The chief executive of AXA famously remarked last year that a 4 degree world is “uninsurable”.

And cities have a major role to play in stopping the rise in global temperatues by transitioning to a low-carbon economy. 60 percent of the global population are estimated to live in urban areas by 2030.

Cities are also bearing the brunt and attending costs of climate change; 2017 alone witnessed extreme weather events from Bangladesh to the Caribbean, with damages running into the hundreds of billions.

With that in mind, the UN has turned its attention to how the insurance industry can protect cities and actively support sustainable development.

The new Insurance Industry Development Goals for Cities, launched today in Montreal, are the result of extensive consultation between UN Environment, ICLEI and major insurers.

The 10 goals are designed to help the industry respond to the growing threat of extreme weather events, air pollution, and the need to promote clean energy, healthy living and climate resilience. Developing long-term strategies to cope with the impact of climate change is at the heart of the goals, while utilising the right tools, such as big data and risk analytics.

Dr Joachim Wenning, CEO of the Munich Re Group, said the new goals “provide a global framework to guide collaboration between insurers and local governments, and to accelerate action.”

With a number of notable exceptions, major insurers have so far failed to respond to the threats and opportunities posed by climate change. But those companies which do prepare early are likely to save money, create jobs and prevent loss of life.

“The insurance industry’s core business is to manage risk, so it’s well-positioned to support urban resilience and sustainability. We encourage our peers in the insurance industry to work together with local governments in promoting the adoption of the Insurance Industry Development Goals for Cities,” added Eric Andersen, Co-President of Aon.

Read more: How can the insurance industry make cities more...

Leading nations have pledged to set more stringent goals and “lead from the front” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before 2020.

The joint statement, called a ‘Declaration for Ambition’ was signed by 23 nations, including Germany, Canada, the UK, and France.

“We commit to exploring the possibilities for stepping up our own ambition,” it says, while pointing to the upcoming UN Climate Summit as “the biggest political opportunity” to do so. That meeting, scheduled for September 2019, will be one of the largest gathering of world leaders to discuss climate change since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015.

“We call on other countries to join us in expressing their desire to lead from the front”.

The statement also aims to promote new investment to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Member countries are already committed to mobilising $100 billion a year to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.

“We commit to supporting the Secretary-General in his efforts to urgently galvanize political momentum in the lead-up to September 2019,” it adds.

The statement comes shortly after the conclusion of a ministerial meeting on climate change hosted by the European Union, China and Canada. The meeting, the second of its kind, brought together 36 national governments to discuss how to accelerate climate action and maintain unity ahead of the next round of UN climate negotiations, COP24, in December.

The conclusion of that meeting, over two days this week, called on ministers to leave “as few issues of political importance” to resolve ahead of COP24 in Poland.

Full signatories to the pledge were Argentina, Britain, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Spain and Sweden.

Read more: 23 nations sign pledge to step up action on...

President Emmanuel Macron has given the go ahead to six new offshore wind farms off France’s west coast.

The combined clean energy projects have a capacity of 3,000 megawatts, enough to power hundreds of thousands of homes.

An agreement was reached this week with a group of major utility companies which will now take forward the projects: state-owned EDF, Spanish-based Iberdrola and Engie.

The wind farms, located off the coast of Normandy and Brittany, have met with public opposition which has delayed their final approval. Earlier this year, the French Government had threatened to cancel the projects; instead, it has cut the amount of public subsidy they will receive from 200 euros per megawatt hour to 150 euros.

“We will bring about renewable energy more quickly and less expensively: the projects are confirmed, their public subsidy is reduced by 40 percent”, said President Macron on Twitter.

France’s Environment Minister, Nicolas Hulot, also confirmed the lower tariffs, which are still significantly higher than other projects in Europe. Competitive auctions held in the UK last year saw offshore wind projects win contracts at an all-time low of £57.50 (65 euros).

The Netherlands also held its first subsidy-free offshore wind auction this year, although the government takes on more of the early development and risk.  

General Electric, one of the companies supplying wind turbines to the French projects, welcomed the news; a company statement said the wind farm’s confirmation is “paving the way for a buoyant offshore wind industry, which carries considerable potential for economic growth, job creation and high-tech innovation in France.”

Earlier this year, Macron’s administration also cleared the way for more onshore wind farms in the country. New proposals will accelerate the construction of projects with the aim of doubling capacity within five years. 

Read more: France approves six new offshore wind farms,...

Investment in clean energy must increase by up to 50 percent in some economies to limit global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This is one of the findings from a new scientific study on the financial requirements of the Paris climate agreement.

Researchers from the Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) used six different modelling techniques to calculate the costs and consequences of meeting the world’s climate goals.

They found that the overall level of energy investment only needs to modestly increase under their scenarios, but, crucially, financial flows have to radically shift away from fossil fuels and into clean technologies.

Investments in low-carbon and energy efficiency will have to quickly surpass those of fossil fuels by 2025. After this date, investment will need to climb exponentially, by $130 billion a year just to meet the existing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris deal. These national efforts, however, will still mean global temperatures will reach over 3 degrees before the end of the century.

To meet the 2 degrees scenario, investments will have to grow to $320 billion a year and $480 billion for 1.5 degrees. These figures are more than 25 percent of total energy investments, but increases to over half in major economies, such as China and India.

“We know that limiting global temperatures to well below 2 degrees demands that renewables and efficiency scale up rapidly, but few studies have calculated the energy investment needs for a fundamental system transformation, at least not with an eye toward 1.5 degrees and using multiple scientific modelling frameworks running side-by-side,” says IIASA researcher and lead author of the study David McCollum. 

“It’s important for professionals in the finance sector to be aware how much more investment in low carbon solutions is needed if the world is to meet the Paris targets. The NDC pledges are a step in the right direction, though much deeper changes in the energy investment portfolio are clearly necessary,” says Elmar Kriegler, a co-author and vice-chair at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

The paper was published in the Nature Energy journal this week.

Read more: Huge reallocation of investment needed to meet...

New analysis has found large numbers of children in the UK are breathing in toxic air.

Unicef, the UN’s children’s charity, estimates that 4.5 million young people are growing up in areas which have unsafe levels of particulate matter. These tiny particles, measured by whether they are more than 2.5mm or 10mm wide, can have serious health impacts. Long-term exposure can cause asthma, cardiovascular disease, and impact lung growth.

The charity analysed data from the World Health Organisation’s air pollution database, released in May, combined with population data across the country. This allowed the researchers to find particular areas which have more babies and young children breathing in toxic air.

The most affected cities for the 2.5mm particulates were found to be Birmingham, London, Manchester, Liverpool, and Bristol.

Their estimates include 1.6 million of children aged five and younger, and 270,000 babies, impacted by air pollution.

Amy Gibbs, Unicef UK’s Director of Advocacy, said: “We already know that air pollution is harmful, but these findings force us to face a shocking reality about the acute impact on children’s health. Worryingly, one-third of our children could be filling their lungs with toxic air that puts them at risk of serious, long-term health conditions.”

“We wouldn’t make our children drink dirty water, so why are we allowing them to breathe dirty air?” she added.

Unicef is lobbying the government to provide a targeted funding to reduce children’s exposure in the most polluted areas. The call echoes similar efforts made this week from Mayor and city leaders across the UK during a clean air summit. The politicians are suggesting a new Clean Air Act which will tighten air quality standards and being forward a proposed ban on diesel cars by 10 years.

The World Health Organisation’s latest global data paints an even worse picture; an estimated 90 percent of the world’s population is breathing in polluted air, with India doing particularly badly.

Read more: One in three UK children impacted by air...

The world’s leading development banks are spending more than ever on climate mitigation and adaptation projects within emerging economies.

The latest annual report into financing from the six largest multilateral development banks (MDBs) showed climate financing hit $35.2 billion in 2017, a 28 percent rise on the previous year and the highest since recording began in 2011.

This figure climbs to $87 billion when combined with the $51.7 billion co-financing measures from public and private sources.

The data shows the growing awareness among financial institutions to commit funds to reduce emissions and prevent runaway climate change.

A combined 28 percent of the financing went into projects across Asia and the Pacific; 20 percent of the financing went into Latin America. 16 percent was invested in Sub-Saharan Africa.   

Renewable energy was the highest recipient of funds, totalling $9.2 billion over the past year, showing the technologies’ enduring popularity among the financial community. This was followed by transport on $8.1 billion and energy efficiency received $3.9 billion.

Data was compiled from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Investment Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank Group and the World Bank Group.

$194 billion has been invested over the past seven years of reporting from these major institutions with the World Bank committing the largest amounts year-on-year.

Josué Tanaka, Managing Director at EBRD Managing Director said the bank recognised the importance of cooperation between development banks to ensure climate finance is scaled up: “2017 was also an exceptionally good year for the EBRD climate finance activity which reached 40 per cent of total investments, thus reaching the ambitious target set in the run-up to the Paris Agreement three years ahead.  This brings the total amount the EBRD has committed to climate finance to over 26 billion euros since 2006.”

Read more: Development banks pump record $35 billion into...

One of the world’s largest reinsurance companies has taken steps to exclude coal from its future investments.

German-based Hannover Re will divest from all companies which depend on coal power for more than 25 percent of its revenues. However, unlike some companies, such as AXA and Allianz, it will continue to provide insurance to coal plants for the time being.

The Unfriend Coal campaign was informed of its decision, and that it would continue to reinsure fossil fuels because it is “not our place, as a private company, to act contrary to the decisions of sovereign nations”. It would still “welcome a shift in the energy mix towards alternative energy sources” though.

According to Unfriend Coal, almost half of the global reinsurance market has now pledged to divest from coal, including major players, such as Generali, Lloyd’s of London, and Swiss Re. Divestment policies across the industry now cover assets worth more than $6 trillion and $30 billion has already been withdrawn from the coal sector, according to the group.

Peter Bosshard, coordinator of the Unfriend Coal campaign, said: “The world’s ultimate underwriters of risk clearly see no future for a fuel which is the biggest single source of carbon emissions. This sends a strong message to the governments, investors and financiers that decide on the future of the global energy sector.

Regine Richter, finance campaigner at German environmental NGO Urgewald, said Hannover’s divestment was “a welcome first step”, but that it was disappointing the group was not taking responsibility for “the climate impacts of its own underwriting decisions.”

“The company’s 25 percent threshold for defining coal companies is stricter than the definition of its peers, even though it misses out additional exclusion criteria such as the development of new coal projects,” she added.

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Read more: Hannover Re to exclude coal from future...

The Indian Government has signalled its intention to launch the largest tender for new solar power capacity in the world.

Power Minister R K Singh told an event in New Delhi this week that the government plans to launch an unprecedented bid for 100,000 megawatts (MW) of new clean energy.

“The biggest tender was floated in Spain. We brought out single tender of 10,000 MW which would be opened in July. Now we will bring out a bid of one lakh MW which would also include solar manufacturing and storage,” he told the event, according to The Economic Times. One lakh represents 100,000 units.

The 100,000MW tender, or 100 gigawatts (GW), would far exceed anything that has ever been constructed, although the minister didn’t provide exact timings for the project.

Saudi Arabia has announced similar plans to build a $200 billion solar project, with the first phase coming in at 7.2GW.

Mr Singh also told the audience that India has already brought forward 70 GW of renewable energy capacity, and has another 12.5 GW in development.

The minister has previously spoken of his confidence that India would surpass its target to build 175 gigawatts of renewable energy “well before 2022”.

It’s clear that India has started to accelerate its renewable energy production in response to climate change and air pollution concerns. Last month it approved a 5,000 megawatt solar farm in the state of Gujarat, which will become one of the largest in the world. It has also adopted new targets this week to greatly increase the amount of offshore wind in the country.

A World Health Organisation report ranked India as having some of the most dangerously polluted cities in the world, something which hasn’t gone unnoticed within the government.

Read more: India to bring forward 100,000 megawatts of new...

Analysts are now predicting that wind and solar power will reach 50 percent of all electricity generation by 2050.

Steep cost reductions coupled with cheap batteries will make the drive towards renewable energy unstoppable.

65 researchers from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) pooled together data on the evolving cost of clean energy technologies across the world.

Their analysis shines a light on the vital role that falling costs in battery storage will have in the future. Lithium-ion batteries have already dropped in price by 80 percent since 2010, and this is anticipated to continue with the attending growth in electric vehicles.

BNEF sees battery capacity attracting $548 billion by 2050 with the majority taking place on the electricity grid level.

Seb Henbest, lead author of the study, said: “The arrival of cheap battery storage will mean that it becomes increasingly possible to finesse the delivery of electricity from wind and solar, so that these technologies can help meet demand even when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. The result will be renewables eating up more and more of the existing market for coal, gas and nuclear.”

High levels of battery investment will be matched by an estimated $8.4 trillion for wind and solar by 2050. This will boost total renewable generation in major markets; 87 percent all electricity in Europe, 62 percent in China, and over 50 percent in the United States.

This astonishing growth will be to the detriment of coal-fired power, which could fall from 38 percent to 11 percent by mid-century.

Elena Giannakopoulou, head of energy economics at BNEF, said: “Coal emerges as the biggest loser in the long run. Beaten on cost by wind and PV for bulk electricity generation, and batteries and gas for flexibility, the future electricity system will reorganize around cheap renewables – coal gets squeezed out.”

These high projections for the power sector are still insufficient to limit global temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius. However, BNEF’s work assumes that no new government policies will be put in place.

Read more: Wind and solar will reach 50% of global...

The EU has completed a “hat-trick” of agreements this week which, if implemented, will transform Europe into a truly low-carbon and green continent.

A late-night deal was concluded on Wednesday to establish the governing rules to ensure energy across the bloc is secure, affordable and climate friendly.

The news follows a separate agreement made the previous day between the European Commission, Parliament and Council to increase energy efficiency to 32.5 percent by 2030.

Negotiators also brokered a target to source 32 percent of energy from renewable sources last week. Together these achievements, while still at the level of draft agreements, could signal a major shift towards a modern, sustainable and emissions-free society.

The deal on governance, which underpins the Energy Union project, stopped short of setting a date for reaching a zero-carbon economy, instead opting for “as early as possible” in the final wording. It requires each member state to submit national energy and climate plans on how they will meet the key components of the project: decarbonisation, energy security, and energy efficiency.

Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU’s climate commissioner, said on Twitter the “robust” rules would help the Union meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement.

“For the first time we will have an Energy Union Governance, fixed in the European Union rule book, encompassing all sectors of the energy policy and integrating climate policy in line with the Paris Agreement,” he added in a statement.

Michele Rivasi, a French MEP for the Green Party said: “Strong governance rules are needed to respect the Paris agreement. We have therefore ensured that the national plans are compatible with the objective of keeping global warming well below 2°C, with the ambition of reaching 1.5°C”.

Quentin Genard at environmental group E3G, commented: “Negotiators have agreed on measures that should hold member states accountable for delivering their energy targets. But the regulation is only providing tools: the real test will be in the ambition of the national 2030 plans, the long-term 2050 plans and their respective update in five years’ time”.

Photo Credit: © European Union 2017 - Source : EP

Read more: EU aiming for zero-carbon economy “as early as...

The Mayor of London has ordered a fleet of 68 new zero-emission buses to tackle air pollution in the UK capital.

The electric vehicles will join London’s existing fleet of 8,000 buses next summer. Local governing body Transport for London (TfL) aims to have 240 electric buses on the network by 2019, which will be the largest of its kind within Europe.

The news comes during a summit in which city leaders from around the country are discussing how to improve air quality. Earlier this week, the group, which represents over 20 million people, called on the government to bring forward its diesel and petrol ban to 2030.

London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan, said: “Leaders from across England and Wales have never met in such numbers to tackle our nation’s toxic air quality. It shows how serious our problem is and how committed we are to tackling it.”

“I’m delighted to be able to announce a Europe-leading new fleet of electric double-decker buses too. We’re doing all we can to improve our air quality and we need the government to match our ambition to solve this national health crisis,” he added.

Further to these commitments, two entire routes in London will now be served by electric buses; all single-deck buses in central London will be zero-emission, or hybrid, by 2020. The Mayor has a long-term goal to transform all buses to be free from toxic emissions by the 2030s.

Claire Mann at TfL said: “Buses are crucial to reduce Londoners’ reliance on cars...Electric buses are good for air quality and improve the customer experience, with less noise and fewer vibrations, all creating a more comfortable journey.”

Air pollution has become a major political issue in the UK, especially in the capital. Despite London having lower levels of toxic pollutants than other European cities, thousands of premature deaths are still caused by particulate matter and nitrogen oxide.

Read more: London’s iconic double-decker buses are going...

The C&A Foundation will fund five initiatives to advance the circular economy within the fashion industry.

The foundation, an offshoot of the famous C&A shopping brand, has awarded the funding as part of an open call to bridge the gap between circular business models and the global supply chain in clothing.

C&A has over 1,500 stores in Europe, but has a major presence in China, Brazil and Mexico.

The retailer sees recycling and reuse practices as essential to transforming the fashion world into one that “regenerates ecosystems”. This is opposed to the traditional, unsustainable way of taking, using and disposing of materials.

Circular practices are gaining in interest among many retailers and brands, such as Stella McCartney, but not enough is being done to redesigning business models to make it a reality. C&A is hoping its initial funding will help kick start a movement for change.

The five projects will separately research how to overcome barriers to implementing circular principles, working with small, medium and large retail brands covering Europe, Asia, and North America.

World Resources Initiative and sustainability charity WRAP will assess consumer demand and pilot new business models in 20 major apparels brands in the US, UK and India. This will identify the policies, regulations and incentives needed to advance the circular economy in specific jurisdictions.

The social enterprise Circle Economy will pilot new practices with six brands and retailers with the aim of creating tools for widespread use within the industry.

Douwe Jan Joustra, Head of Circular Transformation, at the C&A Foundation, commented: “We believe the circular fashion revolution will only happen when we implement circular business models.  We are pleased to be supporting these five new partners. The critical practise-based insights they develop and share will bring the industry a significant step towards these new models, moving the discourse on circular fashion from words to action.”

Read more: C&A to invest €1.29 million in circular economy...

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