Maitland Green: Our weekly update – 19 May 2017
Global goings on
Concern for the environment and climate action was shown by (nearly) all of the main parties in their manifestos this week, with only UKIP maintaining an official stance of climate scepticism. Commitments to the green economy included promises for a faster pace of decarbonisation, higher levels of investment in clean technologies, and a more responsible approach to curbing fossil fuel investment—most notably through a ban on fracking. The Climate Action Tracker proved that such strong political consensus is crucial to mobilising meaningful action for the environment, as their recent analysis showed that the US is set to fall short of their Paris climate commitments without the implementation of the Obama-era climate action plan by the Trump administration. Regardless, China and India are due to blow past their targets, picking up the slack that the US will leave behind. France is also due to strengthen its commitment to the environment, after appointing figures with strong green credentials to the offices of prime minister and environment minister. Major strides have also been made by developing countries against the fossil fuel industry, with the UN agreeing to require lobbyists to declare conflicts of interest when taking part in climate talks to promote “openness and transparency”. A $2bn innovation prize to combat plastic waste in oceans was also announced today through the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit.
All of the main parties have confirmed that climate action is crucial and have made pledges to delivering it this week with the launch of their manifestos. The strong cross party consensus shows that the UK could yet become a real green leader in the Western world, as political disagreement continues to prove difficult for mobilising climate action in the US, Australia, and Canada. The Conservatives pledged to produce a 25 Year Environmental Plan, plant 12m trees, and promised to support wind projects in Scotland. Labour promised to introduce a new Clear Air Act, “plant a million trees of native species to promote biodiversity”, and set up targets for plastic bottle deposit schemes. The Liberal Democrats promised to pass a Zero-Carbon Britain Act which will set a legally binding target to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2040 and to zero by 2050, a Green Transport Act and an Air Quality Plan to reduce air pollution, and a Zero-Waste Act to cut waste.
Business Green, 18 May
A new analysis of climate action released on Monday from the Climate Action Tracker found that, while the US is due to fall short of its commitments to the Paris Climate Accord, both India and China are set to surpass their climate pledges. Under the Paris agreement, China has pledged to peak its carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2030 and increase the non-fossil fuel share of its energy consumption to around 20 percent. India has pledged to boost its non-fossil fuel energy share to at least 40 percent by 2030. Now, new developments in both countries’ energy landscapes have put them ahead of the game in terms of meeting their goals, largely thanks to a decrease in coal consumption in both countries. The analysis suggests that annual emissions from the two countries combined are on track to be about 2-3bn tons lower in the year 2030 than previous estimates have indicated. This is more than enough to outweigh the actions of the Trump administration, which the analysis suggests will likely make a difference of about 400 million tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2030 compared to what they would have been otherwise.
The Washington Post, 15 May
France is set for a renewables boom under newly elected president Emmanuel Macron, according to his choice for prime minister—Edouard Philippe. On a radio interview, Philippe said that the government would pursue “rapid, massive and visible” renewable energy development and nuclear, which supplies three quarters of the country’s electricity, will also continue to provide a “secure base”. His comments followed the appointment of prominent environmental campaigner Nicolas Hulot as minister responsible for energy and ecology on Wednesday. Hulot has advised previous presidents and pushed green issues onto the political agenda, but never held office before. In a tweet, he said the role offered “a new opportunity for action I cannot ignore”. In his manifesto, Macron said he would stick to a target of reducing France’s reliance on nuclear to 50% by 2025. He aims to double wind and solar capacity and phase out coal power by 2022.
Climate Home, 18 May
A push from developing countries to force fossil fuel lobbyists taking part in UN climate talks to declare their conflicts of interest has won a significant battle against resistance from the world’s biggest economies including the European Union, US and Australia. The UN framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) has agreed to enhance “openness and transparency” for outside parties and will accept submissions from any stakeholder – which could be any person or group affected by climate change or climate change policy – on how it could do so. “The result was pretty good – understanding that the world’s largest economic powers were adamantly opposed to anything to do with integrity or conflict of interest at all,” said Jesse Bragg from Corporate Accountability International, which has been running a campaign on the issue.
The Guardian, 17 May
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit launched a $2m innovation prize, calling on companies to create new ways of designing packaging that limits the amount of plastic polluting the oceans. In order to eliminate plastic waste, the two foundations have issued the prize competition based on two parallel challenges: providing closed-loop solutions for small-format plastic packaging and finding alternative recyclable materials to plastic. Dame Ellen MacArthur said: “There is now a realisation that the system doesn’t work, we’ve learnt this over the years. The system is very much broken and innovation is absolutely one of things we have to introduce to crack this. It’s essential that packaging is designed for a system that doesn’t see the value of plastic packaging lost on the economy.” Winners of the prize will gain visibility amongst major businesses alongside a share of the $2m grant. Successful applicants will also enter a 12-month accelerator platform for commercial guidance and scalability requirements. The prize will be funded by the New Plastic Economy Initiative which uncovered that as much as $80-120bn of plastic packaging material value is lost to the economy due to a linear, take-make-dispose value chain.
Edie, 18 May
2017 G7 Summit
52nd Meeting of the GEF Council
Washington D.C., USA