Thursday, 31 January 2008

Microsoft Surface – an end to retailing and design as we know it?

We go to stores as we want to get a better feeling for what we are buying. Companies like IKEA have built their business around this idea. With climate change challenging us to rethink the way we build societies that is dependent on resource inefficient solutions (like bringing out a few people to a store in a vehicle that weighs tonnes and depend on fossil fuel) we must think in new directions.

During our meeting with Microsoft in Paris Bill Gates was also there. Part of his presentation was about the “Surface” (a project that he was obviously enthusiastic about and said that he will continue to work on). I hope to explore the surface further and its potential implications for a more resource efficient society.

I do not think Bill will ever get his s
nowboard together and someone did not do a good job in preparing the demonstration in Paris, but it was inspiring to see the surface in action. ;)

Hope in Europe for a low carbon ICT development

During the Sustainable Energy Week a session was arranged by GeSI where the role of ICT was discussed. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the consensus that it is time to move the focus from the 1-4% of the CO2 that the ICT sector contributes to global emissions, to the 96-99% that ICT solutions can help to reduce. Construction and transport seem to be the two main areas that people can agree on, combined with the contributions to measure and inform people.

I look forward to see what the commission will come up with and hope that Viviane Reding will present goals, responsible people and resources in a few strategic areas before, or during, the European Business Summit 2008. At least this will be my question to her, now when business have taken the first step it is time for politicians to support this.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Historic event in Davos when the world leaders in IT tackle climate change

It is not often when you feel that you see something really important happen when it actually happens. A few times I have felt this and usually it has been quite dramatic, such as the creation of the Kyoto Protocol in Japan, when the negotiations closed with most people close to collapse after intensive negations or when world trade moved from a technical issue to the public domain in Seattle as the WTO negotiations broke down with demonstrations outside.

Less dramatic, but with potentially more significant implications, was the agreement among world leading ICT companies that they want to “establish itself as a leading contributor that sees reduction of CO2 as a driver for innovation and profit. It would also allow the sector to claim a leadership role as a winner in a low carbon economy.

If this happens this could mark a threshold as we try to move towards a low carbon economy. Spending time with Simon Mulcahy, Randal Krantz, James Tee and other from the WEF team was a pleasure, the discussions with leading thinkers from all walks of life inspiring, and the dinner I moderated gave me hope for the next step.

Below are parts of the text that was discussed in Davos. I hope to do what I can do to turn this from word into action. The paperI brought to Davos, , From coal power plants to smart power plants at the speed of light , is available here, close to 5meg and with pages ranging from A4 to A2...)

UPDATE: The official documents from WEF in Davos are available to download here.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

First oil fund in the world to save the climate...

Will Norway's oil fund be the first in the world that reform their investment criteria in order to become a proactive force and support a low carbon development?

This is an article from a Norwegian paper, but why not practice your language skills? If Norway begin using their oil fund and support winners in a low carbon economy we should all learn at least a few words in Norwegian.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

China, trade and Climate

A new report is launched that is worth reading for those who are interested in global trade and how OECD countries can support a sustainable development in China. Instead of a simplistic perspective (trade as good or bad) it brings a solution oriented approach. Rasmus Reinvang has done a great job and hopefully this can trigger a discussion, at least in the Nordic countries.

It is interesting that the Nordic countries are so isolated from each other. Amazing things can happen in the small countries up North, but it is more likely that it is being picked up by press outside the Nordic countries than by the neighbors. The new trade report was nowhere in Swedish media, even if it was full page news in Norway and made it into Chinese news media. Sad as the “Nordic model” could be an important inspiration for emerging economies like China and India.

One good thing might be that we can develop ideas in steps and still launch them as “new”… For this trade work we started last summer in Sweden, now Norway and we could take the next steps in Denmark…

But a joint Nordic/Scandinavian approach is probably necessary if we are to be more than a marginal actor in China and India.

(the earlier Swedish study can be found here)

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Another year with double digit growth predicted in China

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) just released a report where they predict that China's economy will grow by more that 10% during 2008 and that is slight slowdown compared with 2007 (over 11%).

It is easy to agree with the following statement from t a recent report from the World Bank.

“China is now the world's fourth largest economy and growing very fast. India's economic salience is also on the rise. Together these two countries will profoundly influence the pace and nature of global economic change”

Dancing with Giants: China, India, and the Global Economy, World Bank, 2007

Hopefully 2008 will see two major shifts in OECD countries (governments and companies) relation to Chinas development:

1. That Chinas development will be seen and used as an opportunity to develop global solutions that can provide high quality of life with little use of natural resources.

2. That we drop GDP as a tool to assess welfare and how successful a country is and let it be what it can be (e.g. an indicator to help us address inflation/stagnation in the industrial part of the economy).

Friday, 11 January 2008

Launching the peoples car in India for Rs 1 lakh - a trigger for new thinking?

Today the 1 lakh (US$ 2,500) car was launched in India

Around the world the news was picked up.

But even if it is a small car, actually one of the better on the world market in terms of fuel consumption, it is a reminder of how sad the situation looks like, especially in the west. In Europe and US we are far from cars that fuel efficient. Still we can not live in a world where everyone drives around in this car, neither oil supplies not climate change allows it…

Maybe this very good car can help us to realize that we need to re-think urban planning and the way we travel/communicate?

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

ICT/IT moves to the centre of the climate discussion

From a focus on the industries own emissions (important but not the make or break for global emissions), it now looks as if 2008 will be the year when the more important use of ICT services moves into the centre of the debate.*

Not only are a number of leading ICT companies, like HP, Ericsson, Intel, Cisco, Dell, Fujitsu, Google, Tandberg, TeliaSonera, BT, China mobile, Verizon, Deutsche Telekom, Nokia, TCS, etc (realize that there are quite a lot and these are only the big companies and those on top of my head that I know have interesting work) much more active. The change is that mainstream fora is now picking up ICT in a low carbon economy and that political processes seem to take the issue serious.

Over the next few weeks the issue will be discussed (and in some cases important decisions made) in three key fora.

The first is WEF in Davos 23-27 of January , where we hope for a good message coming out of the meeting

Second is EU Sustainable Energy Week, 28th of Janury

Third in Greening the Economy, European Business Forum, Brussels, 21-22 February

Maybe we can see some transformative change already during 2008?

*e.g. A the key impact of a laptop is not the energy it consumes or even the energy embedded during production and transport of the laptop. The big question is how the laptop is used. If it allows the user to avoid travel to an office one-three days a week, increase online business that reduce transportation and can dematerialize building space it has a huge impact. Same thing for videoconference equipment, it is not the use/embedded energy that is the most important. Instead it is the possibility to reduce the need for flying that is the most important.

But, and this is a big BUT, ICT is a catalyst. It can also accelerate an unsustainable development. Laptops can be used to buy things from the other side of the world that might be available around the corner, it can used as a tool that make it easier for a shortsighted consumer society to dominate. Same thing with the videoconference it can be a driver for more travels unless business models and price incentives are not put in place.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

a vision of a bright green future that is both bold and beautiful

Thank you Alex for this one... No need for me to add anything:
The whole text can be found here.

"Carbon-neutral prosperity is possible. We can design and build a sustainable society within the time we have remaining. The matter hinges entirely on having the will to build it. And that's what's going to be tested now, and big time: our will.

Beyond the political barriers, though, I think there are some habits of mind that impede the gathering of that will.

The first is, as we've said here frequently, the lack of compelling and credible visions of what that society would look like. Without those visions, it is very difficult for any of us to seriously imagine transformational change. As Bucky said, "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." We need to cultivate a vision of a bright green future that is both bold and beautiful, that goes far enough and offers people better lives."

Monday, 7 January 2008

From marginal to structural approaches to climate change – The case of IT

Almost every day there are reports about the increased CO2 contribution from the IT/ICT sector. The sad thing is that almost all of them (I have not found one of the major magazines running a story about the potential of IT/ICT). The latest two, that I got in my inbox today, is in New Scientist and a Reuter article (even if I have to say that Reuter is one of the few mainstream outlets that actually have covered the potential of ICT to reduce CO2)

It makes me a bit sad to see that
Consumer Electronics Show (CES) will go for offsetting through planting trees and will try to see if they could support a scheme where “offsetting” can be used to trigger a really sustainable development and address the problem that is being offset. In the case of CES the obvious way would be to invest in virtual meetings/video conferencing infrastructure so we do not need to fly so much in the future… For an outline of such a project see this page.

Obviously it is not totally unimportant with the direct and LCA impact of IT and high tech equipment, but we must start to focus on the role this sector have in the transition towards a low carbon economy. That require us to move a way from a perspective where we look at each sector and see how they can (on the margin) reduce their reductions and shift the focus to how we can provide the services (right temperature, light, meetings, transportation, etc) we need. Then we start asking the questions that can guide us to the structural changes we need to see.

See this page for more information about my work in this area.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

The climate discussion 30 years ago in Sweden – can you spot the difference?

Found this clip on YouTube when Olof Palme talks Shirley MacLaine. It is from 1977 and a few minutes are spent on the energy issue. Those talking about climate as a new issue should remember that it was used as an argument to defend the investments in Nuclear Power in Sweden already then, and that the nuclear plants should only be there as a transition… Sounds frightening similar to the discussions today here in Sweden 30 years later.

If we need to change the energy system in about 8 years to avoid dangerous climate change we should remember that a lot of people in power today have seen pretty much the same discussion for more than 30 years without changing, even if the danger/promises then focused on nuclear meltdown/transmutation and today it is coal (climate change/CCS).

When will we see an end to the focus on end-of-pipe solutions like transmutation and CCS?

The whole interview (energy part 22:30-28:30) can be found here.

Food and ICT – solutions for the future

A simple breakdown of the impact we have on the planet as individuals show that three areas are dominating, housing/infrastructure, transportation and food. The last few years I have focused on the first two, but I now find myself in different contexts where food is the focus. The increased pressure on natural resources will result in a situation where we need to think a lot more about how we use the available land. Food, energy, fuel and material is all needed at the same time as we need to preserve the little untouched nature we have.

Will talk about the link between ICT and the food industry later this spring and by then I will have a few things written in the "One billion tonnes project":

Friday, 4 January 2008

Obama, Clinton, Edwards, Huckabee, Romney, McCain, Giuliani

I find it amazing that most of western media is so focused on the American election. I would guess that more people know the names of three candidates in the US than the name of China’s and India current prime ministers/presidents.

I would like to explore the possibility to introduce an “(re-)emerging economy knowledge index” as well as an “engagement index” for countries in the OECD. That might be able to differentiate between those how will fade away and those who will still play a role 20 years from now…


Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao, Manmohan Singh and Pratibha Devisingh Patil

Thursday, 3 January 2008

The end of climate conferences as we know them - From problem to opportunities and from talk to action 2008

So far most of the “action” from large companies have been little more than talk, talk and talk. Some time linking it to PR material meant for more talk (Like Vattenfall’s work with McKinsey and their 3C initiative), just green washing campaigns aiming to convince people that even though they are investing in unsustainable solutions and only have a symbolic activities in sustainable areas (Basically all automotive companies, and especially their business associations, and oil/energy companies), or sponsoring things that do not change their business models (most philanthropic work in the carbon intensive industries).

However more and more people now understand that it is real action that is needed. Some who have been organizing conferences for years without any other result that talk are getting nervous and want to see some real result.

I have been looking into the possibility to rate conferences depending on how much real action they are resulting in (note that talk is not bad, it is just that it is almost the only thing we have today).

A few conferences January-March that could be possible arenas for new thinking include (and where I’m trying to do my best for result that delivers):

- Davos/WEF

- Sustainable Energy Week (Participation in GeSI panel and they pay for it)

-UNEP Expert meeting on trade and climate, Geneva

- BITKOM, Sustainable ICT, Berlin (Invitation to talk about sustainable ICT)

- Greening the Economy, European Business Forum, Brussels

As I will be in Europe then the list is EU based, but as I move first to Asia and then US I will track other conferences. Gartner in Las Vegas could be a key event later this spring for example…

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Bert Bolin’s ideas and vision is more alive than ever

As oil prices hit 100$ and we just left the year when climate change changed the world forever we will build on what Bert Bolin did over the last decades, long before most of us was born, let alone know about climate change.

It was amazing to lecture with him and discuss climate policy and science during the climate negotiations just before and after Kyoto. His knowledge on how climate change interacts with a society that is pushing nature over the edge was fascinating and his historical perspective on change is something I will keep in all the work I do.

Sweden now have two international profiles left in the field of climate change, Bo Kjellén and Anders Wijkman. It is time for someone from our business community to step forward.

We’ll make it Bert, and if not, at least we tried.

The day oil hit 100$ (and new opportunities should become even more obvious)

It is hard to understand that it was only a few years ago when oil prices above 40$ was not seen as “realistic” (and even the last IEA report, from 2007, thought that 100$ would happen 203o and only in a high-growth scenario. When I started WWFs trade and investment work in China and India five years ago we had that as one “low possibility, but high impact scenario”. Then we could not use this in relation to donors and in communication in OECD. In China and India they were willing to discuss the possibility of the consequences of such a price increase. Today I still feel that these countries often are ahead of us (even if we say it, little seems to happen).

The opportunities are amazing though and I really look forward to a few initiatives that I hope to launch in the first half of 08, as well as the launch of a few reports (about ICT and climate change, global trade regime for sustainability and export from Baoding in China)…

But one thing that I really like to recommend is the report “Arab companies in the 21st Century” from last year… More relevant today than ever.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

One part of our planet at (the western) New Year

As the latest blog was not about the most beautiful thing… I wanted to post a picture I got from a colleague in Norway (Steinar Kyrkjebø). He took it up in the fjeld at New Year.

We have a beautiful planet that we should take more care of...

Art, Scribble, Simple Neoliberal Policy and the World

During the day after (western) New Year here in Sweden as I was trying to remove the scribbles on the facade I spent some time thinking about what differentiate art from destruction. As I don’t dislike graffiti in general, but struggle to see much meaning in the “tags” that some people spray on whatever they think is a good place to display their “tag”.

Two things make this a slight annoyance in my eyes:

1. It is unintelligent, it carries no message beside “look at me” (and the “me” is anonymous for everyone except the selected few, making it almost narcissistic)... Compare the above with these 1 2 3, I rest my case...

2. It classifies as destruction rather than creation if destruction is something that takes more time to repair that create. (following entropy is simple, creating extropy is the challenge)

While doing my best with emery paper and paint I realize that I found that the simplistic neoliberal policy that still is being promoted by many institutions, but no longer have any intellectual support aside from a few (lack of)–think(ing) tanks, is very much the same as tagging. It is very simplistic, do seldom care about those affected, promoted by people with a weak ego that seldom listen and the consequences takes much longer time to repair than it takes to impose them.

I hope that 2008 will see more creation and less destruction, more concern for the people (and other life forms) on the planet and less egoism.

For 2008 I also hope that we will see a more serious discussion and that media focus less on simplistic entertainment (by not inviting isolated lunatics from small think-tanks as often as today. They need to be invited in order not to show them that they are not being censored but that could happen in tabloids and free shows) and instead media could show the serious, interesting and discussions that is actually taking place in the fora where tomorrows world is being shaped. These fora do neither have people in black masks throwing brings through windows, not neoliberal people saying that everything is fine and we only need more trade/less regulations. This is not to say that people agree, far from it, but the different groups and countries have a more sophisticated, responsible and well argued way to get a message across. Obviously it takes more than a headline to understand the difference between a “list based approach” to environmental goods and services and a “project based”, but discussions like these are shaping the future.

Then again, maybe the next revolution will not take place in traditional media, but in cyberspace and inside our heads…

Hope all of you will have an amazing new western 2008, and hope you have saved some strength for celebration for the 7th of February when we enter into the year of the rat according to the Chinese calendar.