battery

Lithium-ion batteries have fuelled our age of portable electronics, but they have increasingly become a victim of their own success. Lithium mining is expensive, and the metal is dangerous to handle, making processing and recycling difficult.

Demand is also outstripping available supplies, whose geographic isolation in places like the Australian outback can make supply chains difficult.

EU data shows that Europe will need up to 60 times more lithium by 2050 to fulfil the demand for electric car batteries and renewable energy storage that will form the backbone of reaching emissions goals laid out in the European Green Deal.

Calcium is one the most abundant elements on the earth’s crust. It’s not as geographically concentrated as lithium is. This could make a battery cheap because the raw material is cheap

Dr M. Rosa Palacín, ICMAB-CSIC

That has led researchers like Dr M. Rosa Palacín to try and create similarly effective batteries out of more abundant elements found right inside Europe. Based at ICMAB-CSIC near Barcelona, she and her team from around the EU aim to build a prototype battery that uses periodic neighbour calcium instead of lithium. The effort is funded by a European Innovation Council Open Pathfinder grant and has been dubbed the CARBAT project.

Found in everything from bones to chalk, calcium is roughly 2000 times more common than lithium.

‘Calcium is one the most abundant elements on the earth’s crust,’ said Dr Palacín. ‘It’s not as geographically concentrated as lithium is. This could make a battery cheap because the raw material is cheap.’

A Calcium Supplement

All batteries rely on a similar structure. Positive ions flow from a negative electrode across an electrolyte to a positive electrode, while negative electric current flows outside the battery and can be used to power devices.

But using calcium as the negative electrode provides advantages that graphite-using lithium-ion batteries cannot – greater energy density, or how much energy can be stored per kilogram.

‘With this configuration we were suggesting in theory we could achieve very high energy density, and this is due to the fact that we would use a metal as one of the electrodes,’ Dr Palacín explained.

Lithium-ion batteries can’t achieve as high an energy density since they cannot use highly reactive metallic lithium as an electrode in a battery. It tends to form dendrites, tiny rigid tree-like structures that can grow inside a lithium battery and cause short circuits or even for the battery to explode over many uses.

Using calcium metal within the battery let researchers take advantage of its elemental properties, with two electrons in its outer shell that it can lose.

‘As any calcium travels through the electrolyte, two electrons would travel outside (instead of one with lithium),’ she said. ‘One could imagine that for the same battery size, the range would be higher if you used it in an electric vehicle, provided a suitable positive electrode is found.’

Finding the right salt

Yet that same property made choosing other components to build a prototype battery, such as the electrolyte that ions flow through, more complicated.

‘There are many interactions in the electrolyte between the Ca2+ ions and the solvent molecules, and this hindered the mobility of calcium,’ said Dr Palacín.

Very good conductivity in the electrolyte means that ions can move faster, and the battery will have a higher power.

To solve this, researchers modelled different salts and solvents to find an electrolyte that would create a passivation layer on the calcium electrode which makes it easier for ions to transfer.

‘In the end it seems that all the electrolyte salts which work contain boron,’ she said. ‘We used calcium tetrafluoroborate dissolved in a mixture of ethylene and propylene carbonate.’

The next steps for commercialising the prototype would be to improve the methods used to fabricate electrodes using calcium and to develop suitable positive electrodes.

‘All the engineering for the cell assembly was very challenging since new protocols had to be developed,’ Dr Palacín said.

Other abundant elements

Dr Juan Lastra at the Technical University of Denmark was involved in another effort to create batteries out of more common elements. A researcher on the SALBAGE project, he was part of a team that worked on making a battery out of an aluminium anode and a sulfur cathode.

While aluminium is even more abundant than calcium, using it in a battery created similar challenges.

‘All these multivalent ions (Ca2+, Al3+) are very reactive…and it is difficult to move these ions by themselves,’ he said.

In aluminium-sulfur batteries, the aluminium is always in the form of aluminium and some chloride ions, AlCl4-.

‘You have a conversion process where this aluminium gets decoupled gradually from the AlCl4 cluster to react with the sulfur in the cathode side,’ said Dr Lastra. ‘It’s more like the lead-acid battery you have in your car rather than the lithium-ion battery in your phone.’

Computer-built bendable batteries

To improve the transfer of these ions, the team focused on creating using a new type of electrolyte known as a deep eutectic solvent.
‘A eutectic solvent is when you put two solids together and they become a liquid,’ Dr Lastra explained. ‘Like when you put salt and ice together and they form a liquid (brine) even below freezing.’

Using a supercomputer, they modelled how to combine an aluminium chloride salt with urea, which is commonly found in urine, to find the best mixing ratio for a liquid electrolyte.

‘We model around 300 atoms at most…and our simulation time is not more than one nanosecond,’ said Dr Lastra. ‘But to simulate one nanosecond of this liquid takes half a year.’

It takes so long because the researchers must look at one million steps per nanosecond to properly simulate all the possible reactions.

Armed with the right ratio for the electrolyte, researchers for the project in Spain found that they could make the electrolyte a gel by adding polymers to the solution.

‘Having a gel is very advantageous in terms of safety and in terms of form factor,’ said Dr Lastra. ‘If you have gel then your battery will be flexible, and you will be able to bend it.’

Using a gel instead of a liquid also adds safety in that the battery can’t easily leak. This comes on top of the fact that the materials are all safe and inexpensive.

‘It’s all based on cheap materials. Aluminium, sulfur, the electrolyte itself and urea is very, very cheap. Even the polymer is cheap,’ Dr Lastra said.

For stationary applications, like storing energy from a wind farm or solar power, this type of technology could be competitive

Dr Juan Lastra, Technical University of Denmark

The safety of the components could be a key factor in future-proofing the battery. One of the main disadvantages seen with lithium-ion batteries has been that they contain toxic and rare elements, making it hard to integrate them in the circular economy.

Aluminium-sulfur batteries offer the promise of sourcing components from within Europe and increased energy security for industry. Future refinement could even help increase our uptake of renewable energy by storing power when they are not actively generating it.

‘For stationary applications, like storing energy from a wind farm or solar power, this type of technology could be competitive,’ Dr Lastra said.

The research in this article was funded by the EU. If you liked this article, please consider sharing it on social media.

Why the EU supports energy storage research and innovation

With electrification set to be one of the main pathways to decarbonisation, batteries as electricity storage devices will become one of the key enablers of a low-carbon economy. Which is why developing  batteries/energy storage is a strategic priority for the EU

Hence, global demand for batteries is expected to grow very rapidly over the coming years, making the market for batteries a very strategic one. Click here to learn more.

This article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation magazine

coal mine

How can a sector that is responsible for 30% of global carbon emissions be held to account for its impacts, including ensuring that coal companies meet growing stakeholder demands for transparency in how they align with the low-carbon transition?

GRI 12: Coal Sector 2022 is the authoritative, internationally applicable standard for coal organizations to communicate their impacts on the economy, environment and people. GRI is developing new standards to enhance accountability on the issues that matter most within sectors. As demonstrated by coal – which remains a significant source of energy and revenue generation – these issues are often complex and inter-linked, highlighting the urgency of improved reporting.

The Sector Standard for Coal enables comprehensive and comparable disclosure on:

  • How companies respond to climate change mitigation demands, as reflected in the Paris Agreement, including plans to transition away from coal mining.
  • Accountability for social impacts that span human rights issues and the safety and wellbeing of employees and communities –  with added focus on assessing risks related to catastrophic incidents, such as tailings facility failure.
  • Measures to effectively manage impacts on the environment and biodiversity, given the coal sector is a major contributor to water, air and soil pollution.
  • Robust reporting on the closure of coal mines and the ways this affects communities and workers, with the focus on how organizations contribute to a just transition.
  • Fulfilling financial obligations and steps to tackle corruption – recognizing coal mining often takes place in developing economies or areas of poverty – including transparency on payments, ownership structures and contracts.

Transition challenges

Judy Kuszewski is Chair of the Global Sustainability Standards Board, the independent entity that sets the GRI Standards. She said:

 “It is abundantly clear that, to reach the ambition in the Paris Agreement, an urgent transition away from coal has to be a part of the solution. Indeed, as the UN Secretary-General set out in response to the new assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, coal and fossil fuels are “choking humanity”.

That is why more scrutiny is needed on the companies that remain in the coal sector, with accountability for their impacts. GRI’s Coal Standard reflects these challenges – not only in terms of climate change and a just transition, but across the full socio-economic and environmental spectrum. From minimizing waste to corruption-free operations, GRI 12 guides companies to deliver comprehensive and comparable reporting.

Global challenges call for different actions from different sectors. Numerous stakeholders – including investors, governments and civil society – require decision-useful data to assess the sustainability performance of companies. That is why we are growing the family of GRI Standards, with coal now added alongside our Oil and Gas Sector Standard, and more to come soon.”

Applicable for any organization in coal mining, exploration, processing, transport and storage, GRI 12 was developed by a working group that ensures multi-stakeholder and global legitimacy. This expert group includes representatives from the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, standard setters EITI and SASB, and investment institutions FTSE Russell and S&P Global. The working group emphasized climate change as the most critical issue for the sector, requiring enhanced disclosure.

Sector standard

The project to deliver a Sector Standard for Coal was initiated and approved by the Global Sustainability Standards Board. Prior to finalization, an exposure draft of the Sector Standard underwent a global public comment period. GRI 12: Coal Sector 2022 comes into effect for reporting from January 2024, with early adoption encouraged.

An assessment by the International Energy Agency estimates that coal-fired energy generation accounts for 30% of CO2 emissions. While coal’s position in the global energy mix is diminishing, IEA research finds production is growing in China, India, Australia, Indonesia and South Africa. The outcome of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November saw agreement by countries to ‘phase down’ (rather than ‘phase out’) use of coal.

GRI Sector Standards will initially cover 40 sectors, starting with those with the highest sustainability impacts. The first completed Sector Standard – for oil and gas – published in October 2021. A Sector Standard for agriculture, aquaculture & fishing is expected to launch this summer, with standards for mining, textiles & apparel, and food & beverage next in the pipeline.

 

food packaging phas

For green products to be successful, there have to be markets. For PHAs, a family of plastics that are both bio-based and biodegradable, there appear to be many. Invest-NL and Wageningen University & Research are joining forces to accelerate the market introduction of PHAs. They have developed a roadmap that shows which PHAs are appropriate for specific applications, what the characteristics of logical early adapter products are, and what developments are still needed.

PHAs are made by micro-organisms from raw materials such as sugars and vegetable oils and from various waste streams such as food waste and sewage sludge. Although production volumes are still limited and production costs are high, the market demand is clearly growing. When the production volumes go up, the costs may also go down, which in turn can open up new markets. What complicates the market implementation is the fact that the production of PHAs requires a different production process than the processes used to make conventional plastics such as PE, PP, and PET. This will require substantial investments and a lot of research.

PHAs when biodegradability is essential

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has been conducting technological research for 30 years into the production and usage possibilities of PHAs for various applications. They are currently participating in the European Urbiofin project, which aims to make PHAs from urban waste for use in packaging materials. In collaboration with Invest-NL they studied the market opportunities that will arise in the coming decades for the various types of PHA materials and the developments that are still required.

“These materials are a perfect fit for markets for which biodegradability in various natural environments is essential,” says Wouter Post, researcher at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research. These applications are included in the roadmap in phase 1 of the market implementation. “There are currently various types of PHA entering the market which each have their own specific set of material properties. As a result, unique market opportunities arise for each individual PHA type. This means that the market now needs clarity on which PHAs are appropriate for specific applications, such as products like paper coatings and agricultural plastics.

Opportunities for coffee and tea packaging

There are significantly fewer direct matches among the available PHAs for applications that require more specific mechanical properties (phase 2). Still, there seem to be opportunities for specific PHA materials for plant plugs, coffee and tea packaging, and artificial reefs. According to the researchers, there are technical opportunities for biodegradable tableware (plates, cups, cutlery) in the near future. But there are strict legal regulations for the production of these materials that make the use of plastics (and therefore also PHAs) more difficult. It is therefore still unclear whether it is interesting for this industry to enter this market with PHA products.

 

heat pumps

Green, effective, and convenient: renewable heating can be a way to do good by you as well as the planet. The latest consumer analysis from Coolproducts shows that the switch to heat pumps is keeping 85% of European users well within their comfort zones –  physically, financially, and environmentally.

When we talk about renewable heating, we speak of heat pumps and solar thermal heating, both of which are among the best technologies readily available for heating decarbonisation, with rising popularity in the European market in recent years. Despite this, the transition to heat pump solutions has been crawling due to the lack of incentives, information, and doubts among potential consumers about the comfort that heat pump technology can bring to their lives.

However, while lack of information and incentives are true, lack of comfort has not been an issue with heat pump users. In fact, the majority of users are satisfied with their switch to heat pumps, both for their wallets and their home life: these are the findings of a recent study by Coolproducts, based on the experience of over 670 surveyed and 40 interviewed heat pump users across 22 countries.

Warming up to renewable energy from heat pumps

Regardless of weather conditions, house type and motivations, 88% of respondents are happy with their switch to heat pumps.

The study highlights that heat pumps can deliver the same, if not more (according to 81% of respondents), comfort than gas/oil boilers. Moreover, the mighty heat pump is no one trick pony and doubles as an effective cooling system by pumping out the heat during hot summer days.

While many respondents were environmentally motivated in their switch to heat pumps and break away from fossil fuel or gas boilers (especially in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the UK), many users also made the switch to reduce their energy bills, and to reduce the hassle with traditional heating (e.g. getting rid of the oil or biomass supply).

The operating cost has not changed much for most regions, including in colder climates. 64% of respondents found that the switch to heat pump has even found it more economical. In cases of slightly higher running costs, the impact of prices on comfort and satisfaction was low. With gas prices more than quadrupled since last year, switching off the gas boilers for a heat pump unit might even be financially wise, and any government interested in breaking gas dependency and solving energy poverty should be warming up to the electric solution.

Get policy makers in the hot seat

The European Commission estimates that the EU should reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by 60% to reach the EU’s 2030 climate target.

Renewable heating, together with building renovation and energy efficiency measures, are currently the best-positioned climate solution to deliver these goals on time. At the EU level, a standard family switching from a gas boiler to renewable heating can save more than 60% of the annual CO2 emissions, according to Coolproducts.

Comfortable, decent running costs, and environmentally friendly heat pumps are holding all the keys to being the heating (and cooling) solution of the future. However, the biggest barrier remains the upfront cost and lacking support from governments. A 2021 study reveals that switching to renewable heating is only affordable in 8 EU countries. Major leaps in policies are needed urgently to keep Europe on track with its environmental and geopolitical strategies, starting with the humble but powerful heat pump.

First and foremost, to make heat pump affordable for everyone, Member States must increase subsidies by at least €70 billion, an extra mile that could be reduced to €20 billion if a CO2 tax of 100 €/ton was introduced, as estimated by a recent study on behalf of the Coolproducts campaign.

Secondly, the (green) power lies in information. Users across Europe should know more about the mighty heat pump, and the role it can play in the environmental and energy crises we face. Qualified services should be in place, and heating and cooling experts should be equipped with the knowledge as well.

Finally, there should be more information campaigns on national subsidies, tax credits, soft loans, and special electricity tariffs to homeowners.

Switching to renewable heating is inevitable, and we have the solution on our hands. It is now time to turn up the heat on policy makers and demand a green energy transition for all.

Source: EEB / Meta

H2 green hydrogen

Protecting our environment involves significant challenges. Reducing the carbon footprint of energy production and the amount of waste we produce as a society are two of them. A revolutionary project to create green hydrogen using proprietary technologies by using organic wastes as feedstock for its energy production while capturing CO2 and commercializing it, helps to achieve carbon neutrality.

Countries and major industries are increasingly recognizing that one of the most promising routes to a zero-carbon future is the production and use of green hydrogen. However, creating green hydrogen has historically proven uneconomic. H2-Industries, using its proprietary technology, has developed a process to create large amounts of green hydrogen from organic waste at competitive costs. The green hydrogen produced from that process can be transported and stored, using other H2-Industries technologies, and released on demand for use in industry applications.

Waste to energy

Following a multimillion $ investment, H2-Industries is now poised to undertake several projects which will convert organic waste, including plastic and agricultural waste and even sewage sludge, and turning same into useable hydrogen. That hydrogen can be transported into a “carrier fluid” referred to in the industry as LOHC, which can be transported and used to fill storage tanks much like diesel, but without the carbon emissions upon use. The waste heat from the H2-Industries’ process can be used for to generate power with steam turbines and generators.

Egypt waste to hydrogen plant – world’s first and largest on this scale

Preliminary approval has been granted to H2-Industries by the General Authority for Suez Canal Economic Zone (SC°Zone) for the development of a 1GW LOHC Hydrogen Hub at East Port-Said which will be the first project of its type in the world. The hydrogen plant will be fed with 4 million tons of organic waste and non-recyclable plastic per year secured at the Mediterranean entrance to the canal.  The Suez Project will produce 300,000 tons of green hydrogen per year at half the levelized cost of current green hydrogen production technologies, taking the cost even lower than current levels for low-carbon and grey hydrogen production.

Executive Chairman of H2-Industries, Michael Stusch said: “This is an exciting opportunity and one that will take the tons of waste that collects in Egypt and turn it into green hydrogen. The Waste-to-Hydrogen plant is a breakthrough in making green hydrogen economically viable, helping not only reduce global CO2 emissions but also reducing the pollution and impairment of water resources in the country.”

Green hydrogen so produced can be sold and transported for international use in 20th century infrastructure, e.g., diesel trucks carrying H2-Industries’ LOHC or, alternatively, H2-Industries can create low-cost synthetic diesel (eDiesel) or sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), with the captured CO2 which is the only emission in this process, depending on international market demand for same.

More to come

H2-Industries is also commercializing other green hydrogen products to meet the commercial needs of end users with applications ranging from the transformation of coal fired power plants to hydrogen power plants and transforming steel, cement and glass production making it CO2 free by using H2-Industries’ technology and green hydrogen.

tropomi methane in Australia

A Dutch group of scientists has used the space instrument TROPOMI to calculate methane emissions from six Australian coal mines. Together these account for 7% of the national coal production, but turn out to emit around 55% of what Australia reports for their total coal mining methane emissions.

Australia is in the top-5 coal producing countries in the world. It reports coal mining methane emissions of a million tons per year. ‘It is hard to believe that 7% of coal production is responsible for 55% of coal mining methane emissions,’ says Prof. Ilse Aben (SRON/VU), leading the team of researchers. ‘So in reality, Australia’s coal mining methane emissions are likely much higher than reported. More importantly, knowing which mines have such large emissions is critical in focusing efforts for mitigation.’

The research team observed five underground mines and one surface mine. Especially the emissions from the surface mine, called Hail Creek, stand out. It is one of 73 surface mines in Australia, but accounts for 88% of Australia’s total reported surface coal mine emissions.

First author Pankaj Sadavarte (SRON/TNO): ‘The most remarkable finding is that the emissions from the surface mine are so much higher than expected and by far the largest we see in the TROPOMI data over the coal mine area in Queensland: on its own, it accounts for 40% of emissions for all six observed mines. Common understanding is that surface mines emit much less methane than underground mines. And to be quite honest, we still don’t understand why this mine is emitting so much methane.’

Methane has been recognized as crucial to mitigate climate change in the short term. At the COP26 in Glasgow, over a hundred countries signed the global methane pledge initiative from the US and the EU to reduce methane emissions by 30%—relative to 2020—by 2030. A few major methane emitting countries, including Australia, have not signed the pledge.

TROPOMI methane observations on two different days showing large signals from three coal mine locations. The most Northern location is the surface mine, while the other locations are underground mines. Northern: Hail Creek. Middle: Broadmeadow, Moranbah North, Grosvenor. Southern: Grasstree, Oaky North.

Publication

Pankaj Sadavarte, Sudhanshu Pandey, Joannes D. Maasakkers, Alba Lorente, Tobias Borsdorff, Hugo Denier van der Gon, Sander Houweling, Ilse Aben, ‘Methane Emissions from Super-emitting Coal Mines in Australia quantified using TROPOMI Satellite Observations’, Environmental Science & Technology

lightyear one

Lightyear, the solar electric vehicle pioneer, has achieved a major technology performance milestone by driving 710 km of range with its prototype car. Never before has an electric vehicle driven such a long-range on a relatively small battery.

“After four years of hard work and in-house development, this is a very important engineering and technological milestone. It validates the performance of our patented technology and truly shows that we are able to deliver on our promise to introduce the most efficient electric vehicle. This prototype has over 710 km of range with an energy consumption of only 85 Wh/km at 85 km per hour. Even the most efficient electric cars in the market today consume around 50% more energy at this relatively low speed”, says Lex Hoefsloot, CEO and co-founder of Lightyear.

“This milestone is a great confirmation of the scalability of our business model. We are confident that in the coming months, we will be able to reach a similar level of energy consumption at highway speed. Lowering the energy consumption per mile of an EV means that you can provide a lot of range on a small battery. Because batteries are the most expensive part of an EV, you can lower the purchase price of the car and achieve affordable electric cars with a lot of range that don’t need a lot of charging. Low-energy consuming cars can also benefit a lot more from adding solar cells to the car and gain about 72 km of charge on a sunny day.”

The prototype car was put to the test at the Aldenhoven Testing Center in Germany, to drive a full drive cycle at a speed of 85 km per hour on a single battery charge of 60 kWh. The integral test ranged from the yield of the solar panels, the battery performance, the energy consumption of the cooling system, all the way to the functioning of the in-wheel motors and the software operating the solar car.

The conducted full drive cycle test is a crucial step to verify and validate all the assumptions of the vehicle’s performance. Beyond the validation of the technical performance of the car, other upcoming tests are related to the homologation process such as the crash tests and an official WLTP drive cycle test.

Lightyear is on a mission to make clean mobility available to everyone, everywhere, and is gearing up for the industrialisation and manufacturing of Lightyear One. The concept of a long-range solar car represents a huge opportunity to change mobility, so you can drive for months without charging. An exclusive series of 946 Lightyear One’s will go into production in the first half of 2022. Lightyear wants to address the mass market starting from 2024.

Lightyear

Lightyear is on a mission to make clean mobility available to everyone, everywhere and aims to eliminate the two biggest concerns for an electric car – charging and range – with an energy-efficient design and integrated solar cells. This allows motorists, depending on the climate, to drive up to twenty thousand kilometres per year on the power of the sun. The fast-growing company was founded in 2016 and currently employs more than two hundred employees. The team is made up of a mix of young talent and experience from the automotive industry, including former employees of Tesla, Jaguar, Landrover, Audi, McLaren and Ferrari. In 2019, Lightyear received the Horizon 2020 grant from the European Commission under grant agreement number 848620. In the summer of 2019, Lightyear launched its first driving prototype, Lightyear One, and opened a new office. The prestigious TIME Magazine acknowledged Lightyear One as one of the ‘100 best inventions’ of 2019. In 2020, Lightyear won the ‘Rising Star’ and ‘Most Disruptive Innovator’ Award of the Technology Fast 50 program organized by Deloitte. The first model of Lightyear One will go into production in 2022 as an exclusive series of 946 cars.

www.lightyear.one

climate change COP26

Following the publication of COP26’s final agreement, Molly Scott Cato, former Green MEP and now Professor of Economics at the University of Roehampton, says the event has failed in what history will see as our last chance to protect the world from disastrous over-heating.

“The fundamental purpose of COP26 was to ensure that our climate does not heat up by more than 1.5 degrees – by that measure, it has failed disastrously.

Nations know they have to cut emissions deeper and faster. Yet despite a limited increase in ambition, the majority of countries have failed to strengthen the promises they made in Paris in 2015, leading well-respected Carbon Action Tracker, to put the world on track for a calamitous 2.4 degrees of warming.

While the difference between 1.5 and 2.4 might not seem like very much, it is the difference between a liveable climate and one where thousands die from heat shock in Europe and millions are faced with starvation in Africa due to drought. It is the difference between the loss of all the coral in the world and having any chance of saving them. It is the difference between the Maldives or the Marshall Islands existing or simply disappearing under rising seas.

The absence of leaders from Russia and China, two of the world’s largest carbon emitters, and the last-minute intervention by India and China to water down the language on coal, have been pivotal to the event’s shortcomings. This is a diplomatic failure of the last few decades during which geopolitical maneuvering and self-interest have shamelessly dominated the climate crisis.

The countries that have signed up to the agreement cannot escape blame, with the majority putting self-interest above the common project of saving the climate. The need to remove fossil fuels from our global economy has been held up by many of the most powerful countries sheltering their fossil fuel interests, including the UK and US.  The UK presidency lost focus on the global diplomacy at the heart of COP with its desire to tout for sustainable finance business for The City.

Meanwhile, the failure of the wealthy nations that are responsible for historic emissions to put money on the table to repair Loss-and-Damage made it impossible for Alok Sharma, in spite of his best efforts, to maintain a unity of purpose.

While this is a gloomy picture, there are some individual rays of light, with deals on methane and forests helping to reduce the burden on the atmosphere. And the acceptance of the need to phase out fossil fuels by countries responsible for the vast majority of the world’s economic activity can only be welcomed.

Yet in reality, COP26 has been a political and diplomatic failure. History will judge Glasgow as the last opportunity to protect civilization against the ravages of an over-heating climate and, another year of delay until COP27 in Egypt, means that opportunity has been missed.”

However, where politics failed to deliver, businesses made their mark which, for now, also mainly consists of promises, could indeed make a significant contribution in reducing emissions and conserving nature. As the Financial Review put it:

Something has shifted in the business world. The capital is flowing into the energy transition; investors are holding companies to account for their environmental, social and governance performance; and the risks and costs of going green are shifting in the climate’s favor.

Nevertheless, another year is wasted by moving decisions ahead again, to COP27 at Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt. Ironically, it’s much warmer there than in Glasgow. Maybe that will put the heat on results a bit more.

crops and crop growth under climate change

Climate change may affect the production of crops like maize (corn) and wheat by 2030 if current trends continue, according to a new international study that included researchers from IIASA, NASA, and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). Maize crop yields are projected to decline by 24%, while wheat could potentially see growth of about 17%.

Read more

urban greenhouse challenge

The Urban Greenhouse Challenge will kick off on 3 November. This is the third time Wageningen University & Research organizes their international student competition in search of ideas for local, urban food production that can feed cities in a sustainable way. This ‘Social Impact Edition’ challenges competitors to think beyond food to look at urban farming as a catalyst for social change.

This year’s Urban Greenhouse Challenge will look at all the ways in which an urban farming site can tackle problems like poverty, unemployment, and the lack of access to affordable and nutritious food. In short, this edition is all about social impact.

The competitor’s final entry will focus on the East Capitol Urban Farm in Washington, D.C., a food hub in one of the most diverse lower-income neighborhoods of the capital of the United States. This year’s challengers are asked to create a comprehensive plan that develops the site to not just produce food year-round, robustly, and resiliently, but also that fosters social equity through a new food economy.

Introducing local food systems

To kick off this Social Impact Edition of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge, on 3 November Dr Sabine O’Hara from the University of the District of Columbia will present a keynote focusing on igniting community empowerment through local food systems. This year’s challenge is actually, in a way, a continuation of O’Hara’s collaboration with Wageningen University & Research’s own Dr Marian Stuiver, head of the Green Cities program. They worked together on developing an outlook for circular and nature-based food hubs.

O’Hara’s presentation will be followed by a round table discussion with Tiffany Tsui of the Vertical Farm Institute and Dr Sigrid Wertheim-Heck, a researcher at the Wageningen University & Research. Discussion topics will include food as part of culture and heritage and urban farming as part of greening the city. These subjects are intended to inspire the students, who will develop food hub concepts that celebrate local history and integrate all the health benefits of a green living environment (for instance, cooling down extreme heat).

Students from all over the world

The registration for the Challenge is open until 14 November. Students who want to participate have to form an interdisciplinary team that together will create a complete development plan, which will not just take knowledge of agri- and horticulture, but also architecture and business. Together they will start out on a journey that will take the best of them to a digital site viewing, expert consultations and eventually a Grand Finale in which the best ten development plans will potentially serve as prototypes for a real, affordable, and sustainable urban farm.

Would you like to watch the opening event of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge? Learn more and register here.