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
Climate change, forest and biodiversity loss, natural disasters and the scarcity of food and water are all combining to form the greatest challenge that our world has ever faced.
To reverse these destructive impacts, and restore our ecosystems and environment, nothing less than a fundamental and transformative change to our current global economic model will be...
Earlier last week the B4E Climate Summit was held in London. The President of COP20, Peruvian Minister for the Environment Manuel Pulgar-Vidal Otalora, asked over 100 sustainability and business professionals what corporates, government and society needed to do to become Net Positive.
Simple. Just put more back than you take, right?
If WWF’s latest Living Planet report is an indicator, with over half the world’s animals disappearing since the 1970’s, as a society we are falling way short of net positive biodiversity outcomes.
But can a business define what it means to be net positive or even neutral? How about specifically on carbon, water, or forests? How can they measure and report their impact on both their direct and indirect water use, for example? It seems it is not that easy to describe the point at which you are water neutral.
Net positivism was discussed throughout the day, after it was seeded by the morning’s panel of business and NGO leaders. Where is the neutral line, how far is net positive financially viable and who should regulate this?
Businesses could be encouraged to introduce their own method of measuring and controlling rather than waiting for regulations. Mark Kenber, CEO of the Climate Group, pointed to organisations that are introducing their own carbon pricing as an example of where business can lead and take action ahead of regulation. It was suggested that with ambition, deeper research, analysis and collaboration we can attempt to quantify what it means to be net positive. But what then?
Collaboration was another key focus throughout most discussions. Amongst all the great ideas for businesses to become net positive, there seemed to be a consensus that corporates, civil society, governments and ‘citizens’ needed to work together to research and implement solutions for creating a restorative economy.
I asked David Nussbaum, WWF-UK Chief Executive, where he thought business could start. 'Every business should be asking themselves what they can do to restore nature that has been lost. We need more disruptive thinking, well beyond 'business as usual', and innovative partnerships that drive change at scale'.
Many of the solutions discussed on the day are being written up to be sent to Lima in December. We have twelve months until COP21. Will Net Positive be on the table as a way of framing the debate or is that too ambitious?
In any case, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal might tell you not to go to Paris. His closing remark to the morning’s introduction highlighted his ambition for COP20 and beyond. “Don’t come to Lima, unless you want to change the world”.
Dean Cambridge, WWF-UK
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.
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