Bad News

EasyJet to become first zero carbon airline

UK low-cost airline EasyJet could be flying electric passenger planes on short haul routes within the next 10 years after it announced a new partnership with US electric jet pioneers Wright Electric. However, while waiting for the mass-scale commercial use of such technologies to be materialised EasyJet will fund forest conservation, renewable energy and community-based projects to offset fuel use.

 

Airlines have been coming increasingly under fire for not doing enough to tackle climate change. Aviation currently accounts for around two per cent of all global CO2 emissions, but the sector's share of global emissions is forecasted to grow sharply.

Facing mounting public concern over the environmental impact of air travel, Easyjet said the move to offset flights would make it the first 'zero carbon' airline in the world. As a buget airline, Easyjet's per passenger emissions are lower than most of its rivals, thanks to its ability to squeeze more people onto each flight. Now the airline say they will spend £25m a year on offsetting the carbon emissions from the fuel used for all of its flights.

 "Climate change is an issue for all of us," said CEO Johan Lundgren. "At EasyJet we are tackling this challenge head on by choosing to offset the carbon emissions from the fuel used for all of our flights starting today. In doing so we are committing to operating net-zero carbon flights across our network - a world first by any major airline."

It has calculated that it emits 3.157kg of CO2 for every kilogram of aviation fuel used, and said it will start paying into the offset fund from today. Its offsetting providers are EcoAct and FirstClimate.

However, the company acknowledged that offsetting is only an interim measure while the industry hunts for a viable technology to deliver low-carbon flight. 

Easyjet has signed an agreement with manufacturer Airbus to work on a joint research project for hybrid planes, and has backed electric plane firm Wright Electric in its bid to produce an all-electric plane for short haul flights. 

Jonathon Porritt, co-founder of Forum for the Future, said that EasyJet's move was "exciting", but added that carbon offsetting could only be a bridge to future technological developments.

"It will be important to seek out each and every way of reducing carbon emissions. Beyond that, the whole industry needs to come together more effectively to decarbonise this critical sector just as quickly as possible," he said.

Finance ready for Climate Smart Agriculture in Africa

Climate change is impacting agricultural productivity in Africa. Smallholder farmers, who supply up to 80% of produce, are among the most vulnerable to its effects. Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) can offer smallholders a way to better absorb climate shocks and sustainably increase productivity and income.

 

Public and private investments into agriculture has remained insufficient, due to high transaction costs and the risks associated with the sector. Coupled with unaffordable financial services and lack of information, the high upfront costs of implementing CSA practices limit the ability of smallholder farmers in West Africa to adopt CSA practices. WAICSA therefore builds climate resilience among smallholder farmers, by providing financial and technical support to incentivize the adoption of climate-smart agriculture, and increasing local financial institutions’ capacity for climate-smart lending. At scale, WAICSA can improve the food security of 90,000 smallholder farming households in West Africa, and mitigate emissions equivalent to over 4 billion miles of driving.

The West African Initiative for Climate-Smart Agriculture (WAICSA) is the only West African led finance fund with a specific focus on increasing the uptake of climate-smart agriculture practices by smallholder farmers. By mobilizing public and concessional capital, WAICSA is able to provide subsidized interest rate loans to smallholders’ organizations and agribusinesses of ticket size below US$ 1 million, thus making credit more accessible. WAICSA also builds the capacity of local financial institutions to design loan products with CSA adoption conditions, helping bring additional resources to this sector. In addition, technical guidance on CSA implementation is provided to bridge the knowledge gap and further support smallholders to adopt these practices and comply with loan conditions.

An initiative led by the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), WAICSA will target six of the 15 ECOWAS member states in its pilot phase, with the objective of being replicated in all 15 states after the concept is proven. At scale, WAICSA has the potential to improve the food security of 90,000 smallholder farming households in the region and convert over 185,000 hectares to climate-smart agriculture. The fund can also contribute to mitigating up to 2 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year, which is equivalent to over 4 billion miles of driving.

WAICSA is composed of a Financing Facility, managed by the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID), and a Technical Assistance Facility, managed by the Regional Agency for Agriculture and Food (RAAF).

The Financing Facility offers subsidized-rate loans, guarantees, and equity investments to agricultural businesses and smallholder organizations, both directly and through local financial institutions. It uses guarantees and blended finance, including contributions from ECOWAS Member States and investments from the fund manager, to de-risk and crowd-in private investments. Embedded into WAICSA’s financial products are conditions meant to incentivize the adoption of CSA by smallholders, thus reducing their exposure to climate risk.

The Technical Assistance Facility supports financial intermediaries to design loan products that integrate CSA conditionality and guides smallholders in implementing locally adapted CSA practices. In this way, the Technical Assistance Facility further de-risks investments, ensuring favourable conditions for repayment of loans by providing support for CSA practices that offer improved productivity and income.

Africa is Ripe for Investments

At the 'G20 Compact with Africa' Investment Summit held in Berlin on Tuesday the Rwandan President Paul Kagame made the case for Africa's business environment, saying the continent is ripe for investments from the European Union.

G20 Compact with Africa is an initiative launched in 2017 to promote private investments in Africa and currently, 12 African countries - including Rwanda have joined it.

Kagame commended Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel's leadership in prioritizing investment from the German business community and highlighted an example of Rwanda's partnership with Germany companies like Volkswagen and Siemens, saying that it "demonstrates the competitiveness of our economies and the reforms that have been happening in the ease of doing business."

According to figures from Rwanda Development Board (RDB), German business interests in Rwanda have been expanding over the past few years.

"This really showcases how Africa is ripe for business and investment, and how far we can go," he told participants, where heads of state and business communities had gathered.

Besides Rwanda, other African countries that are part of the partnership are Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Morocco, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia.

Thomas Schaefer, the Chairman and the Managing Director of Volkswagen South Africa told business executives present especially those from Germany that the continent was particularly ready for investments in the automotive industry where his group is already invested.

He pointed out that the continent was faced by challenges of dumping of used cars and extraordinary importation of fuel, saying businesses could tap into that to address challenges.

VW presently assembles cars in Rwanda, which started back in 2016.

"In the next move, we are going into electric mobility because there is no way a country like Rwanda can continue to import fuel. We believe Rwanda can go carbon neutral," he noted.

Last month, VW unveiled an electric mobility project in Rwanda which serves as a pilot for the company's future decisions of electric mobility in the continent.

The company now uses electric-powered versions of its Golf hatchback cars for a ride-sharing service.

While Foreign Direct Investments has decreased globally, Africa continues has seen an increase nearly 11 per cent valued at USD46 billion, according to available statistics of 2018.

China's environmental transformation: From the worlds bad guy to its good guy

China's recent transformation from the world’s environmental ‘bad guy’ to its ‘good guy’ in a matter of years is the result of the top-down enforcement of a green vision held by President Xi himself. But, as his environmentalism is nationalistic, not global, there is still need to broaden up the scope.

Comparing his climate policies to his predecessors, Xi’s is much more advanced. He is the first Chinese leader to enforce an environmentalism that is built upon the idea of nature as a ‘national asset’. He even famously said that "green mountains are essentially gold mountains".

Xi’s environmentalism relies on centrally controlled, top-down mechanisms though. In the past few years, the most visible environmental campaigns have been run by the Party’s disciplinary arm, detaining thousands of government officials for negligence and other offences. Public-interest litigation, for holding environmental violators to account, is now used frequently by government prosecutors.

This brand of environmentalism can be effective, to an extent. but as Scholar Bruce Gilley noted in his paper on China’s ‘Authoritarian Environmentalism’: "Environmental laws and regulations from the top down delivers short-term, low-hanging fruit results, but the lack of extensive deliberation may undermine long-term implementation".

To get popular consent Xi therefore use an appraisal system with clear indicators, rewards and punishments. This is according to him "most crucial" factor while creating an "ecological civilisation".

Even though China’s elaborate state machinery may be the envy of many governments struggling to ‘get things done’, its non-participatory way of doing business can lead to poor decisionmaking.

While China both embraces, appreciates and enforces environmental measures at home, it tends to export those same problems out of its borders. China has quickly become the world’s largest financier and builder of coal-power plants overseas. This is in stark contrast to what’s happening domestically, where, in early 2017, the government cancelled or mothballed 120 gigawatts of coal-power construction.

But building up coal power abroad is no contradiction under Xi’s ecological nationalism. Exporting environmentally destructive industries abroad and cutting them at home, as a way to strengthen the nation, is the core of China’s environmentalism.

As nationalism can not provide a sustainable solution to a global problem, Xi therefore need to broaden his model of environmentalism in the future.

UK to de-list companies not acting on climate change

In a major election campaign speech on the economy, the British Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said Labour would amend legislation to force listed firms to take action on climate change or face expulsion from the London Stock Exchange.

The Labour Party first promised to de-list companies for climate reasons in June 2019. McDonnell presented the pledge a second time today as part of Labour's vision to improve long-term thinking in the financial industry. It now promises to be a key plank of the Party's economic policy.

"If we are to meet the climate change target to keep global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, we need to ensure that companies are also working alongside government. Many now are," McDonnell said. "But business bodies themselves are calling for companies to improve climate-related financial reporting, and for all companies to bring forward their decarbonisation plans. And we support those proposals. But for those companies not taking adequate steps under Labour, we believe those companies should be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange," he continued.

The environment has already proved to be a major issue in the election campaign, with Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives and the Green Party all promising to tackle the climate emergency.

The European Investment Bank decided to stop funding fossil fuel projects

Last week the European Investment Bank (EIB) adopted its new energy lending policy, which would see it end funding to most new fossil fuel projects from the end of 2021

This means that from the end of 2021 the world's biggest multilateral bank will end new lending to fossil fuel infrastructure projects.

Colin Roche, fossil free campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "Today's decision is a significant victory for the climate movement. Finally, the world's largest public bank has bowed to public pressure and recognised that funding for all fossil fuels must end – and now all other banks, public and private must follow their lead.

The final policy has been the subject of intense debate since its publication in July and has been watered down under pressure from Germany and the European Commission. The Commission continues to promote dozens of gas projects while Germany backs new infrastructure such as the gigantic Nord Stream II.

Colin Roche continued, "The European Commission must now end their obsession with gas and focus on the emergency action needed to stop the climate crisis instead of building yet more gas projects to last for decades to come. But 2021 is still too late if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate breakdown, the EIB needs to reject any fossil fuel projects and close its loopholes for gas, and not wait till 2021."

Stronghold for Power One in East Africa

Earlier this year Power One was offered to electrify a university in Amhara in Ethiopia. Now five more Ethiopian universities also wish to be electrified by Power One.

 

Power One is specialised in electrifying formerly non electrified areas with renewable energy. The area of operation is established in East Africa but is growing. Apart from electrifying remote areas in Burundi and eastern Congo the company was earlier this year asked to supply one university in Ethiopia with 50 MW renewable energy. Now five other Ethiopian universities also wish to be electrified by Power One.

Power One´s mini-grid projects will bring much needed renewable energy resource to hundreds of thousands university students, professors and staff at major universities. These universities are located in cities with strong economic activities and expanding industrial parks.

Located in East Africa and just north of the Equator, Ethiopia is a country endowed with an ideal level of solar irradiation for the development of solar energy. Presently Ethiopia has approximately 4,300 MW of installed generation capacity which is short of the demand to serve a population of over 100 million people. However, the demand for electric power continues to outpace supply as Ethiopia’s hydropower plants, supplying more than 90 percent of the electricity, struggle to produce at full capacity. The country's solar radiation has therefore the potential to generate thousands of megawatts of renewable energy.

Power One now aims to develop a replicable platform under which five additional major public universities in Ethiopia can develop similar solar-based mini-grids that are scalable to meet rising demand.

A car that runs forever?

Put together the best solar panels money can buy, super-efficient batteries and decades of car-making know-how and, theoretically, a vehicle might run forever. That’s the audacious motivation behind a project by Toyota Motor Corp.Sharp Corp. and New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization of Japan, or NEDO, to test a Prius that could revolutionize transportation.

 Even if fully electric cars overtake petroleum-powered vehicles in sales, they still need to be plugged in, which means building a network of charging stations across the globe. The sun, on the other hand, shines everywhere for free, and when that energy is paired with enough battery capacity to propel automobiles at night, solar-powered cars could leapfrog all the new-energy technologies being developed, from plug-in hybrids to hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles,.

 But the current forecast is only partly sunny because there’s still some work left to reach that level of efficiency.

“This is not a technology we are going to see widely used in the next decades,” said Takeshi Miyao, an auto analyst at consultancy Carnorama. “It’s going to take a long time.”

Not for lack of trying. Toyota and Hyundai Motor Co. already introduced commercial models with solar panels on the roof, but they were too underpowered and could barely juice the sound system.

“The solar car’s advantage is that — while it can’t drive for a long range — it’s really independent of charging facilities,” said Koji Makino, a project manager at Toyota.

Indeed, there have been some breakthroughs, mainly due to advancements by Sharp. The prototype’s solar panel converts sunlight at an efficiency level of more than 34%, compared with about 20% for current panels on the market.

Because the solar cell being used by Toyota, Sharp and NEDO is only about 0.03 mm thick, it can be placed on more surfaces, including the curvy parts of the roof, hood and hatchback. The electrical system can charge the vehicle even when it’s on the move.

If the car is driven four days a week for a maximum of 50 kilometers a day, there’s no need to plug into an outlet, NEDO’s Yamazaki said.

The military coup in Bolivia likely to give a German company the right to extract lithium deposits for batteries. 

The military coup in Bolivia has put in place a government which appears likely to give a German company the right to extract lithium deposits for batteries. 

Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni salt flats hold the largest reserves of lithium in the world and demand for lithium is expected to more than double by 2025. The soft, light mineral is mined mainly in Australia, Chile, and Argentina. Bolivia has plenty—9 million tons that have never been mined commercially, the second-largest amount in the world—but until now there's been no practical way to mine and sell it.

Morales' cancellation of the ACISA deal opened the door to either a renegotiation of the agreement with terms delivering more of the profits to the area's population or the outright nationalization of the Bolivian lithium extraction industry.

"Bolivia's lithium belongs to the Bolivian people," tweeted Washington Monthly contributor David Atkins. "Not to multinational corporate cabals."

The coup, which resulted in Morales resigning and going into hiding, was the result of days of protests from right-wing elements angry at the leftist Morales government. Sen. Jeanine Añez, of the center-right party Democratic Unity, is currently the interim president in the unstable post-coup government in advance of elections.

Investment analyst publisher Argus urged investors to keep an eye on the developing situation in Bolivia.

India cancel coal power due to record low cost for solar power

Leaders in India have turned their backs and walked away from plans of building nearly 14 gigawatts of coal-fired power stations – which is about as much power used in the whole of the UK. The dramatic plummeting of the cost of solar energy has made this possible. This good news only highlights the rate of change regarding solar energy, reports India Times.

Analyst Tim Buckley (director of energy finance studies) wrote in his article on the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis’s website that this shift away from the dirtiest fossil fuel and towards solar in India will have “profound” ramifications for global energy markets. He tells about how 13.7GW of planned coal power projects have been canceled so far this month.

It all started in January of 2016 when Fortum, a Finnish company, got on board to generate electricity in Rajasthan at record low tariff (a guaranteed price) of 4.34 rupees per kilowatt-hour (about 5p). At the time, Mr. Buckley said that this price was so low it would never be repeated.

He was wrong about that! Just 16 months later, an auction for a 500-megawatt solar facility resulted in a tariff of just 2.44 rupees. That’s 31% less than the wholesale price charged by a major coal-power utility of 3.2 rupees! From that moment, everything turned in favour of renewable energy.

Mr. Buckley said: For the first time solar is cheaper than coal and the implications this has for transforming global energy markets is profound.

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