Vladimir Putin's worm worries, Green Climate Fund progress, and all the news from around the world this week
KLM launches campaign to encourage people to fly less
Dutch airline KLM has this week marked its 100th anniversary with the unusual step of launching a new campaign designed to encourage passengers to fly less.
CEO Pieter Elbers this week published an open letter under the banner "fly responsibly", which asks customers "do you always have to meet face-to-face?" and "could you take the train instead?" The campaign also advises passengers to pack lightly to help reduce fuel use and consider purchasing credible carbon offsets when they do fly.
The move comes as the French government announced plans for a new 'eco-tax' on all flights leaving the country, which will help raise funds for investment in public transport. Meanwhile, European Commission president nominee Ursula von der Leyen called on MEPs to consider extending the EU's emissions trading scheme to more fully cover the aviation sector.
"It has been restricted to some areas only," she said of the bloc's carbon market. "I think we should talk about having it expanded on the maritime sector, on the aviation sector, and we will have to discuss traffic and construction buildings. Because that's where the main part of the problem for CO2 emissions is."
However, some aviation chiefs remain less than impressed with marketing and policy measures designed to curb demand for flights. Speaking in his role as chair of the Airlines for Europe group this week, Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary told reporters that the sector was "sensitive to the criticism that we are getting a free ride on the environment because frankly it is not true". "We have a very good case to push back against these NGOs like the flight shame movement because actually this is an industry that is performing remarkably well and meeting its obligations towards a greener, cleaner planet," he added.
Aircraft fuel efficiency has improved in recent years, however, the sector continues to account for a growing share of global emissions and critics are sceptical new low carbon technologies can emerge quickly enough to bring the industry into line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Vladimir Putin voices wind turbine worm fears
Russia is set to submit legislation to ratify the Paris Agreement before September, ensuring one of the world's largest polluters formally adopts the international treaty.
Deputy prime minister Alexei Gordeev last week ordered the ministries of environment and foreign affairs to prepare a bill to ratify the Agreement by September 1.
A government statement announcing the move said ratification of the Paris Agreement "could give Russia additional opportunities to participate in all negotiation processes and protect its interests in international fora that define the rules for reducing CO2 emissions and develop relevant documents".
However, the Russian government continues to send somewhat mixed signals over its decarbonisation plans as it works to defend its position as a major gas exporter.
Speaking at an industry conference this week President Vladimir Putin acknowledged Russia was facing worsening climate impacts in the form of "more and more acute" droughts, bad harvests, and natural disasters.
However, he stressed that renewable energy should not lead to "the complete abandonment of nuclear or hydrocarbon energy" and offered a new critique of wind turbines' impact on biodiversity. "Everybody knows wind energy is good, but are they remembering about the birds in this case?" he said. "How many birds are dying? They shake so much that worms come out of the ground. Really, it's not a joke, it's a serious consequence of these modern ways of getting energy. I'm not saying that it doesn't need to be developed, of course, but we shouldn't forget about the problems associated with it."
Green Climate Fund streamlines approval process
Following years of in-fighting and delays signs are emerging that the international Green Climate Fund could start to step up its support for emissions-saving projects in developing countries.
Climate Home News reported this week that the flagship UN programme has agreed to tweak its governance rules so that no single country can veto project funding in the future. Projects can now be approved with 80 per cent backing, potentially making it easier to select projects and mobilise finance.
The board also approved $267m of funding for 10 projects, taking its total commitments to date to $5.23bn. The latest meeting comes ahead of a crucial summit this autumn when the fund is hoping to secure a fresh wave of capital from donor countries. Following a series of delays in setting up the fund it is now running through its initial capital faster than expected after the US controversially withheld promised funding.
US officials update clean energy outlook
The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has "dramatically" revised its three year forecast for the US electricity mix, according to a new analysis from the SUN DAY Campaign. The renewable energy group said the government was now expectying to see sharp declines for fossil fuels and nuclear power alongside even stronger growth for renewable energy than had been previously projected.
If FERC's latest data proves accurate, in three years' time coal's share of US installed generating capacity will drop from 21.54 per cent to 19.49 per cent. In contrast, renewable energy sources will see their share expand to just under a quarter with wind alone accounting for over a tenth of capacity and utility-scale solar delivering at 4.46 per cemt.
"The revisions in FERC's latest three-year projections underscore the dramatic changes taking place in the nation's electrical generating mix," said Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. "Renewable energy sources are rapidly displacing uneconomic and environmentally dangerous fossil fuels and nuclear power - even faster than FERC had anticipated only a month ago."
Madrid judge reinstates low emission zone
The battle over controversial plans to axe Madrid's low emission zone escalated this week, as a judge blocked plans by the new city council to scrap the traffic restrictions.
Introduced by the previous left-leaning city council the Madrid Central zone has been credited with almost halving nitrogen dioxide levels in parts of the city. However, the scheme was suspended last week by the new right-wing council, prompting immediate legal action from green groups.
A judge ruled this week that pollution levels needed to be addressed and the restrictions should be introduced. "The judge's ruling not only accepts our plea but also suspends the agreement the council reached on June 27 to abandon the scheme," Paco Segura, a coordinator of Ecologists in Action, was quoted as saying by the Guardian. "Madrid Central is now operating just as it was before."
However, the city council said it would appeal the decision and that the end of the scheme had only been "temporarily suspended".
Study: Australia on track to become one of the world's worst polluters
A new analysis has warned that Australia could emerge as one of the world's worst polluters if other countries deliver on their emissions reduction plans at the same time as the Australian government delivers on its fossil fuel expansion drive.
An analysis this week by Berlin-based science and policy institute Climate Analytics calculated that when its domestic emissions are combined with the emissions from its coal, oil, and gas exports Australia is already responsible for around five per cent of global emissions.
It adds that if Australia delivers on its current fossil fuel expansion plans while other countries meet the goals they have set under the Paris Agreement, then the country's emissions could account for up to 17 per cent of global emissions by 2030.
IKEA parent snaps up US forest
IKEA parent company Ingka Group has acquired approximately 17,000 acres of forestland in South Carolina, in a move the company said would bolster its sustainability and give the retail giant greater control over its supply chain.
"This new acquisition marks a strong foundation for us to invest in the lower coastal plain of South Carolina, where the forestland offers both quality wood and good regeneration capacities," said Krister Mattsson, managing director Ingka Investments. "We are actively looking to increase our portfolio in the US, as we see a good match between what the market has to offer and our high standards related to responsible forest management."
Vattenfall secures landmark subsidy-free offshore wind deal
Swedish energy giant Vattenfall emerged as the winner this week in the latest offshore wind energy auction from the Dutch government, paving the way for the development of the 760MW 'subsidy-free' Hollandse Kust Zuid (HKZ) 3 & 4 offshore wind farm.
Completion and commissioning of the project is now expected by 2023.
The auction delivered the second subsidy-free offshore wind farm for the Netherlands following Vattenfall's successful 2018 bid for the 700MW Hollandse Kust Zuid (HKZ) 1 & 2 project.
"This is excellent news for Vattenfall, our partners and the Dutch energy transition," said Magnus Hall, CEO of Vattenfall. "It means a significant step for Vattenfall in view of our ambition to make fossil-free living possible within one generation and to grow in renewable energy production. The Netherlands is an important market for us and this will be one of our biggest offshore projects. We are looking forward to contribute with this project to the transformation of the Dutch energy system."
WindEurope CEO, Giles Dickson, hailed the auction as another major milestone for the fast expanding offshore wind market.
"This auction shows yet again that offshore wind is now very competitive - and is consistent with Bloomberg data that shows offshore wind is now the cheapest form of new power in North Western Europe apart from onshore wind," he said in a statement.
China approves support for 22GW solar development pipeline
In the same week as leading analyst firm BNEF revealed changes to Chinese subsidy schemes led to a slowdown in global clean energy investment during the first half of the year, Chinese officials appear to have paved the way for a rapid revival in solar investment levels.
PV-tech reported today that China's National Energy Administration (NEA) has approved nearly 22GW of new solar capacity through the country's new feed-in tariffs scheme.
China's development pipeline has slowed in recent months as the government prepared to switch to a reverse auction system designed to help drive down the cost of renewable energy projects. However, as BNEF predicted, the first round of auctions looks set to unlock a new wave of investment with Asia Europe Clean Energy Advisory (AECEA) predicting the approvals could result in 38-42GW of solar capacity being installed in the country this year.
PV-tech said the lowest bid came in at RMB0.2795/kWh, just over US$0.04.
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