Investment in clean energy must increase by up to 50 percent in some economies to limit global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This is one of the findings from a new scientific study on the financial requirements of the Paris climate agreement.

Researchers from the Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) used six different modelling techniques to calculate the costs and consequences of meeting the world’s climate goals.

They found that the overall level of energy investment only needs to modestly increase under their scenarios, but, crucially, financial flows have to radically shift away from fossil fuels and into clean technologies.

Investments in low-carbon and energy efficiency will have to quickly surpass those of fossil fuels by 2025. After this date, investment will need to climb exponentially, by $130 billion a year just to meet the existing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris deal. These national efforts, however, will still mean global temperatures will reach over 3 degrees before the end of the century.

To meet the 2 degrees scenario, investments will have to grow to $320 billion a year and $480 billion for 1.5 degrees. These figures are more than 25 percent of total energy investments, but increases to over half in major economies, such as China and India.

“We know that limiting global temperatures to well below 2 degrees demands that renewables and efficiency scale up rapidly, but few studies have calculated the energy investment needs for a fundamental system transformation, at least not with an eye toward 1.5 degrees and using multiple scientific modelling frameworks running side-by-side,” says IIASA researcher and lead author of the study David McCollum. 

“It’s important for professionals in the finance sector to be aware how much more investment in low carbon solutions is needed if the world is to meet the Paris targets. The NDC pledges are a step in the right direction, though much deeper changes in the energy investment portfolio are clearly necessary,” says Elmar Kriegler, a co-author and vice-chair at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

The paper was published in the Nature Energy journal this week.

Read more: Huge reallocation of investment needed to meet...

One of the world’s largest reinsurance companies has taken steps to exclude coal from its future investments.

German-based Hannover Re will divest from all companies which depend on coal power for more than 25 percent of its revenues. However, unlike some companies, such as AXA and Allianz, it will continue to provide insurance to coal plants for the time being.

The Unfriend Coal campaign was informed of its decision, and that it would continue to reinsure fossil fuels because it is “not our place, as a private company, to act contrary to the decisions of sovereign nations”. It would still “welcome a shift in the energy mix towards alternative energy sources” though.

According to Unfriend Coal, almost half of the global reinsurance market has now pledged to divest from coal, including major players, such as Generali, Lloyd’s of London, and Swiss Re. Divestment policies across the industry now cover assets worth more than $6 trillion and $30 billion has already been withdrawn from the coal sector, according to the group.

Peter Bosshard, coordinator of the Unfriend Coal campaign, said: “The world’s ultimate underwriters of risk clearly see no future for a fuel which is the biggest single source of carbon emissions. This sends a strong message to the governments, investors and financiers that decide on the future of the global energy sector.

Regine Richter, finance campaigner at German environmental NGO Urgewald, said Hannover’s divestment was “a welcome first step”, but that it was disappointing the group was not taking responsibility for “the climate impacts of its own underwriting decisions.”

“The company’s 25 percent threshold for defining coal companies is stricter than the definition of its peers, even though it misses out additional exclusion criteria such as the development of new coal projects,” she added.

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Read more: Hannover Re to exclude coal from future...

AT&T has added to its growing renewables portfolio with a deal to buy 300 megawatts of wind power.

The telecoms giant has inked a power purchase agreement with NextEra Energy to source clean electricity from two wind farms in Texas. This builds on an existing agreement signed between the two companies earlier this year; the new deal means AT&T now obtains 820 megawatts from NextEra’s wind farms, estimated to be one of the largest corporate renewable energy purchases in the US.

The combined wind farms have the capacity to provide electricity to 372,000 US homes each year, or reduce emissions equivalent to taking half a million cars off the road.

Kevin Gildea, NextEra Energy Resources’ vice president of development, said: “Wind energy is helping drive the clean energy economy, providing new and exciting job opportunities in rural communities as well as millions of dollars in additional revenue with which to help enhance schools, roads and other essential services.”

The company estimates that 1,000 construction jobs will be supported by the AT&T-supported projects, and generate $190 million in tax revenues for local communities.

“We’re going big on renewable energy. It’s a clean, abundant, renewable source of home-grown power,” said Joe Taylor, vice president of global technology at AT&T. “As one of the world’s largest companies, our investments can help scale this critical energy source for America’s transition to a low-carbon economy.”

The agreement is part of AT&T’s commitment to make carbon savings which are 10 times greater than its global footprint by 2025. Up to now, the conglomerate has made modest progress towards transforming its business to become more sustainable.

A recent report from the non-profit Green America harshly criticised the US telecommunications industry for failing to make the transition to clean energy. The charity gave AT&T a D- grade for its performance on emission reduction.

Read more: ‘Going big on renewable energy’: AT&T signs new...

City leaders and Mayors across the UK are calling on the government to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol vehicles by 2030.

The move would bring forward an initial proposal to phase-out these polluting vehicles by 2040, something the group sees as not soon enough.

The politicians represent over 20 million people in England and Wales, covering major cities, including London, Bristol, Cardiff, Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Oxford, and Sheffield.

The sign of unity comes close to tht start of a national summit on clean air to be held in London this week. The leaders are also calling for stronger air quality standards in the form of a new Clean Air Act, a vehicle renewal scheme, and a fund to invest in cleaner modes of transport.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “We have to take bold action, but while we’re all doing what we can, we need government support to do even more. Banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, providing support to deliver Clean Air Zones in cities and introducing a national vehicle renewal scheme will dramatically improve our air quality and our health.”

Mayor Khan has already initiated a number of schemes to clean up the level of air pollution. These include the creation of a new Ultra-Low Emission Zone, which will ensure all vehicles meet strict pollution standards, or face a fine.

It is widely known that air pollution, in the form of particulate matter, and nitrogen oxide, is a major contributor to health problems, such as heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer. The Royal College of Physicians linked high levels of air pollution to 40,000 premature deaths every year in the UK.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “We have all been too complacent about the public health crisis of people breathing in illegal, polluted air. It is damaging health and shortening lives, particularly in our poorest communities. Greater Manchester is ready to break out of that and show the ambition needed to clean up our air.”

The government has already been successfully sued on three occasions for allowing illegal levels of toxic air to persist across UK cities.

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor for Liverpool City Region, said: “Air pollution is no respecter of boundaries so it is vital that we have concerted action at a national level to effectively tackle an issue which has such an impact on our people’s health and quality of life.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “We need to shift away from diesel as a matter of urgency and I will be an ally for decision-makers especially those in national government who seek to find a way to support ordinary people getting newer cleaner cars to replace their dirty old ones.

Photo Credit: Albert Bridge/CC

Read more: British city leaders call on Government to bring...

The US Department of Energy has announced new funding to explore the viability of building offshore wind in the country.

New York State has been selected by the department to lead a consortium of experts to look into new areas to develop offshore wind on the East Coast.

$18.5 million will be used to research areas such as deep water turbines, the impact of hurricanes, seabed conditions and how to construct wind farms in challenging environments. This will have the overall aim of reducing offshore wind costs to bring forward more projects.

New York’s energy research body, NYSERDA, will lead the work and provide match funding over the four year project. It will engage the private sector to ensure the research continues after federal funding ends.

There is currently one operational wind farm in the country, a five turbine, 30 megawatt project located off Rhode Island. The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, announced plans in January to expand this capacity to 2,400 megawatts by 2030.

"New York leads the nation in its commitment to renewable energy, and offshore wind is an affordable clean energy source that will power our future," Governor Cuomo said, in response to the new funding.

"This consortium cements our role as the national capital of the offshore wind industry and will drive innovation and development, support job creation and bolster our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create a cleaner, greener New York for all," he added.

“There is enormous potential for offshore wind in the United States,” said Timothy Unruh, at the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “Through this consortium, DOE seeks to support fundamental research to accelerate the development of affordable offshore wind technologies.”

Despite the increased interest in renewable energy, the Department of Energy also revealed $64 million to fund new research into nuclear technologies. US President Donald Trump has been a vocal opponent of wind energy in the past, and actively supports coal power.

Photo: Block Island. The first offshore wind farm in the United States.

Read more: US Government to spend $18.5 million on offshore...

Australian investment group Macquarie has offered £500 million to finance green projects.

The money forms part of a new £2 billion facility, with one-quarter earmarked for a range of sustainable initiatives. The first round of £250 million will be put towards renewable energy projects, while a second round will branch out to include energy efficiency, waste management, and clean transport.

The loan reportedly saw strong demand from the global finance community, particularly in Asia.

Macquarie has developed a Green Impact Assessment methodology to ensure that the financing goes to the right places. This measures how much a project reduces greenhouse gas emissions, protects or enhances the natural environment, biodiversity, and others.

The group, noted for its leading position as a global infrastructure investor, is hoping to build on its credentials in green finance after the purchase of the Green Investment Bank in 2017. The institution was originally created by the UK Government to accelerate the low-carbon transition, and its privatisation proved controversial in some quarters. Some politicians and environmental groups expressed concern that its mission would be lost once in private hands.

However, Macquarie, claims to have helped finance £15 billion of green investment over the past decade, amounting to 20 gigawatts of new clean energy capacity. Its acquisition of the bank, now called Green Investment Group, gives it a strong position to capitalise on the UK’s position as a world leader in offshore wind. The bank has invested £1.6 billion in nine separate offshore projects since 2010.

Alex Harvey, Macquarie’s chief financial officer said: “This transaction further demonstrates the leading global role Macquarie is playing in the growth of green finance and the development of new renewables capacity. The future utilisation of our Green Investment Group’s market-leading Green Impact Assessment approach is another example of the value delivered by our acquisition of GIG in 2017.”

Photo Credit: Andy Dingley/CC

Read more: Macquarie Group offers £500m to finance...

The C&A Foundation will fund five initiatives to advance the circular economy within the fashion industry.

The foundation, an offshoot of the famous C&A shopping brand, has awarded the funding as part of an open call to bridge the gap between circular business models and the global supply chain in clothing.

C&A has over 1,500 stores in Europe, but has a major presence in China, Brazil and Mexico.

The retailer sees recycling and reuse practices as essential to transforming the fashion world into one that “regenerates ecosystems”. This is opposed to the traditional, unsustainable way of taking, using and disposing of materials.

Circular practices are gaining in interest among many retailers and brands, such as Stella McCartney, but not enough is being done to redesigning business models to make it a reality. C&A is hoping its initial funding will help kick start a movement for change.

The five projects will separately research how to overcome barriers to implementing circular principles, working with small, medium and large retail brands covering Europe, Asia, and North America.

World Resources Initiative and sustainability charity WRAP will assess consumer demand and pilot new business models in 20 major apparels brands in the US, UK and India. This will identify the policies, regulations and incentives needed to advance the circular economy in specific jurisdictions.

The social enterprise Circle Economy will pilot new practices with six brands and retailers with the aim of creating tools for widespread use within the industry.

Douwe Jan Joustra, Head of Circular Transformation, at the C&A Foundation, commented: “We believe the circular fashion revolution will only happen when we implement circular business models.  We are pleased to be supporting these five new partners. The critical practise-based insights they develop and share will bring the industry a significant step towards these new models, moving the discourse on circular fashion from words to action.”

Read more: C&A to invest €1.29 million in circular economy...

New proposals from the UK Government will make it easier for workplace pension schemes to remove their holdings in projects which damage the environment.

Under the new regulations, trustees will have to provide an assessment of the sustainability of their decisions.

Collectively, the UK’s workplace pension schemes invest over £1.5 trillion on behalf of millions of people across the country. The rules, released this week from the Department for Work and Pensions, aim to tackle environmental threats, such as climate change, by giving members more say over where their money goes.

Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said: “These new regulations will empower savers all over Britain, ensuring that their voices are heard when their savings are invested.”

“As we see the younger generation who care more about where their money is going, they are also increasingly questioning that their pensions are invested in a way that aligns with their values. This money can now be used to build a more sustainable, fairer and equal society for future generations,” she added.

While the ruling is still open to consultation, the move was warmly received from those campaigning for more responsible investment. The charity ShareAction said it was “delighted” that the government is taking “robust action” on sustainability and ethical spending.

“For too long, many pension schemes have disclosed vague, high-level statements on their approach to ESG factors, and failed to report on what, if anything, they were doing to protect members from the rising investment risks of issues such as climate change”, said Bethan Livesey, the charity’s head of policy.

It is hoped that the new changes will prompt pension funds take notice of the need to take environmental concerns seriously. A recent survey from the Environmental Audit Committee found that some of the largest funds in the country were ‘worryingly complacent’ when it came to climate change.

Read more: UK pension funds given chance to fight climate...

The City of London Corporation has announced plans to source 100 percent of its electricity from renewables.

The corporation is the governing body for London’s historic financial district, called the Square Mile, and is separately a major property owner. Its holdings include social housing in six London boroughs, 10 schools, three markets and 11,000 acres of green space across the whole city.

Catherine McGuinness, Chairman of the corporation’s policy and resources committee, said: “This is a big step for the City Corporation and it demonstrates our commitment to making us a more socially and environmentally responsible business.”

“Sourcing 100% renewable energy will make us cleaner and greener, reducing our grid reliance and running some of our buildings on zero carbon electricity.

The new commitment will see the body add to its existing renewable portfolio; it already uses clean energy at Parliament Hill Lido on Hampstead Heath and at The Warren in Epping Forest. It intends to build more solar and wind farms on its land, but also invest in off-site renewables and purchase renewable electricity already on the market.

“We are always looking at the environmental impact of our work and hope that we can be a beacon to other organisations to follow suit. By generating our own electricity and investing in renewables, we are doing our bit to help meet international and national energy targets,” she added.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has vowed to make the capital a zero-carbon city by 2050, with renewables playing a lead role. Over the next decade, the Mayor hopes to increase London’s solar capacity by 20 times, reaching 1 gigawatt by 2030 and then 2 gigawatts by 2050. The initiative forms part of a wider Energy for Londoners programme, which will invest £34 million into making homes and workplaces across the capital cleaner and more energy efficient.

Photo Credit: Michael Garnett/CC

Read more: City of London commits to 100% renewable energy

A new report has highlighted the continued dominance of renewable power to the detriment of other clean energy sectors, which seriously lag behind.

The non-profit REN21 has released data compiled from official government sources, international organisations, and hundreds of surveys to build a picture of the renewable energy sector over the past two years.

Their work shows that renewable power had another record-breaking year, adding 178 gigawatts of new capacity in 2017. But this astonishing growth is masking the lack of progress in heating and transport, which combined accounts for 80 percent of all energy consumption.

As of 2015, the latest available year, renewable heat provided 10 percent of global heating; in transport the figure is smaller, accounting for just 3.1 percent. However, progress is being made to electrify transport with 3 million electric vehicles now on the road.

The report highlights that the problem is partly on the policy level; while 146 countries have renewable energy targets for the electricity sector, only 48 have targets for heating and 42 for transport.

There is a pressing need to create the right policy frameworks and encourage the massive amount of investment needed to transform these sectors. The data comes at a time when global energy demand has increased by 2 percent and carbon emissions grew by 1.4 percent after three years of remaining stationary.

 “Equating electricity with energy is leading to complacency,” said Rana Adib, Executive Secretary of REN21. “We may be racing down the pathway towards a 100 percent renewable electricity future, but when it comes to heating, cooling and transport, we are coasting along as if we had all the time in the world. Sadly, we don’t.”

However, transforming heat and transport is eminently possible as the rapid growth in renewable electricity has shown; the sector attracted $279 billion of investment last year alone.

Arthouros Zervos, REN21 Chair, added: “To make the energy transition happen there needs to be political leadership by governments – for example by ending subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear, investing in the necessary infrastructure, and establishing hard targets and policy for heating, cooling and transport. Without this leadership, it will be difficult for the world to meet climate or sustainable development commitments.”

Read more: ‘Urgent action’ needed to boost renewable heat...

Volvo has become one of the first car manufacturers to take up the issue of plastic pollution.

By 2025 the iconic Swedish brand is targeting 25 percent of all plastic in its cars to come from recycled sources.

While the goal may seem modest, Volvo claims it is “one of the most progressive” among major automobile manufacturers. The plans build on a recent announcement to eliminate single-use plastics at all Volvo events and offices by next year.

To demonstrate the feasibility of the plan, Volvo has built a one-off version of its hybrid SUV. The car uses plastic from discarded fishing nets and ropes in its central console; fibres from plastic bottles in the carpet and on the seating.

“Volvo Cars is committed to minimising its global environmental footprint,” said Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo Cars. “Environmental care is one of Volvo’s core values and we will continue to find new ways to bring this into our business. This car and our recycled plastics ambition are further examples of that commitment.”

“Extensive recycling and reuse of plastic is vital to our efforts to turn the tide on plastic pollution,” said Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment. “Volvo’s move to integrate plastic waste into the design of their next fleet of cars sets a new benchmark that we hope others in the car industry will follow. This is proof that this problem can be solved by design and innovation.”

Volvo’s plastic pledge is the latest sustainable initiative the company has taken on in recent years. It was one of the first manufacturers to announce a total switch to electric, or hybrid, vehicles, starting in 2019. This feeds into a more ambitious target of transforming its entire global operations to become climate neutral by 2025; one of its plants in Sweden managed to achieve the feat earlier this year.

Read more: Volvo targets 25% recycled plastic in all new...

This could be the final straw. McDonald’s will bring forward plans to replace plastic straws with paper alternatives in all of its UK and Irish restaurants.

The fast food chain made the announcement today, stating online “You asked. We listened”. From September, all 1,361 restaurants will be provided with paper straws, saving millions of tons of plastic.

The move forms part of its wider sustainability plans set out earlier this year to make 100 percent its global packaging come from renewable, recycled or certified sustainable sources by 2025.

McDonald’s has been undertaking tests in the UK to find long-term alternatives to plastic straws. Similar testing has started in Belgium and will soon start in the US, France, Sweden, Norway and Australia. In some markets, such as Malaysia, straws will soon be offered only upon request.

“McDonald’s is committed to using our scale for good and working to find sustainable solutions for plastic straws globally,” said Francesca DeBiase Executive Vice President, Global Supply Chain and Sustainability. “In addition to the exciting news from the UK today, we are testing straw alternatives in other countries to provide the best experience for our customers. We hope this work will support industry wide change and bring sustainable solutions to scale.”

Straws are just one part of the huge levels of packaging which McDonald’s is aiming to transform across its entire global supply chain. 50 percent of its packaging currently comes from sustainable sources, and the company has pledged to with local governments and industry to improve this figure.

McDonald’s has a separate goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 36 percent by 2030. This will prevent an estimated 150 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.

                                            McDonald’s broke the news on Twitter

Photo Credit: Nathan O'Nions/Flickr

Read more: McDonald’s to phase-out plastic straws in UK and...

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