it said, in part:
Climate change is a significant emerging global risk. Businesses- if they haven't already-must begin to account for it in their strategic and operational planning. Risks, which will vary by industry and geography, include the potential for physical damage due to changing weather patterns, fines and business constraints due to regulatory requirements, legal costs from possible litigation, investment risk from shareholder demands, changes in the competitive landscape as companies adapt to climate change, and possible brand damage if a company develops a reputation as a "climate change villain."
  • Citigroup released a report titled Climatic Consequences that discusses "the investment implications of a changing climate." It offers up dozens of companies that are well positioned to do business in a climate-constrained world. "We believe that, as a direct result of pressure from consumers, litigants, and investors, there will, in the next few years, be a "tipping point" in corporate behavior with regard to climate change issues," it concluded.
  • A study by McKinsey on the relative economics of different approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions concluded that "almost a quarter of possible emission reductions would result from measures (such as better insulation in buildings) that carry no net life cycle cost -- in effect, they come free of charge."
  • Oh, yes. There were also those 600-odd scientists who concluded for the first time that evidence of the earth's rising temperatures was "unequivocal."
And now the latest. This week brings a new "global framework" from the Global Roundtable on Climate Change, signed by a host of big companies, calling on governments to set scientifically informed targets for greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide emissions and "to place a price on carbon emissions and to set forth policies aimed at addressing energy efficiency and de-carbonization in all sectors."

According to the statement -- endorsed by Allianz, Bayer, Citigroup, DuPont, General Electric, Volvo, and a range of others -- "Failing to act now would lead to far higher economic and environmental costs and greater risk of irreversible impacts."

Is there anybody outside the Bush Administration -- and maybe Exxon -- who doesn't understand that climate change represents one of the biggest risks ever to face the private sector? And that there are great financial benefits to reap from addressing it head-on with new, clean technologies?

If this is the case, why isn't every business-friendly politician working overtime to ensure that their constituents (and contributors) will survive and thrive?

And where is the anger against those business and political leaders who aren't at the front of this parade?

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February 20, 2007 in Climate Change, Trendwatching | Permalink

Comments

Exactly...in the latest print edition of BusinessWeek, even Jack Welch--Mr. Profits-Are-Paramount or King of Cost Cutting--worked his way into telling businesses to adapt their models to survive in a climate change world. Pretty much everyone is coming around, except as you say Exxon and maybe Bush (but Bush does have a green home). Oh yeah, and TXU too.

http://www.hugg.com/story/Neutron-Jack-Mr-ProfitsareParamount-Eases-Into-Global-Warming-Advocacy-1/

Posted by: Preston | Feb 21, 2007 6:16:23 AM

Thank you Joel for the comprehensive list of corporate America getting a clue--it sure seems like 2007 may be a banner year for awareness. Hope it's more than rhetoric and there is indeed some action in there...

Posted by: Melissa Brandao | Feb 21, 2007 7:56:53 AM

It's true, the Bush Administration and Exxon are still doing their best to ambush any effective action against global warming, but their motivation is profit driven. Let's not forget the honorable Republican Senator from Oklahoma, James M. Inhofe, who seems committed for altruistic reasons. Credit given where credit's due.

Posted by: Ron | Feb 21, 2007 8:51:14 AM

This is exactly what we need, corporate america finally believing in global warming from an econmomic point of view! What ever it takes is fine with me to start the ball rolling towards reducing greenhouse emmisions. I feel compelled to mention this:
www.jointhesolution.com/yorkville

Posted by: robert veach | Feb 21, 2007 12:39:05 PM

Here is the Lehman Bros. Report - The Business of Climate Change online:

http://www.cs.bc.edu/~muller/teaching/cs021/lib/ClimateChange.pdf

Posted by: Jim Leemann | Feb 21, 2007 4:40:20 PM

This is a great summary of the business cases that are being made right now and the break down of the economic argument for climate solutions. Thanks Joel, you continue to amaze with your talent for being tuned in.

For an interesting twist, NPR's Talk of the Nation did a show that sort of pitted science against economics, which I found odd until I realized that one of the guests was Jonah Goldberg whose twisted thinking about practically anything is legendary and often highly misinformed. Anyway, check out Talk of the Nation, Feb. 22.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7551080

Posted by: David Biddle | Feb 25, 2007 4:23:05 AM

Thank you so much for this excellent summary. It has almost been difficult to stay on top of all of the major initiatives in the last six months without your help. I am wondering if anyone is paying close attention to the McKinsey report which seems like a wise place to start - conservation and efficiency! Also, I would imagine that most of these initiatives come with the price of compromise. When huge energy producers are lining up, you know they are hoping to shape future legislation in order to ensure the least amount of burden to their bottomline in the future.

Posted by: Scot Quaranda | Feb 26, 2007 10:24:35 AM

Energy & Climate Q&A and Video with Wayne Balta on w3


[thanks to Will Runyon for sending this on -JFB]
http://w3.ibm.com/news/w3news/top_stories/2007/03/stg_energy_climate_IBM.html

The latest feature in the w3 Energy & Climate series - - a Q&A with Wayne Balta, vice president, Corporate Environmental Affairs and Product Safety - - has been published for all IBM today.  This story also streams the Energy & Climate video featuring Wayne, Nick Donofrio, Guido Bartels, IBM clients, NGO partners and influencers.

Thanks to Sandra Dressel for writing the story, and to Ivy Tseng for producing the video.



Intelligent Energy - How IBM is Making Energy Smarter - November 21
Writing the Book on Smart Energy - Q&A with Guido Bartels, GM, Energy & Utilities Industry - December 12
Fueling the Future - Q&A with John Brantley, GM, Chemicals & Petroleum Industry - January 29
When Cool is Hot - Crisis in the Data Center - Q&A with Bernie Meyerson, STG CTO - February 5
Energy & Climate - ASEAN and India/South Asia's Challenge and Opportunity - March 7
Energy Surge - Calgary Oil Sands Centre of Excellence - March 15
IBM Builds Green Buildings on both Sides of the Globe - March 16
Helping to Protect the Environment - Q&A with Wayne Balta, VP, Corp Environmental Affairs - March 19


Q&A with Wayne Balta, VP of Corporate Environmental Affairs & Product Safety

IBM protects the environment


Article summary
  • IBM's objective is to focus on actions and results; not just aspirations.
  • IBM has one of the longest histories of corporate environmental responsibility. Its first formal corporate policy was issued back in 1971.

It's undeniable. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that global warming is "unequivocal." Human activities are significantly contributing to an increase in heat-trapping gases, causing the earth's temperature to rise.

Since the release of the report, there's been intense focus by world governments, the media and other international organizations on what to do about it. As part of the energy and climate campaign, Wayne Balta, vice president of IBM's corporate environmental affairs and product safety, shared his perspective about IBM's overall conservation efforts and what the company is doing to protect the environment.

What is IBM's environmental program and when did it begin?

IBM has in place an environmental management system that addresses all the ways its business intersects with the environment. "One of the most important things IBMers should know," said Wayne, "is that we are not a newcomer, reacting to public interest." In fact, IBM's first environmental policy was put on paper 36 years ago by Thomas Watson Jr. Today, our programs range from pollution prevention, waste recycling, natural resources conservation, product design, and public policy development, as well as responsibly remediating pollution that occurred decades ago at certain properties, often as a result of waste handling practices that were once thought to be appropriate.

Energy & Climate: Collaboration among IBM, its clients and environmental experts can result in more energy while still protecting the environment.

Similar to IBM's leadership in areas of corporate responsibility – like diversity – its actions have occurred well before laws or regulations required us to act. "It's really part of IBM values and our DNA," said Wayne. "Here's some perspective: IBM first published a corporate environmental report back in 1990 – 17 years ago – and has published one every year since then without interruption. We may well be the only Fortune 100 company that can say that. And keep in mind, the prerequisite for being able to publish a report is that there is a management system and business processes in place to measure and manage what you do."

Another indicator of longstanding involvement: long before globalization exploded on the scene, IBM's environmental management system was global. It's been registered to an external, international standard called ISO 14001 for ten years. In 1997, IBM was the first company to achieve a single global registration, which means its environmental management system is held to the same standards around the globe.

What is IBM doing to lower emissions and conserve energy?
There's no question IBM has been a really good corporate citizen here...  - Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change in "Energy & Climate" video

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the earth's climate, IBM is focused on two major contributors: carbon dioxide and perfluorocompounds (PFCs). PFCs are used in semiconductor manufacturing. In 1988, IBM was the first company in its industry to publicaly commit to a specific reduction of PFC emissions. The result is that from 2000-2005 IBM reduced its PFC emissions by 58 percent and made the technology enabling to others in the industry.

Now for CO2. CO2 is typically emitted by utility companies from whom IBM procures its electricity, so IBM's opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions is through conserving energy. Energy conservation has been an integral part of IBM's environmental management system since at least 1974. From 1990-2005, IBM reduced CO2 emissions through energy conservation by an amount equal to 40 percent of the 1990 amount. "We believe that's one of the largest CO2 accomplishments you'll see from a company regarding its energy consumption," said Wayne. "It underscores how early IBMers acted – this isn't something we just started in 2006-2007."

When feasible, IBM also purchases renewable energy, such as wind, solar and biomass. The company has also purchased Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to support renewable energy in places where it isn't directly available to IBM. In 2006, the U.S. DOE and EPA awarded IBM a Green Power Purchasing Award.

Another area in which IBM helps address the concern over climate change is product development. Collaboration across research, systems, software and services ensures that products from semiconductors to power supplies to servers are more energy efficient. This type of innovation and collaboration also helps IBM and its clients reduce energy demand in datacenters. Climate change is a serious concern that warrants early action by global society, industry and governments, and IBM is committed to being part of the solution.

Is IBM working with outside environmental groups?

IBM has been working on many external collaborations regarding energy and climate change. "We join these groups of like-minded companies and organizations," said Wayne, "because they work with us, challenge us and set goals with us, and we share and learn from each other. It's important to note that our voluntary external engagements each involve working with groups that have commitments to act and produce results; it's not just about aspirations." IBM has acted under each, and its results have been publicly reported, with some even audited by a third party, and have attracted some very favorable recognition. You can read more about these partnerships in the sidebar.

Green Grid is one example of a new partnership to try to set a standard way to measure energy product efficiency. "It goes back to IBM's mantra of 'what gets measured, gets managed,'" said Wayne.

How are we making our own products environmentally friendly?

IBM has clearly led on product design for the environment, or what is now known in the industry as "dfe". It began as a formal program at IBM back in 1991. Wayne ascribes this move to the leadership of Diana Bendz, whom he calls, "one of IBM's environmental pioneers at the time." Because of Diane's work, the environmental impact of our products was instilled into the product development community and now it's a regular part of the way our developers think. Under IBM's global environment management system, the company tries to use recyclable and recycled materials, we design products for energy efficiency, we choose environmentally preferable materials, we design environmentally favorable packaging, and finally, we design for the eventual disassembly of the products in order to support product reuse and recycling.

What is IBM doing to encourage its employees to conserve energy?

One program that has had a big impact is the work/life balance program that centers on working at home and mobile commuting. Nearly one-third of IBM's employees take advantage of this program, which leads to a lot less commuting and avoids thousands of tons of CO2 emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency named IBM one of the "Top 20 Best Workplaces for Commuters" for the last three years in a row.

In the workplace, the IBM real estate and site operations teams run programs such as turn off the lights and power down equipment campaigns. "It's often a reminder of what you should do without having to be asked. It's probably what you do at home. For example, you wouldn't leave your house with all the lights on, so we shouldn't do it at work either. In some countries, depending on the HR practices, we make cars available to employees and are trying to ensure they can choose energy efficient ones," said Wayne.

Little known facts about IBM's environmental programs

  • IBM is the only company to win the U.S. EPA Climate Leaders Award twice.
  • IBM has been one of the largest purchasers of renewable energy in the EPA's Green Power Partners program. In 2006 IBM was number one among the Fortune 10 companies.
  • IBM routinely sends more than 70 percent of its solid waste, meaning trash, from its major global sites to be recycled.
  • IBM was the first IT company to reach the 1 billion pound milestone for collecting and managing electronic product waste. It has sent less than 3 percent of its product waste directly to landfills, and last year it was less than one percent.
  • Each year IBM's Chairman & CEO delivers the IBM Chairman's Environmental Award to an IBM business unit to recognize environmental excellence …..stay tuned for Sam's selection in a month or so….

Powerful Little Light: LED With 1,000 Lumens -- That’s brighter than a 50-watt halogen lamp, thereby making the device suitable for a broad range of general lighting applications


Powerful Little Light: LED With 1,000 Lumens
Osram has developed a small light-emitting diode spotlight that achieves an output of more than 1000 lumens for the first time. Thats brighter than a 50-watt halogen lamp thereby making the device suitable for a broad range of general lighting applic ...
Osram has developed a small light-emitting diode spotlight that achieves an output of more than 1,000 lumens for the first time. That's brighter than a 50-watt halogen lamp, thereby making the device suitable for a broad range of general lighting applications. The Ostar Lighting LED, which will be launched on the market this summer, can provide sufficient light for a desk from a height of two meters, for example. Its small size also enables the creation of completely new lamp shapes. Source: Siemens

Osram has developed a small light-emitting diode spotlight that achieves an output of more than 1,000 lumens for the first time. That's brighter than a 50-watt halogen lamp, thereby making the device suitable for a broad range of general lighting applications.
The Ostar Lighting LED, which will be launched on the market this summer, can provide sufficient light for a desk from a height of two meters, for example. Its small size also enables the creation of completely new lamp shapes.

A lumen (lm) is the unit of measurement for the amount of light emitted by a light source. A 60-watt light bulb emits 730 lm, while a 50-watt halogen lamp has an output of approximately 900 lm. To achieve the 1,000 lm output for the tiny Ostar Lighting LED, the experts at Siemens' Osram subsidiary employed a sophisticated system for high chip-packing density, whereby the researchers managed to integrate six high-performance LED lighting chips into the unit's small housing. Each chip has an area of only one square millimeter, which makes for very concentrated overall luminosity.

Different types of LEDs are used today in various areas, for example as background lighting in cell phone displays, as well as in car turn-signal lights, brake lights, and daytime running lights. The benefits are obvious: The diodes are extremely small and consume little energy because they efficiently convert electricity into light. The Ostar Lighting LED, for example, produces 75 lumens per watt at 350 milli-amperes of operating current — much more than an incandescent lamp, which only converts a fraction of the electricity supplied into light, with the rest lost as heat energy. In addition, LEDs contain no lead or mercury, which makes them very environmentally friendly. They also last around ten times longer than halogen lamps and 50 times longer than incandescent lamps, thereby helping to significantly reduce maintenance costs.

For many years, however, LEDs were unsuited for room lighting applications because they weren't bright enough. The Ostar Lighting LED marks a further step toward suitability for such applications. Osram has already supplied a Migros supermarket in the Swiss canton of St. Gallen with 18,000 Golden Dragon LEDs, which have a lower output than the Ostar Lighting units. These LEDs emit neither UV rays nor heat, which means they have virtually no negative impact on delicate grocery items such as milk, meat, fruit and vegetables.

Source: Siemens

Across the Globe, Warming Viewed as "Critical": Climate change is of real concern in all parts of the world, but there is disagreement over whether the problem is urgent enough to require immediate, costly measures or whether more modest efforts will be satisfactory


Across the Globe, Warming Viewed as "Critical"

IPS, 14 March 2007 - Climate change is of real concern in all parts of the world, but there is disagreement over whether the problem is urgent enough to require immediate, costly measures or whether more modest efforts will be satisfactory, according to an international poll released Wednesday.

The poll, conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and WorldPublicOpinion.org in cooperation with polling organisations around the world, was carried out in 17 countries containing more than 55 percent of the world population, although not all questions were asked in all countries.

Twelve countries were asked whether steps should be taken to address climate change.

Ninety-two-percent of Australians favour measures to combat global warming, making it the country with the largest majority of its population believing immediate action should be taken to reverse climate change.

Surprisingly, China, whose environmental policies are often criticised, and Israel are the next most inclined to favour such measures, with 83 percent of their populations in favour of immediate actions to reverse trends in global warming.

The lowest level of support for taking steps to address global warming was found in India, with 49 percent of the population supporting immediate action while 24 percent were opposed.

Arguments against the validity of global warming as a scientific fact have not fared well, with fewer than one in four people in any country endorsing the statement, "Until we are sure that global warming is really a problem, we should not take any steps that would have economic costs."

Countries with the highest percentages favouring inaction include India (24 percent), Russia (22 percent), and Armenia (19 percent).

Countries with the smallest percentages favouring inaction include Argentina (three percent) and Thailand (seven percent).

In a separate question, asked in 10 countries, strong majorities in all of the countries say climate change is an important threat, with small minorities calling it unimportant.

The highest percentage of climate change sceptics are in Armenia (16 percent) and Israel (15 percent).

Majorities call climate change a "critical" issue in Mexico (70 percent), Australia (69 percent), South Korea (67 percent), Iran (61 percent), Israel (52 percent) and India (51 percent).

Larger numbers agree climate change is "critical" in Armenia (47 percent), China (47 percent), and the United States (46 percent) while Ukraine was the only country split about whether the problem was "critical" (33 percent) or "important but not critical" (33 percent).

In five of 12 countries polled, the most common view is "Global warming is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs." These include: Australia (69 percent), Argentina (63 percent), Israel (54 percent), the United States (43 percent), and Armenia (37 percent).

The most commonly held view in another five countries is that, "The problem of global warming should be addressed, but its effects will be gradual, so we can deal with the problem gradually by taking steps that are low in cost."

Proponents of the "go-slow" and "low-cost" approach include: Philippines (49 percent), Thailand (41 percent), Poland (39 percent), Ukraine (37 percent), and India (30 percent).

The polls are split between those who favour less expensive measures and those who believe the problem merits action involving significant cost in China (low cost, 41 percent, significant cost 42 percent), and Russia (low cost, 34 percent, and significant cost, 32 percent).

The poll attempted to address the issues of an equitable approach to climate change by asking sample groups in five developing countries -- China, India, Argentina, Armenia and Thailand -- "If the developed countries are willing to provide substantial aid, do you think the less-developed countries should make a commitment to limit their greenhouse gas emissions?"

In all five counties majorities say they should but most significant responses were observed in China (a 79 percent majority), and in India (48 percent agree, 29 percent disagree).

All five of these countries have ratified or accepted the Kyoto Protocol to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but are not defined as industrialised countries under the treaty.

Their developing country status under Kyoto means they are not legally obliged to cut emissions of carbon dioxide or other pollutants but could be eligible for various schemes and funds that pay developing countries to reduce carbon emissions. Just last month, a report released by the United Nations called attention to the rising flow of greenhouse gasses released by the economic powerhouses of India and China.

By 2009, says the International Energy Agency, China will have overtaken the U.S. as the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses that are energy-related.

Three developed countries were asked the same question about providing aid to less-developed countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Respondents in all three showed high levels of support for such programmes, with 64 percent of U.S. citizens, 84 percent of Poles, and 72 percent of Ukrainians.

All three countries are considered industrialised countries under the Kyoto accord, but the U.S. has refused to the ratify it, arguing that it would be too costly to the U.S. economy and that large developing countries like China and India are unfairly exempted.

The following countries were included in the poll -- China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine, Poland, Iran, Mexico, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Argentina, Peru, Israel, Armenia and the Palestinian territories.

An additional poll released today by the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies reinforced the Chicago Council on Global Affairs poll, finding that 83 percent of U.S. citizens now say global warming is a "serious" problem, up from 70 percent in 2004.

The recent poll data suggesting an increased awareness that global warming requires immediate action comes on the heels of a report released last month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- the leading international network of climate scientists -- which confirmed the scientific evidence behind global warming and urged prompt action to slow and reverse the dangerous buildup of heat-trapping gasses in the atmosphere.

Singapore to invest in 'clean energy' industry -- Singapore will invest more than 110 million US dollars to develop a "clean energy" industry with solar energy as a key area of research, the government announced Friday.


Singapore to invest in 'clean energy' industry

AFP, 16 March 2007 - Singapore will invest more than 110 million US dollars to develop a "clean energy" industry with solar energy as a key area of research, the government announced Friday.

The tropical island-state with average temperatures of 26.8 Celsius (80 Fahrenheit) is hoping that the five-year programme will generate more than a billion dollars in annual value-added income and create 7,000 jobs by 2015.

The programme was announced at the close of a Research Innovation and Enterprise Council meeting chaired by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

"Green energy or clean energy is something which is in great demand worldwide because of climate change. Growth is dramatic," Lee told reporters.

"There is a lot of investment going in around the world, in America, including Silicon Valley," he said. "And we believe this is an area where technology will move and the market opportunities will grow and investments are likely to come."

The term "clean energy" refers to energy derived from environmentally-friendly and renewable sources such as solar power, biofuels and wind, as opposed to oil and gas.

Lee said international investors had already expressed interest in joining the programme.

"This whole process from the research part to the manufacturing part to the economic part are areas that we already have basic capabilities (in) because we have developed our scientific know-how to support our manufacturing industry in Singapore," he said.

The research council's other key research programmes include biomedical sciences, environmental and water technologies and interactive and digital media.

The council also announced initiatives to attract more foreign scientists to do research work in Singapore.

"To transform Singapore into a knowledge-intensive economy, we have to build up our capabilities, enhance our competencies in existing technologies," Lee said.

"This means strengthening our human capital in (research and development) by grooming local research talents and attracting top-rate scientists to work here."

Carbon market to grow 50% in 2007: The value of transactions in the carbon markets is forecast to grow much less dramatically between 2006 and 2007, despite higher volumes


Carbon market to grow 50% in 2007

Environmental Finance, 15 March 2007 - Volumes in the global carbon market are set to grow 50% this year, according to analyst company Point Carbon. It expects some 2.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) to be traded in 2007, up from 1.6 billion tonnes in 2006, according to the company's Carbon 2007 report, released in Copenhagen on Tuesday.

The value of transactions in the carbon markets is forecast to grow much less dramatically between 2006 and 2007, despite higher volumes. Contracts traded to the tune of €22.5 billion ($29.8 billion) changed hands in 2006 but, given lower average carbon prices likely for 2007 compared to 2006, that figure is forecast to rise to €23.6 billion.

The results were derived from a web-based survey, for which the company received 2,250 responses, of which 60% represented emitting companies. Of those that were active in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), 65% claimed that the scheme had led them to "initiate internal abatement" measures to reduce emissions – up from just 15% in 2005.

It also found that moving production outside Europe in response to the EU ETS was mentioned by 2-3% of respondents as their primary means of complying with emissions targets.

The EU ETS represented 62% of the market in terms of volume, and 80% of its value in 2006. Brokers accounted for 71% of trading, with the remainder traded on exchanges, the majority (above 75%) on the European Climate Exchange.

On average, survey respondents expect the price of allowances in 2010 – in the middle of Phase II of the EU ETS – to be about €17.5 a tonne, compared to €15.55 currently.

However, the other major section of the carbon market – the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) – is forecast to stay more or less flat, at 552 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2e, from 562 Mt in 2006.

The CDM allows projects in developing countries to claim carbon credits, which can be used to meet emissions targets in industrialized countries. Point Carbon expects the volume of primary transactions – where credits are bought directly from projects – to shrink to 456 Mt, from 522 Mt CO2e. This is because most of the large-scale industrial CDM projects have been identified and contracted.

On the other hand, the secondary market for certified emission reductions (CERs) from such projects is set to grow, to 96 MtCO2e, from 40 Mt in 2006.

Within the CDM, China accounted for 70% of volumes, and a third of total volumes were from HFC-23 destruction projects, with a further 21% from N20 projects. On the buy side, the UK and Italy accounted for 36% and 24% of volumes respectively, the former because a large number of financial players active in the market are located in London, and the latter because of large purchases by utility Enel and the Italian government.

Joint Implementation (JI) only accounted for 4% of Kyoto project transactions, at just 21Mt, valued at €95 million. This was less than in 2005, although Point Carbon analysts expect the JI market to double in 2007.

China must pursue sustainable development, top leaders warn


China must pursue sustainable development, top leaders warn

AFP, 19 March 2007 - China must adopt a more sustainable model for development "as soon as possible" or risk serious environmental and economic fallout, state media on Monday quoted top officials as saying.

"The overall growth of the Chinese economy is inspiring but one of the worries is that we have paid too dear an environmental and resources price for such growth," the China Daily newspaper quoted national development chief Ma Kai as telling an economic forum in Beijing on Sunday.

China's voracious economy last year accounted for 15 percent of the energy consumed in the world to produce just 5.5 percent of global output, a situation that senior leaders said imperiled long-term economic prospects, the newspaper reported.

"Serious environmental and resources constraints, irrational industrial structure and development gaps between urban and rural areas as well as between regions make it imperative to accelerate change of the growth model in pursuit of sustainable development," Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan told the two-day forum.

Zeng promised more reforms of pricing mechanisms and tax incentives aimed at encouraging energy conservation.

China's economy expanded by a sizzling 10.7 percent last year, fueled by its massive export machine and investment growth.

For years, the ruling Communist Party pursued a growth-first policy but has recently put addressing the negative effects of that course -- horrendous pollution, profligate energy consumption and a widening wealth gap -- at the top of its political agenda.

"We are keenly aware that if the country's growth pattern is not changed as soon as possible, though the Chinese economy can maintain rapid growth for a period, it will not sail well and sail far," said Ma, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission.

G8 plus Five agree climate problem is urgent: the world's 13 major industrialised and emerging economies found seven broad areas of accord for tackling global warming and its effects during a two-day meeting -- But the United States blocked consensus for supporting the carbon market


G8 plus Five agree climate problem is urgent

AFP, 17 March 2007 - Seeking to kickstart stalled talks on climate change, the world's 13 major industrialised and emerging economies found seven broad areas of accord for tackling global warming and its effects during a two-day meeting here.

But the United States blocked consensus for supporting the carbon market, the centrepiece of the UN Kyoto Protocol's legally binding approach for tackling the greenhouse gases that cause the problem.

The meeting gathered environment ministers from the Group of Eight industrialised countries (Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States) and Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa.

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel described the meeting as "a big success" in providing momentum to addressing global warming.

"The discussion was very frank, very open and very free. It was a very positive atmosphere as well," Gabriel, whose country is current president of the G8, told reporters.

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said: "This meeting exceeded my expectations. It was a very open, very constructive meeting."

"There's consensus on the need for urgency, on the need to move forward," de Boer said.

The ministers endorsed scientific evidence about global warming and climate change and agreed that the solutions for tackling it needed contributions from everyone, especially from industrialised countries, delegates said.

They also agreed that measures on climate change should not penalise developing countries' drive for prosperity, that poor countries needed more help to adapt to climate shift, and that measures to stop deforestation should be stepped up.

But the US representative, Environment Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Stephen Johnson, objected to an endorsement of the carbon market as a means for tackling emissions, Gabriel said.

The United States also objected to offering financial incentives for developing countries that voluntarily protect natural assets, such as tropical rainforests, the German minister said.

"We thought that was regrettable," said Gabriel, adding though that it was not a surprise. "(...) You can only be disappointed if you expected otherwise." Johnson said there had been "excellent dialogue. It was open, it was frank discussion."

Explaining US objections on support for the carbon market, he said, "The important things is that we need to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avail ourselves of the tools that make sense to each individual nation."

A summary of what was decided at the Potsdam talks will be submitted to the June 6-8 G8 summit at the German Baltic resort of Heiligendamm.

Japanese Environment Minister Masatoshi Wakabayashi said the Heiligendamm summit would be the arena for debating climate change in detail and warned it could play "a critical role" in the fate of the Bali talks.

Negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol's future after it runs out in 2012 take place on the Indonesian island of Bali from December 3-14.

At present, Kyoto will not even dent global emissions of greenhouse gases, which trap solar heat and thus drive up global temperatures.

The future deal must somehow include the United States, the world's number one polluter, to help accelerate and deepen emissions cuts by developed countries, which bear historic responsibility for today's crisis.

Under President George W. Bush, the US abandoned Kyoto, rejecting especially its capping system by which rich countries -- but not developing countries -- agree to pollution limits and face penalties if they overstep them.

The cap, say Kyoto's defenders, is essential for trading mechanisms that provide incentives to reduce emissions.

At a summit last week, the 27-nation European Union pledged to cut its own greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and deepen it to 30 percent if "international partners" follow suit.

Wakabayashi, speaking at a press conference, said the EU's cut "is a very ambitious decision and we pay respect to it," although he did not say whether Japan would take up the offer of 30 percent.

The other challenge in the climate talks will be to encourage big developing countries such as Brazil, China and India to strengthen their commitments.

These nations are wary of being lured into making targeted pledges on curbing their emissions, fearing that this could hamper their rise out of poverty.

Consumers in the dark over 'greenest' gadgets


Consumers in the dark over 'greenest' gadgets
By David Langton
Published: 19 March 2007

High street chains are failing to inform customers which electrical goods are the greenest, according to new research by the National Consumer Council.

Leading firms, including John Lewis, Comet and Currys, were all criticised for leaving consumers "in the dark" when it comes to the energy efficiency of electrical products.

The research showed just one in 350 items viewed in 10 different stores across London had an energy label sticker.

The NCC is now calling for firms to label products clearly, such as televisions, DVD players, laptops, MP3 players and games consoles, with energy consumption details.

They also want to see the greenest goods subsidised by the Government, enabling poorer families to reduce the size of their carbon footprint.

Larry Whitty, chairman of the NCC, said: "Today's consumers need to be able to compare goods and labels are a useful information shortcut.

"You would not expect to buy a car without knowing how much petrol it consumes, yet shoppers buying a television will have little idea how energy efficient it really is.

"However, labelling alone is only part of the solution. Currently telephone help-lines and websites do little to help customers make greener choices when buying everyday electrical goods."

The NCC proposes a simple colour coded A to G scheme, the same as that used on fridges and washing machines, with A being the most energy efficient.

Shop staff must also be trained up to give customers the best advice on buying energy efficient goods.

The report Information Blackout: why electronic consumers are in the dark also called on manufacturers to introduce new more energy-efficient products to their lines.

Mr Whitty added: "People have told us they want simple labels they can trust so it's important to adopt a labelling scheme that already has consumer recognition. We want to see government and industry working closely together to shed some light on this matter."

During the survey the only energy sticker was uncovered on a television at a branch of John Lewis in west London's Brent Cross shopping centre. But that was only one out of 26 televisions on their shelves.

The firm with the best green credentials was Sony. Staff at their Sony Centre store, also in Brent Cross, were able to give good advice on the most energy-efficient black goods, according to the survey.

Mr Whitty added: "It's a step in the right direction but there's still a long way to go, much, much more could be done." The NCC said they would like to the scheme to follow the success of dietary information on supermarket groceries.

"We know the Wheel of Health at Sainsbury's has had a direct impact on consumer habits, there's no reason why this cannot have the same effect on electrical goods," said Mr Whitty.

Other shops covered by the survey were Debenhams, PC World, Sainsbury's and Tesco. Researchers looked at 200 televisions, 15 set-top boxes, 55 DVD players and 80 laptops. If the NCC successfully push through the proposals, the UK will be the first country in Europe to label electric goods in such a way.

But others may soon follow suit after an action plan to cut Europe's consumption by 20 per cent before 2020 is introduced.

A number of "ambitious" measures have been agreed, including tougher energy standards for electrical goods.

Officials say the Energy Efficiency Action Plan will deliver an annual saving of £67bn and help the EU meet its Kyoto Protocol target to cut emissions by 8 per cent.

A spokesman for DSG International, owners of PC World and Currys, said: "We are looking at introducing an industry wide energy labelling scheme on black goods."

A spokesman for Tesco said: "It's an issue we take very seriously and we are doing lots of research into this area. We are trying to make a difference by empowering consumers by labelling things up."

U.S. alt-fuel vehicle sales set record, smash projections


U.S. alt-fuel vehicle sales set record, smash projections

Greenwire, 13 March 2007 - U.S. auto dealers sold a record 1.5 million alternative-fuel vehicles last year, beating automakers' sales expectations by 50 percent.

The robust 2006 sales bumped up the total number of hybrid gas-electric, ethanol, biodiesel and other alternative-fuel vehicles to 10.5 million, according to a report today by industry analyst R.L. Polk & Co. The report was commissioned by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM), a trade association that represents BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen.

The Washington, D.C.-based trade group reports that the nation's manufacturers are offering consumers 60 models of alternative-fuel vehicles, up from just 12 models in 2000. The 10.5 million alternative-fuel vehicles reported by Polk represents about 4 percent of the 240 million vehicles on the nation's roads today, said Monica Sakala, AAM's communications director.

"It would seem that market forces like gas prices would influence the sale of these vehicles," Sakala added.

But will 2007 be another banner year for alternative-fuel vehicles? An emerging trend in gasoline prices could be one strong indicator.

AAA, formerly the American Automobile Association, reported yesterday the average national price of gasoline has jumped 36 cents to $2.55 a gallon since the first week of February.

Ben Brockwell, an oil analyst with the Oil Price Information Service, which supplies fuel data to AAA, noted that U.S. oil demand for the past four weeks has been running 7 percent higher than the year-earlier period. He explained that production is not keeping pace with higher demand because of the seasonal switch to cleaner-burning summer gasoline blends at refineries.

"The combination of declining inventory and rising demand makes some worry there may not be enough of a gasoline supply cushion going into summer -- the heaviest gasoline demand season," he added.

Extending financial services to Latin America's poor: The president of Inter-American Development Bank argues that achieving greater "financial democracy" is crucial for achieving greater inclusiveness, improving social cohesion, and generating broad-based growth.


Extending financial services to Latin America's poor

The president of Inter-American Development Bank argues that achieving greater "financial democracy" is crucial for achieving greater inclusiveness, improving social cohesion, and generating broad-based growth.

Luis Alberto Moreno

2007 Special Edition: Shaping a new agenda for Latin America

Economic development, according to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), is for people—for citizens. If the benefits of economic growth fail to reach a majority, in the long run there can be no development. Over the past 3 years, Latin America has enjoyed its strongest cycle of economic growth in nearly 30 years. Remarkably, this expansion has been accompanied by low inflation, falling fiscal deficits, and current-account surpluses, and it has occurred amid the most active electoral calendar in the region's recent history. But conditions for the majority of Latin Americans have not improved substantially. Calls for change are thus being heard again and again. Without change and real improvements in the people's well-being, the legitimacy of the development effort will continue to be called into question.

Development is a combination of good policies, both macro- and micro-economic. The development of regions such as Southeast Asia, for example, was based largely on the application of numerous microeconomic instruments, backed by stable macro frameworks. In Latin America, despite remarkable achievements at the macro level, we have often neglected the micro dimension of development; we have fallen short in creating and distributing opportunity. The region's per capita income has barely doubled over the past 45 years, whereas in South Korea it has increased 15-fold. Poverty and inequality ratios have been stagnant in Latin America, and a large proportion of our people still await the promised fruits of progress.

Going forward, we need to focus our attention on expanding opportunities at the base of the economic pyramid, which represents a large majority of Latin Americans. Few areas will be more important in this effort than building deeper, more inclusive financial markets.

The role of financial markets and systems

Financial markets have a key role to play: there is ample evidence of the relationship between their development and economic growth, and I doubt that anyone disputes the link between a system's depth and coverage and the reduction of poverty. Achieving well-functioning financial markets and institutions, which leverage savings and channel them into productive investments, should be a policy priority for governments and development finance institutions alike.

In brief, financial development enables individuals to make the most of their potential and represents a tool for expanding "financial democracy." In Latin America, we have made historic strides toward the consolidation of political democracy, but they have not been accompanied by the democratization of means and opportunities. Financial democracy is fundamental for achieving greater inclusiveness, improving social cohesion, and generating broad-based growth. It is therefore crucial for economic dynamism and political stability.

It is crucial, first, because the lack of financial democracy prevents people from gaining access to resources that would enable them to make the most of their abilities and assets and thus condemns them to a cycle of poverty that is hard to escape. At the IDB we estimate that in 12 Latin American countries "dead capital" (untitled assets that belong to the poorest people and cannot be mobilized or leveraged) amounts to $1.2 trillion!

Second, micro, small, and midsize enterprises are economically vital to the region, despite their lack of access to adequate financing. They account for 98 percent of all companies and, depending on the country, from 40 to 50 percent of GDP and 40 to 60 percent of employment.

Third, these companies also have great social significance. IDB analyses show, for example, that 70 percent of the region's poorest wage earners are owners or employees of microenterprises. This suggests that we have a significant opportunity to reduce poverty in the region by making financial services more inclusive.

Finally, financial inclusion also generates optimism and confidence in the future. It is impossible to understate the importance of access to financial services for population groups that lack the resources both to escape from poverty and to contribute to economic activity, social cohesion, and political stability. A population that plays an active part in the economic process is much more likely to identify with the rest of society and to have a sense of ownership and belonging, thereby contributing to stability. Belonging means having something to lose, and this sense is fundamental to social cohesion.

Unfortunately, financial systems in Latin America do not play a significant role in the lives of most of the region's inhabitants. The consequent "intermediation gap" is reflected in narrow and shallow financial markets—a phenomenon that inhibits broad-based economic growth and helps to perpetuate inequality throughout the region. Basic financial services, such as bank accounts, credit, and insurance, paradoxically have a higher cost for the vast majority of people at the base of the economic pyramid, and this premium discourages their use.

Gaps in the system

In Latin America, banks are the leading source of financial services. Despite the banks' importance in business financing, the amount of credit extended to the private sector as a percentage of GDP is much lower than it is in developed countries. For Latin America as a whole, total lending to the private sector amounts to only 25 percent of GDP, compared with 76 percent in developed countries.

The IDB recently conducted a detailed study of the region's financial markets. We found that large numbers of people have no access to financial services. On average, only 10 percent of the population has access to credit; access to other services, such as insurance and the capital markets, is lower still. (Even in the United States, more than 40 million people do not have access to financial services.)

Beyond the banking system, capitalization and liquidity are much lower in Latin America's stock markets than in those of other regions, and the number of listed companies has actually declined over the past decade. Although we have hundreds of thousands of viable enterprises in our region, only 1,648 of them are listed on stock exchanges. Far fewer are actively traded, and, of course, hardly any of the listed companies are small businesses.

In many of the region's countries, financial systems are characterized by large volumes of government-issued debt instruments with maturities that are still skewed toward the short term. This tends to generate atrophy rather than development in the financial system by crowding out private businesses. In Colombia, for example, the public sector absorbs more than one-third of the banking system's lending capacity.

Many financial institutions do not fulfill their true role as intermediaries and instead focus on investing in government bonds, to the detriment of lending to the private sector, admittedly a less straightforward activity. This suboptimal pattern of behavior is strengthened by weak legal frameworks and banking regulations whose chief aim is a stable financial system, even if it does not intermediate! Minimum capital requirements for banks conspire against the system's development. A typical banker's rationale would be, "Let's buy government bonds, since this requires less capital and is less risky and easier."

Moreover, financial institutions, aiming to maximize profits, seek economies of scale and scope and are therefore interested mostly in large urban markets and in large clients. Coverage is limited in more sparsely populated areas, such as the rural sector, and among low-income groups.

Ineffective regulation

Banking in Latin America is often highly regulated, sometimes in unnecessary and counterproductive ways. For example, interest rate ceilings, intended to discourage usury, pose a major obstacle to credit access for informal microenterprises, whose credit risk is high by definition. The issue of usury is as old as the Bible. The negative effect of interest rate ceilings on financial-sector development, while not quite as old, is now well established. Back in 1714, the lowering of the maximum permissible rate in England reduced access to credit and increased the minimum and average size of loans.

By contrast, in the United States, the Supreme Court's 1978 ruling against limits on rates helped fuel a boom in the credit card market, which today has assets of $452 billion and benefits 60 million families. But this phenomenon is not limited solely to wealthy nations. Countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, South Africa, and Thailand, as well as others closer to home—for instance, Bolivia and Peru—have abolished interest rate caps and successfully developed microcredit markets. Perversely, the laudable goal of reducing financing costs for the poor by controlling interest rates has served only to exclude them from the possibility of access to financial services.

Limited competition

Competition too is lacking in Latin America. When financial markets were liberalized and foreign banks admitted to the region, in the 1990s, competition began to flourish and banks were motivated to seek out progressively smaller-scale customers to gain business. This development was highly effective in deepening access to financial services but came at the cost of greater industry concentration. While it is true that concentration allows for economies of scale and scope, which are necessary for a system's efficiency, a balance should be struck between concentration and competition.

In Colombia, for example, thanks to reduced inflation and increased competition, financial spreads have narrowed, and the sector is enjoying an unprecedented boom. Nonetheless, to guarantee its sustainability, competition must be fostered still further. Foreign banks hold only 20 to 25 percent of the Colombian system's assets. The proportion is 40 percent in Chile, 45 percent in Venezuela, 60 percent in Peru, and 80 percent in Mexico.

To be sure, the returns are good. In 2005, for example, profits in Colombia were 4.1 percent of assets, compared with 3.9 percent in Chile and just 1.6 percent in Canada and 1.4 percent in Spain—even though financing to the private sector as a percentage of total assets is just 28 percent in Colombia, compared with 62 percent in Chile, 44 percent in Canada, and 49 percent in Spain. These high returns reflect high intermediation spreads resulting from a lack of competition, which affects Colombia's overall competitiveness.

High profitability is not a problem in itself, but it becomes a problem when it overshadows incentives to increase coverage. In Colombia the use of bank accounts is very low: on average, over the past five years, credit totaled only 19 percent of GDP, as opposed to 59 percent in Chile and 118 percent in Spain. In Bogotá and in São Paulo fewer than 40 percent of families have access to the financial system. In Mexico City the figure is under 25 percent. The number of ATMs per 100,000 people is 127 in Spain but 24 in Chile and just 10 in Colombia. Administrative costs in Colombia as a percentage of total assets are more than twice those in Chile and more than three times those of developed countries.

In Argentina and Venezuela, levels of credit to the private sector are one-fourth to one-fifth of what would be justified by their overall levels of economic activity

Low lending to the private sector and its consequences

Over the past two years, the banking system's liquidity has increased significantly in Latin America, but only Brazil and Chile have regained the levels of lending to the private sector that prevailed in the 1960s. In Argentina and Venezuela, levels of credit to the private sector are one-fourth to one-fifth of what would be justified by their overall levels of economic activity. Only in Chile is lending to the private sector at a level greater than the country's GDP would warrant. Lend-ing to governments and to large customers not only is easier and more profitable but also requires less capital. This state of affairs is promoted by banking regulations that give preference to stability over intermediation. It is not sustainable, however. If the banks fail to deepen and extend their coverage, technological progress will provide increased opportunities for fund transfers and intermediation outside of the banking infrastructure.

In some countries, such as South Africa, where the use of bank accounts is low, we are already seeing the emergence of systems that use smart cards and prepaid cellular telephony to facilitate transactions between individuals and between them and commercial entities—without the need for a banking infrastructure. Last year Wal-Mart Mexico announced plans to enter banking, following the lead of successful domestic retailers, such as Elektra. Governments have promoted these channels as a means of democratization, using them to deposit public transfers such as pensions, tax rebates, and conditional transfers to low-income population groups, among others. Of course, the corresponding transaction costs are much lower than those for payments using credit cards or checks, which do not reach lower-income groups. These are the channels of the future for the remittances of migrants.

South Africa has also been a pioneer in establishing a universal-access fund for financial services, similar to the funds many countries use to promote cellular telephony. Banks contribute to the fund and in exchange receive resources from it as they expand access. Why not consider adopting such a mechanism, which benefits people and deepens the system, in Latin America?

Concerted action

The reality of low bank account use, low inclusion, and low capital markets development in Latin America needs to change radically not only for the good of the region but also for the stability and long-term profitability of its financial systems. This goal requires concerted action by the public and private sectors.

It is time for financial institutions to accelerate the development of innovative mechanisms and new programs to reach the microfinance, remittance, and other underserved markets. If Latin American financial institutions exploit this opportunity, we will have taken a major step toward improving the lives and possibilities of the majority of the region's inhabitants. From the standpoint of financial institutions, such moves represent an opportunity to open up a potentially enormous and profitable market.

In my opinion, we are living during a "perfect storm" for financial democratization in Latin America. Inflation rates are at record lows, economies are growing, banks are profitable and well capitalized, and technology is enabling us to reduce costs and increase coverage. All of this means that, perhaps for the first time in the history of the region, significantly extending banking coverage makes good business sense. The opportunity must be seized now, while the financial system is not under pressure, to give financial democracy the attention it has thus far lacked.

The base of the pyramid

My top priority at the IDB is to help ensure economic and social progress among neglected population groups. For that reason, we have launched the "Opportunities for the Majority" initiative, with a program of activities to improve the quality of life for these groups. Poor population groups pay what is in effect a fine—a tax for being poor—in forms such as higher costs to obtain potable water, hours wasted through a lack of adequate transport, and working days lost to easily preventable illnesses. Yet these people represent the backbone of our societies and should be the focus of our efforts.

One of the pillars of the initiative is financial democracy. In addition to supporting the development of financial markets, we aim to help triple the volume of microcredit in the region, targeting a level of $15 billion in five years. We will also work to reduce the average cost of remittances by migrants—crucial to the lives of millions of poor families in the region—to 3 percent, from the current 5.6 percent. And we will create a new $1 billion lending program for small and midsize enterprises, as well as increase our funding for job training by 50 percent, to $2 billion, in the next five years.

In addition, affordable products and services must be developed to meet the needs of the majority. Such offerings would help to create job opportunities, which are fundamental for reducing inequality and poverty. I firmly believe it is possible to generate attractive commercial profits in addition to social returns. But doing so will require a step forward from traditional strategies. Under the new paradigm, it is essential to develop public policies with well-structured incentives. As a result of greater competition and narrower spreads, some financial institutions have already started to provide financing and banking services to small and midsize enterprises, microenterprises, and low-income families. There has also been some expansion of the frontier in microfinance products: credit and debit cards, micromortgages, agricultural loans, savings accounts, microinsurance, and remittances, as well as a number of informal mechanisms for assisting low-income groups.

The poor constitute a major new market segment, which has so far been underserved by the banking system. This segment, which includes a massive and stable customer base, will help to diversify portfolio risk in the region. Experience shows that using appropriate credit evaluation techniques can reduce the risk posed by the microfinance segment to levels equal to or lower than those of traditional segments.

Growing volumes of remittances, generally reaching low-income groups, are currently used mostly to finance consumption. Few of the recipients open or hold bank accounts that could help put such resources to productive use. There are significant opportunities to offer both deposit and loan products to these people.

Financial institutions will have to overcome an organizational culture that does not see this market segment as attractive. To do so, senior management must embrace this new line of business. Companies will have to develop a deeper knowledge of the new customers and market segments in order to design specialized products, to deploy more flexible and customized processes and credit and service technologies, to retrain employees, and to establish new distribution channels that can serve this market effectively.

I intend to strengthen the IDB's commitment to work with governments in implementing the legal and regulatory frameworks needed to ensure that these new initiatives can flourish.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of the people, the enterprises, and the economic activity at the base of the pyramid. If we satisfy the needs of the base, our region's economy will grow rapidly and more equitably, and its financial systems will expand and become better equipped to cope with the instability of business cycles. It is also no stretch to claim that this is good business—something many commercial banks have discovered, having already undertaken the downscaling needed to serve these customers.

The future growth and development of Latin American countries will depend largely on their own ability to provide key services more inclusively. This is particularly true of financial services, which are crucial to help the people develop their full potential as entrepreneurs, workers, consumers, and investors.

About the Authors

Luis Alberto Moreno is the president of the Inter-American Development Bank.

This essay is adapted from a speech, "Challenges to expand access to credit and banking services," delivered on August 10, 2006, at the 41st Banking Convention, in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.

Annual Review Finds Major Greening of Higher Ed.


Annual Review Finds Major Greening of Higher Ed.
Source:
GreenBiz.com

LEXINGTON, Ky., Mar. 13, 2007 -- More than 600 environmental sustainability projects sprouted up on North American campuses last year, according to a new report produced by Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

The annual report, the AASHE Digest 2006, offers a comprehensive review of campus sustainability efforts from the past year. The survey includes over 600 stories about higher education institutions leading the way to a sustainable future. The report is organized into 8 chapters covering: 1) institutional change, 2) education and outreach, 3) social responsibility, 4) green building, 5) energy management and renewable energy, 6) food and agriculture, 7) transportation, and 8) waste, water, landscaping, and procurement.

"The incredible variety of sustainability activities underway on campuses is a sign of a healthy movement," said Tom Kimmerer, AASHE's Executive Director. "If the two months of 2007 are any indication, we are heading for another vigorous year."

The Digest offers ample evidence of a broadening and deepening of campus sustainability efforts, with more institutions of all types getting involved and campuses undertaking more significant measures than ever before to improve their sustainability performance. Of particular note is the fact that the combined green power purchases of the Top 10 higher education purchasers tripled in 2006.

The report also found that 175 more four-year schools joined the list this year for the first time, and a rapidly growing number of religious and tribal schools have begun taking sustainability seriously.

Digest stories also show growing support for sustainability by the higher education associations. An entire track was devoted to sustainability at the "Campus of the Future" conference hosted by APPA, NACUBO and SCUP. Several associations have even formed a network called the Higher Education Associations Sustainability Consortium (HEASC) to advance sustainability within their programming and operations.

In 2006, higher education media also acknowledged the growing interest in sustainability, with the Chronicle of Higher Education and University Business each devoting a special issue to the topic.

AASHE's own growth over the past year mirrors the trends highlighted in the report. By the end of the year, membership in AASHE had more than quintupled since the beginning of the year. In addition, AASHE's inaugural conference held in October 2006 was the largest campus sustainability gathering to date, attracting nearly 700 participants.

The full report is available for download from
AASHE.org [PDF].

Wal-Mart To Score Electronics Suppliers' Sustainability


Wal-Mart To Score Electronics Suppliers' Sustainability
Source:
GreenBiz.com

ANNAPOLIS, Md., Mar. 13, 2007 -- As part of a new program announced at the retail giant, Wal-Mart will begin scoring its electronics suppliers' sustainability practices to help the company offer its customers products that better sustain natural resources and minimize their impact on the environment.

Wal-Mart has released the criteria that will be part of a scorecard used to evaluate consumer electronics suppliers, and starting in 2008, Wal-Mart will ask suppliers to fill out the scorecard and buyers will have the option to use the scorecard results to influence purchasing decisions.

"Wal-Mart believes that this scorecard will move electronics in the right direction-a sustainable direction," said Ross Farnsworth, divisional merchandise manager of home electronics at Wal-Mart during his speech at the "Take It Back" conference in Annapolis, Md. "The scorecard encourages improvements that are good for business as well as for the environment, reflecting Wal-Mart's view that being a profitable and efficient business goes hand-in-hand with being a good steward to the environment."

Next year, Wal-Mart will ask electronics suppliers to fill out a scorecard that will assess the sustainability of their product. The scorecard will evaluate electronics on energy efficiency, durability, upgradability, end-of-life solutions, and the size of the package containing the product.

Products will also be evaluated on their ability to use innovative materials that reduce the amount of hazardous substances, such as lead and cadmium, contained in the product. The end result is a score that shows suppliers where improvements can be made and allows Wal-Mart to evaluate the environmental sustainability of the product.

"Many electronics contain hazardous materials and are disposed of improperly. The scorecard issues a better score to those suppliers who build products with fewer hazardous materials and offer electronics recycling opportunities to customers," added Farnsworth.

Some suppliers are already integrating the metrics into their products. Currently, many of the computers and televisions sold at Wal-Mart are compliant with the Reduction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) standards, including the popular Toshiba Satellite A55 laptop.

To encourage suppliers to start implementing the scorecard metrics into their products now, Wal-Mart is co-sponsoring an innovative design contest with the Green Electronics Council. Suppliers are encouraged to submit a consumer electronics product that puts the scorecard metrics into practice. The winner's product will be carried in Wal-Mart stores throughout the nation.

As suppliers are encouraged to become more sustainable, Wal-Mart itself is pushing sustainability initiatives in its Electronics Network. In February, Wal-Mart co-hosted a series of e-waste "Take Back" days. Together with Hewlett-Packard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Wal-Mart collected more than 140,000 pounds of old electronics for recycling from residents in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. In addition to the Take Back days, Wal-Mart offers year-round in-store recycling of cell phones and ink cartridges and encourages customers to buy energy efficient products.

G8 Climate Consensus Emerging, US Odd Man Out


G8 Climate Consensus Emerging, US Odd Man Out
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GERMANY: March 19, 2007


POTSDAM, Germany - A consensus on the need to protect the world's environment is emerging among rich and developing nations, but the United States remains at odds with other countries on key points, Germany said on Saturday.


Environment ministers of the Group of Eight leading industrialised nations, and officials from leading developing countries, were meeting to prepare for a June G8 summit where they plan to discuss specific targets for protecting the environment.

"On two issues, the United States were the only ones who spoke against consensus," German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters at the end of the two-day meeting, which he chaired on behalf of Germany's G8 presidency.

Gabriel said the US remained opposed to a global carbon emissions trading scheme like the one used in the European Union and rejected the idea that industrialised nations should help achieve a "balance of interests" between developing countries' need for economic growth and environmental protection.

"We find this regrettable," Gabriel said, adding "I would have been disappointed if I'd expected something different."

The June summit of G8 nations -- Germany, the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Canada, Japan and Russia -- will take place in the Baltic resort of Heiligendamm.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has put climate change at the top of the agenda for this year's summit, which will also be attended by the developing nations that were in Potsdam -- China, India, South Africa, Brazil and Mexico.


PRESSURE ON US, CHINA AND INDIA

Japanese Environment Minister Masatoshi Wakabayashi said ministers did not discuss specific targets for a possible agreement to replace the UN's Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. However, he said the summit would have to tackle targets.

The United States has been criticised for pulling out of the Protocol in 2001 and Wakabayashi said any post-Kyoto agreement with specific targets would "have to involve the US, China, India and other developing countries."

Canadian Environment Minister John Baird echoed this view in a conference call with reporters after the meeting.

But developing states like China cite the US position as a reason for their refusal to accept reduction targets.

Chinese Environment Minister Xie Zhenhua said he used the G8 meeting to call on industrialised states to transfer top environmental protection technology to developing countries to help them combat climate change.

"People have been talking about technology transfers but this hasn't happened," Xie said.

Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said progress had been achieved at the meeting, and noted a consensus on causes of global warming.

The Bush administration, which for years questioned the reliability of scientific findings showing man-made pollution was causing the planet's warming, has shifted its stance.

Washington now backs conclusions in a UN report last month which said mankind was to blame for global warming and predicted more droughts and heatwaves and a slow rise in sea levels.

"There is a strong consensus on the science," de Boer said. "We can now put behind us the period when science was called into question."

Greenpeace analyst Tobias Muenchmeyer criticised the meeting, saying the ministers "failed to send a signal to their leaders about the urgency of the climate change issue." (Additional reporting by Randall Palmer in Ottawa)


Story by Louis Charbonneau

Zipcar Launches Fancy New Web Reservation System




Bernie/Jean-Francois, someone seems to be thinking.  They actually talked to the users!

       Regards, Norbert



Zipcar Launches Fancy New Web Reservation System
by
Collin Dunn, Seattle on 03.16.07
Cars & Transportation (cars)

zipcars-new-site.jpg

Regular TreeHugger readers already know that we're enamored with car-sharing services; they reduce the number of cars on the road and make driving a much more efficient experience as a whole. One of the services that's made a splash here in the States is Zipcar (though they've recently branched out to London and Toronto, along with Chicago here in the US), and to make it a little easier on everyone, they've launched a fancy new reservation system on their website. After surveying 30,000 members and running some tests, they've combined one-click reservations, embedded Google maps and AJAX technology, which allows for real-time interaction with ever-changing vehicle availability and a solid Web 2.0 experience. It looks like a pretty slick system, and if it helps more people share cars, we're all for it. Read all the details in the press release and learn more about Zipcar at their site. ::Zipcar via ::AutoblogGreen


Zipcar, World's Leading Car Sharing Service, Races Ahead with New Reservation Technology and Fleet Optimization System

Builds patent-pending technology to create unprecedented solution for managing dynamic network of vehicles and users


CAMBRIDGE, MA, (March 12, 2007) — Zipcar, the world's largest car sharing service, today unveiled the redesign of its web-reservation and patent-pending "Z3D Knowledge Center." As the most ambitious and significant upgrades in the company's history, these enhancements allow Zipcar to strengthen its award-winning membership experience while preparing to scale its service in existing and new markets.

The web-reservation redesign follows Zipcar's "member first" philosophy, and was completed based on member feedback, including 30,000 survey responses, one-on-one meetings, and usability testing at various stages of development. The result is a completely enhanced system that allows members to find and reserve vehicles two to five times faster than the previous version. Members will experience:

  • Simple Usability: Targeted search results with one-click reservation option that includes a single reservation confirmation review page featuring vehicle photo, reservation time, reservation cost, location maps, instructions, and applicable policies.
  • Intuitive Design: Unique use of Ajax technology allows members real-time interaction with ever-changing vehicle availability resulting in click and drag functionality for changing reservations "thermometer."
  • Quick Reservations: Available cars and the estimated costs of a particular reservation are viewable in a single browser window, allowing users to quickly scan available vehicle choices by location, time and price.
The new reservation system is supported by Zipcar's "Z3D Knowledge Center" that hosts all data in real time and synchronizes it with data collected from each end point: interactive telephone systems, vehicles, member service agents, regional employees, and the new web-reservation system. The Knowledge Center then uses patent-pending, unique caching to push the synchronized data out to each end point in the most efficient manner. This upgrade enables Zipcar to better manage, monitor, and maintain its vehicle fleet as well as plan and optimize fleet size and future vehicle locations. Other benefits include:
  • Support Global Expansion: "Z3D Knowledge Center" is capable of delivering a world-class online experience for up to one-million Zipcar members and supporting tens of thousands of vehicles, globally.
  • Increase Self-Service: Targeted search results are expected to lower reservation abandonment rate and reduce reservation assistance calls.
  • Improve fleet yield management: By applying proprietary business rules to the synchronized data, the Z3D knowledge center provides Zipcar with location-specific vehicle deployment needs.
"With this launch, we are now prepared to support tens of thousands of cars and hundreds of thousands of members throughout the world by presenting them with an efficient and intuitive reservation and service experience," said Scott Griffith, CEO of Zipcar, Inc. "The upgrades to our Knowledge Center and backend systems are based on the experience of processing 1.5 million reservations, and we are confident that they will allow us to intelligently manage our growing fleet while providing an easier and faster user experience for our members."

Zipcar's technology leadership and commitment to providing the industry's premier membership experience has fueled the company's 100%+ growth for each of the past three years. Zipcar currently operates in London, England and 13 states and provinces in North America, serving more than 85,000 individual and business members with 2,500 vehicles. In the past 18 months, Zipcar has launched, and seen rapid growth, in six new markets: London, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, Minneapolis and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

About Zipcar


Zipcar is a leading urban lifestyle brand that provides an alternative to car ownership to more than 85,000 consumer and business drivers worldwide. By providing urbanites with hourly and daily access to fun, affordable, and conveniently-located vehicles, Zipcar has grown to be the world's largest and fastest growing car sharing service, currently operating more than 2,500 vehicles in London and 13 North American states and provinces, including metropolitan, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, Toronto and Washington, DC. With Zipcar's award-winning technology, accessing and using a Zipcar is as easy as getting cash from an ATM. In minutes or up to a year in advance, members can reserve Zipcars online or by phone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Zipcar members have automated access to any Zipcar across North America and the United Kingdom using a "Zipcard" to simply unlock the door and drive away. For more information, visit
http://www.zipcar.com.