RIO + 20: Worth The Effort ?

Rio+20 is upon us and I haven’t posted or put any real thought or effort into the Rio+20 excitement, despite the Rio + 20 summit being hailed as  a “wonderful, green and strategic” decision making moment for the world! Does this make me a bad “greenie” or put me in the box with people who don’t care about the planet or nature or the green economy or pandas….?

I can assure you that I am very concerned about the development path/ economic trajectory that we are on. This despite the assurances and re-assurance from multinationals, corporates and governments that;

  • sustainability and equity issues are being mainstreamed
  • business and government are working towards solutions for the pressing issues of sustainable and equitable development
  • We are in fact slowly transitioning to a greener economy

“Rome was not built-in a day” but how many more summits, conferences, COPs, protocols, accords agreements,laws etc do we need before we are able to see any real and tangible sustainable development?  The fact that these conferences and summits etc attract some of the worlds greatest development minds, authorities and governments that meet (over and over again) to try to sort out the various development challenges that we face should indicate that the processes that we use to address these development challenges may not be working? maybe it is time for something else?

This week, up to 100,000 people are streaming into Rio de Janeiro for the year’s biggest international event – the UN Conference on Sustainable Development to be held on 13-22 June. (M Khor)

With this in mind lets look at the a few issues that should be but will in all likelihood not be fully or adequately addressed or resolved at Rio+20;

  • Fossil fuel subsidies: do we really need to subsidise one the key things that is responsible for a great many of our environmental problems?
  • Emissions targets: who gets which piece of the pie?
  • Tipping points and pollution and the degradation of natural resources and landscapes: It is a well-known fact that we have to stop and redress  the pollution and degradation.
  • Equity and access to natural resources: Define fair, access and resource?
  • Green Economy: what is the definition? is this the silver bullet/ solution? or do we need something else
  • Food and resource security and scarcity: overconsumption, in efficient production methods etc
  • Full informed participation of affected stakeholders: better community participation: is it only government and business that know what is good for the rest of us?

What I am basically saying is that assurances of governments, the champagne environmentalists, the green-bling-brigade, the development set etc I am still not convinced that we are achieving much development impact by hosting  summits, sitting around and arguing the format of draft agreements and accords.

While I will keep my fingers (and toes) crossed for some exciting decsions and actions resulting from RIO+20, I will not hold my breath or drop what I am doing to follow the developments of the summit. We need to see action and change, not more meetings about meetings etc ….

Some additional reading should you be interested in other views on Rio+20:

Can Rio Solve the Worlds problems?  

Human Impacts Institute Article on Rio+20

Rio+20 Text Out of touch with reality

World Bank: Rio+20

Before its news: Rio+20

Supermarket Refrigeration, Carbon Emissions, Climate Change & A Poll!

How often do you walk into the fresh food section of your favourite (or not) supermarket and wish you had brought along a snowsuit or at least a jersey… More often than not my entrance to the refrigerated product section while grocery shopping makes me want to turn around and run. The refrigerated product section tends to be rather chilly…. maybe too chilly sometimes. I understand the need to ensure constant low temperatures in the food chain/ management process etc etc, however, one needs to consider the costs involved with maintaining low temperatures for such large open areas. This is particularly the case when the entire refrigerated food section of a shop is cooled and the fridges are door less. Surely the simple action of installing doors on supermarket fridges would reduce the need to cool entire sections of supermarkets while also reducing cooling costs and associated emissions?

Some interesting facts about supermarket refrigeration and emissions are;

  • Chemicals released by fridges account for 30% of British supermarkets’ direct emissions (www.gaurdian.co.uk)
  • There is concern about the use of damaging HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) gases as coolants which were introduced in the 1990s as a safer alternative to ozone-depleting chemicals such as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). (www.chillingfacts.uk.org)
  • Supermarkets are the biggest industrial emitters of HFCs, which do not damage the ozone layer but have a high global warming potential.
  • One tonne of the widely used gas called R404a has a warming effect equal to 3,900 tonnes of CO2 over a 100-year period. (www.gaurdian.co.uk)

Issues such as financial costs, emissions and environmental costs all need to be considered and mitigated particularly now, due to the need to respond to the effects and impacts of resource scarcity, climate change and environmental degradation. Many supermarkets and refrigeration companies are working towards reducing the use of technology and substances that emit green house gasses. However, the move towards efficient, sustainable and climate friendly refrigeration solutions for supermarkets seems to be quite slow and I have been wondering why it is that most supermarkets still have open, door less fridges? I do realize that some supermarkets are actively (or in certain instances slowly) working towards using less harmful refrigeration systems is it not easier to simply place glass/ transparent doors on fridges in the interim? That way shoppers can see what is inside the fridge’s while the supermarket maintains appropriate temperatures and reduces cooling costs and emission. There is also the option of motion sensitive automatic doors on fridges? Are door less fridges not being used because:

  • Manufactures don’t make large fridges with doors?
  • Cost involved with doors on fridges?
  • Supermarkets are scared that consumers will buy less if they have to open a door? Or if there is a glass door between the food and the consumer? Supermarkets therefore opt to provide lazy shoppers with the easiest option?
  • Shoppers are perceived as being too lazy to open a door?
  • Germ transfer from door handles are seen as a problem?

So I thought it would be a good idea to see how many people think doors on supermarket fridges are a viable interim measure for supermarkets to adopt until we are able to have more efficient and sustainable cooling systems in all our supermarkets.

Please humor me and take this poll so that we are able to determine whether or not asking supermarkets to install doors on their fridges is a viable option!!

  

 

References and additional reading for the super enthusiastic: 

Woolworths SA

The Gaurdian UK (article)

EPEE Global

Chilling Facts UK

http://www.umweltbundesamt.de/produkte-e/fckw/massnahmen.htm

http://www.agreenerfestival.com/2010/02/chilling-facts-%e2%80%93-supermarkets-fridges-more-damaging-than-plastic-bags/

http://www.developmentchannel.org/environment/energy/973-supermarket-fridges-hazardous-to-environment-study http://www.eia-international.org/ http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=grocery.sb_grocery

The Link Between Climate Change And The Food You Eat/ Waste

Every thing that we do has an impact on our environment. A source of impacts that one often doesn’t always consider is the impacts on the natural environment resulting from the food we eat, or do not eat. Food production, transportation, preparation and disposal processes contribute towards the use of resources and the emission of green house gasses (GHG).

I found a great and informative articlethat explains how food and climate change are linked. Just to give you an idea the graphic below shows how the different phases of food production contribute towards GHG emissions.

Happy reading!

How Climate Change WIll Affect Your Theobromine Addiction!

Let the chocolate hoarding and panic buying begin!

*

We all know that climate change is affecting weather patterns and therefore ecosystems. CGIAR has recently released a study stating that rainfall patterns in Ghana are set to change to the extent that the production of cocoa will be negatively affected. Seeing that Ghana produces approximately 60% of the worlds cocoa I think we have a major problem on our hands !

Read the full report here. 

If you were too lazy to act or do anything to prevent climate change I think this is a good enough reason!