The Energy Efficiency Directive and Possible Implications on the EU ETS

At present, energy efficiency is considered one of the most crucial pillars to EU policy.  The more efficiently energy is consumed and produced, the higher the possibilities for cost reductions at consumer as well as at industry level.  Furthermore, savings can then lead to increased competitiveness of industry and the EU economy as a whole.  By 2008, the EU recognised that the 20-20-20 target of a 20% reduction in energy consumption would not be met.  Previously, energy efficiency targets were not transferred into binding legislation – this resulted in slippage and underperformance. In order to tackle this problem with a more fundamental approach, the EU agreed to put together an ambitious plan to meet this goal.   The result was the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) of 2012.

The EED came into effect in December 2013 with all member states expected to enforce the required measures by the summer of 2014.  It aims to fill the gap between existing framework directives and national policies on energy efficiency.  The main objective of the directive is to ensure the implementation of additional measures that will enable the 2020 goal to be achieved. Measures, which focus on utilities and building, that are key to the EED include:

  • Renovation of 3% of the total floor areas of public sector buildings each year[1]
  • Energy audits and management plans for large companies[2]
  • The requirement of energy companies to reduce energy sales by 1.5% every year among their customers. To reach this target, improvements such as combined heat and power generation, fitting double-glazed windows and insulation for roofs have been proposed.

As with the introduction of any new policy, there has been discussion of how the EED will affect existing directives aimed at reducing emissions levels within the EU.  The impact of the EED on the EU ÊTS – the World’s leading emissions trading scheme – has been highlighted as a cause for concern.

As implementation of the EED is predicted to lead to overall reduced energy consumption, this will in turn cause a reduction in carbon emission levels (a similar scenario has already been experienced during recent economic downturn when overall output declined).  A reduction in emissions levels and demand in the market would have knock-on effect of reducing the scarcity and the price of allowances on the carbon market.  Model scenarios commissioned by the EC, have shown that in some cases carbon prices could drop to zero – causing the market to collapse and the savings made by the EED to be reversed.  This has led to calls for the EUs “business-as-usual” strategy to be examined more closely.

The EU has recognised the challenges that this poses and state that it is committed to monitor the situation carefully.  The EC has suggested lowering the cap at a higher rate (2.2%) from 2021 on a yearly basis as part of their 2030 targets, however this has been criticized for the time it would take to reduce the surplus. There have however been increasing calls for direct action and for adjustments to be made to the ETS in order to allow it to adequately accommodate the EED in both the medium and long term.  Many have called for the strengthening of the ETS cap to counterbalance the effect of increased allowances being issued through EED based initiatives. Others have called for permits to be withheld from the next ETS phase.  The UK based carbon think-tank “Sandbag” has recommended that the ETS set aside 1.4 billion tonnes of permits rather than “backload” from phase three to increase competitiveness within the market.  To date, the EU has

In order to accelerate the EUs energy efficiency drive, the EED would appear to be an appropriate device – energy efficiency measures can be made relatively inexpensively and have a positive economic impact. As the supply of allowances is fixed years in advance, it is difficult to calculate the exact impact and prepare for unknown variables such as EED on the ETS.  However, evidence suggests that that the ETS will need to adapt in order to maintain a buoyant market.


[1] Article 5, Understanding the energy efficiency directive http://www.eceee.org/policy-areas/EE-directive

[2] Article 7, Understanding the energy efficiency directive http://www.eceee.org/policy-areas/EE-directive

 


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CSR in SMEs – A Force from Within

When discussing CSR in business, a commonly held belief is that this can only be confined to larger corporations who have the capacity to run and fund a dedicated department. Due to their low margins and comparatively small sphere of influence, SMEs are often overlooked in this area. Could this be true? Are SMEs capable of adopting CSR into their strategies? Recent seminars at EOI as well as research into this topic, show that CSR can be just as relevant, if not more so, to the overall strategy of SMEs.

There are often various factors that drive SMEs towards CSR oriented practices.  These could be reflected as  their role of suppliers in a larger supply chain, where clients demand that their partners adopt social or environmental requirements in their production processes.  Many large corporations – such as The Body Shop – carefully select their partners according to their ethical attributes.

More frequently however, SMEs are being called upon to integrate CSR into their philosophy from the point of their inception.  Indeed CSR can be seen as creating new business paradigms – many SMEs position themselves as a “love brand” and are established with their social or environmental motivations clearly embedded in their image.  The UK transport company Big Green Coach has a reputation that hinges on their environmental philosophy – with every ticket bought through their website, 5sq ft of Amazon rainforest is sponsored.   It is clear that this provides impetus to their customer base and contributes greatly to their overall success.

Source: http://vimeo.com/77855607

CSR however is not only a tool that can be used to reach out to external stakeholders.  The adoption of CSR practices in many ways starts at home.  Employee satisfaction and motivation are key to the success of a business.  Small by nature, SMEs are flexible and therefore able to adopt new practises quickly.  Employee incentives such as flexitime, home-office days, team “outs” and a comfortable working environment are all concepts that can be easily adopted by SMEs.  From personal experience, I know  how small gestures such as free drinks, fruit or a staff “games room” can really boost overall morale and help to increase productivity.

The size of an SME also allows employees to become more involved than in just one set position.  Allowing employees to vary their tasks promotes staff training, the transfer of knowledge and can provide employees with the sense of belonging while working towards a shared goal.

By creating such foundations based on ethical principles, SMEs can then channel this resource when seeking to have a wider impact.  Employees who feel engaged by their employer are more likely to participate in “extracurricular” social or environmental projects.  Moreover when CSR becomes less of a detached activity and more of a company’s philosophy, they can use this to project their “unique” reputation as an advantage when approaching new trading partners.

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No Longer Business as Usual

Social entrepreneurship – seeds of opportunity…

 

The 2008 financial crisis brought corporate greed to the fore.  The amplitude of huge bonuses, unsustainable business models and high level risks made in the name of profit were revealed to the disbelief of the general public.  Furthermore,  the repercussions of the crisis and ensuing austerity measures brought to light the extent of which our society has been divided and, that deep inequalities deprive many people of access to basic services. Corporations were seen to have acted in their own interest and put profits in front of consumers and those stakeholders indirectly affected by their actions.

As the saying goes “in every crisis lies a seed of opportunity” – it could be argued that this is the catalyst that social enterprise needs to become more widely recognised in mainstream society. On the back of general disillusionment of traditional business models and prevalence of poverty and social exclusion, there is a widening niche for business that look beyond short term profits and consider their social impact as important as their shareholders’ pockets.  Often mistaken for charities or non-for-profit organisations, social enterprises earn their money through trade – they use business methods and principles and therefore aim for longevity. However, rather than being driven by profit, their agenda is to advance social, environmental and human rights campaigns.  A social enterprise allows profits to be levelled out so that they can be widely distributed to projects or campaigns close to the company’s cause.

Social Enterprise. Source: http://www.socialenterprise.org.uk/about/about-social-enterprise/faqs

Social enterprises can be active in many sectors however they are characterised by having a close connection to communities as well as their most important stakeholders.   This results in a constant hands-on approach which can bring about greater impact than, for example, a one-off charitable donation.

While the concept of social enterprise has been discussed for many years, the arguments in favour of a more social approach to business are now louder than ever.  In Europe it can be said that social enterprises are still very fragmented, often operating independently of one another.  As social and digital media become increasingly powerful tools, it would not be surprising if this helps social business to unite.  After all, social enterprise place much emphasis on a participatory approach – therefore creating a culture of accountability and business standards which were lacking by many corporations so badly affected by the financial downturn.

 

Sources

http://www.theguardian.com/social-enterprise-network/2014/mar/21/circus-social-enterprise-developing-world?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/freeing_the_social_entrepreneur

http://www.theguardian.com/social-enterprise-network/2011/nov/23/europe-financial-crisis-social-business-initiative

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Farming Intensity = Food Security?

The term “global food crisis” was brought to our attention in 2008 when rapidly increasing food prices brought about a period of both social and political unrest in many countries across the globe.  The food system suddenly did not appear as stable as it had seemed; between 2006 and 2008, the market price for rice had risen by 217% and wheat by 136%.  Rapid population increases, the world financial crisis and extreme weather conditions (believed to be the effects of global warming) all had a massive knock-on effect on agricultural production.

Global Hunger Index

As is so often the case, the worst effects of the crisis were felt in the most vulnerable areas of the world.  In 2009, the Global Hunger Index reported that one billion people in the world were undernourished with the state in 29 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia being described as exceptionally critical.  Experts predict that by 2050, millions will face starvation as the prices of staple foods double.  This naturally leads to the question:

 

What can be done to ensure food security?


A logical answer would be to try and increase overall yields.

 

This has indeed been discussed by many: from increasing the intensity of agricultural production through to taking advantage of advances in genetically modified (GM) technology to introduce more hardy, bountiful crop varieties.  It has been argued that GM crops, when farmed intensively, could not only provide increased yields, but could provide crops fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. While the public-debate surrounding GM or so-called “Frankenstein” foods may not be as strong as it was 10 years ago, many environmentalists warn against the implementation of GM crops in regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa claiming that their benefits are overstated. Worries still exist concerning the unknown long term risks of GM crops, how they could potentially affect gene flow and whether crops, engineered in the Northern hemisphere, can be adapted to areas such as Sub Saharan Africa. What’s more. Friends of the Earth have commented that GM crops cannot fulfill promises of increased yields and currently crops requiring less water or that are salt resistant only exist as expensive lab experiments.

 

Ethiopia - Traditional Konso Terracing

An increasingly common opinion in the sustainable development field is to focus on maintaining local biodiversity in order to achieve food security.  Intensive farming methods often result in the removal of competing crops, failing to replenish soil with nutrients which leads to the degradation of ecosystems.  This impacts essential resources such as biodiversity and the availability of clean water which consequently threaten human health and social stability. The effects of climate change only exacerbate the situation.  The UN sustainable knowledge platform emphasises these risks and recommends the implementation of sustainable land management.  With focus on smallholders, NGOs such as SOS Sahel have worked with local communities in Ethiopia to develop land management strategies, often based on traditional practices, using indigenous.crops.  Techniques such as mixing/rotating crop varieties naturally returns nutrients to the ground – sparing use of fertilizer – and water management have brought about significantly increased yields whilst ensuring that surrounding ecosystems are respected.  Furthermore it is claimed that this approach not only addresses issues surrounding food security, but also tackles other key areas such as animal welfare, improving rural economies.

While it would be wrong not to take advantage of new technologies in the face of a food shortage, caution should be taken.  People living at subsistence levels have no safe margin of error should things go wrong.  Any solution will be complex, however given the fragile nature of such borderline ecosystems, sustainable principles must be taken into consideration.

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Sustainable Palm Oil

I found the final part of the Environment and Ecological Management class particularly interesting.  This session covered the topic of certification schemes and how they are used to monitor and layout standards to ensure sustainability in various industries. I was particularly surprised at the number of certifications available and the scope which is covered.

I was interested to learn about the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and how this association has been established in order to stop the environmental damage of palm oil.  It would however seem there is still a long road ahead before the principles set by RSPO become adopted into the mainstream.

Palm Oil Background

The debate surrounding palm oil has been widely discussed in the media over recent years.  Palm oil is widely used within the food and energy industries. While many people are unaware of this, palm oil is a key ingredient in foodstuffs varying from chocolates, biscuits and, cereals to being a key element in  soap, shampoo as well as in bio-fuel.  In 2006, palm oil accounted for 56% of worldwide oil and fat exports. Palm is oil is so intensively produced for a number of reasons:

  1. It has the highest yield of any vegetable oil crop

  2. It is cheap to produce and refine

  3. It is a highly versatile oil

  4. It’s high melting point means that it is smooth in consistency and is easy to spread.

Malaysia and Indonesia produce the majority the world’s palm oil, accounting for approximately 86% of the total production.

Palm Oil Debate

Palms require a rainforest climate in which to grow.  In Indonesia and Malaysia huge swathes of land have been cleared to make space for palm oil plantations.  Species such as orangutans are threatened with extinction as deforestation is leading to a loss of their habitats.  Palm oil farms have tripled since 1990. An area of 26 million hectares has been projected to be cleared for palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia by 2025.

The sustainability of palm oil plantations has been raised in recent years. Deforestation not only has huge consequences on an area’s biodiversity, it can also cause soil degradation and land rights issues for local and indigenous communities.

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Riau_palm_oil_2007.jpg

Certification

Increased awareness surrounding the effects of palm oil plantations has led to calls for more regulation in the palm oil  industry.  RSPO was established in 2003.  It uses a business-to-business model to promote the uptake of sustainable palm oil with producers, suppliers and consumers.

In order to become certified, producers need to prove that no primary forests  or areas of cultural biological importance have been cleared.  Furthermore the certification also ensures that working conditions and pay of farmers and workers involved in the production are monitored.

 

Challenges facing RSPO

It would appear however that progress is slow. Sustainable palm oil currently only makes up 15% of the market. As a multi-stakeholder model, progress is slow as parties are required to agree in order for resolutions to be made. Similarly major food producers have been slow to incorporate certified products, particularly in key North American and Chinese markets where demand for sustainable palm oil is low.  The price of the sustainable product is inevitably higher and therefore plays a key role.

As consumers become more aware of the ethical benefits of sustainable palm oil, I am sure that demand will increase and therefore put pressure on producers.  Large retailers such as Carrefour’s support to the RSPO as well as Unilever’s recent commitment to using traceable palm oil sources are great examples of this.  Ultimately in order to ensure a sustained growth in sustainable palm oil production vs non certified palm oil, stricter national and international legislation will be required.

 

 

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The Importance of Ecotones

Source http://www.basic.ncsu.edu/segap/Vertebrate.html

An Ecotone describes an area that acts as a transition or boundary between two ecosystems. This could be, for example, an area of marshland between a river and the riverbank, a clearing within a forest or a much larger area such as the transition between Arctic Tundra and Forest biomes in Northern Siberia. As this area is inevitably Influenced by the two bordering ecosystems, it is therefore a consequence of this that a higher density of organisms and variety of species can be found within an Ecotone. This increase in biodiversity is referred to as the edge effect”.

An Ecotone can be formed naturally – through abiotic factors such as changes in soil composition – but can also be created through the result of human interaction. Clearing of forest areas or irrigation are examples of this.

Ecotones are considered areas of great environmental importance. As well as providing an area for a large number of species, they often experience influx from animals looking to nest or searching for food. They may also be considered a habitat of greater genetic diversity and serve as bridges of “gene flow from one population to another. Additionally an Ecotone can act as a “buffer-zone” protecting the neighbouring ecosystem from possible environmental damage – i.e. a wetland area could absorb pollutants preventing them from seeping into a river or estuary. It is not surprising therefore that Ecotones have attracted a lot of scientific interest.

Source; http://leadnet.org/blog/post/what_we_can_learn_from_ecotones

It seems likely that environmental scientists will pay increasing attention to Ecotones as these provide a sensitive indicator of global change. A contraction or shifting of boundaries is now believed to be a result of climate change. Similarly, as many fauna and flora found in Ecotones are at the limits of their boundaries, any changes to the local environment will be felt by these species first. Their activities therefore act as a barometer for change.

 

 


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Punished for being you: Uganda’s Disturbing Reality

Homophobia – A Threat to Civil Society

Each one of us has a sexuality. This is an integral part of what make us who we are.  Psychologists agree that a person’s sexuality cannot be chosen, forcefully changed or inherited. Despite this, prejudices of same-sex relations in the form of homophobia exist the world over. According to the International Service for Human Rights, “The UN Human Rights Council should take a strong stand against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity”.  Homophobia and intolerance towards sexual minorities is widely debated in the context of a violation of basic Human Rights.  While sexual orientation is not explicitly mentioned in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, evolving perceptions of discrimination and interpretations of Human Rights laws in modern society have given this subject an increased importance.

In many countries prejudices are subtle – in the form of social pressure to conform. However recently in some parts of Africa, homophobia has taken a more violent form. One country where extreme intolerance towards sexual minorities has widely been reported is Uganda.

Hailed as one of Africa’s economic success stories, Uganda has made considerable progress over the past 20 years.  Following the removal of Idi Amin from power in 1979 (one of Africa’s most notoriously tyrannical dictators), and then a decade of civil unrest, the country underwent a period of fundamental economic and political change.  Reforms backed by Western governments as well as the discovery of oil and gas reserves brought about solid growth and a fall in inflation.  During this period of structural adjustment, focus was given to debt relief as well as ensuring consequent public spending management. This then led to the emergence of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and NGOs whose primary goal became to serve the needs to those affected by the diminished role of the state.

Uganda’s history of human rights abuses and the still very restrictive political system has meant that the protection of these has become a key item on the agenda of many NGOs. Indeed as is often the case in a fledgling democracy, the Ugandan government has been criticised for trying to enforce their influence onto civil society.  One particular area that has captured international attention has been government backed attacks on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups. Inherited from colonial rule, the practise of homosexual acts is a criminal offence in Uganda and is punishable with up to life imprisonment.  Despite international condemnation, an anti-homosexuality bill which was submitted in parliament in 2009 and then passed (pending approval) in December 2013 extends this by penalising those seen to support or promote an LGBT agenda.  The bill, which has received widespread international condemnation, suggests harsher penalties for “sexual touching” between same sex-couples and punishes parents who do not report their gay and lesbian children to the authorities as well as landlords who provide housing to suspected homosexuals.  The bill has a very loose framework that leaves many sections open to multiple interpretations. In theory this could mean that anyone associating with gays or lesbians could face condemnation – a doctor treating a gay man could be charged for doing so and an article such as this would be seen as “gay propaganda”.

In Uganda there is a strong anti-gay sentiment rooted in society which has resulted in an extremely marginalised LGBT community.  Such is the shame of being homosexual, that abandonment by families, dismissal from work and refusal of basic medical services are not uncommon.  Many have pointed to the government’s unabated hostility and harassment of homosexuals as a populist method of gaining public support at the cost of an already very vulnerable section of society. A feeling of discomfort towards a “different” group has manifested into a paranoia and obsessional hatred among the general public.  Claims linking homosexuality to the spread of HIV/AIDS as well as defining them as paedophiles looking to “recruit” children contribute to the overall demonisation of gays and lesbians.  In a deeply Christian country where Church and State work closely together this issue has been further exacerbated by an influx of evangelical (anti gay) forms of Christianity from the USA looking to spread their influence and “protect” the moral fabric of society.  Homosexuality is a common theme in church services in which pastors use their platform to preach anti-gay rhetoric and encourage disgust and outrage among their congregations. YouTube Preview Image

Source: http://www.latitudenews.com/story/u-s-exporting-homophobia-to-uganda-part-ii/

Commentators have described homophobic attitudes in Uganda as a virulent hatred, with homosexuality considered by many a sin greater than rape or murder. Those people who choose to live an openly homosexual lifestyle do so at great personal risk.  Curative rape to “treat” lesbianism, gay bashing and even public outings by the tabloid press are bitter realities faced by the Ugandan LGBT community. Civil rights groups and NGOs working with sexual minorities face harassment and many have been forced to withdraw their support from the country.  The murder of prominent advocate for sexual minorities David Kato brought worldwide condemnation. Kato became a publicly known figure in Uganda after he successfully sued the tabloid Rolling Stone for defamation after the newspaper had published Kato’s picture, name and address in an article which called for the execution of these homosexuals who are named and shamed.  Unperturbed, Kato continued his work for the NGO Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) however the frequency of harassment and homophobic threats towards Kato increased dramatically.  It is widely believed that his murder was attributed to his court case and his advocacy of gay rights.

The recent case of the Briton, Bernard Randell, arrested in Uganda on grounds of possessing gay pornography on his personal computer has once again highlighted the desperate situation on an international platform.  Uganda has been dubbed by foreign media as “the worst place to be gay”.  There seems to be little doubt of the truth behind this statement. In a country where the government systematically subjects a minority to unabated harassment and actively encourage their discrimination, it would appear that very little consideration is given to basic human rights.  The effectiveness of CSOs is being impeded, leaving an already vulnerable group in an even worse position. The role of civil society in stimulating public debate and offering a platform for all citizens has in this context been silenced.  The government has rebuked calls from the international community for a policy change and further antagonize the situation by labelling homosexuality a Western disease and “Un-African”, therefore encouraging nationalistic convictions.  Ironically the reality of the anti-homosexual laws and intolerant attitudes are more reminiscent of British colonial rule when homosexuality was defined and outlawed within the legal system, than of a free, independent Africa.

While the future for Uganda’s LGBT community is unclear it is of utmost importance that their struggle is not forgotten or goes unheard.  It has been suggested that foreign donors should halt aid in protest, however this would then leave the LGBT community in a more vulnerable position. It seems clear that in Uganda as indeed much of Africa, acceptance and the beginnings of equality for the LGBT community can only be brought about with a general acceptance that sexuality is key to what makes us who we are.

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Urban Regeneration in Sheffield

Key Facts

Sheffield is located in the North of England in the county of South Yorkshire, 40km south of Leeds.  According to the 2011 census the city has a population of 513234, with an estimated population density of 1,395 people per km².  The metropolitan area comprises four local authorities (Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley) with an estimated population of 1285600 inhabitants.  The city has a GDP of 26645 USD per capita (2013), which is below the national average of 38514 USD.

Sheffield  – Host City

Sheffield would be likely contender to host an international sports event in the UK.  The city boasts a strong sporting heritage and has already held major events such as The World Student Games (1991) and was one of the venues for the European Football Championships (1996).  It has been described as the UK’s greenest city – there are  more parks per square km than any other UK city and also more than one-third of the city lies within the boundaries of the “Peak District” national park.  Needless to say, the city would face a number of constraints which would need to be solved prior to the start of the event.  Three issues that the city currently faces have been identified below:

 

1. Urban Degeneration – The topic of urban degeneration is particularly relevant in two key regions of the Sheffield: the Central Business District (CBD) and “Don Valley” area (formerly heavily industrialised district located on the North East of the city).  Once a significant industrial centre, the iron and steel industries left Sheffield over 20 years ago. Many former industrial sites are derelict today.  Furthermore a large out-of-town shopping complex has exacerbated the decline of the CBD.

2. Insufficient Public Transport – Car journeys within the city continue to increase, while usage of public transport has contracted.  There are 245000 cars registered in the city and over 67% of all entries into the city are made by car.  Criticisms have been made of the lack of bus provision (especially evenings and outside of peak times).  The tram network is also seen to be insufficient, costly to run and has bypassed several major residential zones.  Furthermore, Sheffield does not have a city airport – the nearest major airport is in Manchester, 70 km away, meaning any international visitors would need to make an extra journey to reach the city.

3. Gentrification –  This is relatively new issue to the city. Previous urban regeneration projects have been criticised on the grounds of social exclusion.  Traditionally working class and areas with social housing have been sold to private construction companies and remodeled in some cases pricing existing tenants out of the market.

Many would consider the problem of urban degeneration to be the greatest challenge that Sheffield currently faces and we will examine this in greater depth.  As the city centre is often regarded as key to a city’s image, the topic of urban degeneration in the CBD of Sheffield of particular relevance.

Degeneration in the CBD

The opening of the Meadowhall shopping complex in 1990 has been accused of draining the city centre of shoppers and pulling traders out of the CBD.  Meadowhall offers a vast array of high street brands as well as leisure facilities and attracts over 25 million visitors per year. Through Meadowhall’s situation next to the M1 motorway and public transport interchange, the centre is easy to reach from the city and surrounding region.  Additionally Meadowhall offers extended opening times and free car parking, further adding to the convenience of the shopping experience.

Source: st33.wordpress.com

The recent recession and rise of online shopping has also put pressure on classical shop-based retailers.  Currently 26% of shop space in the CBD of Sheffield is vacant.  On a national scale, this places Sheffield as the city with the 6th highest number of vacant retail properties. The variety of retailers has also decreased as discounters with lower overheads have moved into existing property on short-term leases. Consequently areas of the CBD are experiencing various degrees of decay which further act to deter potential visitors.

In order to reverse the decline, there are a number of measures which could be undertaken:

Park & Ride – One common complaint on public discussion forums is that car parking in the city centre is expensive.  A park & ride initiative would allow visitors to the city to park outside of the city free of charge in a secure area and pay a small fare to use an express bus (with a dedicated bus lane) or tram to reach the centre.  A park & ride model that has been praised is the scheme in Edinburgh. A Park & Ride system has a two pronged effect of reducing car journeys, congestion and associated emissions and also acts as an incentive for shoppers to visit the city centre.

Tax incentives – On a political level, government could award tax incentives for businesses located in city centres. Recently there have been calls for the freezing of business rates to encourage new retailers and also help maintain current stock.

Contained Communities – Drawing from urban design principles of Jane Jacobs, the identity of an area can be strengthened by mixing retail areas with both residential and commercial properties.  By mixing land use in Sheffield CBD this could encourage more people to relocate to the CBD.  Through the incorporation of residential property with commercial usage, this will help forge the creation of urban communities where citizens live, work and spend leisure time in the local area. Jane Jacobs’ humanistic idea that you should be able to see a city from your front-door, reflects a sustainable environment where people travel less in order to fulfill their daily needs.  Such projects could lead to improvements in local environment as well as bring social benefits such as a reduction in crime levels due to an influx of new services.

Source: eastvillagelondon.co.uk

There is currently a lack of housing in Sheffield, with local media suggesting that at least 1300 new homes will be needed every year for the next 15 years.  In the context of a large sporting event, it is interesting to examine the legacy of the London Olympic games.  The event provided the locality of Stratford and other areas of East London  with a considerable uplift in the number of affordable new houses – over 30% of new accommodation built in conjunction with the Olympic village was dedicated to social housing following the event. East Village has incorporated social services such as schools and medical centres, with leisure, retail and commercial (office space) property – all within walking distance of residential areas.  While such an extensive project would not be possible within the confines of the urban landscape of Sheffield’s CBD, a scaled down adaption of the core self contained principles would be a feasible option to reduce degradation within Sheffield.

Ideally all three suggestions could be integrated into Sheffield city centre however obvious financial and political constraints would play a pivotal role.  By strengthening the position of CBD, other issues such as transportation and gentrification would also be addressed; a better connected CBD would encourage car users to turn to public transport and the integration of affordable housing and working space within the urban realm would act as a catalyst for population growth and regeneration.

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No Change on Climate Change

Typhoon Haiyan that battered the Philippines in November 2013 provided the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Warsaw with a suitably sober context upon which to build discussions.  While the effects of Haiyan are still being assessed, the typhoon left thousands dead.  It has been reported that the lives of over 11 million people were affected by Haiyan, causing some 673 000 people to become displaced.  Links have already been made to the effects of climate change on the severity of the storm.  By 2100, average global temperatures are expected to have increased by at least 4 degrees; many have predicted that in the future extreme weather events will increase both in frequency as well as intensity.   In the context of the Philippines and other countries whose existing resources are not able to cope with environmental disasters, dealing with the massive social and economic effects of this is possibly one of greatest challenges they will face in the decades to come.

A study undertaken by the World Bank – Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change (EACC) in 2009 estimated that the price for developing countries to adapt to climate change will be between 75-100 billion USD per year between 2010 and 2050 which equates to 0.2% of the GDP of all developing countries.  Case studies were presented in seven different countries, all of whom could be considered vulnerable to extreme weather events.  The study found that economic capabilities were of great importance to the reaction to natural disasters stating that the alleviation of poverty was the single most important factor.  It also highlighted adaption strategies that could be adopted by poorer regions, however stated that these should be undertaken carefully prioritising initial “low-regret” options over larger scale investment which, according to many calculations, unless correctly planned and suitably allocated would not provide adequate protection.

The findings of this report are closely related to one of the outcomes of the latest UNFCCC conference.  It was decided in Warsaw that a “loss-damage” mechanism would be drafted.  The original aim of this was to form a new branch alongside mitigation (such as to set targets to cut emissions) and adaptation (advanced preparations for climate change).   The loss-damage mechanism would aim to provide extra funding to bear the costs of countries that struggle to cope with the costs of extreme weather phenomena resulting from climate change.  This also acts as an admission that human action is very likely has a direct influence on climate change.  The mechanism was agreed upon during the last day of the conference with talks extending until late in the evening.  However, there was disagreement over awarding the mechanism the status of a separate branch.  Negotiators finally agreed on the content of the mechanism however it was decided that this would fall under the umbrella of “adaptation”.

This fell short of expectations of developing countries and environmental campaigners alike:

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Developed countries, particularly the USA, argued that a loss-damage mechanism belonged under the mandate of adaptation. They claimed that adaptation measures are essential in order to prevent wide-scale loss and damage. Critics on the other hand pointed towards a market-failure: developed countries are failing to admit responsibility for their negative externalities and by doing so have ensured that the notions of compensation and culpability have been discarded.

Naturally, developed countries are the largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions.  Low lying islands and countries in the developing world consider themselves to be disproportionately affected by climate change due to the threat of rising sea levels.  Many have been campaigning for years for an introduction of a loss-damage mechanism and argue that when people’s livelihoods stand in balance or they have to leave their homeland unwillingly then this cannot be classified as adaptation.  It is feared that by doing so, focus will be disproportionately placed on preventative measures and not on mobilisation of resources to crisis areas. As the effects of climate change are already clear, many argue that an independent loss-damage mechanism is crucial in order to ensure an efficient and adequate provision of funding.

The Warsaw conference once again showed that there are clear tensions between developed and developing nations.  Countries such as Japan and Australia, who revised their emissions targets, were harshly criticised.  In the wake of the destruction of Haiyan, forecasters warn that the Philippines will experience an increase in the number of fierce typhoons.  On average 22 typhoons affect the country per year, this year Haiyan was the 24th.  With damages also increasing year on year (average 220 million USD / storm), the development of a loss and damage strategy and application of this seems to be more important than ever.

 

References:

http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2011/06/06/economics-adaptation-climate-change

http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2010/01/16436675/economics-adaptation-climate-change-synthesis-report

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/warsaw-mechanism-a-move-forward-in-climate-change-debate-a-935931.html

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2013/nov/20/climate-talks-walk-out-compensation-un-warsaw

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