The Clean Tech News
O2 pledges to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025

Mobile network O2 has announced plans to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.

The company said it will work with its supply chain partners to reduce emissions across its entire business and network over the next five years.

O2, which is part of Telefonica, said the plans will involve switching third-party landlords that support 02’s network over the renewable energy.

Every office, every store, every mast. We will get the changes done to be a net zero business by 2025.

Mark Evans, O2

It will also aim to reduce emissions in its supply chain by 30% by the 2025 target.

The firm’s chief executive Mark Evans said: “Today, we’re putting a stake in the ground. We want to go further and faster, setting the bar in our industry to tackle climate change and build the greenest network for our customers.

“Every office, every store, every mast. We will get the changes done to be a net zero business by 2025.

“Mobile can play a pivotal role to make our country more sustainable. From smart metering to smarter working.

“O2 will work with suppliers, partners and customers to ensure that this industry plays its part in delivering a greener country for us all.”

O2 said it would report on its progress against the commitments annually and will have them independently assessed and audited.

Hugh Jones, managing director of business services at The Carbon Trust, which advises businesses on reducing their emissions, said: “We are pleased to have worked with O2 for over a decade and most recently providing advice on the reduction of their supply chain emissions by 30% by 2025.

“This is a crucial step in helping the company achieve its ambitions.”

BMW offers 9,000 euros discount by switching from diesel to fully electric

MW is committed to an electric future, therefore, they are now introducing an environmental bonus worth 9,000 euros. To get the full amount, one would have to switch from a BMW or MINI diesel with the Euro 4 or Euro 5 emissions standard to a clean BMW i3 as a new car.

The BMW environmental bonus is paired with a state environmental bonus in order to reach the full amount. The total of 9,000 euros will then consist of two parts: On one hand, BMW is promoting the switch from older diesel vehicles to new models with low CO2 emissions with its in-house environmental bonus.

If the new car emits a maximum of 140 grams of CO2 per kilometer, in accordance with the NEDC, and has the Euro 4 or Euro 5 emissions standard, there is an environmental bonus of EUR 3,000.

Next, there is at least 2,000 euros if, instead of a new car, a customer buys a used eco-friendly car. The caveat here is that the pre-owned BMW cannot be older than 12 months and with a mileage no more than 15,000 kilometers.

Because the 3,000 Euros BMW environmental bonus is not offset against state subsidies, an environmental bonus of up to 6,000 euro can be added.

If you want to get the full 6,000 euros, you have to buy a purely electric car with a maximum list price of 40,000 euros, for example a BMW i3. With a net list price between 40,000 and 65,000 euros, there is still a 5,000 euro environmental bonus.

The purchase of a plug-in hybrid is also subsidized by the state. In this case, the environmental bonus is € 3,750 (the car’s price has to be between € 40,000 and € 65,000) or even € 4,500 (up to € 40,000).

In combination with the BMW environmental bonus, a discount of up to € 7,500 can also be achieved for plug-in hybrids. The BMW 225xe Active Tourer and the BMW X1 and X2 xDrive25eremain below a net list price of 40,000 euros.

Oil Giant Shell to become Carbon-Net-Zero by 2050.

Royal Dutch Shell has announced a net-zero emissions target aiming to reduce its carbon footprint exponentially by 2050.

Ben van Beurden, Shell’s Chief Executive, has stated social expectation for oil and gas firms are changing rapidly.

Shell claimed its “ambition” is to reduce emissions from their own manufacturing operations of all their products to net-zero by 2050. Its aim is ensuring carbon intensity of products sold would be cut 30% by 2035, and 65% by 2050.

Shell recently secured a $12 billion credit facility to help protect its dividend as its share price dropped by 40% since the beginning of 2020. Despite these hardships in these unprecedented times, van Beurden stated, “At this time of immediate challenge, we must also maintain the focus on the long term.”

Shell and its competitors have been grappling with low fuel and oil prices due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with demand for products becoming higher each day. Shell intends to become carbon-neutral by offsetting their emissions through using new carbon capture technologies alongside natural means; planting trees.

Van Beurden continued; “Shell now needs to go further with our own ambitions, which is why we aim to be a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 or sooner. Society and our customers expect nothing less”. These targets rely on the company shifting its business towards selling renewable energy and biofuels. It also plans to work alongside its customer base to also help reduce their carbon impact.

Many who are part of ‘Climate Change 100+’, a group of investors, have applauded Shell on their plan and acknowledged it to be a significant step in the right direction for global climate action. This group has been regularly pushing for tougher targets at Shell and its competitors, and have welcomed this change.

“It proves that the strong and committed engagement of institutional investors with Shell can help accelerate the pace of change to deliver the goals of the Paris Agreement 2016,” said the Chief Investment Officer of Robeco. “It raises the bar and sets out an approach for others in the oil and gas sector to follow.”

Shell has also disclosed that it has financially aided industry groups such as the American Petroleum Industry, a trade association that has advocated tougher environmental restrictions on oil companies for years. Shell states it has spent at least $20 million to support groups such as the latter in the fight for tougher environmental restrictions.

Shell has claimed they have spent approximately $7.3 million on lobbying practices in the US last year, and approximately €4.5 million in the EU.

They have not disclosed what the financial impact could be on the company in order to meet the new targets. But they have stated that these goals have not been reflected in current operating plans and budgets, but will be implemented soon.

On the path to net zero: transport

Freight, home deliveries, commuting to and from workplaces: transport is now the UK’s biggest source of carbon emissions.
The UK government has committed to the country reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This means reducing carbon emissions in a number of areas, one of which is transport.

Projections of how the UK can reach net zero indicate that we will need to reduce our emissions from vehicles to zero by 2050. Petrol and diesel engine vehicles contribute the majority of our emissions and the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles will be phased out over the next 10-20 years.

The transport system urgently needs to decarbonise. Only when we have zero or very low carbon transportation can we consider unavoidable carbon emissions being be removed from the atmosphere via carbon capture, and storage, planting trees and so on. Then, once we reach an equilibrium of emissions and removals, that’s net zero.

Transport – the statistics
Since 1990, the UK economy has reduced its total greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 43.1%. Transport reduced its own mark by just 3% and now accounts for 28% of all UK greenhouse gases, some 90% of those are from road transport.

More than 60% of road journeys are by car and almost 80% of all goods we consume travel across the country in vans and trucks.

There are around 32 million cars on our roads, of which just 0.08% are electric, however according to Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) 3.1% of sales in 2019 were electric and this had risen to 5.9% year to date in February 2020.

Petrol and diesel vehicles are being phased out by 2040, with a consultation launched February 2020 to explore the inclusion of hybrids and bringing that date forward to 2035 or earlier.

With the average UK car having a 14-year lifespan, a 2032 final date for petrol/diesel new car sales would mean almost all petrol/diesel vehicles off the road by 2050, replaced by zero emission, predominantly electric vehicles.

Change is coming. The challenge for the UK is how to meet its net zero target while maintaining its transport-driven economy.

Holistic travel
cyclist’s point of view riding over a bridge in London
Tim Anderson, Head of Transport at Energy Saving Trust, said: “We have to think about this in an holistic way. This includes thinking about how we travel, why we need to travel and where, plus how we and our goods get from A to B and how many vehicles we have on the road.

We need a multi-pronged approach and much more of a shared system than we are used to. Public transport, walking and cycling more is part of the solution. We also need cleaner vehicles and new technology to reduce the need for travel”

The UK government’s Road to Zero Strategy, set out the many policies required to clean up the country’s road transport emissions. There is further policy development, setting increasingly challenging targets to support transport decarbonisation.

Zero emissions vehicles
The switch to battery electric cars, vans, buses and motorbikes is a vital part of the Road to Zero strategy and any further policies introduced to accelerate decarbonisation.

Electric vehicles emit no tailpipe emissions and they are cheaper to run. A typical petrol or diesel car uses £13-16 of fuel to cover 100 miles against £4-6 for an electric car over the same distance.

The UK’s renewable energy capacity is continually growing with electricity grid emissions predicted to fall by around 90% between now and 2050.

As more electric cars and vans join the roads, charging on greener electricity, transport emissions should tumble. It is important that the capacity of the grid is maintained.

In some cases, this will be through upgrading of existing infrastructure but it is also important to look forward to the wider implementation of technological solutions such as smart grids, smart charging, energy storage and Vehicle to Grid (V2G), which are now in development or being rolled out across the UK.

Tim Anderson continued: “We will still need cars in the future; people in rural areas will still need to move around, and car sharing, renting cars and not owning them, will all come into play.

Soon we will need to see bolder policies, to force airlines to think differently about how we fly – 100% electrification is not enough.”

Help with going electric
Electric car charging on the street
People buying a new car today can apply for a grant of up to £3,000 towards the cost of a new zero emission vehicle.

Van owners and businesses can get up to £8,000 as a grant for a zero emission van.

People buying a plug-in hybrid or pure electric vehicle (including used vehicles) can get a Plug In Grant of up to £350 towards the cost of installing a chargepoint at home.

There are more then 30,000 electric car chargepoints in Britain and that number is rising. New laws may require all new homes to be built with a chargepoint, too.

There are over 3,000 rapid chargers in the UK, which can recharge a car up to 80% battery capacity in 30-40 minutes. Ultra fast chargers are now being installed, which will charge cars more than five times as fast, assuming of course that your car is capable of charging at these higher rates.

Some local authorities are offering free parking spaces to electric vehicles, or allowing them to use the bus lanes. Scotland offers its residents low carbon transport loans, interest-free loans over six years, to help people with the purchase of an electric vehicle.

The government is committed to having its own fleet of cars completely ultra-low emission by 2030, plus there is funding for research into how to significantly reduce HGV emissions.

Energy Saving Trust helps public and business fleets, advising on how to reduce the impact of vehicle use as the end of petrol and diesel van sales nears. We are working with Go Ultra Low to promote the uptake of electric vehicles in fleets. There are a number of initiatives to support and advise fleets including the Energy Saving Trust Fleet Review.

Tim Anderson continued: “We help businesses assess the costs of electric vehicles and they want to adapt but there is a challenge around vehicle supply.

There is more work to do on vans, with new products arriving in the near future. Up to now, supply, range and cost have all been challenges and manufacturers need to respond to that.”

Another important business incentive will be available from April 6 onwards. Company car drivers can benefit from zero per cent company car tax in 2020-21, rising to 2% in 2022-23 and remaining at that level until 2024-25. That compares to rates of up to 37% company car tax on the most highly taxed models.

Tim added: “That’s potentially thousands in savings for company car drivers changing from a diesel company car to an electric one.

There is also the Grey Fleet, which is people that drive their own vehicle for work purposes. They get up to 45p a mile and so many people use their cars for work. We need to remove that incentive.”

Mobility as a service
Man using his mobile to call a taxi
Car ownership may change, too, with people sharing vehicles and many other forms of transport much more in the future.

Mobility as a Service aims to provide a technology-based, transport sharing system. It works in real-time, usually via an app, enabling users to plan for journeys using combinations of transport, combining car and bike shares with trains, buses and scooters.

People then pay for a travel pass to cover the various transport methods during a travel window, much like the Oyster Card system in London. The end result is usually a more convenient and affordable method of getting around.

Climate Change: The unintended benefit of coronavirus

The global lockdown has an environmental upside, and we would be fools to squander it.
Every aspect of our lives has been affected by the coronavirus. The global economy has slowed, people have retreated to their homes and thousands have died or become seriously ill.

At this frightening stage of the crisis, it’s difficult to focus on anything else. But as the International Agency has said, the effects of coronavirus are likely to be temporary but the other global emergency – climate change – is not.

Stopping the spread of coronavirus is paramount, but climate action must also continue. And we can draw many lessons and opportunities from the current health crisis when tackling planetary warming.

Action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must not be compromised by the coronavirus pandemic. EPA/MAST IRHAM
A ‘degrowing’ economy
S&P Global Ratings this week said measures to contain COVID-19 have pushed the global economy into recession.

Economic analyst Lauri Myllyvirta estimates the pandemic may have reduced global emissions by 200 megatonnes of carbon dioxide to date, as air travel grinds to a halt, factories close down and energy demand falls.

In the first four weeks of the pandemic, coal consumption in China alone fell by 36%, and oil refining capacity reduced by 34%.

In many ways, what we’re seeing now is a rapid and unplanned version of economic “degrowth” – the transition some academics and activists have for decades said is necessary to address climate change, and leave a habitable planet for future generations.

Degrowth is a proposed slowing of growth in sectors that damage the environment, such as fossil fuel industries, until the economy operates within Earth’s limits. It is a voluntary, planned and equitable transition in developed nations which necessarily involves an increased focus on the environment, human well-being, and capabilities (good health, decent work, education, and a safe and healthy environment).

Such a transformation would be profound, and so far no nation has shown the will to implement it. It would require global economies to “decouple” from carbon to prevent climate-related crises. But the current unintended economic slowdown opens the door to such a transition, which would bring myriad benefits to the climate.

The idea of sustainable degrowth is very different to a recession. It involves scaling back environmentally damaging sectors of the economy, and strengthening others.

Reduced air travel is helping drive global emissions down. James Gourley/AAP
A tale of two emergencies
Climate change has been declared a global emergency, yet to date the world has largely failed to address it. In contrast, the global policy response to the coronavirus emergency has been fast and furious.

There are several reasons for this dramatic difference. Climate change is a relatively slow-moving crisis, whereas coronavirus visibly escalates over days, even hours, increasing our perceptionof the risks involved. One thing that history teaches us about politics and the human condition in times of peril, we often take a “crisis management” approach to dealing with serious threats.

As others have observed, the slow increase in global temperatures means humans can psychologically adjust as the situation worsens, making the problem seem less urgent and meaning people are less willing to accept drastic policy measures.

The human ability to adapt to climate change can make it seem less urgent. CHAMILA KARUNARATHNE/EPA
Key lessons from coronavirus
The global response to the coronavirus crisis shows that governments can take immediate, radical emergency measures, which go beyond purely economic concerns, to protect the well-being of all.

Specifically, there are practical lessons and opportunities we can take away from the coronavirus emergency as we seek to tackle climate change:

Act early: The coronavirus pandemic shows the crucial importance of early action to prevent catastrophic consequences. Governments in Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore acted quickly to implement quarantine and screening measures, and have seen relatively small numbers of infections. Italy, on the other hand, whose government waited too long to act, is now the epicentre of the virus.

Go slow, go local: Coronavirus has forced an immediate scale-down of how we travel and live. People are forging local connections, shopping locally, working from home and limiting consumption to what they need.

Researchers have identified that fears about personal well-being represent a major barrier to political support for the degrowth movement to date. However with social distancing expected to be in place for months, our scaled-down lives may become the “new normal”. Many people may realise that consumption and personal well-being are not inextricably linked.

Stimulus spending should be directed to clean energy. EPA
New economic thinking is needed. A transition to sustainable degrowth can help. We need to shift global attention from GDP as an indicator of well-being, towards other measures that put people and the environment first, such as New Zealand’s well-being budget, Bhutan’s gross national happiness index, or Ecuador’s social philosophy of buen vivir (good living).

Spend on clean energy: The International Energy Agency (IEA) says clean energy should be “at the heart of stimulus plans to counter the coronavirus crisis”.

The IEA has called on governments to launch sustainable stimulus packages focused on clean energy technologies. It says hydrogen and carbon-capture also need major investment to bring them to scale, which could be helped by the current low interest rates.

Governments could also use coronavirus stimulus packages to reskill workers to service the new “green” economy, and address challenges in healthcare, sanitation, aged care, food security and education.

More people are shopping locally during the pandemic. AAP/STEFAN POSTLES
Looking ahead
As climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe said this month:

What really matters is the same for all of us. It’s the health and safety of our friends, our family, our loved ones, our communities, our cities and our country. That’s what the coronavirus threatens, and that’s exactly what climate change does, too.

The coronavirus crisis is devastating, but failing to tackle climate change because of the pandemic only compounds the tragedy. Instead, we must draw on the lessons of coronavirus to address the climate challenge.

COVID-19 is cutting air pollution, but it will not slow climate change

After Europe ground to a coronavirus-enforced halt, images captured by one of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Copernicus satellites showed huge reductions in nitrogen dioxide concentrations over Paris, Madrid and Rome from 14 – 25 March, compared to the same week in 2019.

The same is true for China, where the Copernicus satellite recorded a dramatic fall in NO2 released by power stations, factories and vehicles in all major Chinese cities between late January and February. ESA also observed a decrease of around 20 – 30 per cent in fine particulate matter, one of the most important air pollutants, in February 2020 compared to the previous three years.

However, these clear skies are deceptive, climate scientists and policy experts warn.

“We need to make a clear distinction between air quality and climate change,” said Wim Thiery, climate scientist at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. “When we talk about air quality, yes, less traffic, fewer planes and factory shutdowns mean less NO2 and other pollutants over cities. But for the climate it’s much more complex.”

The worry is that although reduced air pollution may bring health gains in the short term, emissions will rise when the crisis ends, and in the meantime climate policy will be sidelined as governments focus first on slowing the spread of the virus, and then on jump-starting stalled economies.

That fear proved fully justified on 1 April, when the British government announced that the COVID-19 crisis is forcing it to postpone the planned COP26 global climate summit, due to take place in Glasgow in November, to an as-yet undetermined date next year. The announcement was accompanied by a warning from Patricia Espinosa, the United Nations’ executive secretary for climate change: “COVID-19 is the most urgent threat facing humanity today, but we cannot forget that climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity over the long term.”

“We might lose half a year to a year in climate negotiations. Finances that have been earmarked for climate will go to other activities,” said Christian Egenhofer, senior research fellow at the Energy, Resources and Climate Change Unit at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels. “For the next two years all politicians will be focused on re-launching the economy,” he said.

The economic recession, widely believed to be on the cards, is not good news for the climate either.

“Strong economies are better able to cope with change,” said Thiery. “We also have a higher chance of success in reaching climate neutrality if we have strong international collaboration, which may be jeopardised by the coronavirus.”

Hendrik Wouters, climate scientist at the Flemish Institute of Technological Research agrees. “An economic crisis would mean we could not afford an energy transition,” he said. “If the crisis lasts for too long, this would also have an impact on sustainable development. This three-month decrease in emissions will not have a great benefit in the long term.”

There is also the risk there will be an over-compensation of economic activity when the crisis lifts and normal life resumes.

In terms of policymaking, 2020 was primed to be crucial for climate negotiations. Countries are supposed to submit their 2050 plans to the UN, stating what they plan to do to align with the Paris Agreement in both the short- and long-term. But the coronavirus crisis is already delaying several crucial deadlines that should be met before the now-postponed UN climate change conference.

Meanwhile in the EU, rumours have been circling that the European Green Deal may take a back seat for a while as member states pour funds into relaunching their economies.

“At this stage, while the duration of this pandemic is difficult to predict, so are the virus’ effects on climate policies, and respectively the timely delivery of the European Green Deal roadmap for 2020-2021,” said Ilias Grampas, EU Affairs Manager at the European Bureau for Conservation and Development, which manages the Secretariat of the European Parliament Intergroup on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development.

For Grampas, the key factors that will influence climate policy-making in the near future will include how long the pandemic lasts, whether member states adjust their budget allocations, if political leaders choose to support green investments, and whether financial incentives to re-energise EU economies incorporate sustainable growth principles.

Boosting economic growth after the coronavirus lockdown doesn’t mean green objectives must be sidelined, according to Egenhofer. New ways of producing and storing renewable energy, hydrogen fuel and other green technologies might prove more attractive to private investors and governments than traditional industries like coal mines, while the coronavirus shutdown could signal a natural swerve in the direction of cleantech and renewables.

But as prices for oil continue to plummet – partly a result of the ongoing price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, but also due to COVID-19 – renewable alternatives like solar power and wind energy become less competitive, and less interesting to investors.

On an individual level however, the coronavirus lockdown could inspire climate-friendly actions, according to Wouter. “This could be an opportunity to see how we can re-organise our activities to benefit the climate. Home office and teleworking, for example. There are a lot of conferences held every year leading to air traffic and emissions. We can use existing technology to replace these and combat climate change,” he said.

Those campaigning for strong climate policies could also learn from the cooperation seen between experts, politicians and the public in the coronavirus crisis.

“It’s remarkable that you see this union being formed between scientists, policymakers and the public. People are asking for strong policies and, based on scientific evidence, policymakers are taking action,’ said Thiery.

BP Agrees to Draft Climate Change Shareholder Resolution

The decision comes as energy companies face pressure from investors to dial down their exposure to fossil fuels
BP PLC said it has agreed to draft a shareholder resolution to be voted on next year that would enshrine its pledge to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, as investors urge major oil companies to diversify their portfolios to cleaner energy.

The British energy company said the resolution would address BP’s overall greenhouse-gas emissions from its operations to the products it buys and sells and lay out how it would boost investment in clean energy.

“Listening and engaging with stakeholders has been an essential part of defining our net-zero ambition and aims,” Chief Executive Bernard Looney said in prepared remarks.

In February, BP became one of the first major oil-and-gas companies to pledge to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement, but was scant on details. It said Friday it would provide more information at its coming capital markets day in September and that work on a possible resolution would follow. “Over time, as investment goes up in low- and no-carbon, we see it going down in oil and gas,” the company said.

BP said it would work on the shareholder proposal with Follow This, a group of investors in oil-and-gas companies that push major oil companies to fall in line with the Paris Agreement. In response, Follow This said it has withdrawn its climate change resolution that would have been voted on this year by BP’s shareholders.

“We believe that this goal will require a radical shift in BP’s spending away from fossil fuels to renewables,” said Mark van Baal, founder of Follow This. “We thank the investors that voted for our climate resolution that encouraged this step in 2019.”

In 2019, BP’s board eventually supported a different shareholder proposal, backed by the investor group Climate Action 100+, for the company to provide more disclosures around its greenhouse gas emissions and carbon-intensive investments.

Its latest move comes as energy companies are facing pressure from investors to dial down their exposure to fossil fuels as governments ready regulations to punish big polluters.

Last year, the British government set an ambition to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Money managers like UBS Asset Management and DWS Group GmbH, which is majority owned by Deutsche Bank AG, have increasingly backed climate-change-related shareholder proposals at companies.

BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest asset manager with some $7 trillion under management, joined the now $40 trillion strong Climate Action 100+ earlier this year and signaled this month it would vote against corporate directors who fail to act on climate change disclosures.

Some banks also are limiting their fossil fuel funding. Assets on UBS Group AG ’s balance sheet tied to the energy and utilities sectors, excluding renewables, water and nuclear, shrunk more than 40% last year to $1.9 billion, representing just 0.8% of the bank’s product exposure.

“BP has to change, and faster than ever, because the world is changing fast, and so are society’s expectations of us,” Mr. Looney, BP’s CEO, said.

Carbon neutrality and Covid-19 impact

Climate variability has been in the limelight during the past two millennia and has been a subject of intense debates and commitments. The scientists have warned about global warming hitting the point of no return. If this tipping point needs to be delayed or tackled, we must limit carbon emissions to keep global temperature rise to less than 2°C within this century.
Excessive carbon emission from fossil fuels burning for power generation and transportation is the main culprit to this warming. The planet is getting warmer by 0.2°C per decade, according to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in October 2018.

Climate change is, perhaps, the greatest challenge we have ever faced, post-industrial revolution. Average global temperatures have risen by almost 1°C because of increased human activities. Levels of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere are at the highest than they have been at any point and are still increasing. Scientists and climate advocates are vouching for a carbon-neutral production. Carbon neutrality would mean zero net carbon and GHG emissions.

The global agreement on the need for climate action is strong and continues to grow. One of the major global frameworks to avoid dangerous climate change by reducing the GHGs was the Paris Agreement (COP21). It was the first-ever legally binding global climate change agreement adopted and ratified by over 190 countries.

The swing away from fossil fuels had begun, however, the progress is far too slow and delayed except for the EU countries. Compared to the 1990 levels, the EU countries have reduced the carbon emissions by approximately 23%. Apart from the EU, very little progress has been seen. The previous COP24 in Poland ended in limbo with the non-participation of the US and the recent COP25 in Spain saw no concrete agreement regarding aggressive targets towards mitigating the carbon challenge, citing funding concerns on article 6 of the accord by the US, Brazil and Australia.

The EU is leading the carbon mitigation resolution with bold and bind targets set by its member countries. The modernisation and transformation towards a climate-neutral world from a power generation perspective would mean parting away from fossil fuel, mainly coal-based power generation.

Global electricity demand increased by approximately 2.5% in 2019 with low-carbon generation expanding 4% to meet a considerable share of the increased demand by more than 50%. Coal remained the largest source of electricity generation and saw an increase of coal-fuelled power generation by 1% in 2019 over 2018.

According to the estimates from IEA, CO₂ emissions remained flattened in 2019 at approximately 33Gt. However, due to milder weather and weaker global economic growth, the emissions from the power sector fell by 1.2% in 2019. The global energy-related CO₂ emissions flattened in 2019, following two years of increase. The power sector now accounts for 36% of the share in the energy-related emissions in 2019 compared to previous 42% in 2018.

The top ten carbon emitters continue to hold approximately 67% of the total emissions, while some countries / regions such as the US, some EU countries such as Germany, the UK, Japan and Saudi Arabia have managed to reduce their fossil fuel emissions post the COP21 agreement. However, the other major emitters China and India had a moderate increase in the emissions, while the remaining South East Asian countries saw strong growth in the emissions on account of robust coal demand.

The carbon prices have declined drastically from an 11 year high of $30.46 per tonne in the summer of 2019 to $16.32 per tonne. Renewable energy had previously overtaken fossil fuels as the most affordable energy source. However, this may be threatened if oil and gas prices remain low. Enterprises are unlikely to adopt renewable energy during a recession, particularly if the price is no longer competitive.

Pollution and GHG emissions have fallen across the continents as countries imposed lockdowns and restrictions to contain the spread of the Covid-19. The drop in the CO₂ emissions can be the largest since WWII but it will not have any impact on climate change. Scientists estimate a 5% fall in the carbon output in 2020. However, without any structural changes, the emission decline caused by Covid-19 could be short-lived and have a tiny impact on the concentration levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The countries and cities with the highest Covid-19 impact are witnessing clear and sunny skies. The pollution in New York has reduced by nearly 50% due to the strict measures in place. In China, emissions fell nearly 25% during the start of the year as factories were shut, people were mandated to stay inside and the usage of coal fell nearly 40% on account of six of the largest power plants operated at minimal levels. In Europe, satellite images show a similar story with GHG emissions fading away over Italy, Spain and the UK.

This is not the first time an epidemic has resulted in lower atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, history suggests. The spread of a disease has been connected to lower emissions, even prior to the industrial age. The sudden dip in the emissions are believed to have a short-lived impact and are likely to rebound as the economy recovers. To have a net carbon electricity scenario, the world needs to adopt more renewable generation in the portfolio, improve efficiency standard and part away from coal-based generation.

With the hesitant and restricted efforts from the countries, achieving a carbon-neutral electricity scenario appears distant and faded. There are different models from various organisations, which suggests multiple approaches for a net-zero electricity generation development plan. According to IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS), which is in line with the Paris Agreement, renewables should account for two-thirds of the electric supply worldwide by 2040.

Keeping in mind the business as usual scenario, GlobalData estimates that renewables could only be able to source 32% of the world electric supply by 2030, up by a meagre growth of 6% from 2019, well short of the targeted electricity supply by estimated 35% in the 2030 and by 42% in 2040 in comparison to the net-zero scenario.

While we estimate a lopsided achievement of the carbon-neutral power generation by the nations, the EU countries lead the race towards carbon neutrality. Also, this current phase of low crude and gas prices coupled with unaccounted economic recessions are likely to create a deterrent towards this carbon-neutral achievement within the specified time frame. There needs to be a greater ambition on the climate change, channelling significant efforts and investments reallocation towards the energy efficiency and renewables, as well as a stringent plan of retiring half of the global coal-fired power plant capacities.

What’s the difference between carbon negative and carbon neutral?

Companies are racing to prove their green credentials.
Many plan to go carbon neutral or to reach net zero.
Microsoft calls its carbon negative pledge a “moonshot.”
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is setting up a $10 billion fund to fight climate change.
It’s getting hard to read the news without coming across a company promising to “reach net zero” or go “carbon neutral” or even become “carbon negative.”

Mining company Rio Tinto and airline Delta are among the latest companies announcing plans to go carbon neutral, while Amazon, Apple, Tesla and other tech giants are all committed to dramatically reducing their carbon footprints.

So what do all the different pledges mean and how can you compare them?

Net zero, carbon neutral or carbon negative?

Net zero: Net zero means that any carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from the company’s activities is balanced by an equivalent amount being removed.

Carbon neutral: Carbon neutral is slightly different, allowing companies to measure the amount of carbon they release and offset that with a reduction in emissions or a removal of carbon. This can include buying carbon credits to make up the difference, making it appealing to companies that produce a lot of emissions.

Carbon negative: The next step – becoming carbon negative – requires a company to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits.

In Microsoft’s case, the company has promised to become carbon negative by 2030 and, by 2050, remove all of the carbon the company has emitted since it was founded in 1975.

Microsofts pathway to carbon negative by 2030
How Microsoft plan to be carbon negative by 2030.Image: Microsoft
This includes using electric vehicles, planting new trees, carbon capture and storage, as well as direct air capture – in which air is sucked out of the atmosphere and the carbon dioxide is removed before returning the cleaner air to the environment. Microsoft will also set up a $1 billion Innovation Fund, to develop carbon removal technology.

Other companies are also making strides toward a greener future. Apple’s global facilities – retail stores, offices, data centres – are powered with 100% clean energy.

Amazon has pledged to use all renewable electricity by 2030. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive and one of the world’s richest people, pledged $10 billion to the Bezos Earth Fundthat will fight climate change.

New pledges, new responsibilities

Global warming and other environmental concerns are rising up in business’ agendas, bolstered in part by campaigners like Greta Thunberg. The United Nations says climate changeis the defining issue of our time and without drastic action, adapting to the changes it will bring will be difficult and costly.

Companies are in the spotlight since studies show they’re responsible for the lion’s share of greenhouse gas emissions, creating a blanket of gas that traps heat and raises Earth’s temperature.

Amazon’s corporate carbon footprint alone – measured as the total greenhouse gas emissions attributed to its direct and indirect operational activities – rivals that of some small nations.

In the past, some companies have been accused of “greenwashing” – or overstating their eco credentials to garner favourable publicity. Companies have also been accused of setting headline-grabbing goals that look too far in the future and aren’t measurable.

But for many companies, the narratives have changed, acknowledging the need to find long-term solutions that create real impact.

Microsoft announced a detailed plan that it says is grounded in science and maths, alongside interim goals spelling out how it plans to get there.

“Those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so,” Microsoft said in a video. “The stakes are too high for us to not make bold changes now.”

“It won’t be easy for Microsoft to become carbon negative by 2030,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s President. “This is a bold bet – a moonshot – for Microsoft. And it will need to become a moonshot for the world.”

Barclays sets net zero carbon target for 2050 after investor pressure

Bank pledges to align all of its financing activities with goals of Paris climate agreement

Barclays has bowed to investor pressure over its climate track record and announced plans to shrink its carbon footprint to net zero by 2050.

The bank, which has its headquarters in London, has pledged to align all of its financing activities with the goals and timelines of the Paris agreement, starting with the energy and power sectors, and to publish “transparent targets” to track its progress.

The proposal will be put to an investor vote at its annual general meeting on 7 May and is part of the response to a separate shareholder resolution urging the bank to phase out all lending and services to energy and fossil fuel companies that fail to align with Paris climate goals.

The campaign group ShareAction – which spearheaded the shareholder vote – said the net zero commitment was a “milestone announcement” for the lender. However, ShareAction is calling on investors to back both resolutions, to ensure the bank actually pulls its services from the largest carbon emitters, rather than just offsetting them with alternative investments or services to other sectors.

Barclays has been the top European financier of fossil fuels in the last four years and is the seventh largest globally, according to a recent report by the Rainforest Action Network. The bank has provided more than $118bn (£95.2bn) worth of financial services to carbon-intensive companies and projects since the Paris agreement was signed in 2016 and was the largest financier of Arctic oil and gas last year.

Natasha Landell-Mills, the head of stewardship at the asset manager Sarasin & Partners, a co-filer of ShareAction’s resolution, said: “The message is powerful: continuing to finance activities that undermine planet stability is not in anyone’s interests – and certainly not shareholders. This is groundbreaking and the board deserves to be commended. Other banks should follow suit.

“What matters now is that the board sets robust nearer-term targets that leave no doubt about its determination to deliver net zero emissions by 2050. Shareholders should underline their support for this by supporting not just Barclays’ resolution but also the shareholder-initiated resolution at Barclays’ forthcoming AGM.”

Barclays is expected to consult with groups including ShareAction before it releases detailed targets by the end of the year and will release its first set of reports on its progress in 2021.

The lender had come under mounting pressure in recent months after a number of high-profile investors publicly backed the ShareAction vote. The resolution – which was filed by a group of investment and pension funds managing more than £130bn of assets – gained the support of the top 25 shareholder Jupiter Asset Management, Europe’s largest asset manager Amundi, the Church of England’s investment arm and Nest – the largest UK pension fund by members.

In an interim update to its climate policy, Barclays said it would restrict financing for companies that benefit from thermal coal activities but would continue funding some companies involved in controversial tar sands projects in Canada that aim to cut their emissions. Barclays will no longer support new Arctic drilling and will not finance fracking in the UK or Europe but will consider other global projects.