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Global Briefing: South Korea proposes plan to slash emissions 40 per cent by 2030

Global Briefing: South Korea proposes plan to slash emissions 40 per cent by 2030

South Korean decarbonisation plans, Irish hydrogen ambitions, and NATO targets net zero in this week's round up of green business news from around the world

South Korea sketches out beefed up climate plan in preparation for COP26

South Korea this week signalled that it is set to strengthen its interim emission reduction targets ahead of the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow this autumn.

Song Young-gil, chairman of the ruling Democratic Party, told Parliament this week that "we must present a national greenhouse gas reduction target of at least 40 per cent [against a 2017 baseline] and implement it within eight years".

If approved the new target would mark a significant strengthening of the country's existing goal to cut emissions by 24.4 per cent, which Young-gil described as"absolutely low compared to developed countries". The target would also bolster the country's recently announced long term goal to deliver net zero emissions by 2050 and would be expected to trigger a raft of new policies to accelerate the country's transition away from coal power, which remains a key player in South Korea's energy market.

However, campaigners argued the new target was still not ambitious enough, highlighting how it did compare favourably with neighbouring Japan's new goal to cut emissions to 46-50 per cent below 2013 levels by 2030.

 

Plans for Ireland's first green hydrogen facility edge forward

Irish energy company EI-H2 has this week appointed engineering specialist Worley to support the development of what would be Ireland's first commercial scale green hydrogen production facility.

The 50MW plant is planned for Aghada, close to the lower Cork harbour. It would produce green hydrogen using electrolysis, powered by renewable energy. Once operational, the facility would supply over 20 tonnes of green hydrogen a day to a diverse commercial market, leading to emissions savings of 63,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, the companies said.

"We are delighted to partner with Worley as we look to deliver Ireland's first green hydrogen production facility in Aghada, County Cork," said said Tom Lynch, CEO of EI-H2. "We firmly believe that Ireland is incredibly well positioned to become a global leader in green energy. At EI-H2, we believe in partnerships that last. In that context, Worley are the natural choice to develop this key infrastructure."

 

NATO considers net zero target

NATO is to assess the feasibility of setting a net zero target for the military alliance in a move that could turbocharge efforts to decarbonise defence industries around the world.

At a Brussels summit on Monday, the leaders of Nato countries formally asked Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to "assess the feasibility" of setting a net zero goal, which would apply to Nato sites and operations around the world.

The move looks set to build on climate risk assessments and clean tech projects, which have undertaken by a number of militaries around the world.

 

World Bank and Rockefeller Foundation team up for African clean energy finance push

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, and The Rockefeller Foundation (RF) have this week announced a new partnership that aims to deploy $150m of RF's catalytic capital in blended finance to mobilise up to $2bn of private sector investment in distributed renewable energy solutions.

The partnership aims to prioritise countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and select other regions, where both organisations have identified immediate opportunities.

The organisations hope that by blending philanthropic and private investment funding they can help will de-risk capital investment in distributed renewable projects in emerging markets. An initial "rapid deployment" phase will distribute $30m in blended concessional finance and grant capital to leverage an active pipeline of distributed renewable energy projects developed by IFC.

"Investing in renewable energy infrastructure in communities that have not had access to reliable power will ensure that the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis is both green and equitable," said Rockefeller Foundation president, Dr. Rajiv J. Shah. "The landscape of energy technologies we are investing in will make it possible for every person on the planet to have totally reliable, productive electrification."

 

Ghana aims to plant five million trees in a day

Ghana has launched a national programme to plant five million trees in Ghana in a bid to expand depleted forest reserves and tackle desertification.

Dubbed the "Green Ghana" programme, the initiatve saw the government provide free seedlings to people late last week, backed by a major campaign which saw celebrities, politicians, and traditional leaders plant trees right across the country.

"This is time for action. We're sitting on a time bomb," Samuel Abu Jinapor, lands and natural resources minister, told AFP. "Our forest cover is depleting as a result of galamsey and harvesting of trees for different purposes."

 

Indonesia aims to sell only electric-powered cars and motorbikes by 2050

Indonesia has to become the latest country that has signalled it wants to phase out the internal combustion engine, announcing plans to only electric cars and motorcycles by 2050.

The country's energy minister, Arifin Tasrif, announced on Monday that all motorcycles sold from 2040 should be electric-powered, while all new cars sold from 2050 would be electric vehicles (EVs), according to Reuters' reports.

'The next few months are vital': Latest round of UN climate talks end in stalemate

'The next few months are vital': Latest round of UN climate talks end in stalemate

Continuing deadlock over carbon market rules and frustration over access to vaccines and missed climate funding pledges means pressure is mounting on diplomats ahead of COP26

A week that began with blistering criticism of the G7 Summit's failure to delivering a significant increase in climate funding for the developing world, ended with reports the latest round of preparatory negotiations on the rulebook for the Paris Agreement had ended in "stalemate", fuelling fears this autumn's COP26 Summit could yet end in failure.

Three weeks of online talks closed on Wednesday with participants and observers warning that a long-standing stand-off over the rules governing the global carbon market and a proposed reporting regime for national climate action plans was no closer to being resolved. At the same time, developing nations stepped up their warnings that without improved access to vaccines COP26 could yet fall foul of both logistical challenges and growing resentment at the international community's handling of the pandemic and its failure to deliver on previous promises to mobilise $100bn a year of climate finance for poorer countries.  

As co-hosts of COP26 the UK remains broadly optimistic that the Glasgow Summit should deliver on many of its core goals. After all, many of the world's largest economies are already signed up to sweeping net zero emissions targets and are preparing increasingly ambitious national decarbonisation strategies centred on the phasing out of coal power and internal combustion engines, coupled with a surge in clean technology and infrastructure investment. Meanwhile, the upcoming UN General Assembly provides a forum where officials hope more governments will come forward with climate funding commitments to ensure the $100bn goal is honoured.

But over the past week this optimism has been somewhat dented. At the G7 welcome progress on mandatory carbon reporting rules for corporates and an end of overseas coal financing was offset by the reluctance of the US and Japan to set a firm coal power phase out date and provide a policy boost to electric vehicle transition, and overshadowed by a row over sausage imports to Northern Ireland. The sense that now near universal support for the net zero transition is struggling to overcome the political constraints applied by coal state senators and hybrid-touting automakers was palpable.

Meanwhile, the three weeks of talks intended to identify the "landing zones" for an agreement to be finalised at COP26 may have been conducted online, but they followed precisely the same format established by UN climate negotiations over the decades, that it to say lengthy discussions about process and a seemingly intractable stand-off between emerging and industrialised economies.

The talks, which thanks to the virtual format were denied formal negotiation status, passed off without any major rows, despite an acknowledgement from the UN that the use of online platforms had made the discussions particularly exhausting for delegations. But there was negligible progress on the two crucial issues of how to finalise Article 6 of the Paris Agreement and establish clear rules for global carbon trading mechanisms and how to align national climate action reporting from 2031 onwards, with some observers suggesting that if anything the talks had edged further away from an agreement.

Speaking to reporters, UN Climate Change chief Patricia Espinosa said the "very intensive" talks had been broadly positive, but that "in many cases, divergent views and options remain on the table". One senior climate diplomat put it more bluntly, telling Climate Home News that the talks on carbon markets and the proposed transparency regime had reached a "stalemate". In a moment entirely in keeping with the sometimes surreal nature of UN climate talks, discussions on transparency were reportedly closed to civil society observers at the behest of China.

With less than five months to go until the start of COP26 the fear is that time is running out to tackle issues that have proved irresolvable for much of the past five years. The Paris Agreement rulebook was meant to be finalised at COP25 in late 2019, but a small but influential group of countries has remained implacably opposed to efforts to reform carbon market rules to tackle risks of double counting and limit the transfer of historic carbon credits into the new trading regime enabled by the Paris treaty. Meanwhile, disagreements over how funds raised through carbon markets should be allocated to climate-related projects are ongoing.

At the same time, perennial tensions over transparency and reporting are at risk of being further inflamed by the Biden administration's desire to take a tougher line with authoritarian regimes. Both China and Saudi Arabia were accused of using points of order to disrupt talks on how to establish a more aligned system for countries to report on their climate action plans and decarbonisation progress.

Speaking at the closing session of the three week long meeting, Saudi Arabia's Ayman Shasly reiterated that the entire exercise had "no legal status and should not be used as a basis for negotiating or taking any legal decisions".

The lack of progress presents the UN and the Summit's UK and Italian co-hosts with a significant challenge. There is a path to securing more climate funding and additional net zero pledges and climate policy commitments from governments in the run up to COP26, even if convincing rich nations to increase their climate funding pledges remains a big diplomatic lift. But any failure to broker an agreement on the more technical side of the talks could threaten the success of the entire Summit and dilute the market signals to the businesses and investors that will have to drive the acceleration of the net zero transition over the next decade.

As such, the UK government has reportedly invited a group of ministers to an in-person meeting in London on 25-26 July and has tasked Singapore's environment minister Grace Fu and Norwegian climate minister Sveinung Rotevatn to lead a series of informal ministerial discussions on carbon market reforms.

These last ditch attempts to end the deadlock are overshadowed by growing tensions over rich nations continuing failure to make covid vaccines available to poorer nations and deliver on the $100bn climate funding target. At the close of this week's meeting the AOSIS group of island states warned that at both a logistical and diplomatic level, COP26 was facing serious challenges.

"The road to COP 26 remains nebulous. COVID-19 remains a serious concern for many of us, and travel restrictions continue for many countries," said Ambassador Black-Layne of Antigua and Barbuda. "Access to vaccines and testing facilities is still a challenge in island States, and the safety of our delegates is priority…. A significant portion of our membership face onerous travel restrictions regardless of their personal vaccination status. Some islands in the Pacific have just two flights per month, with one month of quarantine, while other islands still have closed borders. This will not change unless their entire populations have vaccine access."

She also reiterated the need for increased funding for developing nations if they are to bolster their climate resilience and accelerate their emission reduction efforts. "Parallel to these negotiations, we have taken note of the G7's restated intention to deliver on the 100 billion goal, originally promised for 2020," she said. "COP26 fast approaches, where we must in good faith look toward the determination of a new, scaled up finance goal in Glasgow that is truly accessible to the climate vulnerable like us who need it. Some sage advice; when it comes to the delicate art of building trust, actions will always speak louder than words."

COP26 President Alok Sharma reiterated the UK's offer that "all delegates who are not able to get vaccines from their own countries will be able to get support from us" and acknowledged that delivering on the $100bn a year climate finance goal was "a matter of trust".

But observers warned that until the funding goal was honoured there was little chance of meaningful progress on other fronts. "The past three weeks have made one thing very clear - the most dangerous stumbling blocks on the road to COP26 are political, not technical," said Jennifer Tollmann, senior policy advisor at think tank E3G. "Parties know each others' positions, it's the will to find compromise options that drive ambition that's frequently missing. Meanwhile, the failure to give developing countries confidence that the promised $100bn a year in support will be delivered hangs over the process. The UK will have to navigate this environment and rebuild trust and confidence - particularly that issues of high priority to vulnerable countries - predictable finance, support for adaptation and dealing with loss and damage - are given proper political attention - by the G7 and UNFCCC process between now and Glasgow."

Sharma stressed that the final countdown to the crucial Glasgow Summit was now clearly underway. "We cannot be complacent and we all understand that there is still a significant amount of work that needs to be done to ensure COP26 is a success," he said. "The next few months are vital as the UK Presidency continues to reach out to Parties, driving progress and creating space to reach compromises. It is important that we meet in Glasgow having done our homework ahead of COP26."

But as with all UN Climate Summits over the years, there is only so much diplomats can do finesse a compromise agreement if their political bosses are reluctant to make the concessions necessary for any international accord. The hope is that they can be convinced into translating their warm words on the net zero transition into the credible legal texts and ambitious domestic policies that can drive real world action.

Citizens and scientists to plot visions for net zero future ahead of COP26

Citizens and scientists to plot visions for net zero future ahead of COP26

Government-backed project will see broad range of stakeholders collaborate on visions for what a net zero future could looks like for six regions around the world

The UK government has launched a project that will bring together academics, businesses, civil society, and citizens from around the world to draw out visions for a net zero future.

Dubbed 'Visions for a Net Zero Future', the project aims to produce "evidence-based visions" of what a climate-resilient future could look like for the UK, India, Jamaica, Brazil, Kenya, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

Issues like electricity generation, agriculture, waste and water management, building design, reforestation and ocean conservation are set to debated and discussed by participants in the project from the six regions during a series of virtual workshops, the government said.

Participants will then be encouraged to explore the evidence around different decarbonisation solutions and share their perspectives as they hash out a collective vision for their region's future, it added.

The initiative is being delivered by a consortium led by Deloitte and facilitated by the University of Cambridge, but will include academic representation from each of the six regions.

The resulting six 'visions' will be published in September in a bid to inform discussions at vital COP26 climate talks being hosted by the UK this autumn, the government said. Findings from the project will also be shared as part of the 'science and innovation' day at COP26, it added.

"This new flagship project brings together the best and brightest scientists with communities around the world, helping drive forward global efforts to tackle climate change by putting their voices at the heart of the green transition," Energy and Climate Change Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said. "The exciting visions developed through this science and innovation project will aim to inspire people across the globe ahead of COP26, improving our understanding of what net zero means for us all and the wide-ranging benefits of achieving it."

COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma said the "wonderfully innovative project" would help communities conceptualise the benefits of shifting towards a lower carbon economy.

"The science is clear that to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we need to put the world on a path to net zero emissions by the middle of the century," he said. "This wonderfully innovative project will help communities around the world visualise how they can help achieve this and inspire the concrete action we need to keep that crucial 1.5C goal within sight ahead of COP26."

Spiders and fungi and aquaporins - Is the best tech created by nature?

Spiders and fungi and aquaporins - Is the best tech created by nature?

Three US firms are taking their inspiration from natural processes to deliver exciting new clean tech innovations

Alex Greenhalgh, CEO of Spintex Engineering, thinks we have been overlooking humanity's greatest R&D lab: Mother nature.

"It comes down to over 300 billion years of really intensive research and development by Mother Nature," he said during a panel at GreenBiz Group's Circularity 21 conference. "And ended up with an incredibly energy efficient way to produce materials and fibres that actually excel and go beyond anything that we've managed to achieve in the last 100 years with all polymer science."

This process of looking to nature for engineering inspiration is called biomimicry and it's what propelled Greenhalgh's company to win the Biomimicry Institute's Ray of Hope PrizeSpintex Engineering studied the humble spider and its extraordinary way of spinning fibre to create a process that is a 1,000 times more energy efficient than producing plastic fibres. 

"Fundamentally, what happens inside the spider is there is a protein and a water complex that are combined in such a way that they end up with a gel-like material with a very unique property; sheer sensitivity," he said. "This means that it responds to a physical force, pulling, and it will change from a liquid to a solid. Just by physical force, there's no extra chemical interaction needed and water ends up being the only byproduct."

Spintex has been able to recreate this process in a lab at scale, making kilograms of this material for clothing and in the future, it hopes automotive materials, biomedical applications, and aerospace products.

But spiders aren't the only nature getting attention from sustainability engineers. Novobiom is using fungi to clean up toxic waste and pollutants in soil in a natural and efficient way. Jean-Michel Scheuren, CEO of Novobiom, told the Circularity 21 audience that fungi are nature's recyclers and instead of just getting inspired by nature, we need to work with nature.  

"Working hand-in-hand with nature is probably the best solution, and a scalable solution at a low cost," he said. "It's the most effective [way], probably, to tackle most of the challenges that you're facing. This is really a change of mindsets."

Aquammodate is going one step further by combining the natural with the technology to reduce the energy needs for water purification. By using the proteins in cell membranes, known as aquaporins, that selectively allow water to pass through cells, Aquammodate can create a filter that only allows H2O molecules through, leaving all other contaminants on the other side. 

"We can use the energy efficiency of nature, combined with the selectivity so we can get the purity needed," said Aquammodate CEO Simon Isaksson. According to him, they have seen an 85 per cent reduction in energy required compared to typical purification technologies. 

"Biological materials can outperform artificial and manmade materials quite often," Greenhalgh said. "We know that nature has to be doing something right."

And we should be taking notes from the universe's greatest inventor.

This article first appeared at GreenBiz.com

New corporate alliance aims to scale climate action, starting with carbon removal

New corporate alliance aims to scale climate action, starting with carbon removal

Top global brands throw weight behind new Business Alliance for Scaling Climate Solutions

I don't have to tell readers that a dizzying array of initiatives, funding opportunities and technologies are spinning up to help corporations move toward net-zero commitments. Figuring out which ones are worth supporting isn't for the faint of heart. Who has time to vet them all and still do their day job?

That frustration informs the backstory for the new Business Alliance for Scaling Climate Solutions (BASCS), founded by a who's-who of mammoth cloud services firms (Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Salesforce and Workday) and two mega consumer brands (Disney and Unilever). 

The sustainability teams at these companies often find themselves comparing notes informally, asking for advice on how to structure requests for proposals, account for certain types of carbon credits or whether others know much about certain climate-tech startups. A big part of the BASCS mission: Provide a "central, neutral" clearinghouse for hearing about and evaluating climate schemes and solutions, with an initial focus on options for carbon removal.

"Transitioning to a low-carbon economy demands fundamental changes in the way society, including the private sector, operates and innovates," said Vijay Sudan, executive director of enterprise social responsibility for The Walt Disney Co., in a statement. "Collaborating with other members of BASCS will create opportunity to scale high-quality climate solutions necessary to drive a more sustainable future."

Why do we need another climate alliance? I put that question to a founding member, Max Scher, head of clean energy and carbon programs for Salesforce. "We figured, ‘Let's have them come to us, so we can compare notes,'" Scher said. "One major goal is not to recreate work that's already out there." 

Scher likened the effort to the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), instrumental over the past five years in helping corporations embrace standardised practices for procuring solar and wind electricity to meet renewable energy goals. BASCS likewise hopes to address challenges such as how to write requests for proposals for carbon removal projects or how to find and qualify quality carbon offsets that represent additional reductions, he said.

One effort that already has the alliance's attention is the LEAF Coalition, an alliance launched in April by the US, Norway, and the UK to mobilise at least $1bn in financing for forestry projects. Three BASCS members, Amazon, Salesforce, and Unilever, were among the founding corporate participants. Also on its sonar: resources and expertise related to scaling "blue carbon" solutions, an area for which few clear best practices exist, Scher said.

BASCS also includes nonprofit partners Environmental Defense Fund, United Nations Environment Program and World Wildlife Fund; advisory firm BSR is serving as the secretariat.

The organisation, which had its "soft launch" in early June, is working out its governance structure so details about elements such as membership requirements and fee structures aren't yet available, said Berkeley Rothmeier, the BSR associate director directing the project.

BASCS anticipates finalizing those details by September. (Learn more about the game plan during a June 21 webcast.) One thing that is clear, however: BASCS hopes to include as many action-oriented corporations as possible - large and small. "Individually, no matter how large, a company can only do so much," Rothmeier said.

This article first appeared at GreenBiz.com

'Good as useless': Campaigners slam IMO's new carbon intensity regulation as 'hopelessly weak'

'Good as useless': Campaigners slam IMO's new carbon intensity regulation as 'hopelessly weak'

New energy efficiency regulation for global shipping fleet will fail to reduce polluting sector’s rising emissions, NGOs warn

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has given the green light to new ship carbon efficiency standards, sparking accusations the rules are "hopelessly week" and will have a negligible impact on the greenhouse gas emissions of the global shipping industry.

Yesterday, the UN shipping agency formally adopted rules that were unveiled and approved by member states last autumn, which will see ships given a rating based on their energy intensity from 2023 onwards. Under the new standards regime, ships would be required to submit a "corrective action plan" on how they will reduce their carbon intensity if they receive low ratings for three consecutive years.

The regulator said the rules would put the emissions intensive sector, which is responsible for between 2.5 and three per cent of global greenhouse emissions, on track to reaching its greenhouse gas targets, which aim to deliver a 40 per cent reduction in the carbon intensity of shipping by 2030 and halve the sector's absolute emissions by 2050, compared to a 2008 baseline.

But campaigners slammed the proposals as nothing more than a "cosmetic measure", arguing the targets will barely scratch the surface of the sector's rising emissions which could ultimately derail the pursuit of global climate goals. They calculate the measures enacted yesterday would result in the shipping fleet improving its annual carbon intensity by just 1.5 per cent every year between now and 2026, a figure that falls drastically short of the seven per cent improvement they say is required to bring the sector into line with the 1.5C goal of the Paris Agreement.

"The maritime regulator is greenwashing shipping with a hopelessly weak ship efficiency target," said Faig Abbasov, shipping programme director at green transport group Transport & Environment. "The proposal shows total disregard for climate science and is nothing more than a cosmetic measure."

But the IMO has insisted the new rules, which combine both technical and operational approaches to improving the fuel efficiency of ships, will put shipping on "the right path towards decarbonisation" while providing "important building blocks" for future emissions reduction measures.

"The path to decarbonisation is a long, but also a common path in which we need to consider and respect each other's views," said IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim. "We have made a considerable amount of progress since the start of our journey."

Proponents of the new efficiency standards, which include influential shipping organisation the International Chamber of Shipping, have long argued the mandatory rating system will subject the most carbon intensive ships to the power of the market. Under the new rules, administrations, port authorities and other stakeholders are "encouraged to provide incentives to ships rated as A and B [in the new ratings]... sending out a strong signal to the market and financial sector," the IMO explained. Ships rated D or E for three consecutive years, meanwhile, will be required to submit a "corrective action plan" to improve their efficiency.

But critics have long argued that under the new rules contain no enforcement mechanism and have pointed out that under the new rules, polluting ships can operate for a full three years before they have to take any action to reduce their emissions. Analysis from International Council on Clean Transportation has calculated the new rules will deliver the same emissions intensity reduction across the sector as in a business-as-usual scenario where no regulation is in place, at just 1.5 per cent a year between now and 2026.

John Maggs, senior policy advisor at Seas At Risk, said the new regulatory framework was "good as useless." "The measure contains no enforcement mechanism and the level of ambition, a 1.5 percent annual improvement, was deliberately calibrated to be the same as what has happened historically and in the absence of regulation," he said.

Maggs also slammed the IMO's decision to decline to take up measures to reduce Arctic emissions of black carbon, a pollutant that accelerates the melting of ice and contributes to global temperature rise.

The IMO also confirmed that no conclusion had been reached on proposals for the introduction of an industry levy of $100 per tonne of CO2e of heavy fuel oil, with the UN-backed agency stating that the proposal will be considered at later meetings.

The row is the latest in a long history of quarrels between environmentalists and the agency charged with regulating global shipping. The IMO's headline climate targets, approved by 2018, have been slammed by campaigners and climate scientists as falling far short of delivering the greenhouse gas reductions required to meet global climate goals, while the Climate Action Tracker initiative has graded the targets as "critically insufficient" and aligned with a potentially devastating global temperature rise of 4C.

Campaigners have pointed out the IMO's reticence to establish a tough carbon regime places more of an onus on regional and national governments to set regulatory standards that catalyse decarbonisation progress across the carbon-intensive sector. 

This week, Transport & Environment urged the European Union to resist all attempts by the IMO to water down regulation designed to reduce the climate impact of shipping in Europe, noting that the IMO's secretariat had "expressed disapproval of potential national and regional regulatory measures to address shipping's growing climate impact" at its recent meeting.

"The IMO is meddling in the democratic affairs of the EU by trying to curb its plans to cut ship pollution," Abbasov said. "This is unacceptable."

The EU is preparing to include shipping in its emissions trading system when it revises the bloc's carbon market on 14 July and is also considering a proposal to require ships that use its ports to progressively switch to alternative sustainable fuels.

And in another regional move that is set to pile pressure on the sector to decarbonise, the UK has confirmed that it will count emissions from international shipping and aviation for the first time in its sixth carbon budget, which runs from 2033.

However, a number of key jurisdictions with responsibility for large fleets have remained fiercely opposed to efforts to strengthen the IMO's climate policy regime and introduce new carbon pricing mechanisms for the industry, arguing they would unfairly penalise poorer nations.

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