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In the headlines: solar surge creates rise in clean energy investment and Europe launches environment satellite

Date
22 April 2014
In the headlines: solar surge creates rise in clean energy investment and Europe launches environment satellite

News snapshot for the w/c 22nd April is below, please click the links to read further.

Clean Revolution news stories you may have missed: 

Global

World’s first guide on traceability advances supply chain sustainability 
The United Nations Global Compact and BSR have released the first guide on traceability, which will help companies and consumers to ensure their material or product is produced responsibly. Supply chain traceability is increasingly becoming a key component in the business operations of palm oil, paper, minerals and diamonds, and select food commodities, said the United Nations Global Compact and BSR. The two organisations recently launched the first worldwide guide on traceability, which aims to shed light on the importance of traceability in achieving sustainability while providing steps on how to conduct traceability programmes within companies’ corporate social responsibility efforts. Eco-Business, April 17

Solar surge credited with rise in clean energy investments 
A surge in small scale solar installations in the US and Japan saw clean energy investment rise in first quarter of 2014, say analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). A total of $47.7 billion was invested in clean energy projects, compared to $43.6bn in the first three months of 2013. Falling costs of solar units have been credited with a 42% leap in Japanese and US households buying photovoltaic systems, totalling $21.2bn of investments. Q1 also saw the expansion of clean energy investments to more emerging economies, with Indonesia and Kenya recording two of the top four asset finance deals. “It is too early to say definitively that 2013 was the low point for clean energy investment worldwide and that 2014 will show a rebound, but the first-quarter numbers are encouraging,” BNEF chairman Michael Liebreich said in a statement. RTCC, April 16

Asia – Pacific

Asian air pollution strengthens Pacific storms 
Air pollution in China and other Asian countries is having far-reaching impacts on weather patterns across the Northern Hemisphere, a study suggests. Researchers have found that pollutants are strengthening storms above the Pacific Ocean, which feeds into weather systems in other parts of the world. The effect was most pronounced during the winter. The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Lead author Yuan Wang, from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, said: "The effects are quite dramatic. The pollution results in thicker and taller clouds and heavier precipitation." BBC, April 15

Bio-energy to reduce emissions 
Technologies that suck greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, surveyed this week in a major report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, could play a significant role in cutting Australia's emissions by 2050, according to local modelling. The work, commissioned by the Climate Institute, studied the potential for carbon removal technologies to be used in Australia, and found one of them – bio-energy with carbon capture and storage – could alone remove and displace 63 million tonnes of emissions a year by 2050. Those savings equate to about one-and-a-half times the emissions from all Australian cars. The Sunday Morning Herald, April 15

China

China set to elevate environment over development in new law
Smog-hit China is set to pass a new law that would give Beijing more powers to shut polluting factories and punish officials, and even place protected regions off-limits to industrial development, scholars with knowledge of the situation said. Long-awaited amendments to China's 1989 Environmental Protection Law are expected to be finalised later this year, giving the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) greater authority to take on polluters. While some details of the fourth draft are still under discussion, it has been agreed that the principle of prioritising the environment above the economy will be enshrined in law, according to scholars who have been involved in the process. The fourth draft is due to be completed within weeks. Reuters, April 15

Carbon Trading in China: Short-Term Experience, Long Term Wisdom
Last week, Hubei Province became the sixth jurisdiction in China to launch a pilot carbon emissions trading program, joining Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, and Guangdong Province. In the coming months, two additional programs will be introduced in Chongqing and Qingdao. In total, the eight pilot programs will cover an estimated one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (MTCO2), second only to the European Union’s Emissions Trading System. The pilot trading programs are part of the strategy laid out in China’s 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) to reduce carbon intensity (CO2 emissions per unit of GDP) by 40-45 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. As the world’s largest energy consumer and emitter of carbon dioxide, China’s efforts to rein in emissions are significant at both the global and national level. In addition to the carbon trading pilots, China recently announced measures to limit coal to 65 percent of primary domestic energy consumption by 2017, down from 69 percent in 2011, while also banning new coal generation in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. The Energy Collective, April 14

Europe

Ring wing rise threatens EU climate change goals 
Europe’s credibility as a climate leader could be damaged if right-wing parties are successful in next month’s parliamentary elections. That’s the finding in a new study from the Brussels-based Climate Action Network (CAN), which has assessed the voting patterns of all MEPs since 2009. In an analysis of 10 key votes, it found centre-right and right-wing parliamentarians across the continent were largely hostile to policies aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions. “We can conclude that there is a relatively clear right left division in the voting results,” say the authors. “The more to the right a political group is, the more likely they are to have scored badly on climate.” RTCC, April 16

Europe launches environment satellite
Europe has launched the first in a constellation of hi-tech satellites designed to monitor Earth for climate change and environmental damage and help disaster relief operations.Sentinel-1A, a satellite designed to scan the Earth with cloud-penetrating radar, lifted off on Thursday evening aboard a Soyuz rocket from Kourou, French Guiana, the European Space Agency (ESA) said. The satellite is the first of half a dozen orbital monitors that will be built and launched under the $5bn Copernicus project, a joint undertaking of the ESA and the European Union. It will be followed by a partner, Sentinel-1B, due to be launched towards the end of next year, according to the AFP news agency. Operating 180 degrees apart, at an altitude of about 700km, between them the pair will be able to take a radar picture of anywhere on Earth within six days. Radar scanning has a range of uses, from spotting icebergs and oil slicks to detecting rogue logging and ground subsidence. The data will be widely accessible to the public and is likely to have uses that go beyond the environment, such as in construction and transport. Aljazeera, April 14

India

Solar lanterns replace kerosene lamps in Indian urban slums 
An Indian social enterprise start-up is helping people living in urban slums to use clean energy by changing their kerosene lamps for solar lanterns and wood fires for more efficient cooking stoves through a simple payment scheme. Pollinate Energy, which began operations in 2013, is one of thousands of social businesses in India which are tapping into the clean energy market, in a country where 35-40 percent of the population have no access to electricity. While the majority of those without power live in rural areas, many poor urban communities are also forced to live by candlelight, use polluting fuels like kerosene, or "steal energy" by illegally tapping in to the power lines of wealthier neighbouring residences. Trust, April 14

India Signs Power Contracts for 700 Megawatts of Solar Capacity
India signed contracts to purchase solar power from companies building 700 megawatts of capacity awarded in a national auction. The government is waiting to sign purchase agreements for the remaining 50 megawatts from the auction in February, Tarun Kapoor, joint secretary at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, said today in an interview in New Delhi. The agreements, which lock in rates for the power generated for 25 years, bind developers to complete the plants within 13 months. Two developers dropped out after winning bids, including St. Peters, Missouri-based SunEdison Inc. (SUNE:US), which said last week it gave up a 20-megawatt project because local equipment shortages and prices make it unviable. The other developer that Kapoor didn’t identify forfeited its project after failing to get permission from its parent to proceed, he said. Bloomberg Businessweek, April 16

North America

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Fell 10 Percent Since 2005; Halfway Towards 2020 Goal
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell nearly 10 percent from 2005 to 2012, more than halfway toward the United States' 2020 target pledged at United Nations climate talks, according to the latest national emissions inventory. The report showed that emissions dropped 3.4 percent from 2012 to 2011, mostly due to a decrease in energy consumption and fuel switching from coal to natural gas. The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday published the United States' 19th annual emissions tally to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The United States uses 2005 pollution levels as its benchmark to measure emissions cuts, and has a target to lower emissions by 17 percent from that starting point by 2020. The Huffington Post, April 16

US Energy Department pledges $4 Million to advance America’s water power industry
Goal is to engage America’s research universities in the effort to accelerate the development of the emerging marine and hydrokinetic energy industry in the US. According to the US Department of Energy, this funding will support high-impact research projects designed to enable the capture of renewable wave and tidal energy, while supporting the growth of a globally competitive marine and hydrokinetic workforce. Renewable Energy Focus, April 15

UK

British Airways announces green fuel plant in Essex
BA will commit to buy 50,000 tonnes of jet fuel made from converted waste as part of GreenSky project. A delayed project to supply British Airways with jet fuel from converted waste is a step closer after it was announced a location has been found for the GreenSky fuel plant, in Thurrock, Essex. The GreenSky project will see BA commit to buy all 50,000 tonnes of jet fuel produced at the processing facility for at least 11 years. The plant, operated by Solena Fuels, is to be built by 2017 on the site of the former Coryton oil refinery, creating 150 permanent jobs. The Guardian, April 16

UK oil, gas, mining industry agrees high transparency standards
Oil, gas and mining companies operating in the United Kingdom have agreed to sign up to some of the highest transparency and accountability standards in the world. While the UK is generally considered neither resource-rich nor especially corrupt, the British government has taken the lead in pushing for more transparency in the extractive sector, particularly in its 2013 role as chair of the Group of Eight industrialised countries. The UK committed in May 2013 to joining the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global standard for transparency of government revenues from natural resources. However, the standard represents a bare minimum with which countries must comply in order to become a designated EITI member. Thomson Reuters Foundation, April 15

Innovation

Indoor air quality sensors could be coming to your smartphone
Indoor air quality can be as much of a health concern as the air quality outdoors. Things like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide, mold and other compounds can cause things like headaches, fatigue, respiratory illnesses and worse. The EU has started to focus on how to combat indoor pollution and is funding a new nanotechnology project that would allow people to have real-time air quality information wherever they are -- at home, at work, even in the car. Called IAQSENSE, the project aims to "develop new nanotechnology-based sensor systems that will precisely monitor the composition of the air in terms of both chemical and bio contaminants." It is designed to be both tiny and low cost so that it can be adopted widely. Treehugger, April 16

The Dutch Testing Illuminated Highways
A few years back, Roosegaarde and the infrastructure management group Heijmans entered the Smart Highway concept into the Dutch Design Awards, taking home the Best Future Concept Award. The vision included illuminated lane lines, weather sensing markings that illuminate to warn drivers of slippery icy conditions, EV priority lanes that charge your car while you drive, and motion-sensing lights that are powered by wind or vehicle-induced drafts. For now the only portion that has officially commenced is the installation of illuminated lane lines along part of the N329 Highway in Oss. The luminescent paint can maintain the almost radioactive-green light for up to eight hours after a day of charging, but the paint has not been fully evaluated in real world testing for durability. Clean Technica, April 17

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