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BusinessGreen launches latest Towards Net Zero Leaders Briefing

BusinessGreen launches latest Towards Net Zero Leaders Briefing

Towards Net Zero Energy event to provide invaluable insights into the net zero energy transition and how leading businesses are responding

BusinessGreen has today confirmed the date for the first Towards Net Zero Leaders Briefing of 2020, which will take place at a central London venue on the morning of Tuesday April 28th.

Building on the success of the Towards Net Zero Leaders Briefing series last year, BusinessGreen will this year host three half day conferences on the net zero transition covering the rapid changes underway in the fields of energy, buildings and infrastructure, and transport.

The briefings, which are free to attend for BusinessGreen Members, will complement the world's first Net Zero Festival on September 30th.

The first event - titled Towards Net Zero Energy - will take place at a central London venue and will bring together experts from across the energy sector and wider business community to explore how companies of all shapes and sizes can embrace and support the net zero energy transition, unlocking multiple benefits in the process.

"All businesses rely on energy and all businesses will be impacted by the rapid transition to a net zero energy system," said BusinessGreen editor-in-chief James Murray. "Whether they focus on green tariffs, onsite generation, clean energy contracts, emerging green heat systems or a combination of different solutions, all firms will need a strategy to curb their energy-related emissions over the coming decade. Our latest Leaders Briefing will provide invaluable insights into how businesses are seizing the opportunities and minimising the risks associated with the transition towards net zero energy."

The agenda will see leading energy industry experts and sustainability executives provide an overview of the decarbonisation trends re-shaping the energy sector before exploring the best practices businesses are embracing to drive emissions reductions through onsite generation, green tariffs, and other measures.

Tickets for the event are available now at a Super Early Bird Rate.

In photos: Renewables projects as you've never seen them before

In photos: Renewables projects as you've never seen them before

From rooftop solar to large-scale PV farms, the the STA's Photo of the Year competition captures the changing face of the UK's energy landscape


Bulky structures dotted across the UK with huge turrets billowing smoke, steam, and CO2 have long been the country's economic backbone, burning fossil fuels to provide energy to homes and industry from a centralised grid system. But, once symbols of modern economic progress, these power stations now increasingly resemble the past, as the UK shifts towards smaller, greener, increasingly cheaper forms of energy generation.

In their place a rapidly growing number of wind turbines and solar panels have been popping up across cities, shorelines and the countryside, offering a striking and sometimes even beautiful vision of how a modern, clean, net zero emissions economy could operate.

Perhaps the most adaptable in scope and size, solar power - ranging from a handfuls of panels atop household roofs, to large-scale solar farms that utilise batteries to store as well as generate energy - is also arguably the most visible of these new renewable energy technologies to the public.

That vast variation across the UK's changing solar sector is reflected across a range of images sent in by members of the public to the Solar Trade Association's annual Photo of the Year competition, the best of which BusinessGreen exclusively presents today in the gallery above.

'Reverse nature's decline': Government unveils sweeping farming subsidy reforms

'Reverse nature's decline': Government unveils sweeping farming subsidy reforms

Long awaited proposals for Environmental Land Management scheme announced, as government looks to reward farmers for environmental efforts such as tree planting, flood protection, and wildlife restoration

Long awaited plans to reward farmers for planting trees, restoring wildlife, protecting against floods, and undertaking nature-based efforts to combat climate change are set to take a major step forward today, with the unveiling of further details on how the government's proposed post-Brexit agriculture subsid reforms will work in practice.

The proposed Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELM) is designed to pay farmers for carrying out work that enhances the environment - so-called 'public goods' - rather than for the amount of land farmed, as the current EU subsidy system operates, according to Defra.

The Department said the new subsidy system would put farmers "at the forefront of reversing environmental declines and tackling climate change" by rewarding them for efforts that benefit society, such as enhanced protection against flooding and moves to deliver cleaner air and water.

Launched for a 10-week consultation today, the new proposals outline plans for a three-tier ELM scheme, in a bid to enable all farms or land types to participate "at the right level", Defra explained. As such, the new subsidy mechanisms are designed to incentivise a range of outcomes, including the adoption of sustainable farming methods and projects to deliver locally-targeted environmental outcomes, right through to large-scale "transformational projects".

A key focus of the new ELM scheme will be delivering on targets in the government's 25 Year Environment Plan and the UK's statutory goal to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to the documents released today. Consequently, the new subsidy regime is expected to encourage practices that increase carbon emission reduction, such as reforestation and improved soil management.

Under the new plans the government intends to start operating the ELM scheme in late 2024, as part of a broader transition period away from the current EU framework that phases out direct land-based payments from 2021-27. It said it would now be consulting with farmers and other stakeholders across the country over the coming weeks to ensure the ELM "does not repeat the mistakes of the EU's burdensome Common Agricultural Policy" (CAP).

Observers are broadly optimistic the plans can command widespread support, with green groups hailing the opportunity to incentivise more sustainable farming practices and drive emissions reductions and the NFU having also welcomed the proposals in principle having publicly committed to delivering a net zero agricultural sector by 2040. However, some within the farming industry harbour concerns that the reforms could result in reductions in payments while the NFU is also continuing to warn against the prospect of new trade deals that would force UK food producers to compete with cheaper imports that are produced to lower standards.     

From 2021, the government said it would be offering new grants to farmers to help them invest in equipment and technology to boost productivity, in addition from further support for research and development (R&D) projects from 2022 aimed at supporting innovation in lowering emissions.

The Environment Secretary George Eustice is set to officially launch the latest green agriculture plans tomorrow at the National Farmers' Union's conference in Birmingham, at which he is expected to say that "no group has more power to reverse environmental decline than our farmers".

"We can all agree that we want British farming to be sustainable in the truest sense of the word, an industry which is profitable, competitive, and productive while feeding the nation and taking care of our landscapes too," he is set to say.

However, it comes as the Environment Secretary faces growing pressure to rule out lowering food and environmental standards in order to secure free trade deals outside the EU, such as with the US.

The EU is expected to demand the UK rule out so called 'chlorinated chicken' and other lower standard products in order to secure a free trade agreement with the trading bloc, but over the weekend Eustice faced criticism from green and farming groups for failing to explicitly rule out the import of such food products in future.

Any move to open up the UK market for lower standard food products would be fiercely resisted by the NFU, however. Speaking at the trade body's annual conference this morning, NFU president Minette Batters reiterated her opposition to any reduction in UK environmental, food and animal welfare standards in future.

"This year the government must show global leadership, insist that UK farm standards are the benchmark for climate-friendly farming around the world and that whoever wants to trade with us trades on our terms," she said.

Alongside the new consultation, the government has also today revealed further details of its flagship Agriculture Bill, which is expected to go before Parliament for its second reading this week. Its sister piece of legislation - the Environment Bill - is also set for its second reading this week.

Leading green bodies and business groups are continuing to call for the government to amend the bill so as to ensure environmental standards are maintained post-Brexit. The government has repeatedly argued it will not dilute standards in the future, but campaigners have countered that stronger legal safeguards are required, including a firm non-regression clause. 

Environmental professionals' body IEMA said the Environment Bill was "a good start", but warned it "falls short of the 'top to bottom' governance framework needed to translate national targets into private sector investment and action on the ground".

"Tackling the environmental challenges of our time - climate change, flooding, plastic waste, biodiversity loss, air pollution and more - requires a robust governance framework that puts society and the economy on a transition to a sustainable future," said IEMA's chief policy advisor Martin Baxter, adding that the group was proposing a number of amendments to strengthen the bill, including transparent criteria and processes for setting targets and interim targets and requirements that mechanisms are in place to enable targets to be met.

JP Morgan Chase to restrict Arctic oil and coal lending

JP Morgan Chase to restrict Arctic oil and coal lending

Banking giant set to unveil beefed up climate investment policies at annual investor day

JP Morgan Chase is set to become the latest global banking giant to restrict lending to the most carbon intensive fossil fuel projects.

According to various media reports, the US investment bank will today use its annual investor to unveil a number of new climate policies, including restrictions on financing for coal and Arctic drilling projects.

The new rules would effectively end all investment in Arctic drilling projects by the bank and impose tough new criteria for financing companies involved in coal mining and coal power.

In addition, the company is set to announce a new $200bn target for investing in green projects that "support climate action" and the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The new target builds on a previous 2017 pledge to mobilise $50bn of green financing. The investment activity is expected to include a mix of loans, underwriting, advisory services, and direct investments.

The move comes just days after JP Morgan sent a briefing note to clients highlighting potentially catastrophic risks arising from escalating climate impacts.

The plans received a cautious welcome from green groups, who hailed the new lending policy as further evidence of how coal and Arctic drilling projects are being shunned by mainstream investors. But they also warned that JP Morgan's wider climate strategy remains badly out of step with the decarbonisation goals contained in the Paris Agreement.  

Jason Disterhoft, a climate and energy senior campaigner with Rainforest Action Network, told Reuters that JP Morgan Chase's coal mining financing represented less than one per cent of the company's overall fossil financing. "We need to see much more from them, particularly in terms of phasing out their fossil financing," he added.

However, Greenpeace UK's head of climate finance, Rosie Rogers, said the new commitments were part of an encouraging trend across the banking sector, adding that right across the industry banks should now step up efforts to phase out fossil fuel financing.

"Although JP Morgan Chase's decision to stop financing coal mining and Arctic drilling goes nowhere near far enough, it's a clear sign that mounting public and growing shareholder pressure is starting to cut through," she argued. "The banks propping up the fossil fuel industry are funding catastrophic climate change and even the dirtiest bank in the world is starting to feel the pressure."

Freezing for the future: $46m boost for cryogenic energy storage pioneer Highview Power

Freezing for the future: $46m boost for cryogenic energy storage pioneer Highview Power

Japanese heavy industries specialist SHI is investing in UK-based Highview Power, developer of the CRYOBattery

The global rollout of cryogenic energy storage technology received a boost yesterday as Japanese manufacturing giant Sumitomo Heavy Industries (SHI) announced a $46m investment in British clean tech firm Highview Power.

Highview is a developer of the CRYObattery, a cyrogenic energy storage system that uses liquid air as an energy storage medium. The firm currently operates a plant in Bury, which became the world's first liquid air energy storage plant when it opened in 2018, bringing online a 5MW/15MWh system. It is now developing a 50MW/250MWh project at a decommissioned thermal power station in the North of England.

SHI's investment will support the expansion of CRYOBattery technology to a global scale, the firms said. The technology works by cooling air to -196C to turn it into liquid form, allowing it to be stored in high pressure tanks, giving it an extended lifespan of more than 30 years. The liquid air can then be released on demand to drive turbines and generate power.

Advocates of the approach argue that it can provide long term, large scale energy storage that is likely to be increasingly important as modern grids become more reliant on variable renewable energy sources, such as wind and soilar farms.

"Highview is proud to have a partner like Sumitomo Heavy Industries next to us as we further our global expansion," said Javier Cavada, president and CEO of Highview Power. "By partnering with a large technology company with the reputation of SHI, we will be able to benefit from their vast know-how, resources, and operating experience in diversified markets."

Following the investment, SHI's subsidiary SHI FW (SWF) will provide a technology hub responsible for driving forward the CRYOBattery business, SHI said. SFW currently specialises in combustion and steam generation technologies, including fluidized bed technologies, waste heat boilers, and a spectrum of aftermarket services.

"One of the biggest barriers to a carbon-free future has been the ability of renewables to perform as reliably and as cost-effectively as traditional fuel sources," said Tomas Harju-Jeanty, CEO at SFW. "Highview Power's long duration energy storage technology not only solves the problems that enable dispatchable renewables, but will be a catalyst in bringing the energy transition forward."

Freak storm or political climate change?

Freak storm or political climate change?

Philip Box of the UK Green Building Council discusses the fallout from the latest changes in Westminster

Two months into the reign of Boris and we've had storms both inside and outside Downing Street.

The PM has already begun spending his Christmas political capital at a rate of knots, clearly hoping he can get the controversy out of the way early (a tactic that Mr Cameron would say can have mixed results).

What was billed as a 'moderate' reshuffle turned into a much more revealing peep at the nature of the new administration; revealing a tension between those wanting to play by the referendum rulebook and those after a born-again Boris mayoralty (suggested to include Boris himself). However, the high-stakes, uncompromising tactics that characterized the referendum have not gone away just yet, with the government actively pushing to see what its current buffers are and identify the new troublemakers.

The headline casualty was of course Sajid Javid, previously written off as an uncharismatic middleman, he emerged as an unlikely hero; a modern-day Luke Skywalker willing to fight to protect his friends, but unceremoniously replaced by his apprentice. Whether any theorized sequel to this drama: 'The Return of the Javid' lives up to the hype, or disappoints like most modern Star Wars, remains to be seen. Meanwhile, MPs - scorned or otherwise - continue to murmur away at the overbearing Grand Vizier Mr Cummings. Whilst currently a useful leech for any bad blood generated, Mr Cummings would do well to learn from history and the fate of many over-mighty royal advisers before him.

Beyond the Westminster court, there is of course a planet to think about. The political storm took out many of the Ministers previously associated with the sector. We have new appointments at Defra, MHCLG and BEIS, with the COP presidency going, somewhat unexpectedly, to Alok Sharma. Yet exciting as it is, focussing on the personalities at top can often miss more subtle, yet important changes beneath; reshaping the context in which they operate.

A new group, Tories for Climate Action, will hold its official launch in Parliament on 25 February, with the launch event held in association with UKGBC. A grassroots group which emerged organically, it now forms an extensive network of councillors and party activists concerned about climate change and keen to share practical ideas throughout the party. For those who follow the fortunes of green issues within the Conservative party, its emergence represents an interesting departure from the more top-down Conservative environmentalism of yester-year's logo changes, slogans and thought-pieces. It represents an increasingly galvanized grass-roots Conservative environmentalism, one that is ready to make its voice heard and which sees itself as essential to the party's future success. In particular, what resonates is not just the proven value of green businesses, innovative climate solutions and green growth, but how we now maximise these benefits on both a local and national scale. A move from the why to the nitty-gritty of how.

Various acid tests of whether the government is listening are conveniently due in the next few months. The Future Homes Standard consultation is currently being processed, the Environment Bill back is in parliament and the Budget imminent. All of these will help determine just how much of the green growth and nature based-solutions rhetoric makes it into tangible programmes, new fiscal incentives or ambitious regulation. However, as the government increasingly faces calls from all corners to live up to the new reality, it will be interesting to see whether climate concerns can successfully escape tensions elsewhere. If the floods that are currently inundating half the country aren't a not-so-subtle wakeup call, then I don't know what is.


Philip Box is policy and project coordinator at the UK Green Building Council

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