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carbon tunnel vision

With the UN climate change conference COP26, it’s obvious that there is consensus among a majority of world leaders and key stakeholders that much more needs to be done ( and avoid carbon tunnel vision ) if the ambition of keeping global warming to a 1.5-degree increase is to have any chance of being met. Yet talk, as they say, is cheap. Or, in the words of Greta: too much “blah, blah, blah” and not enough action.

Responding to the global climate crisis demands a global response, with public commitments backed up by resources and collaboration. We cannot have countries or organizations working in silos. And we cannot de-couple climate considerations from the broader sustainability agenda, as exemplified by the Sustainable Development Goals – and SDG 13 (climate action), in particular.

Widening perspectives to understand all impacts

carbon tunnel visionLately, a catch-phrase doing the rounds on social media, coined by Jan Konietzko of Cognizant, is ‘carbon tunnel vision’. A clever play on words, yes, but beyond that, it is a highly pertinent observation. If we achieve net-zero emissions yet overlook human rights, or fail to safeguard biodiversity, what will this mean for the wellbeing of people and the planet?

At the heart of this is strengthening and highlighting the synergies between the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda. It will only be through concerted and connected action on these commitments, informed by evidence and data, that we can seize the opportunities for an inclusive and sustainable future for all.

Collaboration between public and private sectors

Alongside transnational coordination between governments, we need to further engage the private sector as a key partner in realizing and implementing the SDGs and the Paris Agreement. Working closely with the UN Global Compact and other international organizations, GRI strives to highlight and increase the importance of corporate sustainability reporting for the SDGs.

Encouragingly, the Climate Confidence Barometer, published in September by WBCSD and FREUDS, highlights that 98% of companies surveyed reported confidence that they will meet net-zero targets by 2050. In addition, 55% are confident that the global business community will do so as well.

However, the transition does not stop at emissions; as identified in a recent report from the Future of Sustainable Data Alliance, there is an ‘ESG data hole’ when it comes to biodiversity and nature. KPMG research from December 2020 also found that less than a quarter of large companies at risk from biodiversity loss disclose the topic. In this context, GRI’s plans to launch a new Biodiversity Standard in 2022 are timely and much needed, while October’s UN Biodiversity Conference set the stage for work to resume next year to adopt a post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

Action that delivers tangible results

It is encouraging as well, that over 100 countries (representing over 85% of the world’s forests) have signed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, committing to work collectively to halt and reverse forestry loss and land degradation by 2030, while promoting an inclusive rural transformation. This is a commendable vision and helps to prevent carbon tunnel vision – but we need to hold all parties to these commitments.

The action needs to start today to secure tangible results – from safeguarding the environment to wider progress on the sustainability agenda. It cannot become a carte blanche to maintain ‘business as usual until 2030. Regular and comprehensive reporting on sustainability impacts, with accountability from all organizations with an involvement, is essential to measure progress.

Effective sustainability reporting offers a unique perspective on the role of the private sector, helping countries to work towards the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda.   While a multi-faceted approach is needed to reach these goals, we should by no means downplay the significance of reaching net-zero. It is not a matter of either/or – we need to dramatically cut emissions and secure broader sustainable development in the process to prevent carbon tunnel vision.

It’s time for true leadership

There are strong signs that business is already convinced of the urgency of the situation – and is pressing governments to do much more. The We Mean Business Coalition call to action urges the G20 to limit average global temperature rise to 1.5°C. It has been signed so far by 778 business leaders – representing US$2.7 trillion in annual revenue. Furthermore, one-in-five companies around the world have set net-zero targets.

Last week, WBCSD launched a manifesto that calls for a new ‘Corporate Determined Contributions’ mechanism to measure the private sector’s role in global climate recovery. With a core focus on the imperatives to reduce, remove and report GHG emissions, this reflects a growing and welcome trend of responsible companies pressing for greater influence in support of climate action.

As COP26 draws to a close, GRI calls on all stakeholders to raise their ambitions, act now on their commitments, and work together to deliver a holistic approach to the challenges of climate change. One that takes account of the environment and society – cutting emissions while also securing sustainable development. Failure on either front will mean tragic consequences for all.

Tina Nybo Jensen, International Policy Manager, GRI

Tina Nybo Jensen is International Policy Manager at GRI. She leads on the development, management, and implementation of GRI’s Sustainable Development Program, with a special focus on the SDGs and engagement with multilateral organizations, against carbon tunnel vision.

hyperloop transport system

The realization of a hyperloop network for goods between the provinces of North and South Holland in the Netherlands will cause a one-million-tonne reduction in CO2 emissions and could lead to a significant improvement in air quality. This is one of the main conclusions of the research conducted by Hardt Hyperloop. Transporting goods by hyperloop also has a positive economic impact on the logistics sector and allows for better utilization and freed up capacity of the current infrastructure.

Hardt Hyperloop, which is working on the development of the hyperloop, sees great opportunities for the logistics sector to make use of this sustainable and rapid means of transport. First at a regional level and later at a national and European level. Dominik Härtl of Hardt Hyperloop who led the Cargo-hyperloop Holland study explains: “We approached this research differently from previously performed hyperloop studies by directly involving the future users of the system as well as other key stakeholders. For this project, we established a collaboration of 35 stakeholders from the private and public sectors, including some of the largest Dutch exporters from the horticultural and fresh food industry.

1,100 fewer trucks on the A4 motorway every day in 2030 between Rotterdam and Amsterdam

They not only provided crucial input to the product requirements but also contributed to selecting the locations of the hubs as well as the route alignment. The project largely follows the A4 motorway, which connects cities such as Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. The A4 is crucial to the economic performance of this region. However, it also ranks among the most congested in The Netherlands. Currently proposed solutions will only partially solve this issue. Hyperloop could add capacity and therefore ease congestion on existing infrastructure while also increasing connectivity and productivity.”

Demand for sustainable solutions

A very important result of the research is that the realization of Cargo-hyperloop Holland contributes to a substantial reduction of CO2 emissions. Dominik Härtl elaborates: “In the calculations, we took into account the construction of the infrastructure and the associated hubs. Even then, we can achieve a large net positive effect of 0.6 million tonnes CO2 after 30 years of operations. The hyperloop is, therefore, the answer to the growing demand for sustainable solutions for (high-speed) transport of goods while also being able to create a system for transporting people in the near future.”

Fewer accidents, noise and traffic jams

The research also shows that building a hyperloop network for freight contributes to reducing many of the negative side effects associated with the logistics sector. “Think of fewer accidents, less noise, and less congestion at a time when not all freight transportation will have to be carried via the highway,” Härtl explains. In 2030, by only realising the corridor, it could already mean that almost 1,100 fewer trucks would need to use the A4 every day. With further expansion of the hyperloop network in Europe, hyperloop could replace over 2,500 trucks daily in 2050 and offer a sustainable alternative to flights within Europe.

An investment that pays off

The construction of a hyperloop network requires a substantial investment. Härtl: “The costs for the project are estimated at approximately EUR 1.5 billion. This is far less than the road investments made and planned for the region in the recent past. In return, the economic gains are significant. For example, it gives the industry a boost and provides employment for at least 13,000 people. Together with the CO2 savings and improvements in transportation time and reliability that can be achieved, it makes a very good investment.”

Route between the Greenports as a potential pilot

To leverage the full potential of economic benefits, the implementation of the entire Cargo-hyperloop Holland corridor is recommended. By optimizing logistic processes and introducing hyperloop transport services, the project can generate benefits of about EUR 3.2 billion. Comparing the benefits and costs with each other shows that the project delivers a net present value of almost EUR 2 billion and has a Benefit to Cost Ratio of 2.62. This can be considered as very high for transport infrastructure projects. Those benefits could be even higher when transporting passengers within the same infrastructure.

The study also examined various sections of the corridor individually to assess their viability as a pilot. Here, the connection between the Greenports is particularly promising and shows strong economic performance even as a stand-alone route. Härtl: ” A Greenport route could serve as a technology demonstrator and show how hyperloop would function during commercial operations. In turn, this route could help to create public support and also encourage people to travel by hyperloop by demonstrating its safe operation.”

Ambition

The research shows that the investment is sustainable and economic and contributes to greener cities. Dominik Härtl concludes: “The results of this study are promising and our recommendation is to start with a feasibility study, which would allow for a more detailed assessment of all the aspects relevant to this project before progressing towards implementation. The Dutch MIRT program could serve as the right environment through which this project could be brought to the next stage. Our ambition is to have the first route operational by the end of this decade and this project could very well be one of the first hyperloop routes globally.”

Download the report

risk management

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly caused the largest economic and societal shock the world and risk management have experienced this century. Yet it was not unforeseen. As far back as 2006, the annual Global Risks Report from the World Economic Forum warned that a pandemic was an ‘acute threat’ across all industries globally. This year’s WEF report expands into new dimensions of risk, such as the consequences of digital inequality and cybersecurity failure. Meanwhile, the 2021 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sounded a ‘code red for humanity’ – setting out in the starkest terms that the risks of inaction on climate change are now irrefutable.

What all of these risks have in common is that they threaten or disrupt not only economies but, more importantly, the wellbeing and sustainability of humanity and the planet. It’s logical, therefore, to conclude that they are challenges that demand global cooperation and societal cohesion to overcome.

Getting to grips with sustainability impacts

At the corporate-level, effective, pre-emptive, and dynamic enterprise risk management is more relevant than ever. That is why the role of risk manager is no longer confined to traditional financial risks and regulatory expectations but progressively is contributing more into how to support a sustainable business model. The GRI Standards – the world’s most widely used and comprehensive sustainability reporting standards – enable organizations to assess and communicate their impacts, which is increasingly relevant from the perspective of risk management.  The revised Universal Standards – launched this month – re-emphasized the scope of impact needs to be inclusive of potential risk.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) describes sustainability risks as uncertain social or environmental conditions that could cause significant negative impacts on the company. As the pandemic has proven, these risks can pose existential threats to companies. Or, as former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice put it: “sustainability is a multiplier of risk”, exponentially increasing volatility and uncertainty.

What this means is that, to be successful over the long-term, businesses must not lose sight of their sustainability risks. Against this backdrop, a recent GRI webinar, Aligning Sustainability and Risk Management, explored the ways that the integration of sustainability was shaping the role of risk managers, increasingly their relevance to the organizational transformation process. Here we share some of the insights from the session, which was the second in our Building Leadership for Sustainable Business Expert Series.

Incentivizing risk analysis

Constant Van Aerschot, Director of WBCSD Asia Pacific, pointed out that many companies tend to treat sustainability issues separately from risk issues. A recent WBCSD report on integrating sustainability and enterprise risk revealed that companies recognize that the material topics in their sustainability reports have a financial impact –  yet these same companies often fail to address ESG-related risks in their annual risk filings.

Priya Bellino, Ernst and Young’s ASEAN Head of Sustainability and ESG for Financial Services Consulting, emphasized the role of financial institutions in encouraging companies to manage sustainability risks. The example she shared was in the real estate sector. Climate change and extreme weather events are exposing physical assets to a much higher risk, which affects the value of real estate portfolios. As a consequence we are seeing more incentivization through green building financing and the adoption of green certifications.

To access new opportunities, companies need to measure and monitor “investment-grade sustainability performance”. That cannot be achieved without reliable and comparable disclosure – with Priya acknowledging that GRI reporting helps the company to deliver the required ESG data.

Yet – as Tony Rooke, Director of Climate Transition Risk at Willis Towers Watson, set out – determining the right ESG data points is a crucial step on the journey to understanding risks and achieving sustainable business outcomes. Tony went on to share that, for companies to begin to understand their role in tackling global risks, such as climate change, the market needs to further develop or create a reward system for those who transition to zero carbon business models.

The future of risk management

According to the 2020 State of Risk Oversight report, from the Enterprise Risk Management Initiative, 54% of large organizations and 58% of public companies have appointed a Chief Risk Officer (CRO). With the growth of the role, we have also seen increases in scope – helping organizations identify, analyze and mitigate their risk exposure. So, it is clear that many organizations are recognizing effective risk management as a key ingredient to the long-term wellbeing of the business.

Where the CRO evolution can and must deepen is in the correlation between enterprise risk and sustainability risk. Having a CRO that leads on sustainability is a good sign that a company is resolute in its sustainability commitment. The CRO does not have to be a know-it-all; more important is that they have the competencies to lead and build a team, collaborate with external stakeholders such as investors and regulators, bringing the ESG and conventional risks strands together into a single, meaningful narrative.

As Ricardo Nicanor N. Jacinto, Trustee of the Institute of Corporate Directors Philippines, articulated, the CRO is fast becoming “both the risk culture custodian and champion”. That is increasingly significant as the challenges of COVID-19 underline that we live in a volatile, uncertain and complex world. Therefore, whatever is up next on the risk forecast – be it this pandemic, the climate crisis or a yet to be defined new threat – having the expertise to assess the multiple and concurrent sustainability risks facing the business is more essential than ever before.

Lany Harijanti, ASEAN Regional Program Manager, GRI

circular economy

Scientists from two Swedish and one British institution argue that the concept of a circular economy and circular business models are flawed. They claim that the circular economy has diffused limits, unclear theoretical grounds, and that its implementation faces structural obstacles. The paper was published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology.

Circular economy is based on an ideological agenda dominated by technical and economic accounts. That brings uncertain contributions to sustainability and depoliticises sustainable growth.

Policy instruments are only suggested to promote circulation, rather than to obstruct the legacy of the linear economy. Furthermore linear technologies retain their market position despite their inefficiency, and circular innovations are hard to scale up.

With a management and technocentric bias driving the circular economy agenda, a growing body of research has criticised the absence of socio-cultural and political issues.

Their conclusion is that the circular economy is not even close to delivering the goals it claims to achieve. Circularity emerges instead as a theoretically, practically, and ideologically questionable notion. The paper concludes by proposing critical issues that need to be addressed if the circular economy and its business models are to open routes for more sustainable economic development.

We quote them in full:

The paper brings together the critiques addressed to the circular economy, with a focus on the European conception of the circular economy and corresponding circular business models.  Researchers in various academic fields bring forth the unaddressed assumptions, blind spots, tensions, contradictions, unthought-of consequences, and taken-for-granted advantages of a circular transition.

The purpose is to make it less easy to make ungrounded claims about the circular economy to bring actual issues raised by a transition to the circular economy and to be at the core of this transition.

Basic principles ignored

Praised by policy makers and many companies who have been instrumental in its recognition as a model for material and sustainable policies, the circular economy is also subject to many critiques in academic and professional circles. The systematic presentation of these critiques shows that despite their strong imaginary appeal, pleas for the circular economy tend to ignore basic principles of biophysics, for example, the tensions between biophysical limits and progress and growth. Therefore, using the circular economy as a buzzword for sustainable development is considered problematic.

Critiques see in the circular economy a reassuring discourse for policy makers about futures made of planned circularity, circular modernism, bottom-up sufficiency, and peer-to-peer circularity. However, despite the revolutionary language, the circular future is not mapped out. In the shadow remain unanswered questions of how to disrupt orthodox social institutions attached with modernity and the connections and dependencies these create.

Equally, wider sustainability concerns such as care or gender equality are lacking, and so too are the impacts of the circular economy that can be beneficial for some but come at a cost to others.

Radical shift is essential

If the desire is for an equitable and truly sustainable economy that is circular, the critiques stress that a radical shift is essential to confront conventional neoliberal governance regimes. There is a danger to the myths surrounding the circular economy because if they become normalized the space for critical reflection will decrease.

Examples include the “risk of increased polarization between city and country and that the countryside is left out with poorer access to welfare services as a result” and the lack of a global approach encouraging neo-colonialism by either side stepping developing countries, not giving agency to people to problems outside of the Global North, or engaging with the informal sectors.

To put it briefly, the circular economy stands as a discourse that focuses on the economy, excludes social dimensions, and simplifies its environmental consequences.

These critiques are more than simply denouncing flaws in a fashionable concept. They also point at the need for questioning how the circular economy is currently conceived, consented, and implemented. The presentation of the critiques above shows there is a need for a renewed, enlarged, and transdisciplinary research agenda on the circular economy in order to support the policy process.

In need of coherence

Each area of the critiques above points at an issue in need of research, policy, and managerial attention. And as academics, let us conclude with a plea for coherence and transdisciplinarity.

Before the circular economy becomes mainstream and moves beyond sustainability and circular economy professionals, there is clearly a need for conceptual coherence about definitions, plans, implementations, and modes of evaluation, because without coherence the expansion of new knowledge could be obstructed by deadlocked debates or can collapse entirely.

Given the scope, speed, and transformation the circular economy agenda is attempting to address, research also needs to come out of disciplinary silos, otherwise solutions will engender weak circularity premised on notions of no limits, secondary resources complementing primary supplies, and governments handing over responsibility to businesses and consumers.

The researchers believe that it is time for producers and the state to reclaim the idea of circularity and to create “a closed, material loop limited in size and space, based on the principle of fair distribution of resources”.

Modest, concrete, inclusive, accountable

Drawing on the critiques listed above, a pathway toward circularity would be a circular economy that is modest, not a panacea but an actual solution to actual problems; concrete, in the sense of being clear about which kind of circularity it sets up and the goal conflicts that it entails; inclusive, in that it takes energy, people, and waste on a global scale into consideration; and transparent, in the sense of being accountable for its achievements and shortcomings, not the least when it comes to economic, social, and environmental changes.

Otherwise, the circular economy risks turning into a hypothetico-normative (but self-serving) utopia that derails actual and well-intended efforts to reorganise production, consumption, and more generally material flows in ways that are more respectful of planetary boundaries and that work in favour of sustainability.

Photo by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Develop on Foter

Chief Sustainability Officer

The perspective that meaningful and credible sustainability reporting is an essential requirement for any responsible business is increasingly becoming accepted, by many companies around world. Yet reporting cannot take place in isolation. Sustainability is a critical aspect of business strategy and operational decision-making, which needs to be embedded in the corporate DNA through a transformative process.

That process takes time and requires strong leadership at the C-suite level, which has led to  the emergence of the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO). Less than two decades ago, a CSO was a novelty. The first-known CSO appointment was Linda Fisher at Dupont in 2004. By 2011, there were 29 CSOs in publicly traded companies in the USA – and in 2020, Fortune 500 companies hired more CSOs than in the previous three years combined.

Cognizant of the crucial role of CSOs in accelerating business action on sustainability, in 2020 the Prince of Wales’s Sustainable Markets Initiative launched the Sustainable 30 Group. Comprised of CSOs from some of the world’s most influential companies, its aim is to ‘collaborate on initiatives and actions to help protect and drive sustainable stakeholder value’.

Getting to grips with ESG risks

The role of the CSO covers a widening set of mandates and duties amid the multiple sustainability challenges that confront organizations. Deloitte’s recent report, The Future of the Chief Sustainability Officer, highlights how changes in the corporate’s external environment is intensifying scrutiny from stakeholders, fuelling an ever-greater focus on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) risks.

Despite these realities, which have only been heightened by the business resilience pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for a CSO is still yet to be embraced evenly by all major corporations. Some are still at an earlier stage in determining why and how to integrate sustainability, as enabled by transparency, into their business functions and processes.

Against this backdrop, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), provider of the world’s most widely used and trusted sustainability reporting standards, held a webinar in July under the theme ‘do companies need a Chief Sustainability Officer?’. Unsurprisingly, the findings of the session were an unequivocal ‘yes’. This was the first instalment of a seven-part Building Leadership for Sustainable Business expert series, which runs until July 2022. Next up will be an event in September on aligning sustainability and risk management.

Through up-close and personal discussions with six distinguished CSOs and sustainability champions in Southeast Asia, the webinar illuminated why a CSO is becoming indispensable, what their core competencies, skills and leadership attributes are, and how the CSO will be crucial to the implementation of successful business strategies in future.

Competencies for CSO leadership

Herry Cho, Managing Director and Head of Sustainability and Sustainable Finance with the Singapore Exchange (SGX), debunked the myth that advancing sustainability comes at the expense of profitability.  According to Cho, the financial and non-financial performance and impacts are “interwoven by ESG analysis” – and the CSO’s commercial mindset enables them to “add value to every function in the organization” – anticipating sustainability risks and opportunities that may impact the organization’s financial and strategic position.

The CSO challenges the traditional understanding of leadership, according to Yvonne Zhang, Deloitte Southeast Asia Sustainability Leader. As she puts it, the CSO’s leadership qualities can be set out as ‘C’ for ‘credibility’; ‘S’ for ‘sense-making’ and ‘O’ for ‘orchestration’. As such, the CSO has a critical role helping companies to understand what is happening outside the organization, in support of decisions that “embraces disruption, innovation, and stewardship… The multifold tasks and hybrid roles can push a CSO to live both in the present and anticipate the future”.

Esther An – CSO for City Developments Limited (CDL) in Singapore – reflected on key learnings from her CSR and sustainability journey over the past 20 years. In her view, a CSO should be someone who cares about the environment and the community at large;  is committed to the cause of doing good and doing well; and creative and communicative in mapping out a sustainability centric strategy that has impact.

Darian McBain, Global Director, Corporate Affairs and Sustainability of Thai Union, emphasized that passion drives the CSO to be both a fighter and a collaborator. As she puts it, the CSO is not afraid to push something because it is the right thing to do, working with people across and outside the organization to make change happen. Similarly, Dr Simon Lord – an independent sustainability advisor, scientist and former CSO of Sime Darby Plantation – added that purpose and performance are of equal import to the CSO. Without a clear sense of purpose, one cannot perform well, and performance reinforces one’s purpose.

At the outset, embedding sustainability in the organization may entail some costs. However, according to Ignacio Carmelo Sison, Chief Corporate Officer of Del Monte Pacific, “In the long run the cost of investing in sustainability is less than the cost of not investing in it. Disruption, in its negative sense, would be a greater cost – be it environmental, social or operational. Sustainability is essentially the opposite of disruption. Companies, therefore, need to invest in the present to sustain the future.” This is the essence of sustainability and the CSO has a key role to work with stakeholders to future-proof the organization.

Where next on the CSO journey?

Companies cannot survive in an increasingly volatile, complex and uncertain world without putting sustainability at the core of their operations. Yet accessing the right people with the right sustainability skillset is not easy. As covered in analysis by GreenBiz this month, PwC intends to create 100,000 ESG jobs by 2026, reflective of the current situation whereby demand for sustainability professionals is far outstripping supply.

The mandate of the CSO can be expected to continue to evolve, while a comprehensive understanding of sustainability performance is likely to be a growing requirement for many other senior roles – be they Chief Financial Officer, Chief Risk Officer, and all the way up to CEO. Indeed, the ideal situation will see a CSO as unnecessary, with sustainability effectively integrated throughout the company’s operations, practices, products and services.

Until that day comes, the CSO is here to stay. Bringing vision, passion and purpose to the leadership team, they will be at the forefront of shaping the organizational transformation that is still needed to achieve a sustainable and successful future.

Dr. Allinnettes Adigue is Head of the GRI ASEAN Regional Hub in Singapore. 

hydrogen transport
Storing energy as hydrogen is seen by many as a critical part of the energy transition and the road to net-zero emissions. That goes for hard-to-electrify transport applications as well as a wide range of industrial and domestic heating, cooking and other applications.

A new study and Well-to-Tank (WTT) model by Element Energy, commissioned by Zemo Partnership, identifies a range of pathways for the production, distribution and dispensing of low carbon hydrogen to transport end-users. It shows the energy requirements and greenhouse gas emissions resulting from each potential pathway, as well as the infrastructure requirements related to each choice.

32 pathways

The research looks at a combination of six production configurations, three distribution pathways, and two dispensing options – a total of 32 potential pathway combinations.

The work identifies the greenhouse gas emissions associated with each hydrogen supply chain pathway, based on technologies available today, as well as those expected to be commercialised in the medium-term such as offshore electrolysis, gas reformation with carbon capture and storage (CCS) and waste gasification with CCS.

It shows that fundamental choices exist in terms of the production of ‘green’ hydrogen using electrolysis powered by renewable electricity or ‘blue’ hydrogen, primarily produced by reforming fossil natural gas combined with CCS. It also looked at the implications of using biomethane in place of fossil gas and hydrogen derived entirely from biogenic waste.

The study also considers the energy use together with emissions arising along the full production, distribution and dispensing pathway, including unavoidable – or fugitive – emissions likely to arise during the process. It shows that there is a wide variation in the emissions associated with each of the alternative pathways, depending on the carbon footprint of the energy and feedstocks used.

Carbon negative possible

The work suggests that renewables-based electrolysis is expected to represent one of the lowest emissions pathways in the medium-term. Natural gas reformation using emerging autothermal (ATR) technology with CCS could also significantly reduce emissions compared to current industrial steam methane reforming (SMR) process for so called ‘grey’ hydrogen.  There are even potential pathways to generate carbon-negative hydrogen when biomethane is used, or through the gasification of waste, allied with CCS.

Whilst the study showed GHG emissions can be almost eliminated, improvements in the efficiency of the process of electrolysis are expected to contribute to a modest reduction in the energy intensity of this pathway in the medium-term.  There are opportunities to co-locate hydrogen production with renewable energy, using surplus or currently curtailed energy at times of high production/low demand.

The study provides a detailed model allowing new pathways to be assessed and gives an overview of the quality of the data used in the analysis, identifying areas where further work and monitoring is needed.

The study Executive Summary is available here and the full report here.

ev demand electric car

European consumers are increasingly turning to electric vehicles as focus turns to the industry. Several initiatives from governments are inspiring the ev demand from consumers.

According to data acquired by Finbold, the demand for new passenger battery electric (all-electric) vehicles across Europe surged 231.58% between Q2 2020 and Q2 2021, from 63,422 to 210,298. The figures reflect a triple growth in demand for all-electric vehicles.

Elsewhere, demand for the hybrid electric vehicle also spiked by 213.54% to 541,162 representing the biggest growth for all new passenger vehicles in Europe. In total, the electric vehicle registration as of Q2 2021 stands at 751,460, a growth of at least three times from the Q2 2020 cumulative figure of 236,015.

During the period, plug-in hybrid vehicle demand surged 255.8%, from 66,252 to 235,730. Natural gas vehicles recorded demand of 41.84% from 9,515 to 13,497.

Furthermore, during the first half of 2021, battery electric vehicles recorded a share of 6.7% under new passenger cars by fuel type in the region. Hybrid electric vehicles had a share of 18.9%, while plug-in hybrids stood at 8.3%. Petrol accounted for the highest share at 42%, followed by diesel at 21.7%. Natural gas had a share of 0.5%.

Government incentives spurs EV demand

The report explains how different government policies contributed to the surge in demand for electric vehicles in Europe. According to the research report:

“For instance, when the coronavirus pandemic hit, most governments across the region focused their stimulus packages on companies that are operating in line with fighting climate change. Notably, a big part of the support focused on incentives for consumers to buy EVs, creating a surge in demand.”

Additionally, the demand emerged at a period, the electric vehicle industry suffered a chip shortage due to supply chain constraints due to the pandemic. However, the full impact will manifest later this year.

Read the full story with statistics here.

fair tomato

Our awareness of problems with human rights arise mainly from the textile chains. But working conditions in other chains, such as the tomato chain, are also under pressure. The Dutch Central Bureau for Food Trade (CBL) and the Dutch trade union FNV are planning to conduct research into the production chain of the canned tomato trade. The research focuses on Italy, a major supplier of tomatoes. The aim is to identify by the end of July the specific risks of human rights violations in the tomato chain and which improvements are needed. Recommendations have been drawn up on how the Dutch participants in the chain can initiate positive change.

Various studies and risk analyses show that the tomato chain is a so-called high-risk chain. Jos Hendriks, director FNV Food Industry: “We are investigating the supply chain of canned tomatoes to determine the risks we face when it comes to violations of human rights, trade union rights and the environment and to identify who is involved. But the most important part comes after the research: how do we ensure that the guidelines of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) and United Nations with regard to people and the environment are applied in the cultivation, harvesting, transport and processing of the tomatoes?”

Guarding human rights

The CBL agrees with the importance of tackling the risks. Jennifer Muller, Sustainability Manager at CBL: “Dutch supermarkets find it essential that human rights are safeguarded throughout the chains. It is therefore important to investigate possible social abuses in the Italian tomato chain and to gain insight into the operational perspective of the parties involved. Collaboration is crucial for thorough research. We are therefore happy to join forces with the FNV to bring about positive change.”

Research into the share of Dutch producers and buyers

An important part of the research is mapping the share of Dutch producers and buyers in the Italian tomato chain. In this way, it is possible to better see in which component steps can be taken to improve the position of employees. This includes investigating the role played by supermarkets, manufacturers and organizations that issue quality certificates.

lng terminal

A proposed boom in new LNG import and export terminals is increasingly going bust, according to a new survey and report by Global Energy Monitor. Coming on the heels of the IEA’s recent call for a halt to new gas, oil, and coal investments, the report finds that more than one-third of proposed new global LNG terminal capacity is facing financing and project delays.

The report, “Nervous Money: Global LNG Terminals Update 2021,” includes the following highlights:

  • Worldwide, at least 26 LNG export terminals totaling 265 million tonnes per annum (MPTA) of capacity report final investment decision (FID) delays or other serious disruption—38% of the 700 MTPA of export capacity under development worldwide. In the US, at least 10 LNG export terminals totaling 123 MPTA of capacity report FID delays or other serious disruption—39% of the 314 MTPA under development.
  • Total’s declaration of force majeure for the Mozambique LNG Terminal, following an attack by insurgents, has highlighted the vulnerability of terminals priced in the tens of billions of dollars.
  • The cost overruns, scheduling delays, and high outage rate that plagued the LNG sector were further exacerbated in the past year by Covid-related workforce disruption.
  • Once regarded as a potential climate solution, the LNG sector is increasingly seen as a climate problem, particularly for European buyers. According to the IEA, inter-regional LNG trade would need to decline rapidly after 2025 under a 2050 net zero scenario.
  • Globally, only one LNG export project has reached FID in the past year, Costa Azul LNG terminal in Mexico.
  • North America accounts for 64% of the global export capacity in construction or pre-construction. North America also has the most troubled projects, with 11 of the 26 LNG export terminals reporting FID delays or other serious disruption.
  • Aggressive expansion of capacity in low-production-cost Qatar and the Russian Arctic has increased risks to U.S. LNG export developers.
  • Despite the rise in delays in development of LNG export capacity, global LNG import capacity continues on an aggressive expansion path, with enough projects in construction or pre-construction to increase global capacity by 70%. Of the capacity in construction or pre-construction, 32% is in China, 11% is in India, and 7% is in Thailand. Outside Asia, Brazil is a hotspot with 13 LNG import terminals in construction or pre-construction.

“LNG was sold to policymakers and to investors as a safe, clean, secure bet,” said Lydia Plante, lead author of the report. “Now all those attributes have turned into liabilities. The sheer size of the projects has exposed investors to catastrophic losses. And the recent IEA 2050 scenarios show that LNG has no place in a climate-safe energy future. The industry has lost its climate halo, and the only question is whether the Biden Administration will waste precious political capital propping up potential white elephant projects.”

“Those who are accustomed to thinking of infrastructure as a ‘safe’ investment may be in for a rocky ride with LNG terminals,” said Ted Nace, Executive Director of Global Energy Monitor. “The opportunity has narrowed for more export capacity to be built, and North American projects have fallen behind for several reasons. They’re rightly seen, especially by European buyers, as particularly dirty, due to their reliance on fracked gas. In addition, Qatar and Russia both have access to cheaper gas, and they’re not about to relinquish market share.”

Read the report here.

Image: photographic services, Shell International Limited.

ifad sslrp

All over the world, it’s small scale farmers who suffer severely from climate change. Effects can differ locally, but hit the poorest hardest. In South Sudan, IFAD set up a support program, investing almost 20 million US dollar which will affect some 40,000 local households of small-scale food producers.

A new US$19.9 million project will bring much needed help to 38,800 rural households facing the impacts of poverty, food insecurity and climate change. The South Sudan Livelihoods Resilience Project (SSLRP) will empower rural people to boost productivity, food security and nutrition, and resilience. At a time when the COVID-19 crisis and climate change could further push the 85 per cent of South Sudanese who live in rural areas into deeper poverty, SSLRP will target the most vulnerable, food insecure and small-scale producers, engaged in fishing, cropping and livestock production.

In South Sudan, poverty is higher in rural areas, with 80 per cent of the population living below the poverty line and depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Therefore agriculture is key to defeating poverty and hunger. However, South Sudan, a resource-rich country and the youngest nation in Africa, remains the third most fragile in the world.

Conflict and poverty

Its agriculture sector’s potential is not fully exploited to due to a long conflict and prolonged instability, and poverty and food insecurity remain challenges. Irrigation and water harvesting technologies are inadequate, and there are poor post-harvest and value addition facilities. Adverse weather conditions and flooding are also challenges to small-scale production and access to markets.

In SSLRP, 70 per cent of beneficiaries will be youth and 60 per cent will be women, including returnees, women-headed households and persons with disabilities, who will receive particular attention to facilitate their integration into agricultural production and rural economy activities.

In South Sudan, farmers continue to bear the brunt of climate change, and the project will address their need for access to drought tolerant and early maturing seeds, drought tolerant agroforestry fodder species, water conservation and management, afforestation, mangroves rehabilitation and conservation, solar and other renewable energy sources. SSLRP will also rehabilitate and construct water infrastructure, rural roads to give access to markets, and processing and storage facilities. To build and strengthen the capacity of the beneficiaries and the government during the implementation phases, SSLRP will partner with the African Development Bank (AfDB), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Bank.