Category Archives: Uncategorized

Acceleration – a theme from Future Earth – Research for Global Sustainability

by George A. Garland, DBA, Director, Energy Project, UNA-SNY

The Great Acceleration provides a planetary dashboard of 12 socio-economic and 12 earth system trends that help explain why we the future of the global community is now up to us. (  Yesterday I blogged Clean Power Win. So how can we accelerate progress toward that win?  Here are some thoughts of what we might review and analyze.

Success stories – What did they do, how did they do it, what did it cost, what are the payoffs? The 3,000 plus wastewater treatment plants have a basic mission to clean water. Managing the residuals from that basic mission to generate energy, save other residuals from landfills, and reduce costs for the ratepayers is extra. Success stories which make clear the means and benefits from taking on that extra risk will ease the path for stakeholders in wastewater treatment plants to play a vital role in promoting energy efficiency and production of renewable energy.

             Peer matching – Decision makers trust other decision makers in similar positions to answer questions on concerns about things that can go right or wrong and appreciate local challenges. Public works directors trust public works directors. Mayors trust mayors. City managers trust city managers. Peer matching facilitates access to officials responsible for successful projects for those considering change.

Information exchange – Governors, State legislators, mayors, city managers, public works directors, and various professionals have annual meeting with break out sessions on topics of interest. Support break out sessions on moving waterwater treatment plants from using 3% of electricity produced in the US to producing 6% of the electricity used in the US at these annual meetings. How is a Massachusetts program to encourage anaerobic digestion working? California? Which of the 47 States which the US Environmental Protection Agency found to have energy efficiency programs are happy with their results?

Dashboard – What would a dashboard tracking success stories in achieving energy efficiency and capacity to produce renewable energy look like?


Notes on Sustainable Energy For All Forum

by George A. Garland, DBA, Director, UNA Energy Project

The Second Annual Sustainable Energy for All Forum ( had 2500 registrants for meetings in New York on four days in May 2015. Simultaneous tracks included Financing Sustainable Energy for All, Driving Country Action, Universal Energy Access, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Global Policy Agenda, and Growing the Movement. SE4ALL commits the global community to provide access to all, double energy efficiency, and double the share of energy coming from renewables by 2030.

            Kandeh Yumkella, Special Representative of the Secretary General , Sustainable energy for All, noted that energy access had been extended to an additional 200 million people leaving 1.1 billion yet to be served. Anita Marangoly George, Senior Director, Global Practice on Energy and Extractive Industries, World Bank, and John Podesta, former Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton and Counselor to President Barack Obama, USA both called for integration of the Sustainable Development Goals, which now include energy targets, with Sustainable Energy For All.

The Sustainable Development Goals will be presented to the September 2015 General Assembly for adoption. In July 2015, Financing for Development will meet in Addis Ababa to address funding for the Sustainable Development Goals and commitments to address climate change from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Paris in December 2015. Citing needed investment at over a trillion dollars per year, Anita George estimated needed funding from public private partnerships at $46 billion per year to achieve universal access to energy, $360 billion per year to double the renewable energy share, and $390 billion per year to double energy efficiency by 2030. She noted that, without the $46 billion in additional investments for universal energy access, by 2030 the number without access to electricity will increase above 1.1 billion.

Financing Sustainable Energy for All

            Payback period for many projects less than two years. Larger buildings in New York City (over 50,000 square feet) have already taken steps. NYC offering technical assistance to smaller buildings to facilitate action. Many small projects may be aggregated to make them attractive to financial institutions. Branding similar efficiency actions may help to make energy efficiency loans as easy as car loans. European Bank for Reconstruction and Development aggregates by industrial sector (eg steel industry). Losses in energy transmission a financing target. Inter-American Development Bank does workshops to familiarize private sector engineers and chief financial officers with energy efficiency opportunities. World Bank sets up energy efficiency revolving funds; uses utilities as marketing intermediaries; partial credit guarantees; ESCO’s.

Universal Energy Access

            High impact on lives of women and children with investments in clean cooking as about 4 million deaths per year from 3 billion using dirty stoves—more deaths than from HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and malaria combined. Hospital electricity to assist in births and cold chain for drugs needing refrigeration also high impact. Solar for African schools (half no electricity) and pumping water also high impact.

Renewable Energy

            Cost of solar and wind down. Renewables use much less water

Global Energy Policy

            Emphasis on bankable projects, private sector initiative. . IMF report on subsidies noted.

Growing the Movement

            High Impact Opportunities and High Impact Implementation projects were identified for Clean Energy Mini-Grids, the Water-Energy-Food Nexus, and Bioenergy.

Ending routine gas flaring a global priority. Involving youth a priority.

Source Materials: What’s Available on Climate and Sustainability

by George A. Garland, Director, Energy Project

A Safe and Just Space for Humanity: Can We Live Within the Doughnut?

is an Oxfam Discussion Paper by Kate Raworth. Traditional economic analysis assumes that all information is available and the price system makes optimal decisions. Kate Raworth uses the doughnut to show planetary boundaries of a safe operating space and the unmet need for economic justice for the billion or so people living on less than $1.25 a day. The center of the doughnut represents economic injustice and the outside of the doughnut is earth unsafe for humans.  This is a great summary of environmental and developmental issues not captured by the normal price system.

Planetary Boundaries The past 10,000 years or so (the Holocene) have been a safe operating space for humans with temperatures within a relatively narrow range. Just published in Science, “Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet” updates a 2009 article which introduced tipping points beyond which we could move out of a safe operating space. These nine dimensions are, briefly, climate change, biosphere integrity (biodiversity), land system change (forests, agricultural use), ocean acidification, biogeochemical flows (nitrogen, phosphorous), freshwater use, atmospheric aerosol loading, stratospheric ozone depletion, and novel entities (chemical pollution). A range of values is given within which risk of unexpected and irreversible change is possible. For climate change, the range of atmospheric carbon is 350 parts per million to 500 parts per million. We are currently at about 400 parts per million so we are in the zone of risk.

Sustainable Development Goals The United Nations summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda will be held from 25 to 27 September 2015, in New York and convened as a high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly.

A draft set of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), with 169 targets, will form the basis of intergovernmental discussions over the next year. The draft, compiled by a UN-appointed working group that comprised 70 countries, was presented to the General Assembly.

Age of Sustainability Jeff Sachs, United Nations point person for Sustainable Development Goals and Director of Columbia’s Earth Institute, points out that global economic production will triple by 2050 while carbon intensity needs to fall by half from amount used today—a reduction by a factor of 6. His course highlights challenges including sustainable cities, food, energy, and health to achieve social justice, good governance, and environmental sustainability.  Enroll at

Climate and Energy Policy in the Global Context

by Brandon Huck, Coordinator, UNA-SNY Energy Project

On September 17, the Southern New York Division’s (SNY) Energy Project held an event entitled “Climate and Energy Policy in the Global Context” at the UN Foundation Office in Manhattan.

The featured speakers were Tapio Kanninen, PhD and George Garland, DBA.   David Stillman, PhD, a UNA-SNY Division board member and Executive Director, Public-Private Alliance Foundation, served as the event’s moderator. The nearly 30 other participants included UN staff and consultants, UNA members, professionals from various fields, faculty, and students. The event coincided with the lead up to Climate Action Week in New York City.

Dr. Kanninen’s presentation began with graphs depicting how the recent growth in fossil fuel emissions is increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, matching historically high average temperatures and leading to sea level rises. Dr. Kanninen also posed a series of questions related to global energy consumption patterns and the need to produce more energy from renewable sources to displace the world’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels. Among his key points were:

– Increased demand and use of fossil fuels from the ‘BRICS’ and other rapidly developing countries is only adding to the already unsustainable levels of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.

– Only 30-40 percent of current proven fossil-fuel reserves can be burnt to have a reasonable chance of remaining below the 2°C target increase in the earths’ average temperature. Yet the flow of investments into fossil energy is about 3-4 times bigger than into renewable energy sources.

– Present alternative energy sources – primarily solar, wind, and nuclear—contribute only a small proportion of global energy supplies relative to fossil fuels and would not sustain current global economic growth.

– The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is marshalling experts from various fields in robust dialogue and reporting about climate change’s causes and effects. However, its call to “double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix” is not enough on its own.

– One proposed market solution is a cap-and-trade system and this option will be included in the climate change discussions at the 2015 Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Paris.

– Global challenges are more than interconnected than ever, but humans consistently underestimate the impact or threat from these connections.

Dr. Kanninen finished by underscoring that the change of focus from short-term to long-term sustainable development goals (SDGs) is not going to be easy. Therefore, there is a need to educate people at all levels about the climate change crisis and to provide ways for them to do their part to help stem the tide of climate change.

Dr. Garland started by noting that China has passed the U.S. in total CO2 emissions, with the U.S. now second and India third. However, the U.S. still leads by far in per capita emissions. Meanwhile, the EU altogether produces about half the level of U.S. emissions.

He also pointed to several facts from recent reports and studies on the impact of current energy consumption:

– An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report predicts that at current energy use rates, the world will miss the proposed carbon reduction goals by a factor of more than two.

– The OECD’s International Energy Agency foresees world energy consumption being up 56% by 2040, with approximately 90% of the increase coming from countries outside the OECD.

– US Energy Information Agency foresees a 25% increase in power generation by 2040, with one-third of increase coming from renewables and two-thirds coming from natural gas.

– A recent McKinsey report indicated that the US could reduce its energy consumption by 20% through efficiency programs. Although more than 75% of U.S. states now have energy efficiency requirements, state and local governments must continue to take the lead in innovating.

– The U.S. is stymied from taking more action at the federal government level to reduce emissions due to either political stalemate between the President and U.S. Congress or because of legal barriers, such as state lawsuits against energy use regulations proposed by the EPA and other agencies.

– One corrective measure that could be used is implementation of a tax on carbon emissions.

– Bangladesh offers an example of a government that is encouraging its people to change their behaviors, for example by promoting solar power, by taxing energy usage, and by cooperating with private enterprises to identify effective incentive programs.

Dr. Garland concluded his remarks by warning that the UN’s ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ initiative is likely to be insufficient in solving for the lack or limited access to energy that 1 billion people suffer from daily.

Click here for a video of the event

You can receive Dr. Kanninen’s presentation and Dr. Garland’s notes by emailing a request to:


UN Global Pulse: Features the work of scientists and statisticians who produce data on climate change.

Climate Action:  Climate Action works with the UN Environment Program to establish and build partnerships between business, government and public bodies to accelerate international sustainable development and advance the ‘green economy,’ partly through media.

Climate Reality Project: The Climate Reality Project trains individuals as speakers available to the public to discuss climate change topics and provides other opportunities personal involvement and action.

‘The Future of Energy‘: A new non-profit film about the clean energy revolution.  The site provides action plans and opportunities for screening the film.

Energy Project Team: Visit to ‘The Science Barge’ in Yonkers on 9/15/12

By Brandon Huck, Energy Project Working Group – story and photos

On Saturday, September 15th, members of the Energy Project working group (of the UNA-USA’s Southern NY State Division) visited ‘The Science Barge’ in Yonkers, New York. The Science Barge is a prototype sustainable urban farm floating on the Hudson River and moored at the revitalized Yonkers Waterfront. Developed by New York Sun Works and acquired by Groundwork Hudson Valley in October 2008, the barge is maintained by a small full-time staff and several rotating volunteers (often student interns).  More information at:   To join the UNA-SNY Energy Project, email:

Continue reading

Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS)

by Laura Winninger, UNA-SNY Intern

IRIS and GIIN are two new acronyms to add to our development vocabulary.

In recent years, a growing number of impact investors, who seek to create social good or improve the health of the environment, as well as achieve financial returns, were facing major difficulties  regarding the evaluation of their investments. Because a large number of organizations created their own “metrics”, criteria that indicate their social as well as environmental performance, the comparison between companies was limited.

In order to eliminate these evaluation differences The Rockefeller Foundation, Acumen Fund and B Lab initiated “Impact Reporting and Investment Standards” (IRIS) , which became an initiative of GIIN, the Global Impact Investing Network in 2009. These standards aim at creating a common language for organizations to assess and report on their social, financial and environmental performance as well as to enable comparison to other companies.

The framework of IRIS is based on six points – organization description, product description, financial performance, operational impact, product impact and glossary – which may be reported for the whole company or for a single product. Additionally, a set of sector- based metrics are provided for organizations that impact a particular sector.

Agriculture, environment, energy and water are among these metrics, the increasing importance of sustainability and green energy in businesses is once again approved – good news in the International Year of Sustainable Energy and for all those supporting the UNA-USA’s Energy Project.


National Regulations on Fracking a Step Closer

Federal regulation aimed at controlling hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, have come a step closer, following an announcement by President Obama that the first national regulations are to be set. The announcement comes after the release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (ERA) draft regulations aimed at controlling pollution. The announcement by the Obama administration follows a series of actions aimed at regulating fracking, which has come under severe criticism from environmental campaigners and the EPA. However, energy producers and the Republican Party, accuse those opposed to fracking of stifling energy production, especially in a climate of rocketing energy prices. Continue reading

Women and energy

by Pedro Vicente, Intern

Changing from an economy based on use of fossil fuels to one using clean and efficient energy is a major concern for this century. The United Nations General Assembly declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, recognizing that “…access to modern affordable energy services in developing countries is essential for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, and sustainable development, which would help to reduce poverty and to improve the conditions and standard of living for the majority of the world’s population.” Continue reading

Rio+20 preparations presented at NY Rotary Club

by Ana Nano, Intern

On April 18, at the breakfast of the Rotary Club of New York, Ms. Tania Raguz, the First Secretary of the Mission of Croatia to the UN, and Vice- Chair for the preparation of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, spoke about the expectations for the event and issues to be resolved concerning the theme.  The conference (known as Rio +20) will be held in Rio de Janeiro, June 20-22, 2012.

Hastings-on-Hudson, NY Tackles Climate Change

The Conservation Commission of the Village of Hastings-on-Hudson, NY has tapped into local talent to produce a four-part series of presentations on climate change.  The series is:  Lifting the Fog: straight Talk on Climate Change – History, Science, Policy and Psychology.  Videos of the first two talks are available through the links below, and the others will be added as they take place.  To watch them full screen (advised) “right click” on the video, and choose “Zoom”.

PART ONE:  A History  –   January 22, 2012

Spencer R. Weart, physicist and noted historian, was Direcctor of the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics, until his retirement in 2009.  He is author of numerous books, including “The Discovery of Global Warming,” now in its second edition and translated into eight languages.  

PART TWO – The Greenhouse Gas Emissions Gap: International Climate Change Negotiations and Options for the United States.   Sun., Feb 12, 2012

Joseph A. Siegel – Attorney, Professor, Peacemaker.  Joe is a climate change lawyer, environmental conflict resolver, and educator of aspiring environmental attorneys.  Joe attended the United Nations climate change summit in Cancun, Mexico in 2010 with an NGO observer group focused on climate change ethics. As a certified mediator and facilitator, Joe is an Advisor to the Kheel Center on the Resolution of Environmental Interest Disputes and was a member of the Advisory Group to the United Nations Environment Programme and Permanent Court of Arbitration on environmental dispute resolution and dispute avoidance.