KARUIZAWA, June 16 -- The Group of 20 major economies agreed Sunday on the creation of an international framework that calls on members to take voluntary steps to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean, one of the world's most pressing environmental threats.
The agreement came after a two-day meeting of G-20 environment and energy ministers at which discussions also focused on energy security after attacks on two oil tankers in the Middle East that sparked a surge in oil prices. "Marine litter, especially marine plastic litter and microplastics, is a matter requiring urgent action given its adverse impacts on marine ecosystems, livelihoods, and industries including fisheries, tourism, and shipping, and potentially on human health," said a communique issued following the meeting in the central Japan resort town of Karuizawa. Japanese Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada, who co-chaired the meeting, called the agreement a "major achievement" in the lead-up to a G-20 leaders' summit later this month. "We will continue to vigorously seek solutions to such global issues," he told a press conference. The ministers stressed the importance of realizing a "virtuous cycle" of environmental protection and economic growth, driven by "breakthrough innovation" in the private sector with support from governments.
But the participants were not on the same page on all of the environmental issues, with the United States, which has announced its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, refusing to endorse a commitment in the communique to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The document ended up suggesting that countries, excluding the United States, reaffirm their promises to fully implement the accord that aims to keep the rise in average global temperatures to well below 2 C compared with preindustrial levels to mitigate the impact of climate change, such as droughts, floods and rising sea levels. "There are countries that would like to go make some statements on the Paris climate accord in these documents here this weekend. I don't know that that's really the appropriate place for that discussion," Andrew Wheeler, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told reporters prior to the release of the communique. Discussions on plastic waste were much less fraught, with the ministers in agreement that the issue needs to be quickly addressed. Under the international framework, each country will report progress on its voluntary measures and share solutions. Plastic waste that ends up in the oceans often ensnares or is ingested by marine animals such as dolphins and sea turtles. Microplastics measuring less than 5 millimeters can accumulate in fish, making them toxic for humans. About 300 million tons of plastic waste is produced every year, of which 8 million tons end up in the world's oceans, according to the United Nations. Most of that waste comes from Asian countries including G-20 members China and Indonesia. Japanese industry minister Hiroshige Seko, who co-chaired the meeting with Harada, announced on Saturday that his country will aim to require businesses to charge for disposable shopping bags by next April to help reduce waste. Many countries in the world already charge for single-use bags or ban them outright. The communique also made reference to the attacks Thursday on two tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, an incident that reignited concern over tensions in the Middle East and sent global oil prices jumping. Citing "recent developments highlighting concern about energy security," the ministers stressed the importance of preventing energy supply disruptions and facilitating stable markets.
The G-20 consists of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
PARIS, June 11 -– A man died in Paris after his electric scooter collided with a lorry, sources said on Tuesday (June 11), the first such fatality involving the increasingly-popular devices in the French capital as concern grows over their safety.
The 25-year-old was riding the scooter in the bustling Goutte d’Or neighbourhood in the north of the city when the accident happened late Monday. He was rushed to hospital where he died of his injuries, the Paris emergency services said. The lorry driver has been detained with prosecutors opening an investigation into “involuntary homicide”. A source close to the case, who asked not to be named, said the lorry driver had priority on the road at the time. It was the first deadly accident involving an electric scooter within the city limits, police and the mayor’s office confirmed. According to press reports, an 81-year-old man died in April in Levallois-Perret outside Paris, days after being knocked over by an electric scooter.
Just a year after they first appeared on the Paris streets, mushrooming electric scooters have become a gigantic headache for the Paris authorities who are now rushing to implement some kind of framework for their use. Monday’s deadly accident has “underlined the need to emphasise the elementary rules that users must respect,” deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said. “The police need to act to penalise users who, for example, cross a red light,” he said. Mayor Anne Hidalgo had on Thursday announced a ban on parking electric scooters on the pavement and said their speed on roads should be limited to 20kmh. Paris has already introduced fines of €135 (S$209) for riding electric scooters on the pavement. Fans have embraced scooters as a quick and cheap way to get around, since the "dockless" devices are unlocked with a phone app and can be left anywhere when a ride is finished.
BANGKOK, June 11 -- Southeast Asian leaders will commit to tackle the growing problem of marine debris, in particular plastics, during their summit later this month, according to a draft declaration obtained Monday.
The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations will make the vow in the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in ASEAN Region, to be inked during their summit to be held on June 23 in Bangkok. In the draft, the leaders call for strengthening actions at the national level, as well as through international collaboration, to prevent and significantly reduce marine debris.
They pledge to enhance policy dialogue and information sharing, implement partnerships between the public and private sectors, and promote innovative solutions to reducing plastic litter, including through development of a circular economy whereby plastics are kept out of the environment and instead returned to production through reuse and recycling. The leaders also commit to devote more scientific and research work to combatting marine debris and to increase public awareness and participation through advocacy and education, with the aim of changing people's behavior. The draft shows ASEAN's concern over the "high and rapidly increasing levels" of marine plastic litter and other debris, and the adverse impacts on marine biodiversity, ecosystems, animal well-being, fisheries, maritime transport, recreation, tourism, local societies and economies. It cites an "urgent need" for strengthened knowledge of the levels and effects of microplastics and nanoplastics on the marine ecosystem, food safety and human health.
TOKYO, June 11 -- Japan's Cabinet approved Tuesday a plan to reduce greenhouse emissions to zero in the second half of the 21st century, as part of the country's strategy to fight global warming.
Renewable energy such as solar and wind will be the mainstay of Japan's energy use to achieve the goal, though coal-fired power plants will remain operational, a policy criticized by some energy experts as insufficient to cut carbon dioxide emissions significantly. Japan plans to present the strategy to the United Nations by late June when it hosts the Group of 20 summit, as required under the Paris Agreement. The 2015 climate accord aims to keep the rise in average global temperatures to an ideal 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels. Japan and Italy are the only nations among the Group of Seven countries that have not presented a strategy.
"Action against climate change is not a cost to the economy but a growth strategy toward the future," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday. "We will create a virtuous cycle and lead the paradigm shift of the world's climate policy." The strategy will also rely on nuclear power generation, even as concerns remain about the safety of nuclear plants after the 2011 Fukushima crisis. It calls for greater use of hydrogen to reduce dependency on nuclear power to the "lowest use possible" and developing advanced technology to improve power generation efficiency. A draft plan at a panel tasked with compiling the strategy urged scrapping all coal-fired plants in the long term. But the idea was dropped after meeting strong opposition from certain panel members from the business sector, drawing criticism from some environmental organizations. Under the long-term energy plan, the government aims to have renewables account for 22 to 24 percent, fossil fuels 56 percent and nuclear power 20 to 22 percent of the country's electricity generation in 2030.
LONDON, June 7 -- The former Top Gear presenter has cultivated his petrolhead image for years, but a recent interview lifts the lid on his Earth-loving side.
Name: Farmer Clarkson.
Appearance: Ruddy-faced, weirdly dressed, fond of a massive engine.
Is this the “Farmer” part or the “Clarkson” part? It is both, my friend, for the former Top Gear presenter has become an arable agriculture worker and is making an Amazon TV series all about doing so.
Jeremy Clarkson has a farm? You’re slow on the uptake today. Yes, Jeremy Clarkson has a 400-hectare (1,000 acre) arable farm near Chipping Norton called Diddly Squat, upon which he grows wheat, barley and oilseed rape.
Watching a man grow barley doesn’t sound like particularly gripping television. Ah, but it might be. Clarkson’s show – I Bought the Farm – is apparently going to be an unvarnished look at the ecological damage wrought by humankind’s reliance on agriculture.
Really? Kind of. Clarkson told the Sunday Times: “When you till the soil or plough in weeds, it releases carbon into the atmosphere. So you think: ‘OK, I won’t plough, I’ll just spray the weeds.’ But that’s bad for the bees. Every decision you make as a farmer is bad for some reason or another.”
And this is Jeremy Clarkson? Yes.
The same Jeremy Clarkson who once angered environmentalists by emitting 1.7 tonnes of carbon during a Top Gear episode in which he drove in the Arctic? Yes.
The same Jeremy Clarkson who only recently called Extinction Rebellion “happy clappy eco vicars”? Yes. His farm is carbon neutral, too.
What? He’s pretty much flexitarian these days.
WHAT?? In fairness, this isn’t the most drastic development. Between being sacked by the BBC and signing with Amazon four years ago, Clarkson publicly mooted the idea of making a Countryfile rival for ITV “where there was death and blood and opinion”. This has clearly been on his mind for some time.
Is this all for show, just to get him back on TV? Unlikely. He has owned the farm for a decade and is committed to reintroducing native plants and animals. He has replanted hawthorn, beech, maize, sunflower and mustard, and cleared streams, and it has apparently become a haven for endangered wild birds.
And, just to be absolutely clear, we are talking about the same Jeremy Clarkson here? Yes. Horrible denim, a bit violent sometimes. Same one.
But he sounds so great now. Pardon?
Everyone thought Jeremy Clarkson was a straight-talking carbon-emitting man-of-the-people petrolhead, but he’s really a happy-clappy hedge-planting flexitarian maize-hugger. Does the Guardian now love Jeremy Clarkson? He’ll be thrilled when he hears.
Do say: “I can’t wait to watch Clarkson’s farming show.”
Don’t say: “Until he’s sacked for punching a scarecrow.”
Germany’s coal phase-out is one such sign that the region’s policymakers are keen to ensure strong leadership in the right direction, although such a radical transition is naturally not without its critics. While the idea of a Green New Deal for Europe – a “national, industrial, economic-mobilisation plan” – is nothing new, the emerging groundswell of public support for a large-scale transition to renewable energy is. For Brussels to achieve its ambitious climate goals of net-zero emissions by 2050, Europe’s energy infrastructure will need to be radically decarbonised, and the pieces for such a move are finally starting to fall into place.
Detractors have been quick to claim that decarbonisation is synonymous with de-industrialisation, as means of production with low carbon intensity would ruin the edge German companies have on their competitors. But as Europe’s energy transition gains momentum, such assumptions simply do not stand up to scrutiny anymore. It is a fact that investors and consumers alike are looking to pay a premium for “green” products that are produced with as small a carbon footprint as possible. And increasingly, they are finding themselves pushing against an open door. Earlier this year for example, MEPs announced they were looking to ease capital charges on banks’ green investments in a bid to drive investment into forward looking initiatives, such as electric vehicles and energy-efficient housing. Such global efforts to scale-up decarbonisation technology have led to innovations in the housing, energy and transportation sectors, but more investment is needed to ensure widespread adoption. Despite a persistent financing gap in low-carbon research and development initiatives, one thing remains clear: industrial decarbonisation is the next frontier for European development. Both a challenge and opportunity at the same time, failing to drive progress will have disastrous consequences may prove disastrous for the bloc’s industrial base. This is particularly true for Europe’s energy-intensive industries that need to combine ambitions for low carbon emissions and global competitiveness in their value chains. The use of innovative technologies, then, can achieve this double imperative in the chemical, cement, and non-ferrous metal sectors.
Particularly in primary aluminium production a number of technologies are being developed to reduce emissions and the energy used in the electrochemical processes. Inert, non-carbon anodes to reduce direct emissions are one such example, while wetted cathodes to improve electrical contact stand to reduce energy use in the production process by approximately one-fifth. Alternative materials are being developed in cement production as well to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint, with advanced grinding technologies and carbon-efficient concrete laying the foundation for a new era of manufacturing and construction. Yet the road to an industrial sector with zero carbon emissions is a winding one for a number of reasons. The sector’s heterogeneity means the number of crosscutting solutions is limited compared to other industries. Furthermore, industrial processes often inevitably produce carbon dioxide as by-product of chemical reactions, and these “process emissions” cannot simply be resolved with the same energy efficiency measures employed elsewhere. Finally, major retrofits in manufacturing plants are cyclical in nature, leaving a narrow window for reform.
But even then, offsetting solutions can be found to satisfy increasingly critical and demanding consumers. These lie in leveraging the EU’s trade connections, allowing EU downstream producers to benefit from other countries’ competitive advantages in raw material production. The aluminium sector displays this condition especially clearly. As a result of Europe’s production deficit, the EU needs to import the vast majority of its domestic aluminium – a figure that is slated to expand in years to come. But the downstream sector in need of primary aluminium can take advantage of closer trade within the European neighbourhood, where more low-carbon aluminium can be produced more easily.
The Norwegian, Icelandic and Russian aluminium industries are reliant on clean energy sources such as hydropower, which reduce emissions by up to 90% compared to coal. Rusal, for instance, exports some 1.6 million tonnes of the metal to the EU every year, and is using Siberia’s vast hydropower reserves to produce low-carbon aluminium. Some 90% of its output is produced this way, with plans to phase out the remaining 10% by 2020. Norway’s Norsk Hydro is another big aluminium exporter to Europe bent on greening its metal, which signed last year the longest corporate wind power contract to date. The 29-year long deal will provide clean energy from a wind plant in Sweden to its smelters in Norway. The aluminium sector is just one of many areas where greening of the value chain is in full swing. Because Brussels has renewed its push toward implementing the circular economy, more focus is not only placed on aluminium and its recycling, but other metals as well. The result, of course, is the mitigation of energy requirements and inevitable reduction of carbon emissions.
All naysayers notwithstanding, the data is rather clear: Europe’s industries must reduce their carbon footprint as a matter of urgency, and the window of opportunity for greener industries has never been more widely opened.
BRUSSELS, June 6 -- France is one of six EU nations unlikely to hit their 2020 renewable energy targets, putting the European Union's 20 per cent goal at risk, the bloc's auditors said on Thursday.
France is lagging in its bid to source 23 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, the European Court of Auditors said in a report. France sourced 16.3 per cent of its energy from renewables in 2017 and since 2005 has only raised this by 0.5 percentage point per year, the report said. Renewables can regularly cover 25 per cent of France's summer electricity needs, grid operator RTE said on Wednesday. While 11 EU countries have already met their targets, the Netherlands, Ireland, Britain, Luxembourg and Poland are also unlikely to reach their individual targets by 2020, the auditors said. Each would need to boost their reliance on renewables by more than 4 percentage points from 2017 levels, the report said. An additional eight EU members, including Germany and Spain, also need to accelerate their switch to renewables to meet their goals, it said.
If member states do not meet their national targets, an EU target of sourcing 32 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2030 could be put into jeopardy, the auditors said. Ten EU members have already reached their 2020 targets, including Sweden, whose 54.5 per cent rate was the highest in the EU. Luxembourg at 6.4 per cent and the Netherlands at 6.6 per cent were the lowest. Between 2005 and 2017, the share of renewable energy used in the EU almost doubled to 17.5 per cent, just a few points short of the bloc's 20 per cent goal for electricity, heating, cooling and transport use. However, progress has slowed since 2014 when a number of EU countries reduced support for renewables to lighten the burden on consumers and national budgets. "The slowdown in shifting towards renewable electricity implies that we might not meet the EU 2020 target," the auditors said in a statement. The EU needs more wind and solar power to meet its renewables targets, the auditors said. The European Commission should urge EU member states to take action, such as through auction planning and investment in grid infrastructure, they said.
PALO ALTO, June 4 -- Elon Musk made interesting new comments about the upcoming Tesla Pickup truck, including a first hint at the starting price, which he aims to keep under $50,000, and some of the functionality.
Tesla’s CEO has previously sought suggestions for features to add to the Tesla truck under development and he revealed some planned features, like an option for 400 to 500 miles of range, Dual Motor All-wheel-drive powertrain with dynamic suspension, as well as ‘300,000 lbs of towing capacity’. During an appearance on Ride the Lighting podcast this weekend, Musk made some new comments about the upcoming electric pickup truck.
He confirmed that Tesla is aiming to keep the starting price under $50,000:
“We don’t want it to be really expensive. I think it got to start at less than $50,000 – it’s got to be like $49,000 starting price max. Ideally less. It just can’t be unaffordable. It’s got to be something that’s affordable. There will be versions of the truck that will be more expensive, but you’ve got to be able to get a really great truck for $49,000 or less.”
Based on previous comments, it sounds like the design of the Tesla pickup truck is going to be quite special. Musk added about the design during the podcast:
“It’s got to have incredible functionally from a load carrying standpoint, look amazing – but it won’t look like a normal truck. It’s going to look pretty sci-fi. That means that it’s not going to be for everyone- like if somebody just wants to have a truck that looks like trucks have looked like for the last 20 to 40 years, it’s probably isn’t for them.”
He confirmed that the cryptic teaser image released earlier this year was actually the front of the Tesla pickup truck:
"People have been trying to interpret the image ever since it was released at the launch of the Model Y and it resulted in many interesting theories. We gathered some of the renderings that came out of it."
The CEO reiterated that it’s going to be a “Blade Runner-like” truck design – something he has been saying for a while now, but it’s hard to know exactly what he means. He anticipates that some people will think that “it doesn’t look like a truck.” Musk compared the disruptive design to the transition between the horse and carriage and the automobile.
As for the capabilities of the Tesla pickup truck, the CEO is aiming for high standards:
“It’s going to be a truck that is more capable than other trucks. The goal is to be a better truck than a Ford F-150 in terms of truck-like functionality and be a better sports car than a standard [Porsche] 911. That’s the aspiration.”
BRUSSELS, June 4 -- On Tuesday a public online consultation on the National Energy Climate Plan (PNEC) will be launched by the “caretaker” government, the cabinet of Federal Minister of Energy Marie Christine Marghem confirmed on Wednesday.
The questionnaire will give citizens the opportunity to comment on the PNEC commitments made by Belgium’s various authorities. The questions will be published on the FPS Economy (Federal public service) website, Directorate General for energy and will remain online for six weeks, the cabinet said.
The questions are not yet known. De Morgen evoked on Wednesday a series of fifteen questions, such as “do you want more offshore wind turbines?” Or “how can you reduce your energy consumption?”. In parallel to these questions, comments can be added. The consultation follows a request from the European Commission, which asked all Member States to question their population on their country’s climate plan. Belgium had therefore indicated in the PNEC that a public consultation would be held “in the first quarter of 2019”. The slight delay is partly due to the coordination of Belgium’s levels of power (Federal State and three Regions).
Citizens will be informed of this consultation via the Internet, Twitter and the media, among others, Marghem’s cabinet ensured. According to WWF spokesperson Julie Vandenberghe, quoted in De Morgen, “it is clear that the government prefers that as few people as possible address this climate plan.” “Europe expects broad public consultation, but what do we get? A simple questionnaire to be published on a website during the summer, with no publicity,” she said. The final text of the Climate Energy National Plan must be submitted to the European Commission by the end of 2019. Based on the national plans, the Commission will then assess and monitor progress towards achieving 2030 climate and energy goals, recommending when deemed necessary additional measures to be adopted.
HANGZHOU, June 3 -- Despite the progress China has made in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the country still faces great challenges in meeting its climate change targets, a senior official said.
Xie Zhenhua, China's special representative on climate change, made the comment at a forum in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on Sunday during the annual general meeting of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development. In 2018, China's carbon intensity was more than 48 percent below that of 2005, meeting its goal to cut carbon emissions by 40 to 45 percent by 2020. The ratio of energy from non fossil fuel in the national primary energy structure increased to 14.3 percent, Xie said. The country plans to further bring down the intensity metric by 60 to 65 percent and increase the ratio of nonfossil fuel to 20 percent by 2030. Xie said China still needs to improve systems and establish supportive policies. "It needs strenuous effort," he said. As the largest developing country in the world, China has always listed sustainable development as a national strategy and has been proactively tackling climate change, Xie said.
"President Xi Jinping has emphasized on various occasions that China is tackling climate change willingly and not because others demand it. Coping with it is an inherent requirement in the country's sustainable development, and also part of China's duty as a responsible major power," he said. Joyce Msuya, acting executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said 2019 is a year that represents both opportunity and urgency to act.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a special report in October 2018 on the impact of global warming of 1.5 C above preindustrial levels, highlighting a number of effects that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5 C. Limiting warming to 1.5 C, instead of 2 C for example, could result in 420 million fewer people being exposed to severe heat waves, the report said.
"While our window of opportunity is closing fast, it is still open. And we have an opportunity. China has shown that we can defend the blue skies that we take for granted with a combination of political will, strong public participation and better enforcement of environmental laws," Msuya said. "Last year, UN Environment released a report outlining 25 simple and cost-effective policy measures that can help people in the Asia-Pacific region to reduce air pollution. The switch to electric mobility, of which China is the undisputed world leader, is one of them," Msuya said. Zou Ji, president of Energy Foundation China and a special adviser to the council, said China has the potential to help other developing countries reduce their carbon dioxide emissions via the Belt and Road Initiative and South-South cooperation. "The experiences and technologies China has accumulated over decades of development can be valuable for other developing countries to explore the green and low-carbon development paths suitable to them," he said.
Established in 1992, the council is a high-level international advisory body comprising officials and experts from both China and overseas who provide policy advice to the Chinese government. The general meeting will last from Sunday to Wednesday.