A new report has highlighted the challenge of keeping cool in extreme weather.

An analysis of 52 countries in hot climates found that 1.1 billion people face new risks, such as access to safe food and medicines, due to increased global temperatures.

The report, entitled Chilling Prospects, is the first to assess the challenge of keeping cool in an increasingly warm world, released by the non-profit Sustainable Energy For All.

The report estimates that 470 million people in rural areas lack access to electricity and supply chains which keep food and medicines cold. A further 630 million live in urban areas where the electricity provision for cooling services is either intermittent, too expensive, or non-existent.

Of the 52 countries which face cooling risks, nine have the biggest populations: India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, China, Mozambique and Sudan.

“In a world facing continuously rising temperatures, access to cooling is not a luxury – it’s essential for everyday life. It guarantees safe cold supply chains for fresh produce, safe storage of life-saving vaccines, and safe work and housing conditions,” said Rachel Kyte, CEO and Special Representative to the United Nations Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All.

A further 2.3 billion people within the lower-middle classes were identified as only able to afford cheaper, and therefore, less efficient cooling technologies. Recent analysis from the International Energy Agency found that global demand for air conditioning units could put climate change targets at risk.

“This Chilling Prospects report is a wake-up call. We must meet these needs in an energy efficient way, and without using ozone damaging substances. If not, the risks to life, health and the planet are significant. But there are equally important business opportunities for those that face up to the challenge and act early,” she added.

Read more: 1 billion at risk from lack of access to cooling...

The British public want the government to end its de facto ban against onshore wind, according to a poll commissioned by trade body RenewableUK.

66 percent of respondents to a new poll of 3,609 adults said they would like to see onshore wind farms built where it has local support; only 15 percent opposed the proposal.

Current policy excludes onshore wind from competing for Government contracts; the Conservative administration has also created hurdles in the planning process to prevent wind farms from going ahead.

This runs contrary to public opinion, highlighted by the YouGov poll, which favours onshore wind over other infrastructure options. At 23 percent, support is higher for wind farms than railway lines (22 percent), housing (17 percent), and nuclear power (2 percent).

Young people are especially keen on renewable energy, a group which is far less likely to vote Conservative. 60 percent of under 40s felt the government wasn’t doing enough to combat climate change, and a higher amount said investment in renewables was the answer.  

Repeated Government surveys also shows high support for wind turbines, with an average of 68 percent support over six years. Onshore wind has seen dramatic declines in cost in recent years, to the point where it is now the lowest cost form of all new power generation in the UK.

Emma Pinchbeck at RenewableUK, commented: The Government’s policy is massively out of step with public opinion, including the views of Conservative voters. Whether it’s the over-65s, people in rural communities or younger voters who want action on climate change, abandoning the onshore wind ban is popular across the board.

Onshore wind is the UK’s cheapest new power source, bar none, and excluding it from the market means we’ll have to rely on more expensive technologies to meet our future power needs. It’s difficult for voters to square why the Government is bringing in laws to cap energy bills on the one hand, while choosing to further push up costs for bill payers by blocking cheap, new wind power on the other”.

Read more: Bring back onshore wind in Britain, says new poll

Spain’s transition to a low-carbon economy is making strong progress with almost half of all power now coming from renewable energy.

Fresh data from Red Eléctrica de España, the country’s energy operator, shows that 45.8 percent of all electricity came from renewable sources between January and June.

The new statistics for 2018 highlight a 8.5 percent increase in renewable production compared to the same period last year.

The strong performances of both wind turbines and hydropower provided the bulk of the clean energy: wind provided 27,779 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity during the first six months of the year, representing 22.6 percent of all power. This is a 10 percent rise from last year.

A heavy period of rain, in stark contrast to a dry 2017, helped hydro production reach over 20,000 GWh, equal to 16.9 percent of power. Solar technologies provided 4.6 percent. All low-carbon technologies, including nuclear, pushed the figure to 67.5 percent.

In the past decade, Spain’s amount of installed renewable power has increased by 53 percent, according to Red Eléctrica. The company is working on bringing forward 30,500 megawatts of new capacity to further support the integration of renewables onto the grid, and wean the country off its dependence on fossil fuels.

Similar data was also released this week in Germany where a record 42 percent of its power came from renewables in the first six months of 2018. The UK also saw 30 percent of power from renewables during the first quarter of this year.

Analysts expect the strong upward trajectory for clean power to continue as countries seek to combat climate change and meet their goals under the Paris Agreement. BP’s yearly forecast in February anticipated a 400 percent growth in the market over the next 20 years.

Photo: a wind farm in Cadiz

Read more: Spain hits 45% renewable power in first half of...

The growth in electric vehicles goes hand-in-hand with reducing the carbon intensity of Britain’s economy.

And it’s fair to say that the company which runs Britain’s intricate energy network sees a bright future for EVs.

National Grid’s latest Future Energy Scenarios report details the evolving nature of Britain’s energy mix and the disruptive role that decarbonisation is playing on the system.

The document is the latest report to highlight the technology’s potential to positively transform our way of life. Under one of its ambitious scenarios, there could be 11 million new electric vehicles by 2030 and a further 36 million by 2040. This is equal to the number of all cars currently on the road, and a considerable increase on the modest 150,000 number of ultra-low emission vehicles.

While millions more EVs on the streets will do wonders for air pollution and climate change, it will inevitably mean a spike in electricity demand. National Grid argues that this could see a comparatively modest rise of 8 gigawatts by 2040, if consumers charge their vehicles at the different times and harness the benefits of new ‘vehicle-to-grid’ technology. This innovation allows EVs to feed electricity stored inside their batteries back to the grid when they aren’t being used.

Fintan Slye, Director at National Grid, said: “The continued growth in electric vehicles, a greater volume of low carbon generation and the advancement of storage technology, are among the major trends that have emerged from this year’s report…This means balancing energy supply and demand will become increasingly complex between now and 2050.”

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry said: “As we move towards a low carbon economy, we want to position the UK as a leader in clean and efficient power for transport and heating. Earlier this week we announced significant investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, including £30 million R&D investment in smart charging points.”

Read more: There could be 36 million electric vehicles on...

In the UK, the decline of coal power is continuing in dramatic fashion.

1,000 hours have passed in 2018 without the need to draw on Britain’s remaining coal plants. In 2017, the country went 624 hours across the whole year without using coal; in 2016, just 210 hours.

The figure comes from the MyGridGB website, which tracks and compiles official data from the National Grid.

There now remains only eight coal plants in operation, largely in use to support peak energy demand. It’s likely that coal would have been more absent from Britain’s energy mix this year had it not been for the unusually cold conditions at the start of 2018, dubbed the Beast from the East.

Andrew Crossland, an energy analyst which started the project told The Guardian newspaper: “In 2018, Britain saved its coal use for when it needed it most – during the March cold snap.

“Over the rest of the year Britain’s renewable sector has provided record amounts of electricity, with more than 7.4% coming from solar over the past four weeks.”

Coal use has declined by 75 percent between 2014 and 2017, according to analysis from the Carbon Brief website. Overall, this led to 5.3 percent of energy consumption coming from coal last year, a historic low.

Last year, Britain went a full 24 hours without using coal, the first time since the start of the Industrial Revolution. This has since been surpassed by frequent occasions when coal was offline for long stretches of time.

A spokesperson at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy commented: “The UK leads the world in tackling climate change and this shows the time of unabated coal fired electricity is being ended by a cleaner, greener future increasingly powered by renewable energy.”

On current trends, it is likely that the UK will phase-out all unabated coal plants long before the government’s 2025 target.

Source: MyGridGB

Read more: Britain goes 1,000 hours without using...

The Jamaican government has pledged $75 million (US $573,000) towards implementing a three-year plastic deposit scheme.

The initiative will mean customers are charged a small fee when buying plastic bottles, which they get back if it is returned and recycled.

“So people will not be in a rush to dispose of them but rather to cash them in, so that they can be taken out the garbage and the rivers and the streams,” explained Government minister Daryl Vaz.

He made the announcement at a conservation event in Kingstown last month; in a speech he said financial support was being provided to a private sector company to kick start the programme.

“The Government recognises the impact that improper solid waste disposal is having on the country and is taking several steps to rectify this problem”.

“We have already met with the manufacturers of these plastic bottles and indicated to them that the Government’s position is going to be announced in due course and we are giving them time to start to make the changes that are necessary,” he said.

He added that an estimated one million unrecyclable plastic bottles are used in Jamaica each year, equivalent to 350 per person.

The government is also reportedly working on a United Nations project to minimise the amount of plastic usage in the country.

Deposit schemes have proved popular and successful in reducing the amount of plastic waste in other countries. An equivalent programme in Norway reportedly led to an increase of recycling rates to 97 percent. Similar schemes are also in operation in Germany, Canada and some US states.

The UK government has also announced plans to introduce a deposit scheme to tackle the urgent problem of plastic pollution. An estimated 13 billion plastic drinks bottles are consumed each year in the UK, three billion of which aren’t recycled.  

Read more: Jamaica invests in plastic deposit scheme to...

Fresh data has shown the level of funding provided by the UK government to support overseas countries adapt to climate change.

Over the past seven years £3.3 billion of public money has been spent on supporting climate adaptation and mitigation in developing nations. A further $910 million was mobilised from private sources.

The money is channelled through the International Climate Finance (ICF) programme and has gone into a variety of projects which have helped an estimated 47 million withstand the impacts of climate change. 590 megawatts of clean energy has been installed which has helped improve electricity access to 17 million people.

These initiatives also avoided an estimated 10.4 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

This high level of investment will also continue out to 2021 with an extra £5.8 billion already commitment by the government.

Environment Minister, Thérèse Coffey said: “The UK continues to demonstrate our leadership in dealing with global environmental issues. Climate change is a cross-cutting issue with inextricable links between forests, climate, people and ecosystem services.”

“These results demonstrate the importance of international climate finance and the impacts that we can have worldwide when we deliver this finance effectively. The UK will continue to support countries to protect the world’s most biodiverse forests and contribute to development that is sustainable,” she added.

One of the flagship projects supported by the ICF programme is designed to build resilience to extreme weather events across 13 countries in Africa and South Asia. BRACED has already supported 5 million people respond to environmental impacts by developing new climate-smart technologies and practices. These projects are often centred on the agricultural industry in Africa’s Sahel region.

Learning how to grow crops that are more resilient to drought and building solar-powered wells are just two examples of the funding initiatives.

Read more: UK raises over £4bn to tackle climate change in...

Vattenfall has signed one of Europe’s first power purchase agreements involving an offshore wind farm.

The Swedish energy company has finalised a deal for its upcoming Kreigers Flak project in the Baltic Sea to supply energy to two pharmaceutical companies in Denmark.

Once complete in 2021, Kreigers Flak will become Denmark’s largest offshore wind farm with a maximum capacity of 600 megawatts, enough to power around 600 thousand households. It will be located up to 25 miles from shore.

Novo Nordisk and Novozymes have both signed a long-term renewable energy deal with Vattenfall, starting on 1 January 2020. Other offshore wind farms will fill in with supplying power before Kreigers Flak is up and running.

It’s expected that the power needs of the two companies will account for one-fifth of the wind farm’s output.

"Vattenfall is the largest developer of offshore wind power in Denmark. Not least thanks to Kriegers Flak, which will be the biggest. We notice a growing demand from companies to buy exclusively renewable energy. This agreement is a result of this, and we look forward to working with Novo Nordisk and Novozymes, "said Branislav Slavic, Business Sales Nordic at Vattenfall.

Dorethe Nielsen, Head of Corporate Environmental Strategy at Novo Nordisk, said: "The agreement with Vattenfall takes us one step closer to achieving our goal: that all our production facilities around the world should be run with renewable energy by 2020”.
 
Telecoms giant AT&T recently signed a major deal to source a total of 820 megawatts from onshore wind farms in the US. The company joins a host of large corporates which have turned to renewable energy for their power needs. Google has contracts in place to source 3 gigawatts of renewable power to service its data centres and offices in the US.

Photo Credit: Vattenfall

Read more: Vattenfall signs new offshore wind power agreement

The Irish Parliament has passed a bill which forces the country to divest its assets in fossil fuels.

The legislation is a world first and received support from all political sides; it is expected to sail through the upper chamber to be made law.

Once complete it will mean that Ireland’s 8 billion euro Strategic Investment Fund will have to sell its assets in companies which derive their income from fossil fuels. At present, the fund has investments worth 318 million euros in 150 such companies worldwide.

The achievement is the result of a long-running campaign led by independent politician Thomas Pringle, who introduced the bill, and a range of civil society organisations, including Trócaire and the Global Legal Action Network.

Éamonn Meehan, Executive Director of Trócaire said the Irish Parliament had made a “powerful statement” in passing the bill.

“It has responded to the public’s call for leadership on this issue and sent a powerful signal to the international community about the need to speed up the phase out of fossil fuels if global climate goals are to be delivered.

“Ireland has gained a reputation internationally in recent years as a ‘climate laggard’ and just last month Ireland was ranked the second worst European country for climate action, so the passing of this bill is good news but has to mark a significant change of pace on the issue.”

Gerry Liston, one of the legal advisers who helped draft the bill at Global Legal Action Network, commented: “Governments will not meet their obligations under the Paris Agreement on climate change if they continue to financially sustain the fossil fuel industry. Countries the world over must now urgently follow Ireland's lead and divest from fossil fuels."

Ireland joins a growing legion of major organisations, companies and public funds which are using divestment as a tool to combat climate change. Norway’s own sovereign fund, which is much larger, has taken some initial steps to exclude fossil fuel companies from its investment rules.

Photo Credit: Tebibyte/CC

Read more: Ireland makes world’s first pledge to divest...

The world’s largest airline is ditching plastic straws in favour of more sustainable alternatives.

American Airlines, which flies around 200 million passengers a year, will from this month eliminate the use of plastic straws on all planes and within its lounges.

Biodegradable straws and bamboo stir sticks will be used instead, which the airline estimates will remove 71,000 pounds of plastic each year. Further commitments to move to more sustainable cutlery will also be made, although precise details weren’t made.

“We're very excited and proud to share this initiative with our team members and customers,” said Jill Surdek, Vice President, Flight Service. “We’re cognizant of our impact on the environment and we remain committed to doing our part to sustain the planet for future generations of travelers.”

American Airlines has a history of implementing modest sustainability initiatives across its global business. Its recycling programme dates back to the late 1980s and now reuses hundreds of thousands of aluminium each year. In 2015, it also switched from using plastic foam cups to paper cups.

The aviation industry is a major consumer of plastics and generated an estimated 5.2 million tonnes in 2016, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). In-flight food and drinks create the bulk of this plastic and many airlines have been slow to adopt thorough policies to prevent the waste from ending up in landfill.

Earlier this year, Irish airline Ryanair made a pledge to eliminate all non-recyclable plastic within five years. The low-cost carrier will instead make the switch to biodegradable cups, wooden cutlery and paper packaging during flights.

This waste is not only damaging to the environment, but reportedly costs the industry over $500 million each year, according to the IATA.

Read more: American Airlines switches away from plastic...

Apple and 10 of its suppliers are teaming up to develop clean energy projects in China.

The company has launched what it is calling a ‘first-of-its-kind investment fund’ to help its suppliers gain access to renewable sources.

The $300 million fund will develop an estimated 1 gigawatt of renewable energy projects within China over the next four years – enough to power 1 million households.

Lisa Jackson, one of Apple’s policy chiefs, and a former head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, commented: “At Apple, we are proud to join with companies that are stepping up to address the climate challenge.”

“We’re thrilled so many of our suppliers are participating in the fund and hope this model can be replicated globally to help businesses of all sizes make a significant positive impact on our planet.”

The list of suppliers contributing to the new fund include major companies taken from the manufacturing, electronics, and chemical sectors, among others. These include Solvay, Corning Incorporated, Pegatron, and Wistron.

The fund forms part of a commitment Apple made in 2015 to help its suppliers source clean energy within the manufacturing process. The company has at least 200 global suppliers which provide the nuts and bolts of Apple’s product range, from watches to iPads. So far, 23 suppliers have signed up to the programme.

Apple has led by example in this area and earlier this year managed to hit 100 percent renewable energy across its data centres, offices and retail stores. At the time, CEO Tim Cook said the company was “committed to leaving the world better than we found it”.

“We’re going to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the materials in our products, the way we recycle them, our facilities and our work with suppliers to establish new creative and forward-looking sources of renewable energy because we know the future depends on it.”

Photo Credit: Apple

Read more: Apple sets up $300m clean energy fund in China

The US state of California has cut its greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels for the first time.

Emissions have been reduced by 13 percent since their 2004 peak, equal to taking 12 million cars off the road. At the same time, its economy, now the fifth largest in the world, grew by 26 percent.

Under a 2006 law passed by the then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, California must reduce its emissions to 431 million metric tons by 2020 – the same as they were in 1990. Data released by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) shows that as of 2016 the level was at 429 million tons. This is a three percent drop since 2015.

A new law passed two years ago commits the state to go even further by 2030, reducing emissions to 40 percent below this level – at 260 million tons.

“California set the toughest emissions targets in the nation, tracked progress and delivered results,” said current Governor Jerry Brown. “The next step is for California to cut emissions below 1990 levels by 2030 – a heroic and very ambitious goal.”

The greatest falls were seen in the electricity sector which managed to reduce emissions by 18 percent thanks to the growth in renewable energy. At the same time, solar power rose by 33 percent in the state.

A suite of policies from the government have helped bring about the transformation, including a low-carbon fuel standard, renewables incentives and America’s first carbon trading programme.

“In California we see the impacts of climate change all around us, but our efforts to curb its worst impacts are on track.  We are well positioned to meet the challenge of the 2030 target,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “This is great news for the health of Californians, the state’s environment and its economy, even as we face the failure of our national leadership to address climate change.”

Read more: California hits emissions target two years early

If you are a fan of Starbucks you will soon be asked to do a bit more for your morning coffee.

After a successful trial across 35 stores in London, Starbucks is rolling-out a nationwide 5p paper cup charge.  

From the end of July, all customers will be asked to pay the small fee if they order a drink in a single-use cup.

Starbucks operates 950 stores within the UK which attract millions of customers every week. To ensure the charge wouldn’t put people off, the company enlisted the services of environmental experts Hubbub. The charity evaluated the impact of the original three-month trial and found that the frequency of reusable cups increased by 126 percent. Morning times were found to be especially popular with 8 percent of all hot drinks served in reusable mugs or tumblers.

The added bonus for these customers is a 25p discount off any drink.

Hubbub’s work convinced Starbucks that a so-called ‘latte levy’ could have an impact on paper cup use, provided the right level of communication with customers and staff training.

Martin Brok, Starbucks’s European chief said its employees and customers “continue to push us to innovate and find ways to reduce waste.”

“Extending this to all our stores across Britain is an exciting step and we’re hoping this charge will remind customers to rethink their use of single-use plastic as it has with plastic bags.”

Trewin Restorick, CEO and Founder of Hubbub said the trial proved that single-use plastics has become a significant issue for the general public. “Customers have an increased awareness of the need to reduce waste from single-use cups. A 5p charge is an effective way to prompt this change,” he added.

The news comes shortly after Starbucks also announced a plan to eliminate all plastic straws across nearly 30,000 stores worldwide within the next two years. The plan is expected to remove the need for one billion plastic straws each year.

Read more: Starbucks extends 5p ‘latte levy’ to all UK stores

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