The Irish Government has announced plans to spend €22 billion over the next four years to aid the country’s journey to a low-carbon and climate resilient economy.

The move forms part of the government’s new National Development Plan, released this week, and covering all parts of the Irish economy.

Energy efficiency, renewables, agriculture, transport and climate adaptation are all covered under the scheme, which has an initial target date of 2021.

The government is aiming to upgrade 45,000 homes per year, add up to 4,500 megawatts of new renewable energy and introduce low-emission, electric buses in urban areas. It will also create a new €500 million Climate Action Fund to help support climate adaptation projects, such as improving flood defences on the island.

Ireland has some of the strongest wind speeds in Europe, and the government is looking to continue to harness this natural resource within its renewable energy plans. By 2030, the plan states that coal and peat-fired plants will “no longer have a role in electricity generation in Ireland”, with wind power continuing to dominate the energy mix in the future; the government also sees a role for a mix of wave, solar, bioenergy and hydrogen.

The report states: “While Ireland clearly faces a very significant task in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, the current profile of which reflects the particular structure of our economy, action can be taken now to position Ireland to harness significant benefits from realising a low-carbon economy. These include, for example, the creation of sustainable green jobs, sustainable food production, deepening our energy security, and making the environment healthier”.

In a related move to secure energy supplies in the country, a new subsea electricity connector is being proposed with France. This €1 billion project will help provide 700MW of low-carbon electricity to the country from the mid-2020s onwards.

Wind power has grown exponentially in Ireland in recent years

Photo: Kenneth Gallery Smyth

Read more: Ireland planning €22 billion injection into...

The performance of South Australia’s new lithium ion battery unit has helped “take the straw off the camel’s back”, according to a new review.

An energy expert at The Australia Institute assessed how the world’s largest battery was performing since it was installed by Tesla in December 2017.

The review found that the battery is helping to stabilise the state’s energy demand, providing crucial breathing space for the national grid to meet supply on a second-by-second basis.

In particular it found that the battery was helping to iron out the gaps where renewable energy wasn’t available, as intended, and that the new battery demonstrated the “very valuable role that energy storage can play in the operation of an electricity supply system with high levels of renewable generation”.

This is good news for advocates of the technology who have long hoped that energy storage could provide the missing piece to ensure renewable energy’s long-term success.

Speaking to The Guardian on Friday, Hugh Saddler, the academic who undertook the review, said that the battery was working in “smooth synergy with wind farms”.

"Peak wind production is easily the cheapest way to charge the battery, and it stands ready to fill demand gaps if they emerge. The battery has been charging up overnight, when prices are very low and hitting the grid at the right time to keep price spikes lower than they would be otherwise."

30 megawatts of the battery’s overall capacity is given over specifically to help meet peak energy demand. While this only represents 1 percent of peak demand in the review period, the battery is already proving its worth. The remaining 70 is used in reserve to maintain the safety of the grid network.

"While the watts may seem small in the context of the whole system, the SA battery is providing critical power at the critical moment - in effect taking the straw off the camel's back", Saddler added.

The report also found that carbon emissions within Australia’s power sector were the lowest in January for 14 years. This is largely attributable to the success of the country’s large-scale energy target, which aims to source 33,000 gigawatt hours of electricity from renewables by 2020.

The report concludes that unless electricity consumption surges, “emissions and emissions intensity can be expected to continue their steady fall until 2021”.

Photo: Tesla/Timothy Artman

Read more: Tesla’s ‘big battery’ in South Australia is...

In the latest move towards cleaner forms of transport, Porsche has confirmed that it is putting an end to diesel engines in its cars.

The German manufacturer cited a “cultural shift” among its customers as the main reason, according to trade publication Autocar.

It was revealed this week that the company will cease production of the diesel versions of its Macan, Panamera and Cayenne models, eight years after they were first offered to the market.

In a statement, the company said: "Traditionally, diesel engines have played a subordinate role at Porsche – the company does not develop or build diesel engines itself. Currently, the demand for diesel models is falling, whereas interest in hybrid and petrol models is increasing significantly. For example, the ratio for hybrid versions of the new Panamera in Europe is around 60 percent."

However, it does not mean a complete exit from diesel technology as the company said the upcoming Cayenne will feature a “diesel powertrain”. The Cayenne model had initially been recalled last year due to “irregularities in the engine control software”.

The move has provoked a strong response from environmental campaigners who feel that Porsche, ultimately owned by the Volkswagen Group, has been tainted by the emissions scandal. VW was found to have intentionally altered their technology to only meet emissions standards during testing.

Mel Evans, clean air campaigner at Greenpeace, responded: “Porsche is the first arm of VW Group to realise the only way out of the Dieselgate scandal is to ditch diesel and turn to new, clean electric and hybrid technology.

“Porsche’s move away from diesel is a step in the right direction for VW Group. But it’s time for the rest of VW Group to wake up to the fact that dirty diesel’s time is over, and only a bold move to full electric and hybrid can win back their reputation.” 

Photo: Porsche

Read more: Porsche stops production of all its diesel cars

BP has published its yearly forecast for the global energy market this week, and the oil giant sees renewable energy playing a commanding role in the future.

By 2040, if current trends continue then renewables will grow by 400 percent of their current amount, but still only account for 14 percent of all global energy demand.

This expansion will be led by China, which could continue its dominance in the market, followed by other developing countries, including India.

BP sees this strong growth as being enabled by the steep decreases in cost seen primarily by wind and solar. As subsidies are phased-out by the mid-2020s, renewable energy will “be able to compete against other fuels”.

However, this view is not in keeping with other scenarios which show that wind and solar are already cost-competitive with fossil fuels.

Elsewhere, the Energy Outlook sees a continued increase in energy demand, led again by China and India, but that improvements in efficiency will help dampen this down.

More worryingly, the Outlook sees carbon emissions rising by 10 percent out to 2040. Although this is slower than in the past it remains insufficient to meet the goals of the Paris climate Agreement.  

Bob Dudley, the group’s chief executive commented that “We need a far more decisive break from the past” to limit warming to below 2 degrees.

“In BP, we continue to believe that carbon pricing must be a key element as it provides incentives for everyone to play their part – from consumers using energy more efficiently to producers providing more low-carbon forms of energy.”

Spencer Dale, BP’s chief economist, said that growing competition is helping to create “the most diverse fuels mix we have ever seen”.

“By 2040, oil, gas, coal and non-fossil fuels each account for around a quarter of the world’s energy. More than 40 percent of the overall increase in energy demand is met by renewable energy”.

“We are seeing growing competition between different energy sources, driven by abundant energy supplies, and continued improvements in energy efficiency”, he concluded.

Read more: BP predicts a 400% growth in renewable energy by...

Experts gathering in London have argued over whether China could dominate the green financing market in years to come.

The event, hosted by Imperial College London, brought together academics in the field to discuss how this crucial, and topical, area can help prevent dangerous climate change. Only yesterday, the Seychelles announced an innovative conservation finance deal to protect vast areas of the country’s marine wildlife.

And while China is seemingly touted as an emerging world player in almost every area, from electric vehicles to space travel, attendees were in a consensus over the country’s potential in the market.

However, China has a chequered history with environmental issues, dating back to Chairman Mao’s insistence that “man must conquer nature”, and continuing into the present-day, which prioritises huge infrastructure projects to drive economic growth.

Professor Yao Wang, who leads the International Institute of Green Finance in Beijing, outlined China’s new strategy on green finance, detailing new ‘pilot zones’ in five regions across the country to address different environmental problems. In addition, she explained how the Chinese Government and financial institutions are now scaling-up their support of clean industries. She stated the country is developing a new financial system which looks to green funds, insurance and credit trading.

The country notably launched its first carbon market late last year, which will cover a huge 4 billion metric tonnes of emissions and 1,700 polluting companies.

Professor Wang also commented that “the lack of legislation is still an obstacle for getting eco-projects rolled out at both a national and local level. There is also a question about how much financial information should be disclosed to potential investors who want to benefit from China’s green finance market”.

New analysis from rating agency S&P on the green bond market, reported by Climate Action last month, showed that Europe remains the dominant force in this area, with the US catching up. Emerging markets, such as China, India and Mexico were cited as increasing their share of the market though.

Dr Charles Donovan, who heads up Imperial College’s Centre for Climate Finance, concluded: “China’s growing position as a leader in the international green finance market highlights the importance of tackling climate change and the role that governments and businesses need to play in boosting the global green economy”.

Climate Action is launching the Sustainable Investment Forum Europe this year, taking place in Paris on 13th March. If you are interested in green finance, learn more here.

Photo: Hanny Naibaho

Read more: Could China become a leader in green finance?

A new agreement has been signed to further sustainable development at Europe’s football grounds, sports facilities and stadiums.

UEFA, football’s governing body in Europe, and the European Commission have signed an agreement in Brussels this week that will see the two cooperate on issues around sustainability, fair competition, good governance and integrity within the game.

First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans said: "Football players, men and women, are role models for children and adults across Europe. This great power can be an important ally…for the promotion of solidarity, sustainability and equality on the pitch and in our daily lives”.

The agreement commits both sites to seek how stronger links can be made between sport and sustainable development by “following best practices in areas of recycling, eco-innovation and waste-management”.

This also includes the efficient use of resources to reduce environmental impacts as a result of events and tournaments. Both sides are also looking to upgrade sports facilities and stadiums to be “innovative, accessible and sustainable”, which in turn promotes public health and social inclusion.

The two will also work together on the upcoming EURO 2020 tournament, which will be the first championship to be played across the whole of Europe to mark its 60th anniversary. The event will be played across 12 cities and include a suite of new sustainability initiatives, such as cutting out plastic waste and making host stadiums buy renewable energy.

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin said at the ceremony: “UEFA and the European Commission share a common desire to promote the social values of sport and to safeguard the principles of fairness and solidarity”

“We look forward to working closely with the Commission to further protect, promote and develop football for the benefit of society as a whole”, he added.

UEFA also has an ongoing agreement with the World Wildlife Fund to work on climate change and sustainability issues within the game.

Photo: European Commission

Read more: UEFA and the European Commission join forces for...

The UK’s electricity sector is continuing to change at an astonishing rate with fossil fuels in decline, while renewable energy tops new heights.

Official National Grid statistics show that carbon emissions in the power sector fell by 12 percent in 2017, while renewable energy’s output grew by 27 percent.

All renewable technologies, consisting of biomass, hydro, solar and wind, now provide 25 percent of all Britain’s electricity. This would be sufficient to power the entire country 60 years ago.

Imperial College London, which helped compile the report with Drax Power, estimates the carbon savings are the equivalent of removing one in seven cars from the road.

Dr Iain Staffell, from Imperial College London, said that: “The share of fossil fuels on the system has fallen from 80 percent to 50 percent since 2010 and the effect that shift in the balance of power is having in terms of lowering our carbon emissions is striking”.

An increase in wind energy capacity and a decline in coal-fired power plants are largely responsible for the reversal in fortunes. Wind farms produced 45 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2017, a record 15 percent of Britain’s electricity, and more than twice the output from coal. This was helped by new giant offshore wind farms coming online off Britain’s coasts and onshore wind having a record year for deployment.

Andy Koss, Drax Power’s CEO said: “This report shows the great progress we have made in terms of decarbonising the energy sector. We can expect more days without coal on the system as we gear up to the UK coming off coal in 2025 and we are proud of the work that we have done to support this as the largest decarbonisation project in Europe”.

Luke Clark, Head of External Affairs at the trade body RenewableUK, also commented on the good news: “These figures underline that renewables are central to our changing power system…Alongside breaking multiple records for peak output, wind energy continued to cut costs”

Source: Drax Power/Imperial College London

Read more: UK carbon emissions fall as renewable energy soars

A new programme is being launched to equip farmers in Africa with climate-smart agricultural tools and technologies.

The project is being rolled out by CORAF, a West African research institute, with the support of the World Bank.

It seeks to place innovative technologies in the hands of farmers to better protect them from the impacts of climate change.

It is hoped that by scaling up the use of new technologies, farmers across the continent can improve productivity, increase climate resiliency, and encourage the younger generation to seek a career in agriculture.

ICT tools and geo-mapping are two such examples that can be used to help crop yields. These provide farmers with added knowledge to improve soil management and growth.

It is thought the scheme, which will be officially launched later this year, will extend across West and Central Africa, from Sierra Leone to Cameroon.

“This program has assigned itself very ambitious targets because West and Central deserve that. Among the beneficiaries, at least 40 percent must be women. The technologies disseminated have to be linked to critical areas such as climate-smart agriculture, nutrition, mechanization, and processing. And it will be judged on the number of permanent and seasonal jobs it creates,” said Dr. Abdou Tenkouano, Executive Director of CORAF.

The project is designed to build on the success of the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program, which was launched in 2008 with World Bank funding. It has impacted nine million people: increasing annual incomes, boosting crop yields and reducing the prevalence of hunger in West Africa.

However, more needs to be done, particularly to insulate the region from extreme weather events, such as drought and flooding, which are made more common due to climate change.

“Despite the progress made, agricultural productivity in the West and Central Africa sub-region still lags behind the rest of the World,” said Dr. Niéyidouba Lamien, who is the programme’s regional coordinator.

“Focus has to go beyond productivity to address the overall issue of enhancing the food system to address the demand of an increasing population, address youth unemployment, climate change, migration, gender, and nutrition”.

Photo: Sho Hatakeyama

Read more: New climate-smart technologies will boost...

Over one million trees have been pledged by people around the world to offset President Donald Trump’s anti-climate policies.

The pledges are the result of a campaign created in March 2017 by three environmentalists “to motivate and inspire people to grow trees in the fight against climate ignorance promoted by President Donald Trump”.

The campaign to build a Trump Forest was born as a result of the US withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, and Trump’s proposal last year to repeal former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

The Plan was a key component of the administration’s fight against climate change and a way to accelerate America’s low-carbon economy.

The US is the world’s second largest emitter of carbon dioxide. It’s estimated that if all of Obama’s climate change policies were implemented they would prevent 650 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released into Earth’s atmosphere.

Trump’s own plan to downgrade and rewrite these regulations led to the idea of building a forest to offset his climate-damaging policies.

“We launched this forest because we were extremely frustrated at Trump’s blatant disregard for healthy life on earth and his inability to understand basic science,” co-founder Jeff Willis said.

“Less than a year on, we’re pleased to see people from more than 30 countries have joined our protest in planting trees to offset his ignorance — but we’re sad to say Trump’s record on climate change is as bad as ever.”

The scientists believe that to fully offset the additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would require an estimated 10 billion trees, and cover an area the size of the US state of Kentucky.

“Under Trump, the US has pushed itself further away from the international community’s collective efforts in finally taking meaningful action on the greatest health threat humanity faces,” said Dr Dan Price, a climate scientist.

“His attitude is dangerous and the time we are wasting will come at a cost. By delaying action, we are letting generations foot the bill tomorrow for the recklessness of people responsible today. We are gambling with the planetary life support system and that should make everybody nervous.”

Trees have been pledged by people from over 30 countries.

Photo: Gage Skidmore

Read more: One million trees pledged to create ‘Trump Forest’

IKEA has decided to enter the energy market and is claiming it can save people £300 on their energy bill.

The Swedish furniture giant is joining the ‘Big Clean Switch’ campaign, a UK initiative which helps customers source 100 percent of their electricity needs from renewable sources.    

The £300 saving is based on what the majority of UK consumers pay for a Standard Variable Tariff with a ‘Big Six’ energy supplier, compared with the current cheapest renewables tariff through the Big Clean Switch website.

Hege Sæbjørnsen, Sustainability Manager at IKEA UK, said, “By partnering with the Big Clean Switch, we hope to make switching to renewable electricity simple, accessible and affordable to everyone.”

“We want to provide our customers with innovative solutions that will help them live a more sustainable life at home and save money in the short and long-term”, he added.

IKEA will receive a commission payment for every person that switches, which is ring-fenced for local community projects.

Jon Fletcher, Campaign Director at Big Clean Switch, commented: “We want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to switch to renewable electricity and our partnership with IKEA is a big step forward in helping more people achieve this. Every person who makes the switch plays a vital role in taking the necessary action to help reduce the impact of climate change”

The move forms part of IKEA’s global sustainability ambitions, which includes a pledge to produce 100 percent renewable energy across its entire operations by 2020.

Hege continued: “Last year in the UK, we generated renewable energy equivalent to 41 percent of the energy we used. We have also installed solar panels on all new stores and the majority of our existing stores as part of our investment in renewables”.

Photo Credit: IKEA

Read more: IKEA offers UK customers 100% renewable energy...

The Seychelles has announced it has established vast new marine protected areas the size of Great Britain.

81,000 square miles of the Indian Ocean have been given over to conservation in an innovative conservation finance deal.

The Seychelles Government swapped $22 million of its sovereign debt into an investment to protect the huge area from illegal fishing, energy developments, and the damaging impacts of climate change.

The deal was designed by US-based The Nature Conservancy and funded by donations, including $1 million from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. It is understood to be the first such debt conversion to specifically protect marine wildlife. A portion of its debt repayments will now finance the marine protection projects, via a new government-run trust.

“This effort will help the people of Seychelles protect their ocean for future generations, and will serve as a model for future marine conservation projects worldwide," said Leonardo DiCaprio, Chairman of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. 

"These protections mean that all species living in these waters or migrating through them are now far better shielded from overfishing, pollution, and climate change.” 

99 percent of the island nation’s territory is made up of ocean, but only 0.04 percent is currently protected. The unique deal will mean that close to 30 percent of the country’s marine areas will now be safeguarded within a few years with strict conditions to protect the ecosystem; only scientific research and closely limited tourism will be allowed in some areas.

Seychelles’ President Danny Faure of Seychelles, commented on the news after it was announced at an event on Wednesday:

"Our approach is ambitious. It is about a paradigm shift on how we manage and use our coastal and ocean resources, how we work together as a government and as communities. By planning properly to protect our environment, we can be sure we are also protecting our people and their livelihoods against an uncertain future”

The areas now under strict conservation include endangered animals, such as the dugong; sea turtles; 10,000 giant tortoises, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mark Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy, said he hoped the project could be replicated in other fragile areas of the world’s oceans: "This is a critical accomplishment in our mission to bring conservation to scale across the globe; what you see today in Seychelles is what we expect to introduce in the Caribbean and other ocean regions facing the threats of climate change" 

Read more: Unique conservation deal creates massive new...

The UK Government has lost its third court case on tackling air pollution when a High Court judge today ruled its current plans as “seriously flawed” and “unlawful”.

Mr Justice Garnham said the government had not done enough to require 45 local authorities in the UK to meet legal limits to reduce air pollution in their areas.

“The environment secretary must ensure that, in each of the 45 areas, steps are taken to achieve compliance as soon as possible, by the quickest route possible and by a means that makes that outcome likely”, he said.

It is expected these areas won’t meet their legal requirements to prevent toxic air pollutants until 2021.

The case was the third win in a row from legal activists ClientEarth, which have been doggedly pursuing the government for years to address the issue. Climate Action reported on the initial proceedings of the case last month, which covers authorities in both England and Wales.

Speaking outside of the court, ClientEarth lawyer Anna Heslop said: “For the third time in the space of three years, the courts have declared that the government is failing in its obligation to clean up the air in our towns and cities.

“We are delighted that the court has today ordered the government to urgently take further action to fix the dangerous air pollution in our towns and cities.

“The problem was supposed to be cleaned up over eight years ago, and yet successive governments have failed to do enough”.

In reaction to the verdict Jenny Bates, air pollution campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “We’re seeing too little, too late from the government, and as a result people across the country will continue suffering unnecessarily. Levels of air pollution are illegally high in areas right across the country and air pollution is responsible for tens of thousands of early deaths a year in the UK".

Today’s result also means that Welsh Ministers will also have to produce a plan to comprehensive plan to combat air pollution by the end of July.

Photo: Bruno Abatti

Read more: UK Government loses latest court case on...

The Dutch bank ING and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have announced a serious boost towards greening the shipping industry.

Each institution has decided to contribute €150 million to support projects with a “green innovation element” in Europe’s maritime sector.

The money will be made available for new ships or to retrofit existing vessels so that they reduce less emissions and are more fuel efficient. The EIB stated that the funds will be implemented gradually over the next three years.

It’s estimated that maritime transport contributes 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but that this could be greatly reduced by implementing existing, cost-effective technologies.

The EIB’s President, Werner Hoyer, commented: “I think it’s no secret that the shipping sector is a major contributor to carbon dioxide emissions. Climate action is one of the EIB’s top priorities, and this type of financing should be seen as an incentive for ship owners to consider doing things differently”

“The facility was set up after numerous discussions with Dutch counterparts from the public and private sector and aims to help the shipping sector transition to a greener future”, he added.

The investment represents a significant opportunity for the shipping industry to accelerate its transition to a low-carbon economy. So far, the sector has lagged behind in reducing its carbon emissions and in promoting sustainable practices. There have been recent signs of change though; earlier this month two Japanese companies announced a partnership to test using solar power on ships. China also launched its first electric cargo vessel late last year, able to carry 2,200 tonnes on each haul.

Isabel Fernandez, Head of Wholesale Banking at ING, added: “Sustainability is an important strategic priority for ING and we are very proud to partner with the EIB to encourage our shipping clients to think about more green and sustainable financing options. This agreement helps us support our shipping clients into making changes to their business models by adapting for the future in increasingly sustainable way, and supports them throughout their green journey”.

Photo: Axel Ahoi

Read more: New €300 million investment to help steer green...

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