Thursday, 24 November 2011

COP17: Dynamic or disconnected?

Between 1990 and 2009, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increased by 40%. During this time, there was the Earth Summit in Rio, the UN Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, which proved to do very little in stemming the increasing GHG’s in our atmosphere. Worst of all, is that emissions are escalating every day, yet some of the governments of the world are reluctant to implement significant measures for change. This is not a very strong foundation to base the 17th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, better known as COP17, on.

The City of Durban in South Africa will be the official host for the COP17 event, with officials from almost every country planning on attending. A question that we should all be asking is if this conference is merely a gesture to show climate-change-worriers that those most responsible for GHG emissions are trying to find solutions. Another question should be based on why we have not found an answer to emissions reduction in over 20 years, since the Rio Earth Summit. Or why some countries are pleading to increase GHG emissions, when the environment can barely handle current atmospheric concentrations.

Unfortunately, there are no clear-cut answers to any of these questions, or the many more queries we can make regarding our governments’ inability to implement change. What is certain though is that the environment in which we live is being heavily impacted by extreme weather events which lead to droughts, floods and storms caused by global warming. Will the delegates at COP17 manage to pull a rabbit out of the hat, or are we all just waiting for more magic using smoke and mirrors?

Friday, 18 November 2011

The killing fields

On Monday 14 November, Hong Kong customs officials discovered 33 rhinoceros horns stashed in a container that left Cape Town harbour marked “plastic scrap”. Now, for those that don’t know about the rhino poaching epidemic that is sweeping across Africa and Asia, let’s put this bust into perspective. Last year alone, some 333 rhino’s were killed in South Africa. This figure doesn't include the rest of southern or East Africa, where there are fewer rhino’s roaming the plains. In 2011, more than one rhino has been killed every day so far this year. The recent bust in Hong Kong represents 10% of the poached rhinos this year.

The problem is set to continue, as two species – the Western Black and the Javan rhino were recently declared extinct. The reason for their demise is that some Asian states have claimed that rhino horn offers a cure for a variety of ailments, including cancer. Medical studies have shown that the horns contain no medicinal qualities, but the senseless killing of these iconic species continues.

What can we do to stop the poaching?
We need to offer support to conservation agencies, lobby government to impose heavy sentences and fines on poachers and traffickers, and call on Asian nations to outlaw the sale and use of rhino horn. Most importantly, we need to educate those that may not realise the plight of these majestic creatures. Speak to friends and families and spread the word. It is only by killing the demand, that we’ll be able to quell the killing of one of Africa’s most prized species. 

Friday, 11 November 2011

Are organics overpriced?

Going green is often regarded as being costly. Undoubtedly, viewed at a certain level, it can be. The Climate Change Bill in the UK is supposedly one of the most expensive pieces of legislation in history. While this may not be of Eurozone bailout proportions, it reflects a fundamental restructuring of an economy. I noted that during a press conference at the recent Commonwealth conference that Australian Prime Minister Gillard was quizzed on her country’s proposed carbon tax. Journalists were keen to know from other leaders whether Australia was out of step from the international community, and frankly, being a mug.

As an individual or as a corporate, the decisions can seem to be equally fundamental. Changing energy arrangements or re-tendering for suppliers and partners is a massive task. The change is viewed as a problem, as it is so often expressed in the form of a cost, which is inevitably even more of a barrier in difficult times.

In my mind, being green is essentially a strategic decision. And it only makes sense in these terms. Each environmentally-sensitive decision should not be seen as a short-term switch to deliver a quick fix, as this will inevitably be an additional cost. The key is looking ahead when a spending decision is being made anyway. At that point, it is quite acceptable to consider a range of possibilities and then introduce a number of green options. Considering the cost-benefit implications of any strategic decision is good practice, the question is, do all companies and organisations, as well as individuals, have the necessary information about green options and the tools to evaluate them correctly? If the precise price comparisons are available, then a green decision may not be any more expensive and hopefully will stand out as delivering the most certain long-term benefits and positive outcomes.

This is where the green24 site comes in. It provides in an easy-to-use way, both a range of information about the options available and templates for measuring costs on a fair basis. We always welcome your feedback on how these tools work, and of course, examples of inventive and imaginative green strategic decisions.

David Jackman

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Keeping it local

The world is developing faster than natural systems can evolve, as human’s harvest, plough, bulldoze, chop down, pull out and build on. So, it is no wonder that indigenous vegetation types around the world are now under severe pressure, with some plant species facing eminent extinction.

Reducing pressure is one thing, but we need to promote indigenous plants in our everyday lives. To learn more, the green24 team headed out to an indigenous plant rehabilitation and re-vegetation centre. This project uses the local community to grow native plant species, which are later planted in the wild to develop indigenous systems. Through education drives and indigenous garden promotion, communities surrounding endangered vegetation types can play their part in ensuring the continued survival of endemic plant biomes.

You too can play a role in promoting environmental wellbeing, by planting indigenous species and letting your garden get a little bit wild. Native species are often better adapted to the local climate, thereby requiring less fussing over, and can prove to be significantly more water-wise. Indigenous species also benefit the birds, bees, butterflies and other species that utilise plants for food, shelter or other vital functions.

So, make sure that you buy native species and plant wisely, creating sanctuaries for local wildlife. If everyone in the city planted just a small patch of indigenous garden, we could create green oases within the concrete jungles we call home.