Thursday, January 7, 2010

This Century’s Science of Hope: implementing ecological restoration as a strategy for climate change response and low carbon-green cities

By Linda Krippner, IUTC Visiting Instructor, Krippner Consulting LLC.

Low carbon-green cities aim to sustain human populations by mitigating the effects of climate change and restoring healthy ecosystems. Our increasing use of natural resources and expanding urban areas threaten the health of the ecosystems and the strength of the economies that sustain us. In addition, climate change resulting from increasing human sources of greenhouse gas emissions threatens ecosystem and economic balance globally. Urbanization and climate change have similar effects in that they both contribute to a loss of biodiversity and they change the intensity of flooding, causing damage to both ecosystems and infrastructure. Therefore restoration techniques used in the U.S.A. to compensate for urban development can also play a role in adapting to climate change and maintaining ecosystem health. Three restoration projects from Washington State, U.S.A. are described to show how different types of restoration design are being used to restore ecosystem health under the pressures of both urban development and climate change. All of the projects enhance habitats and biodiversity. Loss of biodiversity is a major global concern. Other ecosystem functions restored by the projects include flood management, water quality treatment, and aquifer recharge. Increasing these functions through restoration provides human populations and the diversity of life on earth ways of adapting to the increasing effects of climate change.

Below is an excerpt from Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change (Dauncey and Mazza, 2001) highlighting the importance of this science of hope and the dreams that can be fulfilled with it:

From Scotland, Alan Watson Featherstone is spreading the idea that the United Nations should declare the 21st century a “Century of Ecological Restoration.” He is proposing that an Earth Restoration Service be created, enrolling volunteers from all over the world to restore the mangroves to Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, the cedar forests to Lebanon, the Caledonian pine forest to Scotland; to clean polluted beaches; to remove unnecessary roads from wild places; to take down the dams that block wild rivers; to clean toxic waste sites; to restore the forest to the African Sahel; to heal the holes in the ozone layer; to restore the atmosphere to its previous balance; to fill the world’s cities with trees and gardens; to restore the Black Sea and the Aral Sea to their former health; to return the tiger to India and the wild buffalo to the American prairies; to return the beaver to Scotland, the wolf to Japan, the Arabian oryx to the wild Oman.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Low-Carbon, Green Growth and Eco-Capitals in the Asia-Pacific Region

Kwi-Gon Kim, Ph. D.
Director, International Urban Training Center, supported by UN-HABITAT

Prof., Seoul National University

Emerging as a serious issue rather than a problem in the distant future, global warming has become an environmental problem affecting almost all sectors in our lives. It is time for policy makers to view and respond comprehensively to global warming effects.
The recent climate change impacts in the Asia-Pacific region range from floods and tsunami to vegetation zone, migratory birds' migration, and vegetable cultivation. East Asia in particular is cited as one of the highest greenhouse gas emission areas in the world.
The issue of climate change becomes an essential component for consideration in the management, growth, and spatial planning of urban areas. Thus, low-carbon, green growth should be a paradigm for dealing with the urban change impacts and urban development issue.
Green growth is a new paradigm for environmentally sustainable economic growth. Therefore, the goal of green growth is to create a win-win synergy between the environment and economy through the integration of economic and environmental policies. The success of green growth through the eco-capital policy depends on the maintenance of urban ecology. Therefore, the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the UN and Johannesburg Plan of Implementation as adopted during the World Summit on Sustainable Development required green growth as well. Low-carbon, green growth policy was also emphasized in the Tokyo G8 Summit.
Some suggestions that are helpful to the creation of eco-capital for low-carbon, green growth in the Asia-Pacific region are presented below.

First, we need to share information on the best practices of eco-capital creation in the Asia-Pacific region. There are many ecological cities, villages, and buildings developed to be in harmony with natural environment based on each country's custom and culture in the region. An information exchange system for sharing such best practices needs to be built, and the collection of best practices or catalogue publication may be included in such efforts.

Second, we need to build the Asia-Pacific Eco-Capital (or Eco City) Network (tentative name). In the network, cities wishing to be eco-capitals may be included as well as those recognized as eco-capitals. Centered on the network, low-carbon model city strategy and action plan should be devised comprehensively at the level of the Asia-Pacific region.

Third, we need to establish a city governance system in the Asia-Pacific region to implement the low-carbon, green growth and eco-capital strategy and action plan. Creating a "Low-Carbon, Eco-Capital Fund" in the Asia-Pacific region is recommendable to build and operate inclusive city governance where all stakeholders participate. In other words, there is a need to unfold the eco-capital initiative in the Asia and Pacific region using the fund.

Fourth, we need to analyze and assess the ecological or carbon footprints of major cities in the Asia-Pacific region. The ecological footprint is a tool for measuring the productive land amount required for a limited population or an economic unit to consume natural resources and process waste; it is derived from the analysis of environmental capacity and carrying capacity. Ecological sustainability in particular can be carried out when the ecological footprint and carrying capacity match.
Korea's ecological footprint as calculated by the UN environment program was 3.4ha per person in 1999, revealing a shortage of 2.7ha per person. In 2002, however, the footprint was 4.3ha per person or 3.8ha per person short. This means that development beyond the limit was realized, and that the extent of development becomes more serious each year. Thus, climate change impact mitigation and adaptation measures need to be prepared as rapidly as possible based on the abovementioned data.

Building eco-capital is expected to contribute enormously to green growth that can meet the international society's requirements, creating social, economic, and cultural values. It can also be helpful to ecological and cultural policies in the Asia-Pacific region.
The eco-capital policy for green growth not only enhances the balance between environmentality and economic efficiency of the already proposed projects but also helps create new businesses and jobs. In this regard, WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development) has provided more progressive green businesses since the mid-1990s and has promoted the concept of ecological efficiency.
The formation of eco-capital contributing to low-carbon, green growth requires CO2 emission control, CO2-absorbent source expansion, scientific survey and research, observation and monitoring, technology development and dissemination, and social, technical, and systematic responses on the dimension of international cooperation.
In particular, the expansion of ODA (Overseas Development Assistance) and supporting strategy should be prepared from the financial system perspective. For this supporting strategy, the status of climate change impacts of cities to be supported, vulnerability assessment, and climate change adaptation-related organizations as well as policies, program status, minimization and adaptation alternative and strategy, action plan and pilot projects, and identification of limitations and opportunities for implementation need to be included.
Finally, concerning eco-capital development for low-carbon, green growth, conducting climate change impact assessment and environmental impact assessment together according to various urban development projects would be ideal.

* Copyrights: International Urban Training Center

Collaboration Project between IUTC and Nepal Government

Prof. Kwi-Gon Kim(Seoul National University), director of IUTC, supported by UN-HABITAT, along with UN-HABITAT, KOICA, UNDP and Nepal Government, held a short training course in Kathmandu, Nepal, under the theme of “eco-city development in Nepal”, and held a ground-breaking ceremony in PN Campus of Tribhuvan University in Pohkara for the eco-pond establishment.

Many participants from various institutions including Kishore Thapa, joint secretary at Ministry of Physical Planning & Works (MPPW), and Anne-Isabelle Degryse-Blateau, UNDP country director were present at the training event.

As the global interest on eco-city has been increasing, IUTC training course included best practices of Korea and the abroad, discussion and field trips to complement theory lectures, thereby efficiently providing practical method and techniques for the application in Nepal.

Korea Environment & Resources Corporation (ENVICO), who also participated in the event, in particular, provided expert lecture on technology and application of Korean RDF (renewable energy technology) which earned great response from the Nepalese participants.

In addition to the training course, during September 20-21, IUTC had a feasibility study in PN Campus of Tribhuvan University for the establishment of eco-pond, along with an opening ceremony.

With the opening ceremony and feasibility study as momentum, PN-Campus project, collaborated among UNDAP, KOICA, Nepal government, IUTC as well as PN-Campus of Pokhara, has been begun in full-scale.

Aside from the above, project feasibility study for the expansion of RDF facility in Pokara was held during the same period by ENVICO.

Prof. Kwi-Gon Kim, director of IUTC, has pointed out the significance of the collaboration project by saying, “This collaboration project between Nepal and IUTC will enhance the further cooperation with other international institutions and contribute to the sustainable development in Asia-Pacific region.”.

* Copyrights: International Urban Training Center

Urban Transitions: Principles in EcoCity Development

Prof. Ken Yocom (PhD)
University of Washington

The global population is now on the threshold of transitioning into a primarily urban society. While urban areas cover only 2% of the earth’s land surface, approximately half of the world’s population now lives in these areas. By 2030 the United Nations estimates more than 60% of the world’s population will live in cities (United Nations. 2004. World Population Prospects: The 2004 / unpp (accessed in October 2008). This redistribution of the global population will transform towns into cities, cities into mega-cities, and mega-cities into mega-regions. Such unprecedented rates of growth and development will strain the capacity of ecosystems and current political and economic structures to support these increased urban densities.
In response to both the ecological and social challenges resulting from these urban transitions, we must take time to reexamine our urban values, redefine current methods in urban design and planning, and search for innovative approaches to enhancing social equity and ecological health. This requires integrating many knowledge bases and professional practices in order to understand the problems that cities face and create in their full complexity.
The EcoCity concept is one such approach. It is a holistic concept that works to understand and develop urban areas into sustainable places by re-conceptualizing the planning and structures that support urban life. The foundational tenets of this concept actively engage practitioners and academics from a wide range of development focused disciplines to work together to manage urban environments as dynamic spatial, socio-political, and ecological places. This idea has recently generated and gained support in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Translated into implementation strategies the EcoCity concept is comprehensively applied to a wide range of urban concerns from development patterns to energy consumption, from water treatment to transportation planning, to the very socio-structural components that establish the foundations of urban life.
Although limited, the issues listed above reflect the complexity of the problems at hand. We as professional planners, engineers, urban designers and global citizens should strive to work with organizations such as the International Urban Training Center to develop and refine urban places based on inclusive models that integrate ecologies, economics, and social equity.

* Copyrights: International Urban Training Center

Promotion of Comprehensive Master Plan for Waste-to-Energy in Korea

Hyun-hee Lee (PhD)
Waste-to-Energy Specialist
Korea Environment & Resources Corporation

The waste management has become more and more difficult recently as the economic development has brought the continuous increase of amount and types of wastes from daily life. In order to solve the root of such waste management problem, the establishment of Zero Waste Society which maximizes the waste reduction and recycle, thereby decreasing the use of natural resources and minimizing environmental pollution from wastes, is required. The increase of energy price, in particular, has shift the paradigm from the 2E with Environment and Economy, into 3E era of additional Energy element. Under such paradigm shift, the increased use of new renewable energy is urgently needed to substitute the dwindling supplies of fossil fuels and to prepare for global climate change. Ministry of Environment (MOE) established the Comprehensive Master Plan for Waste-to-Energy in May this year to recognize the waste as new energy source, and to restraint the ocean dumping of liquid organic wastes which contains increased restriction due to the high price of oil, carbon gas reduction, and the London Convention-1996 Protocol.
2007 data of the waste-to energy profile in Korea shows that in waste solid fuel field, one RDF manufacturing facility (80 ton/day), and 34 private RPF manufacturing facility (37,000 ton/day) have been under operation. Even though biogasfication industry which uses food waste, sewage sludge, and livestock night soil are partially active, its scale and feasibility are yet insignificant. Therefore, the plan recognizes the potential energy production scale as 12,180,000 ton/year through the use of combustible wastes and organic wastes, and aims to produce waste-to-energy of 3800,000 ton / year by 2012. Furthermore, the plan intends to produce 1,280,000 ㎥/year from residual heat from incineration and landfill gas of 308,160㎥/day.

The detailed plan for facility expansion comprises the total of 57 facilities, including manufacturing RDF facilities for combustible wastes with powers plants, and biogasfication facilities for organic wastes with power plants by 2012.
Also, landfill gas collector facilities will be supported to 27 local government landfill sites, and bioreactor project will be initiated on 14 landfill sites of medium and large scale. In addition, the construction of Waste Energy Town in each region, with comprehensive, combined and focused facilities, will be promoted to increase the financial efficiency.
Technology development will be accelerated through close linkage with Eco-Star, and CDM projects, mainly focusing on the landfill gas collection, biogasfication for organic wastes, RDF for combustible wastes, and residual heat recovery from incineration projects.
The budget for the expansion plan of Waste-to-Energy facilities is predicted as 320 billion won by 2012. Among the total budget, support from national treasury will be 98,56 billion won, and private investment will support 128.44 billion won.

The expected outcomes from the Comprehensive Master Plan for Waste-to-Energy include the financial benefit of 133.73 billion won every year from reduced amount of wastes management and reduced use of fossil fuel, as well as reduced green house gas impacts. Also, the construction and operation of the facilities will lead to 17,000 employments. In environmental point of view, the amount of landfill wastes will be decreased to 20% of the current, and the nation will be strengthen to actively react to green house gas deduction requirement, to be required from 2013, as well as to London Convention-1996 Protocol, on ocean dumping. Therefore, the Comprehensive Master Plan for Waste-to-Energy is expected to much contribute to global problems.

*Copyrights: International Urban Training Center

Creation of Windmill Complex in response to Climate Change

The increase of CO2 is closely related to human activities, and the effort to alternate the related natural resources is a global issue these days. As an effort to increase biodiversity and reduce related natural hazards through the reduction of CO2, Gangwon Province, between 2001 and 2006, has constructed 49 windmills of 2,000kW and 4 windmills of 660kW in Hoenggye-ri of Daegwallyeong Pyeongchang County, which in total produces 244,288MWh in electricity.

The produced electricity can provide enough amounts to 80,000 houses, and the amount not only saves the foreign import of 445.88 million barrels of oil, but also reduces 1.5 million of CO2 every year. Besides the use of wind energy perspective, the facility is also becoming a tour destination as it is located in pasture of highland area where 500,000 visitors every year can watch the great scenery of mountain range. It is expected that through the creation of such facility, efficient land use can be also possible along with the use of renewable clean energy.

Gangwon Wind Energy Production, Inc.
Department of Clean Energy Policy (Gangwon Provincial Government)

* Copyright: International Urban Training Center

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Energy and Human Settlements: Problems & Opportunities

Brian D. Williams
Transport and Energy Specialist

Cities and Energy
Historically, cities throughout the world have been arenas of tremendous social and economic development. The higher densities of people and material resources found in urban areas allows significant gains in productivity to be achieved, while reducing the human impacts on natural ecosystems. These higher densities also make it easier to provide basic services to citizens and as a result, urban areas should also have the potential to offer better health, education, sanitation and electrical services than are found in rural areas. However, while these benefits of economies of scale in urban agglomerations do accrue to residents of the more developed countries, they do not very often accrue to residents in developing country cities, particular in relation to the provision of energy services.
Indeed, developing country cities require a rapid increase in energy production and consumption to accelerate economic development, alleviate poverty and meet basic needs of their populations. However, energy-related pollution is already negatively affecting human health and living environments, particularly within informal urban settlements.
As cities contribute approximately 75% to global energy consumption and most of their energy is derived from fossil fuels, they very significantly contribute to global warming.
For sustainable energy development and use in human settlements, the primary challenge is to provide equitable and affordable access to energy services for all urban residents in an economically efficient and environmentally sound manner.

Access to Urban Energy Services
Access to affordable, modern energy services is a pre-requisite for sustainable development and poverty alleviation, and, more specifically, for achieving each of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Lack of access to reliable, safe and mostly environmentally –friendly energy is a strong constraint on human development. Energy services can play a variety of direct and indirect roles to help achieve MDGs.
Stand-alone renewable energy systems such as photo-voltaic solar panels with storage batteries can require as much energy to produce as they generate in their lifetime –primarily due to the batteries – making such systems less sustainable as well as substantially more expensive, than conventional grid electricity. Investment in renewable energy in areas served by a grid in therefore economic and sustainable only if the consumer can buy energy from a grid when required and sell surplus consumer-generated energy to the grid, thus eliminating the need for storage batteries as well as making full use of alternative energy technologies available such as wind or sunlight or other renewable sources. Cities can also play a significant role in energy demand reduction. The building, construction and transport sectors consume vast amounts of energy and in many developing countries cities these sectors are fast growing.

The potential for energy savings in these sectors at very low - and in some cases negative - costs is very significant.

Sustainable Urban Transport and Climate Change
In today's cities, sustainable transportation systems are crucial to fostering economic activity and raising standards of urban living. Finding a transport model that meets society's need to move freely, communicate, and gain access to jobs, education, hospitals, and other facilities - all without sacrificing essential human or ecological values - is thus a primary challenge of sustainable development.
Transportation systems define the quality of life for millions of city-dwellers worldwide. Unfortunately, the negative impacts of urban transport, including hazardous levels of air pollution, congestion, noise, sprawl, and threats to public safety, restrict the potential for greater economic growth and happiness. The rise of megacities, with populations over ten million, has only amplified these problems. Growth rates of private vehicle ownership in the developing world continue to soar, despite the fact that automobiles are major consumers of non-renewable energy and major contributors to carbon emissions.

The Way Forward
As we know, the new millennium is ushering in a new urbanized era. Increased access to energy will be part of the problem but also part of the solution. While rapid urbanization is associated with an attendant rise in energy demand which can potentially threatened the sustainability of both human settlements and the larger urban environment, many of the negative effects of urbanization can be, at least, partially mitigated by innovative energy policies. UN-Habitat remains committed to pursuing those innovations and to promoting the development, use and transfer of policies, environmentally sound technologies, economic instruments, managerial practices and other tools that assist in environmentally sound decision making and in the building of corresponding capacities in the energy and transport sectors.

* Copyrights: International Urban Training Center