Ecoinnovation: Sustainability & Going Green

Where Creativity Can Save the Planet

Politics and the Planet: The Copenhagen Accords May 21, 2010

Filed under: Policy — bt25 @ 3:11 pm

I would like to take some time to discuss what happened in Copenhagen.  I know it was difficult for me to keep up with what was happening, and I thought that it might be helpful to have a little briefing for those of you who might have been participating in time-consuming activities—like grad school—over the past several months.

The Kyoto Protocol is set to expire in 2013, which is why in December 2009, the Denmark Government hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC).  This conference was a series of negotiations with the aim of addressing climate change.  You might have heard the term COP 15 in the news—this is an abbreviation for the fifteenth session of the Conference of Parties.  COP 15 is the governing body of the UNCCC that must approve any agreement reached at the conference.  One hundred and twenty governments sent their respective heads of state to participate; unfortunately the negotiations were not concluded.  Because of this failure to agree, 2010 has seen a series of follow-up negotiations, which will culminate in December at the Mexican hosted COP 16 session.

So What Happened?
The Copenhagen negotiations hit a major deadlock on namely three issues:  mitigation targets, financial aid for climate change adjustment, and compensation for avoiding deforestation.  When we study international agreements we typically see a divide between developed and developing nations, and the Copenhagen negotiations were no different.  Essentially, the rift centers on who would pay for the costs associated with climate change.  In an effort to continue making progress despite deadlocks, the Copenhagen Accord was drafted outside of official channels by twenty-eight nations including the U.S., China, India, and Brazil.  Regardless of widespread support, the Accords could not be approved because of the rules of consensus in the Conference of Parties.  Several countries blocked approval because of the belief that the Accords were both undemocratic and weak.

What’s Next?
The current hope is that between now and December, the Copenhagen Accords can be negotiated upon so that all members of the COP are satisfied—leading to an international agreement on climate change.


Politics and the Planet: San Diego City Government April 16, 2010

Filed under: Policy — bt25 @ 4:35 pm

I envision this to be a space where policy, business and innovation can be discussed in terms of sustainability.  We’ve talked about some creative eco-business moves, but still haven’t gotten around to discussing environmental policy.  Legislation can be a double-edged sword for green business.  On one hand governments can subsidize green technologies, which can aid a fledging business.  But–just as easily–governments can choose to back one kind of eco-friendly practice over another, damaging early adopters.  How these politics play out can greatly affect the environmental and business landscape.

I was recently able to see how this process occurs in San Diego as a project lead for the 2009 San Diego Environmental Quality Report Card.  The report card is a mechanism used in San Diego to hold city officials accountable for their votes on environmental quality.  We analyzed nearly one hundred City Council votes and twenty-six Mayoral public statements.  We also examined twenty-seven individual budget items.  This data was weighted according to its environmental impacts, and then the city officials were given grades.

For those of you who might be interested in some of the big issues in the San Diego environmental policy landscape, I’d like to provide a brief summary below:

  • Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR), which would result in the first water reclamation project of its kind in San Diego County.
  • Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant:  As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the city of San Diego received $12.5 million dollars.  A spending plan was developed that determined the money would be spent on a water conservation and energy efficiency program for the economically disadvantaged, water and energy audits and education, street light retrofits, upgrades for city owned buildings, and the development of a climate protection action plan for the City of San Diego.
  • In 2009 the Mayor executed a twenty year Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA) with Sun Edison for the installation and operation of a solar photovoltaic system at the Otay-Water Treatment Plant.  One of the stated Mayoral goals is to continue to pursue solar energy options in San Diego.

Businesses operating in San Diego need to be aware of these shifts in water and energy resource management.  For businesses not operating in San Diego, I would suggest doing a quick search to find a local report card like ours.  In addition to the requisite grades, there should be a detailed listing of the environmental legislation affecting your area.  It pays to see the external threats and opportunities to your business, and often these come in the form of policy.