Postgraduate Course on Renewable Energy

United Nations University–Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP) is pleased to announce a new postgraduate course on renewable energy.  The University Network for Climate and Ecosystems Change Adaptation Research (UN-CECAR) – for which UNU-ISP acts as the Secretariat – is a university network of leading universities in the Asia Pacific that developed the course for students to understand renewable energy issues in the context of science, technology, economics, policy, and relate renewable energy to climate change and other global contemporary issues.

 

The intensive course will cover hard topics such as small hydropower, solar, geothermal, bio-, wind, marine, fuel cell and hydrogen energy and soft topics such as energy demand and supply, economics, security, and policy.  Students will also receive practical training with RETScreen clean energy project analysis software and HOMER energy modeling software.  It is a unique postgraduate course with contributions from leading universities in the Asia Pacific.

 

The course will be held from the 25th February 2013 to 23rd March 2013 at UNU-ISP, Tokyo, Japan.   A limited number of partial fellowships are available for deserving candidates from developing countries.  Priority will be given to students who are currently enrolled in a postgraduate programme.   However, researchers, faculty/staff of universities, government officials, international agencies, and professionals in relevant professions are invited to apply on-line by 15 January 2013 at

http://cecar.unu.edu/apply

 

For more information, please visit our website at

http://cecar.unu.edu/re-course

 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Ms. Soo Huey Teh () or Mr. Felino Lanuevo ()

 

Please feel free to forward this message to your colleagues, students, networks and community of practice.   Apologies for cross posting, if any.

 

Wishing you the very best for 2013 and happy holidays!

 

Sincerely,

 

Felino Lanuevo
Programme Associate
Climate and Ecosystems Change Adaptation Research (CECAR)
Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP)

United Nations University

5-53-70 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-8925, Japan
e-mail:  
CECAR:  cecar.unu.edu

 

Teaching EJ Workshop, including on climate/energy issues

Teaching Environmental Justice: Interdisciplinary Approaches
April 14-16, 2013, Carleton College, Northfield, MN
Application deadline: January 21, 2013 (workshop is open to 30 participants by application)

Equitable distribution of risks and resources, long a discussion of interest to economists, ethicists and others, now requires an understanding of geoscience topics from natural hazards to ground water hydrology to mineral and energy resources. This workshop will explore how we bring together concepts from humanities, social science, and geoscience to further students’ understanding of environmental justice and foster their ability to act.   Workshop participants will gain a broad perspective on ways in which environmental justice is taught across the undergraduate curriculum and new ideas for integrating geoscience and environmental justice together in their teaching.  The workshop is for undergraduate faculty from all disciplines who are interested in a stronger integration of geoscience and other perspectives in teaching environmental justice.

Please forward this announcement to interested colleagues.
Contact Cathy Manduca (cmanduca at carleton.edu) with questions.

https://serc.carleton.edu/integrate/workshops/envirojustice2013/index.html

Summary of Doha

For instructors looking for a good brief summary of the 18th COP’s implications for future temperatures, check out the new joint report by Climate Analytics/Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research/Ecofys. Among the report’s take-aways:

  1. Several Annex I parties agreed to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol for 2013-2020, Australia, Belarus, the EU and its member States, Kazakhstan, Monaco, Norway, Switzerland and Ukraine.
    1. Beyond limited participation in the second commitment period, the levels of ambition are well below what’s necessary to avoid temperature increases above 2C pre-industrial, and allowances from the first commitment period commitment period can be carried over, though only 2% can be traded;
  2. A few countries (Monaco, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Dominican Republic) made new pledges at the 18th COP for emission reductions, though the emissions of most of these parties are de minimis;
  3. The world is still on pace for temperature increases well above 3C;
  4. A bright spot is that many countries are increasingly developing national policies to meet their pledges that may increase emissions reductions in the future. This includes efforts to reduce energy consumption and increase GHG emissions reductions. Additionally, there is hopeful movement in other sectors, e.g. international aviation and at the sub-national level.

 

Economic Implications of Regulation of GHGs under the Clean Air Act

While there have been a large number of analyses of the potential ramifications of regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the U.S. Clean Air Act (CAA), very few have assessed the potential economic impacts. A recent piece in the journal Review of Environmental Economics & Policy does just this, and also compares economic impacts vis-a-vis legislative alternatives.  The article also discusses options to increase compliance flexibility, thereby potentially maximizing emissions reductions. This would be a an excellent student reading.

Among the article’s take-aways:

  1. New CAA regulations that took effect in 2011 will reduce light vehicle emissions by 21 percent by 2030, “making them among the most stringent standards in the world.” Moreover, even more stringent regulations that are being developed, and would take effect;
  2. Once a pollutant is made subject to CAA jurisdiction in any context, it extends to stationary sources, which means that greenhouse gases from such sources are now subject to New Source Review, which, inter alia, mandates Best Available Control Technology for new or substantially modified existing facilities;
  3. The third tool in the CAA’s belt, regulatory standards, covering stationary sources, will have the greatest impact on greenhouse gas emissions. This includes the potential to treat GHGs as a hazardous pollutant under CAA §112, regulation of greenhouse gases by establishing National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQs) under CAA §108–110, regulation of U.S. emissions based on their international impact, or performance standards under ;
  4. The use of performance standards is the most “effective and practical approach” to address greenhouse gas emissions under the CAA
    • Benefits of this approach, which includes New Source Performance Standards, include the ability to build on existing standards, a relatively quick regulatory process, and consideration of cost in setting standards, unlike under NAAQS;
    • Potential disadvantages of performance standards include the threat that courts might require the EPA to issue GHG NAAQs since they supercede CAA §111(d), discouraging the EPA from expending limited resources on performance standards; performance standards are technical and data intensive; and regulations of individual sources will likely prove more expensive than economy-wide standards
  5. A flexible performance standard under §111(d) could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by  5–10 percent in the coal sector—as much as about 3 percent of total U.S. emissions—without changing the level of electricity generation, at costs more modest than national climate change legislation that passed the U.S. House in 2009;
  6. However, in the longer term, at least, regulation under the CAA could neither facilitate the most efficient opportunities for emissions reductions, nor would it provide the same level of long-term regulatory certainty essential to drive requisite investments.

Launch of UN Alliance on Climate Education

UN Alliance to Support Climate Change Education, Training and Public Awareness Launched at COP 18

 

3 December 2012. More than 250 delegates participated in the launch of the United Nations Alliance on Climate Change Education, Training and Public Awareness at a side-event on 3 December 2012 organized in the margins of the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP 18) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The event took place just after Parties agreed on Saturday night on the new Doha Work Programme on Article 6 of the Convention which deals with education, training and public awareness. Founding members of the Alliance include: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UNFCCC Secretariat, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), with the UNFCCC Secretariat providing the Secretariat for the Alliance.

Using renewable energy and desalination for climate mitigation and adaptation in Small Island Developing States and coasts of arid regions

JHU Adjunct Professor Magdalena Muir recently published an article concerning renewable energy and desalination for an Energy publication issued by the Stakeholder Forum during the UNFCCC COP 18 process.

Renewable energy can help address water security and scarcity by integrating energy and water systems, and combining renewable energy with desalination. The Small Island Developing States (SIDS) – as well as coastal arid regions such as northern Africa and the Middle East – need to incorporate energy with water for sustainable energy development, economic development and poverty alleviation in order to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Although SIDS have geothermal, ocean, solar, and wind resources, they mainly rely on hydrocarbons to generate electricity. Both SIDS and arid regions share similar issues relating to energy and water security, which renewable
energy, desalination, and aquifer management can address. SIDS and coasts of arid regions are highly exposed to the impacts of climate change and adaptation, including responding to higher temperatures, changing
seasonal and annual precipitation, depletion of aquifers and groundwater, saline intrusion of coastal and island aquifers, increased water quality issues and incidences of waterborne illnesses. Both regions have rich customary,
local and traditional knowledge and technologies to manage energy and water needs (e.g. water harvesting, traditional architecture), which can augment and complement the generation of renewable energy and desalination rates.

Sustainable energy development and water linkages were recognised at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20. International policy developments are also underway, such as the Global Dry Land Alliance, initially proposed by Qatar at the 66th Session of UN General Assembly in 2011, and scheduled for launch at COP18 in Doha. The Global Dry Land Alliance could boost food security in arid regions through joint research and the adoption of energy and water systems and technologies by Member States

Likewise, the Renewable Energy-Desalination-Water Treatment Pilot Project for Small Islands and Coasts in the Americas is currently being implemented by academic institutions (including John Hopkins University), with the support of the Coastal and Marine Union (EUCC), and the Department of Sustainable Development of the Organization of American States.

The Munipality of Los Cabos, Baha State, Mexico, is a potential location, which is part of the feasibility assessment for the project. The municipality is located on the arid coast of the Baha peninsula and shares numerous characteristics with islands, being beset by high seasonal temperatures, limited precipitation and declining aquifers. Though solar and wind resources are available,
the municipality mostly uses diesel generators to provide electricity. If water scarcity and high energy costs are not addressed, they could limit the tourism sector, which supports the local economy. Additionally, renewable energy
and desalination could improve sustainability and thereby attract more tourists to the Los Cabos Municipality.

The energy, environmental and economic feasibility of renewable energy and desalination approaches and projects is being explored by the Municipality of Los Cabos in collaboration with the Sustainable Cities International (SCI) Energy Lab (2013-2016). Working initially with ten cities, the SCI Energy Lab supports innovation in the development of local energy solutions and furthers the understanding of how cities can address the barriers that prevent larger scale uptake of sustainable energy technologies by providing a multidisciplinary forum for collaborative problem-solving and idea generation around all aspects of the design, implementation and regulation
of urban renewable and local energy systems.

Further information on Stakeholder Forum and Outreach publications for COP 18 available at: http://www.stakeholderforum.org/sf/outreach/

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What are the strengths and shortcomings of existing and proposed offshore safety regulations? Ways to strengthen and support existing and proposed offshore safety regulations

Professor Muir contributed to an October discussion of CommentVisions on What are the strengths and shortcomings of existing and proposed offshore safety regulations? Her comments in that forum are provided below:

What are the strengths and shortcomings of existing and proposed offshore safety regulations? Ways to strengthen and support existing and proposed offshore safety regulations

·         Value of comparisons between Europe and other offshore jurisdictions such as Canada, Brazil, China, Russia, US etc.. Though existing European regulations are based on Norway and UK, there can be mutual learnings between all offshore jurisdictions for both regulatory and non-regulatory approaches. For example, Canada is a federation of provinces and territories, where the federal and regional governments have shared responsibilities for offshore energy development and work cooperatively within joint institutions to regulate hydrocarbon safety. Comparitive and shared approaches will be particularly relevant for the development of Arctic hydrocarbons between Scandinavian countries and other Arctic Council member states such as Canada, United States and Russia.
·         Culture of safety within hydrocarbon corporations and offshore operators, and encouraging that safety culture through regulations, industry agreements, and voluntary measures such as environmental management systemsThe real key will be the way in which the regulations are viewed and internally implemented by the hydrocarbon industry and offshore operators. Regulations can be implemented to support the development of this safety culture, and have been done in other jurisdictions and by regulators, such as Canada’s National Energy Board.
·         Enforcement and compliance:  Regardless of the strengths and shortcomings of any regulations, a very important aspect is the willingness and ability of European and national authorities to operationalise these regulations consistently across all jurisdictions, and to use the full range of enforcement and compliance tools and mechanisms.
·         Public acceptance is crucial for offshore hydrocarbon development and other offshore activities. Tthe Renewable Grid Initiative and European Grid Declaration for Electricity Network Development and Nature Conservation in Europe provide lessons for engaging stakeholders, reconciling conflicting interests, and developing public acceptance for offshore developments and infrastructure. See www.renewables-grid.eu for further information.
·         Special safety regimes for special circumstances: Certain offshore hydrocarbon activities may require unique safety regulations and regulatory approaches. This includes hydrocarbon development in the Arctic where remote and difficult conditions combined with vulnerable ecosystems could turn an oil spill into an environmental disaster; hydrocarbon activities occurring in proximity to other oceans uses (such as renewable energy) or in areas of great biodiversity; or  the development of marine methane hydrates in coastal and marine waters.
·         Data, research and technological development to support environment and safety and realize future economic benefits for Europe. There is a distinct role for the European Union and in particular the Director General Maritime Affair in supporting data, research and technological development for offshore hydrocarbons and related sectors like offshore wind and ocean energy. This development is consistent with Europe’s Blue Growth initiative to support growth in the maritime sector by focusing on existing, emerging and potential activities.   Community level research and supervision can occur from the EU bodies and agencies best placed to sponsor, coordinate and supervise this research and development, particularly for activities in European waters or to assist in the transfer of knowledge and practices from international jurisdiction.
·         Maximize benefits of offshore hydrocarbon activities through regulations: Maximizing benefits through regulations, such as multiple use and design parameters of offshore platforms, no-take zones in proximity to facilities, seasonal restrictions on hydrocarbon activities, underground pipelines implemented through horizontal and directional drilling beneath seabed through areas of great biodiversity value or multiple uses. Research is already underway for multiple use ocean platforms under the European collaborative TROPOS project which develops floating modular multi-use platforms for use in deep water with18 partners and 9 countries (including the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway and Denmark) under the coordination of the Public Consortium Canary Islands Oceanic Platform .
·         Connections between offshore hydrocarbons, offshore carbon capture and storage (CCS), and offshore renewable energy: Proposals forCCS under the North Sea would use depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs and existing pipeline infrastructure for the long term storage of greenhouse gases under the seabed. As such, it will be important to have flexible regulatory regimes that will facilitate the safe re-use of this infrastructure. For both offshore hydrocarbon activities and renewable energy, common regulatory approaches could be useful for marine spatial planning for shared or overlapping areas of operation; ship-based support and space monitoring,; the multiple use or re-use of offshore hydrocarbon platforms for wind and ocean energy; and knowledge sharing and transfer betweee industries.
·         Lessons learned and applicability to other emerging marine sectors. Regulations for offshore hydrocarbon sector will provide important safety lessons and models for other emerging offshore sectors that such as offshore carbon capture and storage, offshore wind and marine renewable energy, power transmission infrastructure, ocean mining, marine biofuels and biomass, fishing and aquaculture.
Complete text of the CommentVisions discussion “What are the strengths and shortcomings of existing and proposed offshore safety regulations?” is available at:
http://www.commentvisions.com/discussion/9194/what-are-the-strengths-and-shortcomings-of-existing-and-proposed-offshore-safety-regulations-

Role and engagement of civil society in the sustainable and responsible development of the Arctic’s renewable and non-renewable resources

Professor Muir participated in CommentVisions web-based discussion on “What is the key to sustainable and responsible development of the Arctic region’s resources? And can the industry operate responsibly with minimum risk?” The article below was her contribution to that discussion

Role and engagement of civil society in the sustainable and responsible development of the Arctic’s renewable and non-renewable resources

The circum-Arctic region is an area of great interest and concern to the global pubic, which has greatly benefited the region for issues like climate change and transboundary contamination. The circum-Arctic region has many important renewable and non-renewable resources that need to be developed and used appropriately for the support of local peoples and communities, and for the benefit of Arctic countries. In discussing the development of Arctic energy and mineral resources, the very significant value of the Arctic’s renewable resources for subsistence uses by local communities, national and regional fisheries, renewable energy, and land and ship-based sustainable tourism is often overlooked. From a global perspective, these renewable resources may be the most important resources of the Arctic, and are also its most sustainable resources.

Resource development in one Arctic country can positively and adversely affect the resources and interests of adjacent countries and shared Arctic seas and oceans. Air and ship-based support and transport of these resources provide opportunities for regional economic development, but also give rise to significant risks of accidents and spills. For example, the gas tanker. Ob River, left Norway in November carrying a load of liquified natural gas (LNG), and is sailing north of Russian through the Arctic, arriving in Japan in early December. Changing climate conditions and a volatile gas market make this particularly Arctic journey profitable, but what are the risks associated with more marine journeys and how can they be best addressed?

The Arctic Council and national governments have important roles in ensuring international cooperation and for developing regional and national best practices and policy and regulatory frameworks for sustainable development of Arctic resources. There is also a very important role for civil society – including academic and research institutions and non-governmental organizations – in supporting cooperation and in the development, implementation and independent monitoring and review of these best practices, policies and regulations. Civil society organizations have valid knowledge, research and information to contribute, may provide a more objective perspective, and also may be more trusted and viewed as more trustworthy than governments and industry.

Academic and research institutions and non-governmental organizations can also facilitate public discussion and input, and build public understanding and social acceptance for the sustainable development of the Arctic resources. In the modern interconnected world, it is impossible to overestimate the value of public understanding and social acceptance. As recent events in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere illustrate, public understanding and social acceptance for energy and mining projects and their related infrastructure and support is both very important and very fragile. Academic institutions and environmental non-governmental organizations – in cooperation with the Arctic Council, European and national governments and industry associations like the World Ocean Council – can facilitate broad societal dialogue on sustainable and responsible development of Arctic resources that engages all peoples within and external to the Arctic.

Civil society can support this societal dialogue using the innovative media and technologies that it is currently developing, such as big data analytics, scenarios development approaches, games theory, interactive web-based information platforms, and geographical information systems (GIS) applications. As the amount of Arctic data and information increases, how Arctic data is analyzed and informs and supports decision making becomes increasingly important. Scenarios are stories that describe a possible future, and building and using scenarios allows an exploration what the future may look like, and preparation for change. Games theory is the study of strategic decision making, and games provide alternative means of sharing information and knowledge and participating in decision making. Interactive web-based platforms and GIS applications build upon social media, and can support citizen participation, science and inputs in Arctic decision making.

Overall CommentVisions discussion on “What is the key to sustainable and responsible development of the Arctic region’s resources? And can the industry operate responsibly with minimum risk”

http://www.commentvisions.com/discussion/9200/what-is-the-key-to-sustainable-and-responsible-development-of-the-arctic-region-s-resources-and-can-the-industry-operate-responsibly-with-minimum-risk-#comment18315

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Long-Term Sea Level Rise Scenarios

A recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change could be an excellent reading for a climate change course’s science modules, as well as discussion of the development of adaptation scenarios and responses. The study, which focuses on long-term (2300) projections of sea level rise under 1.5C and 2.0C temperate rise scenarios employed a semi-empirical model calibrated with sea-level data from the past millennium to make these projections. The study also has implications for the timing of emissions reductions over the course of this century.

Among the take-aways of the study:

  1. Reducing temperature increases to 1.5-2C from the reference case halves projected sea level rise rates by 2100, but the rise is still three times the present rate at that point
    1. Even under the impossible scenario of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2016, sea level rise rates are still double present day values by the 2050s, thought the rate slowly declines thereafter
  2. While the reference scenario leads to sea level rise of 102 (72-139) centimeters over the course of the 21st Century, the 1.5 and 2C scenarios limits sea level rise to about 7 centimeters by 2100. However, this would require negative emissions mechanisms, e.g. biomass or carbon capture and sequestration;
  3. By 2300, sea levels are projected to increase by 2.7 (1.6-4.0) meters in a scenario in which there is a 50% possibility of limiting warming to 2C, twice the present-day rates;
    1. Under a higher probability 2C sea level rise is limited by 2.0 meters (1.2-3.1)
    2. The 1.5C scenario limits sea level rise to 1.5 meters (0.9-2.4)
  4. If mitigation is delayed for many decades, the large inertia in the system will preclude preventing sea level rise of less than 1.6 meters, perhaps as high as 4.2 meters by 2300, even with extremely aggressive mitigation policies;
  5. Ocean inertia ensures that about half of twenty-first century sea level rise is already baked into the system at this point as a consequence of past emissions

Brookings Carbon Tax Proposal

While cap-and-trade mechanisms are the predominant market-based approach to address climate change at both the international and national levels, some jurisdictions have adopted carbon taxes as an alternative, or complementary approach. In the past year, there has been a groundswell of support for adoption of a carbon tax in the United States, with the burgeoning deficit providing an additional impetus for consideration of this option. In a new report published by the Brookings Institution, Mark Muro and Jonathan Rothwell advocate adoption of a “modest carbon tax” to address both climate and fiscal issues.

Among the recommendations from the report:

  1. Congress and the Obama administration should establish a carbon levy of $20 per ton. This figure is supported a study by researchers at MIT that concluded that a carbon tax beginning at $20 per ton and rising 4% annually could raise $150 billion annually over a 10-year period, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions 14% below 2006 levels by 2020 and 20% below 2006 levels by 2050. An assessment of this level would likely have minimal impacts on  consumer prices;
  2. $30 billion of revenue from a carbon tax should be allocated to clean energy and energy-efficiency RD&D and technology deployment. This reflects the authors’ conclusions that  it is not politically tenable to a sufficiently high price on carbon to push Our experience with the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme provides empirical evidence for this proposition, with low prices for emissions allowances failing to spur adoption of low-emission technologies;
    1. $30 billion commitment would bring the energy industry’s RD&D intensity in line with that of the health and IT industries
  3. The remainder of the funds (an estimated $120 annually) should be allocated to tax cuts, deficit reduction and recycling of revenues to effectuate revenue-neutral reductions of taxes that place a drag on investment or employment, such as personal or corporate income taxes, payroll taxes or taxes on capital. This can help to ameliorate the regressive impacts of a carbon tax, as well as spur economic growth.

This reading could generate some good discussion questions, including:

  • Is a carbon tax proposal politically viable, especially if it wasn’t made purely revenue neutral, i.e. if a substantial portion of the tax proceeds were used for energy programs?;
  • Do you agree with the proposition advanced in the report that a carbon tax is “simpler and more transparent than ‘cap-and-trade’ schemes? Isn’t it possible to lard a carbon tax with loopholes and exceptions that would make it commensurately abstruse?;
  • Do you agree with the level of funding that the authors propose for energy programs? Would it make more sense to use all of the funds for this purpose?