Sales of new electric vehicles (EVs) will reach 11 million within the next eight years, according to new analysis.

Last year saw a record 1.1 million of new sales, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). Its latest market forecast shows EVs going from strength-to-strength and will increasingly become a dominant force in the automobile industry. By 2030, sales are expected to reach 30 million, accounting for 28 percent of the global market.

China will drive this growth with 39 percent of all EV sales taking place within the country by end of the next decade. Electric buses are also the star performer in the new modelling, with China again making up the majority of demand, to which other countries will follow.

Last year, the country contributed an astonishing 99 percent of global sales in e-buses, and there are now a total of 300,000 such vehicles on its roads.

Looking further out to 2040, BNEF predicts 80 percent of the world’s municipal bus fleet to be an electric. An important development given the sector’s significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

The EV market is also expected to displace 7.3 million barrels a day of transport fuel within the next 20 years, but will inevitably contribute to higher demand of electricity, adding 6 percent to the global need.

In addition, sourcing the materials needed for batteries, such as lithium and cobalt, could provide a challenge to continued growth.

Salim Morsy, senior transportation analyst, said: “While we’re optimistic on EV demand over the coming years, we see two important hurdles emerging. In the short term, we see a risk of cobalt shortages in the early 2020s that could slow down some of the rapid battery cost declines we have seen recently. Looking further out, charging infrastructure is still a challenge.”

Climate Action has previously reported on whether charging points can keep up with the increased demand for cleaner forms of transport.

Read more: Electric vehicle sales will top 10 million by 2025

The global value of carbon pricing schemes are now estimated to be worth $82 billion, according to a new report from the World Bank.

The figure for 2017 represents a 56 percent increase on the $52 billion in the previous year, following the opening of new markets, including China.

The report, launched today, finds that there are currently 51 carbon pricing initiatives around the world, consisting of 25 emissions trading schemes and 26 carbon taxes. These initiatives cover 20 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions, or 11 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

The schemes have been put in place across 71 jurisdictions, 45 of which are on the national level as governments increasingly see the economic benefits of curbing emissions. The World Bank estimates that receipts from carbon pricing now amount to $33 billion, also a 50 percent increase on the previous year.

Along with China’s planned regulation of its power sector, new carbon programmes were rolled-out in Chile, Colombia, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Ontario.

The European Union also took steps to fix its dysfunctional trading scheme by increasing the price from 5 euros per tonne of CO2 equivalent to 13 euros ($7 to $16).

However, analysts from the World Bank point out that this remains below the accepted range of $40-$80 per tonne needed to reach the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

 “Governments at all levels are starting to see the effectiveness of carbon pricing in their efforts to cut harmful carbon pollution while also raising revenues for climate and other policies, including environmental action,” said John Roome, World Bank Senior Director for Climate Change. “As countries take stock of their Paris Agreement commitments and set a path towards increased ambition, carbon pricing mechanisms with robust pricing levels are proving to be essential elements of the toolkit.”

Looking forward, Singapore and Argentina also plan to implement carbon taxes in 2019.

Read more: Global carbon market increases by 56% in one...

A former coal plant in the north of England will become the test site for a new way to remove carbon dioxide from electricity generation.

The Drax power company has released details of a new trial to develop bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS), billed as the first of its kind in Europe.

The £400,000 trial will begin work this month at Drax’s biomass power plants in Yorkshire.

After an initial feasibility study, a second phase of the pilot is planned for the autumn. At this point, it is hoped a demonstration unit will be installed to isolate the carbon dioxide produced after burning biomass.

Three Drax’s units were previously used for coal-fired generation, but have since been upgraded to use wood pellets instead, imported from the US and Canada.

If successful, the unique project would lead to carbon dioxide being removed from Earth’s atmosphere. This process of ‘negative emissions’ is a key pillar of the UN’s plans under the Paris Agreement to prevent dangerous climate change.

Will Gardiner, CEO of the Drax Group, said: “If the world is to achieve the targets agreed in Paris and pursue a cleaner future, negative emissions are a must – and BECCS is a leading technology to help achieve it.

“This pilot is the UK’s first step, but it won’t be the only one at Drax. We will soon have four operational biomass units, which provide us with a great opportunity to test different technologies that could allow Drax, the country and the world, to deliver negative emissions and start to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

Claire Perry, the minister for energy and clean growth, said the government aimed to make the UK a world leader in the technology.

“It’s hugely exciting that Drax has chosen to invest in this innovative project, demonstrating how government support for innovation can create an environment where companies can develop new technologies and scale up investment to build the sectors we will need to achieve long term decarbonisation.”

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Source: Drax Group

Read more: First European trial for innovative carbon...

Sixty investors have urged the oil and gas sector to do more on climate change and “take responsibility” for its carbon emissions.

In a letter to the Financial Times, the group of companies, including Aberdeen Standard Investments, BNP Paribas Asset Management and HSBC said the industry should be more transparent about how it intends to support a low-carbon future.

“The case for action on climate change is clear…we strongly encourage all companies in the sector to clarify how they see their future in a low-carbon world.”

The letter goes on to suggest oil and gas companies need to make “concrete commitments” to substantially reduce their carbon emissions and explain how their investments are compatible with combating climate change.

The intervention from the group, which collectively manage over $10.4 trillion of assets, comes ahead of a series of annual general meetings in the oil and gas sector.

Royal Dutch Shell will be asked by shareholders at their own meeting next week to adopt a resolution to set strong carbon targets in line with the Paris climate agreement.

While the letter does not expressly support this motion, their intervention should serve as a wake-up call to the industry to take climate seriously.

So far, the sector has taken some steps towards addressing the issue, but much stronger action is needed; oil and gas products contribute an estimated 50 percent of all global emissions.

The letter was signed by big players in asset management, such as Amundi, Fidelity International and Legal & General Investment Management. Large pension funds and civil society were also represented, including Rabobank and the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church.

“Investors are embracing their responsibility for supporting the Paris agreement. It is time for the entire oil and gas industry to do the same.”

Read more: Major investors call for oil and gas groups to...

There is something in the water.

It’s an estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic waste being dumped in the world’s oceans each year, and we are all responsible.

There must be something else also causing the seeming avalanche of announcements from all sections of society to combat this level of waste.

Many commentators have attributed the pace of action to the Blue Planet II nature series, released last year, which documented to such large audiences the damaging impacts of single-use plastics.

As the mood has changed, small companies to large corporates (and governments), have acted quickly to ensure they remain on the right side of public opinion.

We have spent time wading through the press releases, policy documents and sustainability targets to see who is being the most bold. In doing so, we have come up with a top 5 list of companies which are really testing themselves, and could have the most impact.

This snapshot is designed both as a look forward and an inspiration for others to act.

Even before ASDA’s planned merger with Sainsbury’s was announced, the UK food retailer had made bold commitments on plastic pollution.

Earlier this year, it set out plans to immediately reduce plastic use by 10 percent in 2018, which will require the replacement of 2.4 million drinking straws. All of its stores will also remove single-use cups and cutlery by 2019.

In the long-term, it set out ambitions to make all its branded packaging recyclable by the mid-2020s. As the company currently serves 18 million people a week, the potential for changing consumer behaviour is high. 

ASDA is also owned by US giant Walmart and the merger with Sainsbury’s will create the largest supermarket chain in the UK. It’s uncertain if the latter will take on ASDA’s plastic plans, but it could come under pressure to step up to the plate.

With over 36,000 restaurants in 122 locations, it’s clear when McDonald’s commits to doing something “across the globe”, it means it.

The fast food chain hasn’t received a good press for its business practices over the years, and recent environmental commitments are perhaps designed to counteract this negative image.

“As the world’s largest restaurant company, we have a responsibility to use our scale for good to make changes that will have a meaningful impact across the globe,” Francesca DeBiase said recently, McDonald’s Chief Sustainability Officer.

She was commenting on the company’s landmark decision to ensure 100 percent of its packaging comes from renewable, recycled or certified sustainable sources within the next eight years.

The move has been backed by leading environmental organisations and McDonald’s has pledged to work with local governments to help achieve the goal.

If successful, it would mean a huge amount of plastic diverted from the world’s oceans, and an unprecedented number of people engaged along the way.

It may surprise some that Costa Coffee is, in fact, one of the world’s largest coffee companies.

Operating over 3,000 stores around the world, it gets through a lot of disposable cups, but the company has decided to take its sustainable responsibilities seriously.

New commitments have been made including discounts on reusable cups and the planned removal of all plastic straws from cafes.

However, it is the decision to pay waste collectors £70 for every tonne of used cups which is a real game changer.

By 2020, the company is targeting an astonishing half a billion recycled cups, the equivalent of its current annual sales in the UK.

The factories involved are bracing themselves for a seven-fold increase in work.

Evian is going carbon neutral and plastic free.

Last year saw the introduction of a new zero-carbon bottling plant, the first step towards major change across the whole business.

As a world-famous brand of bottled water it stands on the frontline in the battle to reduce plastic waste.

By 2025, the French company has made the pledge to only produce bottles which are 100 percent recycled.

To do so, it is working to create a truly “circular model” across the business, with the help of the Ellen MaCarthur Foundation.

A partnership with Veolia will also rapidly scale-up recycling rates and ensure discarded bottles don’t end up in the ocean.

Sport has a unique ability to reach millions of people around the world. And football as one of the few truly global sports is able to engage people from all backgrounds on social and environmental issues.

That’s why Tottenham Hotspur’s move to eliminate plastics from its new stadium could elevate the plastic-free campaign to a new level.

The North London football club is currently constructing an estimated £850 million ground to support its growing fan base and recent success.

Once the new 62,000 seated venue opens at the end of 2018, it will ban all single-use plastics across the whole club, including VIP areas. Fans will be sold disposable cutlery, straws and stirrers from day one.

What’s more, the club will replace plastic bags with biodegradable ones and all contracts with suppliers will contain a requirement to reduce plastic usage. New members will receive a Bag for Life when the next season starts.

Read more: 5 companies leading the movement to go plastic...

One of the largest onshore wind farms in the UK now has battery storage co-located at the site.

The Pen y Cymoedd wind farm, located in South Wales, has a capacity of 228 megawatts (MW), enough to power 188,000 households.

Before the project was completed last year, Swedish developers Vattenfall won a contract from the National Grid to also build an innovative battery device.

The 22MW facility will help the grid manage split-second changes in the supply and demand of electricity, making a small contribution to its overall reliability.

The new site contains five BMW-manufactured battery packs with a capacity of 33 kilowatts adapted for stationary use.

Gunnar Groebler, Vattenfall’s senior vice president for wind energy said: “Vattenfall is on the road to a smart, digitalised future, free from fossil fuels. I can think of few other energy installations that better demonstrate what that future looks like than this battery installation.”

Battery storage is becoming an increasingly familiar site at renewable energy sites, with a succession of new projects coming online within the UK this year. The technology is seen as key to the UK’s transition to a low-carbon economy, and has received enthusiastic backing from the government.

Claus Wattendrup, head of solar and batteries, said: “This is Vattenfall’s largest battery installation to date, where we make use of synergies at our existing wind farms sites – such as at Pen y Cymoedd. Hybrid renewable parks will play a larger role in the future and we are leading this development.”

Rival energy company Ørsted announced last month its own large-scale venture into battery storage with the development of a 20MW site near Liverpool. The project is the Danish developer’s first commercial investment in the technology.

Photo Credit: Mike Davies

Read more: Huge Welsh wind farm now comes with batteries...

At a meeting in Nigeria this week, nine African cities pledged to cut carbon emissions to zero within the next three decades.

The cities include major Africa capitals and urban centres, such as Accra, Cape Town, Lagos, and Johannesburg.

Adjei Sowah, Mayor of Accra, said his city’s citizens are “becoming more aware” of the impacts of climate change.

Despite all countries in Africa having signed the Paris climate agreement, progress has been slow in making the transition to a low-carbon economy. Much of the world’s future population growth is estimated to take place on the continent, making climate action an even greater priority.

“We cannot ignore the implications of what will befall us if we do not act now… Part of the actions we need, is the creation of a vision that embodies our passion to plan and implement initiatives that mitigate the negative effects or aids us to be able to adapt to the impacts,” he added.

The other cities making the commitment at the meeting were Durban, Tshwane, Dar es Salaam, Dakar, and Addis Ababa.

According to the non-profit C40, which organised the event, Nairobi and Abidjan have also signed up and will submit their action plans soon.

The organisation has agreed to support the cities on their low-carbon journey through the development of evidence-based climate plans which are in line with the goals of the Paris deal.

“Cities in Africa are of the fastest growing anywhere in the world,” said Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris & Chair of C40. “The commitment of these nine mayors to bold climate leadership will deliver a sustainable future for these dynamic, and outward looking cities. It once again proves that cities are getting the job done and concretely delivering on the Paris Agreement to secure a bright future for all our citizens.”

Read more: African cities commit to reaching zero carbon by...

Construction on a wind farm in the UK is due to commence in what the developers claim is the first project in the country not to require state subsidies.

German company Energieknotor announced it had reached financial close on the Withernwick Extension project, located in Yorkshire, north-east England.

Chief Executive Peter Szabo said the project was a “milestone” and that it was “as far as we know” the first onshore wind farm to manage without subsidies.

The achievement was made thanks to a significant power purchase agreement it has signed with a “global company in the consumer goods industry”.

The deal also “underlines our pioneering role in the quest to realise wind farms and solar parks with a lower levelized cost of electricity than from fossil and nuclear resources.”

The small 8.2 megawatt project will consist of four turbines which will be erected in the first half of 2019. It will sit next to an existing nine turbine wind farm, also operated by Enerkiekontor.

“The financial close for the Withernwick II project shows that our efficiency measures to reduce costs are indeed bearing fruit and that we are already able to implement a wind farm profitably at pure market conditions,” Szabo added.

Onshore wind has faced a difficult few years after the Conservative government sought to stop new projects being built. It has done this through preventing the technology from bidding for government contracts and creating insurmountable hurdles in the planning process.

The claim from Enerkiekontor will be met with a mixed response from the industry as it may persuade the government to maintain its removal of financial support. Despite a frosty period for the technology, new Government ministers have spoken more positively about a future for onshore wind. Energy and Clean Growth Minister, Claire Perry, said last November her department was actively working on plans to allow new projects to come forward, albeit only in Scotland and Wales.

Read more: First ‘subsidy free’ wind farm to be built in...

The European Commission has put forth a proposal to regulate carbon emissions from heavy-duty vehicles for the first time.

The plan, released last week, confirms a target of reducing emissions in the sector by 30 percent by 2030.

Despite contributing 6 percent of all the European Union’s carbon emissions, lorries, coaches and buses are currently unregulated across the bloc.

This is damaging to the EU’s stated aim of reducing all emissions by 40 percent by 2030 (on 1990 levels) covering all sectors; a target created so it remains in line with the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

What’s more, the Commission estimates emissions from the heavy duty sector to grow by about 9 percent over the next decade if left unchecked.

Increasing fuel efficiency is also seen as an important emerging market where Europe needs to maintain its competitiveness. The initial proposal will include incentives for new zero and low-emission vehicles in the form of a “super credits system”.

Reducing emissions from the sector will also help to improve air quality across Europe as heavy-duty vehicles produce large quantities of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, along with carbon dioxide.

Europe’s trade body for the automobile sector, ACEA, acknowledged the need to decarbonise road transport, but said the new targets were “far too aggressive”.

“It would seem as though the Commission has simply taken the exact CO2 reduction levels it already proposed for cars and vans, and applied them directly to heavy-duty vehicles, without fully recognising the fundamental differences between these vehicle segments,” said ACEA Secretary General, Erik Jonnaert

The move comes at a time in which the US Government has put forward opposite plans to downgrade fuel efficiency standards. The Environmental Protection Agency made the announcement last month, stating the previous Obama administration was wrong to set standards that were “too high”.

Read more: EU sets out plan to cut truck emissions by 30%

One of the largest studies of its kind has found significant benefits to keeping global temperatures to 1.5C over 2C.

A team of researchers from The University of East Anglia (UEA) and James Cook University analysed 115,000 species, including 71,000 plants and 31,000 insects.

They measured the risks to biodiversity by mapping out the number of species which are projected to lose more than half their geographic range as a result of climate change. Higher temperatures lead to greater habitat loss and the prospect of entire species being lost.

The Paris Agreement bound all 197 countries to limiting global temperatures to well below 2C with an ambition to reach 1.5C.

However, current commitments to reduce emissions from member states which signed the accord will push the world to 3C. At this point the researchers found that up to 50 percent of insects could loss half their range.

Keeping temperatures to 2C still meant insects would lose 18 percent of the insects studies would lose their range.

This could have serious consequences for all life on Earth as insects are vital to all ecosystems. They pollinate crops, provide food, break down waste and help recycle nutrients.   

All species were found to benefit from lower temperatures, but especially those in Southern Africa, the Amazon, Europe, and Australia.

“We wanted to see how different projected climate futures caused areas to become climatically unsuitable for the species living there,” said lead researcher Professor Rachel Warren at UEA.  

“We found that the three major groups of insects responsible for pollination are particularly sensitive to warming…Other research has already shown that insects are already in decline for other reasons, and this research shows that climate change would really compound the problem.”

A separate study published last month found that limiting temperatures to 1.5C would also prevent mass food shortages around the world.

Read more: Large-scale study finds global species will be...

New York State has proposed strict new carbon dioxide standards which will lead to coal plants having to change the way they operate, or close down.

New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo, made the announcement last week, calling coal “a relic of the past”.

The move forms part of Governor Cuomo’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state by 40 percent by 2030. It also follows through on a pledge he made in 2016 to restrict coal use across the state.

The Department of Environmental Conservation published the new rulings last week, which limit all coal plants to producing no more than 1,800 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of electricity generated.

"While Washington continues an open assault on our environment, New York is leading the charge with bold climate action to protect our future," the Governor said.

"…It's time to step up, take action, and put an end to our need for fossil fuels and focus on cleaner, more green energy solutions for the survival of our planet and future generations," he added.

The regulations remain open to consultation for the next two months and three public hearings will be held on the matter.

However, New York only has two remaining active coal plants in the state, accounting for a fraction of its electricity use.

"New York is a leader in the fight against climate change with significant investments to protect our environment," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "We're enhancing our infrastructure across the state and pursuing projects that promote cleaner and greener energy options for our communities and residents."  

Governor Cuomo has made increasingly strong commitments on climate change and the low-carbon economy. Along with targets on carbon emissions, the state now aims to source 50 percent of its power from renewable energy by 2030. This will be partly achieved by a huge planned expansion in new offshore wind power.

Photo Credit: Seabamirum/Flickr

Read more: New York to end all coal-fired power by 2020

British food retailer Iceland continues to take the lead on sustainability issues.

It announced this week that it will become the first UK supermarket to support government plans to introduce a plastic bottle deposit scheme.

At the same time, it has become one of the first companies to use new plastic-free labelling on its own brand packaging.

The label was officially launched by the charity A Plastic Planet, and is designed to raise awareness on plastic waste. Iceland has already made the commitment to replacing plastic on all its own packaging by 2023. Dutch supermarket Ekoplaza is also using the ‘trust mark’ following its move to introduce plastic-free aisles in its stores earlier this year.

“With the grocery retail sector accounting for more than 40 per cent of plastic packaging in the UK, it’s high time that Britain’s supermarkets came together to take a lead on this issue,” said Richard Walker, Iceland’s Managing Director.

The deposit return scheme will be trialled after Iceland undertook extensive consultations with suppliers as to its implications.

The vending machines repay customers a 10p voucher for any Iceland plastic bottle returned. It is hoped the trial will lead to a better understanding of consumer behaviour and appetite for the scheme ahead of a wider government roll-out.

“The vocal support Iceland has received since announcing our intention to eradicate plastic packaging has shown us that there is a huge public will to tackle the scourge of plastics,” Walker added.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove MP, applauded Iceland for “leading the way” with the trial scheme.

“It is absolutely vital we act now to curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled. Support from businesses will be a vital part of ensuring we leave our environment in a better state than we found it,” he added.

Iceland has separately made the decision to remove palm oil from its own products citing the “environmental devastation” caused by the industry.

Read more: Iceland supermarket launches deposit scheme and...

The need to decarbonise all parts of the economy means leaving no blind spots.

Strides are being made to clean up transport, for example, and the growth in electric vehicles has already surpassed expectations. At least 10 percent of cars are now predicted to be electric within the next eight years.

While this is good news, other carbon-intensive parts of the sector, such as the manufacturing of the cars themselves, seem to have made slow progress.

Mercedes-Benz has decided to make a move to address the issue this week, committing all its German factories to become carbon neutral by 2022. The company currently operates eight car plants in the country, producing hundreds of thousands of vehicles each year. In the future, these plants will have to purchase 100 percent of their electricity needs from renewables.

Markus Schäfer, a Mercedes-Benz board member, told a conference in Stuttgart the news means the company will “completely forego coal-based electricity and obtain our energy from only renewable sources.”

All of its new plants in the rest of Europe are also mandated to be carbon-free with achievements already made in France, Poland and Hungary.

Swedish competitor Volvo also achieved the feat of going carbon neutral at one of its manufacturing plants earlier this year. The milestone was Volvo’s first step towards making its entire global operations carbon neutral by 2025.

“Today, new plants in Europe are already planned with a CO2-neutral energy supply from the start. The decision also fits with our overall strategy. As part of our electric offensive, Mercedes-Benz Cars counts on local emission-free vehicles. With a CO2-neutral energy supply of plants, we are consistently pursuing this approach and are actively driving sustainability in production,” Schäfer added.

In 2017, the company, best known for producing luxury cars, sold a record-breaking 2.4 million vehicles worldwide, with China accounting for 25 percent of new growth.  

Read more: Mercedes-Benz car factories to become carbon...

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