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Posts Tagged COP21

Buzzwords 2016
January is traditionally the time for forward reflection. So inspired by what’s going on around us we’ve pulled together the top 5 buzzwords that we think our expert building analytics team at IES will be using across 2016.

The Force of COP21
May the Force of COP21 be with us all. While the agreement signed in Paris by all 196 nations of the world to pull together and attempt to reduce carbon emissions, thus limiting the onslaught of global warming and reducing air pollution worldwide, is a major step forward, the real work starts now.

Undoubtedly the biggest difference will be made by big business and governments, see our founder Don’s views on this. However, we also believe that each and every one of us must also do our bit by changing the way we live, work, travel and think; no matter where we are from or how rich we are.

The Glasgow Effect:
Ok so we might not use this across the whole year but it certainly got us talking in January and as it’s a year-long project there is sure to be more to come. For those of you who’ve not picked up on this yet, the topic of office banter all across Glasgow on Tuesday morning was Ellie Harrison and her Glasgow Effect project being awarded £15k by Creative Scotland. The artist will not leave the greater Glasgow Area for 1 year (except in the event of the ill-heath / death of close relative or friend), and it’s caused a real storm on social media.

The project was initially called Think Global Act Local and is not primarily about poverty or deprivation in the city, as many people have assumed, but about exploring the benefits and practicalities of localism for artists and communities. “By setting this one simple restriction to her current lifestyle, she intends to test the limits of a ‘sustainable practice’ and to challenge the demand-to-travel placed upon the ‘successful’ artist / academic. The experiment will enable her to cut her carbon footprint and increase her sense of belonging, by encouraging her to seek out and create ‘local opportunities’ – testing what becomes possible when she invests all her ideas, time and energy within the city where she lives.”

The artist has a strong interest in climate change, political activism and big data, and while the original project title is in some ways far more accurate, most people wouldn’t have looked twice at a project named ‘Think Global Act Local’. But it got us thinking about the role of local and community in our personal and professional lives. It’s a global problem, but there’s action that can be taken by us all at a local level to combat it. Read more at our Blog.

BIM4Analysis:
With the UK Government mandate for BIM Level 2 deadline fast approaching this year, and as a technology company in the sustainable building analysis arena we felt it was essential to educate and engage the industry on the important role performance analysis has to play in the BIM process. The concept of creating and capturing information during design for use in operation is key to achieving Low Zero Carbon buildings. This time last year we started an educational campaign named ‘BIM4Analysis’ to engage with the industry and bring performance metrics front and centre to the BIM movement which is what the Government strategy is aimed at.

2016 is going to see us develop on this, demonstrating our BIM enabled analysis workflow alongside customers through various events and publications, including Ecobuild and BIM Prospects 2016. We’ve also got the next instalment of our popular IES Faculty BIM webinar series taking place at the end of January (details coming soon). This event will provide an update on our BIM4Analysis strategy plus interoperability development work that will help you on your BIM journey.

Big Data:
Other industries are already capturing and using big data to their advantage – but buildings are lagging behind. Imagine what you could do with real metrics instead of big assumptions. It’s all linked to Smart Buildings, the Internet of Things and other digital developments. Data in buildings can be generated by a wide variety of sources and can be used to understand behaviour, assess performance, improve market competitiveness, allocate resources and so on. However, historically it has been difficult and expensive to collect this data, and its variety in quality, structure and format made it difficult to use, sometimes for example requiring the manual transfer of data from paper records into digital systems.

Mind The Performance Gap:
We’ve been banging on about this for ages now but it’s an issue which requires much more understanding and attention. We’re expecting the issue to gain momentum in 2016, especially as the UKGBC has announced a new research project in the area.

The Performance Gap is a well-documented disconnect between the design and compliance models of buildings and the reality of how they perform. Our work to date has focused on the importance of understanding the difference between design, compliance and actual building performance models, as covered in this video from our faculty event. As well as researching new technological advances in using operational data combined with 3D modelling across building design, handover and operation to deliver intelligent energy efficiencies, alongside healthy and comfortable buildings.

Glasgow
It’s only the first week of January and already controversy has hit Glasgow. The topic of office banter on Tuesday morning was Ellie Harrison and her Glasgow Effect project being awarded £15k by Creative Scotland. The artist will not leave the greater Glasgow Area for 1 year (except in the event of the ill-heath / death of close relative or friend), and it’s already caused a storm on social media.

“By setting this one simple restriction to her current lifestyle, she intends to test the limits of a ‘sustainable practice’ and to challenge the demand-to-travel placed upon the ‘successful’ artist / academic. The experiment will enable her to cut her carbon footprint and increase her sense of belonging, by encouraging her to seek out and create ‘local opportunities’ – testing what becomes possible when she invests all her ideas, time and energy within the city where she lives.”

Personally I find it hard to criticise a project that hasn’t produced anything yet, especially when I don’t know anything about the artist and her intentions. So I looked her up to find out more and discovered she has a strong interest in climate change, political activism and big data.

According to the Herald, and Ellie herself the project was initially called Think Global Act Local and is not primarily about poverty or deprivation in the city, as many people have assumed, but about exploring the benefits and practicalities of localism for artists and communities. And, so with COP21 fresh in my mind I can’t help hoping that some of this project’s outcomes will shine a light on how local communities can start to address the many challenges of keeping global warming at or below 2°C.

The COP21 agreement signed in Paris at the end of last year was a declaration by all 196 nations of the world to pull together and attempt to reduce carbon emissions, thus limiting the onslaught of global warming and reducing air pollution worldwide. While undoubtedly the biggest difference will be made by big business and governments, see our founder Don’s views on this, I also believe that each and every one of us must also do our bit by changing the way we live, work, travel and think; no matter where we are from or how rich we are.

I don’t normally take directly from another source but this article in Envirotech resonated so well I couldn’t rewrite. Here are just some things it suggests you can do to reduce air pollution in your area and curb climate change on a global scale.

  • Conserve energy. It might sound obvious, but turning off lights when not in use, switching off appliances, taking shorter showers, only boiling enough water in the kettle for your purposes, etc. – all of these things add up to dramatically reduce your carbon footprint. If you live in Glasgow City you can use the Energy App we developed for the City Council as part of its Smart City initiative.
  • Get some exercise. Walking or cycling to and from work or to the shops is not only good for you, it also means one less car on the road! This means one less exhaust spitting out harmful fumes and one less contributing factor to air pollution.
  • Take public transport. For longer distances, the British network of buses and trains is sufficiently developed to offer flexible routes to most destinations, especially in larger cities. Taking the bus can also be far more cost-effective than owning and maintaining a car, especially when petrol prices are factored in.
  • Drive responsibly. If you really must take the car, ensure you drive it in a responsible manner. This means cutting out unnecessary idling, increasing fuel efficiency by driving at optimal speeds, keeping the pressure on your tyres inflated and generally conducting routine maintenance.
  • Recycle and reuse. Instead of buying a new item when the old one becomes worn or dysfunctional, try to repair it. Recycle as much of your consumed produce as possible. Before throwing away, consider whether it can be reused.
  • Buy environmentally-friendly. Steer clear of products which contain many chemicals, solvents or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), choosing water-based paints and other cosmetics and environmentally-friendly approved products in general.
  • Make your voice heard. Take part in environmental protests, sign petitions and join campaigns to lobby for more environmental practices in your local community, in government and among big business.

The thing is, communities can and are coming together to make a difference, whether through local generation schemes, car-pooling, community gardens or many other like-mined programmes. And there undoubtedly must, and will, be more opportunities in the future for communities to take a bottom up approach to becoming more sustainable in the way we approach energy-use, waste and life in general.

Ellie’s original project title is in some ways far more accurate, but most people wouldn’t have looked twice at a project named ‘Think Global Act Local’. The phrase has been used in various contexts, including planning, environment, education, mathematics, and business, and even has its own Wikipedia page. It makes absolute sense when you apply it to climate change – it’s a global problem, but there’s action that can be taken by us all at a local level to combat it – thinking globally and acting locally.

In the end, I might not like the work Ellie produces for the Glasgow Effect, we will see. But for me it’s already been an opportunity to reflect on the role of local and community in our lives and has introduced me to projects and ideas I wouldn’t ordinarily have come across – Ellie’s own Radical Renewable Art + Activism Fund (RRAAF) to use a wind turbine to generate renewable energy and fund a ‘no strings attached’ grant for art-activist projects and a big bang data exhibition she was involved in. Both of which resonate personally and professionally.

So hate it or support it, Ellie’s Glasgow Effect project has stirred up a lot of feelings, debate and unfortunately abuse. It has also inspired a lot of social media ‘art’ in retaliation and hopefully also made us stop and think a bit. Where will it go from here, who knows, but I’m certainly interested to find out.

City Pollution

Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC’s) form the basis of the COP21 Paris agreement goal of keeping global temperature rise “well below” 2⁰C above pre-industrial levels.  Nations outline their INDC plans on cutting their post-2020 emissions.

There is a legal requirement for these INDC plans to be revised ever five years.  There is no requirement to state how the reductions will be achieved and there is no legal requirement to achieve the INDC targets.  This is surely a major weakness.

The INDC’s of the largest greenhouse gas emitters have set their targets: China has targeted a 60-65% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP by 2030; the United States, has targeted a 26-28% reduction by 2025; and the European Union has targeted a 40% reduction by 2030.

By maintaining the status quo in terms of carbon emission it is anticipated that the global temperature rise will reach 3.6⁰C by 2100.  A recently published assessment (http://climateactiontracker.org/) suggested that the emission reductions currently outlined in the currently submitted INDC’s would result in a global temperature rise by 2.7C.

This figure was generated by the Climate Action Tracker (CAT).  CAT is an independent scientific analysis, produced by four research organisations, tracking climate action and global efforts towards the globally agreed aim of holding warming below 2°C.

CAT categorise each of the submitted INDC’s as follows:

Inadequate If all governments put forward inadequate positions warming likely to exceed 3–4°C.
Medium Not consistent with limiting warming below 2°C as it would require many other countries to make a comparably greater effort and much deeper reductions.
Sufficient Fully consistent with below 2°C limit.
Role Model More than consistent with below 2°C limit.

 

Of the 31 INDC’s that have been reviewed:

  • Five are Sufficient: Bhutan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Morocco and The Gambia
  • Ten are Medium: including the China, EU and the USA
  • Sixteen are Inadequate: including Russia, South Africa and Australia

It is important to remember that these INDC’s are pledges and not legally binding.  None of these countries have a clear plan on how to achieve their INDC targets.  So without a coherent plan it is fair to assume that it is more likely that the IDNC targets will be missed rather than exceeded.

earth
US President Barack Obama has hailed the COP21 agreement as “the best chance to save the one planet we have”.

Who am I to contradict the President of the USA, but I am delighted to tell you that you don’t have to worry about the planet – the Earth will survive global warming.

Why do I know this?  Well there is scientific evidence that shows that during the last few hundred million years the Earth has been both much warmer and much colder than it is today.  In both extreme cases Earth has survived.

Consequently, I do not think our 1.5⁰C or above increase in global temperature will damage Earth.

It will be 7.5 billion years before the Earth will be consumed by the sun which will have become a red giant.  This is so far in the future it is not a concern.  So what is the problem?

Loss of Life.

Five major mass extinctions have been identified over the last 500 million years or so.  In the most extreme cases almost 95% of life became extinct.

The most famous mass extinction killed off the dinosaurs.  This was extremely fortunate for humans as it created the opportunity for mammals to occupy the space vacated by the dinosaurs.  This obviously led to us – Homo sapiens – becoming the dominate species.

Homo sapiens have been around for a hundred thousand years.  In that time species such as the mammoth and the sabre-toothed tiger have been lost.  Whether that has been due to humans or not is questionable.  However, the same cannot be said for the Dodo and many recent species that have become extinct.

However, our interaction with the Earth is causing an increasing number of species to disappear.  Scientists believe that we are in the middle of the sixth mass extinction.   Human activity such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, dams, over fishing, etc. demonstrate that we are the principal cause of this current mass extinction.  Scientists have estimated that by 2100 50% of current species will be extinct.

What about us?

Humans are highly resilient.  What happens to us depends upon what action we take to stop global warming.  We face droughts, floods, lost top soil, food and water shortages, wars over resources and mass migration, etc.  By 2100 will we have smart cities or no cities?  Will we be going forward to a much better global society or devolving back to the ‘Dark Ages’ e.g. post Roman Empire?

It is our choice.

One thing is for sure – The Earth will be OK.

Read more of Don’s views on the outcomes of COP21.

COP21: A Triumph or an Illusion?

Posted: December 21, 2015 by , Category:Climate Change

COP21
The photos of the delegates with big smiles, applauding and raised arms clearly illustrate that COP21 was a major success.  Delegates went home and could report a major achievement.  It was a massive step forward, achieving a global commitment to significantly reducing carbon emissions thereby substantially reducing the impact of global warming.

Should we all rejoice?

What are the key agreed targets from COP21?

  • To keep global temperatures “well below” 2.0C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times and “endeavour to limit” them even more, to 1.5C
  • To limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100
  • To review each country’s contribution to cutting emissions every five years so they scale up to the challenge
  • For rich countries to help poorer nations by providing “climate finance” to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy.

The agreement is the first where all countries have committed to cut carbon emissions. Some aspects of the agreement will be legally binding, such as submitting an emissions reduction target and the regular review of that goal.

Every five years countries will have to declare their ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ or INDC.  The idea is that every five years countries will set new, more rigorous targets.

What won’t be legally binding will be the emission targets. These will be determined by nations themselves and the INDC need not be a meaningful target.  For example a study on 31 of the INDC’s submitted so far show over 50% are inadequate and likely to lead to global temperature rises of 3-4⁰C.

In addition, whilst it is legally binding that the INDC targets are set, it is not legally binding that you need to achieve them.  This is a major weakness.

To date, 147 countries have submitted their INDC’s.  If these targets were to be achieved they will only reduce global warming to 2.7⁰C. This is well above the 2.0⁰C goal of the Paris Agreement.

Whilst ambitious goals have been set at COP21 it is left to others to work on how to implement the goals.

These INDC’s will require serious political commitment to deliver the targets, particularly if it requires reducing economic growth or is too expensive to implement.

Additional Concerns

US President Barack Obama has hailed the COP21 agreement as “ambitious”.  I am uneasy with the word ‘ambitious’ in this context.  He also admitted that the deal was not “perfect”, he said it was “the best chance to save the one planet we have”.  Again I don’t like the non-committal tone of the message.

In addition, China’s chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua agreed with the President and he also stated that the deal was not perfect.

It appears that COP21 achieved much good will and clearly a verbal intent to take action, but what will happen if one or more countries renege?  Will the agreement collapse like a pack of cards?

The big question is will there be the political strength in each country to implement the measures to tackle this problem?

Buildings, cities, manufacturing and industrial processes will play a major part of a countries carbon reduction strategy.  The problem each country faces is that there is little or no commercial lobby for energy efficiency.  The lobbying is done by the renewables and clean tech sectors.  Whilst these are important there is little point in renewables or clean tech if buildings are wasting 30%-50% of their energy in the first place.

Is it surprising that if buildings are not made energy efficient then more renewables and clean tech will be required?

Unfortunately, I fear the success of COP21 could be more of an illusion than a triumph. Put the Champagne back into the vault, it will be a long time before we will know if COP21 was a success or not.

 

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