2 August 2012

A first episode...

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Dear Readers,

Our trip is now over, we are back in Paris! We are happy to tell you that this journey was the first episode of the project One Climate One Challenge.

We will remain active on the facebook page (which you can access even if you do not have a facebook account). Here we will post news related to the topics we discussed in our articles.

We are glad we could cover key subjects of the climate change issue such as socio-economic development, water resources, climate extremes, mitigation actions and adaptation actions. A serious topic which we did not talk about is agriculture and food security.

Thank you for following us. Your feedbacks nourished our motivation.

We also want to thank all the experts we had the chance to meet. We hope your actions will be successful and we hope we helped, by writing these articles and by communicating about your challenges and your willpower.

To all of you, stay tuned, and think carbonless ! :-)

Carolina and Frédéric

"The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway"
Henry Boye


31 July 2012

An ambitious new objective for the international negotiations

Our conversations started in December at the Ministry of Environment of Colombia and they finished in mid of July at the Ministry of Environment of Finland! In Bogota, Helsinki, New Delhi or Nouméa in New Caledonia, the observation is the same : climate change is a reality.

Mitigation of the climate change is mandatory. In that matter the action of the citizens of this planet is not sufficient : political and social organization is crucial to trigger an effective mitigation of climate change. Anyway the climate protection is not one of the first preoccupations of the citizens. Due to the financial crisis of these last years for instance.

What is the status of the international negotiations concerning climate protection?

The United Nations meeting every year on climate change

We met Merja Turunen and Sirkka Haunia at the Ministry of Environment in Helsinki. Merja is the Director of the Climate Change group within the Ministry ; Sirkka is chief negociator for Finland.

Since 1995, and every year, the United Nations organizes a conference on Climate Change (called Conference of the Parties, COP) to progress on climate change negotiations. One of the most important COPs that was held so far took place in Kyoto in 1997, where the Kyoto Protocol was approved.
Merja Turunen, Sirkka Haunia and Frédéric - July the 9th
Scientists and environmental associations have complained about the lack of decisions in the last COPs. However some results have been obtained.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009, the result was a political agreement, the Copenhagen Accord. Many supported its adoption as a step towards a better future agreement. However, some countries opposed it. The COP “took note” of the Accord. For the first time, China and other major developing countries were leading discussions.

The logo of the United Nations
climate change conferences
In Cancun, Mexico, in 2010, the need to cut global emissions to limit global average temperature rise to 2°C was recognized. Governments agreed to boost action to curb emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries with technological and financial support (called REDD+ program). Financial achievements were reached such as the Green Climate Fund : a fast start finance of 30 billion USD from industrialised countries to support climate action in the developing world, up to 2012, and the intention to raise 100 billion USD in long-term funds by 2020. Also the Cancun Adaptation Framework was created to increase financial and technical support for adaptation projects in developing countries.

Durban and the new involvement of the developing countries

“Last year in Durban, South Africa, Parties decided to aim for the second commit period (which means that the Kyoto mechanisms would be continued) of the Kyoto Protocol”, Sirkka says.

A message at the entrance
of the Finnish Ministry.

“It was also decided to start negotiations for a new agreement (the Durban Plarform) in which all Parties have legal commitments to reduce emissions”. The participants agreed on a new way of acting: not only the developed countries will be concerned with cutting emissions. For the future agreements, the objectives will be based on every country’s potential to reduce emissions.

Sirkka explains : “The new agreement should be ready by 2015 and enter into force by 2020, when the second commitment period Kyoto Protocol is over, whereafter there would be only the new agreement. It is a big change, a big challenge!”

The next COP will take place in Doha, Qatar, at the end of the year. Many decisions need to be made, including the length of the  second commitment period. Also issues related to long term financing are urgent, because the fast start financing period ends 2012, Sirkka says. “The political commitment of major carbon emitting countries will also be closely followed. European Union is ready to commit on more ambitious objectives if other countries show positive signs.”


24 July 2012

The glacier maker

A stream in Nimaling valley, Ladakh.
They call him Ice Man. No, he is not a character of the latest Batman movie, but an Indian engineer whose idea, born in 1987, helps villages in the north of India to guarantee their water supply!

Water for the only harvest of the year

Ladakh is a region of the world located in the Jammu & Kashmir northern state of India. It comprises mainly high altitude desert mountains above 3 000 meters. It is a popular trekking destination for its stunning landscapes.

Almost 80% of the farmers in the region depend on snow and glacier melt water for irrigation and domestic use. The summer-season cultivation is short. It is during April and May that the farmers sow for the only harvest of the year. If it is not sown at this time, the crop cannot be fully maturated, resulting in low yielding crops.

Since winters are getting shorter and warmer, and glaciers are retreating rapidly, less and less water is available, and sometimes at the wrong period. The crops are not as good as in the past, less food is available. Already the entire population of some villages had to leave and migrate because of this change.

A successful try

An artificial glacier
(Picture : LNP)
Chewang Norphel was born in Leh, the capital of Ladakh. During 35 years he worked in the region as a civil engineer. In 1987, Chewang decided to help four villages in Shara valley. He says : “At that time the water supply was already a serious problem for four villages since there was only one stream in the valley.”

“I came out with an idea. What if water could be stored during winter so that it is available later during spring? Which practically means building… an artificial glacier! And it worked! We managed to force the creation of a glacier which provided few months after the water that the villages needed.”

A stone structure is built to 
retain the diverted water 
which will accumulate and 
create the artificial glacier.
(Picture : LNP)
Chewang explains how an artificial glacier works : “At the start of winter, water is diverted from a main stream to let it flow onto a sloping hill. Distribution channels are constructed with stones on the hill. Ice retaining walls are built at regular intervals to impede the flow of water and to make shallow pools. This is how a huge quantity of water is kept stored!”

The hill must be located on a shaded area, facing north side, where winter sun is blocked by a ridge or a mountain slope. This will ensure that the accumulated water stock will not melt during the winter. The process of ice formation takes place during the 3 to 4 winter months and as a result a big reserve of ice accumulates on the mountain slope.

(Picture : LNP)
Ice Man concludes : “The artificial glacier starts melting in spring, right in time for first irrigation. After the success of Shara glacier, we have built about 10 more glaciers.”

The brilliant idea of Chewang has changed the life of many. Adaptation to climate change is already a vital necessity in several areas in the world, let’s react all together before adaptation concerns all of us!

Chewang and Carolina at the office of Leh Nutrition Project
where Chewang currently works as Chief Project Officer.

During these last years, Chewang has received the following awards and honours:

Best Rural Engineer Award from the President of India ;
Rural Engineer Award by Center for Science and Environment, New Delhi ;
Asian Innovative Award of Hong Kong, Far Eastern Economic Review Magazine ;
CNN-IBN ‘Real Hero’ Award, 2008 (a video, here).


11 July 2012

Rains sinking the homes and the economy

Atchara and Carolina
At the end of last year, Thailand experienced the country’s heaviest flooding in 50 years. The flood claimed 800 lives and paralysed Thailand for long weeks.

Atchara Suriya works in a tourism agency in Bangkok. We had the chance to meet her at the end of May and, in the middle of a conversation, we started to talk about the floods of 2011. This is what she told us. 

Heavy monsoon rainfalls 

“I am originally from the town of Pathum Thani, north of the capital Bangkok. My region has been one of the most affected by the floods. These last months have been very special for us”. Atchara explains: “The floods resulted from strong rainfalls. Depending on the place, the water went up slowly or very suddenly. At one of my friend’s, it took less than 12 hours for the water to go up to 1 meter.”

“I got only 50 cm in my home. My family and I did not leave. My parents did not want to because of the belongings and because of… our two dogs! So, like lots of others, we decided to stay, and spent our time on the 2nd floor or on the roof of the house. I remember that preventing the water to come from the outside was useless since the toilets or the drainage would overflow. The old people would not stop saying : this never happened before, this never happened before!

   Pathum Thani is some kilometres 
far from Bangkok. The ancient capital Ayutthaya is a little bit further North.
 The whole region on this map particularly suffered from the floods. It is here that lots of automotive and electronics plants operate.

“Of course the life in the village changed. Everything stopped. Everything turned to be more expensive. During this exceptional situation we could see lots of positive behaviour. For instance those who had a car would share it with others. People who had never talked to each other would start to do it. The village got organized differently”. About the action from the authorities, Atchara says : “We could see that we had no experience of flood. There was such a lack of organization from both the people and the authorities.”

Crippled tourism and industry 

When we were in the ancient 
capital Ayutthaya, we could 
observe the marks 
left by the water…
“The whole region kind of stopped. Firstly the tourism was impacted. The ancient capital Ayutthaya is close to my town, a little bit north. The historical heritage there was at risk and much less tourists came during the flooding months.

Secondly, the region where I live is an industrial area, there are lots of factories around. The floods stopped the activity for most of them. Lots of small companies basically closed as the losses were too big. In some Japanese companies, the Thai people had to choose between moving to Japan and work there for a certain period… or losing their job. A cousin of mine stopped working for one month. She stayed at home, with no revenue, in 2 meters high waters.”

Atchara concludes : “I hope the authorities will learn from what happened, I hope we can be better organized to face floods. Nature is changing. But nature rules our life so we must pay attention to it. We are responsible for it!” 

An economy hit for a long time 

Climate change includes changes in precipitation around the world. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) declares the following: “Anthropogenic influences have contributed to intensification of extreme precipitation at the global scale. It is likely that the frequency of heavy precipitation or the proportion of total rainfall from heavy falls will increase in the 21st century over many areas of the globe. This is particularly the case in the high latitudes and tropical regions, and in winter in the northern mid-latitudes.”

The 2011 heavy rainfalls and the resulting flood had a huge impact on Thailand’s economy. The country’s growth in 2011 was only 0,1% ; much less compared to 2010 growth of 7,8%.
More than 10 000 factories were forced to close and to lay off more than 350 000 workers while production was suspended. Japan economy shrank 2,3% in the fourth quarter 2011 partly due to the flooding that disrupted production at leading manufacturers such as Sony and Honda. The worldwide supply chain of hard disk drives – used in computers – was disrupted and the prices rose up. The manufacturer Western Digital announced recently that the situation will not come back to normal before… 2013.

Honda cars under water - Ayutthaya region
Photo : Getty Images

In Asia and the Pacific, 42 million people were displaced by environmental disasters between beginning 2010 and beginning 2012 (Asian Development Bank)

U.S. insured losses from weather disasters have soared from an average of about $3 billion a year in the 1980s to about $20 billion a year in the last decade, even after adjusting for inflation (Swiss Re) 


30 June 2012

A price on air pollution

Does the price of an iPhone include the services provided by nature? No, it does not. Ecosystems which naturally filter water, forests which clean the air, or organisms which provide medication are all available… and free. The price of an iPhone neither includes the cost of the damages caused to nature.

This situation has to change since these services become more and more rare due to the level of exhaustion nature is attaining all over the world. There must be a price to pay for endangering nature, and for contributing to climate change. Nature does not renew itself at the pace humankind requires today…

Political leaders slowly realize that reducing pollution must be encouraged and that the transition to a low-pollution economy must start. Australia, which has the highest level of carbon emissions per capita among the developed countries, understood this and will not allow its businesses to pollute the air for free any more.

Carbon Price

Coal-fired thermal power station - 
The UK will soon have regulations to 
permit new construction of coal-fired 
thermal stations only if they are equipped 
with carbon capture and storage. 
This technology, still under development, 
captures the carbon from the combustion 
of the coal and stores it underground.
From the 1st of July Australia will not be the same as its economy and culture will head to a low-carbon approach. Indeed from this date a carbon tax, also called Carbon Price, will be effective.This not without a vast controversy and many speculations about the economic impact of this decision. The decision being to tax the carbon emissions of around 300 companies which represent two thirds of Australia’s total emissions (the other third being car transportation and farm activities). Companies concerned are mainly electricity providers, but also coal and gas companies, aluminium producers and cement companies.

A smooth mechanism

The companies concerned by the Carbon Price will legally require a permit for each ton of carbon that they release into the atmosphere. Every year a fixed number of permits will be established so that the total emissions of these companies are controlled. Between 2012 and 2015, the Australian government will regulate the system. The price of a ton will start at 23 US dollars.

During these first three years there will be enough permits so that companies can adjust progressively to the system: companies will start to treat pollution as a cost of doing business.

After 2015 the price of the permits will be fixed by an emission trading system. The number of permits available will get tighter over time. Companies will need to invest in cleaner ways of producing energy, for instance, by exploiting Australia’s renewable energy potential. They will also need to invest to be more energy efficient.

This governmental initiative has the potential to reduce up to 1,1 billion tons of carbon emissions by 2020. This is the equivalent to reducing by 2020 Australia’s emissions by 25% compared to 2000 emissions. This is also equivalent to permanently removing 70 million cars of the road by 2020.

From where the money comes and where it goes

Many Australians fear this tax will raise the prices of their expenses. According to the recently published report The Carbon Price and the Cost of Living by The Climate Institute, an independent Australian research organization, this tax will not necessarily increase greatly those expenses. In the worst case scenario, the Carbon Price could result in a 0,6% increase in the cost of living of the Australians over the 2012-2013 period. This worst case scenario corresponds to companies passing to the consumers 100% of the cost of the tax. This will probably not be the case since the companies would lose too much competitiveness and will prefer to avoid buying permits. Quite naturally the companies will rather invest in greener ways of doing business…

With the money that will be recovered from the Carbon Price, the Australian Government will mainly: cut specific taxes and other payments to households; financially help concerned companies to adjust; and promote energy efficiency, renewable energies and other low-pollution support.

Video from the Australian Government explaining the impacts of climate change as part of their Clean Energy Future plan.

As these 300 companies will look for ways to reduce their environmental footprint, every citizen can do the same. Simple changes in behaviour or investing in energy efficiency are making a difference!


Australia is not the first country to implement a carbon tax. As shown in the here-after table, European countries have taken similar measures. Each country’s tax diverges one from the other depending on the concerned fuels, types of industry or pollution sources.

Source : The Climate Institute


26 June 2012

Sydney provoking 2030

Why are Melbourne and Sydney regularly declared two of the most liveable cities in the world? Access to education and health, culture, infrastructures, the criteria are numerous. Other criteria are environmental care and sustainable development. And in these fields, Sydney has started the transformation from an old town to a green and sustainable city… a proactive transformation which will soon be an example for any major city around the world.

Political determination

We met Bhakti and Nik on April the 27th,
at Sydney City Hall. On this picture is Nik!
In 2008 the City of Sydney launched the program Sustainable Sydney 2030 and committed the city to becoming a “green, global and connected city”. At the end of April we met Dr. Bhakti Devi and Nik Midlam who work for the City of Sydney as managers defining and implementing the program. Bhakti is managing water strategy and Nik is responsible for carbon strategy. “Around 5 years ago, global context made the climate and carbon emissions issues be in the forefront”, says Nik. Bhakti adds : “the City of Sydney has an old city center, with old systems. It had to be rethought. The ambitious program could start, with the push of Allan Jones who is the leader of the development program and who performed a similar and successful job before in London”.

“A key objective of the program is cutting down the carbon emissions”, Bhakti says. “The City of Sydney has set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 70% below 2006 levels by 2030”.

A leading environmental performer

Solar panels on the roofs of
Sydney City Hall.
Nik explains : “It is a global transformation that will occur. Concerning the choice of renewable energy, solar energy will be promoted as much as possible. The City of Sydney has the chance to be located in a sunny region”. Bhakti adds : “We are also working on adding a new pipe in the water supply network, a recycled water pipe, which shall be used for flushing for instance. Adding a second pipe in the water networks is a big investment but it will allow saving lots of energy. Today in a building an average 20% of the consumed water is used for flushing! Recycled water should be used instead of drinking water.”

The program sets out a global path for reaching the targets by improving energy efficiency, encouraging people to cycle and walk, utilising waste as a resource, converting non-recyclable waste to energy, recycling water and… implementing a Decentralised Energy Network, powered by Trigeneration.

What is Trigeneration?

The City of Sydney requires approximately 4 million MWh of electricity per year. Traditionally, this electricity has been provided by large, regionally located coal fired power plants. These power plants produce large amounts of electricity, but also produce significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. The electricity sector is responsible for approximately half of all Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions as well as approximately 80% of greenhouse gas emissions within the City of Sydney (City of Sydney).

Nik explains : “Trigeneration is the simultaneous production of electricity and the exploitation of waste heat from the generation process to supply heating and hot water needs. In addition, the heat can also be converted into cooling via a heat–driven chiller”. Electricity, heating and cooling…
Trigeneration system (Picture: City of Sydney)
In a first instance, the trigeneration system will burn gas, which is a fossil fuel, and therefore will not provide carbon free electricity. However the system produces far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the traditional coal fired power stations.

Presentation of trigeneration

Subsequently, renewable gases will be used. “These renewable gases will come from the city waste! They will be created using waste to gas conversion technologies”, says Bhakti. This will displace fossil fuel gas in the trigeneration systems, enabling them to provide carbon free electricity, as well as carbon free thermal energy for heating and cooling…

Nik concludes : “By 2030, the City should have the capacity to meet up to 100 per cent of electricity demand by local electricity generation". A self-sufficient green city let’s follow Sydney!

City of Sydney Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Target -
AU : Business As Usual (Picture: Kinesis 2008)
In addition to the trigeneration system, several changes will allow Sydney to reach their emission reduction target : lighting technology, renewable electricity, transport…


On the other side of Australia, we met Oscar Arteaga who works as a Senior Engineer for Smart Grid development at Western Power, a State Government owned corporation which operates the electricity network in Western Australia. He explained us that a significant investment is underway to step out of a conventional electricity grid and put into operation a Smart Grid!

What does it mean? A Smart Grid is a more reliable, sustainable and economically efficient electricity network.

More reliable because it uses smart meters and electronic sensors to monitor its performance and increase its ability to repair itself following a system disturbance. All this reduces the frequency and duration of power outages.

More sustainable because consumers actively participate. They can visualize their real-time energy demand to better manage their electricity consumption, especially during peak periods. Consumers and network operators can also control, via the smart meter infrastructure, the operation of major power-consuming devices. Smart Grid can also accommodate many small energy sources, such as on-site renewable energy generation.

More economically efficient because energy providers can have real-time and historical information of their network performance in order to improve network utilisation as well as power reliability and quality.


22 May 2012

Earth's inside for better air

Wai-O-Tapu thermal area, Rotorua region.                  The active fault lines along the length 
of New Zealand (green colour), 
where the Pacific and Australian plates meet.
(Picture: NZ Waikato Regional Council)

New Zealand is a volcanic and seismic area. The tragic earthquake of 2010 in the Canterbury region, South Island of the country, was a sad reminder of this. Such an area is also a place where the earth’s interior shows itself at the surface, offering a unique experience of nature…

A natural source of energy

Hot water and steam from deep soils sometimes naturally gather in what is called a geothermal reservoir. A natural reservoir… of energy. Properly processed, this water and steam can be transformed to electricity for instance. These are the basis of geothermal energy.

As the energy is available naturally, it does not require any fuel to process it. This is why very low emissions of greenhouse gases result from the transformation. And this is why geothermal energy is considered as a low-carbon technology, among the low-carbon solutions that humankind must promote.

The Nga-Awa-Purua geothermal
station provides enough
electricity for about 140 000 homes.
“Although few regions in the world are currently undertaking geothermal projects, the potential is huge”, says Jonathon Clearwater. Jonathon works as an engineer at Mighty River Power. The company is a specialist in geothermal development, operating several stations in the North Island of New Zealand.

“Indonesia, Philippines, USA, or Iceland for instance take benefit of their geothermal capacities. Japan also has a lot of potential”, adds Jonathon. In the Philippines, 27% of the electricity comes from geothermal energy.

New Zealand takes advantage of the chance

A geothermal power station.
The extracted water can be
up to 300°C.
(Picture : Mighty River Power)
Jonathon explains : “geothermal electricity generation commenced in 1958 at Wairakei station. At that time, the plant was only the second geothermal plant in the world producing electricity. New Zealand was world leading! Development was slow in the following decades, mainly due to cheap petrol during the 1990s and the early 2000s. But now the technology is back. Expensive oil and global warming have changed the deal.”

“Mighty River Power has the exciting mission to promote this reliable and renewable energy”, Jonathon adds. “Any project is very specific as the technology must adapt to a site which is always unique. It is a case by case task.”

At Kawerau power station, the geothermal energy is not transformed to electricity but is directly used as heat for the nearby paper factory.

The carbon footprint of the electricity production

All electricity generation technologies emit greenhouse gases at some point in their life cycle but some are more environmentally friendly.

Geothermal electricity emits low quantities of greenhouse gases. It means that in order to produce a kilowatt-hour of electricity, few quantities of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. By greenhouse gases we mean the carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases. The quantity of these other gases is usually measured as gram of equivalent CO2 (g CO2-equivalent).

The unit “g CO2-equivalent per kilowatt-hour” is often used to compare the different technologies. The following comparison chart helps to identify what are the solutions for humankind to produce low-carbon electricity.
In this chart, the emissions of greenhouse gases concern the whole life cycle of the technology:
operation but also construction and maintenance;
the extraction, processing and transport of their fuel (when applicable);
and their decommissioning and disposal.
(Source: UK Parliament 2011 – Compiled by F. Gheung) 

Unfortunately not all regions of the planet allow developing geothermal or hydro-electric energies. Wind and solar solutions, which are subject to climate variations, have lots of potential. It is certain that new solar technologies will be a big part of our future energetic system. Sun sends a huge quantity of energy to Earth and today only a very low percentage of it is used by man. A star for a better air…

We had the chance to meet Jonathon on the 18th of April, at the office of Mighty River Power in Rotorua, located in the middle of New Zealand North Island.

About marine technologies...
At the end of 2011, the French electricity company Electricité de France installed their first marine turbines in the North of France. The installation will bring electricity to around 2000 homes.

Presentation video - in French language