Sustainability

From greenwashing to pinkwashing: all the shades of brand activism, behind the facade

One of the most popular marketing strategies of the past few years has been associating one’s brand to social issues. Whoever uses social networks, surfs the internet, or just watches TV, can easily recall a promotional campaign in which the product advertised endorsed messages related to female empowerment, multiculturalism or… Read More »From greenwashing to pinkwashing: all the shades of brand activism, behind the facade

Big Tech and Oil Production, a new-found relationship

Big Tech Companies have always publicized themselves as fierce opponents of pollution and carbon dioxide emissions. They often associate themselves with climate activism and, during panels and conferences their “Green” Initiatives are always presented to the public to remind us their concern for the environment. While all of this is… Read More »Big Tech and Oil Production, a new-found relationship

Incentivize Electric Cars for a Sustainable Recovery from Covid-19 Crisis

Automotive electric technology has witnessed rapid growth and achieved considerable progress, especially in the last decade. Nevertheless, the pace at which battery electric vehicles are imposing themselves on the market over fossil fuel cars has still been relatively slow, as actions taken by governments to incentivize sustainable mobility have not achieved the hoped success. Now, the reasons why many people are hesitant to switch to electric are always the same: high purchasing prices and lack of infrastructure for recharge (if these were equal to the ones of petrol and diesel vehicles, very few would probably be so “masochistic” to still prefer a fossil-fuel car to an EV), and it’s on those aspects that more efficient national and regional policies are needed in order to push the zero-emissions car market to the level it deserves and that our planet very much needs it to reach. Surprisingly enough, the global crisis brought about by the new coronavirus could be the perfect occasion for a true change that would result in favor of both the environment and the global economies. Let me show you why!

Coronavirus has made the world stop and put its gearbox in “neutral”. Lockdown measures and the absence of market dynamics have forced economies to slow down, creating a frightening prospect of an incumbent massive financial crisis. The car market has been no exception; less people going around have resulted in a heavy decrease in demand for new vehicles: the car industry – electric vehicles included – has therefore halted its production. As pointed out by T. Gül, M. Gorner and L. Paoli in their commentary for the International Energy Agency, China, the world’s largest car market, registered its sharpest year-on-year decline in February, while other major car markets experienced their heaviest declines in April. In Germany, sales dropped about 60%, in France they plunged nearly 90%. In the UK and Italy sales collapsed by 98% in April. Being a complex and critical part of the world’s largest economies employing millions of people across the entire supply process – a vehicle’s value chain involves more than ten thousand suppliers – such a massive halt of the car industry, if prolonged, risks to contribute to an already probable, if not certain, future economic crisis following the current health emergency.

However, paradoxically enough, what is happening now is that as more and more countries are gradually easing their confinement measures, demand for private car purchases is actually increasing. This is mainly due to the fact that, with the pandemic still on-going, driving is increasingly considered safer over any kind of public transportation. Demand is therefore being bolstered by health concerns, consequently inverting – even though presumably only in a short-term dimension – the recent trend that has seen the younger generation in particular moving away from private car ownership towards public forms of mobility, such as car-sharing. “We can’t see that (yet) in vehicle sales obviously but we can see it in searches for vehicles” affirmed ING’s senior economist J. Konings. In China, one of the first countries in the world to adopt less strict confinement measures, policymakers were quick to identify this phenomena and targeted the car market with important economic stimulus. As a result, Chinese car sales rebounded strongly to reach 80% of the level registered in April of last year.

Overall global car markets are generally expected to pick up during the second half of 2020, even though auto-industry executives are perfectly aware that a prolonged depression could lead the economies and the automotive industry to another halt, but much will depend on local institutional actions. In European countries now easing their lockdown measures, national governments could seize the opportunity to partly re-launch market dynamics through measures that stimulate car sales, simultaneously reducing the risk of employment losses in the auto industry. However, while production and sales levels do need to rise again, carbon emissions should not. Therefore, this may also be the right moment to act in terms of more effective policies in favor of sustainable mobility; policies that, if before were supported and carried out “only” for environmental purposes, now can also be crucial to re-launch a stalled economy.

But why, you might ask, is this the right time to act with regard to green energy? The demand for electric cars hasn’t really changed, has it? Well, actually, as shown by the International Energy Agency, while some electric car markets slumped during confinement, others actually grew. Electric car sales in European countries, for instance, bucked the trend of the overall car market. This is the result of a combination of factors: 2020 is the target year of the European Union’s CO2 emission standards, Germany had increased electric car purchase subsidies in February, and the impacts of the system introduced in Italy in 2019 to encourage electric cars had started to affect the market. As a consequence, in the largest European car markets combined, sales of electric cars in the first four months of 2020 reached more than 167.000 electric cars, about 100% higher than in the same period last year.

To this, we may also add the psychological effect that recently blue skies and reduced pollution have had on people around the world. As air became cleaner and our planet could finally take a breath, the pandemic has actually given us all a taste of how a zero-emission world would look and feel like. It is not casual, if of the participants surveyed by Venson Automotive Solutions, 45% agreed that air quality has made them reconsider owning an electric car, while another 17% said that it has reaffirmed their decision to buy an electric car. With these premises, EVs have all the potential to continue their upward trend in the market and could even set their all-time market share record in the overall car economy. They are gradually becoming economically competitive on the basis of the total cost of ownership, even though the high purchasing investment for consumers means that the electric car market still relies on government support. This is why, although the electric car markets are generally expected to suffer less in the short-term, these expectations and their transition in the long run are still highly dependent on national governments’ responses. This is yet another reason for why “now” is the perfect moment for car manufacturers and for governments to finally act in favor of a more incentivized sustainable mobility, which would allow for a more rapid pick-up of markets together with positive effects on our planet.

Photo credits: Elena De Novellis, TGO

So what can governments do exactly? Some measures are available from past experiences and “just” need to be applied in a more effective way. For instance, the incentivizing efforts which have been seen so far to have undoubtedly contributed in bringing the EVs market to where it is today (that mostly took the form of direct purchase subsidies and tax reductions). The fear, with the explosion of the global pandemic, was that local governments could suspend incentives on sustainable mobility to concentrate funds on other sectors in need. Luckily, so far countries haven’t cancelled such stimulus efforts: China, for example, already announced the extension of their purchase subsidies plan until 2022 and France prepared a new massive investment plan including financial incentives up to seven thousands euros for EVs purchases. Cash-for-clunkers programmes also represent another well-known practice that, if appropriately designed, could boost the demand for electric vehicles among those people that would currently like to sell their old car for a new one, but haven’t done so because of poor past incentivizing efforts in the field of car scrapping practices.

However, as Daimler board member M. Daum correctly pointed out, “to incentivise the purchase of a car, that is always short-term”. Local policymakers should also realize they now have “a unique opportunity to support the build-up of the infrastructure”, such as charging stations, which is something that definitely hasn’t been given enough thought in the past years and that would allow for a long-term shift to green transportation. Of course, in order for it to be a true and complete shift to clean energy, the way in which electricity for cars is and will be produced must also be taken into account; the entire electricity supply chain, involving power plants, should become “green” as well, and although this will surely become a subject of debate very soon – if and when electric cars will hopefully become more popular – it is something that our global crisis currently doesn’t help dealing with.

As of now, in conclusion, governments need to realize the positive potential effects that the electric car markets could have not only on our environment, as it did before Covid-19, but on our struggling economies as well. As people have become and are becoming more willing to switch to electric, policymakers should become aware of this golden opportunity to quickly re-launch the private mobility sector – an important part of local and global industries and markets – so as to enable the workforce to get back to their jobs while also making the electric car industry a key contributor to the global economic recovery. All this, by simply doing something that has never before occupied a high position on political and economic agendas essentially because it “only” served environmental purposes, but that, once again, now could also result in a key factor in the post-Covid economic recovery phase: investing for a greener future.

Simone CimadomoRead More »Incentivize Electric Cars for a Sustainable Recovery from Covid-19 Crisis

The Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park

Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park has a key role in the protection and conservation of terrestrial and marine habitat since its creation in 1988.

How can the natural resources of the Bocas del Toro archipelago best be managed in order to promote conservation and sustainable use also considering the socio-economic environment? 

This isn’t an easy question, in fact, tourism in the region affects both human and ecological activity and the effects of this tourism boom in Bocas del Toro on human and natural resources has yet to be fully quantified.

The goal is to promote a sustainable tourism while taking in consideration marine and terrestrial ecology, socio-economics, culture, and environmental policy, but we still have a long way to go in order to achieve that.

The park protects forests, mangroves, monkeys, sloths, caiman, crocodile, 28 different species of amphibians and reptiles including the rana roja, typical of that area.  Also, Playa Larga on Isla Bastimentos is a very important nesting site for sea turtles, that use it as a nesting site from April through September.

The park was structured and developed under a species-specific approach to the protection of marine ecosystems, its main goal was the one to preserve a “representative sample of the marine and coastal ecosystems” of the region, considered at risk.

A second thing to take in account for the creation of the park was its use for recreational and tourism purposes, and regarding this topic issues arose.

The populations that lived there and depended on the area were not asked for feedback regarding limits and use of terrestrial and marine resources, and this led to numerous problems.

For example, indigenous Ngöbe communities that utilize the resources of the area felt that their right and need were not taken seriously and in consideration when maturing the park’s limits. The limits infringed upon the Ngöbe’s subsistence territories, and the prohibitions settled did not take in account that the Ngöbe rely heavily on fishing in the area as a subsistence strategy and a mean of surviving.

This condition led to a feeling of resentment by local residents who had traditionally relied upon the resources and who were threatened by what they considered coercive conservation.

Bocatoreneans of different cultural backgrounds are convinced that their need were ignored by Panamanian government, changes were instituted without consultation, and this allowed corruption to flourish.

This situation is not completely solved nowadays, even with the development of a more sustainable and respectful tourism and a more conscious participation in it of the population.

There are still many problems to face in order to achieve a good balance and to protect this beautiful area in a right and regardful way.

Arianna Maviglia Read More »The Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park

Food Innovation

Pannel at the International Cooperation Expo – in collaboration with Fondazione Aurora   The conference on Food Innovation embraced actors from international organizations such as FAO represented by the leader of Responsible Investments in Agriculture, Michael Riggs, and the FAO e-learning center represented by Cristina Petracchi, as well as FoodInnopolis,… Read More »Food Innovation

In a Plastic Battle: Sustainable Alternatives and International Governance

500 billion plastic bags used each year 13 million tonnes of plastic leaked into the ocean each year 17 million barrels of oil used on plastic production each year 1 million plastic bottles bought every minute 100,000 marine animals killed by plastics each year 100 years for plastic  to degrade… Read More »In a Plastic Battle: Sustainable Alternatives and International Governance

Sustainable Energy – Realistic or just a dream?

We always talk about sustainability: The Sustainable Development Goals, Sustainable Energy, Sustainable anything… The word is present in our daily life and at some point, people just nod and say “yeah sure “without actually thinking about it anymore. But have you ever asked yourself what the word “sustainable” actually means?… Read More »Sustainable Energy – Realistic or just a dream?

The Post-Paradigmatic Alternative of Buen Vivir.

Learning from Ecuador to Address Global Problems Locally. Buen viviris a broad concept still under elaboration and represents a plurality of theoretical perspectives, practical realisations, and positions from a variety of actors including indigenous groups, social movements, intellectuals, and politicians. In its most general interpretation, it denotes and aims at… Read More »The Post-Paradigmatic Alternative of Buen Vivir.

Towards “El Mundo Feliz del Futuro”: an interview with César Emilio Valdivieso París

Towards the development of a virtual model of sustainable and self-sufficient welfare society to transform the real world: a discussion rich of suggestions and ideas by César Emilio Valdivieso París, a Venezuelan professor, creator of the project “El Mundo Feliz del Futuro” and first commenter of our blog. As your… Read More »Towards “El Mundo Feliz del Futuro”: an interview with César Emilio Valdivieso París

Different recipes for a common overheated world: an interview with Prof. Thomas Hylland Eriksen

A world out of control, accelerated and overheated: an analysis of contemporary issues from migration to populism and some possible solutions by the anthropologist, professor at the University of Oslo and president of the EASA Thomas Hylland Eriksen. 1. “We are all in the same boat, divided by a shared… Read More »Different recipes for a common overheated world: an interview with Prof. Thomas Hylland Eriksen

Making climate change a human right issue

  Recently, as the United States experienced one of the coldest winter ever in the country’s history, a tweet by the current president Trump attracted a lot of attention from everyone around the world. Consequently, this brings attention to the much  bigger issue here, the lack of people’s scientific understanding of climate change and related phenomena like global… Read More »Making climate change a human right issue