Costs from coastal flooding in Europe could hit almost 1 trillion euros by 2100, according to researchers.

The new study from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre estimated the costs to vary widely, between 93 billion and 961 billion euros a year, depending on the response from European nations. Current costs are estimated at 1.25 billion euros.

Rising sea levels caused by growing global temperatures will directly impact the volume of water on the oceans. In addition, ice melting from Greenland and Antarctica will also increase coastal flooding, making these events stronger and more widespread.

“Climate change is the main driver of the future rise in coastal flood losses,” the researchers state in the article. Other factors, such as costal migration and urbanization, were seen to decline with time.

The scientists used a sophisticated assessment tool which pooled together different datasets on the level of possible exposure to flooding. These included shoreline, tides, and historical storm surges, which provided a degree of accuracy close to 100 metres.

102,000 people are currently exposed to coastal flooding every year around European coasts. Climate change is expected to increase this to between 1.5 and 3.65 million by the end of the century.

Separate research has found that ice loss in Antarctica has tripled in the past five years, reaching an annual figure of 219 billion tonnes.

To combat the problem, climate adaptation plans need to be in place and stronger levels of investment. Unless measures are taken now the risks from flooding could be “unprecedented”. Flood defences need to be installed that can withstand sea levels ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 metres, the academics concluded.

The article is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Read more: Europe could be hit with 1 trillion euros in...

New research has found that companies which invest on the basis of environmental concerns often receive higher returns.

The study from risk analysts Axioma tracked the performance of portfolios which had incorporated environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into their investment strategies.

An estimated 80 per cent of leading companies now use ESG metrics to support their investments, up from only 20 percent in 2011.

Data was compiled on the performance of ESG investments over the past nine years for developed markets in Europe, Japan and the US. While the market was slow to start and sometimes underperformed, a notable change has occurred in the past three to five years.

“Our analysis indicates that, in general, increasing exposure to ESG rarely underperforms the market, and often outperforms the market, especially during the last few years,” said lead author Anthony Renshaw.

There are some exceptions, such as in the US prior to 2016 and Japan until 2015 when ESG did marginally worse, otherwise it has either matched or done better than traditional factors, the data suggests.

However, analysts caution that ESG investing remains in its infancy with regulatory changes also impacting the degree of confidence in the data.

The market for sustainable investment is evolving at a rapid pace, helped by stronger growth in the market and policy efforts on the national level. Green bonds, for example, are expected to increase by 30 per cent in 2018 alone, reaching $200 billion.

The European Union is taking an active role in making sustainable finance a key pillar of the sector; in March, it unveiled a long-awaited action plan to accelerate these changes. New rules have since been released which could force investors to disclose how they are accounting for environmental and climate risks in their investment decisions.    

Read more: Sustainable investments outperform the market,...

Some of the UK’s largest pension funds are in danger of legal action over the risks posed by climate change, according to ClientEarth.

The group of activist lawyers has written to 14 pension funds in the UK, including BP, Tesco and BAE Systems, to remind them of their legal responsibilities to holders.

The letter warns the funds that their current failure to address and communicate the growing financial risks as a result of climate change could result in litigation.

“…you are potentially putting members’ retirement outcomes at risk and exposing yourselves to the possibility of legal challenges for breach of your fiduciary duties,” the letter reads.

ClientEarth lawyer Joanne Etherton pointed out that the legal duties for trustees are not static and now require more transparency on climate concerns.

A new government proposal will make it easier for schemes to divest from fossil fuels and other assets which damage the environment.

“As some of the biggest pension schemes in the UK, these schemes represent the retirement income of a large number of people, making it crucial that they step up their actions on protecting and future-proofing members’ pensions,” she said.

In recent months, pension funds have received more attention on their current role in addressing climate risks. A survey from the Environmental Audit Committee found that some of the top pension schemes were “worryingly complacent” on the issue. Out of 25 funds polled, a quarter of pension were seen as less engaged on the issue and had not even considered climate change as a risk.

“We are now putting these schemes on notice of the available evidence and setting out the standard that they should be looking to meet as they develop their climate policies, as well as the risk for failing to do so,” added Etherton.

Read more: UK pension funds could face legal action over...

Brazil has already hit its targets for emissions from deforestation, according to the government.

The Environment Ministry announced yesterday that overall emissions caused by deforestation in the Amazon rainforest were down by 610 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is ahead of its 2020 target of 564 million tonnes.

Brazil’s stewardship of the Amazon, 60 percent of which is contained within its borders, is an important weapon in the fight against climate change. The huge number of trees can absorb massive amounts of carbon dioxide, preventing them from reaching the Earth’s atmosphere.

High levels of deforestation in South America over the past few decades, particularly Brazil, threatens this progress and also destroys biodiversity.

In addition, Brazil managed to reduce emissions in the Cerrado savanna by 170 million tonnes compared to a target of 140 million. The tropical region gets far less attention than the Amazon, but it covers 20 per cent of the country and is the largest in South America.

“The policy message is that we can and should remain in the Paris Agreement; it is possible to effectively implement the commitments that have been made,” said climate minister Thiago Mendes, according to the Reuters news agency.

Despite this progress, data released from the Global Forest Watch in June showed that a near-record amount of tree cover was lost in 2017. 29.4 million hectares disappeared over the world, the equivalent of the size of Italy. Significant forest fires in Brazil attributed to high rates of tree lost in the past year.

“The main reason tropical forests are disappearing is not a mystery – vast areas continue to be cleared for soy, beef, palm oil, timber, and other globally traded commodities,” commented Frances Seymour of the World Resources Institute at the time. “Much of this clearing is illegal and linked to corruption.”

Read more: Brazil cuts emissions from deforestation two...

An innovative trial to capture carbon dioxide could be used in alcoholic drinks.

The Drax power company is working on new clean technology, called bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS), at a former coal plant in the north of England.

If the trial is a success the carbon produced in burning biomass could be used in a variety of other industries, including beer production.

It is estimated that one tonne of carbon dioxide could be stored each day, enough to be used in 32,000 pints of beer, or 5.7 million over the six-month trial.

Drax has already held meetings with the British Beer & Pub Association to discuss the possibility. The beverage industry was recently impacted by a European-wide shortage of available carbon dioxide, used to provide the fizz in alcoholic drinks, among other things.

Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO, commented: “This pilot not only has the potential to ensure the UK meets its climate targets, but for the carbon captured to also help to keep the nation’s beer from going flat – and we’d certainly raise a glass to that.”

Brigid Simmonds, CEO of British Beer & Pub Association, said: “Beer is the nation’s favourite alcoholic beverage and on average pubs serve as much as 10 million pints of beer per day, so the recent shortfall of CO2 was most unwelcome. We hope that these discussions with Drax Group and the potential to increase access to a new source of CO2 in the UK will help ensure that a shortage does not happen again.”

Drax operates the largest power plant in the United Kingdom, consisting of four units which have historically burnt coal. In recent years, the company has converted three of the units to burn wood pellets instead. The final plant is currently undergoing the same upgrade to use renewable power.

Read more: Trapped carbon finds perfect partner in pint of...

Corporations are purchasing more clean energy than ever, with 2018 already exceeding the record-amount set last year.

7.2 gigawatts (GW) of clean power has so far been agreed between corporate companies, such as Facebook, and wind and solar developers.

The amount for the first seven months of 2018 surpasses the 5.4 GW signed across the whole of 2017, itself a 20 percent uplift on the previous year.

Analysts from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) released the data, which show the United States and the Nordic countries responsible for 80 percent of all purchases across 28 markets.

Facebook has already inked 1.1GW of agreements this year, followed by AT&T on 820 megawatts (MW). Norway’s Norsk Hydro has signed 667 MW, including a 29-year onshore wind deal in Sweden, reportedly the longest such agreement in the world.

The growth in corporate sustainability plans has helped stoke the market for long-term clean power agreements. These plans often focus on reducing direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions within a corporation’s business. However, as analysts pointed out, the decline in cost for new renewable energy projects has also played a part.

“…activity would not approach current levels if there were no opportunity for long-term savings,” said a statement from Bloomberg; solar PV modules have reduced by 84 per cent since 2010. Wind turbines have come down by 32 percent over the same period.

Bloomberg anticipates this strong level of growth to continue, especially as the number of signatories to the RE100 campaign increases. The initiative commits leading corporates to source 100 percent of their electricity from renewable energy. The pledges represent an increase in demand for wind and solar farms to the tune of 100 GW by 2030.  

“As more multi-nationals establish renewables targets, we expect corporations to have an increasing impact on power market design around the world, opening up new avenues for companies to purchase clean energy.”

Read more: Facebook leads record clean power purchases in...

AccorHotels is making strong progress on plans to cut food waste around the world.

The global chain announced yesterday that it has installed 600 urban gardens at 4,300 of its hotels.

These gardens help to provide fresh vegetables for use in its restaurants and bars without the need for imports. Collectively, they are helping the chain reach a goal of reducing food waste by 30 percent by 2020 with plans to increase the number of gardens to 1,000.

26 of these gardens are based within the UK, including some of the main Novotel brands in London. These make use of pesticide-free spaces to provide mint and basil over the summer months, and beehives on its roofs to keep it well stocked with honey.

“As a group that produces a lot of food for our guests across the world, it is vital that we play our part in reducing food waste and investing in sustainable food systems,” said Thomas Dubaere, chief operating officer for Northern Europe.

While the hotel group does support sustainable food production in rural areas, the increase in urban gardens is designed to address the explosion in urban living. An estimated 70 percent of the global population will live in cities by 2050.

"Our hotels are encouraged to source local produce, reducing the environmental impact from their food purchases and providing outlets for farmers to sell their produce. Additionally, the vegetables, fruit, herbs and edible flowers that are produced in our urban gardens feature in the restaurant menus, in the bar cocktails or in our spas' aromatic oils and herbal teas," he added.

Accor is also targeting 100 percent of its renovated or new hotels to be low-carbon by 2020, and that 60 percent of its overall waste is recovered.

Photo Credit: Maibp85/CC

Read more: 600 AccorHotels worldwide now grow their own food

The Labour Party in Scotland has upped the ante on climate change targets, outlining a plan to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050.

The new target stands as a riposte to the Scottish Government, which set out its own ambitious emissions targets in May.

The government bill plans to raise the emissions target to 90 percent by 2050, up from the 80 percent UK-wide target first established by the Climate Change Act in 2008.

The 90 per cent target was seen as “at the limit of feasibility”, according to climate advisers, but was criticised in some quarters as not doing enough to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Claudia Beamish, Labour’s shadow minister for climate change, said the draft bill was too timid.

“It is our duty to step up for global climate justice and Scottish Labour’s climate policy addresses these obligations while giving Scotland time to adapt for the workforce and communities,” she added.

Interim targets have also increased under Labour’s plan, from 66 per cent in the draft bill to 77 per cent by 2030.

Gina Hanrahan of Stop Climate Chaos said: “It’s great to see Scottish Labour back calls for the upcoming Climate Change Bill to include a target to end Scotland’s contribution to climate change by 2050 at the latest and increased action over the next decade.  It’s now up to all parties in the Scottish Parliament to come together, as they did in 2009, to ensure we continue to be amongst the world leading nations in tackling climate change. 

By 2015, Scotland had achieved a 38 per cent reduction on 1990 levels, meaning it was on course to reach its original target of 42 per cent by 2020. However, its draft targets increase this ambition to 56 per cent, piling on the pressure over the next two years.

Photo Credit: Pschemp/CC

Read more: Scottish Labour sets net-zero emissions target...

A coalition of 26 Caribbean nations is joining forces to drive forward low-carbon and climate-smart solutions.

The group of countries, including Jamaica, St Lucia and Barbados, will work to develop sustainable societies which can respond to the growing threats posed by climate change.

The coalition is joined by 40 private sector organisations, including the Clinton Foundation, Tesla and the Virgin Group.

$1 billion has already been pledged to kick start work on the project, called the Caribbean Climate Smart Accelerator.

Speaking at the launch event in Kingston last week, Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness said: “Being climate-smart means putting the people of the Caribbean at the centre of all we do – to protect them from the challenges of climate change. The Caribbean Accelerator will also encourage job creation, social inclusion and economic growth.”

Sir Richard Branson, who also spoke at the event, added: “Our goal is ambitious and bold: we are creating the world’s first climate-smart zone. We have a vision of a Caribbean which is greener, stronger and more resilient than ever before – built on innovation, powered by clean, sustainable energy and accelerated by public and private investment.”

The coalition is defining a climate-smart zone as one which reduces emissions and vulnerability to climate change while enhancing ecosystems, energy security and food security.

The Inter-American Development Bank has played an instrumental role in bringing the heads of government and businesses together on the project. Its president, Luis Alberto Moreno said the bank will offer affordable financing to support the venture. The IDB recently announced $500 million to support Barbados, Jamaica, Suriname and The Bahamas in the wake of last year’s natural disasters.

President Moreno added: “The IDB Group reaffirms its commitment to the Caribbean and will work with leaders of the region to improve lives by creating climate-smart and vibrant economies, where people are safe, productive, and happy. Through this Climate-Smart Accelerator, in addition to offering new affordable financing, we will use the IDB’s extensive regional experience and presence on the ground to work closely with the people of the region to design their Caribbean of the future, today.”

Photo Credit: Adrian Creary

Read more: $1bn pledged to support climate resilience in...

New Zealand is intending to outlaw plastic bags in a bid to cut back on waste.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the news this week, joining a growing list of countries taking action on the issue.

“We’re phasing out single-use plastic bags so we can better look after our environment and safeguard New Zealand’s clean, green reputation,” she said, according to The Guardian newspaper.

Two of New Zealand’s largest supermarkets, Countdown and New World, said last year that they plan to remove plastic bags from their stores by the end of 2018.

“Every year in New Zealand we use hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bags. A mountain of bags, many of which end up polluting our precious coastal and marine environments and cause serious harm to all kinds of marine life, and all of this when there are viable alternatives for consumers and business,” she added.

The Prime Minister is asking people to submit their views on the ban over the next month. More details on the commitment are expected in the autumn.

In response, the leader of the opposition, Simon Bridges, claimed that the sign of support from central government wouldn’t make any difference.

“Measures introduced by the previous government alongside industry would already have seen a more than 75 per cent reduction in plastic bag use without new regulations and higher costs,” he claimed.

Momentum is growing on tackling the huge amount of waste caused by single-use plastic bags. Earlier this year, Chile adopted a new law to ban the material, adding to a list of around 40 countries which have taken steps to curb its usage.

Kenya has passed some of the strictest laws, threatening fines of up to $40,000 and a four year jail term.

Read more: New Zealand will ban single-use plastic bags by...

Two Japanese companies have purchased a 41 per cent stake in the Triton Knoll offshore wind farm off the east coast of England.

Germany company Innogy sold the assets to J-Power (25 per cent) and Kansai Electric Power (16 per cent) for an unspecified amount, and will retain a 59 per cent controlling stake in the project.

Once operational in 2021, Triton Knoll will have a maximum capacity of 860 megawatts, enough to power around 800,000 UK homes. It is expected to require £2 billion of investment and support 2,000 jobs.

The wind farm was one of the winners in last year’s competitive auction to secure long-term financial support from the UK Government. The subsidy contracts provide guaranteed support, underwritten by bill payers, for 15 years. This is around half the lifetime of the project, making it an attractive proposition to potential investors.

Makoto Honda, director at J-Power, commented: “As the leading provider of wind power in Japan, we are very proud of entering into this overseas offshore wind power project which is a first for a Japanese electric power utility. We are actively continuing to develop new wind power projects both in the domestic market and in the overseas market”.

Hans Bünting at Innogy, added: “As we continue to grow our offshore portfolio across the globe, the securing of valued, strategic partnerships is a key objective within our strategy. The signed agreement highlights the attractiveness of our offshore development projects.”

It’s anticipated that Triton Knoll will use turbines rated at 9.5 megawatts each, making them the most powerful in the world. The huge machines will rise almost 200 metres into the sky and harness the wind’s power across an area larger than the London Eye.

The 9.5MW machine also highlights the rapid technological progress in the offshore wind industry. The turbine is almost 5 times more powerful than the first UK models built in 2001.

Photo Credit: Innogy

Read more: Japanese firms win stake in major UK offshore...

The UK Government has committed over half a billion pounds to foster innovation and new breakthrough technologies.

The £780 million pledge will boost research and development across eight ‘Catapult’ centres across the country, from clean tech and energy systems to advanced manufacturing and gene therapy. The centres have been in operation since 2011 and this latest announcement secures their future in the medium term.

The government is hoping the funds will help create fertile ground for new innovations, high-skilled jobs and industries to blossom.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, said: “It is by backing innovative British companies to grow and create jobs that we will continue this progress and build an economy fit for the future. Today’s £780 million investment will support innovators across the country to create the technologies of the future, and the better, highly-paid jobs we urgently need.”

£180 million will support the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and the Centre for Process Innovation in north-east England.

The offshore centre, which also has a site in Scotland, has become a hub for businesses to research and test new technologies in the offshore wind industry. GE chose the site to test its new 12 megawatt turbine over the next five years. The Haliade-X will be the most powerful turbine in the world when it’s brought to market in 2021.

A large chunk of the cash, £270.9 million, will be spent in the West Midlands to fund the Manufacturing Technology Centre and Energy Systems Catapult over the next five years.

Business Secretary Greg Clark added: “This government wants to make the UK the most innovative nation in the world and the investment in our world leading catapult network will play a key role in building on UK strengths, bringing new ideas and products to market and helping drive local economies across the UK.”

Read more: £780m pledged to support UK innovation

California is currently battling the largest wildfire in the state’s history as over 280,000 acres of land is being burned through.

This comes hot on the heels of 2017 which also caused a record amount and breadth of damage. Earlier this month, Governor Jerry Brown described the situation as “a new normal” and one the state was forced to deal with.

Extreme weather events like this are made more likely due to climate change, but new research has shown how household growth is also increasing exposure to wildfires.

Lead author Stephen M. Strader analysed data from 1940 to 2010 on the number of wildfires in the United States, along with the density of land used for housing.

He found that over this 70 year period, the amount of land area and homes exposed to wildfires has increased throughout the lower 48 states by almost 1350 per cent.

Housing units in the western US jumped a massive 1150 per cent during that time, from 1.7 million to 20.2 million, the biggest increase in the country. These developments have often taken place in areas which are historically prone to wildfires, such as California, Oregon and Nevada.

At the same time, the research revealed that in the past two decades, wildfires have become more frequent across the whole country. On average, since 1992, there are 36 more wildfires of moderate to large size per year.

In an online post, Professor Strader explained that climate change was one part of the problem.

 “The wildfire disaster problem is a two-headed monster with increasing fire frequency, fire size, and escalating built-environment.”

“To right the ship, it's going to take some strong efforts and wise choices by the general population, developers, policy makers, and insurers. Right now there is a lack of incentives to slow any of these processes down,” he concluded.

Source: Stephen M. Strader/Villanova University

Read more: Population growth fuels exposure to wildfires in...

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