2Sustain

A blog focused on sustainable business issues and challenges

Archive for April, 2012

Courage Needed For Sustainability

April 27, 2012 | No Comments →

More “courageous interventions” are needed from industry and government to enact real change in the area of sustainability, according to Unilever CEO Paul Polman. Polman said co-operation between companies and with government is vital to alleviate the impact of business on the environment and to change consumer habits.

“Frameworks with governments is a good example. If you have clear goals on CO2 emissions and carbon trading globally, if you have governments saying no to illegal deforestation, things would move a lot faster,” he said.

This week, Unilever published the first results of its ten-year Sustainable Living Plan, a program of initiatives designed to reduce its impact on the environment while the company grows. Unilever has made progress, notably on sourcing more of its agricultural raw materials more sustainably and reducing the amount of energy used throughout its operations. However, the report also lists areas where the company is “off plan” (including the sustainable sourcing of sunflower oil) and where it missed its target (on improving heart health).

Polman insisted the Sustainable Living Plan had, for Unilever, become “the way we do business” and he claimed the company’s strategy had “galvanized” others into action. He acknowledged that getting others to act “is not always easy” but said he had seen signs that industry had been able to “transform markets”.

And, although the Unilever chief believes government intervention is needed in some areas to encourage more sustainable behavior from industry and consumers, he believes business can go further. At the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year, Polman arranged a meeting of CEOs on sustainability, which he says will lead to a range of businesses making commitments at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio in June. “At Rio, you will see business pushing much harder and faster than governments as they will be tied up in election cycles,” he says.

UC Berkeley Publishes Advanced Power Grid Study for Western US

April 19, 2012 | No Comments →

Using SWITCH, a highly detailed computer model of the electric power grid, to study generation, transmission and storage options for the states west of the Kansas/Colorado border, the UC Berkeley researchers examined the least expensive way for the Western U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They determined that to help prevent the worst consequences of global warming the best strategy is to replace coal with renewable and other sources of energy that may include nuclear power.

“Decarbonization of the electric power sector is critical to achieving greenhouse gas reductions that are needed for a sustainable future,” said Daniel Kammen, Distinguished Professor of Energy in UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group. “To meet these carbon goals, coal has to go away from the region.”

To achieve this level of decarbonization, policy changes are needed to cap or tax carbon emissions to provide an incentive to move toward low-carbon electricity sources, Kammen and the other study authors said.

While some previous studies have emphasized the high cost of carbon taxes or caps, the new study shows that replacing coal with more gas generation, as well as renewable sources like wind, solar and geothermal energy, would result in only a moderate increase to consumers in the cost of electric power – at most, 20 percent. They estimate a lower ratepayer cost, Kammen said, because the evolution of the electrical grid over the next 20 years – with coordinated construction of new power plants and transmission lines – would substantially reduce the actual consumer cost of meeting carbon emission targets.

“While the carbon price required to induce these deep carbon emission reductions is high – between $59 and $87 per ton of CO2 emitted – the cost of power is predicted to increase by at most 20 percent, because the electricity system will redesign itself around a price or cap on carbon emissions,” said Kammen. “That is a modest cost considering that the future of the planet is at stake.”