Europe

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."

French bank will end all coal investments worldwide by 2040

French banking giant to end coal financing in Europe by 2030 and sets new renewable energy investment target of €18bn by 2021

 

BNP Paribas has pledged to cease all financing related to the European thermal coal sector by 2030, before then halting all coal investment globally by 2040.

BNP Paribas claims that the new commitments will help it meet its goal of reducing the CO2 intensity of its global electricity mix by 85% between 2014 and 2040, thereby complying with the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The French banking group has also announced a new financing target of €18bn by 2021 in order to increase its support for the development of renewable energies.

Amid concerns over the climate emergency, BNP Paribas said that it intends to encourage the transition of electricity producers to a production model with the lowest possible emissions of CO2

BNP Paribas director and CEO Jean Laurent Bonnafé said: “Like all players in the economy and society whose objective is to contribute to the necessary transition to a lower carbon economic model, BNP Paribas has a role to play. As a bank, we have the opportunity, and the will, to participate in the acceleration of the energy transition by supporting our customers in this necessary transformation".

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.

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."

A cheap and pollution free electric car battery that takes you 1,500 miles without recharging

Trevor Jackson, the British engineer and former Royal Navy officer, has developed an inexpensive, lightweight battery, nine times more capacious than lithium-ion, made from affordable aluminum and with such a safe electrolyte that can be drunk.

Moreover, it is simpler and cheaper to make, as well as easier to recycle than conventional batteries currently used. The battery can reportedly sustain 1,500 miles of driving before needing to be charged.

It took almost 18 years of development and the investment of several million euros to start producing this large-scale battery. Austin Electric, an engineering firm based in Essex, will begin next year to integrate them into thousands of electric vehicles.

In 2001, Jackson began investigating the potential of a technology first developed in the 1960s. Researchers had discovered that dipping aluminum in an electrolyte stimulated a reaction between the metal and the oxygen that produced electricity. They were, in other words, batteries of the future. At the time, the method was not sustainable because it required 100% pure aluminum, and the electrolyte used was extremely toxic and caustic.

After years of trials and experiments, Jackson found a new formula of electrolyte capable of operating even with less valuable aluminum (including recycled drinks cans), and moreover, neither caustic nor polluting.

“I’ve drunk it when demonstrating it to investors, so I can attest to the fact that it’s harmless,” Jackson says. The formula, which is top secret, is the key to his invention.

Today, the automotive industry that aims at electric cars has invested heavily in lithium-ion battery technology. Yes, there are improvements in efficiency and recharge times, but recycling to recover lithium and cobalt is very expensive.

Technically, Jackson’s invention is more correctly called a fuel cell, not a battery. The device has turned out so light and powerful that it is able to revolutionize carbon-free transport. Once an aluminum-air battery has been used up, it can be recycled very cheaply, he says.

The tests already carried out say that with the same weight, Jackson’s fuel cells produce nine times the energy of lithium-ion batteries. If you put it on the Tesla Model S, then the range of the electric car will increase from 600 km (370 miles) to 4300 km (2,700 miles) with an equal weight of batteries, and with an equal size – up to 2400 km (1,500 miles). A quick swap of battery (only 90 seconds) will eliminate many hours of recharging.

Now, Austin will start producing aluminum-air batteries according to Jackson’s recipe – first for tuk-tuks, three-wheeled Asian taxis, then for electric bicycles and, finally, kits for converting ordinary gas or diesel cars into electric ones.

In Tesla, Jackson says, the battery costs about £30,000. An aluminum-air fuel cell that would power the same car for longer would cost just £5,000, Daily Mail reported.

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