A group of 20 countries interested in biofuels and the bioeconomy unveiled a new BioFutures Platform last month in a ceremony at the United Nations climate conference in Marrakech.
Participating countries include Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Netherlands, Morocco, Mozambique, Paraguay, Philippines, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uruguay. Biofuels Digest describes the Platform as “a new, collective effort to accelerate development and scale up deployment of modern, sustainable, low-carbon alternatives to fossil-based solutions in transport fuels, industrial processes, chemicals, plastics, and other sectors.”
“Transportation accounts for around 23% of the world’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, and it is among the most challenging sectors to decarbonize,” the Platform declaration stated. “While hybrid and electric cars can help reduce carbon footprint in light duty transport, other, more immediate solutions must be concurrently put forward if climate targets are to be achieved.”
The statement adds that “sustainable, non-fossil alternatives should also be developed in such sectors as heavy duty vehicles, air transportation, plastics, and chemicals. A large number of countries have developed or are developing a bioeconomy strategy that includes expanding the production and use of biofuels, biopower, and bio-based products.”
Changing rainfall patterns due to climate change will put agriculture, forestry, and fisheries at risk by the end of the century, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concludes in its latest State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report.
“It will become more and more difficult to harvest crops, rear animals, and manage forests and fisheries in the same places and in the same way as before,” the report states. “The capacity to face shortages or excesses of water will be fundamental in the efforts to improve productivity in a sustainable way.”
For Latin America, the report “predicts that climate change will bring more drought and increases in temperature that will reduce productivity in tropical and sub-tropical regions,” Climate News Network reports. “It foresees more salinization and desertification in the arid areas of Chile and Brazil, while along the Pacific coastline some fish species will move further south.”
In the Caribbean, meanwhile, “the greater frequency of storms, tornadoes, and cyclones will harm aquaculture and fisheries, and temperature changes could alter the physiology of freshwater fish species and cause the sinking of coral reef systems.”
In Central America, 40% of mangrove species could be at risk of extinction, as climate change transforms forested areas into savannahs. “The report notes that although governments in the region see a reduction in deforestation as the main method of combating climate change, forests continue to be converted for farming and cattle breeding, which are the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the region,” Climate News Net notes.
Global energy intensity fell three times faster in 2015 than it did in 2013, but the International Energy Agency (IEA) says efficiency must still make a bigger contribution to the effort to fight climate change.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that energy efficiency needs to be central in energy policies,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “All of the core imperatives of energy policy—reducing energy bills, decarbonization, air pollution, energy security, and energy access—are made more attainable if led by strong energy efficiency policy.”
“We call energy efficiency the first fuel,” added the IEA’s Brian Motherway. “Some countries have sun, some have oil, some have wind, but all countries have energy efficiency resources.”
Global energy efficiency investment exceeded US$220 billion last year—about 66% more than the total investment in new generating capacity, Bloomberg notes. But the IEA believes the 1.8% decline in energy intensity (defined as energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product) in 2015 must increase to 2.6% per year to hit the 2030 targets flowing from the Paris Agreement.
To make that happen, Motherway said, “we need to improve by 50%, and we need to do so immediately.”
Greentech notes that much of the energy efficiency improvement in recent years traces back to China, which accounted for about half of energy demand growth from 2000 to 2015 but reduced its energy intensity 30% over the same period. “The most recent five-year plan has only strengthened those goals, with a target for energy intensity to be 44% below 2005 targets by 2020,” writes Greentech’s Katherine Tweed. “Most of the savings are expected to come from the continued shift from heavy industry to a service-based economy.”
By contrast, “in Brazil, India, Mexico, and Indonesia, only a fraction of total energy consumption is covered by efficiency standards. But there has still been significant progress since 2000, according to the IEA, when India and Brazil had no energy efficiency regulations.”
Bloomberg adds that efficiency gains over the last couple of years “came in spite of cheaper fossil fuels,” driven by government efficiency regulations for vehicles, buildings, and appliances. “The IEA estimated its 29 member countries saved enough energy between 2000 and 2015 to power all of Japan for a year, or 450 million tons of oil equivalent.” But “the institution says even those gains aren’t enough to curb global warming.”
National green building councils from 10 countries agreed to adopt zero net carbon certification programs by the end of 2017, during a meeting in New York City late last month hosted by the World Green Building Council and Architecture 2030.
The three-day Advancing Net Zero workshop was a first step in an effort announced in July to deliver on the 84-gigaton carbon dioxide cut that WorldGBC took on at the United Nations climate summit in Paris last year. The New York meeting included green building council representatives from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, the Netherlands, South Africa and Sweden.
“In three short days, the progress we made was enormous,” reports Architecture 2030 founder and CEO Ed Mazria. “The group broadly agreed on some fundamental principles, such as the need for a focus on carbon and on being transparent about how pathways will become mechanisms for continuous improvement in the building sector. Importantly, all GBC representatives championed a level of energy efficiency, and each of their initial plans includes careful consideration for a combination of onsite and offsite renewable energy, and in some cases, offsets.”
In addition to the certification programs, the GBCs agreed to come up with their own net zero definitions by the end of next year, and to develop training materials and educational resources to meet the broad objective of training 75,000 net zero building professionals world-wide by 2030 and 300,000 by 2050. One council undertook to train 1,000 professionals per year.
“Building this consensus amongst the GBCs is critical, because the transformation of the building sector to zero carbon must begin immediately,” Mazria writes. “This transition will take decades of work, and a coordinated effort between planners, regulators, architects, designers, builders, and owners, but this commitment lays the foundation by creating common guidelines for each of the parties to follow.”
Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are on the rise, according to a new report based on United Nations data, with food production now accounting for 30% of global GHGs and 60% of human-produced nitrous oxide—a chemical that is 300 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
The report concludes that 21% of global emissions come from deforestation and land use changes resulting from agriculture. Between 2000 and 2012, Brazil and Indonesia accounted for almost half of that total, though “developed countries, such as the United States and China, indirectly spur deforestation through their consumption of meat, palm oil, timber, and soy,” the Christian Science Monitor reports.
Nitrous oxide emissions, meanwhile, result mostly from inefficient application of fertilizers, with China, India, and the U.S. accounting for more than 55% of the total.
“The report suggests that changes in land management are not enough to reduce emissions. Instead, the authors propose a three-pronged approach that also targets a change in consumer behaviour: minimizing yield gaps via sustainable intensification, reducing food waste, and modifying dietary habits,” writes Food Tank’s Emma Tozer.
“If we depend on current yield trends alone to meet future demand for food, we will need the entire global emissions allowance for keeping global average temperatures below 2°C,” the report warns. “That would leave virtually no emissions for all other sectors, including energy production, industry, and transport.”
Global renewable energy investment dropped 23% in the first half of 2016 after a record year in 2015, driven by falling solar panel costs and slower investment in China, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported last week.
“It is now looking almost certain that the global investment total for this year will fail to match 2015’s runaway record,” said BNEF founder Michael Liebreich, with clean energy industries attracting US$116.4 billion in the first two quarters of the year.
While clean energy investment increased in Europe and Brazil, spending was off 46% in the Middle East and Africa, 34% in China, and 5% in the United States.
“Cheaper photovoltaic panels and lower financing costs have reduced capital spending needs of developers even as installations of the technology have hit a record,” Bloomberg News reports. “BNEF also said there’s been a shift toward more utility-scale projects and away from smaller-scale installations.”
G20 countries’ investments in climate solutions fall short of the $US790 million per year by 2020 and $2.3 trillion per year by 2035 that will be needed to meet the targets in the Paris agreement, the New Climate Institute and Germanwatch report in an analysis released last month by the Munich-based Allianz Group.
Those totals far exceed the record $286 billion in global investment the renewable energy sector racked up in 2015.
The report points to a wide variation in the investment gaps in different countries, from $5 billion per year in Argentina to $280 billion per year in China. But the top-line finding across all the countries is consistent. “None of the G20 countries is currently taking sufficient action to combat the investment gap in the power sector, which would be necessary to be aligned to a 2ºC limit in global average temperature increase,” the global insurance and asset management giant warns.
“A coherent climate strategy is a vital element in giving investors confidence in the political commitment, but it also needs to translate into concrete and transparent policy measures that make investment in renewables attractive in comparison with fossil fuels.”
The report analyses 19 countries according to their need for clean energy investment and their attractiveness to investors. It sees states like Germany, the UK, France, Italy, South Korea, Japan, and Australia has having relatively modest requirements and high investor attractiveness, concluding that “these countries could play a greater leadership role to support others to reach a similar position.
On the other side of the scale, it cites India, South Africa, Brazil, and Indonesia as “major transition economies” that have “large requirements for investments to improve power infrastructure, but are somewhat unattractive to investors, compared to other G20 countries.”
China, India, and Africa will see the harshest economic impacts if food prices double as a result of climate change and a list of other environmental stresses.
That’s the conclusion of a report on Environmental Risk Integration in Sovereign Credit Analysis (ERISC), released last week by the Global Footprint Network and the UN Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative.
“As the global population continues to rise, food prices can be a bellwether for how environmental risk translates to economic risk and vulnerability,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “As environmental pressures mount, it is important to anticipate the economic impact of these stresses so that countries and investors can work on mitigating and minimizing risk.”
“Now more than ever, in this era of climate change, identifying all relevant environmental risks is crucial to investing not only in equities but also sovereign bonds,” said GFN co-founder Susan Burns. “Disruptions to our food system represent one substantial environmental risk that both investors and governments may be largely overlooking, but would be well-served to integrate into their risk analysis.”
At US$161 billion, China would see by far the greatest GDP loss if food prices doubled, followed by India at $49 billion. But Egypt, Morocco, and the Philippines would suffer most from the combined effect on GDP, inflation, and impacts on their current accounts balance, the report concludes. Seventeen of the 20 countries at greatest risk are in Africa.
“Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Australia, Canada, and the U.S. would benefit the most from a sharp increase in food commodity prices,” the organizations state in a release. But “globally, negative effects of a food price shock massively outweigh positive effects in absolute terms”—compared to China’s $161 billion net loss, the U.S. would only stand to gain $3 billion.
“Food prices are one of the most important channels by which environmental risks affect national economies,” the reports notes, and “climate change is a significant threat to future food production. While food production may benefit in some regions from mild rises in temperature, negative effects prevail overall, especially as average global temperatures are expected to rise further, driving changes in precipitation patterns and an increase in extreme weather events. In the short term, extreme weather events may pose the greatest risk to food production.”
Climate change is also expected to aggravate year-to-year variability of crop yields, increase the incidence of food disease and pests, and reduce agricultural yields 1% per decade, against growing demand at 14% per decade.