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Net Zero Festival: MSCI and Schroders to partner with inaugural Net Zero Finance Summit

Net Zero Festival: MSCI and Schroders to partner with inaugural Net Zero Finance Summit

Net Zero Finance event to take place on March 16th as part of the Net Zero Festival, bringing together over 50 top green finance experts from around the world

MSCI and Schroders are to partner with the inaugural Net Zero Finance summit, which will kick off the Net Zero Festival later this month.

The investment research giant and asset management powerhouse will both feature on a programme bringing together over 50 leading green financial experts from around the world on March 16th to discuss how the financial sector is shaping the pace and scale of the net zero transition.

A number of complimentary tickets remain available for the online event, which kicks off with keynote sessions from Hiro Mizuno, special envoy on innovative finance and sustainable investments at the UN, and Nigel Topping, high level climate action champion at COP26.

MSCI and Schroders join a roster of influential partners for the event, including Bankers for Net Zero, Carbon Trackers, the Climate Bonds Initiative, FAIRR, the Green Finance Institute, ShareAction, the Sustainable Finance Programme at the University of Oxford, the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), WWF, and the UN Environment Programme's Finance Initiative.

Bruno Rauis, executive director for climate risk research at MSCI, who will take part in a debate on how to develop a net zero portfolio at the event, said it was critical investors engage with escalating climate-related risks.

"Climate risks, whether physical or related to the transition to a lower carbon economy, are changing the risk-return profile of companies and industries," he said. "As investor awareness and stakeholder pressure rises, institutional investors increasingly want to invest to affect more systemic, global change beyond the company or portfolio level. We look forward to discussing the challenges and explore the opportunities at the Net Zero Finance summit as we aim to help investors seeking to align with a net zero world."

Carolina Minio Paluello, global head of product, solutions and quant at Schroders,  who will take part in a panel discussion at the event on the investor role in the net zero transition, argued asset managers had a crucial role to play in accelerating the economy-wide shift towards net zero emissions.

"Climate change will be a defining driver of the global economy, financial markets and wider society in the coming years," she said. "As an active asset manager we believe that we have a fundamental role to play in encouraging large companies to take account of the urgent need to plan, and execute, a transition to net zero. We also believe that doing so will be beneficial for long-term corporate valuations. We're delighted to support the Net Zero Finance Hub and Net Zero Finance summit to spur action towards a low carbon economy."

The Net Zero Finance summit is the first event in this year's Net Zero Festival programme, as BusinessGreen works to showcase the best of the net zero transition ahead of the crucial COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow this autumn.

The Festival will take place from September 29th to October 1st online and in London. It will be accompanied by a series of virtual events, including Net Zero Finance on March 16th, Net Zero Nature on May 27th, Net Zero Innovate on June 24th, and Net Zero Culture on October 20th.

Drawing on BusinessGreen's 14 year heritage at the heart of the UK's green economy, the Net Zero Festival will bring together many of the world's top climate experts and most inspiring business leaders to deliver a raft of must-see content exploring how the net zero transition has become the defining business trend of the age. Uniting the movers and shakers in business, policy, and finance, the events will debate the mega-trends shaping the net zero transition and take a deep dive into the critical net zero related trends and challenges every company needs to engage with if they are to prosper over the coming decades.

With support from commercial partners such as Schroders, SNC-Lavalin, and Atkins, the Festival and fringe events will provide the new breed of chief sustainability officers and their many allies across the business with a wide-ranging forum through which to share best practices and explore how they can move faster, together.

Interested parties can register their interest in attending, sponsoring, speaking, or hosting a fringe event as part of the Net Zero Festival through the event website. Full details on the speaker and sponsor line up for the Festival and events throughout the year will be announced in the coming weeks.

Study: Ten-fold increase in annual CO2 cuts needed to hit global climate goals

Study: Ten-fold increase in annual CO2 cuts needed to hit global climate goals

UK boasts one of the world's best decarbonisation records, but it still pales in comparison to what is required under Paris Agreement

The UK boasts one of the world's best records on decarbonisation since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015, yet progress still remains far below the scale of emissions cuts required by countries every year if the world is to reach its climate goals and avoid the most catastrophic impacts of a warming planet.

That is the conclusion of researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Stanford University in the US, who have carried out a global stocktake of progress in cutting carbon emissions worldwide over the five years since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015.

Their findings, which were published yesterday in the journal Nature Climate Change, show that even despite the freak decline in annual emissions last year in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, far greater annual reductions in CO2 emissions are required every year from now on to hit climate goals.

The study estimates a ten-fold increase in emissions cuts is now needed every year across the planet, underscoring the clear need for greater climate ambition from countries at the upcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow later this year, the authors said.

Average annual cuts of just 0.16 billion tonnes of CO2 have been achieved worldwide over the past five years, which is only 10 per cent of the one to two billion tonnes of CO2 that needs eradicating from the economy globally every year to give the planet a fighting chance of limiting temperature rise to 1.5C or 'well below' 2C, the analysis found.

Ukraine currently leads the world on cutting carbon emissions over the past five years, with its emissions down an average of four per cent per year since 2015, while the UK sits in second place with an annual decarbonisation rate of 3.6 per cent, according to the study.

But while emissions fell in 64 countries, they have increased in 150 countries, and overall global emissions grew by 0.21 billion tonnes of CO2 each year from 2016-19, compared to the 2011-15 period.

China's emissions have risen by an average of 0.4 per cent each year since the Paris Agreement was signed, India's have risen by 5.2 per cent annually, and Russia's by 0.2 per cent, the research shows, compared to an average 0.8 per cent annual drop in CO2 among high-income countries.

The scale of decarbonisation required each year is also significantly greater than that seen last year in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. The study shows Carbon emissions fell by around seven per cent last year compared to 2019 as a result of worldwide lockdown measures and a huge decline in industrial activity and energy demand, amounting to a cut of around 2.6 billion tonnes of CO2.

Professor Corinne Le Quéré, Royal Society Professor at UEA's School of Environmental Sciences - who led the latest academic study - warned the unusual drop in CO2 emissions last year was a 'pause button' that could nor realistically continue beyond 2020 as long as the world continues to rely so heavily on fossil fuels.

"Countries' efforts to cut CO2 emissions since the Paris Agreement are starting to pay off, but actions are not large-scale enough yet and emissions are still increasing in way too many countries," she said. "The drop in CO2 emissions from responses to Covid-19 highlights the scale of actions and of international adherence needed to tackle climate change. Now we need large-scale actions that are good for human health and good for the planet."

The new analysis follows research by the International Energy Agency (IEA) earlier this week which confirmed global energy-related emissions fell six per cent last year, but that by the end of 2020 emissions had already begun picking up to pre-pandemic levels, with CO2 expected to rise again in 2021.

"It is in everyone's best interests to build back better to speed the urgent transition to clean energy," Le Quéré added.

The new study provides some causes for optimism, concluding that the growing number of climate change laws and policies - which now number more than 2,000 worldwide - appear to have played a key role in curbing the growth in emissions from 2016 to 2019, which would otherwise have seen emissions levels rise even higher.

It also argues that an immediate, full bounce-back to previous CO2 emission levels seen before the pandemic appears unlikely, adding that stimulus efforts in the wake of the pandemic should be used to drive a green recovery or else emissions are likely to begin increasing again within a few years.

The study highlights the changes in transportation habits, growing interest in nature, and soaring demand for electric vehicles, as well as the resilience of renewable energy reliant grids as major steps forward for the net zero transition over the past year.

But co-author of the study, Professor Rob Jackson of Stanford University, said commitments to climate action alone "aren't enough". "Countries need to align post-Covid incentives with climate targets this decade, based on sound science and credible implementation plans," he said.

'23 million 40-tonne trucks': UN study uncovers extent of world's food waste crisis

'23 million 40-tonne trucks': UN study uncovers extent of world's food waste crisis

The findings suggest an urgent need to ramp up efforts to meet UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, which aims to halve global food waste by 2030

A gigantic 931 million tonnes of food were binned in 2019 by households, retailers, restaurants, and other food services, according to new UN research designed to evaluate the sluggish progress towards meeting the UN sustainability goal of halving food waste by 2030. The epic food waste mountain represents 17 per cent of all the food available to consumers over the course of 2019, according to the research, which calculates that wasted food could fill 23 million 40-tonne trucks - enough to circle the earth bumper-to-bumper seven times.

These startling figures are laid out in the Food Waste Index Report 2021, published today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) together with UK-based non-profit WRAP, which advises businesses, policymakers, and households on how to curb waste levels and develop more circular resource flows. Interestingly, the report reveals that household per capita food waste was broadly similar across country income groups, suggesting food waste is a problem blighting the whole world and not solely developed nations. It also uncovers that the bulk of the global food waste mountain comes from households, which discard 11 per cent of the total food available at the consumption stage of the supply chain. Food services and retail outlets fare better, but still waste five per cent and two per cent, respectively, of the food they serve.

On a global per capita-level, 121 kilograms of consumer-stage food is wasted each year, with 74 kilograms of this happening in households, the report shows.

The report's findings are presented in the context of UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12, which aims to "ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns". Specifically, target 12.3 sets an internationally agreed goal to "halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels" by 2030.

The explicit inclusion of food waste within the UN's SDGs reflects the issue's substantial environmental and social impacts. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that between eight and 10 per cent of global greenhouse emissions are associated with food that is not consumed, with emissions arising from the production and distribution of unused food, its impact via changes to land use and deforestation especially for certain key commodities such as palm oil, soy, and beef, and the methane released when wasted food is thrown out. Food waste at the harvesting and production stage remains a major source of emissions, but as environmental impacts accrue across the life cycle of food products, food waste at the consumer level delivers the largest carbon footprint.

"Reducing food waste would cut greenhouse gas emissions, slow the destruction of nature through land conversion and pollution, enhance the availability of food and thus reduce hunger and save money at a time of global recession," said Inger Andersen, executive director at the UNEP. "If we want to get serious about tackling climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste, businesses, governments and citizens around the world have to do their part to reduce food waste."

The UN's Food Waste Index is one of two indicators used to measure progress towards SDG 12.3. The startling global food waste estimates outlined in the latest report were generated from existing data points and extrapolations based upon the estimates observed in a range of countries. However, there is limited availiability of more precise global food waste data and measurement approaches have previously produced highly variable results, fuelling fears overall levels of food waste could be even worse than currently estimated. Just 17 countries are identified in the report as having data of sufficient quality to be compatible with SDG 12.3 reporting, while a further 42 countries have medium levels of compatibility, meaning they require small updates in methodology, geographical coverage or sample size to create an SDG 12.3-compatible estimation.

Accordingly, as well as laying out its broad estimates for total food waste, the report also details a methodology for countries to measure food waste across all relevant levels - household, food service, and retail. "Countries using this methodology will generate strong evidence to guide a national strategy on food waste prevention, food waste estimates that are sufficiently sensitive to pick up changes in food waste over two- or four-year intervals, and that enables meaningful comparisons among countries globally," the report states.

UNEP aims to develop capacity to produce this evidence by launching regional working groups through the course of this year, with a view to building countries' capabilities to measure food waste in time for the next round of SDG 12.3 reporting in late 2022. These efforts will help support countries in designing national baselines to track progress towards the 2030 goal, informing national strategies to prevent food waste, UNEP said.

More broadly, UNEP notes in the report that despite food waste's significant contribution to climate change, "none of the Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement mention food waste". It therefore urges countries to raise their climate ambition by including measures to tackle food waste in their national climate action plans, arguing that effective food waste reduction programmes can galvanise climate action while also strengthening food security and cutting costs to households.

As such, UNEP's partner organisation WRAP this week launched the UK's first Food Waste Action Week, aiming to drive home the message that wasting food feeds climate change. "For a long time, it was assumed that food waste in the home was a significant problem only in developed countries," said Marcus Gover, CEO of WRAP. "With the publication of the Food Waste Index report, we see that things are not so clear cut. With only nine years to go, we will not achieve SDG 12 Target 3 if we do not significantly increase investment in tackling food waste in the home globally. This must be a priority for governments, international organisations, businesses and philanthropic foundations."

Food waste has for too long been sidelined in national and corporate climate action plans, despite the fact tackling food waste provides a highly cost effective means of curbing emissions while also enhancing food security and reducing pressure on natural habitats. The hope is that the topic can start to move up the agenda for governments and business alike in the run up to this year's COP26 Summit, albeit with the help of 23 million 40-tonne trucks.

Green recovery or bust? Six green things we learnt from the Budget (and a lot of things we didn't)

Green recovery or bust? Six green things we learnt from the Budget (and a lot of things we didn't)

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak served up a host of green infrastructure and financial measures, but has kicked many key issues down the road

Ahead of yesterday's Budget, anticipation was high. Would Rishi Sunak deliver the sweeping net zero financial plan and green stimulus measures that businesses, campaigners, economists, and scientists broadly agree are urgently needed to meet statutory climate goals? And, as the last Budget before the COP26 Summit later this year, would UK diplomats be handed an ambitious domestic decarbonisation agenda with which to help them leverage more ambitious action from other countries?

Or, amid pressure to tighten fiscal belts and avoid rocking the boat on difficult taxation decisions in the midst of a crippling recession would the Chancellor opt for a 'steady as she goes' economic programme that offers a few green sops, but broadly fails to fully grasp the scale of the net zero opportunity?

The truth, as ever, is complicated, with the Budget having left many unanswered questions and kicking several crucial issues down the road, while at the same time serving up a raft of potentially game-changing green policies that look set to further embed climate action right at the heart of the UK's financial establishment. BusinessGreen explores some of the key takeaways.

1. The entire political spectrum wants to see a 'green recovery'

The level of ambition contained in the Budget's 'green' plans is the subject of debate this morning, but it is now clearer than ever that the Treasury and its Ministers view climate change as core to their agenda.

In his speech yesterday, Sunak extolled the virtues of the growing green economy, setting out a vision of a "future economy" dominated by offshore wind power, carbon capture and storage, innovative clean technologies, and "decent well-paid green jobs".

It's hard to recall any previous Chancellor showcasing decarbonisation at the heart of a Budget speech, but here was Sunak making the case for borrowing to invest in a green future economy. "If we want a better future economy, we have to make it happen," he said. "We have to do things that have never been done before. The world is not going to be any less competitive after coronavirus. So it's not enough to have some general desire to grow the economy. We need a real commitment to green growth."

Of course, these may only be warm green words, and there is much to do to match Sunak's rhetoric with the much needed funding and policy frameworks. Moreover, while Sunak closed his speech with a stirring vision for a green Teesside it appears he spoke far more of "net zero" and "climate" action in last year's Budget.

But on balance Sunak's green rhetoric sets a welcome bar the government now has to clear. Ministers now know the concept of a 'green recovery' is hugely popular, and they will pay the political cost should their actions fail to live up to that vision.

2. Tech development is top of the net zero agenda

Green groups will undoubtedly be reassured that tackling climate change has been enshrined as one of two core objectives for the UK Infrastructure Bank. Just as the Green Investment Bank before it helped fuel the growth of the UK's offshore wind sector before it was privatised, the new Leeds-based public investment bank could prove critical to the development of early stage technologies that are crucial in the UK's journey to net zero, such as carbon capture and hydrogen.

While the decision to set up a new public investment bank has been broadly welcomed across the green economy, some have warned that the bank's mandate needs to be tightened up to ensure funding does not end up supporting high-carbon industries. Meanwhile, the spectre of the GIB - which was sold off no less than five years after its creation - looms large over the initiative, with business groups having already urged the government to enact measures that guarantee the National Infrastructure Bank's longevity and independence as it works to deliver on multi-decadal climate goals.

In addition, the various research and development (R&D) funding and innovation competitions set out in yesterday's Budget could also help catalyse the development of clean energy and transport technologies and demonstrate the government's enthusiasm to test a wide range of clean tech solutions across the UK. New funding ranges from £27m promised to ramp up clean energy technologies, such as hydrogen and offshore wind, in the UK's oil and gas heartland around Aberdeen, the launch of a £68m UK-wide competition for cutting-edge energy storage prototypes, and £30m for a low carbon rail technology research hub in Wales.

However, critics have been quick to point out that these potted R&D initiatives are no match for comprehensive strategy for developing an attractive, long-term investment environment for technologies and solutions that can deliver much-needed emissions reductions in transport, energy, industry, and buildings. For example, unlike many European countries the UK is yet to publish a dedicated hydrogen strategy setting out a framework for how it intends to ramp up supply and demand for the low carbon fuel. And despite its much-vaunted plans to deliver a "green industrial revolution", the UK's green recovery package is still dwarfed on a per capita by green stimulus measures announced by Denmark, Germany, France, and South Korea.

3. The government wants to make The City a green finance hub

If many parts of the green economy were left disappointed by the Budget, the green finance space had plenty to celebrate. Climate Change Committee (CCC) chief executive Chris Stark was quietly critical of the Budget overall, but argued the "most significant change" announced yesterday was the government's decision to update the remit of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee to reflect the government's commitment to achieve "strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is environmentally sustainable and consistent with the transition to a net zero economy". In other words, the UK's central bank is now accountable for not just the efficient functioning of the financial system, but also its environmental impacts.

That, alongside the decision to launch a the UK's first green sovereign bond and retail savings product for every day investors this summer, could play a key role in embedding the UK's climate commitments into its financial system. The government also confirmed it intends to publish a framework and reporting standards for the green gilt in June, and that the retail product would be closely linked to the UK's sovereign green bond framework.

However, huge questions remain about what real-world impact such tweaks will have, and which sectors will benefit from the £15bn green gilt issuance and new retail savings product. The government is already facing calls for funding to be spent on decarbonising UK's homes, an issue critical to the achieving net zero, yet largely ignored in yesterday's budget.

"This package from HMT contains very welcome green finance elements, including confirmation of funding to set up the UK Infrastructure Bank, green sovereign bonds and changing the monetary policy remit of the Bank of England to align with the UK's net-zero target," said Kate Levick, associate director of sustainable finance at think tank E3G. "But it still fails to fully step up to the challenge of mobilising finance at the scale needed for the UK's climate transition. We have a short window for action and now is not the time to hold back and stifle innovation or growth in the name of balancing the books."

4. Green Homes Grant Scheme survives, but lagging continues to lag

Commentators were quick to jump on the complete absence of any mention of the Green Homes Grant Scheme in the Budget documents as proof of its imminent demise, as had been rumoured in the press for several weeks.

Yet the Treasury confirmed to BusinessGreen that the £320m budget previously pledged by the government for the 2021/22 financial year does in fact remain in place, which should keep the energy efficiency retrofit programme running until March next year. Welcome news, certainly, for the myriad business groups, politicians and even the CCC that had urged the government to maintain the flagship green stimulus scheme, despite the administrative problems that have dented confidence among homeowners and installers alike.

But given well over £1bn is set to be withdrawn from the scheme at the end of this month, with the government refusing to carry over any unspent funds from the initial £1.5bn set aside at its launch last year, and no sign as yet of reforms to iron out the many problems facing homeowners trying to access discount vouchers for green upgrades, the Budget certainly offered thin gruel for tackling the UK's notoriously leaky housing stock.

Indeed, nowhere else in the Budget were there funding policies or tax incentives to cut carbon from the UK's 29 million homes, which account for a sizeable proportion of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions. It is a problem the government seems content to kick down the road, yet time is now very short and there are few cheap and easy fixes: a recent report estimated £43.3bn investment is needed to meet the government's 2030 green home targets.

As Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at the UK Green Building Council, said yesterday, the UK "cannot afford to duck the challenge any longer". "The Chancellor's 'investment-led' green recovery should not ignore the voice of the industry calling for a national retrofit strategy to unlock vital green jobs across the whole country," she said.

5. Green taxes remain lacking

Scores of economists, businesses, and campaigners have long extolled the opportunity of harnessing the tax system to drive decarbonisation and green behaviour change, and such calls only grew louder in recent weeks leading up to yesterday's Budget. Even the Treasury itself in its interim Net Zero Review late last year seemed to acknowledge it would need to use the many tools at its disposal to help accelerate the growth of green markets.

But despite high hopes a Chancellor keen to stimulate the economy would pursue reforms that can drive immediate economic activity, there were no cuts to VAT on green products and services, such as for home insulation and electric vehicles, and even the much-vaunted 'super deduction' offering tax relief on machinery and equipment does not include, for example, EV chargepoint installations or green grid upgrade measures. Meanwhile, the fuel duty was once again frozen, as it has been for well over a decade.

Last week in an interview with The Sun, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson was unequivocal there would be no green tax rises for consumers under his watch. And there is no doubt slapping taxes on meat and petrol remains politically very difficult, even if such questions cannot be avoided forever. Yet in the immediate term, cutting taxes and VAT for green products could send hugely important market signals, create jobs and demand, and help support the net zero agenda and the targets set out in the PM's 10 Point Plan.

James Harrold, UK environmental taxes leader at PwC, said it could be the Chancellor is "keeping his powder dry" in this area for the Treasury's Net Zero Review due out this Spring, as well as the numerous green policy strategies expected ahead of COP26. However, time is running short, he added.

"Only last month the NAO published a review of how HM Treasury and HMRC manage and administer the environmental taxes and made recommendations for the way in which environmental taxes should be better designed, monitored and evaluated to maximise their benefit in driving change of behaviour and achieving government policy aims," he said. "The need for a clear and robust road map to use both public finances and the tax system together to accelerate the changes needed to deliver on the 10 Point Plan is becoming more obvious than ever."

6. Credible carbon offsets are a top priority

With rows erupting over the very concept of 'net zero' in recent months, amid surging corporate interest in carbon neutrality targets and so-called nature-based solutions to offset residual emissions, it was welcome to see the Treasury recognise offsets as a key issue to be grappled with.

The Chancellor announced yesterday that Dame Clara Fuse, a former chief executive of the London Stock Exchange, will lead a new working group with the aim of positioning the UK and City of London as the leading global market for high quality voluntary carbon offsets. The working groups will draw on both the UK's financial expertise and the work of the Mark Carney-led Taskforce for Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets.

With Carney himself having come under fire for both the remit of the Taskforce - which some campaigners believe is failing to push for robust enough standards to build a credible offset market - as well as his own questionable recent claims abot what constitutes a net zero portfolio, it all underscores how crucial it is to get this key pillar of the net zero transition correct. Moreover, Article 6 of the Paris Agreement - which covers carbon offset markets - has long been a key bone of contention at UN climate summits, and the need for resolution of this core aspect of the treaty's rulebook is once again likely to dominate the talks at COP26, which the UK is of course set to host.

If the UK can play its part in setting set down a clear, widely-supported framework for carbon offsetting, then it will have provided a major building block for a successful outcome in Glasgow.

More broadly, success in Glasgow will be informed by the credibility of the UK's national mnet zero strategy, which Ministers insist the government is still working on. The hope was that the Budget would deliver a major step forward for such plans, but despite encouraging rhetoric and long term investment signals the final package was badly incomplete. With little to nothing to say about aviation, electric vehicles, shipping, farming, building efficiency, smart grids, or numerous other areas attention will now turn to that promised net zero strategy and the hope Sunak will eventually make good on his promise to turbocharge the development of a green future economy.

Low carbon packages: FedEx pledges to deliver 'carbon neutrality' across its operations by 2040 with $2bn investment drive

Low carbon packages: FedEx pledges to deliver 'carbon neutrality' across its operations by 2040 with $2bn investment drive

Air cargo operator pledges to invest in sustainable fuels, carbon capture research, and fleet electrification in bid to meet new climate goals

Package delivery giant and airline operator FedEx has announced it plans to achieve 'carbon neutrality' across its operations within the next 20 years through investments in electrification, sustainable fuels, energy efficiency, and carbon capture systems.

The US logistics giant, which operates the largest cargo airline in the world, said it would spend $2bn on the decarbonisation drive, claiming that it had a "responsibility" to take bold action to tackle climate challenges.

The company said it was targeting a fully zero emission parcel pickup and delivery (PUD) fleet by 2040, a push that will be accomplished by gradually phasing out its existing fossil fuel fleet. By 2025, half of all FedEx Express global PUD vehicle purchases would be electric, rising to 100 per cent by 2030, it said.

And in order to reduce the carbon impact of its extensive air fleet, which boasts more than 650 aircraft, the company said it will invest in alternative fuels, while also taking steps to reduce fuel consumption and modernise its aircraft.

Digital commerce has skyrocketed as shops have shuttered during the pandemic, and delivery companies are under growing pressure from companies and consumers to decarbonise their fleets to prevent the online shopping surge from fuelling a significant rise in transport emissions. Amazon, for example, has pledged to fully decarbonise its fleet by 2040, and has ordered 100,000 delivery vehicles from US electric vehicle start up Rivian to get there, while UPS has ordered 10,000 vans from British EV start-up Arrival.

FedEx CEO and chairman Frederick W. Smith said this week that his company had "a responsibility to take bold action in addressing climate challenges".

"This goal builds on our longstanding commitment to sustainability throughout our operations, while at the same time investing in long-term, transformational solutions for FedEx and our entire industry," he added.

In addition to measures that reduce the carbon impact of its vehicles and aircraft, the firm said it intends to make the 5,000 facilities it runs worldwide more sustainable by investing in energy efficiency upgrades, renewable energy, and other energy management programs.

FedEx also announced it is investing $100m to set up a new centre for national carbon capture at Yale University where researchers will look into ways to scale up carbon sequestration technologies.

At the Yale Center for Carbon Capture researchers will develop a range of carbon removal strategies by drawing from methods used by natural carbon storage systems - including biological ecosystems and the geological carbon cycle - with a view to enhancing, expanding, and accelerating such processes, Fedex said.

The centre will initially focus on tackling emissions form the aviation sector but will ultimately broaden its scope to address other global sources of emissions, the company explained.

"Addressing climate change is a complex challenge that demands urgent action, and natural carbon capture strategies will be one key part of that action," said Dr. Indy Burke, the Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean of the Yale School of the Environment. "Through the creation of the Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture, we aim to develop measurable carbon capture strategies to help offset carbon emissions globally."

FedEx's new operational net zero goal comes as UK electric vehicle startup Arrival published the specifications for an all-electric van set to hit roads for the first time this summer.

The unicorn start-up, which is based outside of Oxford but is eyeing a listing on the US NASDAQ exchange through a merger with US special purpose acquisition company CIIG, said it expects to start road trials of the e-commerce van over the coming months, before full production is launched in the third quarter of 2022.

Arrival claims the vans set a new standard for electric commercial vehicles across both payload and length, while also offering a substantially lower total cost of ownership than comparable fossil fuel vehicles.

The company said the van had been developed to "maximise functionality for real world use" and optimise the running of a fleet, while boasting real-time health monitoring and predictive maintenance functionality. The components of the van, such as the battery, human-machine interface, and compute platform, are all connected via Arrival's proprietary software, it said.

Octopus extends reach of Electric Juice Network with Ionity tie-up

Octopus extends reach of Electric Juice Network with Ionity tie-up

Energy giant signs charging network operator Ionity up to fast expanding network, as latest sales figures underscore growing popularity of EVs

Octopus Energy announced this week it has significantly expanded its roaming EV charging service, the Electric Juice Network (EJN), after signing up German charging network IONITY. The addition means the charge network will for the first time offer drivers access to charge points outside of the UK, while also adding a range of 350kW ultra-rapid chargers to the service. 

Octopus said high-powered chargers had been requested by customers and would benefit customers travelling long distances. IONITY's ultra-rapid chargers can charge an EV with a 50kWh battery - such as a standard range Tesla Model 3 - from 20 per cent to 80 per cent, in less than 10 minutes, it explained.

IONITY, which has 13 charging locations in the UK but more than 335 across 24 countries on mainland Europe, follows charge point operators Char.gy, Hubsta, Franklin Energy LiFe, Alfa Power, Plug-N-Go, and Osprey, in joining the EJN, which allows drivers to use charge points from a number of operators, with all costs charged through their Octopus Energy bill.

Zoisa North-Bond, director at Octopus Energy, said the expansion EJN network would encourage more drivers to go electric and thus reduce the emissions generated by road transport. "More partners coming on board to EJN makes it easier for petrol car drivers to consider electric vehicles and simplifies the whole process for current EV drivers," she said. "IONITY joining is a fantastic milestone and gives EJN users more flexibility, opens up easier long-distance travel and begins bringing our mainland Europe charging coverage to life, so I'm thrilled that they've joined the Electric Juice Network."

Octopus Energy recently set up an international office in Germany and said that customers in the country would be the second to benefit from the EJN network.

The news comes as car sales figures for the month of February released by the SMMT this morning revealed that battery and hybrid vehicles were once again the only segments to weather the downturn in auto sales seen since the onset of the pandemic.

While overall car sales fell 36 per cent compared to Feburary 2020 - marking the "weakest February since 1959", according to the industry group - sales of pure electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids were up 40.2 per cent and 52.1 per cent, respectively, according to the monthly update. Overall, these two categories were responsible for one in eight new vehicle sales, the SMMT said.

However, the group warned that despite this encouraging growth increasing the uptake of EVs and plug-in hybrids to the levels required ahead of the government's ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles from 2030 remained a "mammoth task". As such it argued that yesterday's Budget proved "a missed opportunity given the lack of measures to support the market overall and notably the transition away from pure petrol and diesel cars and vans".

Lucy Simpson, head of EV enablement at power company Centrica, said the figures revealed the UK was on the "right track" to reduce the emissions profile of road transport. However, she warned that charging infrastructure needed to be improved and enhanced across the UK.

"Accelerating the rate of EV adoption needs to be one of the priorities if we're going to achieve the government's 'road to zero' targets and today's figures show the UK is on the right track, with registrations up 40 per cent compared to this time last year," she said. "As adoption levels grow, the rollout of charging infrastructure needs to be ramped up too. Without accessible charging points across the country, many consumers will be hesitant to purchase EVs."

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