All the green business news from around the world this week
Al Gore warns November election will prove critical to US climate efforts
The days of Al Gore running in Presidential campaigns may be past, but that has not stopped the former Vice President taking steps to oppose Donald Trump’s re-election efforts.
Gore this week announced a new voter registration campaign through his Climate Reality Action Fund that will aim to ensure climate concerned voters in key states are properly registered to take part in November’s election. “For those of us concerned about the future of the Earth’s climate and balance, this election is extremely important,” he told BuzzFeed News. “Young people in particular have been both more concerned about climate than other age groups and traditionally less likely to vote in large percentages. I want to do everything I possibly can to contribute to the registration and turnout and voting by those who are concerned about the climate crisis.”
The campaign kicked off this week with a voter registration rally at the Texas Southern University, a historically black public college in Houston, followed by events at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the University of Pittsburgh. Further events are planned at college and university campuses in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
The move comes in the same week as new polling from the Pew Research Centre revealed concern about climate change and environmental issues among US voters is at record high levels, providing evidence climate policy is likely to prove a key battleground in an election where the gap between Republicans and Democrats on environmental issues is set to be wider than ever.
New $1m sustainable food innovation competition launched
Sweden’s Curt Bergfors Foundation has this week launched what is being hailed as “the world’s largest prize in the food arena”, announcing it is to offer two $1m prizes each year under the banner of the Food Planet Prize awards. One prize will be awarded to an existing scalable solution for sustainable foods, while the second will be awarded for innovative initiatives that could transform the global food sector.
“These are challenges that we all need to engage in,” said Curt Bergfors, a renowned hospitality entrepreneur in Sweden. “Our food system is broken, and the planet is ailing. We are all part of the problem, and we must all try to be partof the solution. I want to contribute through the foundation and these awards.”
Nominations for The Food Planet Prize are now open with the first prizes due to be awarded later in 2020. The nominations will be evaluated by an international jury of leading scientists, policymakers, and entrepreneurs, chaired by Johan Rockström, executive director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Line Gordon, director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University.
North Macedonia praised for coal to solar project
The government of North Macedonia has launched a tender to develop two large scale solar farms on the site of an old coal mine in the country, securing praise from an EU-backed agency in the process.
Reuters reported that the government of the aspiring member state has teamed up with state power utility to seek investors to build two solar plants with a combined capacity of up to 100 megawatts (MW) at the site of the coal mine in western village of Oslomej.
The Balkans are home to some of Europe’s largest and most polluting coal plants and support for the EU’s planned net zero emissions goal is likely to become a factor in the accession plans for some of the states in the region.
As such, the Energy Community, an international body established by the EU and nine aspiring member states, hailed the project as an important template for other countries to follow. “With this project, North Macedonia shows an excellent example of how coal regions can be profitably transformed, providing new employment opportunities for former coal workers and driving sustainable regional development,” Janez Kopac, the head of the Vienna-based Energy Community Secretariat, said in a statement.
Coronovirus outbreak set to cut China CO2 emissions
A new analysis by Carbon Brief has calculated that Chinese carbon emissions have likely fallen by a quarter in the past two weeks, as the coronovirus outbreak has drastically curbed industrial output and travel across the country.
The website detailed how coal use at power stations is now at a four year low, while oil refinery operating rates have also fallen sharply alongside steel production. Domestic flights are also reportedly down 70 per cent year-on-year, while levels of NO2 air pollution have fallen 36 per cent.
“All told, the measures to contain coronavirus have resulted in reductions of 15 per cent to 40 per cent in output across key industrial sectors,” the report stated. “This is likely to have wiped out a quarter or more of the country’s CO2 emissions over the past two weeks, the period when activity would normally have resumed after the Chinese new-year holiday.”
However, analysts have predicted that any emissions savings are likely to prove shortlived, given the government is widely expected to launch a major economic stimulus once the outbreak is contained – a move that has traditionally led to a spike in emissions and industrial production ramps up.
VW shuts down German coal plants
Having already announced sweeping plans for a multi-billion Euro investment in the electrification of its fleet, auto giant VW has further bolstered its green credentials with news it is to shut down two of its German coal plants.
Chief executive Herbert Diess confirmed in a LinkedIn post that the company would not only shut two coal-fired power stations at its main plant in Wolfsburg, but it has rejected offers to sell them as the firm looks to deliver on its carbon emissions goals.
“I have already declined offers from several interested parties who wanted to buy our old Wolfsburg coal plants and rebuild them elsewhere in the world,” Diess said.
Volkswagen said it would replace the coal-fired power stations with gas turbine plants that are expected to cut emissions from the factory by 60 per cent.
French ski resort flies in snow
The escalating climate impacts faced by the winter sports industry were highlighted again this week, as the BBC reported on how a ski resort in the Pyrenees is using helicopters to deliver snow to sloped following mild weather.
The Luchon-Superbagnères resort in the Pyrenees arranged for around 50 tonnes of snow to be dropped on its slopes, as temperatures rose to around 10C.
In order to keep Luchon-Superbagnères open, the local council arranged for snow to be ferried to its slopes at a cost of more than €5,000.
UAE nuclear power plant clears final hurdle
The United Arab Emirates is set to flick the switch on the Arab world’s first commercial nuclear power plant, after the country’s regulatory watchdog granted approval this week to the operator of the Barakah reactor.
Built and run by a joint venture with Korea Electric Power Corp, the final approval paves the way for commercial operation to get underway in the next few months. The project is the latest step in a wide-ranging strategy from the country as it looks to diversify its economy and curb its reliance on fossil fuel power.
Study: EU firms failing to provide adequate climate risk disclosure
A study of disclosures from 1,000 European firms carried out by the Alliance for Corporate Transparency, an initiative launched by public interest law firm Frank Bold, has revealed that while 36.2 per cent of firms had set a climate target, only 13.9 per cent have ensured their goals align with the Paris Agreement. Similarly, just under a quarter of the firms analysed provided specific information to help investors understand the climate risks facing their organisation, despite the fact over half recognised such risks exist.
Filip Gregor, head of responsible companies at Frank Bold, told Reuters it was “alarming” so few companies were delivering targets and strategies in line with the Paris Agreement. “The results of the research show that existing EU legislation is not meeting its objectives and it seems that the only way to address the problem is to specify what companies should be reporting,” he said. “We need to be careful not to provide criteria that are too detailed or to over-regulate companies, but there is a clear space and need for very targeted sector-specific clarifications on mandatory requirements for reporting.”