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Lively Carbon Markets Promise Cooler Earth

One of the largest coal-fired power plants in Europe is owned by Uniper SE in the Scholven district of the city of Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Photo by Guy Gorek) Creative Commons license via Flickr

One of the largest coal-fired power plants in Europe is owned by Uniper SE in the Scholven district of the city of Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Photo by Guy Gorek) Creative Commons license via Flickr

 

 

By Sunny Lewis

BERLIN, Germany, March 1, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Carbon emissions trading is gaining popularity in established markets and also in emerging economies; in fact trading now covers 15 percent of all emissions globally, finds a new report from the International Carbon Action Partnership (ICAP)  on activity in 2017.

Just one year since the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate, 21 Emissions Trading Systems (ETS) are operating around the world at various levels of government.

The past year has seen major developments, with a new system emerging in China and the linking of Ontario’s system with that of California and Quebec.

“While the challenge of climate change grows with every year, so does the competency and determination of the policy response,” said International Carbon Action Partnership (ICAP) Co-Chair Marc Allessie, director of the Dutch Emissions Authority, while releasing the report on Tuesday.

“We are confident that ETS is bound to its promise of delivering a cost-effective tool for implementing national pledges under the Paris Agreement,” Allessie said.

How Emissions Trading Systems Work

Carbon emissions trading works on a cap-and-trade market-based system. A cap is set on the total amount of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) that can be emitted by facilities covered by the system. The cap is reduced over time so that total emissions drop.

Within the cap, companies receive or buy emission allowances which they can trade with one another as needed. They can buy limited amounts of international credits from emission-saving projects around the world. The limit on the total number of allowances available ensures that they have a value.

Each year a company must surrender enough allowances to cover all its emissions or pay steep fines. If a company reduces its emissions, it can keep the spare allowances to cover its future needs or sell them to another company that is short of allowances.

Trading brings flexibility that ensures emissions are cut where it costs least to do so. A robust carbon price promotes investment in clean, low-carbon technologies.

Since 2005, the share of global carbon emissions capped by an emissions trading system has tripled from five percent to roughly 15 percent, now covering some seven gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), according to the report.

The Network Expands Its Reach

In November 2017, the EU and Switzerland signed an agreement to link their emissions trading systems, the first agreement of this kind for the EU and the first between two parties to the Paris Agreement.

The world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, China now has overtaken the European Union as the world’s largest carbon market, covering more than three gigatons of CO2e.

The initial launch of China’s national emissions trading system for the power sector in December 2017 is what the ICAP report calls “a remarkable and rapid first step for an emerging economy that is powered by the world’s largest coal fleet.”

This development sends a strong signal to the international community as Chinese coal consumption has recently been one of the key drivers of global emissions.

In November, at the UN climate conference (COP23) in Bonn, the EU and China decided to step up their joint cooperation on carbon markets, ahead of the launch of China’s nationwide emissions trading system.

Hosted by China’s Special Representative on Climate Change Affairs Xie Zhenhua, the high-level event took place at the China Pavilion at COP23.

Speaking after the meeting, European Climate and Energy Commissioner Arias Cañete said, “China is ready to launch its nationwide emissions trading system, which is set to cover more than twice as much CO2 as the EU ETS, once it reaches its full scope. This will undoubtedly send a strong signal to the rest of the world in support of carbon markets. The EU is therefore pleased to engage in even closer bilateral cooperation with our Chinese counterparts.”

In September, the European Parliament and Council reached an agreement to revise the EU Emissions Trading System for the period after 2020. This revision is expected to help put the EU on track to achieve a significant part of its commitment under the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030.

To achieve the 40 percent EU target, the sectors covered by the ETS have to reduce their emissions by 43 percent compared to 2005.

The changes to the EU system will speed up emissions reductions and strengthen the Market Stability Reserve to reduce the current oversupply of allowances on the carbon market.

To this end, the overall number of emission allowances will decline at an annual rate of 2.2 percent from 2021 onwards, compared to the current rate of 1.74 percent.

New Zealand Needs to Plant More Trees

New Zealand is the first, and still the only, country to fully include forest landowners in a greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme, according to a report released in 2017 by Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, New Zealand’s leading non-profit economic and public policy research institute.

The NZ ETS is a partial-coverage all-free allocation, uncapped, internationally linked emissions trading scheme first legislated in 2008 and amended twice, in 2009 and 2012.

Has it been effective?

On February 28, New Zealand’s first environmental accounts show greenhouse gas emissions rose more slowly than economic growth in the last 25 years, but the planting of forests to absorb carbon dioxide has slowed since 2013.

Latin America Prepares for Carbon Markets

Efforts to price carbon are also progressing in Latin America and in subnational governments in North America.

Mexico, Latin America’s second largest economy, will start piloting a mandatory emissions trading system later this year.

In addition, Chile, Colombia and Mexico are jointly exploring regionally consistent carbon market design elements such as monitoring, reporting and verification.

In North America, Subnational Governments Lead the Way

The largest Canadian province, Ontario, linked its system to the joint carbon market of California and Quebec  beginning this year.

As part of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, all Canadian provinces and territories will have a price on carbon by the end of 2018.

“A wide range of actions are taking shape across all levels of government, from the municipal level all the way up to the international level. Sub-national governments in particular have played and will continue to play a vital role,” said Jean-Yves Benoit, ICAP Co-Chair, and Director of the Carbon Market, Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Fight Against Climate Change of Quebec.

Established in 2009, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

RGGI is a cooperative effort among the nine states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector.

States sell nearly all emission allowances through auctions and invest proceeds in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other consumer benefit programs. These programs are spurring innovation in the clean energy economy and creating green jobs in the RGGI states.

Interest in several U.S. States, like Virginia and New Jersey, could see an expansion of cap-and-trade despite inaction on the federal level under the Trump administration.

In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, withdrew from the RGGI in 2012. On January 29, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, signed an executive order directing New Jersey to re-enter the regional compact.

Governor Murphy said. “Pulling out of RGGI slowed down progress on lowering emissions and has cost New Jerseyans millions of dollars that could have been used to increase energy efficiency and improve air quality in our communities.”

By withdrawing from RGGI, New Jersey lost an estimated $279 million in revenue that could have been realized by the state’s participation in RGGI’s carbon emission trading program.

As part of the public comment period on Virginia’s proposed carbon trading rule, the Department of Environmental Quality is holding public hearings throughout the state during the month of March.

After a tough political battle in the California legislature, the state extended its cap-and-trade program until 2030. This will build confidence in an increasingly stringent long-term carbon price signal in the linked Western Climate Initiative carbon market, which includes the provinces of Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario, and the state of California.

The recent legislative changes and regulatory reforms in California have set the cap to decline by about four percent annually from 2021-2030, yielding a 40 percent reduction by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

These renewed commitments to emissions trading give low carbon investors certainty and have resulted in rising carbon prices, with the EU allowance price passing €10 for the first time since 2011.

The reforms have some common elements: steeper cap trajectories aligning with 2030 climate targets; market stability measures becoming standard practice with continuing design innovation; offset policies with focus on domestic abatement with direct local environmental benefits.

The ICAP report concludes that, “Together, these two trends – the continual spread of ETSs and reforms of major systems – will continue to change the landscape of emissions trading – widening and deepening its role in the low-carbon transformation process worldwide.”

The ICAP Status Report is published annually and features in-depth articles from policymakers and carbon market experts with insights into the latest ideas across the globe. To download the full report, executive summaries in Chinese, English, and Spanish, infographics, and a short video, please visit ICAP Status Report.


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China Seizes Global Green Finance Leadership

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In May 2017, Sungrow Power Supply China switched on the world’s largest floating solar energy plant. The solar panels float on water that flooded a defunct coal mine near the city of Huainan in China’s eastern Anhui province. China has pledged to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in renewable energy by the year 2020. (Photo courtesy Sungrow Power Supply) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

SINGAPORE, November 17, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Trillions of dollars will need to be deployed each year to finance climate action and sustainability, and China is leading the way toward raising these funds, finds new research released Thursday. “China has become a new growth driver in the global green bonds market,” states the report by the United Nations‘ environment agency and the Beijing-based International Institute of Green Finance.

The report, “Establishing China’s Green Financial System: Progress Report,” reviews China’s development in green finance, and makes recommendations for future development.

The researchers found that China has established itself as a “global leader on green finance,” both domestically and internationally, but the country still faces serious challenges to mobilize its full potential.

The country’s leaders have acknowledged that the rapid growth of their economy, second-largest in the world after the United States, has brought expensive health and environmental problems to China – outdoor and indoor air pollution, water scarcity and pollution, desertification, soil pollution and biodiversity loss.

Speaking at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October, President Xi Jinping said the construction of “ecological civilization” and the maintenance of ecological security are the keys to China achieving stable and sustainable development.

“Green finance is essential to realizing China’s national strategic objectives in green development and ‘ecological civilization,'” said co-author Wang Yao, professor and director-general at the International Institute of Green Finance, a think tank established at China’s Central University of Finance and Economics in September 2016.

“Through approaches in practicing green credit, green bonds, green insurance and industrial funds, as well as implementation at local levels, China’s green finance development has contributed significantly to social and economic structural reforms and gained widespread recognition internationally,” said Wang.

The report finds that China, which put green finance on the G20 agenda during its 2016 presidency, is following through on its political commitment to boost the financing required to do this.

Ratings agency Moody’s predicts that, globally, green bonds could exceed US$200 billion this year, driven by the Paris Agreement and reform in China.

Let’s look at China’s recent activities as a way of gauging the country’s progress.

In the first half of 2017, China issued 36 green bonds worth RMB77.67 billion (US$11.7 billion).

In one year, China’s green bonds grew in number by 278 percent and in value by 28 percent, according to the report.

There are 7,826 green and low-carbon projects, at investment of RMB6.4 trillion (US$0.96 trillion), are listed in the public-private partnerships catalogue, and 121 new green regional development funds were set up in 2016, the report states.

The green and low-carbon projects account for 57.7 percent of all the projects and 39.3 percent of the investments in that catalogue.

In addition, many Chinese provinces and cities have established regional green development funds.

By the end of 2016, 265 green funds were registered with the Asset Management Association of China; of these 215 were green industry funds, and 121 of these were established in 2016.

China has demarcated five distinct green finance pilot zones to explore different development models for the local green financial system against different backgrounds.

The Chinese government and the business community have started to attach great importance to developing a green industry chain for outbound investment.

With the Guidelines on Promoting Green Belt and Road, the APEC Green Supply Chain Network, and the Initiative on Environmental Risk Management for China’s Outbound Investment, China is going global in its green investment practices, according to the report.

The Bank of China plans to issue its third set of green bonds in the offshore markets in the near term. The bank states, “…all the net proceeds of its offshore Green Bonds issuances will be used to fund new and existing green projects with environmental benefits.”

Dr. Ma Jun, who chairs China’s Green Finance Committee and serves as special advisor to UN Environment on sustainable finance, said, “China has made huge strides through government leadership to create a domestic green finance market, and has inspired many other countries in developing a green finance policy roadmap. However, to keep this momentum going, China still needs to overcome some challenges.”

The green finance progress report pinpoints where the work needs to be done for China to establish a fully functioning green financial system.

It recommends that China clearly define the term “green.” This would lower the costs of identifying truly green projects and preventing “greenwashing,” the report states.

In this critical recommendation, the report says authorities should clarify lenders’ responsibilities, litigation eligibility, and liabilities by improving laws and regulations on environmental protection. The authors say this would urge commercial banks to incorporate environmental risk analysis into the loan application process.

The authors recommend that China set up statistical systems for green finance, and construct performance evaluation systems for local green development.

Efforts should be made to improve the green finance database and expand channels for international investors to access information about China’s green finance market to help boost their confidence, the authors recommend.

And finally, they recommend that green indexes aligned with the international market should be developed as benchmarks to attract international investors to invest in green bonds and stocks in China.

The report is coauthored by the International Institute of Green Finance of the Beijing-based Central University of Finance and Economics, and UN Environment’s Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System.

The Inquiry was launched by UN Environment in January 2014 to improve the financial system’s effectiveness in mobilizing capital for sustainable development.

In October 2015, the Inquiry published the first edition of “The Financial System We Need,” with the second edition launched in October 2016.

The Inquiry has worked in over 20 countries and produced many briefings and reports on sustainable finance. It serves as secretariat for the G20 Green Finance Study Group, co-chaired by China and the United Kingdom, as well as for the Sustainable Insurance Forum of regulators.

In its 2017 Leaders Declaration, the G20 countries committed themselves to sustainable development, declaring, “A strong economy and a healthy planet are mutually reinforcing. We recognise the opportunities for innovation, sustainable growth, competitiveness, and job creation of increased investment into sustainable energy sources and clean energy technologies and infrastructure. We remain collectively committed to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions through, among others, increased innovation on sustainable and clean energies and energy efficiency, and work towards low greenhouse-gas emission energy systems.”

The UN Environment Inquiry and its partners this week launched another report on the state of play in green finance and upcoming investment opportunities.

On November 13, at the UN climate negotiations in Bonn, they issued “Roadmap for a Sustainable Financial System,” with the World Bank Group. This report is aimed at helping governments and the private sector design a global financial system for the era of sustainable development.

It finds that the transition toward a sustainable financial system is already taking place through the interaction of market-based, national and international initiatives.

“Sustainable growth must be the only growth option for the planet and will require sustainable financial systems that are inclusive, deep, and sound,” said Hartwig Schafer, World Bank vice president for Global Themes.

This report makes three key points:

  • Policy and regulatory measures targeting sustainability have grown 20 percent year on year since 2010
  • Climate action has opened up initial investment opportunity of US$22.6 trillion from 2016 to 2030
  • The next 24 months are crucial to build on existing initiatives and finance sustainable development

“The financial system has enormous transformative power, and has the potential to serve as an engine for the global economy’s transition to sustainable development,” said UN Environment head Erik Solheim. “The roadmap tells us who needs to do what, and when, for this to happen. Here we can see the very real potential to improve the lives of billions of people around the world.”


Featured Image: All three Chinese note-issuing banks are in this shot: Bank of China, HSBC (Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation), and Standard Chartered Bank, at dusk in Hong Kong, July 27, 2010 (Photo by Brian Sterling) Creative Commons license via Flickr

EU Pours Millions Into Circular, Low-carbon Economy

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A building integrated solar array at the Gare de Perpignan, Southern France. Part of the railway station was decorated in the style of Salvador Dalí, who proclaimed it to be the “Center of the Universe” after experiencing a vision of cosmogonic ecstasy there in 1963. (Photo by Issolsa via Wikipedia) Creative Commons license.

BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 10, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – Integrating solar panels into the glass facades of buildings could improve their energy performance to meet EU targets, as the buildings become a whole new source of renewable energy. A demonstration project will generate clean energy through building integrated photovoltaic facades fitted on refurbished and new buildings in Belgium and Spain, the final stage before market launch of the technology.

This is just one of 139 projects (Europa Press Release) soon to be funded by the European Commission as part of an investment package of €222 million to support Europe’s transition to more sustainable and low-carbon future under the LIFE programme for the Environment and Climate Action.

LIFE experts expect the solar panels to reduce the buildings’ carbon dioxide emissions by roughly 34 percent. The project will be coordinated by AGC Glass Europe, based in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.

Besides being a nice chunk of change all by itself, the EU funding will mobilize additional investments leading to a total of €379 million going to fund 139 new projects in 20 EU Member States.

“In its 25th year, the LIFE program continues to invest in innovative projects with high added value for people, businesses and nature. I am delighted to see that the program transforms close-to-market technologies into new, green businesses,” said Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

The newly approved funds will go towards financing a circular and low-carbon future. For instance, €181.9 million will go to projects in the fields of environment and resource efficiency, nature and biodiversity, and environmental governance and information.

In line with the European Commission’s circular economy package, projects will help Member States in their transition to a more circular economy.

Circular economy projects newly funded by LIFE include: testing an Italian prototype that could cost-effectively convert petrol cars into hybrid vehicles; creating bio-based products from wastewater sludge in the Netherlands; and applying a new biological treatment to remove pesticides and nitrates from water in southern Spain.

A LIFE Environment & Resource Efficiency project funded at €2.3 million will explore new road surfaces to reduce noise and urban heat.

Some 37 million Europeans are exposed to transport noise at levels dangerous for their health, according to LIFE. Most of them live in cities, where the health impacts of heatwaves also are more pronounced. Changes to road surfaces could easeboth problems.

With the new funding, the City of Paris is leading a LIFE project to devise durable asphalt surfaces with phonic and thermal properties that will reduce noise pollution and mitigate the urban heat island effect.

The measurable impact at three pilot sites is expected to be a two decibel reduction in noise experienced by neighboring residents and a 0.5°C to 1.5°C reduction in the urban heat island effect.  due to lighter road surfaces and increased water retention

Other funded projects will support the implementation of the Action Plan for Nature, in particular the management of Nature 2000 sites.

Species protection is another focus, such as in the Slovenian cross-border project to help the survival of a highly endangered Alpine lynx species.

The Danube river in western Bulgaria is one of Europe’s most important areas for the conservation of priority bird species, such as the white stork. But birds in Natura 2000 network sites here struggle with nearby urban and industrial centers, transport corridors, and hundreds of kilometres of encircling bird-unsafe overhead power lines.

In western Bulgaria, nesting white storks like this one are at risk from power lines. (Photo by aneye4apicture) Creative Commons license via Flickr

In western Bulgaria, nesting white storks like this one are at risk from power lines. (Photo by aneye4apicture) Creative Commons license via Flickr

A newly funded project will identify the power lines posing the most serious hazard for western Bulgaria’s wild birds in a GIS database, mapping areas of potential conflict and producing a detailed report.

The project will stop unnatural mortality among wild birds caused by electrocution on electricity pylons by retrofitting 4,000 pin-type pylons, 1,200 metal frame pylons and 200 switch towers. Project workers will install 120 km of aerial conductors marked with “bird diverters” to reduce bird-collisions by 90 percent in priority areas.

In the area of climate action, the EU will invest €40.2 million to support climate change adaptation, mitigation and governance and information projects.

Selected projects support the EU’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

Hungary, for instance, is forecast to suffer a greater than average impact from climate change, including water scarcity and extreme, unpredictable floods. A €2.5 million LIFE project will build capacity among Hungary’s 3,000+ municipalities through demonstration actions, smart online tools, training and support networks.

The project will focus on promoting ecosystem-based natural water retention measures to manage and mitigate flooding caused by climate change in Hungary.

By applying the Paris Agreement Capital Transition Assessment (PACTA) model, one project in France will give financial regulators and policy-makers the ability to assess EU insurance companies and pension fund assets against global climate goals. This will help them better assess the risks of investments under a range of different decarbonisation scenarios.

At least 200 EU financial institutions are expected to adopt the PACTA model within three years of the project’s completion. The project is expected to contribute to the broader goal of standardizing climate-related accounting.

LIFE funding will also help improve the resilience of one of Europe’s busiest waterways, the Scheldt Estuary in Belgium, anddevelop tools to forecast desert dust storms.

Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, said, “The historic Paris Agreement on climate change has added wind to the sails of already accelerating climate-smart investments. With these projects, we use limited public finance in a catalytic way: we unlock private finance to protect the environment, fight climate change and provide cleaner energy to our citizens. These kinds of investments are of critical importance if we are to move from aspirations to action.”

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Green Climate Fund Disburses Hope

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Dwellings on the banks of Samoa’s Vaisigano River are at risk during increasingly extreme storms. (Photo courtesy UN Development Programme)

By Sunny Lewis

SONGDO, South Korea, February 23, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Just three days before he left office on January 20, U.S. President Barack Obama transferred a second installment of US$500 million to the Green Climate Fund, based in South Korea’s Songdo International Business District.

To be financed by wealthy countries, the Green Climate Fund was established by 194 governments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries, and to help vulnerable societies adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.

The Fund was key to the Paris Agreement on climate which took effect throughout the world on November 4, 2016. The Agreement’s stated aim is to keep climate change “well below” 2°Celsius and, if possible, to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

At the UN climate treaty talks in Paris, wealthy governments, including the United States, pledged to contribute US$100 billion a year by 2020 for climate change adaptation and mitigation projects in the Global South, primarily through the Green Climate Fund.

As of January 2017, contributions to the Green Climate Fund total US$10.3 billion.

Initially, the United States committed to contributing US$3 billion to the fund. President Obama’s most recent installment still leaves US$2 billion owing, with President Donald Trump expected to stop payments entirely.

In his “Contract With the American Voter,” which defines his program for his first 100 days in office, President Trump pledges to “cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.

President Obama’s move followed a campaign coordinated by the nonprofit Corporate Accountability International , with more than 100 organizations and nearly 100,000 people asking Obama to transfer the full US$2.5 billion to the Fund.

Although that didn’t happen, the Green Climate Fund Board is already disbursing what money it does have. To date, the Fund has approved more than US$1.3 billion to support low-emission and climate-resilient projects and programs in developing countries.

This year has demonstrated that the Fund is rapidly gathering pace with regard to scaling up climate finance,” said then Board Co-Chair Zaheer Fakir of South Africa, who held developing country role on the Board. “I am proud of the progress we have made over the past 12 months in improving Fund performance and growing our portfolio of investments.

That developing country role has now passed to Ayman Shasly of Saudi Arabia, representing the Asia Pacific group.

Fellow Co-Chair Ewen McDonald of Australia, who this year retains his role representing the developed countries on the GCF Board, said, “I have high hopes that 2017 will be the year of climate finance for the Pacific.

In December, following the last GCF Board meeting of 2016 in Apia, Samoa, McDonald said, “I am really pleased that the Board approved US$98 million for Pacific proposals at this meeting. This is the largest climate finance meeting to ever be held in the region and it comes on the cusp of 2017, the year Fiji will host the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties.”

The 2017 UN Climate Change Conference, COP23, will take place from November 6 to 17 at the World Conference Centre in Bonn, Germany, the seat of the Climate Change Secretariat. COP23 will be convened under the Presidency of Fiji.

The approved projects are funded in cooperation with accredited partners of the Green Climate Fund, which can be multi-lateral banks or UN agencies, such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

One of the projects approved by the GCF Board in Apia was US$57.7 million for integrated flood management to enhance climate resilience of the Vaisigano River Catchment in Samoa, with the UNDP.

The Vaisigano River flows through the Apia Urban Area, Samoa’s capital and largest city, the island nation’s primary urban economic area.

As a Small Island Developing State in the Pacific, Samoa has been heavily impacted by increasingly severe tropical storms blamed on the warming climate.

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Green Climate Fund Board Co-chairs Ewen McDonald of Australia and Zaheer Fakir of South Africa join in the applause for multi-million dollar decisions to support developing countries as they mitigate and adapt to the Earth’s changing climate. Apia, Samoa, December 15, 2016. (Screengrab from video courtesy Green Climate Fund) Posted for public use

The Integrated Flood Management project, proposed by the government, will enable Samoa to reduce the impact of recurrent storm-related flooding in the Vaisigano River Catchment.

Some 26,528 people in the catchment will benefit directly from upgraded infrastructure and drainage downstream, integrated planning and capacity strengthening, including planning for flooding caused by extreme weather events, and flood mitigation measures, such as riverworks and ecosystems solutions.

Another 37,000 people will benefit indirectly from the project, which is expected to run from 2017-2023.

Peseta Noumea Simi, who heads Samoa’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said the project is about improving the protection of people living near the river.

You might be aware that during the cyclone in 2012, the extensive damage caused was as a result of the Vaisigano River flooding,” she told the “Samoa Observer” newspaper.

And that extended from the mountain down to the ocean. So this is the basis of this program. You will also recognize that along the Vaisigano River route, we have extensive and very important infrastructure initiatives by the government including hydropower, the bridges, the roads as well as the water reservoirs up at Alaoa. So this is what gives importance to this program.

The Vaisigano River project is one of eight proposals approved by the Board at its December meeting. And it wasn’t the only good news for the host of the biggest climate-funding meeting ever held in the Pacific region.

Of three approvals related to the Pacific, Samoa is involved in two. The second is a US$22 million grant for a multi-country renewable energy program with the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The Pacific Islands Renewable Energy Investment Program will assist Cook Islands, Tonga, Republic of Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, and Samoa to move away from burning polluting diesel fuel to generate electricity and towards solar, hydropower, and wind energy.

The program offers an excellent opportunity for Pacific islands countries to share experiences and learn from the innovation ongoing in the region,” said Anthony Maxwell, ADB principal energy specialist. “It will help finance transformation of the power grids in the region.

The GCF board approved an initial US$12 million grant for Cook Islands to install energy storage systems and support private sector investment in renewable energy. This investment will see renewable energy generation on the main island of Rarotonga increase from 15 percent to more than 50 percent of overall supply.

The GCF funding will allow Cook Islands to ramp up renewable energy integration onto the grid, and lower the cost of power generation,” said Elizabeth Wright-Koteka, chief of staff, Office of the Prime Minister, Cook Islands. “This will have significant benefits to our economy and help achieve the government’s objectives of a low carbon sustainable economy,

The GCF Board also approved a US$5 million capacity building and sector reform grant to develop energy plans, build skills, implement tariff and regulatory reforms, and foster greater private sector participation in the energy sector.

To see all projects approved at the GCF Board’s December 2016 meeting, click here.


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Positive Impact Finance Stands on Principles

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A crowd waits for a Bank of Africa branch to open in Madagascar, Oct 1, 2014 (Photo by Bruce Thomson) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

PARIS, France, February 21, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Nineteen global banks and investors, worth a total of US$6.6 trillion in assets, have agreed on a set of standards for financing sustainable development framed as the first-ever Principles for Positive Impact Finance.

On the last Monday in January, the set of four unpublished Positive Impact Principles was launched to provide a global framework for financiers and investors to analyze, monitor and disclose the social, environmental and economic impacts of the financial products and services they deliver.

The Principles for Positive Impact Finance are a direct response to the challenge of financing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals . Adopted by the world’s governments in 2015 to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all, each of the 17 SDGs has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years.

The principles are intended to provide a global framework for impact financing that applies across different business lines, including retail and wholesale lending, corporate and investment lending, and asset management.

Principle One: Definition

This principle is simple, “It’s a good idea to make a donation.

Eric Usher, director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP-FI) looks at what it will cost to make the SDGs a reality. “Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – the Global Program of Action to End the Poverty, fight climate change and protect the environment – should cost between $5 and $7 billion a year by 2030,” he said.

The Principles for Positive Impact Finance will change the situation,” said Usher. “They will allow us to direct hundreds of billions of dollars managed by banks and investors towards clean low-carbon emissions, benefiting everyone.

The scope here is broad; this first principle covers loans of all kinds – corporate, retail, municipal, sovereign, inter-bank, project-related; bonds; equity; notes and credit-linked notes.

In all these cases the positive impact of the financial activity should be defined.

Principle Two: Frameworks

Entities, whether financial or non-financial, need adequate processes, methodologies, and tools to identify and monitor the positive impact of the activities, projects, programs, and/or entities to be financed or invested in. They should implement specific processes, criteria and methodologies to identify positive impact.

The Principles do not prescribe which methodologies and key performance indicators to use to identify, analyze and verify positive impact, instead they require that there be transparency and disclosure.

Principle Three: Transparency

Entities, financial or non-financial providing Positive Impact Finance should provide transparency and disclosure on the activities, projects, programs, and/or entities financed.

The intended use of funds released via financial instruments and their positive contribution should be clearly marked on the corresponding documentation.

Methodologies, key performance indicators and achieved impacts should be identified and disclosed.

Principle Four: Assessment

The assessment of positive impact should be based on the actual impacts achieved, this principle states. The assessment can be internally processed, or undertaken by qualified third parties such as audit research institutes and rating agencies.

The principles require a holistic appraisal of positive and negative impacts on economic development, human well-being and the environment, this is what makes them innovative.

These principles are timely from the financial sector. They demonstrate the willingness of the financial resources to go beyond current practices and contribute to more sustainable development,” affirmed the French Minister of Economy and Finance Michel Sapin. “These principles should strengthen the cooperation between public and private actors in this field.

The principles were developed by the Positive Impact Working Group, a group of UN Environment Finance Initiative banking and investment members, as part of the implementation of the roadmap outlined in the Positive Impact Manifesto released in October 2015.

The Manifesto calls for a new, impact-based financing paradigm to bridge the gap in financing for sustainable development.

As of January 1, 2017, the Positive Impact initiative is made up of the following members of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative: Australian Ethical, Banco Itaú, BNP Paribas, BMCE Bank of Africa, Caisse des Dépôts Group, Desjardins Group, First Rand, Hermes Investment Management, ING, Mirova, NedBank, Pax World, Piraeus Bank, SEB, Société Générale, Standard Bank, Triodos Bank, Westpac and YES Bank.

Séverin Cabannes, deputy CEO of Société Générale, a founding member of the group, says there is urgency pushing this initiative along – the urgency of confronting what’s happening to the planet.

With global challenges such as climate change, population growth and resource scarcity accelerating, there is an increased urgency for the finance sector both to adapt and to help bring about the necessary changes in our economic and business models,” said Cabannes.

The Principles for Positive Impact Finance provide an ambitious yet practical framework by which we can take the broader angle view we need to meet the deeply complex and interconnected challenges of our time,” he said.

Gérard Mestrallet, chairman of Paris EUROPLACE and chairman of the Board of the French multinational electric utility company ENGIE, views the principles as another tool in his problem-solving toolbox.

They are “the tool that is needed to enable the business and finance community to work and innovate together, and to address the challenge of the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

The financial sector has already moved forward in that direction,” said Mestrallet, “and we hope that the principles as well as the Paris Green and Sustainable Finance Initiative we launched last year will help marking a new stage.”

The UNEP-FI is a partnership between UN Environment and the global financial sector created after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro with a mission to promote sustainable finance.

Over 200 financial institutions, including banks, insurers and fund managers, work with UN Environment to understand today’s environmental challenges, why they matter to finance, and how to actively participate in addressing them.

The need to align capital markets to a two degree world is urgent and necessary,” said Fiona Reynolds, managing director of the Principles for Responsible Investment. “The UN Environment Finance Initiative Principles for Positive Impact Finance are an important tool for investors to frame their positive contribution to the environment, the society and the economy.”


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Europe’s ‘Clean Energy Revolution’

solarpowertower

Gemasolar was the first commercial-scale plant in the world to apply central tower receiver and molten salt heat storage technology. The molten salt storage tank permits independent electrical generation for up to 15 hours without any solar feed. May 7, 2009, Seville, Spain. (Photo by Markel Redondo / Greenpeace)

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, December 8, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – To keep the EU competitive as renewables displace fossil fuels, shaking up global energy markets, the European Commission has proposed a new package of measures to “equip all European citizens and businesses with the means to make the most of the clean energy transition.”

The “Clean Energy for All Europeans” legislative proposals are designed to show that, as the Commission said, “the clean energy transition is the growth sector of the future – that’s where the smart money is.”

The measures are aimed at establishing the EU as a leader of the clean energy transition, not just a country that adapts to a renewable energy future as required by the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate, which more than 100 nations have now formally joined.

In October 2014 the European Council, composed of the heads of state or government of the EU member states, agreed on the 2030 climate and energy policy framework for the EU.

That’s why the EU has committed to cut emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) by at least 40 percent by 2030, less than 15 years away.

Europe is on the brink of a clean energy revolution,” said Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete.

And just as we did in Paris, we can only get this right if we work together.

With these proposals, said Cañete, the Commission has cleared the way to a more competitive, modern and cleaner energy system. “Now,” he said, “we count on European Parliament and our Member States to make it a reality.”

If the new proposals become law, EU consumers of the future may have the possibility of producing and selling their own electricity, a better choice of supply, and access to reliable energy price comparison tools.

Increased transparency and better regulation give civil society more opportunities to become more involved in the energy system and respond to price signals.

The package also contains several measures aimed at protecting the most vulnerable consumers.

The EU is consolidating the enabling environment for the transition to a low carbon economy with a range of interacting policies and instruments reflected under the Energy Union Strategy, one of the 10 priorities of the Juncker Commission.

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Caption: Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker briefs the European Parliament, Oct. 26, 2016 (Photo © European Union 2016 – European Parliament”) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

In his State of the Union Address to the European Parliament, September 14, President Jean-Claude Juncker emphasized investment.

The €315 billion Investment Plan for Europe, which we agreed just 12 months ago, has already raised €116 billion in investments in its first year of operation. And now we will take it further,” said President Juncker, doubling down on the EU’s future.

We propose to double the duration of the Fund and double its financial capacity to provide a total of at least €500 billion of investments by 2020,” Juncker said.

The Commission has already offered CO2 reduction proposals. In 2015, the executive body proposed to reform the EU Emission Trading System to ensure the energy sector and energy intensive industries deliver the needed emissions reductions.

Last summer, the Commission proposed ways of accelerating the low-carbon transition in other key sectors of the European economy.

Today’s proposals present the key remaining pieces to fully implement the EU’s 2030 climate and energy framework on renewables and energy efficiency.

All the Energy Union related legislative proposals presented by the Commission in 2015 and 2016 need to be addressed as a priority by the European Parliament and Council.

Modernising the EU’s economy is key, said Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefcovic. “Having led the global climate action in recent years,” he said, “Europe is now showing by example by creating the conditions for sustainable jobs, growth and investment.

Clean energies, in total, attracted global investment of over €300 billion in 2015, and the Commission sees opportunity for the EU in the clean energy wave of the near future.

By mobilising up to €177 billion of public and private investment a year from 2021, this package can generate up to one percent increase in GDP over the next decade and create 900,000 new jobs, the Commission said.

The Clean Energy for All Europeans legislative proposals cover energy efficiency, renewable energy, the design of the electricity market, security of electricity supply and governance rules for the Energy Union.

The Commission also proposes a new way forward for Ecodesign, the law that sets minimum mandatory requirements for the energy efficiency of household appliances, information and communication technologies and engineering.

The package includes actions to accelerate clean energy innovation, to renovate Europe’s buildings and a strategy for connected and automated mobility.

Commissioner Cañete said, “I’m particularly proud of the binding 30 percent energy efficiency target, as it will reduce our dependency on energy imports, create jobs and cut more emissions.

Our proposals provide a strong market pull for new technologies,” he said, “set the right conditions for investors, empower consumers, make energy markets work better and help us meet our climate targets.

Links to all documents in the Clean Energy package:


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20,000 Investment Funds Rated for Sustainability

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Morningstar Head of Sustainability Steven Smit (right with glasses) and Morningstar Chairman and CEO Joe Mansueto. (Screengrab from video courtesy Morningstar)

By Sunny Lewis,

CHICAGO, Illinois, March 3, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Evaluating mutual funds and exchange-traded funds based on how well the companies they hold manage their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities just became easier.

Based in Chicago, the publicly-traded provider of independent investment research, Morningstar, Inc., has just introduced the Morningstar Sustainability Rating™ for some 20,000 funds around the world.

“Given the widespread and growing interest in sustainable investing around the world, investors need better tools to help them determine whether the funds they own or are considering adding to their portfolios reflect best sustainability practices,” said Steven Smit, CEO of Morningstar Benelux.

Smit has been named Morningstar’s head of sustainability. He will be responsible for leading the company’s initiative to bring the new ratings and metrics to investors globally.

He says the goal is to create transparency and get to one global measure – a global sustainability standard for funds worldwide.

“Creating more insight into sustainability investing is a passion of mine and many others at Morningstar,” Smit shared. This initiative will help us better serve investors who place particular importance on incorporating ESG factors into their investment decisions.”

Morningstar has operations in 27 countries in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. The company offers investment management services through its subsidiaries, with more than US$180 billion in assets currently under advisement and management.

“Our Sustainability Rating and related metrics will provide investors with an ESG lens they can use to evaluate funds and, eventually, other managed products,” said Smit. “It’s not so much about what the fund says it does, but what it actually holds.”

Sustainable investing goes beyond the exclusionary approach of socially responsible investment, or SRI, strategies, say Morningstar executives. Sustainable investing is a long-term approach that incorporates ESG factors into the investment process.

Jon Hale, PhD, CFA, former head of manager research for North America, has been named head of sustainability research.

“Many investors are interested in sustainable investing but unsure how to put it into practice,” Hale said. “Our new rating makes it easier to compare funds based on their ESG attributes.”

“In that way, investors can better determine how to incorporate sustainable investing into their portfolios, or assess the extent to which their fund investments are upholding best sustainability practices,” said Hale.

Morningstar calculates the ratings based on the underlying fund holdings and company-level ESG research as well as ratings from Sustainalytics, an independent provider of ESG and corporate governance ratings and research.

Sustainalytics has been analyzing companies’ ESG performance and impact since its origin as Janzi Research in Canada in 1992. The company has since joined with other analytics groups around the world and now has offices in North America, Europe, Australia and Singapore.

To help investors compile a low-carbon portfolio, Sustainalytics offers an expanded suite of Carbon Solutions, which includes portfolio analytics, data and research. Increasingly, investors are aiming to better understand their portfolio exposure to carbon, to reduce this exposure and to implement low-carbon mandates.

The new Morningstar Sustainability Rating calculation is a two-step process.

First, each fund with at least 50 percent of assets covered by a company-level ESG score from Sustainalytics receives a Morningstar®Portfolio Sustainability Score™.

The Portfolio Sustainability Score is an asset-weighted average of normalized company-level ESG scores with deductions for companies involved in controversies over such activities as environmental accidents, fraud, or discriminatory behavior.

The Morningstar Sustainability Rating is the Portfolio Sustainability Score compared with at least 10 category peers, assigned in a bell curve distribution.

 

SustainabilityRating

Sustainability is indicated with globe icons. Funds can receive any of five Sustainability Ratings – Low, Below Average, Average, Above Average, and High. Low equals one globe and High equals five globes.

 

 

 

 

 

Funds can receive any of five Sustainability Ratings – Low, Below Average, Average, Above Average, and High. Ratings are indicated by globe icons. Low equals one globe and High equals five globes.

Of the 20,000 funds with Morningstar Sustainability Ratings, 10 percent received five globes, 22.5 percent received four globes, 35 percent received three globes, 22.5 percent received two globes, and 10 percent received just one globe.

“Some firms say that they invest according to sustainability principles, but it’s been hard to verify,” Hale explained. “Now investors can draw their own conclusions, using an independent, robust check of that claim that’s based on comprehensive analysis of a fund’s holdings.”

Morningstar will update Portfolio Sustainability Scores when it receives new fund holdings data and will base them on the latest company scores from Sustainalytics.

Morningstar will update the Sustainability Rating each month using the most recent Portfolio Sustainability Scores.

Morningstar’s first analysis of the ratings shows that funds with explicit sustainable or responsible mandates are generally practicing what they preach. But Morningstar notes that such funds make up only about two percent of the fund universe.

Two out of three funds with explicit sustainable or responsible mandates received the highest ratings, more than double the percentage of all funds with Sustainability Ratings.

Morningstar Chairman and CEO Joe Mansueto said, “Sustainability research is the next big initiative at Morningstar. We’re incredibly excited about it. … We believe our new sustainability research will be good, not just for investors, but also for society.”


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

UK, China Collaborate on Low Carbon Cities

By Sunny Lewis

BEIJING, China, November 25, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Researchers from universities in China and the United Kingdom are putting their heads together to reduce carbon emissions from cities in both countries.

Four newly funded research projects aim to develop an overall understanding of current buildings, mobility and energy services to help urban planners lower climate-changing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions while keeping residents comfortable and moving efficiently.

One new project is directed towards integrating low carbon vehicles, such as electric cars, into urban planning.

The other three will tackle existing buildings to provide energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling, as well as indoor environmental quality.

Meeting the pressing carbon emission reduction targets expected to emerge from the upcoming Paris climate talks will require a major shift in the performance of buildings, say scientists in both countries.

The projects were announced as Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the UK October 20-23.

The UK will spend over £3 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and China will contribute equivalent financial resources from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).

EPSRC’s chief executive Professor Philip Nelson, a Fellow of The Royal Academy of Engineering, said, “The aim of this UK-China research collaboration will be to reduce worldwide CO2 [carbon dioxide] production and ensure energy security and affordability.

“The projects build on the strength of our internationally renowned research and will benefit both the UK and Chinese economies,” said Nelson.

Professor Che Chengwei, deputy director general of NSFC’s Department of Engineering and Material Sciences, said, “NSFC has been working closely with EPSRC for several years to address challenges related to achieving a low-carbon economy.”

“This latest programme, with a focus on future urban environments, will build substantially stronger links between Chinese and UK research communities in relevant areas,” said Che. “It will also brighten the future bilateral collaboration between both countries.”

BYDelectricTaxiLondonCaption: In a London parking garage, electric taxis by Chinese automaker BYD, which stands for Build Your Dream, await their drivers, April 2015

The four funded projects are:

  1. Low Carbon Transitions of Fleet Operations in Metropolitan Sites to be researched at Newcastle University (NCL), Imperial College London, and Southeast University (SEU)

Low carbon vehicle fleets for personal mobility and freight could contribute to reducing the climate impact of urban transport and improve local traffic and air quality conditions.

But uncertainties remain on the demand for fleet services and effective fleet operations, especially for electric vehicles, where interaction with the power grid becomes a critical issue.

A range of new business models for the operation of urban freight and fleet services are emerging, enabled by new information and communications technologies.

This will provide an integrated planning and deployment strategy for multi-purpose low carbon fleets. It will devise operational business models for maximum economic viability and environmental effectiveness.

  1. City-Wide Analysis to Propel Cities towards Resource Efficiency and Better Wellbeing, to be researched at University of Southampton and Xi’an University of Architecture & Technology

This project is focused on two cities – Xi’an, China and Portsmouth, UK, both known for their cultural heritage and their population density.

On the southern coast of England, Portsmouth, population 205,000, is the densest city in the UK. Landlocked Xi’an in central China has a population of 5.56 million.

Both cities have published ambitious plans for reducing city-wide carbon emissions but both have lots of aging buildings and infrastructure. The project focuses on the likely impact of building refurbishments on human wellbeing and on carbon emissions.

The researchers will gather real energy use information through sensor deployments and surveys of building residents to identify low disruption and scaled-up retrofit methods.

They will model neighborhood and district retrofits and systems integration, including building refurbishment, district energy and micro-generation to improve buildings for their users.

They are expected to identify smart solutions that will reduce energy consumption and meet mobility needs while pursuing carbon reduction targets.

  1. The Total Performance of Low Carbon Buildings in China and the UK, to be researched by University College London (UCL)  and Tsinghua University

The potential unintended consequences of the inter-linked issues of energy and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) present a complex challenge that is gaining increasing importance in the UK and in China, these researchers say.

They will address the total performance of buildings to reduce the energy demand and carbon emissions while safeguarding productivity and health.

This project will address the policies and regulatory regimes that relate to energy/IEQ, the assessment techniques used and the ways that buildings are utilized.

An initial monitoring campaign in both countries will compare the same types of buildings in the two contexts and how energy/IEQ performance varies between building type and country.

Researchers will assemble a unique database relating to the interlinked performance gaps. They can then develop semi-automated building assessment methods, technologies and tools to determine the most cost-effective route to remedy the underlying root causes of energy/IEQ under performance.

A second stream of work will address the unintended consequences of decarbonizing the built environment, research already taking place at the University College London.

  1. Low carbon climate-responsive Heating and Cooling of Cities, to be researched by the University of Cambridge, University of Reading and Chongqing University

This project focuses on delivering economic and energy-efficient heating and cooling to city areas of different population densities and climates.

It confronts ways of offering greater winter and summer comfort within China’s Hot Summer/Cold Winter climate zone while mitigating vast amounts of carbon emitted by burning fossil fuels for heating and cooling.

It concentrates on recovering value from the existing building stock of some 3.4 billion square meters, where more than half a billion people live and work.

The cross-disciplinary team of engineers, building scientists, atmospheric scientists, architects and behavioral researchers in China and UK will measure real performance in new and existing buildings in Chinese cities.

They will investigate the use of passive and active systems within integrated design and re-engineering to improve living conditions and comfort levels in the buildings.

The researchers will compare their findings with existing UK research examining the current and future environmental conditions within the whole National Health Service (NHS) Hospital Estate in England to find practical economic opportunities for improvement while saving carbon at the rate required by ambitious NHS targets.

They will propose detailed practical and economic low and very low carbon options for re-engineering the dominant building types and test them in the current climate with its extreme events.

To ease China’s adaptation, recently published research “Air Pollution in China: Mapping of Concentrations and Sources” shows that China’s carbon emissions have been substantially over-estimated by international agencies for more than 10 years

From 2000-2013 China produced 2.9 gigatonnes less carbon than previous estimates of its cumulative emissions.

The findings suggest that overestimates of China’s emissions during this period may be larger than China’s estimated total forest sink – a natural carbon store – in 1990-2007 (2.66 gigatonnes of carbon) or China’s land carbon sink in 2000-2009 (2.6 gigatonnes of carbon).

Published in August in the journal “Nature,” the revised estimates of China’s carbon emissions were produced by an international team of researchers, led by Harvard University, the University of East Anglia, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Tsinghua University, in collaboration with 15 other international research institutions.

Low Carbon Cities forms part of the Low Carbon Innovation programme, a £20 million three-year investment announced in March 2014.

Facilitated by Research Councils UK (RCUK) China, the first team established outside Europe by the UK Research Councils, this programme builds on five years of collaborative energy research funded jointly by China and the UK.

To date, RCUK China has provided over £160 million in co-funded programmes, supporting 78 UK-China research projects that have involved more than 60 universities and 50 industry partners in both countries.


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: Buildings of all shapes and sizes enliven Shanghai, which is in China’s Hot Summer/Cold Winter climate zone. (Photo by Mike Lutz under creative commons license via Flickr)
Slide images: A. Climate-changing emissions cloud the air in the Chinese city of Xi’an, December 2013 (Photo by Edward Stojakovic under creative commons license via Flickr) B. The densely populated coastal English city of Portsmouth is under study by Chinese and British scientists as a potentially low carbon city. (Photo by Lawrie Cate under creative commons license via Flickr)
Image 01. In a London parking garage, electric taxis by Chinese automaker BYD, which stands for Build Your Dream, await their drivers, April 2015. (Photo by Mic V. under creative commons license via Flickr)