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Snippets for 1 July 2021

Welcome to our fortnightly Snippets newsletter.

Is enough being done in the world to tackle climate change and the environment? A new international law being considered may make it easier in future to prosecute offenses of "ecocide". And with so many animals and plants in imminent risk of extinction, maybe biodiversity offsets - allowing offenders to pay for any destruction their business policies may promote – will help with restoring habitats. A new report from the UN emphasises the need for public and private entities to quadruple their investment in nature to tackle these issues.

What is Carbon lock in, and how can we avoid it? A recent study says the world’s carbon budget will be all used up by what’s already built, so what can be done? Hopefully, the big increase in the rate of delivery of renewable projects will help, but China could be a problem with all their coal plants -they will need to increase their development of renewables significantly. More wind and solar plants around the world generating power more cheaply than coal will help the carbon budget. And high altitude solar power could help improve system’s efficiencies, also helping deliver more.

A few stand-alone articles to finish – The Welsh government is freezing new road building projects, and increasing funding to alternatives to driving, to help tackle the climate emergency. Back home, the ASB bank and others are offering $100 million in loans to support farmers, helping them meet environmental targets. And we end with some interesting facts about renewable energy -some may surprise you.

Enjoy this week’s reading.

In a world first, a multinational team of legal experts has created a legal definition of “ecocide” – in brief, acts that cause environmental damage. If adopted by the International criminal court, it would be the fifth kind of offense that could be prosecuted, and the only one that is non-anthropocentric in nature. In an unfortunate compromise, the definition does not explicitly mention climate change; however, there is hope that climate-change-causing damages can also be prosecuted under “crimes against humanity”. Read more

There is a school of thought that environmental damage can be offset in one place by enhancing the environment in another; but can you put a price on nature and properly measure the outcomes? If so, what are the benefits and potential risks; and how do we keep offsets from being a “get out of jail free card”? Does the idea have merit? Read full article here and consider it!

There is a dire need for a worldwide increase in investment in Nature Based Solutions (NbS), to avoid the breakdown of natural systems. Currently, the vast majority of funding for these projects comes from the public sector; but this needs to be increased, and matched by private sector funds. Part of the problem with funding might stem from a lack of a clear definition of NbS. Having financial instruments and tax incentives may also help. Learn more about it

Carbon lock in. A new concept for most of us, but the reality if we make poor investment decisions in terms of future infrastructure. Carbon lock-in occurs when fossil fuel-intensive systems perpetuate, delay or prevent the transition to low-carbon alternatives — a situation that can seriously imperil climate action. This needs to be avoided, as once intentionally long-lived infrastructure, facilities and equipment are installed, it can take years or even decades before they are eventually replaced and if they are carbon-intensive, their lifetime greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions become enormous. Read full article here.

On a more positive note, last year the global renewable industry grew at its fastest rate since 1999, despite the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The International Energy Agency (IEA) revealed that the delivery of renewable energy projects, including windfarms and solar power projects, grew by 45% last year in a step change for the global industry, prompting the IEA to revise its renewable energy forecasts for the coming years up by about 25% from its previous growth estimates. Yay. Read more

And not only did the renewable market grow spectacularly, it is also undercutting coal costs.Almost two-thirds of wind and solar projects built globally last year will be able to generate cheaper electricity than even the world’s cheapest new coal plants. In less than a decade the cost of large scale solar power has fallen by more than 85% while onshore wind has fallen almost 56% and offshore wind costs have declined by almost 48%. This trend confirms that low-cost renewables are now the backbone of the electricity system. Read full article here.

It also gets better if solar farms are located at high altitudes, where the solar radiation is stronger. And in mountainous regions, during winter months reservoirs can be surrounded with snow, which also serves to reflect sunlight towards the panels. These solar panels harvest up to 50 percent more energy than solar farms at lower altitudes. Solar panels also work well when they are located close to heat sinks such as canals and lakes, which can keep the panels cool and boost efficiency. Read more

The Welsh government has just suspended all future road building plans; the move was announced as part of plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050. “In the next 10 years, we are going to need to more than double all the cuts we have managed over the last 30 years if we are going to keep temperature rises within safe limits”. Transport makes up some 17% of our total emissions and so must play its part. Roading projects already under way are unaffected. Read full article here.

ASB is joining other banks in offering $100 million of discounted loans to farmers to meet specific environmental targets. The bank will offer a 2.25% variable rate for sustainable farming improvements. The funding is available for conservation and biodiversity restoration, as well as projects to drive the switch to renewable energy, pollution prevention, cutting emissions and promoting healthy soils, ecosystems, waterways and animal welfare. We see this as a positive step by banks. Read full article here.

We finish up this week’s Snippets with a look at some interesting facts about renewable energy. There are plenty of amazing bits of information that you might not have known, and which help show just how far we’ve come in terms of creating cost-effective alternatives to fossil fuels. Hydropower makes up 18% of the world’s generation of power, making it the largest renewable energy source. In 2020, global investment in green energy rose by 9%. China builds two wind turbines every hour, and much more. Read more

In our innovation section this week, we have an interesting variety of recent ideas:

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