Plus Biden’s draft budget plans, France’s plant-based diet plan, and all the rest of the top green business news from around the world this week
EU emissions fall by almost four per cent in 2019
Greenhouse gas emissions across the European Union’s 27 member states fell by an average of 3.8 per cent in 2019, largely thanks to the ongoing decarbonisation of the heat and power industry through the bloc’s emissions trading system (ETS), European Environment Agency (EEA) shows.
The data released on Monday does not include the UK, which finalised its exit from the EU earlier this year, but nevertheless shows emissions across the remaining 27 countries have fallen by around a quarter since 1990.
Almost 80 per cent of the net reduction in emissions achieved in 2019, the most recent year for which finalised data is available, took place in the heat and power sector via the ETS, through which the cost per tonne of CO2 has surged in recent years.
Increasing carbon prices and gas becoming relatively cheaper compared to coal led to a significant reduction in coal use during 2019, which helped to drive down CO2 as the onus shifted towards gas and renewable energy sources, the EEA said.
Emissions also fell in other industrial sectors and residential buildings that year due to a warmer winter and lower demand for heating, but CO2 from the transport sector continued to increase, largely driven by growing fuel consumption from passenger cars on Europe’s roads.
Emissions from passenger cars in Europe have been rising for the past five years even despite growing demand for electric vehicles, in many cases due to increasing sales of carbon-intensive sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and other larger and heavier cars, the EEA said.
EU carbon border import tax plans take shape
Meanwhile, the EU is also continuing to develop proposals to implement a levy on imports of carbon intensive products, with an expectation that a carbon border tax plan could emerge in July that would mark a world first for such a policy.
The European Commission is keen to introduce a carbon border adjustment mechanism system that would impose a levy on goods such as steel, cement, aluminium, electricity and fertilisers produced in countries with lower environmental standards.
The Commission is reportedly considering a transition period to the new carbon border mechanism of up to three years before it comes fully into force in January 2026, according to a draft proposal seen by Bloomberg. The final proposals are expected to emerge in mid-July.
Biden’s draft budget touts $14bn US climate spending
US President Joe Biden has proposed a $6tr domestic budget for the 2022 fiscal year, with his draft plan unveiled last week setting out a raft of proposals to boost jobs, infrastructure spending and combat greenhouse gas emissions.
The draft Budget proposals include $14bn in new spending across government agencies to climate policies and programmes, as well as a request to Congress to approve $1.2bn for the UN’s Green Climate Fund, which was created through the Paris Agreement to support climate-vulnerable nations.
The Environmental Protection Agency – which regulates greenhouse gas emission and air pollution but saw its powers significantly curtailed under the Trump administration – would also receive a 22 per cent budget increase under Biden’s plans, amounting to a total of $11.2bn support.
And, among other proposals to invest in plugging old oil and gas wells, clean up abandoned mines and spend $10m on air quality monitoring, the draft Budget also proposes more than $800m over the next decade in spending and tax breaks to support clean energy technologies, randing from hydrogen to nuclear power, according to the New York Times.
France seeks culture change towards plant-based diets
France has long been known as one of the world’s top culinary destinations, where meat tends to loom large on traditional restaurant menus, but its government is now looking towards policy to drive a culture shift towards more plant-based, climate-friendly diets, it seems.
Last weekend French environment minister Barbara Pompili revealed that proposals are currently being developed that would ensure meat is off the menu at least once per week in schools, and that chefs are trained in how to prepare healthy, plant-based meals, according to The Guardian.
Full details of the proposals have yet to be unveiled, but they form part of the government’s efforts to draw up a climate and resilience bill to accelerate France towards its 2050 net zero emissions goal, although some traditionalists of French cuisine are reportedly not too happy about the plans.
But Pompili said the changes being proposed would boost French farming by putting a greater onus on local food, while also helping to cut carbon and improve health. “Developing a vegetarian offer means acting for the climate, against deforestation, while giving canteens more room to purchase high-quality, locally produced meat that is better for the environment,” she said. “Everyone wins.”
Russian parliament approves law to limit greenhouse gas emissions
Widely-regarded as a laggard when it comes to taking climate action, Russia has now moved one step closer towards passing what would be its first major law aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions, according to The Independent.
Russia’s parliament passed a bill on Tuesday that would force the country’s most carbon intensive companies to report on their emissions, the newspaper reports.
However, the bill must now secure approval from the country’s president in order to become law, and Vladimir Putin has – despite officially bringing Russia into the folds of the Paris Agreement in 2019 – rarely demonstrated significant ambition to tackle greenhouse gases from the oil- and gas-rich nation.
Romania pledges to exit coal by 2032
Romania has set its sights on phasing out coal power from its energy mix by 2032 backed by fresh measures designed to support and retrain affected workers, in a major a coronavirus recovery plan unveiled by the EU nation’s government yesterday.
The country aims to set up a Coal Commission to oversee the shift away from the carbon-intensive power source, following in the wake of similar ‘just transition’ measures unveiled by Germany and Czech Republic. The majority of EUY countries have now set phase-out dates for coal power, with 14 aiming to do so within the current decade, according to Euractiv.
GWEC: Global wind power surge requires half a million new workers
The global wind power sector will need to train up around 480,000 workers in order to industry-certified standards in order to meet surging demand for new clean energy capacity over the next four years, according to a coalition of trade and consultancy groups.
These near-half-a-million workers will need to be trained to construct, install, operate and maintain the world’s rapidly growing fleet of onshore and offshore wind farms, and yet this figures still only represents a fraction of the job opportunities available in the expanding sector, they claim.
The estimates come in analysis led by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) alongside the Global Wind Organisation (GWO) and the Renewables Consulting Group, and is based on forecasts estimating as much as 490GW of new wind power is set to come online by 2025.
“The wind industry needs to scale up at an unprecedented rate over the next decade to put the world on track to meet net zero,” said Ben Backwell, CEO at GWEC. “If ambition is scaled up to what it needs to be – three or four times current market forecasts – the workforce training requirements will be far higher than what was found in this report. To meet this challenge, we need to prepare now for the workforce of the future, and this means training hundreds of thousands of workers across the world to be part of one of the fastest-growing industries. But we need to ensure this workforce is trained to the highest global standards to ensure the health and safety of all.”
VW accelerates plans to turn Greek island into green energy hub
Volkswagen’s partnership with the government of Greece to transform the island of Astypalaia into a green energy island powered by smart grid technologies is now seeing the first fully electric vehicles in support of the project being used by police, the council and at the local airport, the firm has revealed.
The German car giant claims it is using Astypalaia as a test bed for creating “the model green island of the future” over the next five years, by making up to 200 electric vehicles available to rent by tourists, as well as replacing the existing buses on the island with EV car and ride sharing services.
EVs will also be made available for private buyers on the island, with charging infrastructure powered by “locally produced green energy”, according to VW.