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Reactions to Government climate finance announcement

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 Yesterday the government pledged a further £5.8 billion of funding to the most vulnerable countries protect themselves from the effects of climate change. The UK is a leader on climate finance as the only G7 nation to meet the 0.7% aid commitment and the only one to enshrine it in legislation.

Yesterday’s pledge comes as developing countries are at increasingly higher risk of climate shocks, in addition to gradual and significant changes to their environment. The intensity of climate hazards, like droughts, storms and flooding, is expected to rise over the coming decades. Increasingly erratic environmental conditions threaten people’s livelihoods, sometimes forcing people from their homes, and increasing global instability.

Jennifer Morgan, Global Director, Climate Program, World Resources Institute, said: “Change is in the air. After years of pushing, we are approaching a real turning point on global climate action. Country leaders used today’s meeting to affirm their solidarity behind the core components of a universal climate agreement this year. These include a long-term goal for the transformation of the global economy,  a requirement for countries to increase their efforts every five years, and assurance that finance will be available to help developing countries.”

“National actions are mounting. But it is clear that these alone are not be enough to address this global threat. A strong global climate agreement will set the stage for greater country actions over time, increase accountability among countries and send strong message to investors and businesses that the global transition to a zero-carbon economy is underway.”

Christoph Bals, Policy Director of Germanwatch, said: “We welcome that the Heads of States at their meeting in New York have made clear that they are ready to take responsibility for a successful climate deal in Paris. They acknowledged that the agreement must signal the need for phasing out emissions from coal, oil and gas globally. The threshold for success of the deal is to avoid a dangerous global temperature rise of  1,5°C/2°C. IPCC scenarios show that this has to happen until mid-century.”

Climate Action Network director Wael Hmaidan said:”The UN Secretary General’s climate lunch today – together with the US-China announcement last week – has made it increasingly clear that world leaders are starting agree on the ingredients that will make up a new treaty on climate change due this December. Those ingredients include a goal to decarbonise the economy well before the end of the century, a way to periodically ramp up climate action, a support package to meet that goal and a plan to increase the resilience of communities. This shared understanding bodes well for getting an agreement in Paris that has the potential to send a powerful signal to investors that the age of fossil fuels is over, and ushers in 100% renewable energy for all. The challenge will now be to make sure the ingredients selected are baked into a cake that’s robust enough to avoid the worst climate impacts.”

Steve Howard, CSO IKEA, said: “The United Nations and world governments have shown far sighted leadership in agreeing the sustainable development goals. However everyone gathered at the UN this week agrees that if we do not tackle climate change there will be no sustainable development. Leading businesses fully support Ban Ki-moon’s call for bold and decisive action on climate – it is time to go all in.”

Richard Gillies, CSO Kingfisher, said: “The business community understands that the low-carbon economy is the only way forward, and is asking for the long-term planning security to help us drive that transition. We support a strong international framework and welcome the signal from these Heads of State that we are moving towards an ambitious agreement.”

WWF UK Chief Executive David Nussbaum said: “Today’s announcement to increase climate finance shows appetite for ambition – a welcome sign that the UK Government will live up to the Prime Minister’s pledge to strive for a strong deal at the UN climate conference in Paris. David Cameron has just joined other world leaders at the UN in a commitment to end poverty and achieve sustainable development. This announcement by the UK, combined with the similar announcement by Germany, sets an example for other developed countries ahead of Paris.

“Financing adaptation is cruial for poor and vulnerable communities around the world, which are having to cope with the early impacts of climate change – droughts, floods, food insecurity, often followed by unrest.

“We now look forward to further Government commitments to boost the low carbon and renewables sectors here in the UK, ensuring that we can remain a leading voice in creating the low-carbon global economy.”

Christian Aid’s Chief Executive Loretta Minghella said: “We know that without tackling climate change, poverty will be permanent. The UK’s pledge of greater climate finance will play a transformational role in giving people the climate stability they need to lift themselves out of poverty. The UK’s substantial, multi-year commitment of funds will also help build trust with developing countries in the run up to the climate talks in Paris – trust that has been lacking in previous negotiations.”

Ms Minghella added: “Not only will this new pledge unlock international co-operation, it will also make a tangible difference to women, men and children in developing countries. This kind of finance is a win-win: it has the potential to bring clean, renewable energy to some of the poorest people in the world and also reduce global carbon emissions.

“We hope that other countries will follow suit over the coming weeks, ahead of the Paris Summit. At those talks, world leaders should also agree on global revenue-raising mechanisms to deliver the new, additional and predictable climate finance that we know will be necessary in the years to come.”

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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renewable energy policy
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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