By Samantha Smith
For the last two decades, the global environmental movement has focused on an international climate agreement and emissions targets as the main way to avoid dangerous climate change.
Though there have been successes along the way, the UN climate negotiations are stuck: they are not delivering the change we need at anything like the speed at which we need it. Meanwhile, emissions continue to rise and the impacts of climate change continue to mount.
Clearly, we need a new approach. And WWF gave deep consideration to a new approach as we prepared to launch Seize Your Power, our global campaign on renewable energy in June this year.
Together with many other civil society organizations, we considered two things in finding a new approach to tackling climate change. First, we asked what we could do that would give the biggest change in emissions in the shortest period of time?
And second, we asked how could we break up this narrative of deadlock and frozen national and international politics, and engage people more directly in positive change?
We decided to focus on renewable energy, for the following reasons. Energy is key to development and to powering the lives people aspire to live. But over the last few years, the energy sector has emerged as the main culprit – as well as the main solution – for global climate change.
Most climate-changing pollution now comes from burning fossil fuels. Extraction of fossil fuels is also increasingly a driver for direct loss of biodiversity. At the same time, renewable energy provides a straightforward, proven and increasingly affordable solution, with far fewer direct impacts.
Getting a future where our economies are powered by renewable energy is within reach.
A world shift to renewable energy is more possible now than it was just five years ago. New renewable energy electricity investments surpassed oil, coal and gas for the first time in history.
Solar power is quickly becoming competitive with coal in parts of India, while new wind power is cheaper than coal in Australia. Economies around the world have committed to 100% renewable energy.
However, time is very short.
Large amounts of money are being invested in energy now, and those investments will be with us for twenty to fifty years. If those investments go to renewable energy, we can avoid dangerous climate change. If they go to fossil fuels, we are cooked.
To ensure that enough money goes to renewable energy, and not to fossil fuels, all analysts agree that institutional investors and international finance institutions are key. Their investments attract and drive much bigger amounts from other smaller and shorter-term investors.
So the news from the World Bank this week that they have adopted a policy that will limit funding of coal power plants to “only rare circumstances” begins to define the new approach we believe is necessary to combat runaway climate change.
As Justin Guay, leader of the Sierra Club’s international climate programme told ClimateWire this week, the World Bank move “starts an inevitable process of closing the door for good on coal finance from international public sources”.
We believe that this approach should immediately become the norm for all international financial institutions. In our campaign, Seize Your Power, we call on financial institutions to significantly increase their funding of renewable energy and cut funding to fossil fuels.
We are challenging government and financial institutions to commit to an additional US$40 billion for renewable energy by 2017 and not to invest in fossil fuels, particularly coal.
Many other NGOs, movements and coalitions are also calling for divestment from fossil fuels.
The approach has been defined. Now the action must start.
Samantha Smith is head of WWF’s Global Climate & Energy Initiative
I was thrilled last year as Sustainia was launched during the Rio+20 conference with Gro Harlem Brundtland, Former Prime Minister of Norway, and organizer of the original Rio Earth Summit 20 years ago saying: “Sustainia100 demonstrates that since the first Earth Summit in 1992 solutions and innovations to tackle this challenge have been developed all over the world. We need to make more people aware of these solutions and inspire more to act.
Raising awareness and inspiring more governments, corporates and investors to act are also the cornerstones of WWF Climate Solverm,launched in 2008. The main difference between the initiatives is Climate Solvers’ focus on energy demand and supply solutions, and the call for action to support national champions in key countries . Sustainia looks at other sustainability challenges as well including health, fashion, food, education and resources, and there is only one global list including solutions from all over the world.
After an initial meeting WWF and Sustainia soon realized that there are many exciting synergies to build upon, and we decided to collaborate around raising awareness and inspiration through already commercialized solutions. I have had the honor to be a member of the Advisory Board together with WWF colleagues with expertise in energy supply, sustainable cities and energy access solutions for the poor.
To be considered a Sustainia100 candidate a solution must be more than just a vague idea or blueprint. All 100 solutions must fulfill the following criteria: Readily available; Positive environmental impact; Financially viable; Improve quality of life; and Scalable. Let yourself be inspired by the world’s largest bike sharing program in Hangzhou, gravity powered lighting in Sri Lanka, , solar energy powered water purification in Botswana, the first all-electric zero emissions car ferry in Norway and much more.
WWF Climate Solver was proud to have been part of compiling and advising on some of the inspiring Sustainia 100 cases this year. These one hundred real entrepreneurs and initiatives carry the inspiring message of thousands of solution providers - the innovations the world needs to deploy at scale to achieve sustainability already exist! They exist all over the world whilst commercializing these at scale is the great challenge of our time. We need financial institutions, governments and corporates all over the world to make this large scale deployment of sustainable solutions a reality. As it is now many of these brilliant solutions end up being just another inspiring niche project. We need you to shift investment flows from real sustainability problems to real sustainability solutions. So please sign WWF’s Seize Your Power pledge demanding investors to shift investments from fossil to renewable energy solutions.
And let yourself be inspired by the world’s largest bike sharing program in Hangzhou, gravity powered lighting in Sri Lanka, solar energy powered water purification in Botswana, the first all-electric zero emissions car ferry in Norway and much more. Seize your power and help these solutions grow even bigger in the years to come.
Arnold Schwarzenegger calls Sustainia 100 and Climate Solver enterpreneurs “the true action heroes of sustainability”. How can you support a true sustainability action heroes like John? There are many ways to do it, and you can start by spreading the word: that the solutions for tomorrow are already here – today.
Stefan Henningsson, WWF, Senior Advisor Climate Innovation
In today’s world, access to uninterrupted supply of electricity ensures economic prosperity. However, increasing emissions of carbon dioxide causing climate change, as well as the projected decline in fossil fuel availability by 2030, signals the dire need to promote renewable energy as the only viable source of electricity generation. Pakistan, like many other developing countries, is currently experiencing a period of economic development. However, it is clear that energy poverty is a real threat to the country’s socio-economic development. As a result, it’s industries are moving to other countries where there is more continuous and reliable supply of electricity. Although Pakistan spent an astonishing USD 15 billion on oil imports last year it is still trapped in the spiral of energy scarcity.
So how can Pakistan satisfy its electricity shortfall while completely relying on its available indigenous renewable resources? Several innovative ideas from India and Austria have been considered with regards to how they might be replicated in Pakistan. Mr. Narandra Modi, Chief Minister of Indian State of Gujarat has installed solar panels on Narmada canal in order to generate carbon neutral electricity. In an interview with The Hindu Newspaper in India, the Chief Minister suggested that if 10% of the available potential is utilized properly, it would enable us to generate 2,200 megawatts (MWs) of clean electricity. The total length of canals in Pakistan is 62,648 Kilometers, whereas, no such green plan has been initiated so far. Pictures of the Narmada canal with solar panel installation are available at following link:
Similarly, solar trees have been installed in Vienna, Austria since 2007. These are basically street lamps in shape of trees with several branches and each branch carrying a solar lamp. It stores sunlight during the day which is then used for illumination at night. These lamps can be installed in the rural areas of Pakistan where almost 40,000 villages have no access to electricity according to an article published in Dawn Newspaper on 31 March 2011. Once successfully implemented in rural areas it could then be expanded to urban areas as well. These solar trees are completely off-gird while the ordinary street light operates on fossil fuel.
Another solution is pushed forward by Royal Philips Electronics which plans to install “100 lights centers” across rural Africa by 2015. Once completed, this project will improve energy poor communities’ access to clean electricity. As a result, their day will extend beyond sunlight. Further details are available at the link below:
It may seem insignificant but once implemented at a grass roots level, these and similar initiatives will bring about significant change. Likewise, the effective use of available space along motorways and national highways in Pakistan will provide land area for the installation of solar panels which can then be used for rural electrification. This project could be run in collaboration with China as both countries have timely tested friendship expanding over a period of 6 decades.
The initiatives mentioned above will not only lessen the country’s dependence on imported oil but will also reduce its overall carbon emissions. These strategies are simple and realistic, but strong political will is a pre-requisite for achieving this target. The solutions must also be taken to market using intelligent financial vehicles, such as micro-credits, that can carry a higher up-front cost whilst generating a secure pay back in the transition towards generating good annual revenue.
Ayoub Hameedi, Intern WWF Sweden
Four new Indian Climate Solvers join the existing list of inspiring climate innovations:
Gram Power India - Smart Microgrid
Enfragy Solutions India - Bio-pellet based fuel efficient cookstove
Green India Building Systems & Solutions (GIBSS) - Geothermal Building Cooling System
Toro Cooling Systems - Air to Air Heat Exchanger
WWF's Stefan Henningsson was at the launch and shares his experience with us here:
Holi, the Festival of Colors is now taking place in India, which seems like a reflection of the bright colors of climate and energy entrepreneurship I have seen on display during a fascinating week in India.
I have seen the poorest communities in Sunderbans that now have an association of solar empowered women creating new local business models. They are selling solar charged batteries to the local market, and in that way generating a steady income to an otherwise very poor village. You can now access printing and copying services at the local market as there is a steady stream of charged batteries available for local merchants to run laptops and printers.
I have also participated in the first Climate Solver award ceremony in New Delhi. Four colorful entrepreneurs were chosen by the jury as examples of the growing number of SME solution providers with disruptive, resource efficient solutions and new business models. These examples bring into question the old thinking and common practice of wasting huge amounts of energy derived from fossil resources. The awards were part of a Business Response to Climate Change seminar co-organized by WWF, Confederation of Indian Industries, Carbon Disclosure Project and British High Commission.
Suresh Prabhu, Chairman, Council for Energy, Environment & Water, honored the event with his presence and pointed out the importance of thinking in new ways in order to solve urgent environmental problems. Climate Solver is an example of this new way of thinking. He also pointed out the importance of water innovations and water efficiency as integral part of any solution for the future, especially in a country like India.
The myriad of climate innovations coming from SMEs needs to be mainstreamed by corporates with the help of enabling policies and investments. As Ravi Singh, Secretary General & CEO for WWF India put it: “Innovation is typically a new way of doing something while increasing the value for a customer. WWF believes that this customer value must include radically reduced carbon emissions, energy access and compatibility with a transition to a renewable energy future.” A scenario of such a future is described in WWF’s Energy Report for 100% Renewable Energy globally by 2050. Achieving this is a quest for the corporate, investor and policy community where the disruptive solutions stemming from smaller game-changers will be key in creating this added value.
I presented WWF’s view on the necessity of transitioning towards a 100% renewable energy future. I also presented India’s profile in Global Cleantech Innovation Index where India placed 6th out of the G20 countries, and was shown to have the potential to become a true hotspot for cleantech innovation in the future. According to the index India’s booming economy, huge domestic market, good renewable resources and good ability to quickly scale up cleantech are all very promising though at the moment there are clear weaknesses at earlier stages of cleantech development.
Ashish Khanna, India Energy Team Leader at the World Bank, concluded his session with “India could become the hotbed for cleantech innovation”. The very latest market data on clean energy investments in India that came out after the event is of concern however. Clean energy investments in India fell 53% between 2011 and 2012 and are now at 6.3 billion dollars according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. If the Government incentive schemes are not reinforced and improved cleantech innovation potential of India is at risk.
It was natural in our Climate Solver award launch in India to include and emphasis on energy access solutions. Over 400 million people in India, which is nearly half of those living in India’s rural areas, still have no access to electricity which is a key for sustainable development.
- Stefan Henningsson, Senior Adviser Climate Innovation, WWF
Electricity is the backbone of socio-economic development of any country and is associated with provision of numerous services to people which directly enhances their quality of life. However, in today's world this situation becomes bit complex as not only continuous supply of electricity is important but it is equally essential to generate it in a green fashion. Kenya has, keeping these needs in mind, established Rural Electrification Authority (REA) under section 66 of Energy Act 2006 (No. 12 of 2006) with a vision to provide clean and green electricity to all rural areas in the country.
The total installed electricity generation capacity of Kenya at the moment is 1243 Mega Watts (MW) out of which 761 MW (65%) is generated through hydro power plants. Thermal electricity generation sources contribute 419.6 MW (30%), geothermal makes 163 MW (12%) and sugar factories contributes 26MW (1.9%) respectively. Since, Kenya is located across the equator; therefore, it has huge potential for utilizing solar energy as a source of electricity generation. Two main methods that are adopted in rural electrification program in Kenya are grid extensions (for integrated areas) and stand alone diesel operated / solar photovoltaic systems for areas located far from national grids. The master plan for the project was completed in 2009 in which 20,000 public installations were identified which were in need of electrification. Till now, 12,000 installations have been supplied with electricity. The details of the project are here.
The identified potential of various renewable energy resources are geothermal 7000 MW whereas the current installed capacity is only 163 MW. Similarly, over 80% of the total land area in Kenya can be utilized for electricity generation through photovoltaic solar panels. Almost 200,000 households in Kenya are currently seeking benefits from 12 – 20 watts of PV solar panels. The figure is increasing with an addition of 20,000 households per annum. By the end of june 2009, almost 189 institutions were supplied with electricity through 12 – 20 watts solar panels. Wind potential is estimated to be 346 Watts per meter square, small hydro potential is 3,000 MW and biomass collectively from different sources is 600 MW respectively.
The Government of Kenya is the basic supporter of this initiative. REA is currently focusing on developing framework for the promotion of photovoltaic solar panels among rural households and private sector and is open to have collaboration in this regard with foreign investors. This project is a practical example for the promotion of renewable energy sources at grass root level and the changes that it can bring into the lives of masses. However, the project still primarily relies on fund from government and foreign investors. There is a dire need to increase the market value of this project so that it would be able to generate revenue to sustain and grow further in years to come.
By guest blogger Ayoub Hameedi
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- 100 Sustainable Innovations to Rock this World!
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