The future of lighting is LED

My relationship with Royal Philips goes back a long way. My father worked for one of their factories, and I was therefore eligible for a study grant from the “Philips van der Willigen Studiefonds”. This facility had been established in 1916 by the founder of the original company, Gerard Philips, to help children of its employees achieve their higher education goals. The study grant supported me in my undergraduate studies at the University of Amsterdam and enabled me to obtain my PhD at the University of Bristol, UK in 1982.

I had very little to do with Philips during the first two decades of my career, until I was in charge of the IUCN’s global fundraising unit from 2004 to 2009, and we were looking for support for the construction of the IUCN Headquarters extension in Gland, Switzerland. IUCN senior management had decided to make this a sustainable building, and to use the US LEED standard as the verification. We aimed for the highest level of LEED – platinum.

One of the requirements was low-energy lighting and I contacted Philips to ask if they were willing to help us and what they could supply. After some negotiations they agree d to become one of the corporate partners in the building project, and to equip the building with the latest technology in lighting. With the help of Philips and others, IUCN reached its goal of LEED Platinum – one of the first buildings in Europe to be awarded this label.

A corridor in the IUCN Headquarters, Gland, Switzerland

Visionary companies need to be recognised, and I was therefore very pleased to read last week on the Clean Revolution website of the Climate Group that almost half of Philips’ total sales come from its Green Products, a fact which is helping accelerate the company towards its 2015 sustainability performance targets. According to the Clean Revolution website, the company invested EUR 569 million in Green Innovation in 2012 and is on track to reach EUR 2 billion by 2015. LED (light-emitting diodes) lighting claimed the bulk of this investment in 2012, with more than EUR 325 million invested in innovation towards accelerating the LED revolution.

LEDs are revolutionizing the energy efficiency of lighting. They are also infinitely scalable, extremely reliable, and have a much longer lifetime than almost all other types of lighting. Highly efficient LED lighting has the potential to transform cities and deliver major cost and greenhouse gas reductions for governments, businesses and consumers. These were the key messages from an event at the Rio+20 Summit last year that saw the launch of The Climate Group’s new Lighting the Clean Revolution report and a call to action to make all street lighting, on a global basis, LED-based (or as efficient) by 2020.


LEDs in chaos – Wikipedia

The Digital Divide – too wide!

The latest issue 13 of “Making It” from the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) has the following illustration in one of its stories. The data came from the latest ICT report of the International Telecommunication Union in Switzerland.

Copyright by United Nations Industrial Development Organisation

Image from “Making It”, issue 13, 2013 © United Nations Industrial Development Organisation

The first astounding fact is that today nearly half the world is connected to the internet. An incredible achievement, if you consider that the internet was not commercialised until the nineties, and in 2000 only 7% of the world’s population was connected.

The other, more worrying, fact is the difference between the developed and developing world – a virtual mirror image! This difference would be even more striking if we assume that the “developing countries” figure most likely includes data from some of the emerging economies!

Least developed countries are at a great disadvantage, and it should be one of the priorities for international assistance to try and narrow the digital divide.

Do we need so many international days to celebrate nature?

Today is World Environment Day – my very best wishes!2013WED
Last month, 22 May was International Day for Biological Diversity (or World Biodiversity Day). Earth Day takes place each year on 22 April. And let us not forget that World Wetlands Day is on 2 February, 21 March is International Day of Forests and 11 December is International Mountain Day. There is also World Habitat Day on 1 October and World Ocean Day on 8 June. World Migratory Birds Day is on 11 May!

World Environment Day aims to raise global awareness of the need to take positive environmental action, while the Earth Day Network says that Earth Day broadens the base of support for environmental programs, rekindles public commitment and builds community activism. The goal for World Biodiversity Day is “To increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.” These are three different takes on the same issue of promoting a better Environment.

The reasons for having a “world day” is to focus attention and to galvanise public opinion, but my question is whether there is a certain fatigue after several years. An often-cited argument against focusing a lot of attention on one day only is that the issue is considered less important the other 364 days of the year. I also wonder whether three different – unrelated – days in the first half of the year to celebrate nature and environment is the most efficient way of using scarce resources. And having other days to celebrate mountains, forests, oceans, wetlands and birds may confuse our audience even more.

It is paramount to raise awareness about the value of nature and the need to protect our environment, as this is arguably the most important issue that the world is facing. Using a special day to focus the attention may make sense, but an integrated approach and a joint programme of action might be a lot more powerful. Joint action may also provide a better opportunity to get high-level political interest and buy-in from other sectors. Closer collaboration between all the different parties would be required for a start!

Should we not try and aim for one annual day to celebrate all aspects of nature?

University of Bristol Convocation Lecture

I was at the University of Bristol, in Southwest England, last week to give the 43rd Annual Convocation Lecture. Convocation is the University of Bristol’s alumni association, and it was an honour and a pleasure to give a lecture to former colleagues and current students; I was at Bristol University from 1977 to 1982. The annual convocation lecture is an opportunity to meet old friends, make new acquaintances and listen to a presentation of an interesting topic.

Bristol University Convocation Lecture may 22nd 2013 015

University of Bristol Chancellor, Baroness Hale, speaking with the author and Bill Ray, Chair of the Convocation Committee

My talk was about Biodiversity in Europe, which was particularly relevant as the event took place on 22 May – the International day of Biodiversity. Earlier in the day, Sir David Attenborough had launched the UK State of Nature report, a stocktake of UK nature which suggests that 60% of animal and plant species studied have declined in the past 50 years. Sir David described the report as a stark warning, but also as a sign of hope as it highlights the amazing nature we have around us and to ensure that it remains here for generations to come.


Peak District National Park

I had a similar message about biodiversity in Europe; there are serious and effective conservation measures in place, but we are still losing biodiversity. There are some very powerful success stories, but the effectiveness of conservation is not the same across Europe.

My other message was that short-term economic interests often clash with long-term sustainable development objectives, and we need to balance conservation of nature and industrial production. Agriculture and fisheries are two particularly important sectors as they will have to provide some of the financial support for nature conservation in Europe.


Field margin in UK

Field Margin © Copyright Living Countryside

Communication is extremely important, and I stressed that we need to simplify our messaging and use better marketing approaches to get the meaning across. One agreed approach which we should embrace is to use best practice examples and success stories to emphasize the positive side of nature conservation. We need to stress the beauty of nature and the many benefits we gain from a healthy environment, and try to generate stronger political support for what we do.

I made the case that local authorities and the private sector are two groups of society that have recently shown some very positive and exciting examples of nature conservation. Providing that they are serious, these are potential real game-changers.

My final point related to the need to get a closer and more effective collaboration between the academic institutions, the government and the NGOs working on biodiversity and nature.

Sir David is hopeful, and I also ended my talk with the recognition that there is a lot of good work going on, while pointing out that nature is resilient.

Photo by Eric Caillon (2006) for Eiffage photo contest

Photo by Eric Caillon (2006) for Eiffage photo contest