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New Zealand may have passed peak climate pollution



Welcome to another issue of SnippETS, where we again showcase a number of interesting developments in the sustainability and climate change space.


We start things off by taking a look at some really positive local news: newly released data is showing New Zealand may have passed peak climate pollution. The timing lines up well with the NZ government also announcing a multi-billion dollar partnership with investment firm BlackRock, to drive NZ to become one of the first countries with 100% renewable energy. That’ll go a long way to reaching NZ’s decarbonisation goals, as will Fonterra getting ready to tackle its biggest source of emissions: farmers.


Another lever being used to elicit real climate action, is litigation. Climate related litigation is taking off globally, and though tracking the real-world impacts can be difficult, we are beginning to see trends that indicate it is an effective tool in holding companies and governments to account. This is happening in places like China, where recently its highest court released guidance on the types of judicial services it would provide to assist the state in achieving decarbonisation targets. Even just the threat of litigation is prompting companies and governments to take positive action.


There is one theme dominating the headlines this summer in the northern hemisphere: heat. The heat is already at dangerous levels in much of the north, and we have seen the devastating impacts all too clearly as of late. It’s so bad that in places like Japan, insurers are offering one-day heatstroke insurance. Wildfires are also dominating the news, and places like Australia are turning to Indigenous practices to help tackle them. And in India, more and more people are turning to traditional housing to keep cool in the sweltering heat.


Finally, in France, the government is offering subsidies to people who get their clothing mended instead of joining the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of clothes currently going to landfills. We round this edition off by looking at the reasons behind why travelling by train is so much more expensive than flying, and what could be done to address this.


Enjoy.



We open this issue with the news that NZ greenhouse gas emissions continued to fall through 2022, suggesting that NZ has passed peak climate pollution. The December 2022 quarter was the lowest figure in NZ Stats database (goes back to March 2014), barring the period covering the first Covid Lockdown. The new release shows emissions decreases in 2020 and 2021 are not just temporary, but the start of a long-term trend of falling emissions. Read more...



And as a means of further accelerating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the NZ Government and US investment giant BlackRock announced the launch of a $NZ2 billion fund, designed to help NZ become one of the first countries in the world to reach 100% renewable electricity by the end of 2030. The fund will help accelerate green energy technologies like solar, wind, green hydrogen, and battery storage and as BlackRock CEO Larry Fink noted “This is the largest single-country low-carbon transition investment initiative BlackRock has created to date”. Read more....



In other NZ news, it appears Fonterra is getting ready to tackle its biggest source of emissions – farmer suppliers. The co-operative’s 9,000 farmers have been bracing themselves since Fonterra flagged its intention to set a target at its annual meeting. Fonterra director of sustainability Charlotte Rutherford says the co-operative plans to introduce an “intensity target” with the goal of reducing the amount of carbon produced per kilogram of milk solids. She says the target would be achieved through improved farm efficiency as well as other measures like sequestration. Read more....



A report published Thursday from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Sabin Centre for Climate Change Law at Columbia University puts the global climate litigation caseload at 2,180 as of the end of 2022, double the number in 2017. Although 70% of these cases are in the USA, one clear trend in the UNEP report is that climate lawsuits are growing far more diverse, geographically, and representationally. While past climate cases have often focused narrowly on stopping oil development and spurring government regulation of fossil fuels, a newer class of cases takes a broader look at human rights. Read more....



The Chinese Government has recently published legal guidance which will legitimise China’s environmental laws and more easily allow prosecutors to take legal action to support decarbonisation targets, including full carbon neutrality by 2060. A United Nations Environment Programme and Columbia University’s Sabin Centre report also highlights how climate-related legal cases have more than doubled globally since 2017 but are still lagging Asian peers, though it is also the first time that climate change cases from China have been identified in the global climate litigation report. Read more....



A new suite of unconventional heat insurance products has emerged in a range of countries around the world as scorching heat waves have become more common with worsening climate change. Including single-day heatstroke insurance in Japan; a charitable foundation launching a program to insure Indian workers against lost wages; and an experimental new policy to protect British farmers against heat stress in cattle. Read more....



Indigenous communities have been utilizing cultural burning practices for centuries. By better managing the savanna, with controlled fires in cooler, moister conditions and earlier in the summer season, the frequency and intensity of wildfire disasters can be reduced. This helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions – by preventing the larger and hotter uncontrolled burns – but also captures and holds carbon in vegetation and soils. Non-profit organizations like the Firesticks Alliance, and the Aboriginal Carbon Foundation are now helping to coordinate, support, and scale out this work across Australia. Read more....



Traditional building design using natural materials is going through a renaissance in India, as more people are thinking about the climate resilience of their homes, while looking for efficient ways to reduce indoor temperatures during ever present heat waves. Resilient traditional designs vary according to the climatic conditions of the specific region, use locally-sourced construction materials, and tend to be cooler than modern dwellings. Read more....



The French government is incentivising its residents to get their clothes and shoes repaired. People will be able to claim back between 6 & 25 Euros ($11 to $45 NZD) at shops that have joined the scheme. It is hoped it will create more jobs, encourage people to repair and not discard clothing. And most importantly cut back on the estimated 700,000 tonnes of clothing that is thrown away in France each year, two thirds of which ends up in landfills. Read more....



Growing numbers of people are avoiding plane trips, but greener travel options such as trains can be costly. For example, prices for travel between Barcelona & London in one instance were 384 euros ($428 USD) for a train ticket leaving within a week - nearly 30 times more expensive than the 13 euro ($14.50 USD) equivalent plane trip. Should a carbon intensive way to travel be cheaper than a greener alternative? Read more....





This week we have the following innovation articles we hope you find interesting:










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