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Tag Archives: clean energy

Global fossil fuel divestment a tsunami of change

By Dr Anthony Horton

According to a report published by Arabella Advisors, since Climate Week in September last year more than 250 institutions and 1300 individuals have joined the global fossil fuel divestment and clean energy investment movement. The scale of the increase in divestment over the last 13 months is indeed significant-growing from $50 billion to $2.6 trillion (eg. a 50 fold increase).

There has also been a significant broadening of sectors pledging to divest. Last year, foundations, universities, faith-based organisations and NGOs were leading the movement. Now, large pension funds and private sector companies hold more than 90% of the combined assets of those who have committed to divest.

The massive growth in divestment is in part being driven by an awareness that climate change poses a risk to investment portfolios. Citigroup, HSBC, Mercer, the International Energy Agency, Bank of England and Carbon Tracker Initiative have reported evidence of a significant (and now quantifiable) risk to portfolios that include fossil fuels when the world is increasingly constrained by carbon.

Historically, the United States was the focus of the divestment movement, however divestment now covers virtually the whole world. Last year, nearly 80% of organisations that divested were based in the United States. Currently, just under 60% of organisations that divest are based there. Significantly, divesting organisations now represent nearly 650 million people around the world.

Last year, global investment in clean energy reached $310 billion, and many organisations are also committing to invest in solutions to climate change. Approximately $785 billion in assets are now held by organisations and individuals that have pledge to divest from fossil fuels and invest in clean energy.

Faith communities are also making a very strong case for the moral responsibility of acting on climate change and providing access to clean energy for the world’s poor. Faith leaders are demanding meaningful climate change actions and they are also divesting their own assets. To date nearly 130 faith based organisations with $24 billion in assets have committed to divest.

Commitments from universities have almost tripled since last year, with 40 institutions and $130 billion in assets pledging to divest. Prominent universities including Georgetown, Oxford and the University of California have committed in the last year, with the latter committing its entire $98 billion portfolio.

The California General Assembly recently voted to divest its public employee pension funds (worth $476 billion) from companies that get more than 50% of their revenue from coal mining. Providence Rhode Island, the City of Newcastle (Australia) and the Government of the ACT are notable examples.

More than 110 Foundations with over $10 billion in assets have also committed to divest from fossil fuels since September 2014.

Divestment is one mechanism in an organisation’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) tool kit; as significant as the movement is, it is important to remember that there are a number of other strategies available from a CSR perspective including carbon pricing and emission reduction targets. Carbon pricing is a very well-known strategy which has revolutionised business operations and procurement in a number of countries and industries.

Evidence is growing that carbon pricing in some shape or form is one basis upon which decisions are being made as to the procurement of goods and services. Those corporations that provide goods and services and have implemented internal carbon pricing have an advantage over their competitors, and being a market based instrument, that advantage may grow more significant over time.

Emission reduction targets-based on what science currently tells us-are another mechanism available to corporations for inclusion in their CSR tool kit. Analysis by the We Mean Business (WMB) Coalition shows that there are a range of ways a science based reduction target can be determined.

The first method is entitled the 3% solution-based on the United States’ corporate sector’s need to reduce emissions by 3% on average each year from 2010 to 2020 in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. Businesses that act now can save $US 190 billion in 2020. If they wait until 2020 to start, corporations will have to cut emissions by 10% per year to maintain the correct trajectory for 2050.

The second method-entitled Cutting absolute emissions-involves corporations reducing emissions in line with IPCC recommendations (a reduction of 41-72% by 2050 of 2010 levels). This method isn’t sector or region specific, and importantly a 41-72% reduction effectively means there is still a 1 in 3 chance global warming won’t be kept under 2°C.

Value added approaches link a corporation’s carbon emissions to their contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As a corporation’s contribution to GDP increase, the emission reductions need to keep pace. These approaches can be implemented in developed and developing countries, are flexible and reasonably simple to implement. However, they don’t necessarily account for differences in sectors.

Lastly, the Sectoral Decarbonisation Approach (SDA) allocates a carbon budget to each sector that is linked to the IPCC recommendations. Corporations in each sector can base targets on their contribution to their sector’s total activity and on their emissions intensity relative to their sector’s overall emissions intensity. It is a new method, however it should give a more accurate picture of the extent to which corporations need to maintain the 2°C ceiling. Being sector based, it also makes more sense for business.

Whichever method corporations choose to set emission reduction targets once they have considered their individual circumstances, the important point is that they are setting them in the first place. Along with divestment in fossil fuels and investment in clean energy, these mechanisms illustrate that corporations understand the challenges and opportunities that climate change presents. It is also somewhat illustrative of the need for Government to establish the policy framework and then get out of the way and let corporations do what they do best.

This article was originally published on The Climate Change Guy.

rWdMeee6_pe About the author: Anthony Horton holds a PhD in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours and a Diploma of Carbon Management. He has a track record of delivering customised solutions in Academia, Government, the Mining Industry and Consulting based on the latest wisdom and his scientific background and experience in Climate/Atmospheric Science and Air Quality. Anthony’s work has been published in internationally recognised scientific journals and presented at international and national conferences, and he is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal Nature Environment and Pollution Technology. Anthony also blogs on his own site, The Climate Change Guy.



Hot time in Brisbane

In September 2013, then host of the G20, Russia, produced a 27-page long G20 Leaders’ Declaration outlining their future priorities and goals. Contained in that document was the following:

“We welcome efforts aimed at promoting sustainable development, energy efficiency, inclusive green growth and clean energy technologies and energy security for the long term prosperity and well being of current and future generations in our countries.

It is our common interest to assess existing obstacles and identify opportunities to facilitate more investment into more smart and low-carbon energy infrastructure, particularly in clean and sustainable electricity infrastructure where feasible. In this regard we encourage a closer engagement of private sector and multilateral development banks with the G20 Energy Sustainability Working Group (ESWG) and call for a dialogue to be launched on its basis in 2014 that will bring interested public sector, market players and international organizations together to discuss the factors hindering energy investment, including in clean and energy efficient technologies and to scope possible measures needed to promote sustainable, affordable, efficient and secure energy supply.”

In Australia, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is doing just that.

“The CEFC investments in renewable technologies span a range of energy sources- wind, solar and bioenergy – and different financial structures. The CEFC has co-financed utility scale investments along with other Australian and international banks, co-financed businesses to maximise their potential use of renewable energy resources, and participated in refinancing deals.”

What’s more, they are attracting investment, creating jobs in new industries, and making a profit for the government while doing it.

“Since its creation 18 months ago, the CEFC has matched private sector funds of $2.90 for each $1 of CEFC investment to catalyse over $1.55 billion in non-CEFC private capital investment in projects and programs, while it has committed $536 million. Those projects account for a reduction in 3.9 million tonnes of carbon.

The CEFC is earning an average return of 7 per cent, and its abolition would cost taxpayers up to ­$200 million annually in lost ­revenue.”

There can be absolutely no justifiable reason for closing down the CEFC. It is the ultimate example of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

The 2013 G20 report also said:

“We appreciate the progress achieved since the establishment of the G20 Global Marine Environment Protection (GMEP) Initiative and welcome the launch of the GMEP Initiative website as a key element of the GMEP Mechanism for the voluntary exchange of national best practices to protect the marine environment, in particular to prevent accidents related to offshore oil and gas exploration and development, as well as marine transportation, and to deal with their consequences.”

They must be thrilled to hear this.

“According to a press release from the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation, the peak body representing angler interests nationally, Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the Government would come good on its promise to “suspend and review” the controversial marine parks process initiated by Labor and the Greens.”

And this:

“Unfortunately, soon a massively destructive coal port will be built just 50 km north of the magnificent Whitsunday Islands. The port expansion was approved by the Abbott Liberal National government on Wednesday 11 December, and it will become one of the world’s largest coal ports.

The coal export facility is ironically located on Abbot Point. The construction of this port will involve dredging 3 million cubic metres of seabed. The dredge spoil will be dumped into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.”

And this:

“While Western Australia’s shark cull policy was meant to protect beachgoers, it has alarmed and horrified marine conservationists since it goes against the global effort to protect the declining shark population.”

Not to mention the whales…really…don’t mention the whales.

Another of the G20 goals was to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

“We reaffirm our commitment to rationalise and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption over the medium term while being conscious of necessity to provide targeted support for the poorest.”

Christine Lagarde, president of the International Monetary Fund, has warned that climate change is one of the greatest economic threats facing the world.

“The planet is “perilously close” to a climate change tipping point, and requires urgent cooperation between countries, cities and business, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde has said.

Addressing an audience in London, Lagarde said reducing subsidies for fossil fuels and pricing carbon pollution should be priorities for governments around the world.

“Overcoming climate change is obviously a gigantic project with a multitude of moving parts. I would just like to mention one component of it—making sure that people pay for the damage they cause,” she said. “We are subsidizing the very behaviour that is destroying our planet, and on an enormous scale.

Both direct subsidies and the loss of tax revenue from fossil fuels ate up almost $2 trillion in 2011—this is about the same as the total GDP of countries like Italy or Russia.”

I wonder if they realise that:

“the Australian Government plans to gift over $10 billion of taxpayer’s money to subsidise fossil fuel use.”

Australia has assumed the presidency of the G20 for 2014 and Tony Abbott has released his agenda.

“Australia’s G20 Presidency in 2014 will structure leaders’ discussion around the key themes of:

  • Promoting stronger economic growth and employment outcomes
  • Making the global economy more resilient to deal with future shocks

We want to maintain a tight focus on practical outcomes that will lift growth, boost participation, create jobs and build the resilience of the global economy.”

Okay, reasonable goals, but what about clean energy and sustainable practice. This is what Tony has to say on that:

Strengthening energy market resilience

Well-functioning energy markets and reliable supply are essential to every household and business and have a significant impact on the cost of living and the cost of doing business. Emerging economies are expected to account for more than 90 per cent of growth in energy demand to 2035. In 2014 the G20 will support international efforts to improve the operation of global energy markets and increase cooperation between major producers and consumers. The G20 will also explore how it can advance work on energy efficiency and continue its work to improve the transparency of energy markets. These efforts will help position us to meet the energy demands of the future.”

The only environment mentioned in his document is the investment environment.

Abbott and Newman must be expecting a hot old time at the G20 meeting later this year in Queensland. In typical Queensland fashion, they have made new laws to cope with it.

“The Queensland Government last night passed legislation to strengthen police powers during the G20 events in Brisbane and Cairns.

The legislation declares special security areas in the two cities, gives police extra search and arrest powers, and creates offences for actions such as crossing barriers and disrupting meetings.

Police Minister Jack Dempsey says locals who do not pass criminal history checks will be denied access to restricted zones and alternative accommodation will be provided at the cost of a few hundred dollars.

“We’re expecting 99 per cent of people being able to go freely once they’ve had their criminal history checks and balances in place.”

The bill prohibits a series of items from G20 zones, including weapons, cans, jars, whips, eggs, insects, reptiles, banners that measure larger than 100cm in height by 200cm in width, and remote-controlled planes.”

I wonder how many patrol cars will be out there armed with Mortein, or capsicum spray for anyone caught with eggs in their groceries.

I would suggest that Tony is more likely to need protection from the people he has screwed over inside the conference centre rather than from the Joe Blakes outside.


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