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ECCT-MoFA Green Leadership Forum Series, Part 4

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On 19 June, Bodo Kretzschmar, Chief Operating Officer from TUV Rheinland Taiwan was the guest speaker for the fourth ECCT-MoFA Green Leadership Forum Series for Taiwan's young trainee diplomats. The event, co-hosted by the LCI and the Ministry of Economic Affairs' (MoFA) Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs (IDIA) was the fourth in a series of events arranged for Taiwan's trainee diplomats to brief them on a range of sustainability issues and practices in Europe and by European companies. The events are part of the LCI's CSR & Education mission to raise awareness about low carbon solutions and educate the public about how to go about achieving a low carbon society. In his speech, Kretzschmar spoke about the importance of sustainable management for the future of the planet and future generations.
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The global population continues to grow while rising living standards have increased the demand for comfort and the rate human beings are consuming resources has already reached unsustainable levels. He noted that we are using more resources than any other generation in the past and we will be the generation that will use the most resources. Taiwan is a relatively developed country and therefore it shares a responsibility with the rest of the world to take action to become sustainable.

We are now seeing rising prices for ...

...resources, environmental pollution and food shortages and these problems will only get worse. Rich nations can afford to deal with these problems but the poor cannot. We are using up fossil fuels, which took millions of years to create, at a faster rate than ever before. Food prices are going up and there is a lack of food in poor countries. While the use of clean, renewable energy is rising, its share of the overall energy-generating capacity is still very low at around 10% globally while fossil fuel power plants still account for close to 90% of capacity. Germany is the global leader in terms of solar power, despite not being a sunny country, while China is the world's wind energy leader. Climate change is real and we will have to intensify the use of renewables or else face greater climate change.
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However, getting people to change is difficult because we have become too comfortable and complacent. We need to set frameworks for a sustainable world. We have only recently begun to talk about and focus on sustainability, which, from a human perspective, is defined as meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and improve the quality of life while living within the carrying capacity of the earth's supporting eco-systems.

There are four basic actions that we need to take to become sustainable: reduce dependency on fossil fuels, reduce our dependence on synthetic chemicals and heavy metals, reduce the destruction of nature and ensure the access of basic needs for all humans globally (clean air, water and food).

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We need to have global legislation and Europe is doing this by setting carbon reduction goals, setting legislation for energy efficiency, stepping up the installation of renewable energy systems and banning other emissions besides CO2 (eg hydroflourocarbons and nitrogen oxides).

The EU's carbon tax on planes was controversial but necessary. The US has also finally taken action on climate change by setting various goals for air quality, chemicals, protecting waters among others.

China is also investing RMB5 billion over 10 years to promote green energy. Taiwan has taken action over the years but much more could be done given the perfect location for several kinds of renewable energy including solar, wind and geothermal energy.

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A number of corporations and agencies have certifications for sustainability but there is little understanding of what they mean. For example, few people truly understand what a carbon footprint is and how carbon footprints are measured. Raising awareness of the impact our consumption of goods and services has on the environment is important in order to prompt people to take action to reduce their carbon footprints. Kretzschmar used a graphic example. He had brought along an apple imported from New Zealand, which he showed to the audience and explained that the carbon footprint (mostly owing to the emissions from transporting the apple from New Zealand to Taiwan) of that single apple was 10 kgs.

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Meanwhile, taking a flight to Hong Kong produces 500 kgs of carbon per person on average. These are just some examples of the scale and impact our actions have on the environment.

TÜV Rheinland verifies GHG emissions in both international and national schemes and then verifies carbon footprints of companies or products that take into account the life cycle's energy and material consumption. Taiwan phone company HTC, for example, measured the carbon footprint of its "One" smart phone. The company found that 58.4% of its carbon footprint over the life of the product was from resource extraction and production, 7.2% from transportation, 34.3% from usage (energy used for recharging) and 0.1% from recycling.

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Given the scarcity of clean water in many parts of the world, measuring the water footprint is a new and growing trend. Measuring the water footprint includes resources manufacturing, transport usage and recycling. It is not so complicated and can be done for all types of products including food and textiles. Textiles, for example, have to measure the use of water, dye and recycled materials. The water footprint of one 500 ml bottle of a soft drink in The Netherlands is 35 litres if you take into account the manufacturing process (0.41 litres), packaging (7 litres), ingredients (28 litres, much of this related to the process required to produce sugar) and processing the actual water used in the drink. A hamburger has a water footprint of 2,400 litres (mostly related to the water needed to produce beef) while a pair leather shoes has a water footprint of 16,600 litres. One take-away cup of latte takes 200 litres of water to produce if you take into account all the ingredients and packaging. There is still much work to do in measuring the footprint of other products.
Aware of the enormous environmental impact of their processes and products, many companies are working to reduce their footprints through recycling and energy and water saving measures. The ISO 50001 energy management system teaches companies how to save on energy costs. Kretzschmar cited several examples of companies that have taken action. Changhua Christian hospital in Central Taiwan set up an energy management system. In Germany, Mercedes Benz introduced energy saving. Meanwhile some European fashion labels are demanding a 30% cut in GHG emissions by their suppliers by 2015.
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TÜV's own green product mark measures carbon footprints, recyclability and chemical use to help its customers reach their targets. The trend towards greater green accounting and measurement is becoming more widespread and sophisticated. A number of green standards are being developed and implemented related to eco-design, eco-efficiency, material flow cost accounting, event sustainability and business continuity management systems.

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