Sustainability Newsletter #30
#Figure of the month - 9 million deaths per year
Pollution killing 9 million people a year, Africa hardest hit
Worsening outdoor air pollution and toxic lead poisoning have kept global deaths from environmental contamination at an estimated 9 million per year since 2015, equivalent to a 7% increase per year up to 2019 – countering modest progress made in tackling pollution elsewhere, a team of scientists reported in May. These 9 millions represent one of every six deaths worldwide, and costs $4.6 trillion per year which is comparable to smoking related deaths. "We're sitting in the stew pot and slowly burning," said Richard Fuller, a study co-author and head of the global nonprofit Pure Earth. But unlike climate change, malaria, or HIV, "we haven't given (environmental pollution) much focus."
Deaths from traditional pollutants are declining globally. But they remain a major problem in Africa and some other developing countries. Tainted water and soil and dirty indoor air put Chad, the Central African Republic and Niger as the three countries with the most pollution-related deaths, according to data adjusted for population. Deaths caused by exposure to modern pollutants such as heavy metals, agrochemicals and fossil fuel emissions are "just skyrocketing", rising 66% since 2000, said co-author Rachael Kupka, executive director of the New York-based Global Alliance on Health and Pollution. When it comes to outdoor air pollution, some major capital cities have seen some success, including in Bangkok, China, and Mexico City, the authors said. But in smaller cities, pollution levels continue to climb.
Trends and Initiatives
EU countries call for 1,000 gigawatts of solar energy by 2030
The bloc should have at least 1,000 gigawatts of photovoltaics installed in the region by 2030 -- equivalent to roughly the world’s current capacity -- according to a joint letter signed by Austria, Belgium, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Spain to the bloc’s climate chief Frans Timmermans and Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson. The EU can deploy at least 70 million solar rooftops by the end of the decade it said.
The bloc will outline a raft of measures, from speeding up the roll out of renewables to cutting red tape for wind and solar farms, while also kicking off a campaign for consumers to save energy. Possible measures to curb recent electricity market volatility are also being considered.
The EU countries are also calling for 75% of solar panels to be produced within the bloc, which would help boost independence from China, which currently manufacturers the bulk of the world’s photovoltaics.
New Zealand to speed EV adoption to cut emissions
New Zealand will accelerate its adoption of electric vehicles and investigate hydrogen as an alternative energy source as it seeks to phase out fossil fuels and play its role in mitigating global warming. Announcing its first emissions reduction plan on Monday in Wellington, the government said it would initially allocate $NZ2.9 billion ($2.6 billion) over four years to fund a range of measures, from electric car incentives to phasing out coal boilers and helping farmers reduce methane emissions from livestock.
Despite contributing only a tiny fraction to global greenhouse gas emissions, the government says New Zealand needs to play its part in limiting world temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But the measures also aim to protect the nation’s environment and maintain the clean, green reputation it trades on.
Funds will be allocated to develop a comprehensive energy strategy, including a hydrogen road map and the creation of a regulatory framework for offshore wind energy. “Hydrogen as a fuel could enable the decarbonisation of hard to electrify sectors such as heavy freight and steel,” the government said.
China triples solar investments as clean energy push accelerates
Investment in solar was 29 billion yuan ($4.3 billion) from January through April, about 204% higher than in the same period a year earlier, according to an National Energy Administration statement. That compares to 51.3 billion yuan invested in solar in the first 11 months of last year.
China, which already has the world’s largest fleet of renewables, is rapidly accelerating investments in solar and wind projects as it aims to build a larger and more flexible grid to meet goals to peak carbon emissions before 2030 and zero them out by 2060 or earlier.
The nation is forecast to add a record 220 gigawatts of total power capacity this year, according to the NEA. Coal will continue to play a central role in the country’s energy mix for years, and Beijing has expanded plans to adapt power plants using the fuel to act as backup to renewables.
Society and Planet
China's sea levels touched new high in 2021, govt study shows
China's sea levels reached their highest on record last year, swelled by rising water temperatures and the melting of glaciers and polar icecaps, the government said in a report. Coastal sea levels were 84 mm higher in 2021 than the average over the period from 1993 to 2011, the National Marine Environmental Monitoring Center said in an annual bulletin.
Saturday's report warned that rising sea levels brought by climate change were having a "continuous impact" on the development of coastal regions, and urged authorities to improve monitoring and bolster early warning and prevention efforts.
Last year, the environment ministry forecast a rise of another 55 mm to 170 mm in coastal water levels during the next 30 years, which would require a greater effort by China to protect its coastline.
Its east coast cities have begun making contingency plans against rising sea levels, with the commercial hub of Shanghai looking into building new drainage tunnels and tidal gates.
Climate change: Iraq suffers seventh severe sandstorm in a month
One person died in Iraq and more than 5,000 others went to hospital on Thursday due to respiratory problems caused by a sandstorm, the seventh to hit the country in a month, the health ministry said. Residents in seven Iraqi provinces, including the capital Baghdad and the large semi-desert region of Al-Anbar in the west of the country, once again woke up to a thick orange cloud with sand seeping into homes.
Sandstorms have only worsened in recent weeks in Iraq, one of the five countries in the world most vulnerable to climate change and desertification. The weather service expects these sandstorms to recur throughout May.
This is the seventh sandstorm since mid-April in Iraq, resulting in hospital admissions for respiratory problems. Over the next two decades, Iraq is expected to experience "272 dusty days" per year and by 2050, the threshold of 300 days per year will be reached, said Issa al-Fayyad, a senior Environment Ministry official, in early April. Among the measures recommended to combat this phenomenon, the ministry cited "the creation of forests that act as windbreaks".
Holcim to use proceeds from Indian sale on lower carbon acquisitions
- Company : HOLCIM AG
- Sector : STEEL, CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS, OTHER METALS AND MINING
- Clover rating : 0/10
Holcim will use cash raised from the sale of its Indian business for acquisitions focused on building products and solutions, Chief Executive Jan Jenisch said in May, with the cement-maker currently eyeing 10 potential targets. Holcim agreed to sell its Indian business to Adani Group for 6.4 billion Swiss francs ($6.38 billion), its largest divestment in years, as it seeks to lower its carbon profile and raise funds for takeovers. "We hope we can keep a similar pace and put this money to work very fast," Chief Executive Jan Jenisch told reporters.
Making cement is an energy intensive industrial process which produces high levels of carbon, a situation which has deterred many investors and weighed on Holcim's share price.
TotalEnergies: before the AGM, investors are up in arms against the climate policy
- Company : TOTALENERGIES SE
- Sector : ENEGRY
- Clover rating : 6/10
The climate strategy that the oil group has submitted to its shareholders for a vote at its general meeting in May is dividing investors. Ofi AM, Meeschaert Amilton, Mandarine Gestion, and Sycomore AM, are voting against the Say on Climate, as are Edmond de Rothschild Asset Management, Financière de l'Echiquier and the Dutch MN.
"Despite improvements, TotalEnergies has failed to meet investors' expectations regarding the alignment of its reduction targets with the Paris Agreement," said the group of 11 investors."
Deutsche Bank, DWS Offices Searched by Authorities on Greenwashing Claims
- Company : DEUTSCHE BANK
- Sector : DIVERSIFIED FINANCIALS
- Clover rating : 3/10
German authorities raided the Frankfurt offices of Deutsche Bank and its investment arm DWS today, deepening the greenwashing concerns that have surrounded the company for the past several months.
According to statements from the Frankfurt prosecutor’s office, the search had been triggered by media reports that DWS overstated the green or sustainability-related aspects of financial products, and following examination of evidence leading to suspicion of “prospectus fraud.”
The new actions follow reports of investigations last year by the US’ SEC and Germany’s federal financial supervisory authority BaFin after claims that the trillion dollar asset manager has misled investors on its use of ESG considerations in its investment practices and its ESG investing capabilities. In August 2021, DWS’ former sustainability chief Desiree Fixler, alleged that the firm misrepresented in its annual report on the extent to which assets were invested using ESG integration in the investment process.
Climate change ‘already’ raising risk of virus spread between mammals
Mammals forced to move to cooler climes amid global warming are “already” spreading their viruses further – with “undoubtable” impacts for human health, a new study says. The research, published in Nature, uses modelling to map how climate change could shift the geographic ranges of 3,100 mammals species and the viruses they carry by 2070. As species migrate to new areas, they carry their viruses with them. The new study says there are “at least 10,000” viruses that have the capacity to infect humans, but “at present, the vast majority” of them “are circulating silently in wild mammals”.
It finds that climate change is increasingly driving new encounters between mammal species, raising the risk of novel disease spread. The world’s “biodiversity hotspots” and densely populated parts of Asia and Africa are most likely to be affected. The findings suggest that climate change could “easily become the dominant [human] driver” of cross-species virus transmission by 2070, the authors say.
The research comes in the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic, a disease passed from animals to humans that has so far killed more than six million people across the world.
Japan Set to Make Companies Disclose Gender Pay Gap This Year
Japan will likely require companies to disclose the wage gap between male and female workers from this summer as part of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s New Capitalism plans. The proposals point out how Japan trails other advanced nations in achieving gender pay equality, and also calls for wages to be raised across the country.
By forcing companies to disclose gender pay gaps, the government could help pay keep up with prices or outpace them, provided it results in women’s compensation being raised instead of men’s wages being cut. The rule will apply from this summer to businesses with more than 300 employees, regardless of whether they’re listed. Disclosure will be required whenever the firm’s fiscal year closes, meaning companies will likely start to report from around the summer. The bulk of firms will report next spring as the financial years of many large firms in Japan end in March.
Japanese women earn 77.5% of what men do, far below the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development average of 88.4%. Calls by the government for more women to hold corporate and political leadership roles have largely sputtered.
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