All the need-to-know green business news from around the world this week
Are coal's prospects going up in smoke?
The number of coal-fired power plants under construction around the world fell sharply in 2018, according to a new report which has raised hopes that the tide could be turning on coal power.
The paper, released this week by Global Energy Monitor, Greenpeace India, and the Sierra Club, reported a 20 per cent drop in newly completed coal plants in 2018, a 39 per cent drop in new construction starts, and a 24 per cent fall in the number of plants in pre-construction.
Meanwhile, coal plants in developed countries continue to be retired at a record pace - in the US 17.6GW of coal capacity was shuttered last year.
However, it's also worth noting that global greenhouse gas emissions went up in 2018, in large part due to the continued rise in coal use across Asia. The paper noted that developers in China have quietly restarted construction on dozens of suspended projects.
"Since 2015, the amount of coal-fired capacity under development has fallen by sixty percent," said Christine Shearer, researcher and analyst for Global Energy Monitor. "But just currently operating coal plants alone are incompatible with keeping global warming to well below two degrees. We need to radically phase down coal plant use over the next decade to keep on track for Paris climate goals."
Ireland raises renewable power target to 70 per cent
Ireland wants to increase the share of renewable power in its electricity mix to 70 per cent by 2030, the country's climate action minister Richard Bruton said this week.
The plan represents a major uplift on the current target of 55 per cent green power by 2030, but will be backed by more investment in smart grid technologies, batteries, and interconnector supply.
"We must step up our response to climate disruption. We have a very short window of opportunity in which to take action," Bruton said, according to the Irish Independent newspaper. "This target will require investment in onshore and offshore wind and other renewable technologies."
"To deliver this target will require significant leadership from the Government but we are determined to deliver on our climate commitments," he added. "It will challenge the capacity of our electricity grid."
Australia launches its own green finance initiative
Australia is following in the footsteps of the UK, the EU, and Canada, in creating an expert group tasked with drawing up a green finance roadmap for the country's economy.
The Australian Sustainable Finance Initiative (ASFI) launched this week and features experts from banks, insurers, and industry groups. It will be chaired by Sarah Barker, head of climate risk governance at MinterEllison.
Similar initiatives in other countries have proposed stricter obligations on banks and investors to consider the climate risks for their investments and recommended the development of new consumer products such as green mortgages.
"It seems that every day is bringing another new development in sustainable finance and climate-related financial risks," Barker said. "From energy policy, to mining development approvals, prudential and securities regulation, shareholder resolutions and misleading disclosure claims, sustainability and climate change have become relevant to - and material for - a broad swathe of sectors across the Australian economy.
"With an issue this dynamic, it can be difficult for government, regulators and the financial sector to keep track of the implications. Australia joins the growing number of countries taking a proactive approach to building a sustainable finance foundation to their economies to set them up for the immense challenges ahead."
Senate defeats Green New Deal, but Democrats battle on
US Senators voted to block Green New Deal legislation this week, a policy which would have seen huge investment channelled into carbon reduction efforts and low-carbon infrastructure developments.
Few expected the legislation to get through the Republican-controlled Senate, and in a vote on Tuesday the Senate voted 0-57 against the motion, with most Democrat Senators voting 'Present' rather than in favour.
But yesterday US lawmakers came back with more climate proposals, with Senator Chris Van Hollen and Representative Don Beyer proposing the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act.
The Act would take a "cap and dividend" approach, limiting carbon emissions over the next 20 years and funneling the proceeds of permit sales back to American citizens as a 'Healthy Climate Dividend'.
It proposes to cap carbon emissions at 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, rising to 80 per cent by 2040.
"The dangers of climate change are front and center in our everyday lives and only getting worse - we must take real steps to fight back," said Senator Hollen. "The Healthy Climate and Family Security Act caps the amount of carbon emissions, requires polluters to pay, and transmits the proceeds straight into the pockets of American families in the form of a dividend. This bill will spur economic growth and encourage the development of clean technologies. I urge Congress to take up this measure immediately - it's clear this issue can't wait."
Any and all climate policy measures will almost inevitably be blocked by Republicans in Congress and President Trump in the White House, but the various proposals now being put forward are laying the groundwork for climate change to become a central issue in next year's Presidential election.
Indonesia promises to 'mainstream' low carbon development
Indonesia has this week promised to 'mainstream' low-carbon development after a report concluded that was the best route to economic growth for the nation.
If Indonesia chooses a development pathway that preserves virgin forests, ramps up renewable power use and curbs coal power, Indonesia's GDP could grow by 5.6 per cent through to 2024, and six per cent through to 2045, Climate Home reports.
Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro appeared to accept the report's findings, stating: "For the first time, Indonesia will systematically mainstream [low carbon development] into development planning. The progress of our growth is not only measured by GDP, but also environmental sustainability, resource efficiency and social justice. This transformation is both exciting and challenging."
Vietnam could pioneer low-carbon coffee
Vietnamese farmers could cut the carbon footprint of their coffee crop by growing a range of different plants alongside their coffee species.
According to a new report released this week by DH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative, found that co-planting coffee with peppers and avocados - when combined with smarter fertiliser use and water efficiency efforts - could turn coffee plantations in carbon sinks.
Monocrop coffee farms are net sources of carbon, releasing 0.37 metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere per year per metric ton of coffee produced. Conversely, diversified coffee farms are carbon sinks, removing 0.16 metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere per year per metric ton of coffee produced, it found.
"This research brings hope that communities and coffee farmers can become more climate-resilient, and our coffee more sustainable," said Daan Wensing, director of global landscapes at IDH. "Together with more efficient fertilizer and water use, diversification can be at the forefront of efforts to make coffee production carbon positive."
Tech giant quadruples number of locations for US customers to hand in old iPhones as part of recycling and reuse drive
GreenBiz releases its latest update on soaring renewables demand from US corporates
Record amount of future new wind capacity will be financed from last year's investment, according to WindEurope
Nation known for its natural beauty is under pressure with extinctions, polluted rivers and blighted lakes