TCD Best of: New Zealand’s Big Bad BESS, Youth Climate Activist Francisco Javier Vera Manzanares’s New Children’s Book on Climate Change, Vietnam’s Decarbonization Efforts

by | Jun 23, 2023 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

TCD Best of: New Zealand’s big bad BESS, and youth climate activist Francisco Javier Vera Manzanares’s new children’s book on climate change, plus Vietnam’s decarbonization efforts



New Zealand (NZ) is set to install its first 35MW battery energy storage system (BESS) in July 2022 in Huntly, a town in the upper part of New Zealand’s North Island. It’s scheduled to begin operations in December. NZ has an ambitious goal of sourcing all of its electricity from renewables by 2030. NZ is making good progress on its renewables goal, already using hydropower, geothermal, biomass and some wind energy.

The Huntly BESS is New Zealand’s second Battery energy storage system. The first BESS was installed in NZ in 2016 but stored only a scant 1MW of energy. The 35MW BESS is just the beginning of large energy storage systems. Already a BESS of “at least 100MW” is planned for construction in combination with a solar facility that would generate power into a solar grid in the North Island of NZ.

Why does BESS matter to us? BESS’ importance rests in its ability to release its stored energy swiftly to local grids, especially in the event of an emergency.  New Zealand has a large hydropower network and capacity, but climate change drought years have lowered snowmelt and rainfall, reducing hydroelectric power output. 

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A new children’s book addressing climate change is out. It’s entitled: “Pregúntale a Francisco: ¿Qué es el cambio climático?” In English that’s: Ask Francisco: What is climate change? And who is Francisco? He’s Francisco Javier Vera Manzanares, a 14-year old Colombian climate activist and author of the book.

Written for ages 5 and up and published March 2022, the book explores the issue of climate change, why it’s happening, what caused it and what individuals and groups can do about it. Even though he is a young person himself, he wrote the short story so that children can find their power to fight against climate change and speak out against government inaction.

Why does “Pregúntale a Francisco” matter to us? For Manzanares, climate change is not just the responsibility of the government, it’s the responsibility of kids too. That’s why he wrote the book. Currently it’s only available as with Kindle.

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Vietnam has seen rapid economic growth and that has fueled both an increased demand for energy and a corresponding increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. So much so that  in 2019 Vietnam was ranked to have the second highest air pollution levels in Southeast Asia.

As part of Vietnam’s clear need to decarbonize, on January 1, 2022 the Law on Environmental Protection went into effect. It requires factory owners to use the best available technology to control pollution and limit environmental impacts. While the language is vague, it does have specific language establishing a carbon pricing instrument designed to penalize emitters of GHG emissions based on the principle of “polluter pays.”

That principle states that the polluter should bear the “costs of pollution prevention and control measures”, the latter being “measures decided by public authorities to ensure that the environment is in an acceptable state”. The World Bank’s partnership with Vietnam started in 2016 with the development of an efficient low-carbon program that was part of the Partnership for Market Readiness (PMR) Program, all part of the push to develop domestic carbon pricing mechanisms.

Why does decarbonizing Vietnam matter to us? It’s estimated that in 2017–last year for which figures are available, over 60,000 deaths in Vietnam were attributed to air pollution.

Vietnam’s hard work has paid off; it is the first country in Asia-Pacific and fifth globally to reach an agreement with the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), which is a global partnership of governments, businesses, civil society, and Indigenous Peoples focused on reducing emissions from destruction of the world’s forests.

According to World Bank Country Director for Vietnam Carolyn Turk, “Vietnam has shown tremendous leadership in developing robust programs to deliver forest emission reductions at scale.”




Francisco Javier Vera Manzanares is a climate activist from Villeta, a town in central Colombia. His activism began in 2019, when he was only eleven years old.  That was the year of the massive fires in Manzanares’ backyard of the Amazon Rainforest and also in Australia. What worried him most at the time was the loss of biodiversity and animal life.

Manzanares’ mom came home one day and found that he had written out a list of people in his neighborhood to help him stop climate change. She was so inspired, she gave up her job as a social worker to support his mission. In December 2019, he gave a three-minute talk in the Colombian Senate asking parliamentarians to legislate against animal abuse, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and single-use plastics. 

In 2020, as part of Fridays for Future in Colombia, Manzanares founded Guardianes por la vida–”Guardians for Life”–a climate movement focusing on Latin America with over 400 members from different countries. He also attended COP26 but instead of going inside, stayed outside the conference talking to the press about the dangers of climate change.

Manzanares has now become one of the most recognized climate change activists and environmentalists in Latin America. So much so that in 2021 he was appointed Goodwill Ambassador of the European Union. Because he speaks with such clarity on the issue of climate change, and at such a young age has already influenced so many, he was selected for the 2022 Global Child Prodigy Awards, which took place in Dubai in February.

Why does Francisco Javier Vera Manzanares matter to us? As he puts it, children are citizens too; their voices should be heard like everyone else’s.

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