French and Swedish finance ministers will strengthen their collaboration on green and sustainable finance to help lead the transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient global economy.

The French Minister for Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire, and Swedish Minister for Financial Markets and Consumer Affairs, Per Bolund will announce their collaboration during the Climate Finance Day- a conference hosted by the French Government in Paris, where the Ministers will use a common closing speech  to engage with global stakeholders to scale-up climate financing.

The collaboration will be part of the French-Swedish strategic partnership for innovation, digital transformation and green solutions, which was signed by French President Emmanuel Macron and the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven in November.

The partnership has identified four main action areas. The first area is green transport, clean energy, and smart systems, followed by green financing for climate resilient economies, digital transformation, and health and life sciences innovation.

France has already set up strong carbon disclosure requirements for corporate and financial institutions, which are included in the national law for the energy transition and green growth. France was also the first country to issue a sovereign green bond- an impressive $7 billion issuance  earlier this year.

From its side, Sweden implemented such requirements for non-financial firms in 2016. Disclosure requirements for investment funds will enter into force by the beginning of 2018.

Both countries support the implementation of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) - a body aimed at developing a set of voluntary climate financial disclosures, chaired by Michael Bloomberg.

Mr. Bruni Le Maire said: "Fair, transparent and consistent reporting on climate-related risks and opportunities is key to collectively delivering on the Paris Agreement, to improving the effectiveness of companies communication on climate change integration in their strategy and implications for their business”

Per Bolund commented: "I am glad that both Sweden and France are committed to implementing the recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), thus leading the way towards a greener and more sustainable financial system”.

He added: “This will not only contribute to realizing the commitments in the Paris Agreement but also increase financial stability, which is key for a prosperous society”.

You can read the full roadmap of cooperation between the two countries here

Read more: France and Sweden collaborate on green finance...

During the recent UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, more than 200 countries pledged to eradicate pollution on the planet, committing their countries to honour efforts to prevent, mitigate and manage the dangerous levels of pollution affecting the ecosystem and the health of billions of people around the world.

The three-day assembly was attended by over 4,000 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, UN officials and civil society representatives which ended with environment ministers issuing a declaration entitled “Towards a pollution-free planet”.

Environment ministers will target pollution through tailored actions to shift societies towards more sustainable lifestyles based on circular economy principles. Also, they will promote fiscal incentives to leverage markets and enforce stricter laws on pollution.

If the pledges of all the countries are met, 1.49 billion more people will breath clean air, 480,000 km of the world's coastlines will be clean and more than $18.6 billion will be spent on research and development and on innovative initiatives to tackle air, land and water pollution.

Dr. Edgar Gutiérrez, Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica and President of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly, said: “The science we have seen at this assembly shows we have been so bad at looking after our planet that we have very little room to make more mistakes”.

“With the promises made here, we are sending a powerful message that we will listen to the science, change the way we consume and produce, and tackle pollution in all its forms across the globe”.

During the assembly, the countries also passed 13 non-binding resolutions with more specific measures on issues such as marine litter and microplastics, air pollution, poisoning from paint and batteries, and pollution in areas hit by conflict and terrorism.

Particular focus was given on ocean plastic pollution. Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s Environment Minister, who initiated the resolution to eliminate ocean plastic pollution told Reuters: “There is very strong language in this resolution. We now have an agreement to explore a legally binding instrument and other measures and that will be done at the international level over the next 18 months.”

He also revealed how Norway has already seen the impacts of plastic pollution on its seas. He said: “We found microplastics inside mussels, which is something we like to eat. In January this year, a fairly rare species of whale was stranded on a beach because of exhaustion and they simply had to kill it. In its tummy, they found 30 plastic bags”.

Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, showed excitement for both the declaration and the resolutions. He said: “Today we have put the fight against pollution high on the global political agenda. We have a long struggle ahead of us, but the summit showed there is a real appetite for significant positive change”. 

Read more: Over 200 nations sign declaration on clean air...

Long-anticipated hybrid black cabs are now fully licenced to operate in the streets of London, with the hope they will contribute to reducing dangerous air pollution levels in the city.

The London Taxi Company, the manufacturer of the landmark London black cabs, has changed its name to London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVS) as part of a rebirth to unveil the new hybrid version of the cabs.

The new TX eCity Taxi has an all-electric range of 80 miles and is fitted with a 1.5-litre petrol engine. It can fully charge in 20 minutes via a rapid charger and in two hours with a fast charger.

The hybrid taxis are not only able to carry more passengers, but they also offer a series of technological features aimed to improve the traveller’s experience.  

The 6-seated vehicles have a panoramic sunroof, USB charging points and power sockets for laptops, as well as free Wi-Fi.  Moreover, the new version is equipped with a filtration system able to remove harmful gases from the incoming air.

LEVC will offer free service for the first three years or for the first 90,000 miles and it will also provide free roadside assistance for the first 120,000 miles.

Although the price of the fare is the same as the traditional black cabs, the price of the vehicle is £10,000 more. This means that drivers interested in the TX hybrid cab will need to pay £55,000 instead of £45,000 which is the price of the newest petrol equivalent.

As London recently passed a new rule requiring new cabs in London to be at least hybrids after 2018, it is expected that more than 9,000 hybrid black cabs will hit the roads by 2021- almost half the current black cab fleet.

Richard Gordon, LEVC commercial director, said: “I am delighted to announce such a competitive package for the new electric TX. Market leading in every way, this is a truly outstanding new vehicle that will revolutionise the taxi trade in London from an emissions perspective, for passenger comfort, experience and enjoyment, and importantly for the drivers”.

Chris Gubbey, CEO of the LEV, said: “After extensive testing, LEVC’s new taxi is ready to do the job it was made for: transport people around this great city of London safely, cleanly and stylishly”. 

Read more: London to welcome its first electric black cabs

On Monday, it was announced that the panel responsible for advising cities and communities on climate resilience and adaptation in the US will be disbanded.

The Community Resilience Panel for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems was created in 2015 by former US President Barack Obama after the unprecedented damage that Hurricane Sandy caused.

Its main responsibilities were to advise local governments on how to make buildings, communications, energy systems, transportation and water infrastructures more resilient to extreme weather events and climate change.

Jesse Keenan, Chairman of the panel told Bloomberg that “it was one of the last federal bodies that openly talked about climate change in public”.

He added: “I can say that we tried our best and we never self-censored”.

Mr. Keenan, who at the same time is a researcher at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design focusing on climate adaptation, explained that the panel was the federal government’s primary external engagement for resilience in the built environment. It included representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as city planners and external shareholders.

Brendan Doyle, EPA’s representative on the panel said: "It was a way of helping communities not only through the recovery process, but to help them adjust to a new normal, in ways that would make them more resilient to the next disaster”.

Jennifer Huergo acted as a spokeswoman for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)- one of the member federal agencies of the panel , and argued that the decision was made “without influence of any NIST political leadership”, and that, instead, it was made by staff within the institute’s Community Resilience Programme.

“They conducted an assessment of the Panel and its mission and determined that, while the Panel has made progress on achieving its first goal of promoting collaboration among stakeholders, the second goal of considering standards and best practices has been much more challenging”.

“NIST has therefore decided to transition to a national workshop as a more effective and efficient way to convene stakeholders and advance community resilience”, she added.

 She said that there are plans to re-launch the panel in the autumn of 2018, and continue its mission, although she did not explain the reason behind the delay.

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Statistics has stated that climate adaptation and resilience to extreme weather events is an issue that requires “urgent action”.  

Read more: US Government disbands panel on climate...

Vestas 11th Hour Racing sailing team has awarded a grant of $10,000 to an environmental organisation in Cape Town to help the city overcome the water availability challenges posed by the longest drought in the history of the region.

As it has pledged to become the most sustainable team during the Volvo Ocean Race, Vestas 11th Hour Racing has set up an inclusive sustainability strategy which guides every aspect of the race.

To further this mission, it is meeting with local non-profits in each host city to learn more about local environmental challenges and each organisation’s activities and it will award a grant of $10,000 to support this work.

This week, the sailing team arrived at the race’s third stop in Cape Town, South Africa.

As the team explains, despite having sailed 7,000 miles in the middle of the ocean their “access to fresh water was more consistent than what is available to many in Cape Town”.

Since 2015, Cape Town has been going through the most severe drought in its history. In recent years, the city and its surrounding area have been coping with limited water resources, often facing the challenge of having to choose where to best allocate this valuable resource.

With the water crisis in mind, the team identified Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG), an independent non-profit environmental organisation covering a broad range of topics around environmental protection and natural resources.

The organisation’s field of work includes fair trade farming, sustainable rural development, raising awareness and making recommendations on climate adaptation in the region, including equitable access to water and social justice.

Stephen Law, Director of the Environmental Monitoring Group said: “Cape Town and, in fact, the largest part of the western part of the country is gripped with probably the most severe drought that we have ever experienced”.  

“There’s no doubt that we will survive the drought and the rain will come again, but we need to look at it as an opportunity to learn lessons about what we need to do in order to build communities that are resilient to these kind of disasters.”

“At EMG, we are working with communities to reconnect with the value of water and respect for this resource. Discussing not only the best ways to conserve and reuse water, but looking to the future and asking if we should be changing the priorities of water use from swimming pools and green lawns to drinking water for all and water for local farming”, he added.

Sailors from Vestas 11th Hour Racing, along with their partners from 11th Hour Racing, Bluewater and staff from the Volvo Ocean Race visited places in Cape Town to gain a deeper understanding of how the drought affects everyday life, including community garden projects and the Platteklip Stream on Table Mountain- a historic source of water in the city.

Hannah Diamond, sailor for Vestas 11th Hour Racing said about the experience: “We’ve been given such an amazing opportunity today to learn more about the beautiful city of Cape Town, the struggles it faces, and the wonderful people working to provide equal access to water for all”.

She added: “I’m proud to be part of the team that highlights local environmental issues and can give back to the community that hosts us”.

In Alicante, Spain- the first host city of the race, the recipient of the award was the Asociación De Naturalistas Del Sureste (ANSE), which monitors and protects endangered species and studies pollution effects on plants and animals.

In the second host city of Lisbon, Portugal, Vestas 11th hour Racing chose Circular Economy Portugal (CEP),- a newly- formed organisation dedicated to raising awareness and consult both the public and businesses on how to put circular economy principles into practice.

You can learn more about the impressive sustainability strategy of Vestas 11th Hour Racing here

Read more: Vestas 11th Hour Racing helps Cape Town overcome...

South Korea’s Hyundai Electric is set to build a 150 megawatt (MW) lithium ion battery, competing Tesla’s recent achievement of building the largest battery in Australia within 100 days.

The company has announced that the mega industrial energy storage system (ESS) has been ordered by Korea Zinc, a metal smelting company at a cost of $45 million, to be located at its Ulsan refinery near the southeast coast.

Korea Zinc has long announced its plans to become energy self-sufficient and reduce electricity costs at the same time, also complying with the Government’s focus on renewables and  air pollution mitigation efforts.

The Korean government has set up generous incentives for industrial actors to embark on battery storage solutions by deploying a special electricity discount programme for ESS-supported energy generation in early 2016.

The company expects to save almost $60 million in electricity expenses over the next three years, and even when the incentive programme stops the company will be saving more than $6 million every year.

Its metal refineries are heavily energy intensive due to the melting process involving electrolysis. In 2016, Korea Zinc spent almost $270 million on electricity bills, accounting for 5.5 percent of its total annual revenue.

The word is that due to the Government’s plans to phase out nuclear and shift to renewable energy, more companies are expected to install an ESS.  

The project is expected to be commissioned in February, breaking the record of the largest battery in the world which is currently held by Tesla’s 129 MW facility, recently completed in Queensland, Australia.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance argues that battery costs have dropped by almost half since 2014, making industrial consumers increasingly interested in battery storage investments.

The global ESS market was worth $2.6 billion in 2016 and it is projected to grow nearly tenfold to $29.2 billion by 2025.

Ali Asghar, a BNEF senior associate commented: “Musk has set a benchmark on how quickly you can install and commission a battery of this size making battery storage a compelling mainstream option for energy-storage applications in many areas around the world, and projects even bigger than Tesla’s are now under construction.”

By the end of 2017, industry players will have completed 1,650 megawatts (MW) of lithium-ion battery projects- four times the installed capacity of 2016. 

Read more: Hyundai Electric to break the record for world’s...

Mega-brewer Anheuser-Busch, best known for its beer brand Budweiser, has placed an order of 40 Tesla Semi Trucks to further its mission to reduce operational carbon footprint by 30 percent by 2025.

To this end, the company has pledged to employ cutting-edge technology to not only reduce environmental impact but also to increase efficiency and cut the costs of its operations.

The 40 Semi-trucks to be integrated into the brewer’s distribution network will be fully electric-powered and will also be equipped with autonomous driving capabilities.

The news is not only important for the environment, but for Tesla too as the order represents one of the largest to be reported by the company after the new model’s launch last month.

         

                                                                 Image Source: Tesla

When Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, presented the new electric Semi trucks it pledged it will have a range of 500-miles on a single charge. However, Anheuser-Busch said that initially the trucks will be used for shipments within 150 to 200 miles of its brewery locations.

James Sembrot, Senior Director of Logistics Strategy, said: “At Anheuser-Busch, we are constantly seeking new ways to make our supply chain more sustainable, efficient and innovative”.

“This investment in Tesla Semi-trucks helps achieve these goals while improving road safety and lowering our environmental impact”.

Anheuser-Busch is also working with Nikola Motors, an American hybrid truck design company, to develop and implement hydrogen-powered engines within its distribution network.

“We can’t wait to get these trucks on the road and keep leading our industry forward to a greener, smarter future in partnership with some of the world’s most innovative companies. The transportation industry is evolving fast, and we’re really excited to play a leadership role in driving this evolution by integrating these new technologies across our network”.

In addition to the company’s shift to a more sustainable transport system, Anheuser-Busch has embarked on an inclusive sustainability transition within its operations.

Over the last 10 years, it has reduced its water consumption at its 21 breweries by approximately 50 percent, and recently it announced  plans to power all of its facilities with 100 percent renewable energy.

Elon Musk has said that the new Tesla Semi truck will not be ready for production earlier than 2019. 

Read more: Budweiser orders 40 Tesla Semi trucks to reduce...

France has topped the 2017edition of the Food Sustainability Index (FSI) exhibiting the best performance across food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges.

The Index was created through a partnership between The Economist and the Barilla Centre for Food & Nutrition Foundation (BCFN) as a tool to monitor performance and progress of individual countries and to identify the main challenges that the global food system faces.

This year’s index examined the performance of 34 countries from all over the world representing over 85 percent of global GDP and two-thirds of the global population.

Japan, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Italy, South Korea and Hungary form the top-10 of the best-performing countries.

France received the top score for a second consecutive year. It performed very well in all three pillars, but it achieved the highest score particularly in the food loss and water pillar due to its policy response to these issues reflecting a proactive government response to limit loss that occurs both from distribution and from consumers.

In 2016, France was the first country to ban supermarkets from throwing away food approaching its sell-by date and instead requires them to donate it to charities and other food banks.

Measures like this have resulted in France losing only 1.8 percent of its total food production annually.

The top performer for sustainable agriculture is Italy having achieved almost the highest score of the Index, which examines performance on the water, air, and land-use categories.

As the results prove, Italy has pioneered new techniques to reduce water loss in domestic and agricultural contexts and as the biggest consumer of seafood in the eurozone, it is continually updating its policies to ensure the industry’s sustainability.

The country also scored the maximum available for its implementation of agricultural techniques for climate change mitigation and adaptation with nationwide measures including crop diversification, changes in livestock diets and new agronomic practices.

Japan was the top performer in the nutritional challenges pillar, reflecting its high scores in the life quality, life expectancy and dietary patterns category.

The US achieved  21st place due to low scores in sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges.

The UK ranked 11th place, performing strongly on food loss and waste, but earning average scores in sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges achieving very low scores on life expectancy and dietary patterns category.

You can learn more about the2017 Food and Farming Sustainability Index here. 

Read more: France dominates this year’s Food and Farming...

During the launch of the first-ever North American Climate Summit, former President Barack Obama endorsed America’s Pledge and the newly launched Chicago Climate Charter praising bottom up climate action as the new face of American leadership on climate change.

The first North American Climate Summit took place on 5 December in Chicago, with more than 40 US mayors in attendance.

Barack Obama delivered the keynote address where he said: “The work is up to each of us – wherever we have some impact, wherever we have some influence. That’s why America’s Pledge on climate is so important – it’s about more than living up to our responsibilities on the world stage, it’s about keeping our word on the world stage”.

America’s Pledge co-chair Michael Bloomberg welcomed Barack Obama’s endorsement, hoping that it will “draw even more international attention to the bottom-up progress our country continues to make on climate change”.

He added: “We hope it will encourage more city, business, and civic leaders around the country to join our growing coalition”.

During the summit, mayors from all around the world inaugurated the Chicago Climate Charter, a first-of-its-kind international charter on climate change which is currently signed from more than 50 mayors from around the world.

This includes Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

Former UN Environment chief Christiana Figueres was present as the Global Covenant of Mayors- the world’s largest and first-of-its-kind international alliance of cities and local governments taking action to combat climate change co-chaired by Michael Bloomberg and Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President of the European Commission. 

By signing the Chicago Climate Charter, cities are pledging a series of climate commitments, such as reducing carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, reporting city emissions using best practices of measurement and transparency, incorporating climate change parameters into local infrastructure and emergency planning through climate adaptation and resilience strategies

Mayor Rahm Emanuel commented: “Rather than burying our heads in the sand, Chicago is working with cities across the country and around the world to address the threat of climate change”.

“The Chicago Climate Charter represents tens of million residents who are committed to confronting climate change head-on. Even as Washington fails to act, cities have the power and will to take decisive action to protect our planet and the health and safety of our residents”.

Read more: Barack Obama applauds US cities and states at...

Microsoft has started construction on its new campus in Silicon Valley designed to achieve net-zero, non-potable water certification as a response to California’s water shortage.

The new 643,000-square-foot Silicon Valley campus in Mountain View will have an integrated water management system that will operate on the guiding principle of putting non-potable water into service more than once.

The ultimate goal is to not waste any drinkable water resources in the operations of the offices such as plumbing, sewage systems and in irrigation.

Freshwater from the municipality will only be used for drinking fountains and sinks

Kevin Scott, Microsoft’s Chief Technology Officer wrote: “California continues to face increased demand for limited water and energy resources. We took these challenges into account when we began our design plans. We started with the biggest challenge for the region — water”.

The first step is to deploy rigorous conservation measures to reduce water demand, including advanced irrigation systems and low flow fixtures.

Rainwater, stormwater, and wastewater will be harvested and treated by an onsite wastewater plant. After filtration, this water will be re-used for irrigation and plumbing.

Rainwater will be collected from clean roofs and solar panels; wastewater will be processed from campus kitchens and bathrooms; stormwater will be retained on the living roof and collected from the paved areas.

The buildings will also be designed to meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification, a global standard for measuring the sustainability of buildings.

The new campus will be powered by solar panels, it will have a 4-acre living roof and will use sustainably sourced timber- one of the most environmentally friendly and efficient construction materials.

Pauline Souza, Partner at WRNS Studio Architecture & Planning said: “One hundred percent of the buildings' non-drinking water will come from rainfall or on-site recycled water. This will be a first in Silicon Valley, and it shows a commitment to innovation and sustainability.”

Josh Henretig, Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability at Microsoft had talked about the issue in an interview with Environmental Leader earlier this year.

He said: “Companies that did not anticipate the water risks are playing defense rather than offense. At Microsoft, we feel more comfortable when we’re proactively managing these issues”.

The new campus will take two years to complete and will be ready for occupancy in December 2019.

Read more: Microsoft builds new sustainable campus in...

Land Rover BAR, the renowned British yacht racing team, has announced its decision to recycle and reuse all its carbon fibre waste and reuse the material in the manufacturing of future sailing boats to illustrate the most economic and environmentally efficient use of this valuable material.

The team has partnered with ELG, a pioneer in recycling and global trading of raw materials, which aims to close the production loop and increase the value of manufacturing materials.

Thanks to its light weight and durability, carbon fibre is a material with a wide range of applications for different of industries, including renewable energy and the automotive industry.

Richard Hopkirk, Engineering Manager at Land Rover BAR explains that as carbon fibre is one of the lightest and strongest materials known, it constitutes a very useful material for the sailing industry because it makes the boats as light as possible.

The team will recycle all the carbon fibre materials it used during the test boats for its latest America’s Cup campaign. The test boat may no longer be needed, but this doesn’t mean that the valuable materials that they are made of can’t continue their life-cycle.

Due to its unique attributions, it is estimated that by 2020 the demand for carbon fibre will surpass the supply; therefore, it becomes extremely relevant to divert as much as possible from the landfill and to explore ways of re-using it.

Alan Boot, part of the manufacturing team said that “over the next cycle of the America’s Cup, we are looking to use recycled materials in the production of toolings and moulding for our race boats aiming to start putting more recycled parts in our future boats”.

He added: “It is important to us that we build a boat for which we have an end-of-life-cycle plan. It is our responsibility to encourage other marine and non-marine industries to follow our lead by setting the standard to recycle carbon fibre as much as possible”.

Mathilde Poulet, Lead Product Development Engineer at ELG added: “Land Rover BAR was the first one from the marine, and especially the racing industry to come to ELG and ask for recycling of their waste”.

The two organisations will work together to develop applications for the recycled carbon fibre for Great Britain’s entry in the 36th America’s Cup. Components where carbon fibre is highly used in boats are moulds, hulls and foils.

11th Hour Racing, an organisation working with the sailing community to advance sustainable solutions and practices within the sailing and marine communities, is the team’s exclusive sustainability partner on carbon recycling.

Michel Marie, Manufacturing Manager at Land Rover BAR said: "Our desire to be the world's most sustainable sports team has meant that recycling the significant amounts of carbon fibre that we use in boat construction has been a concern for us for some while”.

Frazer Barnes, ELG Carbon Fibre's Managing Director added: "It is hugely rewarding to see such an environmentally aware team as Land Rover BAR championing the issue of closed loop recycling in the marine sector”. 

Read more: Land Rover BAR sailing team champions recycling...

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