Sustainability Briefing
24th February 2021
Sustainable Finance
Green Economy
Climate Change
Natural Resources
Sustainable Consumption
Sustainable Finance
Luxembourg launches sustainable finance strategy

Luxembourg has unveiled its sustainable finance strategy, based on the sustainable finance roadmap document published in 2018. Developed with the United Nations Environmental Programme, it offers recommendations on how the grand duchy can contribute toward meeting the Paris Agreement objectives. Luxembourg for Finance and the High Council for Sustainable Development have established the Luxembourg Sustainable Finance Initiative, a not-for-profit body that helped design the strategy and is responsible for implementing it.

Best source: Wort (in German)
See also: Delano
See also: Luxembourg Sustainable Finance Initiative
Macquarie raises €1.6bn for fund investing in renewable energy

Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets has exceeded its funding target by raising €1.6bn for investment in renewable energy projects by the Macquarie Green Investment Group Renewable Energy Fund 2. The fund, which will invest in wind and solar power projects in western Europe, the US, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand, received commitments from 32 investors including private and local government pension schemes, insurers and sovereign wealth funds.

Best source:
Net zero investor alliance calls for climate mitigation blended finance vehicles

The Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance has called on asset managers to create blended finance vehicles to enable increased investment in climate mitigation and related business models. It has requested proposals for vehicles that de-risk investments in solutions and market segments that currently do not have the appropriate risk-return profiles for institutional investors.

Best source: Investments & Pensions Europe (registration required)
More than 250 European fund strategies switched to ESG factors last year

A total of 253 European-domiciled funds switched their strategies or investment profiles to include environmental, social responsibility and governance factors in 2020, according to Morningstar. With a further 505 new funds launched in Europe during the year, total ESG assets set a new record of €1.1trn by year-end. Index funds experienced significant growth, accounting for 22.5% of the total market by the end of 2020 after an 84% year-on-year increase in inflows in the fourth quarter.

Best source: Financial Times (subscription required)
Green Economy
Sustainability a key priority as European Parliament approves €672.5bn Recovery and Resilience Facility

The European Parliament has approved the €672.5 billion Recovery and Resilience Facility, a package of loans and grants to help member states deal with the impact of Covid-19 pandemic and spur economic recovery while giving priority to sustainability initiatives. Countries applying for relief must dedicate at least 37% of the budget of their proposed plan to climate protection measures, and all plans must focus on key EU policy areas that include the green transition and protection of biodiversity as well as digital transformation, economic cohesion and competitiveness, and social and territorial cohesion.

Best source: Euractiv
See also: EU Reporter
Denmark approves construction of artificial renewable energy island

Denmark has approved construction of an artificial island in the North Sea that will be dedicated to producing and storing renewable energy. Planned to span 18 football fields, it will be linked to offshore wind turbines to provide enough power for 3 million homes. The island is a key element of Denmark's strategy to achieve a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2030.

Best source: Reuters
European Investment Bank president casts doubt on gas as climate transition fuel

European Investment Bank president Werner Hoyer says Europeans must recognise that the future no longer lies in fossil fuels, including natural gas, often presented as a relatively clean fuel. Hoyer argues that without major change, the EU will not be able to achieve its climate targets. The union has promised to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and is set to adopt a new carbon reduction target of 55% below 1990 levels by 2030, but the European Commission says gas will still be needed to assist the transition of coal-reliant member states away from fossil fuels. The EIB's climate bank roadmap envisages using 50% of its lending to support climate and environmental sustainability, unlocking €1trn for green funding by 2030, and intends for all its activity to be aligned with the Paris Agreement goals.

Best source: Euractiv
Poland to construct first offshore wind farms under renewable energy law

Following the passage through Poland's parliament of legislation authorising the construction of offshore wind energy facilities, Danish company Ørsted has concluded a deal with Polish energy group PGE to develop two sites in the Baltic Sea with a combined generating capacity of 2.5 GW. The legislation is designed to help Poland shake off its dependence on coal, which provides more than 70% of the country’s power. The system offers wind projects a subsidy scheme to guarantee a stable revenue stream, and authorises the country's power market regulator to approve up to 5.9 GW of projects eligible for support by the end of June, followed by a second phase involving auctions that could add another 5 GW.

Best source: Reuters
Renewable power became largest source of electricity in EU last year: researchers

Renewable energy displaced fossil fuels as the EU's largest source of electricity in 2020, accounting for 38% of electric power, compared with 37% for fossil fuels and 25% for nuclear, according to a report by energy research institutes Ember and Agora Energiewende. The quantity of electricity generated from coal declined by 20%, while wind and solar power generation increased by 20% compared to 2019.

Best source: The Verge
Climate Change
Wales government commits to net zero emissions by 2050

The Welsh government has committed itself to curbing emissions of greenhouse gases with a target of net zero emissions by 2050, following a warning from the independent Climate Change Committee that the country was not on track to meet goals set for the UK as a whole. Wales has seen a 31% fall in carbon emissions to date from 1990 levels, but new legal targets will require it to achieve a 63% cut by 2030, rising to 89% by 2040.

Best source: BBC News
US cities under-reporting carbon footprint by average of 18%: study

American cities are under-reporting their carbon footprint by an average of 18.3%, according to a study in which researchers used Vulcan, an emissions model, to analyse the emissions from 48 cities. The unreported carbon equals 129,000,000 tonnes. The study also finds that different cities have varying approaches to emissions accounting, with little standardisation on how data is collected, leading to discrepancies in the information they publish.

Best source: Mother Jones
China crackdown eliminates mysterious spike in CFC emissions

China's success in eliminating s surge in chlorofluorocarbon emissions has been hailed as an example of how international co-operation can lead to effective action to resolve environmental challenges. In 2018, researchers detected a sudden increase in emissions of CFC-11, which is often used for manufacturing of foam insulation and is 7,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Further study revealed that most of the emissions were coming from eastern China, prompting Beijing to crack down on clandestine production facilities, after which emissions immediately subsided.

Best source: Inside Climate News
Sea level rise from climate change could be greater than IPCC predicts, say researchers

The average global sea level could rise by 1.35 metres by 2100, a forecast more potentially damaging than the most recent assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which predicted a maximum rise of 1.1 metres. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen used historical data on sea level rise to identify a discrepancy in the prediction models used by the IPCC, which they say are not sensitive enough to account for alternative future scenarios.

Best source: The Guardian
Researchers warn mass decline in global insect populations represents threat to humans

People face a substantial adverse impact from the large-scale decline of global insect populations due to human activity, estimated at between 10% and 20% per decade, says David Wagner, an entomologist at the University of Connecticut. He points to damage to species that are vital for pollination of crops, as well as the disappearance of butterflies across Europe, and declining bee populations, as a result of factors including the development of land for agriculture, nitrification and the impact of climate change leading to increased storm intensity, fire and drought.

Best source: Mongabay
See also: Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
Agriculture is main driver of global biodiversity loss: researchers

The global food production system is the main cause of biodiversity loss and contributes to habitat destruction and species extinction, according to a research paper from the UK's Chatham House think-tank. To reduce losses, the authors call for greater encouragement of plant-based diets, the setting aside of land for nature or integration of natural habitats into farmland, and the promotion of sustainable farming practices on a larger scale.

Best source: Chatham House
World’s disappearing wetlands need improved protection: researchers

Eighty-seven per cent of the world's wetlands have disappeared in the last 300 years, with most of the destruction occurring since 1900, according to Nick Davidson of the Institute for Land, Water and Society at  Charles Sturt University in New South Wales. Although the 1971 Ramsar Convention, ratified by 170 countries, was designed to encourage wetland conservation, 35% of the world's wetlands have disappeared in the 50 years since its signature, Davidson says. As wetlands are critical carbon sinks as well as some of the most biologically diverse areas of the world, researchers say renewed commitment is needed to protect their delicate ecosystems.

Best source: Mongabay
See also: Researchgate
Natural Resources
Japanese and Dutch pension funds accused of financing meatpackers’ Amazon deforestation

Three of the largest Dutch and Japanese pension funds have invested a combined $571m in Brazilian meatpacking companies, part of an industry contributing to significant deforestation in the Amazon region. The total amount invested by Algemeen Burgerlijk Pensioenfonds, Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn and Japan's Government Pension Investment Fund is more than Brazil's government allocated to the Environment Ministry in its 2021 budget. The fund managers have defended their investment, arguing that their financial stake enables them to push for change in the meatpackers' business practices.

Best source: Mongabay
IKEA’s parent group acquires 11,000 acres of forest in US

IKEA's parent company Ingka Group has purchased 11,000 acres of forest in the US state of Georgia as part of the Swedish furniture group's strategy to become climate-positive by 2030. The group bought the land from the non-profit Conservation Fund, which acquires forest land and resells it after placing permanent legal protection on its conservation. The Ingka Group now owns 136,000 acres of land in five US states, and the annual growth rate of its forests is larger than the volume of harvested timber.

Best source: Fast Company
Norway unveils satellite tropical deforestation monitoring programme

Norway's Climate and Environment Ministry has unveiled a satellite imagery programme tracking the destruction of tropical forests. Available free to anyone online, the five-metre resolution enables users to witness the removal of individual trees. The Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project will use the system to improve its monitoring programme, enabling more detailed co-ordination with field partners.

Best source: Mongabay
See also: Global Forest Watch
Coal mines and palm oil plantations linked to destructive Borneo floods

Palm oil plantations and coal mines have been blamed for the destruction caused by heavy floods across the island of Borneo, killing at least 21 people and displacing more than 110,000. The rapid destruction of forest land to create palm oil plantations and develop coal mines has resulted in less natural protection against flooding, local activists say. They have called for the rehabilitation of degraded areas and a review of plantation and mining licences, as well as a moratorium on the establishment of new mines.

Best source: Mongabay
Sustainable Consumption
Scientists remove key obstacle to more efficient water desalination

A team of researchers has resolved one of the most significant obstacles preventing cheaper and more effective desalination of water by determining how reverse osmosis membranes work. Using the discovery, scientists from the University of Texas and Pennsylvania State University have succeeded in making the membranes more uniform in density, increasing desalination efficiency by between 30% and 40%.

Best source:
Firms turn to AI and biotech to develop sustainable weedkillers and pesticides

Groups such as Switzerland's Syngenta are turning to partnerships with biotech firms and deploying AI to help develop sustainable weedkiller and pesticide products. The impetus has come in part from growing awareness of legal liability risks, following Bayer's $11bn settlement with cancer victims who claimed that glysophate herbicides had caused their conditions. Syngenta has been investing in biological solutions involving microbes and insect sex pheromones to combat fungal infections and pests. CEO Erik Fyrwald says the company is aiming to shift away from conventional chemicals to products that are less toxic to humans and more resilient to climate change.

Best source:
German cabinet approves complete glysophate ban for 2024

The German cabinet has approved legislation that will impose a complete ban of glysophate-based products from 2024, with farmers required start phasing out their use over the next four years. Farmers have criticised the measure, saying it puts livelihoods at risk, and arguing that a ban would be less effective in fostering biodiversity than co-operation between farmers and conservationists. The legislation, which must be approved by the two chambers of parliament, also provides for a ban in certain areas on the use of herbicides and insecticides that could harm bees, and measures to curb light pollution.

Best source: Reuters
MIT scientists develop lab-grown wood substance without soil or sunlight

Taking cells from a zinnia plant, scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have grown wood-like plant tissue in a laboratory without any need for soil or sunlight. The researchers claim that the substance is a breakthrough that will eventually create the possibility of bypassing the decades typically required for timber growth, and can even be coaxed to grow into fully formed shapes.

Best source: Fast Company