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Blue & Green Daily: Friday 5 September round up

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Today on Blue & Green Tomorrow, we marked the International Day of Charity, asking who, exactly, supports environmental causes.

We also looked into the future of the UK offshore wind sector, considered the latest evidence that more sustainable investments offer better returns, and learned how island nations can lead the way in the renewable energy revolution.

MSCI launches tool to support fossil free investment

MSCI, a provider of investment decision support tools, has launched a new set of carbon and fossil fuel metrics to aid investors wanting to reduce their carbon exposure. 

Study links high ESG ratings to positive investment portfolio performance

Asset managers can create better-performing portfolios by excluding stocks with lower environmental, social and governance (ESG) ratings, according to new research. 

Who, exactly, supports environmental charities?

Just who supports these environmental charities then? Are they green activists, or has the message finally got round and everyone is engaging with the future of their planet?

Public backs green groups on the creation of Arctic sanctuary

A poll commissioned by Greenpeace and conducted across 30 countries has found robust public support for the proposal to create a protected area in the Arctic region to preserve wildlife.

How island nations can lead the renewable energy revolution

Small island nations face a truly existential threat in the face of climate change, but they also have the potential to lead the renewable energy revolution that could save them, writes Ryan Gilchrist, who leads business development with enterprise clients at UGE.

Sir Ronald Cohen: impact investing needs venture capital-style support

The father of social investment and chair of the G8 Social Impact Investment Task Force has called on governments to provide more support to social impact investment to help it thrive. 

BP ruled ‘grossly negligent’ in Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Oil giant BP was “grossly negligent” in the build up to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a US judge has ruled.

Public opposes fracking in national parks and under private land

A new poll has found the controversial possibility of fracking operations coming to UK national parks and private land is opposed by the majority of the public.

Ban Ki-Moon encourages people to give on the International Day of Charity

Charities play a crucial role in helping our society wherever public spending is lacking and they need support from the public now more than ever, the UN secretary-general said on International Day of Charity on Friday. 

Radio Taxis Credit Union votes to merge with London Capital

Two London credit unions are to merge and create one of the largest such organisations in England, joining together some 11,000 members.

UK to be global leader of offshore wind energy market by 2020

The UK’s offshore wind sector experienced amazing growth in 2013, and now owns a 52% share of the global market, according to new analysis. Investment in the sector is expected to rise from £2 billion to nearly £5 billion in 2020.

Goldman Sachs to issue Islamic bonds

Goldman Sachs is to push forward with plans to launch its first Islamic bonds, as Islamic finance continues its journey into the mainstream.

European Investment Bank issues €500m climate awareness bond

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has issued a €500 million (£397m) climate awareness bond that will reach maturity in 2026 and carries an annual coupon on 1.25%. Since 2007 EIB climate awareness bonds have raised €6.2 billion (£4.9bn), demonstrating the growing demand for ethical bonds. 

TED talks: How to grow a tiny forest anywhere – Shubhendu Sharma

In this short, informative TED talk, entrepreneur Shubhendu Sharma demonstrates how we can grow small forests that mature 10 times faster than typical forests, and grow 30% denser and are 100 times more biodiverse.

Book review: The Shifts and the Shock – Martin Wolf (2014)

The Shifts and the Shocks: What We’ve Learned – and Have Still to Learn – from the Financial Crisis by the Financial Time’s chief economics commentator Martin Wolf, asks what the 2008 financial crisis should have taught us about economies. 

Film review: Best Before (2012)

Best Before: The London Food Revolution is a short documentary looking at the impending food crisis, with food prices set to double between now and 2030, and the individuals and organisations that are working to prevent it.

Green Party prepares to challenge Labour in battle for the left

As the Green Party conference began on Friday, its members announced their determination to challenge both the government and the opposition – putting themselves forward as the only left wing alternative working for the common good.

Photo: Sanja Gjenero via Free Images

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Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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