Pro-bono professional services - is this the new carbon offseting?
carbon, solar, recycle, climate, renewable
Leapfrog believes so. It’s a new not-for-profit initiative, bringing
together experts in the environmental industries to provide support
and expertise for start-ups in the low carbon arena.

It began in 2006 as an idea. Travers Smith, a UK-headquartered law
firm, has had an active environmental committee for some time, and the
company has worked hard to reduce its emissions profile in the
traditional ways – using renewable power, changing the lightbulbs etc.
But at some point, as is usual, the firm came across the core
emissions that it simply couldn’t affect. Instead of deciding to buy
some carbon credits to offset those emissions, Steve McNab, head of
environment at the firm, came up with the idea that the firm could
contribute pro-bono work instead.

Three years later, the final result is an initiative which enables
organisations to facilitate real change in the wider market, rather
than simply buy their way out of a problem. What makes it so exciting
is that the right kind of expertise and support can be impossible to
attract when your business is small – Leapfrog can really help small
projects to scale.

The initiative intends to support businesses in three key areas – low
carbon and cleantech businesses; community projects; and carbon
reduction and renewable projects in the developing world. It plans to
provide expertise to developing projects which result in the cutting
of more than 500,000 tonnes of CO2 a year. The hope is that in three
years, the group will be able to support over 100 projects a year.

The group predicted that the first set of seven projects will receive
around 4,000 hours of professional services worth approximately £1m
and believes that there are many more to come. Andrew Neuman, founder
of the Low Carbon Foundation, the world’s first not-for-profit venture
capital fund (returns capped at 2%) freely admitted that without the
help of the delivery team it was unlikely that the fund could have
afforded to get off the ground.

Over 15 professional services firms have joined the network, including
Travers Smith, as well as financial advisors such as BDO Stoy Hayward
and investment consultancies such as Decarbonize, and it expects many
more organisations to sign up.
It’s all about leverage – if you know the right people, get the right
help, you can move further, faster and in the right direction. The
cleantech/low carbon world is still relatively small and many game
changing projects, from new technologies to encouraging behavioural
change at a community level, simply don’t have the personnel or the
funds to accelerate what they do.

The Leapfrog team is setting up a skills bank to enable organisations
to register their interest in helping. So if your organisation has
skills in business & finance; legal; engineering & environmental;
marketing and contacts, then go along and join the initiative.
Obviously it’ll help if your organization already has a commitment to
CSR and pro-bono work but if not, why not use this as an opportunity
to put one in place.

And if you’ve got a project, a grand idea but no idea what to do next,
then you should get in touch and see if you could be one of the next
Leapfrog projects –

Posted via email from Conquering Carbon

Too much hope for Copenhagen?
carbon, solar, recycle, climate, renewable
Everywhere you turn, there'e fear that a post-Kyoto climate change
agreement won’t be reached at Copenhagen in December. More
importantly, there's fear about the consequences of that failure.

There are a series of meetings remaining in the run-up to Copenhagen,
but several issues remain to be resolved, such as who is going to pay
for the transition to a low carbon economy (in the North but more
especially in the South); whether developing economies will accept
binding emissions targets when they still need to grow their
economies; even agreement on when cuts need to be made. These are all
huge obstacles to be overcome.

Stern’s latest paper says we’ve got to cut emissions in the atmosphere
from 50 gigatonnes today to 35 gigatonnes by 2030 and 20 gigatonnes by
2050. What’s worse, it’s no longer a question of simply cutting
emissions if we’re going to have a ‘reasonable’ chance of keep
temperature increases to about degrees over the next century, we’ve
got to cut the amount of CO2e already in the atmosphere down to
between 44 and 48 gigatonnes.

That means fairly drastic action. It will require a change in power
infrastructure, resource management, design process, waste management
and more. It’s not just a quesiton of North vs South, developed vs
developing economies. There are inequities that arise from the need to
change our economic patterns, and there are understandable concerns
about economic growth and carbon leakage. But action must be taken,
and soon, if we are to hope to avoid significant changes to the global

One of the most difficult things we’re going to have to accept is that
passionate belief in the protection of the ecosphere doesn’t always
sit well with political realities. While we might hope that
politicians are our representatives, their focus is usually more about
supporting their own party, or getting back into power. And mostly,
that includes not agreeing to treaties which will increase their
countries industrial cost base, international taxes that they can’t
control or even that they can’t afford to look weak on the
international stage.

What we need to understand is that even if we don’t achieve a climate
treaty in Copenhagen, it’s not the end of the road. In recent months,
the message that action must be taken has been growing in volume.
There is an acceptance that it’s time to draw a line, that
individuals, companies, investor groups and even countries are saying
together, the time to act is now. Recognition of the potential impacts
of climate change are focusing many groups to reassess their approach
to their relationship to the overall environment.

The one thing we have to keep in mind is that failure in Copenhagen is
not necessarily about failure to address climate change – it’s about
the failure of the political process to address change on a global
scale. Given that we haven’t been trying very long, that’s hardly
surprising. There is surprisingly little data for analysis on the
impacts of climate change or where there is, it's based on modelling
the future and we all know how reliable that can be. The reality is
that we're trying to manage risk and that can be difficult to predict,
especially if you don't understand what's going on. Just ask the
finance community. But, if we don’t achieve our goals in Copenhagen,
the important thing is that we keep trying. Because that's the only
thing we all can do.

Posted via email from Conquering Carbon

Value is about more than money, but we need to prove it
carbon, solar, recycle, climate, renewable

Many of us believe that value is about much more than finance but, certainly in corporate terms, that’s difficult to prove. There have been many inconclusive analyses done on the correlation of non-financial performance, such as environmental, social and governance factors, with overall business success.  The problem is that its difficult to make comparisons.

We’ve know that the modern economy has separated out the interests of governments, corporations, individuals and the environment and by doing so, we’ve created problems for which we’re now struggling to find solutions. In order to be heard though, we need to get through to those with their hands on the tiller – the money men. We need to show how important it is to take a wider view. For example, HP has been recycling old printer cartridges for some time. This is a social positive – it reduces materials and power consumption in the manufacturing process, and it reduces waste and therefore landfill. From the company’s point of view, it also saves a large amount of money. That’s something that any board can get behind.

Even for those active in bringing such elements into daily business practice, the definition of what this means is flexible. Do we mean the practice of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Is it actually Corporate Sustainable Re-Engineering or Corporate Social Responsiveness? Should it be just CR- Corporate Responsibility, or should it be CS - Corporate Sustainability or even the latest term ESG – environmental, social and governance.

Without definition and comparative performance benchmarks, how can you sell the idea to your board or worse, your investors? There are investors willing to undertake ‘responsible investing’ but then again, what does that mean? Are we talking about ethical investment, or environmental investment or are we talking about SRI – Socially Responsible Investing. Perhaps that should be SR- Sustainable Investing or even RI - Responsible Investing? Without proper delineation and definition however, we don’t really know what these mean – and without clear boundaries, it can prove impossible to make people understand the need for action.

There’s been talk for some time about the need for companies to address the ‘triple bottom line’ of social, environmental and financial performance, but little concrete analysis on the financial benefits. The associations with social and environmental concerns are such that many board members are loathe to promote the need for such responsibility.

A new programme, with a report called Sustainable Value (, is trying to change that. 

A research team led by the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility at Cranfield School of Management brought together academics from SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan and Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School in Belgium and looked in detail at how ESG performance can impact business success, how companies explain these linkages to investors, and how the investment community treats this data.

There are problems which need to be overcome – especially the narrow focus in the way in which "shareholder-value" is defined. The report outlines the obstacles to assessing the value of ESG activities such as:

• Limited or non-existent data suitable for cross-company comparison
• Lack of evidence for linking ESG performance with general performance
• Confusion of terminology and shifting definitions between actors
• Lack of incentives to present positive ESG impacts
• Disconnects between ESG specialists and Investor Relations experts within companies

The report proposes that value be redefined as ‘sustainable value; and sets out a ‘Value Creation Framework' which can be used both by business and the investment community. An operationalised management version of it has been developed by the parallel European Alliance for CSR laboratory (, run with the support of CSR Europe.

A number of companies are looking at a critical mass of pioneer companies and investors using the Value Creation Framework to explain the risks associated with not embedding sustainability, and the opportunities potentially accruing to businesses from doing so; and how this can be factored into investor valuation models.

What we need to do is change mainstream investors minds about what they need/want to do. That can mean training and education, or even changes in the way in which investors (either individually or institutionally) are rewarded. Most importantly, we need to focus on the longer term implications of our actions, rather than on a short-term investment window of two to three years (with quarterly updates demanded from listed companies).

As with every aspect of our lives, we need to stop acting like a bunch of teenagers who believe in our own immortality, and start thinking about the long-term consequences of our actions.


Posted via email from Conquering Carbon

So what if the temperature is falling
carbon, solar, recycle, climate, renewable
The latest pet theory adopted to disprove climate change concerns is that the world is in fact due to enter a period of ‘global cooling’, meaning that there is no need to manage man-made CO2 emissions. Key bodies which track temperature (such as the UK’s Hadley Centre, and NASA’s Goddard Insitute for Space Studies) have released updated information showing that 2007 showed a fall in overall temperature. Much has also been made of the fact that Artic sea-ice now covers more area that it did this time last year, ignoring the fact that its still the third lowest reported ice coverage, and there are still concerns that it is thinner than usual.

 There can be little denying that climate science is still maturing, and that predictions are dependent on the premise selected, and the measurements used. Models need to be updated as new information is gained, or new impacts understood. Generally speaking, it is accepted that climatic fluctuations occur, over thousands, hundreds, even tens of years. This means that it should be overall trends that are at issue, not the behaviour of climate over a few years. Yet those opposed to action on climate change seem to seize on every and any opportunity to attack the theory, rather than to discuss the consequences of its impact.

 It’s quite possible that recent cooling could simply be a fluctuation in a long term trend, a natural cooling period in the climate cycle. Maybe the cooling it’s the result of increased amounts of aerosol particles in the atmosphere over the last few decades, due to pollution, which will diminish as the impact of air pollution regulation is felt. We don’t yet know.

 The question I would ask is whether or not it’s useful to get caught up in these sorts of arguments. It’s vital to question what we’re told, but equally important to attempt to understand what we’re questioning. Empirically, it is easy to belive that the climate (and extreme weather events) is increasingly volatile – we certainly hear more regularly about floods, droughts and dangerous climate impacts. Does that mean that it’s true? Our experience of the world does not necessarily reflect the truth, rather it tells us more about our own perceptions.

 At the heart of the problem lies one fundamental issue – how do we provide clean food, air and water for a global population of 9 billion, when we’re failing to do that effectively for an existing global population of 6 billion? Global population is expanding rapidly and we have to find ways to manage our resources, and keep them in balance, if we are to survive. Cataclysmic concerns about the world’s survival are absurd – the planet will survive. That doesn’t mean that in any way that reflects our wants and needs however.

 We need to find ways to manage our resources, and the international attempt to find ways to limit our emissions is possibly the first attempt to model a global approach to managing a particular entity. At the very least, we’re going to learn a lot about what’s possible using this approach. At best, we’re going to develop an international framework for managing resources on an equitable basis. And that’s something we’re going to need soon.

Posted via email from Conquering Carbon

Money wants some climate action
carbon, solar, recycle, climate, renewable
It’s not just individuals who want to see action on climate change, and it’s not just politicians negotiating their own best terms for a global treaty – investors with around $13 trillion under management want action. The group called a press conference to state what they think we need to see in a new climate agreement.

In a capitalist society, pretty much nothing is going to get done unless someone, somewhere, sees the benefit. Environmentalists, and some economists, have been arguing for years that we need to value the benefit of clean air and water in our framework of existence. Unfortunately, since these groups rarely have the kind of money necessary to effectively lobby government, buy media space or do any of those things that help get a message across, their message has remained, to an extent, preaching to the choir.

Yet a cultural shift seems to be taking place where people are actually developing a sense of responsibility to the world around them. It’s a slow process but when the investment community takes a stand, things can really change. After all, companies need to please investors if they’re going to get their money. New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who heads the $116.5 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund and its $500 million green strategic investment programme said, "We cannot drag our feet on the issue of global climate change. I am deeply concerned about the investor risks climate change presents, and the human cost of inaction is unthinkable."

Investment managers, pension funds and other institutional investors (18of them) have outlined what they think they need to effectively create a low carbon economy. They want to see such an agreement because, if their investments in the low-carbon agenda are to suceed, they need the right climate policies in place.

That means:
• A global target for emission reductions of 50-85% by 2050 
• Developed country emission reductions targets of 80-95% by 2050 with interim targets of 25-40% backed up by effective national action plans 
• Developing country action plans that deliver measurable and verifiable emission reductions 
• Government support for energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies 
• Measures that support the move to an effective global carbon market, including ambitious caps, fair and efficient allocation of allowances and links between different trading schemes 
• Revisions to the Clean Development Mechanism to ensure real, permanent and verifiable emission reductions 
• Public financing mechanisms that leverage private sector finance for investment in developing countries 
• Measures to reduce deforestation and promote afforestation 
• Support for adaptation to unavoidable climate change impacts

Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres and director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk pointed out something really obvious. She said, "The problem is too big for any one country. We need clear market signals. If there is a cost of carbon emissions, a cap on carbon, we will have flow of capital. Investors see these opportunities."

Now all we need is for more of them to pay attention.

Posted via email from Conquering Carbon

Global resources tax might force investment in alternatives to oil
carbon, solar, recycle, climate, renewable
There have been protests recently about projects to extract oil from 
Canada’s tar sands. These tar sands cover over 140,000 square 
kilometres of Alberta and contain nearly 173 billion barrels of oil in 
the form of bitumen. This is transformed into crude oil through highly 
energy, carbon and water-intensive extraction and treatment 
procedures. A 2008 report from Co-Operative Investment and the NGO WWF, 
Unconventional Oil: Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel”, suggested 
that the production of oil from tar sands can create up to eight times 
as many emissions as producing conventional oil, as well as consuming 
vast amounts of water. 
Many oil companies are focusing on oil recovery, tar sands and other 
potential oil sources to supplement global energy supplies – it’s an 
obvious thing for them to do when the oil price has been volatile and 
they are, after all, in the oil business. Shell is also working on the 
Canadian tar sands. Recently a Shell scientist said that technological 
advances meant that the tar sands projects would be no less polluting 
than conventional wells. 
There are other pressures to be managed however. Not only are tar 
sands projects environmentally unfriendly but much of the tar sands 
derived oil is sold to the US and, if a carbon trading regime is 
introduced in the US, its carbon profile could price it out of the 
market. At the same time, oil demand may well be falling. A July 2009 
report co-authored by PLATFORM, Greenpeace and Oil Change 
International, Shifting Sands, warns that the oil market could be going through a 
permanent structural shift – making the long term profitability of 
unconventional oil open to question. Even investment groups are 
questioning the focus on tar sands, given the climate risks associated 
with their exploitation. 
The only way to change corporate behaviour is to change the economic 
framework in which they operate. If the oil price remains low but the 
oil giants are charged for their emissions and their water 
consumption, perhaps that will make the tar sands too ‘risky’ for 
The only way to change behaviour in the global economy, from oil 
giants to agriculture, is to put a price on resources and demand that 
they be given economic value. One approach to this has been suggested 
by the World Resources Forum (WRF), which has suggested a direct tax 
on raw materials
, rather than on products and labour. It notes in its 
draft declaration that there are no incentives or policies in place to 
create a "sufficiently resource-efficient economy." Current markets 
are "blind to the environmental costs of growth", largely because 
market prices do not include environmental externalities and 
information is not made available to the relevant stakeholders. 
Whether an outright global tax on resources is the solution, or an 
emissions or water rights trading scheme is resolved, it’s becoming 
increasingly clear that current negotiations on managing growth in CO2 
emissions is behind the curve. We need to think about emissions yes, 
but right now we need to start looking at the limitations on our 
global resources, and find ways to change behaviour before a growing 
global population and the increasing impact of climate change on clean 
air, water and food supplies means that we’ve run out of time.

BP’s getting less alternative
carbon, solar, recycle, climate, renewable
The oil giants seem to be retreating from the renewable energy market, except where they can be sure of profit. In a prime example BP, which promotes itself as an oil company that goes ‘Beyond Petroleum’, seems to be continuing its withdrawal from the renewable energy market. 

The company has just sold its Indian wind farm portfolio to Green Infra, following a summer which has seen it close down solar plants in the US and Spain, and the closure of the London-based headquarters of its renewable energy business, BP Alternative Fuels. BP does still have solar operations in India, but these are through its joint venture BP Tata Solar. At issue seems to be the level of risk that the company is prepared to shoulder. In July 2009, BP’s chief executive said that the company is still investing in alternative energy, but said that given the economic climate the money needed to be focused where it was most likely to achieve a return. 
A withdrawal from the UK wind industry was said to be due to lack of available land, as well as problems in getting planning permission. BP is still investing in the US onshore wind market, as land is readily available and planning permission relatively easy to obtain. The question is what this refocus will mean globally - outside the US, the company is focusing on new oil exploration, coal-bed methane and even tar sands. Without a framework to ensure that the fossil fuel giants explores renewables, it looks as if they'll be focusing on ‘alternatives’ instead.

Climate change: show me the money
carbon, solar, recycle, climate, renewable
There’s growing activity at an individual level to take action on 
climate change, from campaigns such as 10:10BeThatChange350 and many 
others. There’s a groundswell of belief that if we don’t force action now, 
governments will do too little, too late. 
This is laudable, and a vital part of changing the framework in which 
politicians operate but it doesn’t answer the fundamental question – 
who or what is going to pay for the changes we need. Individual action 
sends a message, and purchasing power can change corporate behaviour 
to an extent, but in order to achieve a change in direction, a change 
from a high carbon to a low carbon economy, billions of pounds will 
need to be funneled in the right direction and very soon. 
The question is where the money is going to come from. Globally, the 
imploding banking sector was rescued and many are understandably angry 
that funds for financial services (which created its own problems) 
were found, while governments throw an ineffectual few million at 
climate change and expect to get some good publicity. 
We’re talking a requirement of billions of pounds a year just in 
adaptation in the developing world. We’re talking a transformation 
from a fossil fuel economy to a low carbon economy and worse, a 
transformation in the teeth of entrenched opposition. The consistent 
resistance of the status quo is hard to overcome. 
Politicians are loathe to introduce new taxes. The French are set to 
introduce a carbon tax but even that is less than half of what was 
recommended to effect significant change. Carbon trading is attacked 
as too complicated, too open to abuse and as a means for the west to 
transfer its emissions to the developing world. The giants of the 
hydrocarbon economy are adamant that increasing their cost base 
through either approach is going to be economically destructive - 
which is probably will be to them. The reality is that action is 
required, at a personal, corporate and country level. 
Funds have to be found from somewhere and emissions tax or trading 
with regard to corporate activity is going to have a far greater 
effect on economic patterns than the actions of individuals. 
Somewhere, somehow, something's going to have to give.

Oil and gas industry want protection from carbon trading - excuse me?
carbon, solar, recycle, climate, renewable
One of the biggest complaints about carbon trading is that it’s 
complex and difficult to manage, that a tax would be more effective, 
and a fairer approach to managing emissions. The benefit to emissions 
trading is the associated cap on emissions, as by definition such a 
system demands an overall drop in emissions. This argument looks set 
to run and run but during this process, the industry body Oil and Gas 
UK has set a new level for effrontery – arguing that the oil and gas 
industry should be exempt from the next phase of the European Union’s 
emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) because it’s effectively a tax on 
the industry. Clearly not a fan of emissions trading or taxation! 
The argument goes that because green fuels can’t power oil platforms 
or drilling equipment, for practical purposes inclusion in the EU ETS 
is a tax. Somehow you can’t help but feel they’re missing the point – 
the whole idea behind the imposition of an emissions trading scheme 
was to encourage an economy wide transition to a low carbon basis. Oil 
and Gas UK might be right about the EU ETS making things difficult for 
the oil and gas industry – but surely that was the point? 
We need to find alternatives to fossil fuel consumption, especially if 
supplies of fossil fuel are set to dwindle. Oil and Gas UK is arguing 
that energy security requires protection of the oil and gas industry. 
In the short term, this may be a valid point. In the medium to long 
term, energy security can only be assured by the development of 
alternatives to fossil fuel sources. If Peak Oil is truly on its way 
(and some argue it’s a point that we’ve already reached), then it’s 
imperative that we address energy issues in such a way that we become 
independent of imports of any form of fuel. That means an increase in 
distributed generation, improved transmission systems, and the use of 
every sensible resource available to generate power. 
Many arguments regarding the use of renewable power, or fossil fuel 
power, seem to swirl around the idea that there is one perfect 
solution. The reality is that there are a number of technologies 
available today that should be in wider use, and many more in 
development. It’s not a question of offshore wind providing the 
solution, or the need for nuclear power or CCS, or even the need for 
protecting the oil and gas industry. We need to start taking a 
holistic approach to our energy environment and starting using the 
resources we have where appropriate – that means that we use a 
combination of different power sources from geothermal, to wind, to 
waste – and that we start looking at energy management as a key way to 
cut emissions. 
Unfortunately, that leaves out the option of protecting the oil and 
gas industry with funds needed to help develop those alternatives.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t
carbon, solar, recycle, climate, renewable
There has been more gnashing of teeth about the carbon markets, and questions about it’s legitmacy, following news that SGS UK has had its accreditation to audit carbon projects suspended. 

According to The Times, this is because it was unable to prove that its staff had effectively reviewed potential CDM projects, or that its staff were qualified to do so.

A central premise of the CDM was to develop clean energy infrastructure for developing nations. Given that GHGs are damaging no 
matter where they’re emitted, the idea was that its best to start by cleaning them up where cheapest – in the developing world. By 
transferring money and technology to the developing world through these CDM projects, the system helps keep emissions down and ensures that developing markets have access to technologies which can help them contain their own growing emissions. But the rules are complicated, as are the projects and their risk profiles. 
Resources have been a problem in the CDM market since its inception, whether of the number of people actually working for the CDM Board, or the skills and expertise available to help conceive, create, develop and implement emissions reduction programmes, or even the skills to confirm that the projects conform to the guidelines. One of the problems suffered by SGS was that, following a suspension of another auditor – DNV in 2008 – it took over a lot of extra work, putting its team under enormous pressure. 
Yet surely the very point that SGS has been suspended while its procedures are reviewed means that the market is maturing – that UN reviews and regulations have teeth? Critics are consistently arguing that the system is not sufficiently well policed but, when it is, they complain that its proof that the system fails. 
It seems as if each step the market makes is immediately seen as a sign of trouble. Concern is understandable, especially given the collapse of the banking markets that precipitated the credit crunch, but the very fact that current verification systems are under review means that they’re being closely watched. There are clear flaws within the current emissions trading markets but it’s consistently improving, and there are high expectations that a review of the CDM will result in significant changes at the next major UN negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009. That should give comfort, rather than remove it. Instead of carping about the problems, critics should try suggesting ways and means of improving the system.


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