MARILYN FREEMAN − All the COP gatherings produce a lot of hot air and not enough action to mitigate delay on the climate emergency front. Greta Thunberg, world famous youth climate activist, who is not attending COP27 this year summed it perfectly with her “Blah, blah, blah” quote.
However, behind the scenes and in spite of the extractive industry lobbyists, some interesting things are happening.
Mark Carney, former Bank of Canada governor, talks of the growing realization of “smart money” about the opportunity available for investment in clean energy. Carney is the vice-chair of Brookfield Asset Management, an organization that has significantly increased its share of investments in this sector in the last year. (Disclosure: I have investments with Brookfield)
Telus Pollinator Fund for Good has a $100-million social impact fund that is investing in clean tech. Same for private equity firms such as KKR, TPG and the Business and Development Bank of Canada. Tobi Mueller-Glodde, a senior associate at Telus Pollinator Fund for Good puts it this way: “There are a lot of funds with dry powder to invest. That’s encouraging for the sector overall.”
If my reading of The Ministry For the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson taught me anything, it’s “follow the money.” (And keep your pinch of salt handy.)
There are other interesting developments. When the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea exploded (was bombed) in September, a satellite owned by a Montreal based satellite company, GHGSat, was the first to spot this. The breach emitted 79,000kg of methane an hour. This satellite sits 500 km above the earth. It can spot a methane plume only 25m long. Another Canadian company based in Calgary, 4pi Lab, is launching 16 satellites that will spot wildfires. The cameras on these sats are able to scan the earth every 4 – 6 hours and detect a fire with a diameter as small as 5m.
How about mushrooms? For quite a while we’ve heard about the myriad of possibilities for using mycelium. MycoFutures out of Newfoundland is using it to create an alternative to leather. Mycocycle has developed a process that uses fungi to break down asphalt. It becomes a lightweight material for use as packaging or insulation.
Technology in the form of drones is being used by the University of Guelph to monitor the health of forest species. Drones are also being used to embed seed pods in the soil as part of the federal government’s plan to plant 2 billion trees across Canada.
Recently, we’ve been hearing more about hydrogen, both from the pro side and also from the “pie in the sky” side. This is being driven partly by the war in Ukraine and its effects on the energy market. Germany has announced it will buy a fleet of new hydrogen-powered trains. A South African mine is now using a hydrogen haul truck, the first of its kind. The Edmonton airport will test hydrogen shuttle buses in 2024.
Less high tech and more accessible is the potential of using roofs for growing food and pollinator plants. The University of Toronto has tested how to make better use of the 700 green roofs that already exist in the city.
While all this “gee whiz” techie stuff is fascinating and even a little hopeful, it still doesn’t negate something we learned long ago: #1 Reduce, #2Recycle, #3Reuse. We can’t only “tech” our way out of the climate emergency but I’d like to think that human ingenuity got us into this mess and human ingenuity will go some of the way to get us out of it.
(With files from the Toronto Star, Nov. 12/22 Business Section)
Marilyn Freeman, 9.5 year resident of Peterborough, swallowed the whole Reduce, Reuse, Recycle message even before it was a message – a result of growing up with Depression era parents. Last year she was gifted with a GPS for her bicycle and got turned on (somewhat) to technology.