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March 2021

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British farmers ‘planning to ramp up net-zero investments as part of Covid-19 recovery’

A survey of hundreds of UK farmers has found that record proportions are planning to invest in measures to improve energy efficiency, increase renewable energy sourcing and boost carbon sequestration.

Pictured: A sheep farm in Scotland

Pictured: A sheep farm in Scotland

Conducted by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), the NFU Confidence Survey polled 662 farmers between November 2020 and January 2021, asking them about their short and mid-term business plans.

Respondents cited several ongoing and future challenges, relating to, among other things, Brexit, Covid-19, net-zero and related legislation changes. The Agriculture Bill will, for example, phase out the Basic Payment Scheme operated through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in a bid to better reward farmers for conserving and restoring nature.

Despite these challenges, the survey revealed a growing desire to increase investments in areas that will reduce the operational emissions of farms and help them sequester more carbon.

30% of respondents said they are planning to invest in energy efficiency in the short-term, up from 24% last year. A key focus area will be more efficient technology or technology that uses alternative fuels. On energy type, 37% of respondents said they are already self-generating or procuring renewable energy to meet all – or some – of their needs. Around one-third said that they are planning to increase renewable generation or procurement.

On nature, seven in ten farmers expressed a desire to improve soil health and carbon sequestration. One of the most popular activities was found to be tree-planting, which more than half of respondents are planning this year.

NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said it is “fantastic to see so many farmers making plans to implement net-zero measures on their farms”, but that more policy support is likely needed to accelerate adoption and join up approaches across the sector.

“If more than half of farmers are already preparing to invest in planting trees and improving soil health, just think how much we could achieve if farmers are given more confidence, and crucially, more opportunities, to invest in their enterprises,” Roberts said.

“[The farming sector’s] potential will never be maximised if a lack of confidence, certainty and opportunity holds British farming back.”

Differing approaches

The farming sector is regarded as a key hurdle on the road to net-zero. Livestock and fertiliser are contributors to methane and other greenhouse gas emissions, while some technologies run on diesel and are hard-to-abate. Food waste is also a key climate challenge. All in all, agriculture accounts for about one-tenth of the UK’s total annual domestic emissions footprint.

The NFU outlined its roadmap to net-zero for the UK’s farming sector back in 2019. The roadmap would deliver net-zero by 2040, the Union claims. It centres heavily around offsetting and insetting emissions by growing biofuel crops on British farms, helping the power sector to move away from fossil fuels.

Other roadmaps have posed alternative approaches. For instance, the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission has come out in favour of measures to re-allocate space from livestock to crops, and to hedgerows and meadows that can act as carbon sinks and habitats for at-risk species.

The Climate Change Committee’s recommendations for aligning the sector with the 2050 net-zero target include tackling food waste at all levels; restoring peatland; reducing annual red meat consumption on a per-capita basis and incentivising low-carbon practices. The Agriculture Bill is seeking to deliver on this last aim post-Brexit but has been widely criticised.

Sarah George  

News

Global Emissions

Analysis from energy think tank Ember celebrates a record fall in coal-fired power generation through 2020, but warns the global energy system remains far from alignment with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Wind and solar soared to new generation heights during 2020, contributing to a record fall in global coal-fired power generation of over four per cent, new research released today reveals.

Business Green 29th March 2021 read more »

News

Public Sector Decarbonisation

Phase 2 of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme provides £75 million of grant funding for the financial year 2021 to 2022. It will have a stronger focus on heat decarbonisation than Phase 1, in order to deliver greater carbon emission reductions. It will support the public sector in taking a ‘whole building’ approach when decarbonising their estates. Phase 2 key dates: Phase 2 opens to applications at 14:00 on 7 April 2021. It will close when sufficient high-quality applications have been submitted. Successful projects need to complete by 31 March 2022.

BEIS 29th March 2021 read more »

An additional £300 million of funding for domestic energy efficiency upgrades has been announced, marking an extension of the Local Authority Delivery of the Green Homes Grant. It comes as the government confirms the voucher segment of the Green Homes Grant – which has been plagued with administrative problems – is to close early on 31 March 2021, following reports it would close this month. The extra £300 million in funding for green home upgrades will be spent on technologies such as solar and heat pumps, taking the total funding for energy efficiency and low carbon heating in 2021/22 to over £1.3 billion, with the remainder of the funding having been pledged through the decarbonisation fund.

Solar Power Portal 29th March 2021 read more »

News

Dozens of big-name investors including BlackRock join Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative

The Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative now covers more than one-third of assets under management globally, after 43 big names, including BlackRock and the Vanguard Group, signed up.

36% of assets under management globally are now covered by the scheme

36% of assets under management globally are now covered by the scheme

The initiative, which commits members to reaching net-zero financed emissions by 2050 or sooner, announced this weekend that now it has more than 70 members, collectively representing $32trn of assets under management.

New members include Aviva Investors, Allianz Global Investors, BlackRock, Macquarie Asset Management, Standard Life Aberdeen and the Vanguard Group.

Beyond the headline net-zero financed emissions target, the initiative requires members to set interim targets for 2030 or sooner, in line with climate science. Targets should be met using direct emissions reductions rather than offsetting where possible.

Members should also disclose climate risks in line with the Task Force for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations and develop credible plans for minimising risks in the long-term.

Many of the new members have their own net-zero targets and strategies, including Aviva, which announced a 2040 target for financing activities and the supply chain this month.

For these firms, the benefit will be ensuring a standard level of ambition and delivery pathway across the wider sector. Other members are yet to develop net-zero targets and strategies and hope to use the best-practice advice of other initiative members during the development process.

“Helping investors prepare their portfolios and capture investment opportunities on the path to net-zero is one of our greatest responsibilities,” BlackRock chief executive and chairman Larry Fink said.

“BlackRock is proud to put its name behind this initiative, and I am encouraged to see the increasing momentum towards net zero across the public and private sectors.”

The elephant in the room – fossil fuel finance

The announcement from the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative comes just days after it was revealed that big-name banks and investors provided $750bn of financing for fossil fuel firms in 2020. This figure was down 9% year-on-year but ultimately up 6% on 2016 levels.

The figure was the headline of Rainforest Action Network’s annual ‘Banking on Climate Chaos’ report.

According to the report, US firms continued to invest more heavily in the sector than their European counterparts – and to attach lighter environmental conditions to packages. JP Morgan Chase is named as the world’s biggest fossil fuel backer in 2020 alone, and in the 2016-2020 period. Other laggards include Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citi, HSBC, Bank of China and Barclays.

Barclays remains Europe’s largest fossil bank and the seventh-largest globally. But the biggest year-on-year increase in fossil finance in 2020 was 41%, attributed to BNP Paribas, which upped support for offshore oil and gas and tar sands.

Rainforest Action Network is urging banks to go beyond headline net-zero commitments and to take action to change their portfolios.  Inaction, it warns, will not only increase physical climate risks, but leave banks behind the regulatory curve as net-zero commitments become increasingly widespread. It will also leave banks exposed to Covid-19, which has caused oil and gas demand to fall.  

Without interim targets and commitments to stricter exclusions policies, the report warns, banks’ “ever-multiplying” net-zero targets become “hollow”.

“Many of the world’s largest banks, including all six major US banks, have made splashy commitments in recent months to zero-out the climate impact of their financing over the next 30 years,” report contributor and Sierra Club financial advocacy campaign manager Ben Cushing said.

“But what matters most is what they are doing now, and the numbers don’t lie. This report separates words from actions, and the picture it paints is alarming: Major banks around the world, led by US banks in particular, are fuelling climate chaos by dumping trillions of dollars into the fossil fuels that are causing the crisis.”

Sarah George

News

Climate Policy – Northern Ireland

It took exactly 57 seconds for a piece of climate history to be made at Stormont this week. That was how long was required to introduce Northern Ireland’s first climate bill for assembly consideration. The so-called first reading is a technical step in the legislative process. It is when the bill is introduced, its title is read out and it is ordered to be published. But while its introduction may have been dry, its journey through the law-making process will be more eventful. And having been the only part of the UK without its own climate legislation, Northern Ireland could well end up with two competing climate bills in the coming months. There is now consensus that legislation is needed. It was a commitment in the New Decade, New Approach agreement which restored the Stormont institutions in January last year. But politicians differ on how far and how fast Northern Ireland needs to be going. On one side are Sinn Féin, the Ulster Unionists, the SDLP and the Alliance Party, which all back the private member’s bill introduced this week by Green Party leader Clare Bailey. It calls for net-zero carbon emissions in Northern Ireland by 2045. On the other is the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), especially its Agriculture and Environment Minister Edwin Poots. He is drawing up his own departmental bill and has proposals ready for approval by the Stormont executive when he can get them on to the agenda. That bill is likely to draw on advice from the UK’s climate advisory body the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). It suggested an 82% cut in emissions by 2050 would be a fair contribution for Northern Ireland to the UK’s net-zero climate commitment.

BBC 27th March 2021 read more »

News

France – Renewables

At present France gets around 109 TWh of its electrical power from around 53GW of renewables and it is aiming to treble that to 300TWh by 2030, while also reducing the share of nuclear in electricity generation, which currently supplies around 382TWh, so that its share falls from 70% to 50% by 2035. There are also debates as to whether to phase out nuclear power entirely in France. So it is good that in a timely new study the International Energy Agency and French transmission system operator RTE have looked at whether it is technically possible to integrate very high shares of renewables in large power systems like that in France. The report notes that ‘advocates for 100% renewables claim – with reason – that past alarmist predictions of operational problems from increasing renewables in the power sector have been proven wrong’. Indeed, it says that it’s technically viable, with renewables supplying 85-90% of power by 2050 or 100% by 2060, subject to some key system upgrade requirements. The potential for renewables in France is vast, with off shore wind still in its infancy, and, oddly, the use of solar hardly developed as yet. There may be land-use conflicts in some rural area, but, as I explore in my next post, Agro-solar opportunities are emerging that avoid conflicts with farming and may actually offer local ecological and productivity gains.

Renew Extra 27th March 2021 read more »

News

Scotland Renewable Supplies

NEARLY 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand was generated from renewables last year, new figures have revealed. Through 2020, 97.4% of demand came from renewable sources – up on 90.1% the previous year, according to Scottish Government data. Scottish Renewables says output has now tripled over 10 years, with the nation now generating enough power for the equivalent of seven million households. Onshore wind is currently the biggest player, generating 70% of capacity, with hydro and offshore wind making up the remaining demand. The next step is for renewables to play a larger role across the board, with ministers hoping they will account for half of energy demand across heat, electricity and transport too.

The National 26th March 2021 read more »

News

British Land confirms approved science-based targets on journey to net-zero

Property development and investment giant British Land has had interim carbon reductions targets to help deliver net-zero emissions approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

British Land's portfolio is currently valued at around £14.8bn

British Land’s portfolio is currently valued at around £14.8bn

Last summer, British Land has unveiled a sweeping new sustainability strategy, headlined by a 2030 net-zero target for its office and retail estate.

The strategy commits British Land to halve the net embodied carbon of all existing properties, against a 2019 baseline.

The new SBTi-approved targets commit British Land to reduce absolute scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030 against a 2020 baseline and reducing scope 3 emissions by 55% per sqm of net lettable area cover over the same time period.

British Land’s head of portfolio sustainability Matthew Webster said: “These are stretching targets, but technology can play a key role in optimising energy usage and our team is highly experienced at finding new and innovative ways to make our space more efficient. We recognise the urgent need to be ambitious in the environmental goals we set ourselves and are supported in this by our customers, partners, suppliers and people.”

Pathway to Net-Zero

In December, British Land set out a “Pathway to Net Zero Carbon” that outlined the steps the business would take to help reach net-zero.

The pathway lists carbon asset audits for its standing portfolio to identify retrofitting opportunities that improve energy efficiency, a £60 levy on embodied carbon in new developments and prioritising re-use to deliver buildings with a lower embodied carbon footprint as a measure that will help reach net-zero.

British Land’s strategy includes a clause to prioritise retrofitting over new build developments in the next ten years, in a bid to spur decarbonisation of the UK’s existing building stock – one of the nation’s largest carbon emitters and energy consumers. However, new developments delivered from April 2020 will need to be verified as net-zero embodied carbon.

British Land has self-levied a carbon price of £60 per tonne on all developments. Funding raised through this mechanism will pay for retrofitting processes, carbon offsetting and engagement with customers and tenants, so as to provide them with best-practice advice for reducing operational emissions in context. £60 is notably far higher than Europe’s average carbon price, which, as of July 2019, stood at just under €27 (£24) per tonne.

Since 2009, the firm has reduced the carbon intensity of its portfolio by 73% and the embodied carbon of its portfolio by 16%.

As well as accounting for nearly 40% of global emissions, the built environment is expected to double the global building stock by 2060 as the world’s population approaches 10 billion.

Commenting on the announcement, the UK Green Building Council’s chief executive Julie Hirigoyen said: “It’s extremely encouraging to see British Land’s latest announcements on how it will reach a 1.5°C aligned portfolio over the years ahead.

“Of particular note, is its commitment to even further cuts in absolute emissions by 2030, and also their thoughtful use of carbon levies on the embodied carbon of new developments to bring about further reductions in energy usage across the portfolio. If we are to truly tackle the climate crisis, we need more businesses to look beyond Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions reductions and work hard to engage closely with their customers and suppliers to drive down emissions across the value chain.”

Matt Mace

News

Biomethane

Scotland’s first renewable biomethane refuelling station will open this year, the developers have announced, after ground was broken at the project site today. The refuelling station is based at the Eurocentral Industrial Estate off the M8 near Glasgow and is being developed by CNG Fuels. CNG Fuels claims that the station will be able to serve up to 450 heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) once complete. Biomethane dispensed at the facility will be produced using food waste – a feedstock which CNG Fuels claims results in an 85% reduction in life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional, fossil-based fuels. CNG is also exploring biomethane from manure, which it claims is carbon neutral, and is planning to roll the fuel out from 2022. Companies set to use the station include bread giant Warburtons and logistics major Hermes. Both firms have depots in the local area and have already implemented biomethane trucks; Hermes has 90 such vehicles.

Edie 25th March 2021 read more »

News

Interface launches its first ‘carbon negative’ carpets

In a major step towards its vision to become a carbon-negative business by 2040, modular flooring firm Interface has launched its first carbon-negative certified products in the UK.

Pictured: One of the new 'Embodied Beauty' flooring styles in an office. Image: Interface

Pictured: One of the new ‘Embodied Beauty’ flooring styles in an office. Image: Interface

The firm has launched a range of carpet tiles called ‘Embodied Beauty’, three of which are certified as carbon-negative on a cradle-to-gate basis, as well as a separate tufted tile model called ‘Flash Line’, which has the same certification. 

Flash Line tiles are made using 100% recycled yarn for the upper and a backing made using 86% recycled and bio-based content. Each tile sequesters and offsets more CO2 than it generates – largely because of the carbon sequestration properties of the bio-materials prior to their processing. The tufting process is also energy and resource-efficient. 

Interface’s entire range has been certified as carbon neutral since 2018, following long-term work on natural and recycled materials, efficient manufacturing and carbon offsetting. The launch of carbon-negative products builds on this progress, on the company’s journey to overall carbon negativity by 2040. Both Embodied Beauty and Flash Line went on sale in the UK this week. 

“By studying nature, Interface has reimagined product design, development, and manufacturing,” Interface’s president for EAAA Nigel Stansfield said. 

“Our journey to create a carbon-negative carpet tile is a demonstration of what is possible and an important step in our journey to reverse climate change. As a company, we have prioritised using carbon as a resource to minimise our impact in the built environment. We have created a ground-breaking, design-led product that will support our customers to specify flooring that also helps them achieve their own carbon reduction goals. The long-term effects of carbon-negative products offer a new way to shape our future economy and society.”

Interface’s carbon negativity commitments form part of its Climate Take Back strategy, which outlines how businesses can “rethink carbon as a resource”. It paints a vision of dispersing materials into “products and goodness”, developing “factories that sequester carbon like forests” and supply chains that have a net-positive impact on people and the planet.

Back in November 2020, Interface’s head of sustainability for the EAAA region, Jon Khoo, detailed progress to date on the strategy and provided his thoughts on how other businesses can become carbon negative in an exclusive interview with edie. You can read the article in full here.

Khoo said: “A lot of the carbon-neutral claims you see are focused on operational energy, and depending on what they do and what they make that might be a fair thing.

“But, if you want to have net-zero impact, you need to figure out what your impact is, where it sits in the value chain and have a wide scope and understanding of it. From there you can start prioritising.”

Sarah George

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