‘Step-change’ in energy investment needed to meet climate goals: IEA
The world must double spending on renewable power and slash investment in oil and coal by 2030 to keep the Paris climate treaty temperature targets in play, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Tuesday.
For that to happen, however, trend lines on both fronts moved in the wrong direction last year, the agency reported in its 4th annual World Energy Investment overview, AFP reported.
Money going into new upstream oil and gas projects — exploration, drilling and infrastructure — rose four percent in 2018, while investment in new coal sources went up by two percent, the first increase in that sector since 2012.
At the same time, investment in new renewable power of all kinds dipped by about two percent.
In total, global energy investment in 2018 — split across the fuel supply and electric power sectors — totaled $1.85 trillion, about the same as in 2017, the IEA reported.
This two-year plateau
following three years of slow decline reflects uncertainty across the industry as to what the future holds.
“Governments have not clearly committed, nor have they clearly not committed, to reaching the Paris agreement goals,” Mike Waldron, an IEA energy investment analyst, told journalists ahead of the report’s release.
The 2015 treaty enjoins nations to cap global warming at ‘well below’ 2°C.
A landmark UN report in October concluded that CO2 emissions must drop 45 percent by 2030 — and reach ‘net zero’ by 2050 — if the rise in Earth’s temperature is to be checked at the safer limit of 1.5°C.
‘Storing future risks’
The planet’s surface has already warmed 1°C since industrialization began, and is on track to heat up another 3°C by century›s end — a recipe for human misery on a global scale, scientists say.
The lack of clear policy direction on climate change has steered energy investors towards projects with shorter lead times, and could contribute to a future gap between supply and demand, according to the report.
On current trends, money going to develop all types of energy — especially oil, gas and coal — will fail to meet projected global energy needs over then next decade, it found.
“The world in not investing enough in traditional elements of supply to maintain today’s consumption patterns,” IEA executive director, Fatih Birol said.
“Nor is it investing enough in cleaner energy technologies to change course.
“Whichever way you look, we are storing up for risks in the future.”
The IEA report projected energy sector investment against two possible futures.
Under the New Policies Scenario, current patterns of investment continue on a similar trajectory, adjusted for voluntary national carbon-cutting plans that would — if fulfilled — see the planet warm by just under 3°C above preindustrial levels within 80 years.
The Sustainable Development Scenario ‘is fully aligned with the Paris agreement’, according to the IEA.
Low-carbon energy investment — in solar, wind, efficiency, and carbon-storing technologies — would need to double from $304 billion in 2018 to $606 billion over the next decade to be in sync with the more ambitious pathway, the IEA told AFP.
“The share of low-carbon investment rises to 65 percent by 2030, but advancing from today’s share of 35 percent would require a step-change in policy focus,” the report said.
Money to develop nuclear power would likewise have to increase sharply, from $47 billion last year to about $76 billion.
Investment in boosting electricity networks and battery storage would see a jump of more than 50 percent to $464 billion.
More broadly, “reaching the goal of the sustainable development scenario would require a major reallocation from fuel supply to [electric] power, which is not happening right now,” said Tim Gould, head of the IEA’s World Energy Outlook & Investment Division.
At a country level, China continued to be the largest market for energy investment in 2018, but its lead narrowed.
India had the second largest jump in investment after the United States.
The poorest regions of the world, however, continue to see a disproportionate lack of money for new energy of any kind.
Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, “only received around 15 percent of investment in 2018 even though it accounts for 40 percent of the global population,” the IEA said.
Mismanaged waste ‘kills up to a million people a year globally’
Mismanaged waste is causing hundreds of thousands of people to die each year in the developing world from easily preventable causes, and plastic waste is adding a new and dangerous dimension to the problem, a report has found.
Municipal waste frequently goes uncollected in poorer countries and its buildup fuels the spread of disease. Between 400,000 and one million people are dying as a result of such mismanaged waste, according to the charity Tearfund, theguardian.com wrote.
While mismanaged waste has been a problem for decades, the growth of plastic pollution, which does not break down in the environment, is adding a fresh set of problems to an already dire situation. Plastic waste is blocking waterways and causing flooding, which in turn spreads waterborne diseases. When people burn the waste to get rid of it, it releases harmful toxins and causes air pollution.
Every second, a double-decker busload of plastic waste is burned or dumped in developing countries, the report found. When some plastics deteriorate, they can leach harmful chemicals into the environment and break down into microplastics, with effects that are still poorly understood and largely undocumented in poorer countries.
Sir David Attenborough, whose Blue Planet II series drew global attention to the problem of plastic waste, called for urgent action from the companies responsible for producing plastic that then turns into waste, and for support to help countries struggling against the tide of pollution.
“It’s high time we turned our attention fully to one of the most pressing problems of today — averting the plastic pollution crisis — not only for the health of our planet, but for the wellbeing of people around the world,” he said.
“This report is one of the first to highlight the impacts of plastic pollution not just on wildlife but also on the world’s poorest people.”
Among the other harmful impacts of plastic pollution in poorer countries are the loss of fishing, as marine animals ingest the plastic; damage to agriculture, as up to a third of cattle and half of goats in developing countries have consumed significant amounts of plastic, harming their health as it leads to potentially fatal bloating; and large amounts of plastic waste washing up on shorelines and coral reefs deterring tourists, on whom many poorer countries rely.
While most attention has focused on the effects of marine plastic pollution in the natural world, its effects on people are equally problematic. About eight million tons of plastic waste are dumped into the seas each year, according to the UN, and there are few ways of retrieving it.
Last week countries around the world — but without the US — signed up through a UN to a plan to reduce the flow of plastic waste to developing countries. Although there have been signs of some companies making attempts to tackle the problem, these have been described by campaigners as a drop in the ocean.
“We need leadership from those who are responsible for introducing plastic to countries where it cannot be adequately managed, and we need international action to support the communities and governments most acutely affected by this crisis,” said Attenborough, who is a vice president of the conservation charity Fauna and Flora International, which collaborated on the report.
At least two billion people around the world do not have their rubbish collected, and piles of it can build up in waterways, causing pollution, or rot in areas near where people live. Living near rubbish doubles the risk of contracting diarrhoea, the report found, which is a major cause of death in the developing world.
Hundreds of thousands of people around the world make a living from collecting waste, in some cases by collecting cans or bottles that can be recycled or returned, or, more dangerously, as ‘waste pickers’ who live on rubbish dumps and scavenge what they can.
This is hazardous work, not only because of the pollution to which people are exposed but also because of the risk of physical injury, not least because poorly managed dumps are often affected by landslides and even explosions from the buildup of gases.
Ruth Valerio, the global advocacy and influencing director of Tearfund, said the organization was calling on four multinationals that produce huge amounts of plastic packaging — Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever — to take responsibility for their products throughout the supply chain, and provide ways for the waste to be managed.
Bold action on climate change needed in Ireland
Last week, Ireland became the second country in the world, after the UK, to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency.
It followed a UN report on climate change that made for grim reading. The report, commissioned on the back of the 2015 Paris agreement warned that global warming caused by humans is speeding up as opposed to slowing down, irishtimes.com wrote.
It is the latest in a series of stark warnings that tell us that climate action is no longer a choice, but a very basic necessity for survival.
The declaration came after an amendment to the Oireachtas (the legislature of Ireland) report on climate action was accepted by both the Irish government and opposition parties without a vote.
This is welcome news. But what must be done to make a difference in fighting or even mitigating the effects of climate change?
On the bright side, it does seem that the reality of climate change is being heard by voters. Recent global activism, like Extinction Rebellion and the student strikes, and policy initiatives like the Green New Deal, as well as consumer demand for products friendly to the environment demonstrate greater public support for climate action and increasing desire to see results. This should bolster governments to adopt radical and effective policy programs.
A carbon tax is perhaps the most straightforward initiative, as its purpose is to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels and likewise, increase use of renewable energy sources. However, carbon taxes are a blunt instrument and do not deal directly with more complex dimensions of climate action, in particular the transformations required in livelihoods and lifestyles.
Redundancies at companies like Bord Na Móna portend future trends in job loss due to climate action and declining consumer demand. Critically, these redundancies also highlight the need for social dialogues and strategies for creating new jobs in renewable energy sources.
The real challenge of climate action for the Irish government will thus be to link these blunt and punitive measures, like a tax or redundancies, with more constructive avenues towards a different future, where climate action is the norm and targets regarding emissions and protection of biodiversity are societal, policy and political priorities.
To succeed, climate action will have to be developed from the ground up as well as through national policies and international agreements. Effective climate action will require much stronger participatory democracy, where local people are actively informed and engaged in decision-making about their own communities and their own futures. People have to believe their input matters and, importantly, they must be able to trust governments and businesses to act in the public interest.
Trash found littering ocean floor in deepest-ever sub dive
On the deepest dive ever made by a human inside a submarine, a Texas investor and explorer found something he could have found in the gutter of nearly any street in the world: Trash.
Victor Vescovo, a retired naval officer, said he made the unsettling discovery as he descended nearly 6.8 miles (35,853 feet/10,928 meters) to a point in the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench that is the deepest place on Earth, Reuters reported.
His dive went 52 feet (16 meters) lower than the previous deepest descent in the trench in 1960.
Vescovo found undiscovered species as he visited places no human had gone before. On one occasion he spent four hours on the floor of the trench, viewing sea life ranging from shrimp-like anthropods with long legs and antennae to translucent ‘sea pigs’ similar to a sea cucumber.
He also saw angular metal or plastic objects, one with writing on it.
“It was very disappointing to see obvious human contamination of the deepest point in the ocean,” Vescovo said in an interview.
Plastic waste has reached epidemic proportions in the world’s oceans with an estimated 100 million tons dumped there to date, according to the United Nations. Scientists have found large amounts of micro plastic in the guts of deep-dwelling ocean mammals like whales.
Vescovo hoped his discovery of trash in the Mariana Trench would raise awareness about dumping in the oceans and pressure governments to better enforce existing regulations, or put new ones in place.
“It’s not a big garbage collection pool, even though it’s treated as such,” Vescovo said of the worlds’ oceans.
In the last three weeks, the expedition has made four dives in the Mariana Trench in his submarine, ‘DSV Limiting Factor’, collecting biological and rock samples.
It was the third time humans have dived to the deepest point in the ocean, known as Challenger Deep. Canadian movie maker James Cameron was the last to visit in 2012 in his submarine, reaching a depth of 35,787 feet (10,908 meters).
Prior to Cameron’s dive, the first-ever expedition to Challenger Deep was made by the US Navy in 1960, reaching a depth of 10,912 meters.
Police arrested 13 people in Australia on Tuesday after they scaled the Sydney Harbour Bridge to demand Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison take emergency action to address climate change, Reuters wrote.