Sustainability Newsletter #31

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#Figure of the month - More than 100 dead in Brazil floods

More than 100 dead in Brazilian floods, blame uncontrolled urbanization and climate change

In just a few hours, 70% of what is normally expected for rainfall for this period occurred. The state of Pernambuco, in north-eastern Brazil, was hit by torrential rains and landslides last month. More than 100 people were killed in just a few days, according to a provisional death toll. The city of Recife, with a population of nearly four million, was particularly hit. Houses in the favelas collapsed and entire neighborhoods were buried under water.

Disaster expert José Marengo told AFP that the exceptional rainfall was due to global warming, but was especially deadly because of uncontrolled urbanization. "The rain itself does not kill. What is deadly is rain on houses located in risky areas.”

This tragedy is reminiscent of other episodes that occurred in the south of the state of Bahia in December, in the region of Sao Paolo in January and in Petropolis, near Rio de Janeiro, last February, where 233 people were killed in torrential rains and mudslides. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has classified the metropolitan region of Recife as one of the most vulnerable cities in the world to climate change.

Sources : Novethic, The Guardian


Trends and Initiatives

Fit for 55: European Parliament votes to end sales of new internal combustion cars in 2035

"It's a revolution in the car industry", said Green MEP Karima Delli. On Wednesday 8 June, at the end of an emotional day, MEPs voted in favour of ending the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars in 2035. It was a historic vote, with 339 votes in favour and 249 against. Few countries are more ambitious than the EU. There is Norway, which plans an end date of 2025, and the UK, Sweden, Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands in 2030.

The measure has indeed been the subject of intense lobbying, "a tsunami of lobbying" even in the words of Pascal Canfin (Renew), chairman of the European Parliament's Environment Committee. Data compiled by InfluenceMap for Euractiv shows that the automotive sector alone held 32 meetings with MEPs working on the proposed legislation between September and March. The vast majority of these, 22 meetings, were with trade associations or companies opposed to the EU's plan to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars.

Sources : Novethic, Bloomberg


India loosens rules to promote switch to clean energy

India has eased rules to allow commercial and industrial consumers to switch to green sources of electricity, as the nation seeks to decarbonize its fossil fuels-driven economy.

Users seeking “open access” to a clean energy source —without being tied to the local distributor — will have fewer surcharges to pay, and the approval process will be quicker, the power ministry said in a statement. The threshold for such transactions is being reduced to 100 kilowatts, from 1 megawatt previously, to allow smaller consumers benefit.

The new rules could hasten large power users’ switch away from coal, currently the source of more than 70% of India’s electricity. Companies are keen to improve their credentials on sustainability, and they’re increasingly embracing renewable power.

Sources : Bloomberg, Financial Post


Sustainable Finance

CSP from University of Zurich and PwC Switzerland found a lot of progress in sustainable investing practices among private banks

In general, we see a lot of progress in sustainable investing practices among private banks. Especially on the governance side, banks have started to develop concrete action plans and establish relevant objectives related to sustainable investing. All private banks have responded to mounting client demand by increasing both the depth and breadth of their product shelf, as evidenced in the significant rise in the compound annual growth rate of assets under management deployed in sustainable investing, which reached as much as 60% for some participating banks over the last three years.

Regulation has been a driving force in banks’ preparedness to offer and improve sustainable investing solutions, especially within European private banks. The EU Action Plan and the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) are forcing all banks to recognize sustainable investing as a critical part of their operations.

At the same time, the increasing client demand has also led private banks to offer a broader range of products. Nevertheless, there is still concern about impact washing and greenwashing, with room for improvement regarding the depth of the sustainable investing offerings.

Private banks have improved noticeably when it comes to interaction with clients. Many banks now ask clients to indicate their sustainable investment preferences in the onboarding process, often via innovative digital solutions, and some now even consider sustainable investing as the default option unless the client explicitly opts out.

Source : University of Zurich


Society and Planet

Australia’s new government confirms tougher action on climate

Australia’s new government has committed to toughen its short-term targets on cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, a key policy shift in a nation long regarded as a global climate laggard. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who won office last month, confirmed an election pledge to lower carbon emissions by 43% on 2005 levels by 2030, saying the new target would give certainty to citizens and businesses.

“A future powered by cleaner, cheaper energy. A future in which we make more things here,” he said in May in Canberra. “A future in which we participate in the global effort to deal with the challenge of climate change, but also seize the opportunity that is there from acting on climate change.” Albanese’s government officially signed the updated climate commitment under the United Nations’ Paris Agreement in May, the first new targets set since an initial commitment in 2016. The country’s previous government had vowed to curb emissions by as much as 28% by 2030, and set a target to hit net zero by 2050.

Sources : Bloomberg, Novethic


Stockholm+50: Earth Summit celebrates 50 years and calls for a "collective pause

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the first ever Earth Summit, held in 1972, the United Nations General Assembly held an international meeting in Stockholm on 2-3 June called "Stockholm+50, a healthy planet for prosperity - our responsibility, our opportunity". The summit included "three leadership dialogues" on the urgent need for action to achieve a healthy planet and prosperity; sustainable and inclusive recovery from the coronavirus pandemic; and accelerating the implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development. A final declaration is expected at the end of the two days.

The Stockholm Declaration adopted on 16 June 1972 by the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was the first document to recognize the interconnections between development, poverty and environment. It was also the first conference to put the environment significantly on the global agenda, marking the beginning of environmental multilateralism. It was at this time that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which is attached to the General Assembly, was born, and the IPCC and IPBES were created.

"Today, humanity has a choice: we can continue on the path of the past 50 years of unbalanced growth, uneven wealth and unsustainable consumption and production leading to global degradation and growing inequality, health problems, distrust and despair for the many and a good life for the few. Or we can collectively pause and move forward with empathy and solidarity, anticipation and foresight towards collective action for a better future. Stockholm+50 offers us an opportunity for a collective pause," says UNEP in a statement.

Sources : Novethic, The Guardian


Company news

Roundup: US Supreme Court gives Bayer a setback

-       Company : BAYER AG

-       Sector : PHARMA & BIOTECH

-       Clover rating : 3/10

In May, the Supreme Court refused to consider a request from the German company regarding its weed killer Roundup. This made final its previous order to pay $25 million to a plaintiff who suffered from cancer and attributed his illness to the chemical.

This decision could have serious financial consequences for Bayer: several tens of thousands of complaints have been filed in the United States by users of the glyphosate-based weed killer.

The danger of glyphosate in general and Roundup in particular has been the subject of a legal battle for years. In order to get the Supreme Court involved in the dispute, Bayer pointed out that the EPA, the federal environmental protection agency, had not asked the company to warn against using its product.

Sources : Les Echos, Reuters


Google is to pay over 112 million euros to 15.500 female employees for discrimination

-       Company : ALPHABET INC


-       Clover rating : 5/10

Google is to pay more than 112 million euros ($118 million) to 15,500 female employees to resolve pay inequalities the company is accused of. The case began in 2017 in California, when four women, former employees, signed a complaint against Google. They accused the company of not respecting the law on equal pay for women and men provided for by the State of California: they mentioned a difference in salary of more than 16,000 euros (17,000 dollars) per year.

Unequal pay is not the only blame the company has to bear. According to the American media outlet The Verge, the company also assigned women to lower positions than men with similar experience and qualifications, and gave them lower bonuses than their male colleagues.

In addition, Google complied with the request to use the services of a third-party company to evaluate its equality practices and policies. While the company agreed to the negotiation, it denies "all allegations in the complaint and maintains that the group has fully complied with all applicable laws, rules and regulations at all times," it said in a message to AFP.

Sources : BFM, Yahoo finance


Glencore gets rich on coal, but questions persist over exit plan

-       Company : GLENCORE PLC


-       Clover rating: 0/10

Glencore Plc is getting rich on coal. The company is on course for another year of bumper profits, its shares just hit a record high — a feat that looked unlikely for most of the last decade — and investors are set for a windfall of returns. But some of them are now asking exactly how it’s all going to end.

Now, it’s being forced to revisit the debate. Enough shareholders voted against the climate-change plan in April to trigger a consultation process, which is now under way. And some investors are pushing for increased detail about the wind-down plan, and assurances that coal production numbers will not jump back up in the years ahead.

In May, the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, a shareholder advocacy group, wrote to Glencore’s chairman and chief executive officer seeking more clarity. The ACCR, along with influential advisory firms Glass Lewis & Co. and Institutional Shareholder Services, had urged shareholders to vote against the company’s climate change strategy at its April investor meeting.

“Six weeks ago Glencore received a clear message from almost a quarter of its shareholders: fix your climate plan and your approach to coal,” ACCR said. “In Australia, Glencore is advocating for large new and expanding thermal coal projects well into the 2040s and beyond.”

Sources : Bloomberg, Yahoo Finance


NextEra’s plan to ditch carbon is a huge bet on hydrogen

-       Company : NEXTERA ENERGY INC

-       Sector : UTILITIES

-       Clover rating : 4/10

NextEra Energy Inc.’s plan to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 without relying on carbon-capture systems or offsets marks one of the biggest bets yet to make hydrogen a central piece of the energy landscape.

The company, which operates Florida Power & Light and owns one of the world’s largest developers of wind and solar power, wants to convert more than two-thirds of its natural gas power plants to run on hydrogen. The fuel, in this case, would be produced by renewable energy with devices called electrolyzers. In addition, NextEra is looking to become a leader in producing hydrogen and developing infrastructure so it can be used to decarbonize power plants, transportation and heavy industry across the country.

Sources : Bloomberg, Financial Post



In Nigeria's disappearing forests, loggers outnumber trees

From 2001 to 2021, Nigeria lost 1.14 million hectares of tree cover, equivalent to a 11% decrease in tree cover since 2000 and equal to 587 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, according to Global Forest Watch, a platform that provides data and monitors forests. Cutting down trees for logging, opening up farmland or to feed energy demand for a growing population is putting pressure on Nigeria's natural forests.

President Muhammadu Buhari told a COP15 meeting in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on May 9 that Nigeria had established a national forestry trust fund to help regenerate the country's forests. That may not be enough as the country loses forests at a faster pace. "Protecting the forest means protecting ourselves. When we destroy the forest, we destroy humanity," said Femi Obadun, director of forest management for Ondo state's agriculture ministry.

Sources : Reuters, Global Forest Watch




Solar power floods Europe’s grids as heat wave lifts demand

Europe’s biggest economies are seeing near-record amounts of solar power as a heat wave spreads across the southwest of the continent, boosting demand for electricity to keep people cool. Solar met almost a quarter of all energy demand in five of Europe’s biggest power markets in May. The surge in electricity supply did little to ease rising prices that are being driven higher by climbing gas costs as Russia cuts some flows to Europe. Europeans are turning up the air conditioning to deal with rising temperatures which reached 39 degrees Celsius in Madrid.

In Germany, solar power hit a record 36,848 megawatts, according to data from the European Energy Exchange AG. That supplied more than 60% of demand at one point in the afternoon, according to data from Fraunhofer ISE. Germany added about 5.3 gigawatts of solar power capacity in 2021, 10% more than in the year before, but still much less than during its boom years around 2010, according to the solar industry association. About 10% of Germany’s annual electricity consumption is met by solar generation and the government’s goal is to expand capacity to 200 gigawatts by 2030 from 59 gigawatts now.

In Spain, the European country with the greatest potential for solar generation, power from the sun provided about 23% of electricity demand just after 2 p.m. on Wednesday June 15th, according to grid operator data. The country plans to rapidly grow its capacity in the coming years to reduce its dependence on expensive gas and coal. Spanish solar capacity is set to grow by 27% this year and more than triple that amount by the end of the decade, according to BloombergNEF.

Sources : Bloomberg, Financial Post


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