What the E2C2 is Reading – April 2013

The Joint Implementation Quarterly Magazine on climate and sustainability (JiQ, 2013) – Anya Boyd

This edition covered various feature articles on the: EU Climate Policy after ‘Backloading’ Failure: results from the TNA project in Sudan; a focus on the BIOTEAM project for sustainable bioenergy pathways and finally How can Local Authorities Participate in Kyoto actions?

Eben Bayer: Are mushrooms the new plastic? (TED talks,2010) 20– Andrew Marquard

A fascinating and inspiring talk about a new process to produce packaging for fragile goods (e.g. TVs, computers etc) from mycelium (effectively mushroom “roots”) and various forms of valueless agricultural waste (husks etc). The process has been commercialised in the USA, and replaces large blocks of polystyrene. The packaging can be grown to any shape in a few days (in the dark, by itself), and is organic, and therefore total biodegradable, and in fact can be used for mulch or compost in one’s garden after use. Non-toxic, low-energy and no chemical feedstock.

Vijay Kumar: Robots that fly and cooperate (TED talks, 2012 ) – Andrew Marquard

Cool talk about tiny helicopter robots which co-operate. Fascinating and a little scary, of interest to those who are fascinated by automata and agent-based modelling, and generally any large-scale effect resulting from mass agent interaction.

Massimo Banzi: How Arduino is open-sourcing imagination (TED Talks, 2012)- Andrew Marquard

Great talk about the development and applications of the Arduino, a tiny, do-it-yourself electronic controller which has put a range of amazing applications in reach of ordinary people. Fascinating re technology convergence.

The Most Beautiful House In The World (Witold Rybczynski, 1990) – Andrew Marquard

Fantastic account of an architect’s long journey in building his own house, carefully documented – “an elegant examination of the links between being and building”, “establishing a spot where it would be safe to dream”.

Tieju Ma, Yoshiteru Nakamori: Modeling technological change in energy systems – From optimization toagent-based modelling  (Presentation slides, 2009) – Andrew Marquard

It seems that ABM may be able to shed light on a whole class of problems which evade optimisation models, which are usually solved with an array of constraints – in this case, a very simple technology change problem is modelled, and adoption is much slower in the ABM. Various ‘non-price’ barriers, it seems, can be understood via complex multi-agent behaviour. In this context, optimisation models are simply one-agent ABMs. There are two points which I think come out of my rather cursory reading of this: 1) optimisation models and ABMs allow us to understand different aspects of the same problem-set, and 2) I think that it is worth considering in more detail what models and modelling actually MEANS.

Towards a New Power Plan Harald Winkler

Apart from making the front page of Business Day, which was dominated by the finding that nuclear was not needed by 2040, or 2029 at best. The former is with revised demand projections, the latter higher. It finds very little further investment is needed before 2025.  It does not say this, but it begs the question – why the rush to build Kusile, then?  Though 32 GW, almost our entire grid capacity, will have retired by 2040.  On nuclear, also note that higher-cost would be have a lower levelised cost, if run more than 80% of the time, than CCGT from LNG. Cheaper nuclear has a similar comparison to shale gas CCGT. Seriously, hats off to Bruno and Alison.

Your ambition is low – oh, maybe not quite that low –  Harald Winkler

I’ve also been reading a revision of a study that relates to ambition by developing countries. In 2012, PBL raised my eyebrows. They looked at 7 developing countries (China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and South Korea). Even though China’s reduction of carbon intensity of GDP is pledged to reduce by 40-45%, authors from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL 2012) found that the seven “by 2020, are estimated to reduce emissions, by 2020, by approximately 3% to 6% below PBL/IIASA business-as-usual emission projections”. SA’s 34% became 19% – deviating against the PBL baseline.  Fast forward to a recent article in Energy Policy, with the same lead authors (Den Elzen, Hof & Roelfsema, 2013). The seven developing countries, in analysis a year later, are “13% to 16% below PBL/IIASA BAU projections”. 3-6% last year, 13-16% this year? Oh, and SA’s number is now 29%, back up from 19% within the year. Even adjusting baselines, there seems to be something funny going on.

Various Papers by Robert W. CoxKim Coetzee

One of the key facets of Robert W. Cox’s theory is his emphasis on the need for a historically informed approach to the analysis of world order.  In line with his belief that all theory is embedded in, and a product of, its time and place, Cox posited that a specific configuration of forces characterises any historical period and the raison d’être of the historicist approach is to unveil the “historical structures characteristic of particular eras” and to explain any changes between different eras.  Thus in order to explain the differences between historical periods Cox proposed analysing three categories or types of forces – which interact to inform a historical structure – are material capabilities, ideas and institutions.  The configuration of forces is not directly determinant, but rather imposes pressures and constraints on both state and civil society actors.

99% invisible (Podcast) – Kim Coetzee

A relaxing podcast about the influence of design – from architecture, to signage, to urban  planning – that which is, well, 99% invisible). Recently I listened to a discussion of ‘queuing’  – did you know that one of the reasons that busy elevators are often surrounded by mirrors is to distract you (tie fixing, hair checking) from the fact that you’re queuing for the elevator.

Peru Holds NAMAs Workshop (iisd, 2013) – Michael Boulle

Encouraging to see Peru making some progress with NAMAs. A workshop on developing roadmaps for the implementation of NAMAs in the construction, transport and bioenergy sectors.

Good Bicycle Week in Cape Town (Future Cape Town, 2013) – Michael Boulle

A small but positive sign to show that non-motorised transport and integration in Cape Town’s transport network is improving. These may be baby steps, but are key baby steps in developing a lower-carbon, more inclusive transport network in Cape Town. Hopefully a sign of things to come.

Paraguayan landfill orchestra makes sweet music from rubbish (The Guardian, 2013) – Michael Boulle

Not the most glamorous sustainable development initiative but viewing rubbish as a resource has its benefits – both recycling by re-using materials from landfills and providing musical education and improved opportunities for low-income communities.

Derisking Renewable Energy Investment (UNDP, 2013) – Britta Rennkamp

Derisking Renewable Energy Investment introduces an innovative framework to assist policymakers to quantitatively compare the impact of different public instruments to promote renewable energy. The report identifies the need to reduce the high financing costs for renewable energy in developing countries as an important task for policymakers acting today. The framework is structured in four stages: (i) risk environment, (ii) public instruments, (iii) levelised cost and (iv) evaluation. To illustrate how the framework can support decision-making in practice, the report presents findings from illustrative case studies in four developing countries. It then draws on these results to discuss possible directions for enhancing public interventions to scale-up renewable energy investment.