26 June 2012
The UN Rio+20 Earth Summit has come and gone, with some calling it a failure because it ended with a watered-down consensus, the Future We Want, which lacks specifics and measurable targets.
“It was a very disappointing summit compared to the spirit of optimism that characterized the 1992 Earth Summit – and given the urgent need to take swift action to avoid irreversible environmental crises,” said Dirk Messner, German Advisory Council on Global Change deputy chairman and director of the German Development Institute. “The final declaration is not exactly a source of inspiration.”
But while government negotiators didn’t show the leadership to draft a document that made firm commitments to reduce carbon pollution and increase clean energy development, various countries and companies took steps to address climate change, which bodes well for the solar industry.
The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which includes 59 of the world’s largest cities, announced an initiative to cut their collective annual emissions by 248 million tons by 2020. This is significant because, even without national government support, mayors have direct control over 75% of urban emissions sources, according to C40 Cities, and its member cities account for about 14% of global GHG emissions.
The UK government said it will force companies listed on the London Stock Exchange’s main market to publish full details of their greenhouse gas emissions.
And businesses made some 200 commitments to sustainability initiatives, many of which have a solar component. Among these:
- Energy company Total committed to provide access to solar lamps and kits to 5 million low-income people by 2015.
- Philips pledged to improve the energy efficiency of its entire product and solutions portfolio by 50% in 2015 (compared to 2009). In addition, Philips said it will develop more off-grid solar-LED lighting solutions for cities, homes, and buildings.
- Eskom pledged to ramp up of renewable energy industry in South Africa, and says it will build a 100MW concentrated solar thermal energy pilot plant by 2016.
- The EDP Foundation, a nonprofit established by EDP, which holds electricity and gas operations in Europe, Brazil and the US, launched a program to install solar in off-grid communities. By 2014, it will train 100 technicians in solar systems maintenance and management, and install 50,000 new residential system, solar lamps and street lamps, and solar ovens by fundraising 20 million euros.
- Siemens restated its commitment to grow its externally verified environmental portfolio from currently 29.9 bn EUR to 40 bn EUR in 2014.
- Masdar pledged to electrify 600 off-grid homes with solar systems in the Helmand province in Afghanistan by 2013. The Abu Dhabi-based energy company also said it will install a 500kWp grid-connected PV Plant in Vava’u island in Tonga by 2013.
Also in Rio, SolarCity was honored by Sustainia, a consortium of civil society, businesses and experts working to create a “virtual construction site and community for those building the sustainable future,” for its work making solar power affordable and accessible to everyday homeowners and businesses. Sustainia featured SolarCity in its first edition of the Sustainai100 guide, which describes the economic, social and environmental benefits of various sustainable concepts from 56 countries across six continents.
The UN document may not be a source of inspiration when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting renewable energy sources. But individual corporations and local communities have made impressive commitments to a more sustainable future, which is the future we want.
Written by Jessica Lyons Hardcastle, News Editor, Solar Novus Today