The Lloyd’s Banking Group has announced a new policy in which they will not fund any new coal-related developments.

This show of support for the low-carbon economy will see the bank refuse to finance new clients whose revenues come predominantly from coal power plants and mines.

However, the bank will continue to work with existing clients involved in the coal industry and the policy does not address other areas of concern, such as the tar sands production.

The decision follows its Clean Growth Finance initiative, announced earlier this year, in which the bank pledged £2 billion in “discounted lending to help businesses invest in reducing their environmental impact.”

The policy matches an overall trend in the banking industry to distance itself from coal, following in the footsteps of other major banks, such as HSBC and The Royal Bank of Scotland.

“We are already committed to supporting businesses that are leading the way by investing in renewable energy and a cleaner future, including those that are diversifying their business models away from fossil fuels,” said David Oldfield, group director at Lloyd’s.

“To achieve the aims set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement, continued reduction in the amount of coal mined and used to generate electricity is needed.  This announcement reiterates our commitment to support the transition.”

Lloyd’s Bank has made strides in recent years to promote the low-carbon economy. In 2016, the bank established a £1 billion dollar green fund for commercial real estate and energy efficiency improvements.

An ongoing partnership with the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership aims to train managers on how to assist companies on the low-carbon transition. It also has a separate commitment to help power 5 million British homes with renewable energy by 2020.

These initiatives mark steps in the right direction for the company, which in 2017 was listed by campaign group ShareAction as being one of the least responsive banks in Europe to climate change.

Photo Credit: Scott Granneman/CC

Read more: Lloyd’s Bank to ditch financing new coal plants

The European Commission is taking action to help farms suffering under the conditions of prolonged dry weather.

Farmers will be able access an advanced payment up to 85 percent of their subsidy allowance under the existing Common Agricultural Policy. This avoids farms having to wait until December before their cash flow could improve.

Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan, said: "I am very concerned about these prolonged climatic developments. I have been in contact with a number of ministers from affected countries to discuss the situation and get up-to-date assessments of its impact.”

The Commission has also agreed to a request from eight Member States to temporary halt environmental measures to help existing land recover from production; Member States can also grant aid of up to 15,000 euros per farmer over three years without breaking state aid rules.

“The Commission, as always, is ready to support farmers affected by drought using a number of instruments, including higher advance payments, derogations from greening requirements and state aid. The Common Agricultural Policy already provides a safety net for farmers who have to deal with unpredictable events. I am encouraging all Member States to look into all possible actions and measures provided for in our legislation," Hogan added.

German and UK farmers have both been calling for financial assistance after continued high temperatures and lack of rainfall have ruined crop yields.

The German Farmers Association, DBV, has requested 1 billion euros from the Federal Government to help some of the affected areas in the north and east of the country.

"We expect billions in losses," said Joachim Rukwied, president of the DBV. "The government needs to declare a state of emergency so that farmers in areas hit hardest by the drought can be helped directly with cash aid."

Read more: EU offers support to European farmers fighting...

The growth in charging points is a vital component of the transition to cleaner forms of transport.

The UK Government recognises this and is investing £400 million by 2020 in the necessary infrastructure to make purchasing an electric vehicle a more viable and attractive option.

It will be of some relief to electric vehicle owners that the AA is also offering to install charging infrastructure at the 4,000 hotels it has rated across the UK, and at no cost.

The motoring organisation is working with Chargemaster to offer new charging points up and down the country. Chargemaster operates the largest public charging network in the UK, and the company was recently acquired by BP.

Edmund King, president of the AA, opened the first charging point at the Sandford Springs Hotel in Hampshire this week.

“We know that when EV drivers are looking for hotels, they will actively seek out those with charging points. We have witnessed enormous changes in both the automotive and hotel sectors over the last 110 years, and we are delighted that our AA recognised hospitality businesses can benefit from this tremendous offer,” he said.

David Martell, Chief Executive of Chargemaster, added: “We believe that within the next five years, all hotels will offer EV charging, just like they provide Wi-Fi today. Our offer for AA hotels is a great opportunity for hotel owners and operators to get a competitive advantage with a facility that could attract hundreds of thousands of customers in the coming years.”

The number of charging points is increasing and now sits at over 17,000, a growth of 26 percent in one year. This pace needs to continue if the government is going to meet its target of at least 50 percent of new car sales to be low-emission by 2030.  

There are currently 150,000 ultra-low emission vehicles on the roads, including both hybrid technology and pure electric models.

Read more: AA to offer electric vehicle charging points at...

The UK’s professional body for GPs is to divest its holdings in fossil fuel companies.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) made the decision last month at a meeting of the body’s Trustee Board.

The RCGP is the UK’s largest medical royal college, representing over 52,000 members active as doctors and physicians across the country.

In making the decision, College Chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, said: "What is good for the planet is usually good for our patients' health, and the NHS as a whole – and I am delighted that the College has made the decision to disinvest from fossil fuel companies, which we know contributes to climate change."

She also used the recent heatwave in the UK to draw attention to the dangers of excessive exposure to heat and sun. A recent MPs report warned that regular high temperatures in the future could lead to 7,000 deaths each year by 2050.

"We already face a seasonal crisis every winter that threatens to destabilise our national health service, but with our summers forecasted to become hotter and hotter, we risk the emergence of a second seasonal crisis, and the NHS will simply be unable to cope,” she added.

The college reportedly has a “modest” level of investment in fossil fuel companies, according to honorary treasurer Dr Steve Mowle. However, it was felt that the benefit these assets bring in was outweighed by the negative impacts on patients as a result of climate change.

The decision is the latest move from a UK institution on the issue of financial holdings in fossil fuels. The Church of England recently announced its willingness to divest from companies which haven’t made sufficient progress on climate change. The church is a major asset owner with a £12 billion endowment and investment fund.

Academic institutions, such as Edinburgh, Durham and Bristol universities, have also divested following campaigns from student groups.

Read more: Royal College of GPs to divest from fossil fuels

Some of the UK’s oldest and most prominent church buildings are making the switch to 100 percent renewable energy.

Catholic, Church of England, Quaker, Baptist and Methodist places of worship are among the denominations making the pledge this week in a bid to tackle climate change.

Liverpool, York Minster, Salisbury, and Southwark cathedrals are some of the 15 Anglican buildings joining the campaign to reduce the church’s dependence on fossil fuels.

The Press Association reports that with a yearly electricity bill of £1,000, an estimated £5 million has been diverted from fossil fuel providers.

Nicholas Holtam, the bishop of Salisbury, commented: “It’s fantastic to see churches doing their bit to ensure they reduce their impact on the environment. They are also giving a boost to clean energy, which is essential to reduce harmful carbon emissions.

“Climate change is an enormous injustice and is hurting the poor first and worst. Switching to responsible sources of electricity may seem like a small thing on its own, but when joined together it can make a real difference.”

The Big Church Switch campaign, run by charities Christian Aid and Tearfund, provides advice to churches which are thinking about changing their energy tariff to become 100 percent renewable.

Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, added: “Churches are part of a global network and so are often very aware of the plight of our brothers and sisters suffering from droughts, floods and extreme weather around the world,” he said.

Last month, The Church of England voted to divest its investments in fossil fuel companies if they do not show progress addressing climate change and transition towards a low-carbon economy. The COE is a significant asset owner in the UK with a £12 billion investment and endowment fund.

Read more: 5,500 churches in the UK turn to renewable energy

Levi Strauss has released a bold new strategy to combat climate change across its entire business.

The iconic clothing company has set new targets, approved by the Science Based Targets initiative, which could transform its global footprint.

The campaign helps corporations decarbonise in line with the goals of the Paris climate agreement to keep temperatures well below 2 degrees.

Its new sustainability targets include a 90 percent reduction its greenhouse gas emissions within its own facilities and a 40 percent reduction in its global supply chain. This represents a major increase on its current performance of 25 and 5 percent reductions on each respective side.

In addition, the company will source 100 percent of its electricity from renewables, up from its current level of 20 percent.

Investments in onsite renewables and energy efficiency upgrades are key to achieving reductions in direct emissions. On the more significant supply chain side, it intends to work with the International Finance Corporation, an offshoot of the World Bank, to provide low-cost financing to sustainable initiatives, such as water consumption and energy.

Levi Strauss operates 2,900 shops in in 110 countries. As one of the world’s most popular jeans manufacturers the new strategy could set an important trend for others in the fashion industry to follow.

“We believe that business has the opportunity and the responsibility to be a force for positive change in the world,” said Chip Bergh, president and chief executive officer. “We are proud to be one of the first companies to set science-based targets for our global supply chain, and we hope to be an inspiration for others to follow.”

“Levi Strauss & Co. has set an ambitious science-based target aligned with the Paris Agreement for its operations and value chain, which will help bring energy efficiency and renewable energy to its suppliers in developing markets,” said Cynthia Cummis, at the World Resources Institute (WRI), one of the Science Based Targets partners. “The company’s targets represent the kind of forward-thinking innovation that the fashion industry needs, and are a model for business success in a low-carbon world.”

Source: Levi-Strauss

Read more: Levi Strauss sets 90% emissions reduction target...

A cross-party group of British MPs has called on the government to create a net-zero emissions target before 2050.

113 MPs have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May calling on her to enshrine a net-zero target in law within the lifetime of the current Parliament, i.e. before 2022.

The call follows energy minister Claire Perry’s request for advice on achieving the goal from its climate advisers.

“Setting ourselves the goal of net zero emissions will put us at the forefront of the race for investment in clean industries, creating jobs all around the UK and inspiring the next generation,” the letter reads, backed by leading Conservative, Labour, Green, Plaid Cymru, and Scottish National Party politicians.

A zero-emissions target is seen as a key component in meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement to keep global temperatures to well below 2 degrees. Other countries, such as France, Sweden, Norway and New Zealand, have already set their own targets to reach net-zero between 2030 and 2050.

On the European Union level, putting a precise date on achieving this bold target has been less forthcoming. A recent agreement on energy opted for a zero-carbon economy “as early as possible” in the final wording.

“A net zero emissions target, fully implemented, will cut energy bills by improving the efficiency of our homes and businesses, it will get rid of the exhaust pipe emissions that pollute the air we breathe, and it will help to bring about the restoration of our natural habitats so they become stores of carbon, from forests to peatlands,” the MPs’ letter continues.

The letter was accompanied by an op-ed in The Times newspaper by Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin and Labour MP Alex Sobel. The piece said that climate change was one of the few things almost all British politicians agreed on.

“A warming planet is one of the most serious long-term threats our country faces, a fact long acknowledged by defence chiefs,” they added.

Read more: Over 100 MPs urge Theresa May to set...

British Members of Parliament have again shown a worrying level of ignorance on basic energy facts.

A YouGov survey of 100 MPs found that only 1 percent knew that energy bills and energy demand are both falling.

The majority, 64 percent, felt that the opposite was true, highlighting the disconnect between reporting and reality on the issue.

A separate survey last month similarly found that MPs were confused about the low cost and high popularity of onshore wind.

A recent report from the government’s Committee on Climate Change showed that energy bills have declined on average by £115 since the introduction of the UK’s landmark Climate Change Act in 2008.

This has been led by improved energy efficiency measures, such as modern boilers, LED lighting and loft insulation.

While the MPs were found to be in the dark on the true cost of household bills, 73 percent expressed their support for greater financial support to ensure more homes were energy efficient. 55 percent also supported bringing homes up to a zero-carbon standard to help combat climate change. This latter policy was ditched by the coalition government in 2015.

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, which commissioned the polling, commented: “It’s not surprising that MPs are unaware of the long-term trend of falling energy bills given the continuing furore over price rises.”

“But even though the Big Six’s tariff hikes are real and do create problems for vulnerable customers, this shouldn’t hide the wider reality that measures to cut energy waste work – reducing energy demand, cutting carbon emissions and driving energy bills downwards.”

James Heappey, MP for Wells, said: “This is a very welcome finding, and shows once again that government energy policy is delivering ever-increasing value for money.

“It’s also really encouraging to find such high support across Parliament for stepping up measures to cut energy waste – something that is also hugely popular in the country.”

The polling was weighted to ensure the results were representative of all 650 MPs sitting in Parliament.

Read more: Only 1% of MPs see the light on energy prices

The San Miguel Corporation is looking to massively grow its renewable energy assets.

The Philippines-based brewer set out its plan on the weekend with an aim to build 10,000 megawatts (MW) of new capacity.

“SMC is going to invest heavily on renewable energy,” said company president Ramon Ang, according to the Manila Standard.

“Hydro wherever there is an opportunity, we are interested. We are looking at large hydro, maybe 1,000 MW at least per project,” he added.

In addition, the corporation is looking at wind power, tidal and battery storage projects, but not solar. Mr Ang believed that solar wasn’t reliable enough to justify the investment, bucking a global trend in favour of the technology.

San Miguel already part-owns a number of hydro plants in the Philippines, but is also invested in gas and coal plants.

A possible site for its first wind farm has reportedly been found on the country’s largest island of Luzon. While a specific area has not been revealed, it is understand to be located on land already owned by the company.

“We are challenging ourselves to be able to operate in the most environmentally responsible manner while taking into consideration energy security and affordability to the consumers. Initiatives to achieve this objective are under way and I’m proud to say we are making a good headway,” he added.

Its ambitious renewable energy target forms part of a wider move towards sustainability by the company. In 2017, San Miguel announced a new ‘Water For All’ initiative, designed to cut its overall water consumption by 50 percent by 2025. Later in the year, it discontinued its entire plastic bottled water business to reduce its environmental footprint. The water savings from this decision, however, will not count towards its new consumption target.

Read more: San Miguel targets 10,000 megawatt renewables...

UK retailer Waitrose is taking part in a new study to demonstrate the benefits of using bio-methane to fuel its trucks.

The popular supermarket has partnered with CNG Fuels to test the performance of 58 trucks designed to run on the renewable material.

A new station will be used in Northampton, near to Waitrose’s main distribution centres, which will be able to refuel 350 trucks a day.

Six of the trucks will be simultaneously trialling the benefits of an electric refrigeration unit powered by the cleaner engine. This is crucial as an estimated 18 percent of its fleet emissions come from having to power these separate units.

Baden Gowrie-Smith, chief financial officer at CNG Fuels, said: “100 percent renewable bio-methane fuel offers fleet operators the chance to dramatically cut carbon emissions, improve air quality and save money.”

Bio-methane is formed through the natural breakdown of food and animal waste.

The project is being part funded by the UK Government’s Office for Low Emissions Vehicles and a team from the University of Cambridge will analyse the results. It is hoped that more major HGV operators, such as Waitrose, will make the switch to more low-carbon forms of fuel.

Justin Laney at the John Lewis Partnership, which owns Waitrose, added: “We’re committed to reducing the emissions from our fleet. This study will help us quantify not just the carbon emissions reduction of using bio-methane, but also the benefits of using our industry-leading clean refrigeration equipment which we expect to show significant benefits for air quality.”

The UK has so far made slow progress in adopting cleaner forms of fuel in the transport sector. While 30 percent of all electricity comes from renewable sources, a mere 4.6 percent of the fuels in transport are renewable, according to the latest Government data.

Photo Credit: John Carver/CC

Read more: Waitrose trucks to trial low-carbon alternative...

The Kraft Heinz Company is upping its game on the circular economy.

According to a statement this week, the manufacturer has committed to making all its packaging “recyclable, reusable, or compostable” within the next eight years.

Kraft Heinz joins a group of other companies, including Coca-Cola, Mars, and L’Oréal, which used the World Economic Forum in January to make the same pledge.

As the fifth-largest food and beverage company in the world, its pledge could be a major step towards transforming the global industry. It's responsible for brands including Capri Sun, Kool-Aid, and Jell-O.

McDonald’s also made a similar commitment earlier this year, stating that it was their “responsibility to use our scale for good.”

“Our collective industry has a massive challenge ahead of us with respect to packaging recyclability, end-of-life recovery and single-use plastics,” said Bernardo Hees, CEO at Kraft Heinz. “Even though we don’t yet have all the answers, we owe it to current and future generations who call this planet ‘home’ to find better packaging solutions and actively progress efforts to improve recycling rates. That’s why Kraft Heinz is placing heightened focus on this important environmental issue.”

Kraft Heinz has made initial progress by reducing packaging weight by 50,000 metric tonnes across its operations. Its European arm is working on making the popular Heinz Tomato Ketchup bottle more sustainable by using recycled material that can be used again as packaging.

Along with its new packaging pledges, Kraft Heinz will begin a process of setting new targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. The company has announced it will work with the Science Based Targets initiative to ensure it can decarbonise in the most effective and evidence-based manner.

“We found that most of our emissions are coming from areas outside our direct operations. To truly succeed as champions of sustainability, we will look at our full value chain and determine where we can make the greatest impact for our planet,” added Hees.

Photo Credit: Mike Mozart/CC

Read more: Kraft Heinz targets 100% sustainable packaging...

Planning approval has been granted to a new solar farm set to become Australia’s largest to date.

The Rodds Bay project will be located near the coast in Queensland and have a capacity of 300 megawatts (MW). This is enough to power around 88,000 households, according to energy developers Renew Estate.

Construction will take place later this year and it is expected to be up and running by the start of 2020.

Director Simon Currie said the Australian-based company is “committed to delivering tangible, meaningful and enduring benefits to the people, the businesses and the communities who are our neighbours.”

The site’s location, around 50 kilometres south of the coastal town of Gladstone, is intended to bolster the state’s role as a leader in renewable energy. Gladstone, a city of around 30,000 people, is also being touted as a potential energy capital within Queensland.

“At its peak, a solar farm of this size requires about 300 workers on site. We will collaborate with local training organisations to ensure local job-seekers have the skills needed to construct and operate a solar farm, and we will prioritise the employment of locals in enduring roles once the project is operational,” he added.

Wirsol Energy, one of financial backers behind Rodds Bay, has over 200 megawatts in development in Queensland. Managing Director, Mark Hogan, commented that the project would help the company reach a target of 1 gigawatts of capacity in the country.

Australia is starting to capitalise on its plentiful solar resources; in 2017, a record 3.5 million solar panels were installed across the country, a 41 percent increase on the previous year.

Its total solar capacity now sits at around 7,800 megawatts, placing it in the top 10 for global installations.

“This is an exciting time for the solar industry in Australia,” Hogan added.

PhotoCredit: Jeremy Buckingham/Creative Commons

Read more: Green light given for Australia’s largest solar...

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