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Sustainability Newsletter #52

 Published on 12/04/2024

#Key Figure - 1st time

European Court of Human Rights condemns climate inaction for the first time

The European Court of Human Rights gave a “historic” opinion by pronouncing itself for the first time on the responsibility of States in the fight against climate change. The main body condemns Switzerland for violating the Convention on Human Rights, justifying the association " Aînées pour le climat" which attacked Switzerland’s inaction on climate change. This landmark ruling is a legally binding decision that should set a precedent in the 46 member states of the Council of Europe. In particular, the Court condemned the violation of Article 8, which enshrines the right to effective protection by state authorities against the serious adverse effects of climate change on life, health, well-being and quality of life. In May 2020, the Swiss Federal Court rejected the appeal of the association "Aînées pour le climat". In particular, it felt that older women were not more affected by the consequences of climate change than other population groups.

All around the world, the number of appeals against States and companies has stopped growing. France was also condemned in 2021 by the Paris court in “l'Affaire du siècle” to repair its lack of climate action. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) points out that between 2017 and 2023, the number of court cases related to climate change more than doubled.

Sources : The Guardian, RTS, Novethic, BBC

Trends and Initiatives

Eco-score: the environmental label of clothing deployed in France from autumn 2024

After several months of dialogue between experts and representatives of the sector, the elaboration of the textile eco-score is coming to an end. In March, the French Ministry of Ecological Transition unveiled the calculation method to determine the future environmental label to which fashion companies could be forced as early as 2025. Concretely, this score is divided into two parts. The first takes into account “all environmental impacts throughout the product life cycle”. The criteria adopted include greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption, but also damage to biodiversity such as microplastics. The second part integrates the extrinsic durability of the garment, that is, “the non-physical durability related to the practices of the brands”. Here, the analysis focuses on the materials used, the incentives to repair or the number of references marketed. Finally, the indicator takes the form of a score ranging from 0 to infinity, the higher the score, the greater the impact. This new environmental label could become mandatory from 2025. As a reminder, the sector represented the 3rd source of water degradation and land use in Europe in 2020. In the same year, clothing consumed in the EU was responsible for 121 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, or 3.5% of the continent’s emissions.

Sources : Teller Report, Novethic, Le Matin

Sustainable Finance

South Korea unveils $313 billion green financing plan to combat climate change

South Korea has pledged a significant financial commitment to tackling climate change, announcing a $313 billion green financing plan. This initiative aims to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 2018 levels by 2030. By 2030, these measures are anticipated to achieve a reduction of 86 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gases, fulfilling nearly 30% of the government’s ambitious target. Key elements of the plan include policy loans to incentivize companies to transition to low-carbon production processes, a dedicated Green Energy fund to focus on renewable energies. This initiative demonstrates South Korea’s strong commitment to combating climate change and transitioning to a more sustainable future. By partnering with the banking sector and implementing a multifaceted approach, South Korea paves the way for a more sustainable future.

Sources: Bloomberg, Reuters


Biden administration sets historic pollution standards for cars

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced final national pollution standards for passenger cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty vehicles for model years 2027 through 2032 and beyond. These standards will avoid more than 7 billion tons of carbon emissions and provide nearly $100 billion of annual net benefits to society, including $13 billion of annual public health benefits due to improved air quality, and $62 billion in reduced annual fuel costs, and maintenance and repair costs for drivers. The final standards deliver on the significant pollution reductions outlined in the proposed rule, while accelerating the adoption of cleaner vehicle technologies. EPA projects an increase in U.S. auto manufacturing employment in response to these final standards, consistent with the broader Biden Administration commitment to create good-paying, union jobs leading the clean vehicle future. Strong standards have historically contributed to the U.S. leading the world in the supply of clean technologies, with corresponding benefits for American global competitiveness and domestic employment. Since President Biden took office, companies have announced more than $160 billion in investment in U.S. clean vehicle manufacturing and the U.S. auto manufacturing sector has added more than 100’000 jobs in the country.

Sources: The Guardian, CNN

Society and Planet

Methane-eating microbes: a solution for wiping out planet-warming emissions

Methane is about 83 times more potent than CO2 over its first 20 years in the atmosphere. While some of the world’s biggest oil and gas producers have pledged to significantly cut methane emissions by 2030, the biggest anthropogenic source is agriculture, particularly beef and dairy production. Those emissions have proven hard to avoid. That’s where Startup Windfall Bio hopes to step in. The startup has launched a new methane-capture technology, with a bevy of high-profile investors onboard, including Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund and Breakthrough Energy Ventures. Founded in 2022, the California-based company sells methane-eating microbes, called “mems”, to big methane producers, including farms, waste treatment facilities, landfills, and oil and gas producers. In addition to destroying methane, the process also produces organic fertilizer. In fact, Windfall’s mems use energy from the methane they eat to pull nitrogen out of the air, creating an organic fertilizer that customers can use on their own farms or sell for profit. Mems can be one way of transforming the harmful emissions into a useful substance and revenue stream, said Windfall co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Josh Silverman. Other startups are also working on addressing methane emissions, with solutions ranging from feeding cows additives like seaweed to not-yet-commercialized vaccines and breeding.

Sources : Bloomberg, Financial Post, RTBF

Company News

Iberdrola to invest $45 Billion in grid expansion and renewables by 2026

-          Company : Iberdrola  

-          Sector : UTILITIES

-          Clover rating : 5/10

In March, global energy and electricity provider Iberdrola announced plans for a major electrification-focused investment program, pledging to allocate €41 billion in its network and renewable energy from 2024 through 2026, and to hire 10,000 people. The strategic plan includes a significant focus on network-based growth, which represents 60% of the planned investments, of which approximately two-thirds will target distribution, and one-third to transmission. Iberdrola estimated that the investments will result in an increase in its network asset base of 38% in 2026, and improve its geographical diversification, with more than 40% of the investment anticipated to be allocated to the U.S. The plan also anticipates investments of more than €15 billion in renewable energy, with more than half allocated to offshore wind projects in the US, UK, France and Germany. The investments also include €2.8 billion for the previously announced acquisition by Iberdrola of the 18.4% of its US subsidiary Avangrid that it does not already own, with €5 billion of the renewables spend to be contributed by partners in projects already identified.

Sources: Wall Street Journal, ESG Today, Altivia


Phillips 66 converts oil refinery to produce only renewable fuel

-          Company : Phillips 66

-          Sector : ENERGY

-          Clover rating : 4/10

Energy products manufacturer Phillips 66 announced that it has converted its San Francisco oil refinery in Rodeo, California to process only renewable feedstocks, and is now producing approximately 30,000 barrels per day of renewable diesel. Commercial-scale production marks an important milestone in its plan to operate one of the world’s largest renewable fuel facilities. The achievement follows the company’s announcement in 2022 of its plans to convert the refinery into the Rodeo Renewable Energy Complex, which would no longer process crude oil and will instead use waste oils, fats, greases and vegetable oils instead to produce 800 million gallons per year (over 50,000 barrels per day) of renewable transportation fuels, including renewable diesel, renewable gasoline and sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).

Sources: Yahoo!Finance, ESG Today


Nestlé launches new projects to reduce emissions in cocoa supply chain

- Company : Nestlé


- Clover rating : 5/10

Nestlé, home to leading chocolate brands including Kit Kat and Nesquick, is one the world’s largest corporate cocoa consumers, sourcing roughly 430,000 tons per year, with much of the supply sourced from Ghana and the Ivory Coast. According to the company, sourcing of ingredients accounts for more than 70% of Nestlé’s greenhouse gas emissions footprint, with around 25% – 35% of total ingredient emissions caused by the conversion of natural landscapes. In 2024, Nestlé has therefore launched two new projects aimed at reducing carbon emissions from the company’s cocoa supply chain and then achieve a 20% emissions reduction by 2025. Developed with its suppliers, the new five-year projects will promote agroforestry, accelerate the transition to regenerative agriculture and support the reforestation of degraded lands around cocoa farming communities. The new projects will also aim to plant over two million shade trees on land managed by close to 20 000 farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, and are anticipated to deliver more than 500,000 metric tonnes of carbon reduction over 20 years.

Sources: ESG Today, Carbon Credits


How a Colombian city cooled dramatically in just three years

Sometimes referred to as the "City of Eternal Spring", Medellín's temperate climate has long helped attract tourists all year round, but increasing urbanisation had also exposed it to the urban heat island effect, where buildings and roads absorb and retain heat. In 2016, Medellín, Colombia's second largest city after Bogotá, started its "green corridors" programme due to concern about air pollution and rising heat. Composed of more than 30 green corridors, it connects newly-greened road verges, vertical gardens, streams, parks and nearby hills. Initially the project involved planting some 2.5 million new plants and 880’000 trees across the city by 2021. The idea was to connect green spaces in the city together through avenues and streets surrounded by trees and shade. The initial investment to establish the project cost a total of $16,3 million and annual maintenance cost $625’000 in 2022, according to the local government.

The project has now become well-known around the world due to its striking results in cooling the city. As well as reducing heat, experts say it holds promise in improving air quality and that it has brought back wildlife to the city. Through the Green Corridors program, Medellín’s temperatures fell by 2°C in the first three years, and officials expect a further decrease of 4 to 5C over the next few decades, even taking into account climate change. Experts also highlight the reduced need for energy-intensive air conditioning. A separate study also estimated that in just one of Medellín’s corridors, the new vegetation growth would absorb 160,787 kg of CO2 per year and that over the next century 2,308,505 kg of CO2 will be taken up – roughly the equivalent of taking 500 cars off the road.

Going forward, preventing and adapting to hotter temperatures will be a major and urgent challenge for cities. At a time of rising concern about heatwaves linked to climate change, especially in cities, where the urban heat island affect can increase temperatures even more, Medellín's approach to green corridors offers a low-cost, popular solution which other cities are increasingly looking to replicate. The number of cities exposed to “extreme temperatures” is set to triple over the next decades, according to C40 Cities. By 2050, more than 970 cities will experience average summertime temperature highs of 35°C.

Sources: Reasons to Be Cheerful, Karuna News, C40 Cities

Sustainability Newsletter 52