Posts Tagged ‘governance’

Financing energy efficiency: Learning from Thailand

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on April 4th, 2013

Source: Greenpages

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Photo by Asian Development Bank via flickr cc

From ‘Lessons from Thailand: Mobilizing Investment in Energy Efficiency‘ by Louise Brown and Athena Ballesteros.

[…] The development of Thailand’s energy efficiency sector is an interesting case study. It demonstrates how strong government leadership combined with strategic support from international climate finance can drive the transition toward an energy-efficient economy. In the early 1990s, Thailand’s economy was growing rapidly at 10 percent per year; the power sector was growing even faster. The government recognized that conserving energy would provide a low-cost way to meet its citizens’ rising demand for energy.

It responded by passing a law in 1992 that set energy efficiency standards for industry and established an Energy Conservation Promotion Fund, which raised funds for energy efficiency projects by taxing petroleum products. The government also introduced a demand-side management plan, using about $40 million in climate finance from the Global Environment Facility (an international climate fund) and the Australian and Japanese governments. This plan included public awareness campaigns, setting energy efficiency standards for buildings and appliances, and demand-side planning to better manage the timing of consumer energy use.

The state energy generation utility successfully implemented the demand-side management plan, with impressive results: The utility achieved 15,700 gigawatt hours of energy savings by 2012, exceeding its own energy-savings targets. Key to the plan’s success was the fact that it was designed in close coordination with the private sector, carefully tailored to the Thai context, and widely disseminated through public awareness campaigns, resulting in strong support from industry and the public. Furthermore, the utility underwent considerable staff expansion and training to build its capacity to effectively implement the plan.

Financing Low-Carbon Projects in Thailand: While the demand-side management plan yielded positive results, an important barrier remained: Thailand’s local banks had a limited understanding of energy efficiency projects, making it challenging for potential developers to access financing for such projects. The Thai government took action by establishing an Energy Efficiency Revolving Fund in 2002, offering credit lines—initially at no interest—to local banks so that they could provide loans for energy efficiency projects. The Revolving Fund made commercial banks more familiar with energy efficiency projects, and by 2010, it had financed projects worth a total investment of $453 million, resulting in energy cost savings in the region of $154 million each year. The financial incentives to banks, combined with the enhanced awareness of energy efficiency, were key to the success of the Revolving Fund. Another critical factor was that the government had a reliable source of funding from the Energy Conservation Promotion Fund to invest in the Revolving Fund, so it did not need to rely on international support.

What Can We Learn from Thailand? Thailand has been able to transition smoothly from readiness activities—such as capacity-building, awareness-raising, and demonstration—to large-scale investments. It is now embarking on a 20-year energy efficiency development plan funded through the Energy Conservation Promotion Fund, which aims to reduce the country’s overall energy consumption by 20 percent by 2030. Other countries can learn from Thailand’s experience of combining strong national leadership with strategic use of climate finance for carefully targeted readiness activities. […]

>>> Read the full article, and learn more about the Thailand case study on the World Resources Institute’s website.
>>> You can follow the WRI’s six part blog series on Mobilizing Clean Energy Finance, which draws from their recent report Mobilizing Climate Investment.


Detroit: From Ghost City to Future City

Posted in Models, Visions by Jessica Bird on February 1st, 2013

Source: FastCoExist

detroit future city
Image from The Detroit Future City Plan.

From “A Framework For Creating A Thriving Detroit Of The Future” by Ariel Schwartz.

A new plan outlines how the Motor City can go from grabbing headlines about decay to being a model for a new kind of American urban center. […] In 2010, the Detroit Works Project, a public-private partnership between the City of Detroit and a number of foundations, launched with the goal of rethinking land use by understanding the demographics of the city (today, Detroit has miles upon miles of vacant land). “We understood from the beginning that land use had to be understood, but there were many pieces beyond land use that had to be part of the study,” explains Dan Pitera, executive director of the Detroit Collaborative Design Center and one of the driving forces behind Detroit Future City.

So in 2011, the Detroit Works Project was split into two: one piece worked on short-term planning, and the other focused on longer-term goals. After two years of research and discussion, the Detroit Future City report was released this month. The goal, according to press materials for the launch, is nothing short of a citywide reboot. […] The city framework–which is broken down into sections including economic growth, neighborhoods, land use, and city systems–comes from 30,000 conversations with city residents and more than 70,000 survey responses and comments. “When it was launched, we weren’t revealing a plan or framework because people have been seeing the work develop. It’s more of a celebration,” says Pitera.

We won’t try to sum up the mammoth report here, but Pitera stresses that the key point is that “Detroit is closer to its future than it imagines.” Much of the work that needs to happen is already beginning–now it just needs to be tied to a larger framework. One of the best known examples of Detroit’s burgeoning revival is the urban agriculture movement that has sprung up in response to all the abandoned land. […] The initiative’s creators imagine that these open spaces and environmental systems will sit alongside repurposed transportation corridors that accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers, all while collecting storm water runoff in swales located in the right-of-way. At the same time, new walkable retail districts and residential developments will keep things buzzing.

The authors aren’t done generating awareness for the project. Pitera tells us that a street team shows up at barber shops, grocery stores–wherever people are–to have conversations with people. Because while Detroit Future City calls for sweeping change on a systemic level, it needs individuals to get onboard too. “In our minds, civic engagement never ends. It’s the way a city should do business,” says Pitera. “People can come in, look at this, and see very realistic but aspirational plans and see themselves in it as well.”

Detroit Future City looks 50 years into the future: the first five years are focused on stabilization of the city, years five to 10 will grow and nurture the city, years 10 to 20 will sustain a larger population, increase in local jobs, and a new and improved infrastructure, and years 20 to 50 will ideally see Detroit regain its position as one of America’s great cities. Is it possible? Sure. Detroit has one big advantage over many U.S. cities: It has already hit rock bottom, and so it can build a resilient, sustainable city from the ground up instead of trying to modify its infrastructure piecemeal–a strategy that will ultimately hurt some of today’s thriving urban centers. […]

>>> You can read the full article here.
>>> You can Read the Detroit Future City Framework and learn more about the project on the Detroit Works Project website.


Mapping Global Climate Action

Posted in Models, Tools by Jessica Bird on October 25th, 2012

Source: The Climate Institute


Screenshot from the Global Climate Action Map website

An initiative of the Climate Institute, the Global Climate Action Map is an interactive tool for exploring what countries around the world are doing in terms of policy action on climate change. It’s a great way of learning about how governments are addressing issues such a renewable energy and emissions targets, carbon pricing, energy efficiency, forest and farming emissions, and emissions standards.

From the Global Climate Action Map website:

Aim: All major emitting countries are implementing policies to reduce emissions, drive clean energy investment and improve energy efficiency. This is driven by a range of factors including the need to reduce local and global air pollution, avoid environmental degradation, improve energy security and build new industries and employment opportunities. This map, while not exhaustive, seeks to provide a summary of high-level national actions on climate change.

Purpose: While countries representing over 80 per cent of global emissions have now committed to reduce or limit greenhouse gas emissions, the current commitments on the table mean the world is still heading for 3-4 degrees of global warming. Current national policies are a foundation to build upon, but more cooperation and increased ambition is needed to truly address the challenge.

Visit the Global Climate Action Map to explore the map yourself.

 


Australia’s transition to a post carbon future: Post Carbon Pathways report

Posted in Movements, Research by Jessica Bird on April 11th, 2012


Image source: AAP 

From What Australia can learn from the world’s best de-carbonisation policies by John Wiseman and Taegen Edwards

Around the world an increasing number of detailed policy road maps are demonstrating the possibility, necessity and urgency of a rapid transition to a just and sustainable post carbon future. The key barriers to this transition are social and political, not technological and financial.

The Post Carbon Pathways report, published by the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne and the Centre for Policy Development has reviewed 18 of the most comprehensive and rigorous post carbon economy transition strategies. As Australia enters the next phase of the climate change policy debate, this report will provide vital information on how other jurisdictions are designing and implementing large-scale plans to remove carbon from their economies. The review focuses on transition road maps produced by governments with the strongest emissions reduction targets, such as Germany, Denmark and the UK. It also looks at the most comprehensive and influential non-government authored strategies such as Zero Carbon Britain, Zero Carbon Australia and World in Transition (German Advisory Council on Global Change). Our analysis of these diverse ways of reaching a post-carbon future highlights several key lessons.

The window is closing fast
A wide range of detailed national and global level strategies demonstrate the technological and economic feasibility of rapidly moving to a post carbon economy. This goal can still be achieved at the scale and speed required to significantly reduce the risk of runaway climate change. But the gateway for effective action is rapidly closing. Decisive action in the next five to ten years will be critical. There is a crucial difference between transition strategies that advocate a pragmatic and evolutionary approach and those that advocate more rapid and transformational change. […]

Technology is not the most significant barrier
Analysis of these strategies shows that technological barriers are not the most significant obstacles to a fair and swift transition to a post carbon economy. The integrated suite of technological and systemic changes needed to reach a just and sustainable post carbon future will clearly need to include:

  • rapid reductions in energy consumption and improvements in energy efficiency
  • rapid replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy
  • significant investment in forests and sustainable agriculture to draw down and sequester carbon into sustainable carbon sinks.

We already have the technologies to achieve emission reductions at the required speed and scale. Soaring investment in technological innovation, particularly in the United States, China and Germany, is driving down the price of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies at a remarkable speed.

Financial and economic barriers: significant but not insurmountable
The economic and social costs of failing to take action to reduce emissions are becoming increasingly clear – as are the multiple employment, health and environmental co-benefits of a swift transition to a post carbon economy. Most strategies advocate a mix of market based and regulatory mechanisms, underpinned by clear long-term emissions reduction targets. Some authors however remain cautious of relying too much on carbon pricing. They recommend additional, more direct interventions such as:

  • binding renewable energy targets
  • feed-in tariffs
  • eliminating fossil fuel subsidies
  • allocating the funds to close fossil fuel power stations.

Strategies with emissions reduction targets that are more strongly informed by climate science also commonly advocate a significant shift towards economic priorities which focus on improving social and ecological wellbeing rather than unconstrained growth in material consumption.  […]

There is no solution to climate change without climate justice
Intergenerational justice – the need to respect and protect the livelihoods and opportunities of future generations – remains the most powerful ethical justification for taking prudent and decisive climate change action now. There is also widespread recognition that political support for a rapid transition to a post carbon economy depends on implementing policies to overcome key social equity challenges – within and beyond national borders.

The key barriers are social and political
The biggest barriers preventing a rapid transition to a post carbon future are social and political – not technological and financial. The difficulty of securing and sustaining broad social and political support is widely recognised as the greatest barrier to a swift transition to a post carbon economy. The most significant gap in post carbon economy transition strategies is a lack of detailed game plans for mobilising political leadership and public support. Worryingly, even the most optimistic of the social change theories underpinning these strategies, tend to rely on a variety of ‘Pearl Harbor’ scenarios in which one or more catastrophic ecological events would provide the necessary wake up call. […] The development and communication of inspiring stories and compelling images of a just and sustainable post carbon future will be particularly crucial.

Australia’s post carbon pathway leadership challenge
The Australian Government’s 2020 emissions reduction target (a 5% decrease on 2000 levels) is clearly still far from the level required for Australia to make a responsible and fair contribution to global emissions reductions. Australia’s 2050 target (an 80% decrease on 2000 levels) is more robust. But there is no detail as yet as to how this target will be achieved. Evidence from the most promising transition strategies elsewhere suggests we need a more informed and thoughtful debate about the kind of economic growth and industry mix that Australia should aim for. We need to talk about the fairest approaches to mobilising the required levels of financial, human and social capital. Most importantly, a far more visionary level of political leadership will be required in order to drive an Australian climate change debate informed primarily by climate science rather than short-term calculations of political and economic feasibility. […]

Read the article in full on The Conversation.
Read the Post Carbon Pathways briefing paper, summary report or full report.


Forget Superheroes: Local Government to the Rescue

Posted in Movements, Research by Jessica Bird on March 6th, 2012


Image from: CDP Cities

CDP Cities is a voluntary reporting platform for cities around the world to document their actions on climate change. An initiative of the Carbon Disclosure Project, CDP Cities have produced this neat infographic compiling data from the 48 participating cities in 2011. Melbourne features in the section on individual cities, citing ‘creating urban and rooftop gardens, lighter buildings, and lightening roof and road colours to lessen urban heat island effect’ as actions being taken by the City council.


Climate Challenge: Play the game

Posted in Models, Tools by Kate Archdeacon on December 14th, 2011

Climate Challenge: Earth’s future is in your hands

A game where you are president of the European Nations. You must tackle climate change and stay popular enough with the voters to remain in office.

Play the game.

(It’s a bit confusing but the help button gets you through) 

About the game:

Currently there is a growing consensus amongst climate researchers that Earth’s climate is changing in response to man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The main debate amongst scientists is focussed on the amount of climate change we can expect, not whether it will happen. With the current level of debate in mind, the BBC decided a game might be a good introductory route into climate change and some of the issues this creates for governments around the world. The producers’ primary goal was to make a fun, challenging game. At times it was necessary to strike a compromise between strict scientific accuracy and playability. For this reason, Climate Challenge should not be taken as a serious climate change prediction. Wherever possible, real research has been incorporated into the game. This document describes the scientific sources used to create Climate Challenge and some of the compromises made by the producers. These sources are a good starting point for someone interested in learning more about climate change. This document also describes some of the compromises the producers made for the sake of playability.

Game focus and aims

Apart from the primary goal of creating a fun game, Climate Challenge’s producers aimed to:

  • give an understanding of some of the causes of climate change, particularly those related to carbon dioxide emissions.
  • give players an awareness of some of the policy options available to governments.
  • give a sense of the challenges facing international climate change negotiators.

Players must respond to catastrophic events caused by climate change as well as natural and manmade events, which may or may not be linked to climate change. This aspect of the game is meant to give some idea of what could happen as the Earth’s climate changes and also introduce the unpredictable nature of some natural events.


Pop-Up Placemaking

Posted in Movements, Visions by Kate Archdeacon on September 21st, 2011

Via Sustainable Cities Collective


Photo by John Niedermeyer via flickr CC

From “Cities rethink urban spaces with ‘pop-up’ projects” by Siri Agrell:

‘Pop-up’ urban planning gives cities the freedom to experiment with projects on a temporary basis, allowing innovative ideas a trial run without expensive commitment of taxpayer money. Cities around the world are embracing the idea, leading in many cases to permanent changes in the urban landscape.

If there is a reigning Queen of Pop-Up, it is Janette Sadik-Khan, the New York city transportation commissioner. In 2009, Ms. Sadik-Khan famously closed Times Square to traffic, transforming it into a pedestrian mall by simply throwing down some pylons and offering a smattering of lawn chairs. Although some drivers howled, Ms. Sadik-Khan was ready for the criticism, and began citing statistics she gathered by closely tracking the experiment.

The city quickly found that revenues from businesses in Times Square had risen 71 per cent, and that injuries to motorists and passengers in the project areas dropped 63 per cent. The city installed GPS units into 13,000 taxis so that the Department of Transportation could track the impact on car traffic, and found that northbound trips in the west midtown area around Times Square were actually 17 per cent faster.

The pop-up projects didn’t stop there. Ms. Sadik-Khan brought temporary public swimming pools onto Manhattan streets last summer, and, over the course of a single weekend, she turned a Brooklyn parking lot into a park by painting a white border and filling it in with green to represent grass. “It was a quick way of showing you can transform a space in a matter of hours instead of a matter of years,” she told Esquire magazine.

She performs most of her transformations without capital funds from the city, scrounging up cash and resources and avoiding actually asking permission.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration has embraced the tactic, and now uses the term “pilot project” to introduce programs into other departments, including education, making them exempt from the usual approval processes.

Read the full article by Siri Agrell for The Globe and Mail.

For an interesting follow-up, read this March piece in the NY Times, outlining the difficulties faced by the city officials mentioned above. KA


Support Systems: Rebuilding for Resilience

Posted in Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on June 30th, 2011

Source: The Fifth Estate

From “Resilience planning for wild weather and climate change” by Leon Gettler:

Queensland, the state of floods and cyclones that devastated property, has become Australia’s laboratory for sustainable building, for creating resilient homes, offices and structures in the face of climatic volatility. In a radical scheme, Grantham residents who had confronted a deadly mountain of water in the floods, have been invited to apply for land swaps to higher ground after the small southeast town was declared the first designated reconstruction area under the new Queensland Reconstruction Authority’s powers. The local council is working with reconstruction authority to create the land swaps.

Green Cross Australia, the non profit group working with developers, insurers and the Property Council of Australia to encourage sustainable thinking, plans to launch a Harden Up portal in August.

The scheme is a world first. Using social media, it aims to makes people aware of the history of the weather patterns in their region, helps prepare them to protect their homes, families and communities and encourages them to share their insights. People will be able to tap into the portal to assess the weather patterns in their suburb or town over the last 150 years, using data from the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO. They will be taken on interactive multimedia tours and encouraged to share their insights through a page on Facebook. The exercise is not only about creating awareness, it’s about empowering communities and giving them the know-how and information needed to create more resilient housing.

Green Cross Australia has also run Build It Back Green workshops that seek to reduce household greenhouse gas emissions, improve community resilience through good design and engagement, invest in green school infrastructure, invest in commercial, government and public buildings, invest in green infrastructure projects and develop solutions for low income residents that reduce energy, water and waste.

Significantly, the Build It Back Green model is now being used by 7000 Victorians whose homes were destroyed in the Black Saturday fires. It is also now being taken up by residents in Perth who faced the bushfires there in January.

Read the rest of this article by Leon Gettler on The Fifth Estate.

Redefining apathy: Dave Meslin on TED.com

Posted in Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on May 31st, 2011


What if Nike advertised the way that local government advertises Notices of Application?

From the transcript:

How often do we hear that people just don’t care? How many times have you been told that real, substantial change isn’t possible because most people are too selfish, too stupid or too lazy to try to make a difference in their community? I propose to you today that apathy as we think we know it doesn’t actually exist, but rather, that people do care, but that we live in a world that actively discourages engagement by constantly putting obstacles and barriers in our way.

Local politics — schools, zoning, council elections — hit us where we live. So why don’t more of us actually get involved? Is it apathy? Dave Meslin says no. He identifies 7 barriers that keep us from taking part in our communities, even when we truly care. (Recorded at TEDxToronto, October 2010, in Toronto, Ontario. Duration: 7:05)

Watch the video on TED here – the video seems to run out before the end of Dave’s talk, so read the transcript to get the final few seconds.

 


Information Technology Supporting Transparent Future Food Policy

Posted in Movements, Opinion, Tools by Kate Archdeacon on May 13th, 2011

Source: Projects To Finish Someday via Sustainable Cities Collective


From “Information Technology: Coming to a Food Policy Near You” by Mari Pierce-Quinonez:

There are currently dozens of smartphone and internet apps designed to bring good food to tech-savvy consumers. You can now type in your location, the type of food you want and immediately get both directions to the best restaurant to go and the story behind the food they’re serving.  If buying food in bulk to cook at home is more your thing, beta versions of a wholesale purchasing app is now available by invitation.  Or if you want to grow your own, there are applications to aid you in planning your garden, sites to find a yard if you don’t already have one, and mobile apps with maps to fruit-bearing trees on public property.  But the food system is more than foodies finding their next fix: the modern tech-movement goes beyond consumer-oriented apps.  Food advocates and academics are using technology to connect the food system dots and are making good food policy decisions easier.

[…]
In the past, federal policymakers kept track of their own program-specific data: how many acres of farmland they had preserved, the nutrition status of the US population, the amount of vitamin D available in a particular type of milk.  By moving everything online and opening this data up to everyone, all sorts of sophisticated policy recommendations can be made.  The USDA’s Food Environment Atlas was released last year to much fanfare for the interactive maps that could show the state of the national food system.  Much more exciting was the fact that this data was all available for download, and the site continues to act as a datahub for food policy advocates.  Advocates and technophiles are using this data to produce reports and visualizations that help rally support as they begin to mobilize around the 2012 farm bill.

[…]

Read the full article by Mari Pierce-Quinonez over on Projects To Finish Someday.