B4E, the Business for Environment Global Summit, is the world's leading international conference for dialogue and business-driven action for the environment. The summit addresses the most urgent environmental challenges facing the world today. Important topics on the agenda include resource efficiency, renewable energies, new business models and climate policy and strategies. CEOs and senior executives join leaders from government, international agencies, NGOs and media to discuss environmental issues, forge partnerships and explore innovative solutions for a greener future.
“I want to know what we'll need to do to make our company a restorative enterprise. To put back more than we take from the earth and to do good for the earth, not just no harm.” – Ray C. Anderson, Founder, Interface
Centuries of development, the blind pursuit of economic growth and the exploitation of natural resources have had a disastrous effect on our planet leading to a ‘perfect storm’ of global events and a major threat to humanity. With climate change, forest and biodiversity loss, natural disasters and the scarcity of food and water all coming together at...
Natural photosynthesis—the remarkable ability of plants to transform sunlight into useful energy—powers virtually all life on Earth. But that’s not enough for some people.
Caltech chemistry professor Nate Lewis and his colleagues aim to show Mother Nature how it really should be done. Their goal is to produce fuel as energy-dense as gasoline and as friendly to the environment as a daffodil.
“Plants are the wrong color to be optimum energy-conversion machines,” Lewis said. “They should be black like solar cells, not green.” He also points out that plants max out their energy conversion at only 10 percent of the light intensity available on a bright, sunny day. The remaining 90 percent of the solar energy they receive goes unused.
Nature presumably has good reasons for wasting so much sunlight. After all, a plant only has to harness enough energy to run its own metabolism, not to satisfy the needs of an energy-hungry civilization. But the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), of which Lewis is scientific director, has more ambitious goals. According to Lewis, artificial photosynthesis will compare to what plants do in much the same way that artificial flight compares to what birds do. We take our inspiration from nature and then strive to surpass it.
JCAP, a U.S. Department of Energy “Energy Innovation Hub,” is America’s largest research program dedicated to turning sunshine into fuel. The artificial photosynthesis system it is developing promises to produce energy-packed liquid fuel at 10 times the efficiency of plants, using only sunlight, water and carbon dioxide as ingredients.
Unlike fossil fuels, JCAP’s product will not contribute to the climate-changing greenhouse effect. And unlike some biofuels, such as those derived from corn, it will not compete with food crops for farmland, require fertilizer or consume large amounts of water. Just set it up in the sunshine and watch the fuel drip out.
The Arctic lost record amounts of sea ice last year and is changing at an unprecedented pace due to climate change, a landmark climate study said on Tuesday.
Last year was among the 10 warmest years on record – ranking eighth or ninth depending on the data set, according to a report led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa). The year 2012 also saw record greenhouse gas emissions, with concentrations of carbon dioxide and other warming gasses reaching a global average of 392.7 parts per million for the year.
“The findings are striking,” Kathryn Sullivan, Noaa’s acting administrator, said on a conference call. “Our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place.”
The scientists were reluctant to point directly to the cause of the striking changes in the climate. But the annual reports are typically used by the federal government to prepare for the future, and in June president Barack Obama used his climate address to direct government agencies to begin planning for decades of warming atmosphere and rising seas.
The biggest changes in the climate in 2012 were in the Arctic and in Greenland, said the report, which is an annual exercise by a team of American and British scientists. The Arctic warmed at about twice the rate of lower latitudes, the report found. By June 2012, snow cover had fallen to its lowest levels since the record began. By September 2012, sea-ice cover had retreated to its lowest levels since the beginning of satellite records, falling to 1.32 million square miles.
That was, the report noted, a whopping 18% lower than the previous low, set in 2007, and a staggering 54% lower than the mark for 1980.
The changes were widespread on land as well, with record warm permafrost temperatures in Alaska and in the Canadian Arctic, the report’s authors noted. On 11 July last year, Greenland experienced surface melting on 97% of the ice sheet. The record-breaking events indicate an era of “new normal” for the climate, the researchers said.
“The record or near-records being reported from year to year in the Arctic are no longer anomalies or exceptions,” said Jackie Richter-Menge, a civil engineer with the US army corps of engineers. “Really they have become the rule for us, or the norm that we see in the Arctic and that we expect to see for the forseeable future.”
That ice melt was also a major cause of sea-level rise, the report found. Global sea levels rose to record highs last year, after being depressed during the first half of 2011 because of the effects of La Niña. The average global sea level last year was 1.4in above the 1993-2010 average.
“Over the past seven years of so, it appears that the ice melt is contributing more than twice as much to the global sea level rise compared with warming waters,” said Jessica Blunden, a climatologist at Noaa’s national climactic data centre.
Carmakers have joined forces with the government to invest £1bn in a research centre to develop low-carbon technologies to succeed diesel and petrol engines.
Vince Cable, the business secretary, announced that his department would commit around £500m over the next decade to the proposed research facility, the Advanced Propulsion Centre.
While details of the centre remain unclear, manufacturers including Ford, Nissan and BMW have agreed to “actively explore potential for investment in the centre” – an agreement in principle to match the government funding.
An initial venture will be a £10m competition for businesses to come up with innovative, collaborative low-carbon vehicles, with winners potentially fast-tracked for commercial development through the centre.
The government claimed the commitment would secure 30,000 jobs currently linked to producing engines. The industry expects traditional petrol or diesel engines to have disappeared by 2040.
The business secretary joined car industry representatives to unveil the proposed research centre as part of a long-term industrial strategy, called Driving Success, which highlighted a shortage of engineers and other skilled workers that would need to be addressed if the UK industry was to continue growing.
It also identified the potential to fill some gaps in the supply chain, with only a third of parts for cars produced in the UK being made domestically.
Cable said: “The UK automotive sector has been incredibly successful in recent times, with billions of pounds of investment and new jobs. This has been achieved by government and industry working together.
“With the next generation of vehicles set to be powered by radically different technologies we need to maintain this momentum and act now. Our industrial strategy will ensure we keep on working together to make our automotive industry a world leader.”
Cable’s co-chair of the Automotive Council, the former Ford development supremo Prof Richard Parry-Jones, said that agreeing the new industrial strategy was “critical to sustaining and growing a thriving UK automotive sector in a highly competitive global industry”.
He said: “Businesses prefer consistency, stability and a clear path to the future in order to make investment plans.”
Cable last month announced £3m in funding for a new Automotive Investment Organisation, which seeks to persuade foreign firms to bring their operations to Britain.
Around £6bn has been invested in the UK car industry over the last two years, with vehicle production rising to 1.58m in 2012 against a background of slipping European figures. Although Ford is shutting plants here – at Southampton and Dagenham – the industry said it expected to recruit more than 7,600 apprentices and 1,700 graduates in the next five years.
Mike Baunton, the interim chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: “The motor industry is a major contributor to the UK economy and has been increasing that contribution in a challenging economic environment.
“I am confident that the strategy and the joint investment by government and the industry will make the UK an even more attractive place to design, build and sell automotive components and vehicles.”
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