Bad News

Liberia return toxic waste shipment to Europe

The authorities of the Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia (EPA) have ordered the sending back of four containers. The shipment from Greece had been smuggled into Liberia, containing chemical waste harmful to health and the environment.


Liberia refuses to become a dumping ground for toxic waste produced by developed countries. On the 2nd of January 2020, the anti-smuggling unit at the port of Monrovia quarantined four 40-foot containers. This was after finding that an unusual and foul-smelling odour was emanating from the containers, which had been smuggled into Liberia from Greece by Republic Waste Services, a US waste management company.

Africa, Europe’s dumping ground

Many developed countries advocate a circular economy, recycling their waste. However, when it comes to toxic waste, it is most often exported. Apart from Asia, their destination is also Africa. The continent is therefore submerged in waste. Uncontrolled dumps are appearing and several countries, including Ethiopia, Congo, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Mali and Niger, see their dumps overflowing with household waste, but also with toxic materials or electronic equipment from developed countries.

The case of the Probo Koala, a cargo ship chartered by the multinational Trafigura, is a perfect illustration of this. In 2006, the ship’s toxic cargo from Panama, carrying several tonnes of toxic waste, had dumped its deadly cargo in Abidjan-Ivory Coast, officially causing 17 deaths and 43,000 intoxication cases.

A disaster that could have been avoided if only international agreements on waste trafficking were respected. Such is the case with the Basel Convention, which came into force in 1992. It prohibits the import and disposal of hazardous waste from industralised countries to developing countries. This international treaty establishes a procedure that includes strict requirements and requires the consent of the receiving country for any transboundary movement of hazardous waste.


Suspicions by the port authorities will soon be confirmed by Liberia’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). At a press conference on January 10, 2020, in the capital Monrovia, the EPA stated that an analysis of samples found that the four containers were filled with toxic waste. The tests confirmed, among others, the presence of three hazardous organic compounds: 1-butane, 1-hexane and 1-octene. These are wastes whose recycling is prohibited in Greece because of their danger to the environment and human health.


In accordance with Article 55-1 of the Environmental Protection and Management Law (EMPL) of Liberia, which prohibits the illegal import of any hazardous waste or substance into Liberia, the EPA ordered with immediate effect, the repatriation of the four containers to their consignor (Stayropoulou Dimitra) in Greece. “In our opinion, the shipper was looking for a safe dumping ground under the pretext of selling recyclable materials. Unfortunately, the dump in this case was Liberia,” said EPA Director General Dr. Blama.

Shareholders - the new climate activists

Shareholders worth more than £100bn are calling on Barclays to phase out the provision of financial services to energy firms that remain unaligned with the Paris Agreement


A group of Barclays shareholders coordinated by responsible investment lobby group ShareAction want the bank to phase out financing fossil fuels, stepping up pressure on one of Europe's biggest funders of the sector.


2019 research by the Rainforest Action Network found that Barclays has provided more than $85bn of finance to fossil fuel firms and high-carbon projects such as tar sands and Arctic oil and gas exploration since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015. The analysis ranked Barclays as the world's sixth largest backer of fossil fuels and the largest in Europe, exceeding its peers on the continent by over $27bn.


"Aligning financial flows with the goal of keeping temperature increases well below 2C, and preferably to 1.5C, was hard-wired into the Paris Climate Agreement for good reason," said Natasha Landell-Mills, head of stewardship at Sarasin & Partners, which managers more than £14bn.


"Continued financing of harmful fossil fuel activities puts this target at risk, with potentially devastating consequences for us all. And yet, this is precisely what is happening today, and Barclays is amongst the most prolific bank financiers globally of such activities.", she said.


The investors, which are shareholders in Barclays, will file a resolution calling on the bank to phase out the financing of fossil fuel companies that are driving the climate crisis.


Co-ordinated by campaign group ShareAction, the resolution is being filed by a group of shareholders that includes 11 institutional investors managing £130bnof assets, alongside more than 100 individual shareholders. The group includes financial giants such as Brunel Pension Partnership, LFPS, Sarasin & Partners and Folksam Investors.


The landmark action - which ShareAction claims is the first climate change resolution filed at a European bank - urges Barclays to publish a plan to phase out the provision of financial services to energy companies not aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement. 


The proposal would cover project finance, corporate finance and underwriting activities, and apply to all energy companies, including gas and electric utilities, that are not aligned to the goals of the Paris Agreement. 

The proposal also encourages Barclays to consider the social dimension of the low-carbon transition, making it the first climate change resolution to encompass a so-called 'just transition' in its remit, according to ShareAction.

In response to news of the resolution, a spokesperson for Barclays said: "We are working to help tackle climate change, and we meet with Share Action and other shareholders regularly to update them on our progress." They pointed out the bank already has lending restrictions on carbon-intensive sectors, and stressed the board will give the resolution careful consideration before publishing its recommendation to shareholders. 


However, those involved in the drafting of the resolution insist it is in shareholder interests to demand more action from Barclays. 


"Brunel Pension Partnership Limited (Brunel) believes climate change poses significant risks to global financial stability and could thereby create climate-related financial risks to our own business operations, portfolios and client partner funds, unless action is taken to mitigate these risks," said Laura Chappell, CEO at Brunel Pension Partnership, which manages £30bn. "We believe that it is crucial for investors to carry out climate change risk assessments across the whole financial chain. As banks are the biggest lenders, they are a key component of this. The lending practices of many banks poses a serious threat to the goals to the Paris Agreement.


"It is therefore vital that Barclays' Board ensures that it no longer supports - whether through direct lending or underwriting - any activities that run contrary to the Paris Agreement. Failure to act leaves directors open to charges that they have failed to meet their obligations under the UK Companies Act. It also exposes the bank and its shareholders to heightened capital risks as decarbonisation accelerates. At a time of economic uncertainty, the Board should not be taking on additional risks."


Source: Reuters, Business Times, Business Green

Kenya: Growing traditional crops help cope with climate change

Many households in sub-Saharan Afria struggle with poverty and food insecurity. Now climate change hit their harvests and makes life even harder. But finding new markets for hardy indigenous grains like millet, that can better stand up to extreme weather and changing pests, and produce a reliable harvest, can help, agricultural scientists say.

Patrick Maundu, an ethnobotanist at the National Museums of Kenya and an honorary fellow with Bioversity International, an organisation that promotes agricultural biodiversity, said millet is a traditional Kenyan crop - just one that, over the years, lost ground to maize.

The change came as a result of the intense promotion of maize production by governments, research groups and multinational companies selling products in Africa, he said.

"Millet is well adapted to dry parts of Africa but has been neglected because of ... key policies focused on maize, taking over indigenous cereals," he said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But in the recent years, wilder weather linked to climate change and the high cost of farm inputs - which farmers can struggle to pay if harvests fail - has made maize farming less reliable, particularly for small-scale farmers like those in Embu, Maundu said.

That has pushed many farmers to diversify back into drought-resistant traditional crops. The amount of farm acreage planted with maize in Kenya has therefore fallen by about a quarter in recent years, according to data from Kenya's Ministry of Agriculture.

Still, finding a ready market for crops like millet - and getting people to resume eating them - can be a challenge.

But Kenyan millet farming entrepreneurs now say that the key to making the new crops pay is adding value to what was harvested. One example is the thriving use of millet instead of maize for popcorn.

The puffed millet, besides being tasty, has boosted employment opportunities in Embu and helped reduce food waste because it can be stored longer.

Stella Gathaka 30, who formerly worked as a food vendor, is now one of four workers at small factory making puffed millet.

Besides earning a salary, her new job allows her children to eat the millet snacks, which are more nutritious than their previous snack of sweet wheat biscuits.

These days, "I'm very knowledgeable on the importance of millet as a nutritious crop," she said.

Daniel Kirori, operations director at DK Engineering Ltd., which assembles the popping machines, said his company had sold about 15 of them so far to women's groups and other entrepreneurs around Kenya.

According to a 2017 United Nations report on the state of food security and nutrition, climate change pressures, from worsening droughts to floods, heatwaves and storms, are a key reason about 800 million people still lack access to enough food. Producing more millet and other traditional hardy crops, and finding ways to process them to produce more income, is one way of doing that.

Emily Wawira, a small-scale millet farmer in Embu who sells her produce to Gichangi, said she sells 10 to 20 sacks of grain each year, each weighing 90 kilos, and earns $25 to $30 per sack.

That income "is enough to pay school fees," she said - and an improvement on her former loss-making maize farming.

Source: Reuters

Japan's Environmental Policies Attract 21st Century Companies

Today’s emerging companies are on the hunt for the most environmental cities, which is requiring eco-minded and carbon-friendly policies. When it comes to attracting to the world’s most advanced finance and technology companies, Japan is therefore relying on environmental activism.


Tokyo hosted a conference to highlight its mission — to attract so-called FinTech companies using environmental, social and governance principles. In other words, today’s financial firms that rely on digital technologies want to associate with other eco-conscious companies and environmentally-friendly cities. And Tokyo thinks it is the right city at the right time.

 “If we can allocate Japanese savings in a sustainable society that will be a major driver,” says the Governor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike, in a response to this reporter’s question. “We can recruit more foreign companies to Japan. If we have more green initiatives, it will contribute to Japan’s overall economy.” 

At the same time, Japan is demonstrating leadership. While the United States has bowed out, Japan is active in the Paris Climate Agreement and it has adopted a policy to become carbon neutral by 2050. Other financial capitals such as London and Hong Kong, meanwhile, are undergoing internal strife whereas Japan is politically and economically rock solid. “Japan is not difficult,” says David Shirt, chief executive of Astris Advisory. “If you can navigate it, you can build a business here. But you have to understand the regulators.”

Consider also that The US SIF Foundation’s 2018 biennial Report on US Sustainable, Responsible and Impact Investing Trends found that sustainable, responsible and impact investing assets now account for $12 trillion —or one in four dollars— of the $46.6 trillion in total assets under professional management in the United States. This represents a 38% increase over 2016.

For its part, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has established public funds to support environmental, social and governance investment in renewable energy. It is also issuing green bonds worth 20 billion yen in which the revenues are earmarked for environmentally-friendly projects like energy conservation and energy-efficient buildings. The city plans to highlight those themes during its 2020 Hydrogen Olympics in which clean electricity will provide power where the games will be played. 

Specifically, Governor Koike, who has previously been a member of parliament and the minister of the environment, say that since 2000 Tokyo has employed a cap-and-trade scheme for its office buildings, which has reduced CO2 emissions by 26%. Going forward, the country’s goal is to focus on advancing the production of green hydrogen that is CO2-free while relying on renewable energy to provide 22-24% of the energy mix by 2030.  


Prospering in the 21st Century economy means going green.

Cloud seeding planes to prevent climate floodings in Jakarta

To counteract future flooding Indonesia has decided to carry out cloud seeding to try and prevent further rainfall over the capital, Jakarta, and surrounding areas, as the death toll reached 43 on Friday amid flash floods and landslides.

Torrential rains in the days either side of the new year have flooded parts of Jakarta and nearby towns. The country’s meteorological agency called it “one of the most extreme” rainfall events since records began in 1866 and said climate change had increased the risk of extreme weather.

The Indonesian National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said about 397,000 people sought refuge in shelters across the greater metropolitan area. Those returning to their homes found streets covered in mud and debris. Cars that had been parked in driveways were swept away, landing upside down in parks or piled up in narrow alleys.

With more rain forecast, two small planes were readied to drop sodium chloride to break up potential rain clouds in the skies above the Sunda Strait with a bigger plane on standby, said Indonesia’s technology agency.

This technique, called cloud seeding, means shooting salt flares into clouds in an attempt to trigger rainfall. It is often used in Indonesia to put out forest fires during the dry season, but is also used to cause precipitation earlier than expected. The idea is that rain can be forced out in certain places at certain times, leaving other areas dry.

Authorities on Thursday used hundreds of pumps to suck water out of residential areas and public infrastructure like railways. President Joko Widodo has blamed delays in flood control infrastructure projects for the disaster. Widodo announced in 2019 that he will move Indonesia’s capital to East Kalimantan province on Borneo island to reduce the burden on Jakarta, which is overpopulated and sinking.

Source: Reuters, The guardian and AP

Power One runs on Women's Power

Swedish Power One develops renewable energy solutions in Africa and has initiated a collaboration to electrify previously un-electrified areas with the help of women.


Power One has developed an energy solution together with L3, consisting of a smaller solar power plant that stores the energy in a number of batteries, which are then distributed by women to the connected homes. With this method, Power One can also offer electrification of areas where an electricity grid becomes too expensive due to distance.

- By distributing the energy with portable batteries instead of a costly grid, we save on grid costs and can instead provide cheap energy and jobs for the population of women in these areas. In this way, we can offer electrification to populations whose ability to pay would otherwise not cover the costs of an electricity grid. A pure win-win arrangement, says Peter Rinaldo, CEO of Power One.

Today's portable batteries are based on lithium, but organic alternatives have already been developed. As these are cheaper and easier to recycle, Power One will switch to organic batteries as soon as they are released on the market. However, the revolution with Power One's solution lies in the method of using women power as distribution instead of expensive electricity grids. It is a great opportunity for these areas to get started with electrification at a lower initial cost.

- Women's power as a distribution method is an organisational model based on a very practical reality analysis, namely that women generally focus more on long-term survival than men do", says Séraphine Barigenera, COO Power One Burundi.


Long-term thinking is crucial not only for the climate, but also for the survival on this planet. So, this must also be a base criteria for the economy. Power One has therefore designed an organisation that utilises the wisdoms of African women.

- By utilizing the power of African women, we create a business model that is both transparent, predictable and reliable - and which provides a safe investment for our investors, concludes Séraphine Barigenera, COO Power One Burundi.

Power One AB takes the fight against global warming

Power One does not consider that it is right to buy itself free of CO2 emissions and the company is now launching Ceeotoo Token.


Ceeotoo is an upcoming cryptocurrency where the value of each token corresponds to 1 ton reduction of carbon dioxide. Following the implementation of the ICO calculated on February 3, 2020, Ceeotoo will distribute the equivalent of $ 100 per ton of carbon dioxide saved. This means that a company institutions and private individuals should be able to apply for a distribution of Ceeotoo Tokens when showing saved CO2. In the long term this model can make a significant difference to our hard-pressed climate.

Ceeotoo also intends to acquire unexploited crude oil and keep it unexploited in the ground and also in this way prevent emissions. In addition, 5% of all income from the coming ICO will be used to plant trees and thus store CO2.

Power One has full confidence that interest in this model will be considerable.

Europe's new Green Deal hit the target

The European Union is about to implement the most ambitious push against climate change in the world, with a radical overhaul of its economy.


At a summit in Brussels next week, EU leaders will commit to cut greenhouse-gas emissions to zero by 2050, according to a draft of their joint statement for the Dec. 12-13 meeting. To enable this the European Union will encourage more green investment and adjust all of its policies accordingly.

“If our common goal is to be a climate-neutral continent in 2050, we have to act now,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, told a United Nations climate conference on Monday. “It’s a generational transition we have to go through.”

The commission, the EU’s regulatory arm, will have the job of drafting the rules that would transform the European economy once national leaders have signed off on the climate goals for 2050.

The main topics in the planned commitment:

  • Easing restrictions on state aid for companies
  • Changing public procurement rules
  • Considering more ambitious targets for 2030 emissions cuts
  • Penalizing imports from countries with looser emissions controls
  • European Investment Bank to mobilize 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion) in climate financing over the next decade

The plan is set to be approved at the United Nations summit in Madrid, and would put the EU ahead of other major emitters. Countries including China, India and Japan have yet to translate voluntary pledges under the 2015 Paris climate accord into binding national measures and current U.S. President Donald Trump has said he’ll pull the U.S. out of the Paris agreement.

EU parliament declares climate emergency

The European parliament has declared a global “climate and environmental emergency” as it urged all EU countries to commit to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Intended to demonstrate Europe’s green credentials days before a crucial UN climate conference in Madrid, the vote also ratchets up pressure on the incoming president of the European commission, who declared this week that the EU would lead the fight against “the existential threat” of the climate crisis.

The vote came as scientists warned that the world may have already crossed a series of climate tipping points, resulting in “a state of planetary emergency”.

The decision passed with a comfortable majority, with 429 votes in favour, 225 votes against and 19 abstentions – MEPs across the political spectrum warned against making symbolic gestures.

Pascal Canfin, the French liberal MEP who drafted the climate emergency resolution, said: “The fact that Europes the first continent to declare climate and environmental emergency, just before COP25, when the new commission takes office, and three weeks after Donald Trump confirmed the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris agreement, is a strong message sent to citizens and the rest of the world.”

French insurance giant phase-out coal

Just like their banking colleagues at BNP Paribas, AXA is also to phase out coal from business activities by 2030 in OECD states and by 2040 around the world, the insurance giant announced yesterday.


AXA is a French multinational insurance firm  that engages in global insuranceinvestment management, and other financial services, and their new climate strategy is launched as a 'new global benchmark for best practice'

The AXA Group operates primarily in Western Europe, North America, the Asia Pacific region, and the Middle East, with a presence also in Africa. 

In a move hailed by climate campaigners as setting "a new global benchmark for best practice", AXA said it will encourage coal companies to produce a coal phase-out plan by 2021 and use its position as a shareholder to accelerate the shutdown of existing coal plants. 

It also promised to stop selling insurance contracts - bar those covering employee benefits - to clients developing new coal projects larger than 300MW.

The moves are all part of AXA's plan to align its business with a 1.5C warming trajectory, the stretch target in the Paris Agreement.

AXA said its current investments have 3.1C of 'warming potential', well above its target of 1.5C by 2050 which would put it in line with the aims of the Paris Agreement.

As such it yesterday promised to double its green investments to €24bn by 2023 in an effort to accelerate the decarbonisation of its portfolio.

"Today we are launching a new phase in our climate strategy to accelerate our contribution to the transition towards a low-carbon and resilient economy, notably by focusing our sustainable finance efforts towards the energy transition of major industries," said CEO Thomas Buberl. "We are convinced that it is an absolute priority if we want to reach the objectives of the Paris Agreement."

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