Archive for December, 2009

A Last Word on Copenhagen

December 29, 2009

Posted By:
Tom Ansell
Valuation Advisory
United Kingdom

The furore surrounding Copenhagen was immense, and at no other time in history has our climate had so much scrutiny. The Copenhagen Accord that emerged is not the comprehensive agreement that many have demanded, nor the total waste of effort that some have claimed, but the foundations for a significant climate deal. Delegates from 192 nations, represented in the final session by India, China, United States, Brazil and South Africa, agreed upon limiting the world’s warming to 2°C, transparency in carbon auditing, and a financial package for the developing world. Angela Merkel called Cop15 the “first step towards a new world climate order,” and next year’s meeting in Mexico could be an even bigger step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

If Copenhagen marks a turning point in global consensus on climate change, it comes at a time of hope for world economies as well. The UK, the last major European nation still in recession is likely to move into growth as the Q4 results are published. Property markets across the globe, with some notable exceptions, seem to be seeing a small turn around in fortunes, and in comparison to December 2008 there is a marked improvement in confidence.

But what does Cop15 mean for property? There is an understanding of a common metric by which to measure energy use in buildings across the globe and there is no doubt governments will go into policy making with a greater understanding of the issues. For the UK and Northern Europe Copenhagen will mean very little due to the advanced nature of their green building and property regulations but for others such as the United States, India, and China policy changes are more likely to arise. We will have to wait and see what materialises.

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Sink or Swim–in class, not on the project

December 22, 2009

Posted By:
Helee Hillman
LEED A.P.
United States
Energy and Sustainability Services

My first assignment as a consultant on a LEED EB project was for a prestigious client, and only a few short weeks from the day I passed my LEED NC exam and earned my AP letters. To say the learning curve was steep is an understatement. At the time, without a fully-developed formal network of resources within the firm to guide me, I had only the strong desire to perform for my client coupled with the fear of failure to sustain me.   

Today, there are so many more experienced LEED APs with actual project experience to go around, so neophytes can work with someone more knowledgeable on their first project. Yet, there’s nothing like the deep end of the pool for finding the best swimmers.

I recently co-facilitated an internal class of 30 newly minted APs eager for their first assignments. Day One of the training started with a “being thrown to the sharks” exercise, much like what I had experienced in real life a few years before.  Armed with just a manual and a mandate to “certify this building,” our perplexed groups were left to sink or swim until we fished them out and kicked off the real training: an intensive two-day course of hands-on LEED EB/CI exercises, and face time with SMEs.  Most of our graduates will still have experienced colleagues in their respective offices to guide them as they conduct their first feasibility assessments or work on certification projects, but in the unlikely event of a water landing, at least they can fall back on their training as well as a firm full of colleagues to stay afloat.

What’s next? Reverse recycling

December 21, 2009

Posted by:
Bob Best
Investor Services Lead
United States
Energy and Sustainability Services

If you want somebody to do something, pay them.  That’s the newest concept in encouraging people to recycle. 
 
Sacred Heart University, Fairfield Connecticut, has installed “reverse vending machines” that give coupons to students for recycling used beverage containers.  The coupons can then be turned in for good from program sponsors, including BIC stationer products and Fujifilm digital cameras.
 
The university has used traditional recycling bins for years, but felt they needed something to push the effort to the next level.

Possibility of a Deal in an Undoubtedly Green City

December 18, 2009

Posted By:
Tom Ansell
Valuation Advisory
United Kingdom

At the 11th hour a deal seems to be emerging from Copenhagen.  The developed world has finally accepted their greater responsibility for climate change and may agree to a maximum of an 18% reduction in emissions by 2020.  After a US commitment yesterday, COP15 is also likely deliver a $100bn (£60bn) annual Climate Protection Fund which will aid developing countries fight the effects of climate change.  China reacted in kind by agreeing to allow independent auditors to scrutinise their greenhouse gas emissions figures. These commitments looked unlikely 24 hours ago and so I venture that we should be positive of the admittedly watered down commitments.  The IPCC recommend greenhouse gas reductions of 25-40% by 2020 and the UN advised a significantly larger figure for the Climate Protection Fund.  The deal is contingent on the different pieces of the puzzle coming together. 

Whether the deal is brokered or not, the majority who attended the COP 15 won’t leave without an impression of Copenhagen as a green city.  The most visible element is the cycling trend.  Copenhagen has 300km of bicycle lanes and 35% of the population cycle to work.  By 2015 it is hoped this will reach 50%, and by 2025 the city aims to be the first capital city in the world to be carbon neutral.  This week MIT researchers launched the impressive Copenhagen Wheel which uses a SMART technology to store kinetic energy and add extra power to save your legs some work, as well as communicating cleverly with its owner.

Real action to deal with climate change demands both top-down and bottom-up solutions.  While the politicians sweat to strike an effective and legally binding deal over the coming days, weeks and months, why not take a simple leaf from the Danes’ book to cut your emissions and trial a SMART bike?

Negotiators see REDD

December 17, 2009

Posted By:
Achsah Carter
Consultant
Energy and Sustainability Services
United Kingdom

Amidst the general confusion and bickering, Copenhagen negotiators appear to be reaching consensus on at least one issue – “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation” (REDD). Chairing the discussions, Philippines negotiator Tony La Vina announced yesterday he had a “more or less agreed text”, with agreement on protecting indigenous peoples’ rights and native forests.

The property sector is a big timber consumer – in the UK 60% of timber used is for construction – and awareness of the need to use sustainable sources is rising with many of our clients already requiring Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified timber for developments. REDD helps clarify the link between timber procurement choices and climate change.

Reaching a deforestation deal matters because current forest loss accounts for 20% of global emissions (though this is still only half the emissions associated with buildings). Australia, France, Japan, Norway, the UK and the US have pledged $3.5bn for REDD from the ‘fast-start’ fund (discussed in this blog’s 11th December post) which will initially be used for training countries to monitor levels of forest cover, growth and loss.

Still under discussion, though, is whether or not REDD schemes will be eligible for carbon credits and traded on the carbon market. The US favours this option, as protecting forests is one of the cheapest short-term ways of reducing carbon emissions (costing around $5 per tonne if the mechanisms and institutions are robust enough to ensure reductions really count), and has included REDD schemes in proposed climate change legislation.

US companies keen on achieving a ‘carbon neutral’ label may soon be able to invest in cost-effective forest protection schemes. However, in the long-term, these offset schemes may only be a delaying tactic. Deforestation needs to be halted, but the depth of total emissions cuts necessary will only be made if other sectors also improve efficiency and switch to cleaner sources of energy. The most enlightened property companies may do both – invest in carbon offsets in the short-term while also upgrading and future-proofing their own assets against rising fuel prices.