Global briefing…Australia’s Turnbull u-turns on climate policy

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Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has capitulated to party rebels and reworked his National Energy Guarantee (NEG), the flagship energy plan designed to help cut Australia’s carbon emissions in line with its Paris Agreement targets.

Under the Paris Agreement Australia promised to cut emissions by 26 per cent to 28 per cent by 2030, a target many experts already agree is well short of what is needed to get Australia onto a 2C trajectory. Nevertheless, the NEG would have embedded these targets into Commonwealth legislation, binding future leaders to emissions reductions.

But Turnbull has faced stiff opposition to his plan in Australia’s parliament, with rebels from his own party threatening to defy him if he tried to push the NEG through. Many of its opponents claim it will push up power prices and threaten the country’s coal industry.

Turnbull finally gave in to pressure today, revealing changes to the NEG that will include setting the emissions reductions targets via regulation, which does not need Parliamentary approval. He also announced changes to make consumer energy prices a key factor in determining how ambitious future emissions cuts will be.

It’s a major concession for the embattled Turnbull. Rumours have swirled all week that he could be facing a leadership challenge from Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton over the row.

Chinese international investors swap hydro for wind

Wind power has usurped hydro as the renewable energy investment of choice for China’s overseas energy investors, according to new analysis this week.

Private and state owned companies in China have already funnelled $12bn into European and Australian wind projects according to the research from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, with foreign investment in wind globally jumping from $148m in 2015 to $6bn in 2016.

“State-owned and private Chinese companies alike are acquiring wind projects in OECD countries, as they seek to acquire offshore wind technology knowledge, create new markets for their wind turbine products, and benefit from favourable wind policy incentives like tax breaks or feed-in-tariffs in host countries,” the analysis pointed out.

Japanese shipping giant launches green bonds

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), one of the world’s largest container shipping companies, this week announced plans to issue its first green bonds to raise cash for its environmental strategy.

Two bonds series are to be launched on Japan’s domestic market over the next two months, MOL said, with the aim of raising 10bn Japanese yen ($90m) to fund the firm’s climate strategy. The money will fund the procurement of an LNG-fuelled vessel, pollution-cleaning equipment and more efficient propellers. It will also help fund a ‘Wind Challenger Plan’ led by Tokyo University, which focuses on using advanced sails to provide propulsion for merchant vessels.

“The MOL Group also views responses to stricter environmental regulations and activities to reduce its environmental impact as opportunities to create new businesses and diversify its business portfolio, and address new challenges in technical innovation,” MOL said in a statement.

South Korean city launches green energy blockchain trial

The South Korean city of Chuncheon this week announced a new partnership with blockchain platform Swytch to encourage carbon cutting behaviour among the city’s residents.

Swytch can track green actions using its crypto-ledger technology, offering rewards to companies and people who cut their carbon emissions the most and expand green energy production.

“There is no doubt that growing our renewable energy dependence is a positive action,” said Lee Jae-Soo, mayor of Chuncheon. “We look forward to this partnership that will decrease our carbon footprint and increase sustainable energy.”

IKEA’s first Indian store features rickshaw delivery

Swedish furniture giant IKEA’s first store in India opened this week with a range of electric rickshaws as its delivery fleet.

The zero emission three-wheeled vehicles are charged up from the store’s rooftop solar array, and will make up 20 per cent of the store’s delivery fleet.

In an interview with the Financial Times earlier this summer, IKEA said its India store will keep to the same strict sourcing standards that apply to its other outlets worldwide, such as its promise to source sustainable wood. This could make it tricky for IKEA to meet Indian requirements for companies to source 30 per cent of its products locally within five years, admitted deputy country manager Patrik Antoni.

Trump replacement for Clean Power Plan due next week 

Reports from news agency Reuters suggest the Trump White House is preparing to unveil its replacement to Obama’s flagship climate policy, the Clean Power Plan, next week.

One of Trump’s first acts after taking office last year was to scrap the Obama policy, which would have forced states to curb the amount of pollution emitted by their power plants. It was already on hold awaiting a review by the Supreme Court, after states took legal action accusing the federal government of overreach.

According to Reuters, Trump’s replacement plan will grant states the ability to write their own weaker regulations for the plants, and allow them to request an opt out from regulation altogether. It’s a proposal that is unlikely to please green groups – expect further court battles.

EU takes legal action against Poland for breaking nature laws

The European Commission has launched legal proceedings against the Polish government for breaking EU laws over protection of wildlife in its forests.

Changes to Polish law has allowed forest work to go ahead even if it destroys vulnerable plants and habitats, in contravention of the EU Birds and Habitats Directive, the Commission contends.

Under Polish law people and non-governmental organisations cannot challenge the government in court over the actions – a point the Commission also argues is in breach of EU law.

Poland has two months to respond to the Commission before proceedings can be taken further.

Billionaire Sanjeev Gupta plots giant Australian solar farm

GFG Alliance, the industrial metals, mining and energy business run by the billionaire Gupta family, has this week announced plans to build a 280MW solar plant in Australia.

SIMEC, the energy subsidiary of the GFG Alliance, said the plant will generate 600GWh of solar energy per year, the equivalent to around one per cent of Australia’s annual power needs.

Construction is expected to start early next year.

Lidl Ireland plans electric vehicle chargers at stores

Lidl Ireland has promised to equip 20 of its stores with electric vehicle charging points this week in a bid to speed the green transport revolution.

In a move it claims will give it the largest network of electric vehicle chargers in the Irish supermarket sector, Lidl Ireland said 40 charging points will be fitted across 20 of its stores over the next six months. Shoppers will be able to charge their cars for free while they shop, Lidl added.

“Electric vehicles are indispensable in addressing the major challenges of improving air quality and curbing the use of fossil fuels,” said Alan Barry, director of property and central services at Lidl Ireland. “With more and more customers shopping with us every week, we hope that the expansion of the network of public charge points will make electric vehicles more attractive to customers whilst further enhancing our customer experience.”

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