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World Wide Views Day: thoughts within XCO2

May 2015

The Paris 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC) is less than 6 months away. To bridge the gap between views of citizens and the climate change policymakers a World Wide Views Day was held on 6th June. The world’s largest ever global citizen consultation on climate and energy has excited the masses and stimulated the debate on how best to mitigate climate change. There is an internationally diverse array of staff here at XCO2. So here are 7 XCO2 employees from 7 different countries giving their opinions on various world wide climate change policies.

Kostas Mastronikolaou, Senior Energy Consultant from Greece

What is Greece doing to combat climate change? 

Mostly EU driven policies are distilled into the Greek regulations. Standards in certain areas do not appear very high, e.g. construction industry design limits could be bettered.

Is it enough?

Probably not; policy, its enforcement and financial situation are key issues at the moment. Environmental impacts are far from being high in the government’s agenda.

How could it improve?

Hmm, a tough one. I’ve come across evidence in the past linking emissions with economic growth, in which case, not much needs to be done at the moment! See an old but still relevant piece below:

http://www.cibsejournal.com/archive/2013-03/greek-tax-adds-fuel-to-fire

 

Nicole Jean, Electrical Engineer 
from Saint Lucia

What is Saint Lucia doing to combat climate change? 

There are no existing large scale renewable energy schemes and diesel generation remains the main source of power.

Four renewable energy sources are rife in Saint Lucia (geothermal, solar, water and wind). As a volcanic island, geothermal energy generation has been debated and pursued for decades. Early geothermal exploits were ceased after the wells experienced mechanical failure, but today, with efforts and enthusiasm about the project anew, geothermal energy exploration surveys are underway at the site of the dormant volcano in the Soufriere region. It is believed that the site holds 680MWe power generation potential.

The local power company (LUCELEC) has also embarked on joint ventures in both wind and large scale PV. The projects are in their feasibility and research stages.

The most significant use of renewable energy on the island is seen in the private commercial and residential sectors.

Is it enough?

No, certainly more can be done. Economic factors make the implementation of large scale sustainable practices difficult. External investment is therefore required in many instances for ideas to become feasible.

How could it improve?

“I think greater emphasis on conservation of energy, sorting and recycling household waste is needed. Water conservation is a key factor in our everyday life due to periods of extreme drought and water fall (hurricanes), both of which disrupt our water supply.  The lack of an active recycling system makes the discussion and promotion of waste segregation difficult.

 

Anamaria Petre, Mechanical Engineer from Romania

What is Romania doing to combat climate change? 

2-3 years ago there were some programs in place where the government helped with 20-50% of the investment of solar panels, heat pumps and photovoltaic panels. But the state has now run out of funds, so the programs are on stand-by.

In a few cities, if you have a ‘Green Building’ the income tax which you pay is much smaller.

The roads are full of holes and the state isn’t doing enough to repair them, so maybe this is their way to discourage the use of cars.

Is it enough?

No.

How could it improve?

For starters the regulations should contain restraints on the use of fossil fuels.

 

Tom Kordel, Senior Energy Consultant from England

What is your country doing to combat climate change? 

The UK is leading the world in setting lots of ambitious and binding CO2 targets.  The only problem is we are doing very little to actually achieve them.  The ‘dash for gas’ has had the biggest impact to date but is not very impressive in terms of weaning the country off fossil fuels.  We are increasing offshore wind, PV via FiT’s and new nuclear.  Another potential positive is the likely funding of the Swansea tidal lagoon, which is very innovative.

Is it enough?

No, there is much more to do in terms of promoting/enforcing energy efficiency and ensuring that low carbon projects that are designed are actually low carbon in operation.

How could it improve?

Introduce a proper carbon tax that properly incentivises reduction.  This could be applied to electricity and gas use to inflate prices to reflect what they actually cost with respect to lifetime impact on the environment.  To counter balance the impact on fuel poverty, subsidies would need to be in-place based on household income and business size.  Scrap EPC’s and mandate DEC’s throughout.  Building energy performance must be based on reality rather than prediction.

 

Nuno Correia, Energy Consultant from Portugal

What is Portugal doing to combat climate change? 

Portugal is pretty good renewables-wise. This was driven by a lot of investment in hydropower in the last decade, and large increase in capacity of solar and wind (not offshore though, so there is still potential there).  A lot of people are installing PV due to FITs, which is similar to the UK’s programs.

Due to climate change, there were some events of 100% renewable generation during extreme rainfall periods.

Solar thermal is mandatory since 2006 as part of the building regs, unless you can prove your roof is not suited.  The regulations were updated last year which should be roughly in line with the UK’s Part L 2013. There has been some talk about zero carbon but not sure how this will be achieved.

There has been a good provision of charging points for electric vehicles but the market is not picking up as would be liked. There have been some cool ideas about low carbon mobility but nothing has been delivered at any significant scale thus far.

Is it enough?

Not a lot happening currently on the govt-led investment side due to austerity (IMF out only a year ago), but there are some incentives for SMEs and schools for investing in energy efficiency.

Things like ESOS not yet transposed to national policy, same as most Europe really.

So in summary, supply side is good, due to renewables, but a lot could be done on the demand side.

How could it improve?

Domestic retrofit is happening but not taking energy efficiency into account sometimes, therefore a programme akin to the green deal or Energy Company Obligation (ECO) would perhaps be beneficial.

Community energy has only been done in pilot schemes, and needs to be rolled out including heating and cooling.

There needs to be more incentives for cycling by increasing the amount of cycling routes (a lot has been done recently though).

Food-wise, there needs to be an increase in terms of agriculture and general food production in order to decrease the CO2 emissions from importing food for no reason.

 

Yujia Ji, Mechanical Engineer from China

What is China doing to combat climate change? 

China as a developing country has been focusing solely on economic growth during the past few decades and neglecting its impact on the regional and global climate. As a result there have been huge CO2 emission and air pollution increases.

However, new policies have been put forward in recent years. As these are all very long term strategies, I haven’t seen much impact so far.

Is it enough?

I think the lessons learnt from China’s developing strategies could be valuable to some of the other fast growing countries.

A large reason for the increase in CO2 emissions and pollution is from the manufacturing industry. Therefore, the challenge is to transform our economy system from export-driven GDP growth to expenditure-driven GDP growth like the US.

Giving up the ‘world manufacturer’ role will most likely reduce the GDP growth rate to below 7% per year, but in the long term it will boost the economy by developing a tertiary sector. China will then move from a low tech manufacturing industry to a high tech manufacturing industry, in the meantime, reducing fossil energy consumption and promoting low-carbon energy sources in the industrial sector.

Apart from the industrial sector, China has put great effort in developing its energy sector, i.e. nuclear energy and renewable energy generation technology. Figures from 2014, China ranks the top globally in generating total renewable energy at 1300 TWh/year.

How could it improve?

Although the policies sound promising, there is little public awareness of the effects of increased carbon emissions. Based on my observation, for example, most Chinese people prefer to use private-owned vehicles, which are the single biggest source of air pollution in urban areas of China, rather than bicycles or public transport.

The government should do more the improve the public transport system, and start employ carbon taxes to car users on one hand, and people should start use bicycles in short-distance travels and car-pools in long-distance travel.

 

Buwani Goonetilleke, Sustainability Consultant Sri Lanka 

What is your country doing to combat climate change? 

Sri Lanka has had a pretty good track record in terms of reduced use of fossil fuels as it has mainly relied on hydropower for its energy generation since the 1950’s. However, as more of the island is being developed and urbanised, coal and oil based energy production has been introduced to meet the ever increasing demand for electricity. At present, the energy generation stats stand at 42% – coal, 40% – hydropower, 15% – oil and 3% – wind power.

Unfortunately, rather than taking the stance of combating climate change, Sri Lanka is now set to contribute to it by increasing its reliance on fossil fuels.

But it should also be noted that the government has started looking into mass renewable energy generation, and there are about 12 wind and 2 solar power stations on the island that are starting to make contributions to the grid. In addition, the implemented ‘Renewable Tariffs’ system provides some of the best rates in the world for renewable energy generation.

Is it enough?

Definitely not. Although the government is starting to look at alternative renewable energy generation methods to meet the increasing demand, the country is now mainly reliant on fossil fuels, which is a huge step back in terms of its environmental impact.

How could it improve?

There is a lot more that the government can do in terms of implementing better environmental standards (which are a bit vague and insubstantial at present), creating an awareness regarding the impact of fossil fuels amongst the general public and existing + new businesses, and increase funds for research into improving current renewable energy generation methods.

Ideally, the government should aim to ensure that Sri Lanka’s economic development occurs concurrently with the improvement of its environmental policies.

 

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