What Can Renters and Homeowners Do to be More Energy Efficient?

A senior consultant, Kendra Tupper, with the Rocky Mountain Institute conducted an online chat at Greenopolis.org today. When asked about energy efficiency, Tupper, an expert on the subject, listed simple things both renters and homeowners can do. Here are Tupper’s recommendations:

For renters

  1. Tenant Fit Out: When you are first fitting out a space, the renter or tenant can choose materials and finishes which are environmentally friendly and have low embodied energy.
  2. Lighting: One of the biggest electricity consumers in office spaces is lighting - this is something the tenants can often retrofit themselves. Look for third generation T8, efficient electronic ballasts, and occupancy sensors and daylight controls (where applicable).
  3. Submetering: Request that your space be submetered (this is most successful if negotiated during the fit out). Even if the tenant has to pay for this, you can often recoup the cost if your able to negotiate utlity billing based on submetering, rather than building wide metering. With this scenario, you realize the cost paybacks of your retrofits.
  4. Cooperate with landlord: Offer to share the up front cost (and utility savings) with your landlord. Lease renogiations are a good time to address collaborative projects, and you can structure the lease to align incentives to make efficiency upgrades.

For homeowners

  1. Programmable thermostats
  2. Energy efficient window shades - thermal or insulated window coverings can add up to R6 to your windows
  3. Seal ductwork with mastic tape to prevent leakage
  4. Weatherstripping, window caulking, and foam barriers behind electric outlet plates to prevent infiltration
  5. Clean refrigerator coils - these should be cleaned twice a year as dust build up prevents the condenser from operating
  6. Shade the condensing unit of your AC unit - this maintains a low temp for the condensing unit and it will run more efficiently
  7. Insulate hot water tank and pipes
  8. Lower the temperature on your DHW tank to reduce heat loss - it shouldn't be set higher than 110F
  9. Plant deciduous trees on the west and south side of the house to block solar heat gain
  10. Turn off power strips when plug loads are not being used

U.S. Expects Less from China

Last week a U.S. delegation meet in Beijing with Chinese officials to talk about the next climate change treaty. Dr. Jonathan Pershing, head of the U.S. delegation, said that developed countries “would take additional action in line with their historical responsibility and capacity,” than developing countries.

“Our intention is to get an agreement we can bring home and have ratified, and we’re pretty optimistic about that,” Pershing said. “US engagement has changed the dynamic of the conversation here. That’s the kind of shift the world community has been waiting for.”

Todd Stern said that China is not expected to “take a national cap at this stage.” The U.S is instead expecting China to continue its efforts to increase energy efficiency and develop renewable energy, “so that China’s emissions can grow slower and start to come down eventually.”

“We understand China's paramount need to grow and develop for its people,” Stern said. “Our demand is that the development, with the available technologies, is based on low-carbon growth.”

Daniel Dudek, chief economist with the Environmental Defense Fund, said, “People, I think, are really trying to understand the negotiating territory and what is in the art of the possible between the two nations," Dudek told China Daily. He added that the U.S. may eventually expect more from China.

The Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqianq told Stern during their meeting, “China has noticed the change of the U.S. government on climate change as well as the positive measures it has taken.”

Stern spoke on June 3 at the Center for American Progress. During the speech he made it clear that reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will not be possible “if we don’t find a way forward with China.”

Stern made it clear that developing countries, including China, will “do not need to take the same actions that developed countries are taking, but they do need to take significant national actions that… are ambitious enough to be broadly consistent with the lessons of science.”

Watch the video of Stern's speech:

Watch This Video and Pass It On

The environmental group, 350.org is asking everyone to take part in actions on October 24 to raise awareness about climate change. Watch the short video by 350.org, and then pass it on:

The Wasted Opportunity

In 1977 a physicist named Amory Lovins published an essay in Foreign Affairs titled, Energy Strategy: The Rood Not Taken. According to Lovins, there were two paths the U.S. could take in regards to energy. The first path would be a continuance of burning fossil fuels. Lovins wrote, "The commitment to a long-term coal economy many times the scale of today's makes the doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration early in the next century virtually unavoidable, with the prospect then or soon thereafter of substantial and perhaps irreversible changes in global climate."

It is now 2009 and last year carbon dioxide concentrations were 386 parts per minute (ppm). Both NASA scientist, James Hansen and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) use 450 ppm as the "no return point," when it will be impossible to reverse climate change. The U.S. wasted three decades when it could have been developing renewable energy, and implementing energy efficiency measures. During those decades, fossil fuels continued to be the only source of energy and vehicle fuel.

Now we are at a crucial point where reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is a necessity if we want to avoid "irreversible changes to the global climate." In December, world leaders will meet in Copenhagen, Denamark to hammer out a new climate change protocol. Let's hope the world will not waste the opportunity to truly combat climate change.

Introducing Hybrid American Chestnut Trees Could Reduce Carbon

Introducing a hybrid of the American chestnut tree would accomplish two things: bring back the almost extinct species, and reduce carbon emissions, according to a Purdue University study. American chestnuts grow faster and larger than other hardwood trees, allowing them to capture more carbon.

Douglass Jacobs, author of the study and a associate professor of forestry and natural resources, said, “The American chestnut is an incredibly fast-growing tree. Generally the faster a tree grows, the more carbon it is able to sequester. And when these trees are harvested and processed, the carbon can be stored in the hardwood products for decades, maybe longer.”

Chestnuts almost disappeared 50 years ago because of a fungus. The new hybrid is 94 percent American chestnut combined with a more blight-resistant Chinese chestnut. “We're really quite close to having a blight-resistant hybrid that can be reintroduced into eastern forests,” Jacobs said. “But because American chestnut has been absent from our forests for so long now, we really don't know much about the species at all.

Why the World Needs Less Deforestation

During the climate talks in Bonn, Germany on June 9, activists issued a consensus statement about halting deforestation and industrial logging. The statement called for the "“effective adoption and implementation...of the Rights to Free Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples and local forest dependent communities.

The statement also called for the following:

  • Monoculture tree plantations should not be established and managed, “including genetically modified tree plantations, and the practice of industrial logging from these policies.”
  • The Copenhagen protocol should include “measures to reduce consumption of forest products, especially in the Industrialized North.”
  • Developed countries must make “immediate and drastic cuts in their domestic greenhouse gas emissions.” The statement called for a 45 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2020, and a 95 percent reduction by 2050.
  • Developed countries must provide “sufficient financial and technological support to enable developing countries to halt the destruction of forests and other ecosystems.”
  • The Copenhagen protocol should exclude “any form of carbon offsetting, including CDM afforestation/reforestation and REDD offset projects.

”The Nature Conservancy released a report titled Don’t Forget the Second ‘D’ about the impact of forest degredation. According to the report, GHG emissions from forest degredation are at least 30 percent of all emissions from the forest sector.

The report listed strategies for reducing GHG emissions from forest degredation:

  • Reduced impact logging—Techniques such as directional felling and cutting of vines from trees…studies indicate that RIL methods may reduce carbon emissions per unit of wood extracted by 30 to 50 percent
  • Forest certification—Certification from groups like Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) help reduce carbon emissions
  • Integrated Fire Management (IFM)—Evaluates and balances the risks of fire with the “beneficial or necessary ecological”

A report by Global Witness looked at the impact of deforestation on the environment. Old growth primary forests continue to "grow and sequester carbon from the atmosphere," the report stated, and are not carbon neutral. It can takes centuries for replanted forests to regain their previous carbon levels.

"My major concern is that until we talk about these demand issues in a meaningful way, we aren't talking about a real solution," Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) Forest Campaigns Director Andrea Johnson said.

See other articles about deforestations:

UNEP Calls for Ecosystems Management

Environmental Legislators Call for a Green Fund

Environmental legislators meeting in Rome Friday and Saturday for the Global Legislators Organization for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE) meeting called for the creation of an international green fund in the Copenhagen protocol. The fund would provide developing countries with financial and technical help to reduce GHG emissions. Thirteen countries are represented at the GLOBE meeting, including the G8 (the U.S., Canada, Britain, German, France, Italy, Japan, and Russia), and the five developing countries with the largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (China, India, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa).

Stephen Byers, president of GLOBE and member of British parliament, said the fund is needed given the “substantial financial resources to be used” in developing countries to reduce emissions. Byers said developed countries need to acknowledge “the large scale of financial transfers required (by) developing countries” to reduce emissions. “We're talking of important amounts of money here.”

Stefania Prestigiacomo, Italian minister for the environment, said that there is an “urgent need to share technology with low carbon content with developing countries, to satisfy these countries' legitimate demand for energy and economic growth without aggravating the environmental equilibrium of the planet.”

José Luis Espinoza Piña, member of the Mexican senate and chair of the commission for the environment and natural resources at his country's congress, said the green fund must be “a bold financial scheme supported by multilateralism, efficiency, and equity. (Its) performance (should) be regulated by contributions from all countries...and constructed around the idea of shared but differentiated responsibilities.”

See previous post Developed Countries Need to Do More

Developed Countries Needs To Do More

"The Copenhagen package must be comprehensive and balanced, where mitigation and adaptation is supported by finance and technology transfer to developing countries," said Shyam Saran, India's chief negotiator at the climate change talks in Bonn. "So anything that strays from this is of concern to us." 

Saran said that reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions needs to be "accompanied by clear detailing of equitable burden sharing." He added, "You cannot just do the arithmetic and say developing countries must play their part. Science cannot trump equity."

Must developed countries are "nowhere near meeting their targets." India chief negotiator accused developed countries of "trying to muddy the waters." He cited Japan's effort to shift the baseline for GHG emissions reductions from 1990 to the current date. "All these are efforts to get away from the legal document and to gloss over the fact that they are not meeting their legal targets."

According to a February article in the Guardian, developing countries have received less than 10 percent of the funds developed countries promised them to help them mitigate climate change. The past seven years, developed countries promised almost $18 billion, but actually gave less than $0.9 billion.

"It's a scandal. The amount the developed countries have provided is peanuts. It is poisoning the UN negotiations. What [the rich countries] offer to the poorest is derisory, the equivalent of one banker's bonus. It's an insult to people who are already experiencing increasingextreme events," said Bernarditas Muller of the Phillippines, the chief negotiator for the G77 and China group of developing countries.

UNEP Report Calls for Ecosystems Management

In order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, ecosystems such as forests need to be managed better, according to a report released Friday by the U.N. Environment Program. Restoring peatlands and better agricultural practices can also help reduce carbon emissions. As the report puts it, "Managing ecosystems for carbon can not only reduce carbon emissions; it can also actively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere."

Investing in ecosystem management is more cost effective than investing in carbon capture and sequestration. In addition to being more cost effective, ecosystem management also improves water supplies. 

"We need to move toward a comprehensive policy framework for addressing ecosystems," said co-author Barney Dickson.

"Tens of billions of dollars are being earmarked for carbon capture and storage at power stations with the CO2 to be buried underground or under the sea," said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director. "But perhaps the international community is overlooking a tried and tested method that has been working for millennia, the biosphere. By some estimates the Earth's living systems might be capable of sequestering more than 50 gigatones (Gt) of carbon over the coming decades with the right market signals."

Obama Believes U.S. Can Be Enviornmental Leader

During the press conference in Dresden on Friday, President Obama expressed optimism about the U.S. becoming a leader on climate change. "I’m actually more optimistic than I was about America being able to take leadership on this issue, joining Europe, which over the last several years has been ahead of us on this issue." 

Obama mentioned the climate change legislation in Congress. “We are seeing progress in Congress around energy legislation that would set up for the first time in the United States a cap and trade system. That process is moving forward in ways that I think if you had asked political experts two or three months ago would have seemed impossible.”

In six months world leaders will meet in Copenhagen with the goal of creating a new climate change treaty. Obama pointed out that "the world is going to need targets that it can meet." He added, "It can’t be general, vague approaches. We’re going to have to make some tough decisions and take concrete actions if we are going to deal with a potentially cataclysmic disaster."

Obama made it clear that industrialized countries will have to take the lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “Unless the United States and Europe, with our large carbon footprints, per capita carbon footprints, are willing to take some decisive steps, it’s going to be very difficult for us to persuade countries that on a per capita basis at least are still much less wealthy, like China or India, to take the steps that they’re going to need to take.”

“So we are very committed to working together and hopeful that we can arrive in Copenhagen having displayed that commitment in concrete ways."

World Environment Day

Today is World Environment Day. Watch the following video to remind yourself why fighting climate change is so important.

World Leaders Meet for Talks in Bonn

A 12-day conference for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) began on Monday in Bonn, Germany.  In December world leaders will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark to negotiate a new climate change treaty.

Yvo De Boer, the U.N.'s leading climate change official, spoke optimistically about a new climate change treaty.  "The political moment is right to reach an agreement. There is no doubt in my mind that the Copenhagen climate conference in December is going to lead to a result."

Success in Copenhagen depends on four "political essentials," according to De Boer. The four essentials are: 
  • Clarity on how much industrialised countries would reduce their emissions up to 2020
  • Clarity on what developing countries would do to limit the growth of their emissions
  • Stable finance from industrialised nations for the developing world to mitigate climate change and adapt
  • A governance regime
June marks the deadlines for developed countries to propose greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets. China and Russia are the only two developed countries that have not yet submitted a proposal. However, a new document was posted on the website of China's National Development and Reform Commission. The document stated that developed countries should reduce GHG emissions 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, and contribute 0.5 to one percent of their GDP to help developing countries cope with climate change.

Experts believe that a successful climate change treaty depends on the U.S. and China cooperating with each other. "This trip is one piece of what is going to be an extended interaction with the Chinese at all levels," Todd Stern, top climate negotiator for the U.S., said. "So yes, the vision that we have is of a clean energy and climate partnership bilaterally with the Chinese."

Watch the following Video from the Bonn climate change talks: