Photo credit: Paulo Valdivieso

What Makes Wind Energy The Fastest Growing Renewable Source of Electricity Worldwide?

Similar to hydropower, which is energy derived from water, wind energy has been utilized for thousands of years, merely with less advanced technologies than the modern inventions we have today. From the Nile River to China, the Middle East, the Americas and Europe, wind as a source of energy was seized until oil and energy prices dropped. It was not until the 1970’s oil crisis that alternative sources of energy, such as wind, started to awaken new interest worldwide. 

Today, according to Wind Energy Foundation, wind energy is the fastest growing source of electricity worldwide, and it is a fossil-free, renewable source of energy. According to the IPCC and IHA, onshore wind energy has the lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of all energy sources, with only 11 gCO2/kWh. To understand the difference, coal has 820 gCO2/kWh. In terms of climate change mitigation, it is essential to drastically reduce the amount of coal energy and seek less polluting alternatives, including wind energy. 

In 2018, 51.3 GW of new wind was installed worldwide, as stated in GWEC ́s Global Wind Report 2018. Since 2014, more than 50 GW of new wind energy has been installed per annum. Worldwide, current onshore wind power capacity with a total of 591 GW (one gigawatt equals one billion watts) covers seven per cent (7%) of total power generation capacity, while its actual total global power generation covered four per cent (4%) in 2015. The leading wind power producing country worldwide today is China with over 200 GW installed capacity, followed by the USA, Germany, India, and Brazil. The top five countries combined have a 75% share of the total worldwide wind energy market. Total installed capacity onshore by world region is largest in the Asia-Pacific, followed by Europe, the Americas, and Africa/The Middle East. Offshore capacity is currently highest in Europe. 

According to the World Energy Council, current policy plans could allow for wind power capacity to grow from roughly 487 GW in 2016 to 977 GW by 2030. In China alone, wind power could provide 26% of all electricity by 2030. With the vast majority of wind power turbines onshore, worldwide investments in the sector are booming and hit USD 109.6 billion already in 2015. In many countries today, onshore wind is the most inexpensive source of renewable energy, with costs falling rapidly and significantly. 

With a fast and credible growth track record, the wind power industry is regarded as a low-risk investment, with financial institutions increasingly much competing about the funding of wind projects. Possible risks to wind project investments include policy uncertainty and long operational lifetimes. In terms of rapidly growing power demand and distribution challenges, wind is a cost-effective option according to GWEC. The market outlook up to 2023 projects an average annual increase of 2,7 per cent in the wind energy market.  

Both IRENA, GWEC, and the World Energy Council admit that there are multiple benefits from a growing renewable energy, including wind power, sector. Not only do renewable energy sources support socio-economic growth through the generation of new jobs that accelerates economic growth, but also supports the decarbonization of the global energy sector, thus leading to less pollution and improved environmental and human well-being. Investments and growth in the renewable energy sector overall are estimated to create millions of new jobs worldwide. 

As defined by the World Energy Council and the Global Wind Energy Council, wind power is leading the energy market in its transition away from fossil fuels on both performance, reliability and costs. Despite some of its harms on the environment and ecological impacts, such as wildlife colliding with wind turbines and possible public health concerns through noise and visual impacts on people, wind power is known to be an environmentally friendly source of renewable energy, with a small land footprint, low water requirements and low greenhouse gas emissions. Denmark remains the world’s leading country in terms of integration, production, and R&D of wind energy. In 2018 alone, Danish wind turbines generated 40.7% of the Danish electricity consumption. Quite impressive, or what do you think? 

Your comments/thoughts are welcome! 

Learn more by watching U.S. Department of Energy ́s video “Energy 101: Wind Turbines”:

You may also want to read one of my previous articles: What is the Outlook for the Global Hydropower Sector?  

 

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Yritys Executive Services to receive my latest articles, delivered personally to you.

 

 

 

Hydropower by Josh Simmons on Flickr

What is The Outlook For The Global Hydropower Sector?

Hydropower, the currently largest single source of renewable energy worldwide, was first commercialized for the production of electricity in Niagara Falls in 1879, although human beings have been utilizing more primitive versions of hydropower for centuries or even thousands of years. The earliest hydropower usage can be traced back to the ancient Greeks who used simple water wheels in agricultural processes. Today, 15,9% of all renewable electricity is generated through hydropower production, (IHA 2019). 

For instance in Finland, the role of hydropower is still today quite remarkable in terms of electricity production. According to Finnish Energy, at its peak in the 1960 ́s, hydropower accounted for 90% of all electricity generation in the country. Today, hydropower contributes to four per cent (4%) of Finland ́s total energy mix, and annually between 10-15% of all electricity production, down from its impressive numbers in the middle of the 20th century. (Finnish Energy 2019).

Despite being a renewable source of energy, energy authorities and companies admit to the environmental problems caused by dams and hydropower plants. Not only do dams and hydropower plants change natural water systems, but also prevent (fish) species in these water bodies from wandering. The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, FANC, supports consumers and the industry in improving the sustainability of energy and electricity consumption. It has launched the EKOenergy label, which has now become the international ecolabel for energy. (Fortum 2019; FANC 2019).

What comes to the benefits of hydropower, the IHA identifies the following key components: hydropower is an affordable and reliable source of energy which enables and supports other renewables, it offers protection from floods and drought, provides responsible management of freshwater, is socioeconomically important, helps avoid emissions and pollutants, improves infrastructure and waterways, increases cooperation between countries, leads to community investments in rural areas, and enhances both recreational activities and tourism. Of all energy sources, hydropower has the second lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions per kilowatt hour. 

In terms of hydropower costs, the International Renewable Energy Agency states that on average, electricity generated through the use of hydropower is inexpensive, with significant technical potential remaining untapped as of today. One of the obstacles in terms of fully utilizing the potential of hydropower worldwide, according to IRENA, is the absence of data in terms of these technologies. Despite currently being the most widely used renewable source of energy worldwide with a total market share of almost 16% in the global energy mix, IRENA estimates that the usage of hydropower is far from having reached its full potential on a global scale, although for instance Norway gets more than 99% of its electricity from hydropower. 

The World Energy Council reveals that Asia as a continent has the most significant untapped potential in terms of hydropower, while currently much of the new development is focused in China (26% of the worldwide installed capacity in 2015), Latin America and the African continent. According to the World Energy Council, the average annual growth rate of hydropower worldwide between 2005 and 2015 was almost four per cent (4%). With the share of other renewable energy sources increasing, hydropower now accounts for 71% of all renewable electricity worldwide, a share that has fallen by at least 10% within a few years time only. The countries with the fastest growing new installed hydropower capacity worldwide are currently China, Brazil, Pakistan, Turkey and Angola. One major benefit of hydropower is its flexibility and the capacity to store energy even up to several months. 

In the 2019 Hydropower Status Report the International Hydropower Association insists that hydropower, when correctly and sustainably managed, provides a number of benefits in a world faced with complex problems such as expeditious population growth in addition to energy and water challenges. The IHA identifies following developments and key trends in the worldwide hydropower sector:

  1. Risk management initiatives established in terms of hydropower
  2. Co-operative projects within the renewable sector to secure grid stability
  3. Pump storage serves global requirements for energy storage
  4. Hydropower interconnected to global markets
  5. Modernisation of available assets within the hydropower sector
  6. Advanced reporting mechanisms are now at hand
  7. Sustainability performance reporting (The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol) is being implemented worldwide
  8. Climate resilience acknowledged and emphasized by financing institutions

Furthermore, the IHA recognizes climate change mitigation, including the Paris Agreement and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, being at the center for strategic sustainable development. In terms of environmental protection, both the World Energy Council and the International Hydropower Association acknowledge the availability and deployment of modern technologies that have been designed to minimize the potential harms caused to both water sources and its inhabitants through the hydropower sector. For instance in Uruguay alone, almost 100% of the country’s electricity is produced from hydropower and other renewable resources of energy.

What are your thoughts and/or experiences about hydropower? You are more than welcome to share your thoughts by commenting on this article. You may also want to read one of my previous articles: How Safe is The Production of Nuclear Energy?

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environmental posts alone @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to my newsletter at Yritys Executive Services to receive my latest articles/news delivered personally to you. 

 

How Safe is The Production of Nuclear Energy?

Nuclear energy is being classified as a renewable energy source which is regarded as an option to replace fossil fuels: coal, gas, and oil. According to the World Nuclear Association there are currently 450 nuclear power reactors commercially operating in 31 countries worldwide, providing an estimated 10% of our world ́s electricity. Despite being classified as a fossil-free source of energy, the World Nuclear Association states that there is a need to replace some of the oldest nuclear reactors worldwide, especially those that are coal-fired and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions by releasing carbon dioxide into Earth’s atmosphere. (World Nuclear Association 2017).

In IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2017, the International Energy Agency has a Sustainable Development Scenario for 2040 with forecasts where power generation has not been decarbonized despite the increase of low-carbon sources accounting for 40% of the total energy mix in 2040, and the worldwide usage of nuclear energy growing to 15% of the worldwide energy market. (International Energy Agency 2017). OPEC, in its World Oil Outlook 2040, estimates an annual growth rate of 2.3% for nuclear energy between 2015-2040. For more detailed information, see the table “World primary energy demand by fuel type” below.

World Primary Energy Demand by Fuel Type growth p.a. 2015-2040

With currently 12 countries getting around 25% of their electricity from nuclear power, France leads the statistics with 75% of its electricity coming from nuclear power. Beyond nuclear-friendly France, these countries are Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine (more than 50% nuclear energy), Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, Slovenia, Sweden, and Switzerland (⅓ or more from nuclear power), Romania, Russia, Spain, UK, USA (around 20% from nuclear power), and Japan with around 25% of its electricity currently from nuclear power. Even some countries with no nuclear power plants, for instance Denmark and Italy, today depend to some extent upon nuclear energy. (World Nuclear Association 2019).

While the IEA forecasts that the share of nuclear energy on the worldwide market will grow to 15% of the total energy mix by 2040, OPEC estimates that nuclear energy will account for 6.4% of total world primary energy demand in 2040.  See table “World Primary Energy Demand by Fuel Type” below.

World Primary Energy Demand by Fuel Type OPEC

The International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA, an autonomous organization under the UN established in 1957, works towards the strengthening of nuclear security worldwide, including the prevention of nuclear weapons and supporting countries in maintaining a peaceful, safe and secure usage of nuclear technology and science. Director General of IAEA, Yukiya Amano, states that nuclear energy, as one of the lowest-carbon technologies, helps countries in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. While at first requiring large capital investments, nuclear power plants are known to be cost efficient. Moreover, as expressed by the IAEA, the new generation of nuclear reactors are constructed with improved performance, reliability and safety.

Learn more by watching WhatTheWhy ́s video “Nuclear Energy Explained: Risk or Opportunity”:

Nuclear Energy Explained: Risk or Opportunity?

How safe are nuclear power plants and nuclear power? Despite being classified as a renewable source of energy, nuclear power plants and nuclear waste pose a number of risks both to human beings, animals and our environment. In the case of an emergency and a nuclear plant accident (see for instance Tchernobyl or Fukushima), nuclear reactors can cause chemical explosions and release dangerous radioactive material. Even when normally functioning, nuclear power plants cause radioactive waste that has to be gotten rid of in some way. The solution for this has traditionally been to bury nuclear waste in deep geological repositories. (Harvard University 2016. Reconsidering the Risks of Nuclear Power). 

While some countries (Australia, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, and Switzerland) have completely abandoned or are about to completely abandon nuclear power plants and the usage of nuclear power, other countries continue to rely quite heavily on nuclear energy. 

What are your thoughts about nuclear energy, the risks and safety of nuclear power (plants)? 

You may also be interested in reading one of my previous articles: What Is  The Future of The Worldwide Natural Gas Market?

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Anne-Maria Yritys to receive my latest articles delivered personally to you.

 

 

 

GCC Think Act Tank cover 2019

What Is The Future of The Worldwide Natural Gas Market?

The natural gas industry, together with the oil industry, together account for an estimated 24% of all anthropogenic methane emissions. According to for instance the U.S. Energy Information Administration, natural gas is a fossil energy source consisting mainly of methane, which is a chemical compound with one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. The chemical formula for methane is CH4. 

The United States of America currently leads the production of natural gas hydrocarbons, followed by Russia, Iran, Qatar, Canada, China, The European Union, Norway, Saudi Arabia, and Turkmenistan. In World Oil Outlook 2040, OPEC estimates that the largest upcoming energy demand will come from natural gas, with an average annual growth of 0.4 % from 2015 to 2040. (Global Methane Initiative 2018; Central Intelligence Agency 2017; U.S. Energy Information Administration 2017; OPEC 2017).

In OPEC ́s forecast for the world primary energy demand by fuel type from 2015 to 2040, the demand for gas will increase by a rate of 1.8% p.a., with the majority of the increase coming from non-OECD countries and the most rapid economic growth in the developing world. OPEC projects the global economy in 2040 being 226% in comparison to 2016, with 3/4 of growth coming from developing countries. China and India alone are projected to account for almost 40% of the global GDP in 2040. (OPEC 2017. World Oil Outlook 2040).

The OPEC acknowledges the relation between population growth and energy demand, however, considering a number of variables for instance in consumer trends. It also states how energy markets are affected by government policies and recognizes the need to monitor these on a regular basis, taking into consideration for instance the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, with energy efficiency and clean energy now trending development. The OPEC is closely monitoring worldwide energy market and policy developments, mentioning the USA, the European Union, China, and India at the forefront.

Furthermore, OPEC estimates that total world primary energy demand by fuel type from 2015 to 2040 will see an increase of 3.6% for gas, 1,5% for nuclear energy, 0.3% for hydro energy, and 4% for other renewables, while the demand for oil would decrease by 4.2%, coal demand decreasing by 5.1%, and biomass demand decreasing by 0.1% during the time frame. The OPEC identifies energy efficiency as a critical uncertainty for the energy market with policies concentrating on reducing emissions through a number of measures related to financial and fiscal instruments. (OPEC 2017. World Oil Outlook 2040).

Estimated Global Methane Emissions 2020
Estimated Global Methane Emissions 2020

The U.S. Energy Information Administration presents natural gas as a proportionately clean burning fossil fuel, although exploration, drilling and production have direct impacts on the environment, in addition to the fact that natural gas consists mainly of methane which is a powerful greenhouse gas. Leaks from natural gas-related activities such as pipelines are causing toxic anthropogenic methane emissions. Despite the many environmental and health risks related to fossil fuels such as natural gas, the global energy market will continue to depend on these. 

The OPEC projects that oil and gas combined will supply for more than 50% of global energy needs between 2015-2040. Gas alone is estimated to have a share of 29% in OECD, 20.8% in developing countries, and 45.4% in Eurasia in 2040. In China, gas is forecast to account for 10.6% of energy demand in 2040, while coal is expected to drop down to 48.6% from 64.3% in 2015. 

The OPEC estimates that the highest growth in gas demand in the OECD region will be in OECD America, recognizing key influences related to the overall demand of natural gas and its dependency on multiple critical factors including gas supplies, competition,  regulations, and pricing.

For instance in Finland, the national Energy Authority reports that “The Finnish natural gas market has been under sector-specific regulatory supervision since the assertion of the Natural Gas Market Act in August 2000”. The natural gas market in Finland has currently no competition, with 100% of the natural gas is being imported through one pipeline from Russia and traded on the Finnish market by one single company. In Finland, the demand for natural gas has been in decline for several reasons, with natural gas accounting for six (6%) of total generation fuel mix in 2018, with the baseline for energy demand being market-based. 

In its World Gas Perspectives report (2017), the World Energy Council identifies four key findings concerning the development of the world gas market: 1) gas is expected to be the only source of fossil fuel with a growing share of the world energy market until 2050, although the long-term future for gas is insecure; 2) the global gas market will shift to Asia, with demand in Europe and North America stagnating or even decreasing; 3) by 2060, worldwide electricity demand will double, posing a possibility for the natural gas market to further grow, unless governments and regulators decide differently; 4) the natural gas sector must innovate and become a cleaner source of energy – policies and societal change will have an impact on the future of the worldwide gas market. Despite having lower emissions than both coal and oil, gas is a fossil fuel which emits greenhouse gases. 

Read one of my previous articles here: Why  Is Our World In A Freshwater Crisis?

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Anne-Maria Yritys to receive my latest articles delivered personally to you.

 

 

 

"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear". - Buddha

Happy World Teachers Day!

Happy World Teachers Day!
 
As a vocational teacher myself, I am proud to have one of the most important professions in the world.
 
Teachers hold a lot of power in terms of being catalysts for change in the world.
 
Teachers are those who teach all other professions.
 
Teachers make a difference.
 
What would the world look like without teaching professionals?
 
Only those who can learn everything by themselves need no teachers.
 
Teachers do not only teach specific subjects.
 
Teachers also teach manners, ethics, and morals and aim to integrate students into societies.
 
More often than not, teachers succeed in this. Sometimes, unfortunately not.
 
Nevertheless, teachers should not be blamed or given the whole responsibility of matters concerning parenting or the lack thereof, nor blamed for general problems in a country, region or society.
 
Teachers are not parents, although many teachers take on the responsibility when there is a lack of parenting. For many students worldwide, school or an educational institution is their only home/hope.
 
Never forget that as a teacher. Never forget that as a student. Never forget that as a citizen (of the world).
 
Remember to give thanks to all your teachers who made a difference in your life.
 
Stop blaming and putting all responsibility on your teachers, and start taking responsibility for your own behavior and for your own learning.
 
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. – Buddha
Anne-Maria Yritys, October 5th 2019
Estimated Global Methane Emissions 2020

Why Is Our World In A Freshwater Crisis?

Without water, there would be no life on our planet. A human being can survive without food or nutrition for months, but without clean, fresh water for only a couple of days. Lack of clean, fresh water is a worldwide disaster that already affects billions of people. Wastewater, on a global level, accounts for seven percent (7%) of all anthropogenic methane emissions. Not only is wastewater emitting large amounts of methane, but does contain many kinds of contaminants, bacteria and chemicals such as phosphorus and nitrogen nutrients, harmful for both our environment and for human beings. (Global Methane Initiative 2019; HSY 2019).

The European Union ́s water frame directive defines the minimum level of wastewater treatment in the European Union member states, including Finland. Finland, however, has its own stricter wastewater treatment regulation based upon Finnish legislation. In fact, Finland as a country ranks as having some of the cleanest waters worldwide: tap water is clean and safe to drink, since wastewater treatment uses advanced technologies allowing for wastewater treatment plants in Finland to process wastewater removing up to 95% of chemicals throughout the treatment process. For instance in Finland, dirt is being transformed into biogas and soil. (Viikinmäki wastewater treatment plant 2019).

Why then, does wastewater treatment matter? Why is it important to purify both household and industrial water? If wastewater is not being treated, i.e. purified, it causes horrible odors. However, this is probably the smallest of all problems involved with dirty water, which unless treated, contains bacteria, chemicals and (other) toxins harmful both to our environment and to human health. Despite having some of the cleanest water and best water treatment facilities worldwide, Finland also experienced a water contamination crisis in Nokia in 2007. Through a single human mistake, hundreds of thousands of liters of wastewater at Nokia´s water treatment plant ended up mixed with purified water. Since the mistake was not immediately noticed, and communication failed, thousands of Nokia inhabitants ended up drinking the contaminated water and got sick – some for months, others still today have to deal with health problems that can be traced back to them having drunk contaminated water. The Nokia case led to improvements not only in crisis communication throughout Finland ́s municipalities, but also to all wastewater treatment plants in Finland being checked for any possible leakages and other risks. A decade after the Nokia contaminated water crisis the case was brought up again by media in Finland and acts as a reference case. 

Wastewater treatment is important both for the environment and for human health. The FAO states that wastewater treatment is necessary in order to avoid both environmental and health risks, and identifies the need for some degree of wastewater treatment before considering the usage of raw municipal wastewater to aquaculture, agriculture or landscape irrigation. In other words, dirty water should not be used directly anywhere. (FAO Corporate Document Repository – 3. Wastewater treatment). The Global Methane Initiative states that anaerobic decomposition of organic material during the treatment of wastewater leads to methane emissions. Moreover, in countries with less advanced technologies for wastewater treatment, methane emissions from wastewater are higher. (Global Methane Initiative. Municipal Wastewater Methane: Reducing Emissions, Advancing Recovery and Use Opportunities).

The United Nations identifies that the majority of human activity involving water also produces wastewater, followed by the fact that most wastewater worldwide is being released into our environment without any kind of treatment, with an exception to most highly developed countries. In its World Water Development Report 2017, the UN presents wastewater as an untapped resource, whereby wastewater treatment worldwide is necessary to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In the World Water Development Report, the UN discusses the various aspects directly related to wastewater and its treatment, including general governance, technical aspects of wastewater, wastewater in municipalities and urban areas, wastewater from industry, agriculture and in various ecosystems, followed by wastewater by geographical region. As a conclusion, the UN suggests several response options in terms of wastewater management.

In a world with continuously growing demands for freshwater, it is simultaneously becoming an increasingly much scarce resource. Billions of people worldwide also lack access to clean water. Unless resolved, it is a vicious circle leading to both environmental and health problems. The UN sees the potential for both business and sustainable development through wastewater management/treatment. (The United Nations World Water Development Report 2017).

The OECD (2015), Environment at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264235199-en highlights countries that have managed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, improved waste and water management processes, and have a higher usage of renewable energy sources. In this report, the OECD states how significant freshwater resources are both on social and economic levels, and for the environment. It also identifies that overall water quality is impacted by water abstraction, anthropogenic pollution loads, climate, and weather.

With majority of wastewater worldwide neither being collected, nor treated, the vast majority of the world population is exposed to wastewater. Moreover, at least 2/3 of world population live in areas where they are faced with water scarcity for at least one month each year. When wastewater is being directly dumped into the environment without any treatment, this only worsens the water scarcity that already affects much of the world ‘s population. 

If and when we know how harmful it is to both animals, the environment, and human beings to use contaminated water, then why do we allow this to continue on a global scale? 

According to the Finnish Red Cross, every single hour 33 children worldwide die due to lack of fresh, clean water. That makes 792 dead children every day. 289.080 unnecessary deaths every year, only due to the lack of clean and fresh water. If we managed our freshwater resources better, this could all be avoided. For instance, the Red Cross distributes 500.000 litres of clean water  every day at the Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria, a country that has suffered severely from a war that has been going on for more than eight (8) years by now. Some sources claim that the origin of the Syrian war can be traced back to climate change issues, and environmental problems. 

Freshwater is also a basic human right, which should not be privatized or seen as a luxury product available only for the privileged. Why then, is for instance India facing its worst freshwater crisis ever? Where people living in slums hardly get any clean water and if they do, it is a constant battle. In countries like Tadzhikistan, where people depend on freshwater from the mountain glaciers, the battle for access to clean water is equally hard. These people can spend the vast majority of their days just to find clean water since they lack the resources to build even the simplest engineered systems to bring them some of the clean freshwater melting from the glaciers. The 21st century will be significant in the history of homo sapiens in terms of (the lack of) clean freshwater. In the Middle East, an effort to tackle the lack of freshwater is to import an entire iceberg from Antarctica. Can we afford to experiment with the environment and nature this way? Time will tell, and until then let us find out intelligent ways to solve the freshwater crisis, starting with (improved) wastewater management practices. 

Please share your thoughts and ideas concerning this article. If you found this helpful and/or interesting, do also share it with your social media networks. Access one of my previous articles here: Why Are Landfills Significant Sources Of Global Methane Emissions?

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GCC Think Act Tank cover 2019

Highlights From The UN Climate Action Summit 2019

Some of the many highlights, and a few positive news, from the UN Climate Action Summit that took place in New York on September 21st to September 23rd 2019:

  • 2015-2019 have been the five hottest years ever. According to UN Secretary General António Guterres, nature is angry, and nature is striking back: “Seas are rising, and oceans are acidifying. Glaciers are melting, and corals are bleaching. Droughts are spreading, and wildfires are burning. Deserts are expanding, and access to water is dwindling. Heat waves are scorching, and natural disasters are multiplying. Storms everywhere are more intense, more frequent, more deadly. I ́ve seen it with my own eyes.” 
  • New Zealand ́s gross emissions peaked in 2006. Over 80% of New Zealand’s electricity already comes from renewable hydro and wind. New Zealand has begun an ambitious agenda according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Furthermore, New Zealand is strengthening its ETS (emissions trading scheme) and aims to plant one billion (1.000.000.000) trees by 2028, and has a goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2023 along with many other ambitious actions. 
  • Marshall Islands is one of the world ́s most ambitious countries in the world when it comes to fighting the climate crisis. The Marshall Islands has declared a national climate crisis. President of the Marshall Islands, Hilda Heine, wants to empower girls and women in the fight for climate justice. 
  • Iceland already runs 100% on renewable energy.
  • Finland targets at becoming carbon neutral by 2033, and carbon negative by 2035. The climate program of Finland ́s new government (2019-2023) is one of the most ambitious in the world.
  • Pakistan has planted 1 BILLION trees within a short time period, and is about to plant another 10 BILLION trees in the near future, although the country is responsible for “only” 1% of total global GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions.
  • The businesses, states and cities that are targeting net zero emissions and combating climate change in the United States together form the 4th largest economy in the world. According to Michael Bloomberg, since Beyond Coal was launched in 2011, more than half of coal plants in the U.S. have been closed: 297 out of 530. Net zero emissions is an ambitious but achievable goal, states Bloomberg. Bloomberg Philanthropies targets at phasing out coal in the whole world for instance by working together with countries around the world to accelerate new clean energy projects and by bringing together public and private sector leaders. 
  • The Mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante, states that the city targets net zero emissions through ambitious climate action, for instance by reducing emissions by 55% by 2030. Montreal has also launched a project called “Zero Carbon Building”. Furthermore, when combating climate change it is important to keep in mind the interconnection between climate change and social injustice, and problems that need to be taken care of.  
  • Germany announces new climate protection package: “Germany’s coalition government plans to invest 54 BILLION euros to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The new climate protection package includes incentives for buying electric cars and measures to help households transition from using heating oil”. Currently, Germany alone accounts for 2% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

Watch the whole UN Climate Action Summit 2019 here:

Guardian News: World leaders attend 2019 UN climate action summit – watch live

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Estimated Global Methane Emissions 2020

Why Are Landfills Significant Sources of Global Methane Emissions?

Landfills around the world contribute to an estimated eleven percent (11%) of all global methane emissions, with methane being a climate amplifier and up to 25 times stronger than CO2 (carbon dioxide) as a greenhouse gas on a longer term. In the first decades of being emitted into Earth’s atmosphere, methane is more than 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, causing it to actually warm Earth’s climate more than carbon dioxide. 

The fact that landfills are such a large source of anthropogenic methane emissions on a global scale suggests that there is a need and potential to a) reduce the amount of overall waste b) improved waste management practices, including recycling and transforming waste into energy. Recycling and energy production from waste of course have to be in line with national policies, whereby communities and governments are responsible for creating and maintaining sustainable waste management policies and procedures, allowing for completely new kinds of businesses to emerge and to thrive in a world where waste can today be regarded as a currency.

While some countries have decided to completely ban plastic bags in order to reduce plastic waste and it ending up especially in our oceans, for instance in Finland plastic recycling was not set up until 2016. Today, around one fifth (20%) of all plastic waste in Finland is being recycled, with a target of increasing the amount of recycled plastic within the upcoming few years. 

I first ran into Plastic Bank on Twitter a few years ago. Plastic Bank is an organization dedicated to stopping ocean plastic ending up in our oceans by turning waste into currency, killing two birds with one stone by contributing both to ending poverty and preventing harmful plastic waste ending up in our oceans. 

Of course, plastic is not the only kind of waste on our planet, but it is one of the worst: it can take up to one thousand (1.000) years for plastic bottles to biodegrade, with the average time being 450 years. Think about that before throwing plastic garbage (or, any garbage at all) into the nature!

The average decomposition rates of debris/garbage varies largely: glass bottles thrown into water sources or nature in general is undefined, or can take up to one million (1.000.000) years to decompose, followed by fishing lines (600 years), plastic beverage bottles (450 years), disposable diapers (450 years), aluminium cans (up to 200 years), foamed plastic buoys (80 years), foamed plastic cups (50 years), rubber-boot soles (up to 80 years), tin cans (50 years), leather (50 years), nylon fabric (up to 40 years), plastic bags (up to 20 years), cigarette butts (up to five years), wool socks (up to five years), and plywood (up to three years). (NOAA Marine Debris Program 2019; U.S. National Park Service 2019). It is estimated that more than eight million tons of plastic end up in our oceans alone each year, and cleaning all the waste from our oceans is not as simple as from elsewhere in our environment. 

Nevertheless, The Ocean CleanUp is an ambitious project determined to clean up our world’s oceans from all the waste through advanced technologies. It will definitely be exciting to see how this demanding project turns out.

The World Bank estimates that urban solid waste will increase by 70% by 2025, from some 1.3 billion tonnes currently to 2.2 billion tonnes by 2025, increasing the global costs of waste (management) significantly. This huge increase in overall waste worldwide does include a number of risks, both for health and the environment, but it also gives us the opportunity to create and develop improved waste management practices, recycling, and an effort to create better solutions for instance in terms of packaging materials and overall design.

The complete report published by The World Bank in March 2012, “What a Waste – A Global Review of Solid Waste Management” can be downloaded here. In brief, the report highlights key issues such as municipal solid waste management being the most important service any city provides, with poorly managed waste having immense impacts on health, the environment overall, and the economy. It identifies non-sustainable development including water and wastewater (treatment), greenhouse gas emissions, poverty and slums, social unrest, air pollution, and solid waste. Landfilling in low-income countries/low-technology sites, according to the report, is usually open dumping of wastes, leading to high pollution in nearby aquifers and water bodies, waste regularly being burned, with significant health consequences for local residents and staff. 

High-income OECD countries alone account for almost half (44-46%) of total worldwide waste generation, with high-income OECD countries also having the highest waste collection rates. What ends up in landfills worldwide has large impacts on our environment, as a result of which advanced recycling and waste management are significant factors for minimizing both environmental and health concerns.

Learn more by watching “Landfill Methane Emissions and Oxidation”, published by Illinois Sustainable Technology Center:

What conclusions can we draw from this? 

  • Your consumption habits matter and have an impact! Demand better products, and reduce your amount of waste. 
  • Packaging materials make a significant difference. Businesses/producers/retailers and consumers can influence what kinds of packaging materials are being used. 
  • With a constantly growing world population, it is essential to start limiting the amount of waste produced per capita in different countries. Otherwise, one option would be to charge for any additional waste through either waste collection costs per household/business or higher taxation on non-environmentally friendly packaging materials/products.
  • Improved recycling and overall waste management practices around the world. 

What else can you think of? Please share your ideas and thoughts by commenting on this article! You may also want to read my previous article “How Environmentally Friendly Is Biomass Production?” to find out more about how waste is being managed in for instance a country like Sweden. Today, we do have similar waste management practices in Finland as well. 

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Leading With Passion to receive my latest posts.

 

 

 

 

 

Estimated Global Methane Emissions 2020

How Environmentally Friendly is Biomass Production?

Biomass production, which is classified as a renewable source of energy, today accounts for 10.5% of the world’s total energy mix. Biomass is a term covering all non-fossil organic material and organic waste, such as forestry and agricultural residues, both from animal and non-animal farming, but also garbage and sewage sludge. With some concerns about biomass production on land replacing food production, this is an exception to the rule. Biomass is usually residue, waste or a by-product. Only biofuel production is known to utilize ethanol from corn: wheat, corn or sugar-beet. (Eurostat 2017; REN21 2017; Victoria State Government 2017; World Energy Council 2016).

According to the World Energy Council (2016), straw as a residue from food production is an example of biomass. Each year, billions of tons of straw, stalk, and foliage remain unused for biomass production. Instead, these are either allowed to rotten or burned freely, emitting considerable amounts of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere. All of this organic waste, when correctly processed, could instead be utilized as a source of bio energy.

Biomass as a source of energy production is supported by policies in many countries despite of ongoing discussion about the sustainability of certain bioenergy sources. This has led to uncertainties in some markets and affected the willingness to invest into bioenergy. Due to these risk factors, the bioenergy sector has adopted a number of standards, Sustainability Criteria for Bioenergy, known as ISO 13065. In 2016, primary energy supply for biomass was around 62.5 exajoules (one EJ = 1018 J; one J per second = one watt). While worldwide energy demand in the past decade alone has grown by 21%, bioenergy demand has within the same time frame, on average, grown by 2.5% annually and persistently held its 10.5% share of the total worldwide energy mix. (ECOS 2017; REN21 2017).

In its Global Futures Report 2017 the REN21 states that while biofuels have most commonly replaced fossil fuels in the transport sector, it is not the only technology available. Electric vehicles are another option, with markets such as Norway pioneering the electric vehicle industry. It is largely a question of national policies and new investments into research and development that determine how well various fossil fuel-replacing options can penetrate into a specific market. A world powered with 100% renewable energy is possible, although current infrastructures limit and slow down the pace of renewables replacing fossil fuels, mainly due to socio-economic impacts. (REN21 2017).

Greenhouse gas mitigation and carbon taxes are the main drivers for developing the bioenergy market, while drastically dropping oil prices in the past few years have both led to advancements and increased risks for the overall bioenergy market. In markets with zero competition from the fossil fuel industry, such as Sweden, bioenergy has gained significant foothold. Sweden ́s pioneering development within the bioenergy sector has led to the fact that more than one-third of the country’s total energy use comes from bioenergy. Sweden is so efficient with bioenergy usage and recycling that the country has to import waste to meet its energy demand. The country aims at becoming 100% renewable in terms of energy. (World Energy Council 2016).

In comparison to for instance solar energy and wind energy, bioenergy production consumes considerable amounts of water, requires large areas of land and forests, possibly contributing to increased deforestation, unless managed sustainably. Despite risks like deforestation, countries like Sweden and Finland are known to manage their forest resources in a sustainable manner on a global level, following the directives set by the European Union. (EUbioenergy 2017; European Commission/EU 2017; World Energy Council 2016).

Learn more about the topic by watching U.S. Department of Energy ́s video “Energy 101 | Biofuels”:

Although biomass is being classified as a renewable energy source, it accounts for some  3% (three per cent) of total global methane emissions (with methane being a powerful greenhouse gas and anthropogenic methane emissions contributing to the warming of Earth’s climate). According to Vattenfall, which is one of the largest European retailers for electricity and fully owned (100%) by the Swedish state, biomass is at this time the largest single renewable energy source in the European Union.

Biomass and waste currently account for 2/3 (two-thirds) of renewable energy production worldwide, stated by Vattenfall. The state of Sweden has learned how to utilize waste to such an extent that it today is obliged to IMPORT waste in order to keep up with its (biomass) energy production. What a genius idea to turn waste into energy! Of course, the most optimal solution would be not to create any waste at all, but at the current state of the world, many countries are facing problems with for instance recycling, not to mention how these countries manage waste. Why destroy the environment and our soils by dumping all kinds of waste to landfills without any recycling, when there are much better options, such as biomass production and recycling available? If Sweden can do it, why not other countries as well? 

These questions are very important in terms of both environmental and human well-being. Moreover, recycling, waste management, human health, animal health, planetary health, and the creation of sustainable business models can be lucrative income sources for businesses in societies around the globe, while improving the state of the planet. Biomass can of course not be created from any kind of waste. Today, biomass is being created and used mainly in countries focused on forest industries and agriculture, whereby waste from these can be utilized to produce biomass energy from (renewable) sources.

Although biomass is today regarded to be a renewable energy source, and definitely more environmentally friendly than the burning of and production of fossil fuels coal, gas and oil, the production of biomass involves both agriculture and forestry. If other renewable source of energy are at hand, there should be no need to excessively cut down forests or grow crops in order to produce biomass, if and when there are more environmentally friendly options available.

It is estimated that the demand for biomass will at least double in the upcoming decades, with scenarios up to 2050. According to the World Energy Council’s report World Energy Resources – Bioenergy | 2016, bioenergy currently accounts for one tenth of global energy supply, with biofuels being a sustainable option in the replacement of oil dependency. Moreover, with growing concerns for environmental well-being even in terms of biomass production, bioenergy is framed by sustainability standards such as ISO, only to mention one of many. The World Energy Council states that the use of waste and residues as raw material to produce bioenergy is most optimal.

Following video, “What is Biomass”, published by FairEnergy, briefly explains what biomass (production) is:

 

Thank you for reading and commenting! 

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to https://www.annemariayritys.com to receive my latest posts.

 

 

Estimated Global Methane Emissions 2020

Why Is Coal Mining Environmentally Damaging?

Coal, which is primarily used as a liquid fuel, in cement manufacturing, steel production and electricity generation, accounts for an estimated nine per cent (9%) of total methane emissions worldwide. (Global Methane Initiative 2018; World Coal Association 2017). The top 10 coal producers worldwide account for 90% of total coal emissions: China, India, USA,  Australia, Indonesia, Russia, South Africa, Germany, Poland, and Kazakhstan. (IEA. 2017.) 

According to the International Energy Agency, total coal production declined more than ever since the IEA began its recordings in 1971, with a drop of 458 Mt down to 7.268.6 Mt in comparison to 2015, despite the fact that India, Russia, and Indonesia increased production in 2016.

The World Coal Association states that around 15 percent of all hard coal production is  destined for the international coal market, with the largest exporters being Australia, Indonesia, Russia, Colombia, South Africa, USA, Netherlands, Canada, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. China is the leading importer of coal, followed by India, Japan, Korea, Chinese Taipei, Netherlands, Germany, Turkey, Malaysia and the Russian Federation. (IEA 2017.)

Furthermore, the World Coal Association states that coal is a fossil fuel, i.e. the transformed residues of prehistoric vegetation, developed and formed throughout millions of years into energy containing coal. Greenpeace lists strip mines as the most harmful since it leaves permanent scars on the environment, including soil erosion and ruination of agricultural land, leading to the pollution of waterways when topsoil is being washed by rain, mixing up natural landscapes. 

Another environmental problem caused by coal, estimated by Greenpeace, are coal fires that can burn for decades, or even centuries, polluting our environment with chemicals and toxins that are invisible to the human eye. Greenpeace, which is campaigning to stop investments to any fossil fuel projects, has witnessed and published a case study/full report about Coal Mines Polluting South Kalimantan ́s Water. (Greenpeace, December 2014.) The report summarizes and reveals that intensive coal mining activities in this Indonesian region has led to the release of toxic pollution from coal mining into rivers while violating national standards for wastewater releases from coal mines.

While the damaging nature and risks of coal mining for the overall environment is well-known, the World Coal Association aims to develop and lead the global coal mining industry into a “pathway of zero emissions from coal” with advanced clean technologies allowing for the coal mining industry to minimize its impacts on the environment. The World Coal Association suggests that HELE power generation could reduce CO2 emissions from coal mining by more than a third. 

How about methane emissions from coal mining? The United States Environmental Protection Agency EPA estimates that methane emissions from coal mining will continue to increase and be responsible for nine per cent (9%) of total global methane emissions by 2020, whereby methane is many times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. According to various estimations, methane (CH4) is up to 25 times as powerful as a greenhouse gas in comparison with carbon dioxide (CO2). 

Are zero methane emissions from coal mining a possibility? Learn more by watching ICE-CMM Poland ́s video “Clark Talkington – Achieving nea zero methane emissions from coal mine mining”:

 

Note from author: I originally wrote and published this article on December 4th 2017 on my website annemariayritys.com and on LinkedIn as a part of my climate change research. USGS states that in addition to peat, which is a precursor to coal, the four actual types of coal are anthracite, bituminous, subbituminous, and lignite. According to Leonard, Michaelides, and Michaelides (Energy Conversion and Management Volume 164, 2018), the substitution of coal with renewables can be optimized but not fully replaced. The World Coal Association lists electricity generation, steel production, cement manufacturing and the usage of coal as a liquid fuel as the four most significant purposes of the global coal industry. Moreover, the construction industry worldwide accounts for the vast majority of the need for steel and cement, which are used as building blocks in most of construction, unless cement and steel are being replaced with other options.  

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to my newsletter at annemariayritys.com to receive my latest posts delivered directly to you. 

Anne-Maria Yritys 2019. All rights reserved.