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Posts by Ramon Arratia

Better Growth, Better Climate.

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In the next 15 years…

A short summary of the recently launched New Climate Economy synthesis report has been released by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group. The succinct briefing is prepared with a business audience in mind and highlights the key points of the report: that the next 15 years are crucial, there are major opportunities for economic systems such as cities, land use, and energy, and that economic growth and action on climate change can be achieved together.

See more here

Better Growth Better Climate


#Climate2014, #climatechange, #CWNYC

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Press Release – CLG Pushes For Net Zero Economy At UN Summit On Climate Change

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CWNYCThe Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG), whose members include Coca Cola Enterprises, EDF Energy, Jaguar Land Rover, Philips, Tesco, and Unilever, among others, is urging governments to use the upcoming UN summit on climate change in New York on 23 September to raise ambition and commit to concrete action to drive down emissions and pave the way to a low carbon future.

The CLG, hosted by the University of Cambridge Instituted for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), represents UK, EU and multinational businesses from a range of sectors that support transformative action on climate change and resource efficiency. These companies take the science of climate change seriously and are already pursuing progressive policy and market reform. They want governments to go further by providing regulatory certainty and ambitious targets on GHG emissions and energy efficiency, and to adequately price carbon in order to stimulate investment in a low carbon economy and society.

The patron of the Corporate Leaders Group, HRH The Prince of Wales, will release a video message at the summit, in which he will say: “The battle against climate change is surely the most defining and pivotal challenge of our times. We cannot meet the climate change challenge unless business and government actively work together. Through the work of my Corporate Leaders Group, I am encouraged that more and more businesses are supporting a transformative goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions well before the end of the century. Taking action on climate change is neither inherently bad for business nor against economic interests.  It is, in fact, the only rational choice.”

In the week of the summit, which will be attended by 125 world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the Corporate Leaders Group will partner with Track Zero and Skanska to host an event at the Empire State Building on the role of cities in meeting climate goals. Speakers will include Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC, Farhana Yamin, Founder, Track Zero, and Elizabeth Heider, CSO, Skanska US.

Elizabeth Heider, CSO of Skanska US said: “Climate change is a critical issue that is increasingly influencing major business decisions. Investment in low-carbon energy efficient options makes business sense and is the best strategy for a prosperous future economy. By setting clear and binding energy efficiency targets, in the context of a coherent and ambitious overall climate change and energy security strategy, governments would send the right signal to businesses wanting to invest.”

The Corporate Leaders Group will also support the launch at the summit of a new World Bank statement on Carbon Pricing, which will be endorsed by multiple governments, companies, and investors, and will build on the messages outlined in the CLG’s Carbon Price Communiqué. World Bank President Jim Kim will launch the statement, alongside the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on September 23.

José Manuel Entrecanales, the ACCIONA Chairman & CEO said: “Climate change poses huge risks to us all, but also it also offers significant opportunities. The low carbon economy is worth $4 trillion and growing at a rate of 4% per annum. Renewables have a vital part to play in ensuring a safe, sustainable future energy supply for us all. By providing clear support and ambitious targets, governments would trigger a clean energy revolution.”

Deforestation will be another key issue under discussion at the summit. The importance of tackling it is recognized by the group and its Royal patron. The Banking Environment Initiative, another CISL-hosted business platform whose patron is The Prince of Wales, will also take part in discussions at the summit on deforestation.

“If we want to avoid the dangerous consequences of climate change, we must preserve tropical forests immediately,” said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever. “As business leaders it is imperative that we use our purchasing power to catalyze behavior change and help transform the supply chains of some of the world’s most environmentally intensive commodities. Deforestation is illegal and cannot be reversed. If we work together to halt deforestation we will have the chance both to stop global warming and to preserve some of the world’s richest biodiversity.”

The Corporate Leaders Group is a member of the We Mean Business coalition, which will launch its flagship report on the eve of the UN Summit in New York. The report will illustrate low carbon business success stories and identify policy measures that would allow business to go even further in helping to meet the climate change challenge. The launch will be accompanied by a CEO panel discussion on how a new clean industrial revolution is good for business and is already creating jobs.

Sandrine Dixson-Decleve, Director of the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group said: “There is a powerful and growing consensus among leading businesses on the need for action. More companies and investors are committed to bold leadership on climate than ever because they know it makes business sense. It stands to reason that if you need to modernise then do it right – and bring in low carbon energy assets and infrastructure which will provide multiple benefits and boost the economy.  Now is the time to accelerate both ambition and action, ahead of the UNFCCC meeting in Paris in 2015, at which leaders will need to agree a new global deal.”

Notes and contact:

More on Twitter: @climateCLG, @CISL_Cambridge, @WMBTweets, #wemeanit, #CWNYC and via the web

The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG) is hosted by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), which brings together business, government and academia to find solutions to critical sustainability challenges. See more at:

The CLG is a partner of the We Mean Business coalition representing organisations working with thousands of the world’s most influential businesses and investors. Members: BSR, The B Team, CDP, Ceres, The Climate Group, The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and WBCSD.

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The 2030 EU climate package key is Poland

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Poland EUThe European Commission proposed 2030 climate package is now being discussed and negotiated in multiple fora. It looks that the key is Poland.

Poland generates more than 80 percent of its electricity from coal, lots of it in the form of lignite. The coal sector employs 115,000 people and it’s not just that number of jobs that concerns me: these people are heavily unionised and highly political.

Poland has the second worst air quality (after Bulgaria) in the EU. A study from Bankwatch suggests that breathing in Krakow for a year can be exceptionally damaging to your health – a resident inhales as much benzopyrene, a highly carcinogenic pollutant, as the equivalent of smoking 2,500 cigarettes.

Poland has a big neighbour with lots of gas but that’s obviously not on the table right now…

The only way forwards is via energy efficiency and by tackling energy demand, and that infrastructure must be created in a way that also generates jobs. Poland could become the EU hub for energy efficiency technology, a market for building retrofits, a test bed for European policy and a receiver of funds to innovate and experiment with energy efficiency.

As an aside, I don’t mind whether we have an EU energy efficiency binding target or just a carbon one. Instead of focussing on energy efficiency targets we should focus on creating the right frameworks for efficiency innovations to become mass market. Regulating demand though product policy, enabling technologies to overcome entry barriers, opening up old oligopolies – these are the policies that will get us further.

#EU2030 #climate

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Everyday products that contain harmful chemicals

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Apple Harmful ChemicalsLast week Apple announced that it would stop using two harmful chemicals, Benzene and n-hexane, that are used in the final assembly process across its lines of iPads, iPhones and Macs. These chemicals are thought to cause cancer and nerve damage.

Apple are not the only company using rare earth elements, toxic chemicals, or untested materials in their products. The long term issues and damages caused by these will be unknown for many years. The real issue will probably be their combined use.

Not only is this a worry for our health but it also can be a challenge as we try to build a more circular economy. These chemicals are often very hard to process, but thankfully in many instances there are alternatives.

Here are some everyday household items that you may not know contain, or use, noxious substances in their production. 

* No real surprises here – but many sanitizers, deodorisers and cleaning products contain all kinds of nasties from Perchloroethylene, Nitrobenzene to Petroleum Distillates. Carcinogenic and affect central nervous system – Use eco alternatives where possible.

* Avoid artificially scented candles, the fumes can be poisonous.

* Many beauty products – Lipsticks, talc, shampoo, and pretty much anything that contains mineral oil or petroleum jelly e.g. Baby oil – They often also contain chemicals, some of which are connected with health issues such as respiratory problems, allergies and skin development. Google, but read thoroughly, some of the sensationalised reports are dubious at best.

* Some toys and candles still contain lead! Most people now know the toxic nature of lead and yet some products still slip through the net.

* Batteries – Jam packed with all kinds of harmful elements. Obviously dispose of properly and ensure your children are protected.

* Smokeless smoking devices – At this time nobody knows how safe e-cigarettes are – ‘vaping‘ as it’s known.

* Mothballs – Contain paradichlorobenzene or naphthalene. Cancer causing, red blood cell deteriorating chemicals.

* Pressed wood products – (Anything that looks like wood but has been reconstituted) – Sometimes contains arsenic and the gluing agent can be urea-formaldehyde. Causes burning eyes and throat, difficulty breathing, and asthma attacks. Cancer has been linked.

* The computer you’re sat in front of – (And nearly every electronic device) - lead, cadmium, silver, chromium, mercury, brominated flame retardants and more. All toxic to humans.

* Printers and paints (Plus many other applications) – Some studies confirm that water paints, laser and ink-jet printers can releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ozone particulates. VOCs are connected to lung and heart conditions.

* Pesticides in food – Our food is covered in products that deter weeds, plant diseases or insects.  There are proven links to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemias as well as other health conditions. According to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, 9 of the 12 most dangerous and persistent organic chemicals are pesticides.

Of course it is impossible to avoid all pollutants and the research is growing daily. This list is by no means exhaustive and the advice is always simply to read the labels and use healthy alternatives where possible. Considering what is harmful to you, your family, as well as the environment.

Sources: Associated Press, Wikipedia – Rare Earths, PBSSafer Chemicals, Minnesota Health Dept.

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Barcelona – The #sustainable city

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barcelonaBarcelona is one of the trailblazer sustainable cities, integrating renewable energy, sensible public policy and waste management strategies into its core infrastructure.

Of course there’s more that can be done, and many cities are on the same track, but let’s look at Barcelona’s progress and key points to date:

* Home to 1.7m People in the city with c. 5m within urban proximity across 300 square miles.

* Spain’s second largest city.

* Top 5 EU city by GDP.

* In 2000, Barcelona became the first European city to have a solar thermal ordinance. In 2006 the Spanish government became the first in the world to enact a national building code requiring the installation of solar panels for hot water.

* In 2004 the city installed a 443-kilowatt PV array, the largest urban PV system in Europe at the time.

* By the end of 2011, Spain’s Catalonia region had a cumulative installed solar PV capacity of 234 MW.

* Green urban spaces in Barcelona have increased by 150% over the last 30 years.

* In 2002, Barcelona installed a heating and cooling system that relies on urban waste with a new one added in 2012. This system has reduced CO2 emissions by 17,500 metric tons in 2013—the equivalent of planting 875,000 trees, 6 times more trees than the city currently has.

* The bus network (transports 190mn pax / yr, has one of the cleanest bus fleets in Europe, with 400 natural gas vehicles, 82 hybrids, and the rest (approximately 500) with particulate traps that reduce annual emissions of NOx (71%) and particles (85%) for each bus.

* Bicing, their bike share program, since 2007 generates 14 million trips/yr on the city’s 181 kilometers of bike lanes.

* Around 50% of all trips in the city are made on foot or on bicycle, only 20% made by private vehicles.

* Barcelona has one of the lowest per capita greenhouse gas emission levels in the industrialised world – under 4 metric tons of emissions per person per year (Houston is at 14.1 and Paris is at 5.2).

* Around 40% of all tenders issued by Barcelona include at least one environmental or social criterion.

* Barcelona was shortlisted for the European Green Capital Award 2012 and 2013

Sources: Wikipedia, RMI Outlet, ICLEI, Majorcities, Managenergy

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Net-Works – 9 tons of fishing nets arrives in Slovenia for recycling

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At the end of last month a container ship with 9 tons of fishing nets arrived in Slovenia from the Philippines. These monofilament nets were recovered by local villagers participating in the Net-Works™ project. Net-Works is a community-based initiative established by us and the Zoological Society to recover and recycle fishing nets from fishing villages in impoverished regions, connecting some of the dots for a more circular economy.

Over 660 million people on the planet depend upon the oceans to support their livelihood. But year after year, pollution in our waters and beaches gets worse.

Net-Works is the first step in creating a truly restorative loop in carpet tile production, cleaning up oceans and beaches while also creating financial opportunities for some of the poorest people in the world.

If you Google #IfNetEffect there are some great online spaces that capture the initiative in pictures, video and text. Like this Pinterest Board:

IfNetEffect Pinterest


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2020 – An important #sustainability milestone

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20202020 is going to be a busy year.

In the year 2020 we will see many initiatives, events and milestones reached, and it’s only 6 years off.

London’s Crossrail is scheduled to be in full service by 2020, the Summer Olympics will be kicking off in Japan, and Toyota says that all cars it will produce will be hybrid.

Other initiatives include the IFPRI Food Security visionGM have pledged to use 125 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020, and let’s not forget the 5 targets that the EU have set around - Employment, innovation, climate change/energy, education and poverty. The book Shift lists its vision for technology in 2020 which is also an interesting read.

For us, it will also be a huge year. The culmination of 26 year’s work on Mission Zero, which is our promise to eliminate any negative impact our company may have on the environment by the year 2020. Interface is on a mission to protect, restore, innovate and educate. We’ve broken our mission into 7 steps to help us on our journey toward zero:

1 Zero Waste
2 Benign Emissions
3 Renewable Energy
4 Closing The Loop
5 Resource-Efficient Transportation
6 Sensitivity Hookup
7 Redesign Commerce

In the run up to our 20 year anniversary this month I will post more detail around Mission Zero, the challenges and results to date.

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The impact of regulated labelling: Your Fridge needs dramatically less energy

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Energy efficient household appliances have lead to a drop in electricity consumption as the chart below illustrates. Here is some of the content from the announcement from the DECC detailing the drop in absolute costs of electricity consumed by household goods.

The technical progress with fridges in particular has been incredible – energy requirements have dropped from 300Kwh in 1990 to less than 100Kwh today. This is a combination of mandatory, regulated EU labelling, accompanied by strong innovation incentives.

Can you image what would we could achieve if we tried harder?


You’ll notice recently that energy consumption is forecast to plateaux generally, but worryingly there was a peak with TVs which may never flatten. The impact of TVs has been augmented by the increase in size and technology of the new sets, and exposes how bad our regulation and labelling is on the subject. For TVs we don’t regulate on an absolute basis but on a relative basis (eg. size) which is wrong. Product environmental performance should always be regulated on an absolute basis.

Imagine car regulation that instead of measuring kgCO2/km, divided emissions by the size of its steering wheel?

Labelling is most effective when it is regulated, standardised and accompanied by other policies. Private labels where some geezers and certification sharks make the money almost always are condemned to fail.

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Growing a Circular Economy – Ending the Throwaway Society #Report

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Growing a circular economyHere is the content from a report released today by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee – @CommonsEAC

For more information contact Nick Davies on  or 020 7219 3297

Growing a Circular Economy – Ending the Throwaway Society #Report

MPs are calling for lower VAT on recycled products, longer warranty periods for consumer goods and a ban on food waste being sent to landfill, in a new report looking at how the Government could help insulate the UK from rising resource prices by creating a more ‘circular economy’.

Environmental Audit Committee Chair, Joan Walley MP, said:

“We had throwaway economics in the past, but that disposable society simply isn’t sustainable in the twenty-first century. Less than half of all the stuff we throw away each year is recycled and turned back into something useful, despite prices for raw materials rising across the world. Global food prices have roughly doubled since the beginning of the century, metal prices have trebled, and energy prices quadrupled. These trends look likely to continue as emerging economies expand and the world population grows to 9 billion by 2050.

Unless we rethink the way we run our economy and do business in a different way, environmental problems like climate change will get worse and the cost of living and doing business in the UK could continue to rise. The good news is that with the right Government support we can stimulate UK manufacturing, create jobs, grow our GDP and reduce our environmental footprint. We have to create a more circular economy that rewards innovative businesses, values natural capital, and is resilient in the face of rising global resource prices.”

There are potentially billions of pounds of benefits for UK businesses in becoming more resource efficient. The Committee heard from leading companies – such as M&S and B&Q – who explained that this makes economic as well as environmental sense. Some are exploring new business models where things can be hired rather than owned or using innovative processes and materials to reduce environmental impacts.


Businesses told the inquiry that the vast array of different area-by-area recycling regimes in England is confusing, sub-scale and makes it harder for companies to access valuable materials that could be reused. The variety of different recycling services also means there cannot be consistent on-pack information about a product’s recyclability to help households. The MPs say the Government should give new guidance to local authorities in England to standardise recycling collections to create new economic opportunities, as Wales and Scotland have done. The Environmental Audit Committee also wants the Government to support EU proposals to increase recycling rates to 70% by 2030. It points out that while England has improved its recycling rates since the beginning of the century from 11% to 43%, these have started to plateau, and it still has a considerable way to go to catch up with the best performing countries, like Austria and Germany.

Joan Walley MP added:

“It is possible to get recycling rates to nearly 70% as other European Countries and some UK councils have demonstrated.  There is about 3% to 5% of waste that you cannot avoid landfilling at the moment, but with better product design even that might be eliminated.”

Lower VAT on recycled products

The report recommends that the Government takes steps to reform taxation and producer responsibility regulations to reward companies that design greener products.  Differential VAT rates should be introduced based on the environmental impact or recycled content of products. Tax breaks should also be considered for businesses that repair goods or promote re-use.

Zac Goldsmith MP, Member of the Committee:

“Unless we learn to live within nature’s means, we are going to hit a wall. We know that because even while the world’s dwindling resources are becoming more and more expensive, our global appetite for resources continues to soar. Designing waste out of the way we live and do business is therefore a defining challenge. What’s clear is that businesses that take this challenge seriously will flourish, and those that don’t will eventually fall behind. But Government has an important role too, and this report highlights some of the steps it needs to take.”

Extended warranties and eco-design

The Government should work with the EU to establish eco-design standards across a range of products to make them easier to repair, upgrade, or recycle. Such standards should phase out products made from materials that cannot be recycled and encourage companies to design goods that have a clear end-of-life recovery route and are fabricated using easily separable and recyclable components. The Government should also work with industry sectors to set longer minimum warranty periods for consumer products to encourage businesses to adopt more resource-efficient business models.

Joan Walley MP added:

“We all know the frustration when we have to throw something away even though it’s just past its warranty. In our disposable society it often makes more financial sense to buy a new one than get something repaired. Things are not made to last and many manufacturers don’t make it easy for us to fix things. Government should work with companies to incentivise and encourage design that makes it easier to repair products and finally remanufacture or recycle them. Ministers should also work with industry to extend consumer warranties so that companies are encouraged to build things that last.”

Food Waste

The Government should also ban councils from sending food waste to landfill. Just 400,000 tonnes of food waste is separately collected for organic recycling in the UK out of the 7.2 million tonnes thrown out by households every year; around 6%. Instead this food waste could be collected separately and composted or used in anaerobic digesters to produce biogas and renewable energy and fertiliser.

Joan Walley MP:

“Food waste could be used to produce biogas for energy and fertiliser for our farming system yet at the moment too much is thrown into landfill where its value is lost and it produces climate-changing gases like methane.”

Government leadership

The MPs found that the Government’s current approach to these issues lacks ambition and leadership. It is characterised by small-scale schemes and although responsibilities are split across a number of departments, there is no strategic plan to achieve systemic change linked to industrial policy. Furthermore, Defra has dramatically cut funding for resource efficiency initiatives. The Committee argue that the Government should learn from the strategic vision that other countries have adopted and embrace the EU’s ambitious targets for improving resource productivity, supporting business in achieving the economic and environmental benefits of a more circular economy.

Joan Walley MP, concluded:

“Reducing the dependency on primary resource use for economic growth is an essential part of moving to a more sustainable and price-shock proof economic system. Some businesses are showing real leadership and innovation to adjust their business models and become more resource efficient. However, the Government must do more to ensure that the right conditions are in place so that many more businesses can shift from a linear approach to a circular one. We heard from business how successful green taxes such as the landfill tax had been in driving change in the waste industry.  We need the same strong tax signals from the Treasury for the Circular Economy”

Background info

The European Commission published a Circular Economy package on 2 July 2014. This proposes that countries should recycle 70% of municipal waste and 80% of packaging waste by 2030. The Package also includes a zero-waste-to-landfill policy for plastics, paper, metals, glass and bio-waste by 2025, as well as initiatives around eco-design. The European Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik says that the European Commission’s vision was that “by 2030 each country should recycle everything it is possible to recycle”.

Latest figures (from 2012) show that recycling rates in Europe are highest in Germany (65 %), followed by Austria (62 %) and Belgium (57%).

Recycling rates by local authorities in England in 2011/12 ranged from 69% (Vale of White Horse District Council) to 14% (Ashford Borough Council). Figures from 12/13 are available, but not broken down by authority.

Other countries have introduced regulatory measures to divert organic waste from landfill, such as the regulations requiring households to separate out food waste in Ireland, or the landfill ban on food waste being introduced in Scotland.

The Environmental Services Association suggest that a more circular economy could increase UK GDP by £3 billion a year. A Government study in 2011 indicated that there were £23 billion of financial benefits from low/no cost improvements available to businesses in the UK. The Green Alliance estimate that introducing more consistent recycling collections could be worth £1.7 billion a year.

Novamont submitted evidence to the Committee which uses data from WRAP to estimate that 400,000 tonnes of food waste was separately collected for organic recycling in the UK in 2012.

OTHER INFORMATION: This report (in HTML or PDF format) is available from 18.00 on Thursday 24 July 2014 via:

Likewise, this news story will go live from 18.00 on Thursday 24 July 2014 at:

Membership of the Committee:

Media Information: Nick Davies  020 7219 3297

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