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Tag Archives: fossil fuels

Reducing the fossil fuel exposure of your share portfolio is now as easy as 1-2-3

By Dr Anthony Horton

Three new climate change indices – the Carbon Efficient Index Series, the Carbon Efficient Select Index Series and the Fossil Fuel Free Index Series – have been created by S+P Dow Jones to highlight the roles public companies play and ultimately to assist investors to lower their fossil fuel exposure.

The Carbon Efficient Index Series is designed to measure the performance of S+P Global 1200 stocks which cover 31 countries and approximately 70% of the world’s total stock market capitalisation in a range of sectors including energy, consumer goods/services, healthcare, financials and telecommunications.

The Carbon Efficient Index Series weights companies with lower carbon emissions higher than those with higher carbon emissions. The Carbon Efficient Select Index Series measures the performance of companies in the S+P 1200 that have a smaller carbon footprint than their peers who are essentially excluded. Lastly, the Fossil Fuel Free Index Series measures the performance of companies that don’t own fossil fuel reserves or don’t use fossil fuels either through an external party or to generate their power.

The annual greenhouse gas emissions for the Carbon Efficient and Select Index Series are calculated by Trucost, a consultancy that assists organisations to measure and manage the environmental risks associated with their operations. Head of Environmental Finance Neil McIndoe explained Trucost’s role as providing data to create new indices which offer lower carbon exposure while benchmarking financial performance.

Head of Sustainability indices at S+P Dow Jones Indices Julia Kochetygova commented that investors are financing renewable energy projects in an attempt to facilitate the global transition to a low carbon economy and to avoid high emission companies or minimise their exposure to fossil fuel companies. In addition, the three new S+P Dow Jones Indices should provide alternative performance benchmarks and highlight those companies that meet the strict fossil fuel and carbon efficient standards that are set within each index series, according to Kochetygova.

It is becoming more difficult for Governments and corporations alike to ignore climate change or to refuse to act on it when their respective counterparts are doing so and making significant political and economic gains as a result. Currently, there is significant momentum for collaboration between Governments and corporate organisations with respect to acting on climate change and the momentum is seemingly growing on a daily basis, as can be seen by observing social media platforms.

Divestment is one action that is receiving very significant attention around the world and is an action that both Governments and corporations are undertaking to reduce their investment exposure to fossil fuels. Social media visibility for divestment provides instant publicity for Governments and corporations (and their staff/shareholders).

It is understandable that such publicity from the retweets/shares/likes etc will prompt constituents of Governments and/or the staff/customers of corporations that don’t act on climate change (and its inherent risk profile) to question why they aren’t and to apply pressure to change it, particularly if, in the case of corporations, the bottom line will be impacted. In this situation, staff and shareholders rightly demand answers and accountability for any decisions made.

The creation of these three indices demonstrates the extent to which markets have embraced the de-risking opportunities that climate change presents for investors and corporations (from a corporate social responsibility perspective) alike. Rather than ignoring climate change, or pretending it neither exists or matters, these indices fundamentally shifts the “why” and “where” of investment and also provide investors with clear line of sight as to how the companies they invest in are performing on the basis of true and valid “like for like” comparisons. It also places the environment (or more precisely climate change) at the centre of the comparison rather than climate change being one of many factors in that comparison.

It is only natural that people want the monies they work for to work hard for them in return without exposing them to undue risk. Ultimately, such indices are powerful tools that will assist investors to create the momentum necessary for the facilitation of a low carbon economy. Reluctant or resistant Governments or corporations are therefore left with little choice but to act.

This article was originally published on The Climate Change Guy.

rWdMeee6_peAbout 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.


Air pollution – the (sometimes) sweet smelling other elephant in the room in Australia

By Dr Anthony Horton.

In the past few weeks the costs associated with poor air quality in India and Europe have been published in terms of health effects, lost productivity and ultimately, mortality. In a previous blog I discussed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s response to Delhi being pronounced the world’s worst city in terms of air pollution in a World Health Organisation (WHO) report.

On 29 April 2015 it was reported that air pollution costs Europe $1.6 trillion every year (equivalent to 10% of Europe’s GDP) in early deaths and disease according to WHO. The $1.6 trillion is comprised of 600,000 premature deaths and the costs associated with the sicknesses of hundreds of thousands of people (largely from preventable causes). The sources identified include small particles from the exhaust of diesel vehicles and nitrogen dioxide which can impair breathing in vulnerable people (e.g. asthmatics).

The WHO report was based on figures from 2010 (the last full data year) and included all of Europe and non-European Union (EU) States such as Norway and Switzerland. It showed that in a number of eastern European countries, the cost of poor air quality exceeds 10% of their respective GDPs. The United Kingdom, Germany and Italy are ranked in the top 10 based purely on economic terms. In London, the European Union is set to levy fines on Local Governments in which air quality exceeds EU standards. Air pollution was the biggest environmental risk in Europe and 482,000 deaths were attributed to heart and respiratory diseases alone, according to the report. According to WHO, 25% of the deaths or sickness of all European residents can be linked to environmental pollution.

In March 2015, the European Environment Agency reported that hundreds of thousands of people could die prematurely in the next 20 years from air pollution as a result of Government inaction.

I have not seen any recent work in Australia which has examined the effects of air pollution on health or productivity, however I did find a recent piece on the cost of heatwaves to Australian workplaces. On May 5 2015 it was reported that the annual cost was $7.92 bilion in lost productivity and absenteeism according to Charles Darwin University research. Of the 1,726 working adults across Australia surveyed as part of the study, 70% had worked less efficiently at some point in the past year owing to heat. An additional 7% missed at least one day of work as a result of higher temperatures. The surveys were conducted in May and October 2014 and covered the previous 12 months. It is worth noting that 2013 was Australia’s warmest year on record, and 2014 was estimated to be Australia’s third warmest year on record.

While the above Australian research is to be applauded, I question why similar attention has not been focused on air pollution in Australia and in particular the actions governments have implemented to manage and ultimately reduce it and the associated environmental and health costs. I would like to raise an issue that I am passionate about and which I think you the reader will find interesting.

For my PhD I conducted a study of personal exposure to benzene in petrol in Western Australia. Benzene does the job that lead used to do in petrol before the latter was found to be such a big problem around the world. My study recruited people that were not exposed to benzene as a result of their occupation or from smoking. In addition to monitoring participants’ personal exposure, I monitored benzene concentrations at petrol bowsers, along freeways and in multi-storey carparks. Suffice it to say the highest concentrations were found at the bowsers which may surprise some people given that refuelling may only take 1 minute or so (depending of course on the capacity of the vehicle fuel tank). I suspect that many people just fill up their vehicle’s fuel tank without giving much of a thought to the emissions that are around them.

Benzene is an aromatic chemical- it smells- and it is basically one of the first chemicals you may smell when filling up the fuel tank because it is so light and volatilises so quickly (it is also present in the vapour you may also sometimes see around that fuel tank). Throughout most of North America and Europe, laws have existed for decades which mandate equipment being attached to the bowser hose that is essentially a vacuum. When you insert the nozzle from the bowser into your vehicle’s fuel tank, the vacuum forms a seal around the nozzle and tank so that your exposure is greatly minimised (if there is any exposure at all). Like many chemicals, benzene has acute and chronic exposure symptoms, and it has been known to be carcinogenic (very harmful) since the 19th Century. The acute (short term) exposure health effects range from dizziness and euphoria to vomiting and loss of consciousness, and the chronic (long term) exposure health effect is leukemia (based on exposure to very high concentrations over many years in occupational settings). I need to point out here that benzene has been phased out in many of the industries in which it was used (e.g. in chemical manufacture) as a result of the link with leukemia.

As a result of finding that the highest concentrations were at petrol bowsers, the last stage of my research was a risk assessment which sought to determine what added cancer risk refuelling your vehicle once a week posed over a lifetime. I used a World Health Organisation (WHO) risk assessment methodology which based the risk on a lifetime of 70 years, and found that the excess lifetime risk of refuelling once per week over 70 years was approximately double that of commuting in Perth.

That is the end of the “sciencey” bit- you can relax. The “so what” is this- in the nearly 8 years since my PhD was awarded and I recommended that vacuum systems (officially called vapour recovery systems) be fitted to all petrol bowsers in Australia, not one State or Territory Government has mandated it. One state is looking at vapour recovery from underground fuel tanks, however they will have little impact on the personal exposure of each person who is refuelling their vehicle. I would urge you the reader to think about this and share it with as many of your family, friends and work colleagues as possible.

Ultimately, it is the inaction of State Governments that has enabled this situation, so I would also urge you to discuss this with your local Member of Parliament and Minister(s) and ask everyone you share this with to do the same. It is only through enough people raising their concerns that this will be changed for the better and vapour recovery systems on the petrol bowser hoses will be mandated.

Anthony Horton blogs on his own site;

Why Jonathan Moylan’s Whitehaven Hoax Was Great

Anti-coal activist Jonathan Moylan left court today still in the dark about his fate, after his sentencing for breaching Section 1041E of the Corporations Act was adjourned.

The 26 year old trilingual translator from Newcastle first hit headlines in January 2013, after distributing a fake press release from ANZ bank confirming they would pull out of their $1.2 billion loan to the Maules Creek coal mine, owned by Whitehaven Coal. The prank aimed to highlight the environmental and economic problems of the project, and how our major banks are financing these destructive projects – and it was a great success.

The hoax caused panic among investors, temporarily wiping $314m off the value of Whitehaven Coal, although this recovered soon after. Needless to say, Whitehaven were not impressed.

Although unlikely that Moylan will serve jail time, the charges come with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison or fines of up to $765,000.

At the time of the stunt, Moylan had spent almost six months at the Leard State Forest blockade with Front Line Action on Coal (FLAC), during which time he became acutely aware of the devastating impacts of the mine both on the environment and the local farming community.

Image by

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I’ve written previously about the environmental destruction of the Maules Creek coal mine – the unique woodland to be bulldozed, the threatened species, the indigenous heritage, the threat of groundwater contamination, the health impacts, and the outright misleading environmental offsets proposed by Whitehaven.

Despite this, Whitehaven chairman Mark Vaile had the gall to label Moylan‘Un-Australian’.

‘It’s quite un-Australian that an individual can conduct a fraudulent act like this. There were many investors… that lost significant amounts of money during that period.”

Deeply sorry for those investors who lost retirement savings, Moylan submitted a written apology to them, despite the losses being hugely overstated by Whitehaven (it was reported by Fairfax that shareholders lost no more than $450,360 between them). He maintains that his intention was merely to support the Maules Creek community by raising awareness of this damaging open-cut mine.

But Mark Vaile doesn’t seem too concerned with the livelihoods Whitehaven will destroy in Maules Creek. He even reckons that the project has, “a very broad level of support in the community.”

Local farmer Rick Laird would not agree. One of many who turned up to support Moylan, his family has farmed in the district for more than 150 years – the Leard Forest was named after them. He said,

“We’ve been fighting this mine for years and the stand that Jono took means that people now know what’s happening at Maules Creek.”

Jonathan Moylan’s press release put the Maules Creek mine in the headlines, and shone light on the hidden relationships between the fossil fuel industry and banks.

Since the hoax, we’ve seen environmental campaigns use this increased public awareness and interest with great success. Most visible has been the Great Barrier Reef campaign, with pressure from environmental groups leading to bank after bank withdrawing their funding for the expansion at Abbot Point. We’ve also seen the huge growth of the Australian divestment movement, with mounting pressure on the big four banks and superfunds to ditch fossil fuel investments.

The Whitehaven hoax has exposed the inherent flaws in Australia’s regulatory system, which allow huge corporations to get away with environmentally destructive and unethical practices, while attempting to punish those who expose them.

#StandWithJono Campaign coordinator Nicola Paris said the legislation under which Moylan is charged “was never intended to pursue people acting in good conscience.”

“The move to take this matter to the Supreme Court is yet another overreach in this relentless pursuit of a young man acting on principle. This lies in stark contrast with the failure of ASIC to prosecute serious corporate crime whilst people found guilty of insider trading such as John Gay, get a slap on the wrist.”

Communities have been powerless in the face of the resources industry for too long. As Moylan himself shockingly points out, “You don’t have the right to be notified if a mining company is applying for a coalmining lease over your property”. Is that ‘Australian’?

I #StandWithJono

You can follow Kate on Twitter @kateokate


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