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May 2021

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Global transport emissions to skyrocket 16% based on current policies

Global traffic emissions look set to rise by 16% by 2050 based on current policies, as demand for transport activity doubles, according to a new report that is calling for ambitious climate policies to reduce emissions from the sector.

The ITF believes that transport emissions can be reduced by more than 70% by 2050 through enabling policies

The ITF believes that transport emissions can be reduced by more than 70% by 2050 through enabling policies

The International Transport Forum’s (ITF) Transport Outlook 2021 report notes that global transport activity is set to more than double by 2050, delivering a 16% rise in emissions from traffic-based transport alone compared to 2015 levels.

Road transport is the fastest-growing contributor to global emissions, accountable for 24% of energy-related carbon emissions. Currently, more than two billion road vehicles have internal combustion engines and those vehicles are a big contributor to air pollution.

The ITF, a sister organisation of the OECD, warns that current commitments to decarbonise transport will actually deliver an increase in emissions by 2050, the decade in which nation’s need to reach net-zero emissions.

The report warns that urban mobility currently accounts for 40% of emissions from the transportation of people, meaning that cities have a key role to play in decarbonising the transport sector. Just last week, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo unveiled new plans to ban most vehicle traffic in the city centre by 2022.

According to the report, freight accounts for 40% of global transport emissions and its share is set to grow over the coming years by 22%, with freight transport activity set to grow 2.6-fold. Elsewhere, passenger transport will increase 2.3-fold.

However, the ITF believes that transport emissions can be reduced by more than 70% by 2050 through enabling policies.

The ITF states that recovering from the Covid-19 crisis offers an economic stimulus to shift mobility towards low-carbon solutions while improving access for all citizens across the globe.

Doing so would require governments to set ambitious new climate targets through Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement. The UK, for example, is aiming to reduce emissions by 68% by 2030 as part of its updated Contribution.

Additionally, the report notes that decarbonising the transport sector requires better cross-sector collaboration with the energy, trade and tourism sectors.

ITF Secretary-General Young Tae Kim said: “I am proud to present the 2021 edition of the ITF Transport Outlook. It provides policy makers with insights from cutting-edge ITF research on the three major challenges of our time: the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and inequality. It shows how they are linked, but also identifies actions – actions that are critical to ensure an effective and equitable transition to sustainable mobility on an urban, regional and global level in the wake of the pandemic.” 

Last month, International non-profit the Climate Group partnered with the UN High-Level Climate Champions to launch a new initiative aimed at getting businesses, cities and regions to completely decarbonise all forms of road transport.

RouteZero will support the UK’s efforts to mobilise climate action in the build-up to COP26 and was designed in response to the UN Race to Zero Breakthroughs. The Race to Zero Breakthroughs were published in a special paper by the UN High-Level Climate Champions, COP26 President Alok Sharma, COP25 President Carolina Schmidt, and the UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa at the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda. It will build on the Race to Zero campaign that was launched in June 2020.

Matt Mace

News

Nuclear Phase-Out – UK & Germany

Even-handed analysis of data from Germany and the UK indicates that it is still easily possible to dramatically reduce carbon emissions whilst greatly reducing the amount of energy coming from nuclear power. One thing not usually appreciated in the arguments about the impact of nuclear power plant retirements in Germany is that in reality much the same process has occurred, for different reasons, in the UK. In both Germany and the UK the falling proportion of electricity coming from nuclear power has gone along with dramatic reductions in carbon emissions from electricity in both countries. Peering through the fog of the current debate one would almost think that ‘pro-nuclear’ UK was busy cutting its carbon emissions by increasing nuclear output whilst ‘anti-nuclear’ Germany was busy increasing them, or at least not reducing them, by its phase-out policy. Yet nothing of the sort has been happening. Both the cases of Germany and the UK knock the pro-nuclear arguments on the head that say that increases in renewable energy cannot reduce carbon emissions without maintaining nuclear production. Clearly they can!

100% Renewables 16th May 2021 read more »

News

Commodities Boom

The commodities boom ignited by China’s post-Covid recovery, and stoked by the global move to green energy, broke price records last week even as fears about inflation stalked the markets. But it also risks triggering a rush on metals and minerals that could derail climate action. Iron ore reached the apex of a super-rally that drove prices to $237.57 a tonne in New York on Wednesday. The record followed a surge in demand from China’s steel-making regions, now recovering after the pandemic, which has pushed prices up from less than $94 this time last year. Copper, which is used in products from smartphones to electric cars, has doubled in price over the past year. The metal hit a fresh record of more than $10,700 a tonne last week as Chinese demand continued to rise. Market experts believe prices have further to run, as the rebound continues. But if China has sparked the bullish run on commodities, it is the global drive for green innovation that has fanned the flames.

Guardian 15th May 2021 read more »

Hypromag is looking at recycling rare earth magnets from old computer hard disks that would otherwise be thrown on the scrapheap. They are a component in new electric and hybrid cars — whose batteries are powered by lithium, but which use rare earth magnets in motors, power steering and electric windows. The project — which uses hydrogen to recycle the magnets, a process pioneered by one of Hypromag’s founding directors, and Birmingham University emeritus professor, Rex Harris — is not just a green experiment. It forms part of Britain’s drive to create its own supply of rare earths and lessen its reliance on China, the main provider of 17 minerals used for magnets in electric cars, medical devices, power tools, smartphones and wind turbines.

Times 16th May 2021 read more »

News

BP shareholders reject tougher climate targets

More than one-fifth of BP shareholders supported a resolution from climate activists calling on the energy giant to set tougher emission reduction targets for its net-zero transition, but ultimately the filing was rejected.

BP has a net-zero emissions target set for 2050

BP has a net-zero emissions target set for 2050

A resolution was issued by the Dutch-based climate activist group Follow This, calling on BP to beef up its existing commitments to decarbonisation. Shareholders voted on the resolution this week, with 20.6% supporting the filing, more than double the number of votes for the last climate-related resolution discussed at the company’s 2019 AGM.

However, the resolution did not gain enough support for it to be passed. The resolution called on BP to publish targets to reduce emissions in alignment with the Paris Agreement.

Last year, BP unveiled plans to transition away from being an oil company and to become an integrated energy company instead, headlined by a commitment to decrease fossil-based hydrocarbon production within a decade, as part of a wider net-zero ambition for 2050.

It includes a commitment to increase annual investment in low-carbon projects to $4bn by 2025 and $5bn by 2030 – up from around $0.5bn at present. BP will reduce its fossil-based hydrocarbon production by 40%. Assets remaining after this phase-out will be “more cost and carbon resilient” than their predecessors, the energy major said in a statement. Meeting the target will require BP to halt all oil and gas exploration initiatives in countries where it is not yet operating.

By completing this phase-out and by making its remaining assets more efficient, BP will be able to cut its operational emissions by 30-35% within a decade and the emissions related to its upstream activities by 35-40% within the same timeframe.

Greenpeace had previously criticised BP’s net-zero target for lacking detail and credibility. It has dubbed the new plans “a necessary and encouraging start”.

However, BP’s chairman Helge Lund reference climate change just once in his speech noting: “BP is indeed performing while transforming. But most significant of all – for the world and for BP – the past year has seen major geopolitical movement on climate.

“We have seen: China set a new net-zero target, the EU initiate a far-reaching Green Deal, the UK launch a plan for a green industrial revolution, and the US recommit to the Paris Agreement. These developments only strengthen our belief that BP’s new direction is the right one.

The news comes shortly after Barclays’ shareholders rejected a proposal that would require the bank to reduce fossil fuel finance on climate grounds. If passed, it would have required Barclays to align its energy financing with the Paris Agreement’s trajectories using a divestment-based approach.

Barclays confirmed that just 14% of its shareholders had supported the resolution. This was an even lower proportion than for Barclays’ first climate-related resolution, filed last year. 24% of shareholders backed that initial resolution.

HSBC is also set to put a climate-related resolution to a vote at its upcoming AGM. If passed, the resolution will require the bank to end financing for coal-fired power and thermal coal mines globally by 2040.

Matt Mace

News

Nuclear industry warns that planned closures could derail global net-zero transition

Key groups representing the global nuclear industry have penned an open letter to world leaders warning that the proposed retirement of existing nuclear plants could derail the net-zero transition, calling for the technology to have the same access to climate finance as renewables.

The groups are also calling for nuclear to be included in national emission reduction plans

The groups are also calling for nuclear to be included in national emission reduction plans

The Canadian Nuclear Association, FORATOM, the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, the Nuclear Energy Institute, the Nuclear Industry Association and the World Nuclear Association have jointly called on countries to accelerate nuclear investment as part of the net-zero movement.

The groups warn that planned retirements of nuclear plants represent “the single greatest loss of clean power in world history” and that without additional capacity and investment into the sector, the need to reach net-zero could be derailed. The groups estimate that more than 100GW of nuclear capacity will retire globally within 20 years.

Specifically, the letter calls for equal access to climate finance for nuclear technologies alongside low-carbon and renewables and for new nuclear plants to replace retiring capacity to maintain current generation levels.

The groups are also calling for nuclear to be included in national emission reduction plans in the build-up to COP26.

The Nuclear Industry Association’s chief executive Tom Greatrex said: “Nuclear is absolutely vital if we are to hit net zero as a planet. Nuclear delivers reliable clean power, new opportunities for industrial decarbonisation and good, well-paying jobs for a green economy. The retirements of existing stations right across the world mean we need to act today, or we will lose jobs and see higher emissions. We are calling on policymakers to make the right choices.”

UK focus

The UK currently generates about 20% of its electricity from nuclear, which has helped low-carbon sources account for the majority of the UK’s energy mix.

However, almost half of the UK’s nuclear capacity is set to be retired by 2025. Hunterston B, Hinkley Point B, Heysham I and Hartlepool nuclear power stations are all scheduled to retire by the end of 2024, representing more than 4GW of nominal generating capacity. Another two large facilities are planning to come offline by 2030.

The Energy Networks Association – the industry body representing all major energy network operators in the UK – notes that nuclear is crucial to the UK’s net-zero target.

Indeed, the Government’s Ten-point plan includes a £525m package for the sector – some of which is expected to go to Rolls Royce, for its work to develop 16 mini modular reactors across the UK. But the UK Government has been accused of failing to support nuclear at an appropriate scale, and of failing to plan ahead for the impending ‘nuclear gap’.

Elsewhere, Atkins predicts that the power share in 2050 will consist of nuclear (11%); wind and solar (58%); combined cycle gas turbines with carbon capture storage (22%); and bioenergy with carbon capture storage (6%). To accommodate nuclear’s share, the organisation claims that six nuclear power stations will be required for a net-zero UK.

The Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) recommendations on the sixth carbon budget, designed to deliver a 78% reduction in absolute national emissions by 2035 against a 1990 baseline, include measures to build enough new nuclear to replace the current fleet as a minimum.

But critics of nuclear power say that more must be done to minimise risks associated with radioactive waste releases and to prevent weapons proliferation.

There are also arguments around the costs associated with nuclear power. While some facilities are coming offline as they reach the end of their working life, others have closed prematurely, citing financial reasons. BEIS estimates that Levelized costs for nuclear projects commissioning in 2025 will average £95m per MWH, compared to £63m for large-scale solar and £61m for large-scale onshore wind. 

Matt Mace

News

#SustyTalk: Countdown to COP26 with The Climate Group’s Sandra Roling

With COP26 less than six months away, edie has launched a new series of videos with high-level speakers, designed to inspire and empower your preparations for the conference. Up next, The Climate Group’s head of EV100 Sandra Roling.

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With edie readers working remotely or on furlough, the #SustyTalk video interview series was launched in spring 2020, keeping you connected to the inspirational business leaders who are continuing to drive sustainability and champion climate action from their own homes.

In preparation for COP26, edie has begun interviewing some of the experts in the fields of the Conference’s key themes, including clean energy, climate finance and clean transport. To this latter point, today’s interview is with The Climate Group’s head of EV100 Sandra Roling.

This interview sees Roling providing edie’s senior reporter Sarah George with an update on the growth of the EV100 initiative amid the challenges of Covid-19, outlining how the private sector is collaborating to address key challenges such as vehicle affordabilty, battery range and charging infrastructure. She also explores the role of collaboration between cities, nations, businesses and other groups in accelerating the electric vehicle transition and reshaping transport systems with modal shift in mind.

Roling is speaking at edie’s flagship Countdown to COP26 event on Thursday 20 May, alongside experts from ClientEarth, National Grid, Green Alliance and Centrica Business Solutions. This will be for a panel discussion on clean transport and energy systems.

Keynote speakers include the UK Cabinet Office’s director of partnerships and engagement Matt Toombs and WBCSD director Claire O’Neill, also former UK Energy Minister.

More than 250 business and climate leaders have already registered to attend the event, which forms an integral part of edie’s Countdown to COP26 Festival of digital content and events. 

Click here to see our catalogue of #SustyTalk video interviews.

Want to be featured on a future episode of #SustyTalk? Email newsdesk@fav-house.com. Please bear in mind that our calendar is now full for May. 

edie Staff

News

Pure Planet

Entrepreneurs often describe the process of raising venture funding for their businesses as gruelling and Steven Day, co-founder of the green energy provider Pure Planet, is no exception. The pitch was simple: they were building a renewable energy company that offered customers green power at a lower price than fossil fuels. It could do that and still make money by buying well in the wholesale markets, keeping overheads low and being as digital as possible from the get-go. After presenting to 70 venture capital (VC) firms over six months in 2016, however, Day and his two co-founders, Tom Alexander and Andrew Ralston, realised that they were pitching to the wrong people. “We met lots of investors who weren’t right for us, didn’t have the profile or weren’t big enough in terms of the kind of money that we were asking for,” Day, 53, said.

Times 13th May 2021 read more »

News

BT cuts emissions by 14% over 12-month period

Over the last 12 months, BT Group has reduced the carbon intensity of its operations by 14%, putting the company on course to reach net-zero emissions by 2045, while broadcaster Sky has had carbon reduction targets for its net-zero ambition approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

Over a four-year period, BT also reduced the carbon intensity of its supply chain by 19%

Over a four-year period, BT also reduced the carbon intensity of its supply chain by 19%

The 14% reduction in emissions recorded over the last financial year means that BT has reduced emissions by 57% since 2016/17. This puts the company on track to reduce emissions by 87% by 2031 and reach net-zero by 2045.

In addition, over a four-year period, BT has reduced the carbon intensity of its supply chain by 19%. This is building towards a 42% reduction target set for 2031.

BT had set itself on the path to help limit global warming to 1.5C through a science-based target to reduce emissions by 87% by 2030 against a 2016/17 baseline, which was set back in September 2017. However, the company raised its ambitions again in 2018, when it committed to becoming a net-zero-carbon business by 2045.

BT’s chief digital impact and sustainability officer Andy Wales said: “BT has led the way on climate action for the last three decades and has long recognised the importance of setting ambitious carbon reduction targets. We were one of the first companies in the world to set a 1.5°C aligned science based target and today’s announcement underpins our commitment to becoming a greener more sustainable business.

“Our efforts alone aren’t enough though, which is why we’re calling on all other businesses to take action – working with their customers, colleagues and suppliers to make a difference.”

BT has confirmed that it helped its customers save 13 million tonnes of carbon last year – three times as much carbon as its own end-to-end carbon emissions – achieving its 3:1 carbon abatement target one year early.

Last year, BT has confirmed that all of its offices and shops globally are powered by 100% renewable electricity. The switch to renewable electricity will see BT’s carbon emissions in the year to March 2021 fall by an estimated 54,000 tonnes compared to last financial year

The BT Pension Scheme will also aim to achieve net-zero emissions across all three scopes by 2035, which will cover all of its £55bn portfolio that it invests on behalf of the 300,000 current and ex-members of the BT Group. The commitment will be met by reducing emissions in the Pension Scheme’s existing portfolio and investing in low-carbon assets.

Sky’s the limit

In related news, broadcaster Sky has confirmed that interim targets for its net-zero ambition have been approved by the SBTi.

In February last year, Sky committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 through strategies to make its products more energy efficient, its film and TV more sustainable and by engaging consumers and the value chain to “go zero”.

Sky’s commitment will see its entire fleet of 5,000 vehicles transition to zero emissions by 2030, alongside initiatives to make the technology products it offers and launches more efficient. TV and film recorded by the broadcaster will also be covered under the net-zero carbon ambition as well.

It binds Sky to reducing emissions from business operations, suppliers and customers (during the use of its products) by at least 50%, then investing in robust, nature-based offsetting schemes to address residual emissions. Sky has notably received carbon-neutral certification for its business operations every year since 2006.

Sky’s chief executive Dana Strong said: “Having our ambitious targets approved by the Science Based Targets initiative shows the integrity of our Sky Zero commitment.

“We will report transparently and show how our carbon reductions are in line with the recommendations of climate scientists. Now is the time for action, not just intention and as a Principal Partner and Media Partner for COP26, we want to drive real change, because the world cannot wait.”

Matt Mace

News

Energy Transition Costs

To achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century, global energy systems must undergo a wholesale switch to low-carbon and energy-efficient technologies. However, many models used to chart this transition imply that there are benefits in delaying investment in these technologies, waiting instead for R&D to drive down costs over time. Such models overlook findings from a vast literature showing that the costs of these technologies decline as a result of their use. Our new paper in Environmental Research Letters draws on evidence from more than 200 journal articles and concludes that policies promoting such “induced innovation” have been a clear factor behind the remarkable success of low-carbon technologies. This suggests that not only is urgent action essential to facilitate the clean energy transition, but the transition itself may also end up much cheaper than predicted.

Carbon Brief 12th May 2021 read more »

News

Construction

A spin-out company from Edinburgh is ramping up production of its eco-friendly bricks to more than two million per year after securing £1 million of funding from Zero Waste Scotland. Kenoteq, which is also preparing to announce details of its first round of seed funding, expects to begin commercial sales of its K-Briq next year following scale-up of its production line at Hamilton Waste & Recycling in Musselburgh. K-Briq is the first in a series of circular economy products the company plans to bring to market in the next few years. More than 90 per cent of Kenoteq’s bricks are made from recycled demolition and construction waste materials. They are said to produce just 10% of the CO2 emissions of a traditional fired brick, and require less than a tenth of the energy to manufacture. K-Briq is based on the work of Professor Gabriela Medero from Heriot-Watt University following more than a decade of research and development into the creation of low-carbon products from recycled construction waste. She and Kenoteq managing director Sam Chapman co-founded the business in January 2020.

Herald 13th May 2021 read more »

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