On 25 March 2020, all pressure groups in the European automotive industry - including manufacturers, suppliers, tyre manufacturers and retailers - signed a message to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that calls for a relaxation of CO2 targets for cars.
The request highlights the significant challenges posed by an unprecedented global health crisis and explicitly calls for a postponement of CO2 and safety laws.
The law on CO2 emissions from cars is the EU's most important policy to reduce the growing climate impact caused by cars, which account for 14% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of road transport emissions. The first significant target, after years of increasing CO2 emissions and the lack of electric car models on the market, started on 1 January 2020: 95% of all new car sales across the EU must be equal to or below the average target of 95g CO2 per km. The target applies at 100% compared to sales in 2021.
This is a CO2 target, not a sales target for electric vehicles. When it was first agreed in 2008, the compliance path was not that of electric cars, but that of (small and) fuel-efficient cars. Therefore, electric vehicles are now the preferred option for many for parameter compliance and the best climate solution.
Evidence shows that in times of recession drivers are switching to smaller, less powerful cars (with lower emissions). In 2009, CO2 emissions from new cars decreased by 5.1%. Generous and targeted scrapping schemes helped to drive demand towards cleaner vehicles - scrapping schemes accounted for 86% of all sales in 2009. At least 35 conventional small and medium-sized low-cost models under 95 g/km are currently on sale. Almost all EU car manufacturers have models of this.
In the first two months of 2020, the share of total sales of electric vehicles more than doubled in the EU, from 3.1% in 2019 to more than 6% (*) in 2020. Indeed, 2020 has so far been a record year for electric car sales: France leads the five more significant markets with 8% of new electric vehicle sales, compared to 6% in the UK, 7% in Germany, 3% in Spain and 2% in Italy.
The priority in fighting climate change requires that the EU does not lower its guard against the targets already agreed. Alternative solutions exist and must be pursued.
(*) Source: https://www.transportenvironment.org/
Today, when we talk about "sustainability" and "green", we have the impression that we are dealing with words that have become fashionable as nouns or adjectives that must be included in a press release or on a website to keep up to date with the environmental issues of recent years.
But fortunately "sustainability" is much more than just a fad.
Sustainability is everything that relates in a balanced way towards the environment and the person, not altering but improving their state of well-being and health. It is inherent in this term the concept of balance that should be found in every area in which man lives and works.
Sustainability today, if applied consciously and correctly, would allow having a healthier planet Earth in respect of renewable resources and improvement of the problems generated by climate change, thus managing to recover the entire ecosystem.
For this reason, every person and every company should take responsibility for actively contributing to its impact on the environment and today, companies, in particular, are mainly in the spotlight from this point of view.
Until not so long ago, the problem companies had was to consider sustainability as a non-financial risk in which it was not convenient to invest because it was not found to be profitable for the company's profits.
Nowadays, however, sustainability has primarily become part of the financial world. For this reason, many companies have started to invest resources to communicate with others all the efforts in terms of sustainability and the results achieved in a green perspective.
This has been possible, thanks to the birth of the sustainability report that every company is required to produce every year. Not only is it useful as an indicator of what the company is doing to work sustainably, but it also generates real benefits both internally and externally that directly affect their financial statements.
The ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) exists to indicate all activities related to sustainable and responsible investment in the economic/financial field. The ESG takes into account environmental, social and governance aspects and consists of essential criteria to judge the sustainability of a company's investments.
To go deeper into this topic, we have summarized the five most essential ESG frameworks to understand their origin, who is involved in this new type of reporting, and what their aims are.
The GRI is the Global Reporting Initiative, a non-profit organization that was created as a tool for reporting the sustainable performance of any organization with no size, category or country limits in the world. It was founded in 1997 in Boston by Robert Massie, the executive director of the Coalition For Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) and Allen White, CEO of Tellus Institute.
The aim was to develop an accounting system for environmental reporting according to the principles of socially responsible conduct. Initially born as a GRI project department that had as its target audience only investors, it then became a real executive committee for the development of the Guidelines, thus becoming an entity with a multidimensional approach thanks to the extension of the scope of reporting also to the social, economic and environmental dimensions.
The CDP is the Carbon Disclosure Project, an international non-profit organization that provides governments, investors, businesses and global authorities with a universal system of environmental reporting and measurement. It was founded in 2000 by Paul Dickinson, and its initial idea was that if companies considered risk management and environmental reporting as the central and fundamental part of their responsibility, capital markets would be transformed in favour of the environment.
To measure, manage and share all climate change information internationally, four programs supported by CDP were established: Climate Change Program, Water Program, Forests Program and Supply Chain Program and the Cities, States and Regions Program.
The CDP currently supports 525 institutional investors with $96 trillion in assets and continues to provide incentives for all companies to decrease and eliminate their negative impact on the environment.
The SASB is the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, a non-profit organization founded in 2011 by Jean Rogers. This Accounting Standards Board sets the standards for financial reporting for the development of sustainability. In particular, it aims to facilitate comparison and benchmarking in sustainability reports. To provide a useful tool, it has developed the SICS ®, namely the Sustainable Industry Classification System applicable to eleven sectors and 77 types of industries. The SICS groups companies in different factors differentiated according to the risks and opportunities for sustainability shared.
Also, SASB has created an advisory service for investors (IAG) as they have a crucial role in improving the effectiveness of sharing information produced by companies that disclose performance on ESG factors, thus being able to participate in the development of useful, qualitatively functional and comparable information standards.
The TCFD is the task force on climate-related financial disclosures. It was established in 2015 following the G20. It was founded at the end of that year by the Financial Stability Board (FSB), which is the body that promotes and monitors the stability of the global financial system.
Michael R. Bloomberg was electro president and was composed of 32 experts from the financial and manufacturing sectors. The objective of this task force is to develop all relevant recommendations on climate change risk reporting. In this way, it is intended to be a guide for companies to align the information disclosed with the needs of investors.
In 2017, the TCFD published a Final Report with four areas such as governance, strategy, risk management, metrics and targets and 11 recommendations that were endorsed by some 240 organizations from around the world.
The WDI is the Workforce Disclosure Initiative, an initiative born from the need to help institutional investors to access all the important data on the management of the work carried out by company personnel.
It was created at the end of 2016 by the British non-profit responsible investment association called ShareAction. Its operation is based on the logic of the CDP model, but WDI collects data from companies both on how they manage their direct employees and on all the people working in their entire supply chain.
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on human health and the economy are intensifying day by day, including aspects not yet adequately in the spotlight. These include the emergency of household medical waste.
In Italy, waste management in hospitals is regulated by Presidential Decree 254/2003 (G.U. 211/2003), mainly addressed to Healthcare Facilities, which is the implementing regulation of Legislative Decree 22/1997. But with the ongoing COVID-19 emergency, the safe management of household waste has also become a critical aspect. Medical waste such as contaminated masks, gloves, used or expired medicines, and other objects can easily mix with household garbage. At the same time, it must be treated as hazardous waste and disposed of separately. These must be stored separately from other household waste streams and collected by specialized waste management or municipal waste management operators. Guidelines on recycling specificities disposal of such waste are detailed in the Factsheet of the Basel Convention on Medical or Medical Waste.
The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal is the most comprehensive international environmental agreement on hazardous waste and other wastes. It is almost universal, with 187 parties.
The Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, or SAB Secretariat, assists the three main multilateral environmental agreements governing chemicals and hazardous waste. SAB Executive Secretary Rolph Payet said, "All sectors of society are coming together to defeat the virus collectively and to minimize the human and economic impact of COVID-19 worldwide. In addressing this enormous, unprecedented challenge, decision-makers at all levels - international, national, municipal, city and district - are urged to make every effort to ensure that waste management, including medical and household waste, receives the attention - indeed the priority - it requires. It is essential to ensure the impact minimization of these potentially hazardous waste streams on human health and the environment.
Parties to the Basel Convention are currently working on a guidance document in this regard and, although not yet finalized, a first draft can be found at: http://www.basel.int/?tabid=8227 .
In this period of health emergency where travel restrictions are required, you still can't give up travelling by visiting, albeit virtually, the most beautiful places in the world. All you need is an internet connection and a few clicks to reach them comfortably from home.
In response to the forced closure, all the main tourist destinations have designed and implemented real immersive tours to allow anyone to discover all the fascinating places on the planet through modern technology.
The proposed selection ranges from the iconic museum architectures that open like chests to show their priceless treasures to parks and natural beauties of every kind, from exclusive palaces and castles to the most particular and fascinating hotels, up to city tours to discover entire districts and cities.
Le Musee du Louvre, Paris
The masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance and Egyptian and Babylonian antiquities are just some of the most famous examples that make up the wide range of virtual tours offered by the Louvre:
British Museum, London
Through a partnership with Google Arts & Culture, the famous London museum allows its digital visitors to take a walk through time and discover the history of artefacts from remote corners of the world.
Grand Canyon, Arizona
The network is full of images of one of the most famous and spectacular landscapes on earth: the Grand Canyon. But now the archaeological tour will reveal all the secrets and geological features of the stratifications that over the years have given life to him.
Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
A completely immersive experience to discover the Irish geological landmark par excellence, through 360-degree views of the entire landscape accompanied by audio that fully reproduces the atmosphere of this place dominated by the most fascinating and unspoiled nature.
Rocky Mountains National Park, Colorado
An original approach is the one proposed by the Rocky Mountains National Park, which through its online sound library collects the sound biodiversity of all species of birds and wild animals present in the park. It offers the possibility to involve not only the sight but also the hearing for a real involving experience.
Palace of Versailles, France
Highly advanced is the experience made available on the site of the Palace of Versailles, which combines a vast amount of interactive material with innovative virtual exhibitions and the possibility to immerse yourself in the path through the helmet for virtual reality.
For all lovers of the wilderness of Northern Europe, a photographic company has published online numerous 360° videos that simulate visits to the famous Icehotel, husky and reindeer sleigh rides and even a simulation of an aurora borealis hunt.
Now it is possible virtual visiting the many places rich in history of Jerusalem, getting lost along the narrow alleys paved with white stone and immerse yourself in the myriad of intense colours and scents that characterize the different neighbourhoods. It will be an immersive and engaging experience, thanks to an audio guide accompanied by innovative videos with 360° exploration capabilities.
As is universally known, Italy is rich in natural, artistic and cultural beauty of all kinds. Among the many sites that provide digital users with a taste of the beauty preserved there is the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, which accompanies the visit of famous works of the video pills recorded by the director James Bradburne where unpublished anecdotes are collected. Also, the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence shows its extraordinary collection of masterpieces through photographs in HD that reveal even the smallest details.
Finally, to conclude the virtual tour of the Bel Paese in its capital, connecting to the platform of the Vatican Museums, it will be possible to exceptionally observe every little detail of the Sistine Chapel. At the same time, on the site of the Scuderie del Quirinale, you can immerse yourself in the exhibition "Raffaello.1520-1483" to discover curiosities about the life of this extraordinary Renaissance artist.
Many fashion brands are implementing production processes respecting strict ethical and environmental standards, through good practices such as the reduction of waste, the use of recycled materials and the recyclability of the product itself.
Among the most productive sectors in this sense is the world of accessories: traditional bijoux and what we could define as their hi-tech alter ego, i.e. smartwatches and earphones. Technological accessories are now part of our outfits, we use to wear them and, not surprisingly, they are increasingly customizable.
Fashion, technology and sustainability are no longer antithetical terms.
Many jewellery designers make their creations using recycled materials, from aluminium for costume jewellery to recycled precious metals. Examples are Vestopazzo's Aluminium collection and the creations of Swedish artist Ana-Maria Atonoiae, owner of Ferunas, which combine recycled silver and 3D printing techniques.
Certified gemstones and precious stones, extracted according to ethical procedures or treated following environmental standards without toxic emissions, are more and more diffused. They are the so-called "environmentally-conscious" materials.
The jewellery brand Futura, for instance, uses only Fairmined Ecological certified gold. It doesn't emit toxic mercury into the environment. Bario Neal instead uses precious metals and gemstones with a traced origin.
The technology industry brands, now designers and producers of consumer fashion accessories, have taken up the challenge of sustainable hi-tech. In this case, the phenomena to counteract are the environmental impact of waste from the electronics industry and the serious theme of planned obsolescence. Among the good practices introduced by the sector is the use of recycled metals recovered from electronic industry waste, the increase of the durability of products and the introduction of Corporate Social Responsibility strategies that involve raising awareness of producers and consumers about sustainability. In this regard, a positive example is the innovative start-up Planet Beyond, which has put on the market at affordable prices customizable jewellery earphones made entirely from recycled metals.
Fashion and technology lovers now have at their disposal a wide range of interchangeable, customizable, aesthetically pleasing, ecological and ethically sustainable accessories. A reason more to wear them.
Bees are the predominant pollinating insects on our planet. They pollinate a third of the food we eat and 80% of our flowering plants. These two considerations make us realize how important their survival is.
Moriyama & Teshima Architects must have started from this assumption when it came to designing the Honey Bee Research Centre (HBRC).
This new centre is a real example of bioclimatic architecture and was developed for the University of Guelph, Ontario College of Architecture. It will host scholars and researchers to do cutting-edge research on the bee ecosystem and the close relationship between climate change and bee survival. It will also be open to visitors from all over the world who will have access to numerous multidisciplinary spaces such as the Discovery and Learning Space and the Interpretative Tower.
The HBRC is a cutting-edge bio-architecture project which is expected to be completed next month. It was designed with the highest architectural and energy standards of advanced sustainability in mind with the aim of achieving Leed Gold certification. Systems based on the use of renewable resources such as natural ventilation, rain gardens with rainwater recovery, a high-performance envelope using solar energy and a green roof for thermal insulation have been used.
The centre covers an area of 19,200 square meters and has been gently integrated into the surrounding natural landscape thanks to the green roof that can be walked on. This is an integral part of paths through farmland and plantations of flora suitable for pollinating animals as well as edible gardens to integrate animal and plant life to the fullest possible extent in which man is invited to be part of it with respect and attention.