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In the headlines: Formula E receives €50m investment and China’s coal emissions could peak by 2020

19 May 2014
In the headlines: Formula E receives €50m investment and China’s coal emissions could peak by 2020

News snapshot for the w/c 19 May is below, please click the links to read further

Clean Revolution news stories you may have missed: 


IEA: Decarbonising the economy will save $71 trillion by 2050
Replacing fossil fuels with renewables as the world’s primary source of energy will not only save the planet from dangerous levels of warming – it will also save the global economy US$ 71trillion by 2050. This is the finding of a report, Energy Technology Perspectives 2014, released today by the International Energy Agency, which looks at the direction of the energy sector over the next 40 years. The changes needed to keep the world within 2C of warming— a widely agreed target in efforts to tackle climate change – will benefit the global economy, confirms the report, although a “coordinated policy approach” will be required to unlock these savings. “The USD 44 trillion additional investment needed to decarbonise the energy system in line with the 2DS [2C scenario] by 2050 is more than offset by over USD 115 trillion in fuel savings – resulting in net savings of USD 71 trillion,” its says. RTCC, May 12

Climate Change Will Hurt Nations' Credit Ratings, S&P Warns
Add credit ratings to the list of things climate change might ruin. According to a recent report released by Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, rising global temperatures will put downward pressure on sovereign credit ratings. The international credit-rating firm warns that poorer countries and nations with already low ratings will be hit the hardest by the effects of climate change. Emerging markets in Africa and Asia are the most at risk, with Bangladesh, Senegal and Vietnam placing at the bottom of S&P's ranking of vulnerable countries. "This is in part due to their reliance on agricultural production and employment, which can be vulnerable to shifting climate patterns and extreme weather events, but also due to their weaker capacity to absorb the financial cost," S&P wrote in the report, according to CNBC. The Huffington Post, May 17

Asia – Pacific

Dunedin Council sells fossil fuel shares
Dunedin City Council is to sell its shares in the oil industry worth almost $2 million after voting to divest itself of its investments in fossil fuels. The council voted on Tuesday to adopt an ethical investment policy which will exclude it from owning shares in the munitions, tobacco, fossil fuel extraction, gambling and pornography industries. It means the council's $76m investment vehicle the Waipori fund will sell its holding in the oil industry. The city is the first in New Zealand to adopt the ethical approach and follows similar moves by cities in the United States and five Anglican dioceses in New Zealand who last September opted to divest from the fossil fuels industry. 3 News, May 14

Tony Abbott's 'extreme' climate stance sets back policy decades, critics say
Australia's climate change action has effectively ground to a halt with the budget revealing big cuts to research and renewable energy, moves that critics say sets policy back to the 1990s. Budget papers show funds for climate change-related programs will shrink from $5.75 billion in the current fiscal year to $1.25 billion by 2014-15 and to $500 million by 2017-18. The government will spend more on its national blood program than climate change on all but the first of those four years. Graeme Pearman, a scientist who led CSIRO’s atmospheric research team for a decade until his retirement in 2002, said the government had adopted an "extreme" ideological approach in all but rejecting global warming as an issue despite ever-mounting evidence of the threat posed by more frequent extreme weather. Sydney Morning Herald, May 14


China’s coal emissions could peak by 2020
China’s coal consumption could start to drop by 2020 or even earlier, as discussions get underway on how the government’s 13th Five-Year Plan could tackle climate change. China’s greenhouse gas emissions have boomed as its economy has grown around 10% year on year over the past decades, at a heavy cost to the environment and air quality across the country. But according a new policy paper, published by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, this could be about to change. “China could intensify its efforts to reduce its reliance on coal, in the form of a plan to peak its coal consumption by 2020 (or earlier), as has been suggested as a possibility in some discussions occurring in China, and phase it out thereafter,” says the report, which was written by Lord Stern and Fergus Green. RTCC, May 12

China can no longer hide away at climate negotiations
The latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in April, suggest the opportunities left to keep the global temperature rise under 2℃ are now extremely limited. For that to happen, global emissions must peak before 2030 and fall to almost zero by the year 2100. China is now the key player in the negotiations. It has no choice: in the past, it was able to benefit from a world in which the US was the largest emitter and a passive player in climate negotiations, seen as a saboteur of the talks. China joined with developing countries and made use of US inaction, quashing demands from the international community to sign up to stricter emissions targets. But in the new round of negotiations, the US position has eased, while China faces unprecedented international pressure., May 15


EU ploughs €100m into clean tech R&D initiatives
The EU's clean tech-focused research and development programme, Climate-KIC, has this week announced it is to award over €100m of funding over the next four years to a series of new initiatives. Climate-KIC said that it will support "pioneering research, innovation and entrepreneurship" in a range of sectors, with a particular focus on sustainable urban environments, climate-friendly homes and offices, exploiting carbon emissions as a resource, and catastrophe models for the finance industry. Specifically, the organisation detailed how it is to fund a number of projects in each of these areas. Most notably, it plans to support a project being led by Bayer MaterialScience under the banner of the enCO2re programme, which aims to explore how captured carbon emissions could be used as a polymer feedstock. BusinessGreen, May 16

Germany shows what’s possible with record breaking renewable energy
Germany proved the transition from fossil fuels to renewables is possible this week, with a record-breaking amount of its electricity demand – almost 75% – provided by clean energy sources on Sunday. According to reports from Renewables International wind and solar filled such a huge proportion of the country’s power demand that electricity prices actually dipped into the negative for much of the afternoon. This is part of a wider trend. In the first quarter of 2014, 27% of Germany’s electricity demand was powered by renewables, causing the net income of RWE, the country’s second biggest utility, to fall by more than a third. As the switch to clean energy continues to batter the company’s business model, RWE CEO Peter Terium admitted earlier this year that the company had made a mistake not investing in renewables sooner choosing instead to continue on a path of outdated dirty energy production. Despite Germany’s positive momentum, however, it still has some way to go to meet its target of 80% renewable energy by 2050. Tck Tck Tck, May 15


Will India’s new PM Modi be a climate change champion?
India, the world’s third largest polluter, has just elected a new leader. This makes Narendra Modi, the dynamic chief of India’s now ruling BJP party, one of the most powerful players in fight against climate change. Dubbed the “Development Man” during his mammoth election campaign, Modi pushed a vision of prosperity to India: more power, electrified cities, and wealthier citizens. How he chooses to deliver on such a promise has profound implications for the planet over years to come. A country’s ability to develop largely depends on its energy supply. In the BJP’s election manifesto, its slogan concerning energy is “Generate More, Use Rationally, Waste Less”. RTCC, May 19

India may back solar duties after probe finds dumping
India may recommend duties on U.S. and Chinese solar imports after finding evidence of dumping, broadening a global trade dispute in the $130 billion market. More than 20 overseas suppliers, including First Solar Inc. and Yingli Green Energy Holding Co., sold equipment in India for as little as half the cost as in their home markets and undercut local prices by as much as a third, according to a summary of a 1 1/2 year probe by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry sent to the parties involved and obtained by Bloomberg News. The document indicates the ministry will recommend duties on imports from the U.S., China, Taiwan and Malaysia, said Jagdish Agarwal, spokesman for the Solar Independent Power Producers Association, which opposes trade barriers. Bloomberg New Energy, May 15

North America

Obama said to consider power-plant rule that tests law
The Obama administration is considering cutting greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants by reaching beyond the plants themselves — an unusual approach that could run afoul of anti-pollution laws. People familiar with the discussions say the administration is seeking steep reductions — as much as 25 percent — that could be met if power plant owners expand renewable energy, improve the efficiency of their grids or encourage customers to use less power. There’s disagreement even within the administration about what’s allowable under the Clean Air Act, the law that gives it the authority to curb emissions. Some administration attorneys are warning that the government could lose a legal challenge if it seeks to regulate beyond a plant’s smokestack, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the rule is still being written. Bloomberg New Energy, May 16

Unprecedented B.C. glacier melt seeps into U.S. climate change concerns
The mountains of British Columbia cradle glaciers that have scored the landscape over millennia, shaping the rugged West Coast since long before it was the West Coast. But they're in rapid retreat, and an American state-of-the-union report on climate change has singled out the rapid melt in British Columbia and Alaska as a major climate change issue. "Most glaciers in Alaska and British Columbia are shrinking substantially," said the U.S. National Climate Assessment, released last week to much fanfare south of the border. CBC Canada, May 18


DECC unveils shock changes to solar farm subsidies
Large scale solar farms would no longer receive subsidies through the Renewables Obligation (RO) regime from April 2015, under controversial plans proposed by the government today. The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has this morning officially launched a review of solar subsidies, first revealed by BusinessGreen, confirming plans to cut support for solar farms while improving the support regime for rooftop installations and community-owned projects. The consultation document proposes to halt RO subsidies for solar farms larger than 5MW in capacity from April 2015, in line with ministers' plans to curb the development of new ground-mounted solar farms. BusinessGreen, May 14

UK's oil, coal and gas 'gone in five years'
A report by the Global Sustainability Institute said shortages would increase dependency on Norway, Qatar and Russia. There should be a "Europe-wide drive" towards wind, tidal, solar and other sources of renewable power, the institute's Prof Victor Anderson said. The government says complete energy independence is unnecessary, says BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin. The report says Russia has more than 50 years of oil, more than 100 years of gas and more than 500 years of coal left, on current consumption. By contrast, Britain has just 5.2 years of oil, 4.5 years of coal and three years of its own gas remaining. BBC News, May 16

Since publication of the BBC article, Carbon Brief produced the below factcheck.

Factcheck: Why the UK will not run out of oil, coal or gas in five years
The BBC reports that the UK will run out of oil, coal and gas in just over five years. But that isn't true, according to an author of the study the story is based on. The problem is that the BBC confuses reserves and resources. It's an easy mistake to make. Read more on the difference between reserves and resources here.


Formula E drives forward with major €50m investment
Three new investors have put a total of €50m (£41m) into Formula E, the electric equivalent of Formula One that kicks off in September – a major step forward for sustainable motorsport. California-based technology firm Qualcomm Incorporated invested through its investment arm Qualcomm Ventures. It joins Amura Capital, a private equity fund based in Andorra, and Causeway Media Partners, owners of the Boston Celtics basketball team, in becoming a shareholder in the competition. Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E Holdings, welcomed the investment as a move towards a future of sustainable motorsport. He said, “I want to thank them for their belief in this project, which will see the first ever low-carbon cars racing in cities all around the world.” Blue & Green Tomorrow, May 16

Philips continues its lighting revolution, tweaking LEDs for hydroponic growing
Philips has taken the concept of lighting far beyond the traditional options as it has embraced LEDs. From connected hue bulbs for the consumer to giant sheets of lighting for architects, the company is taking the flexibility and programability offered by LEDs and changing how lighting is used. Much like the internet took the concept of phone calls and augmented that experience until it was so much more, Philips is doing the same with LEDs. Gigaom, May 14

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