Tag Archives: climate change

Carbon briefing 101

As a sustainability-focused business, we are often reminded that ours is an industry heavily laden with acronyms and terminology.

With now just four months to go until the start of COP26, we have created an introductory guide to all things carbon, including a glossary of terms, a brief history to COP26, an introduction to some of the major players, interesting climate change facts, and some small challenges that we can all take on in the fight against climate change.

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Navigating Financial Net Zero Alliances 

Building a global zero emissions economy to cut back greenhouse gas emissions is going to mean upending how countless businesses operate and cost trillions of dollars – a daunting task. Fortunately, financial firms are clearly taking the matter seriously, banding together into alliances to better address the problem. Financial net zero alliances hit the headlines again in April this year as former Bank of England governor Mark Carney – now the UK Finance Advisor for COP26 and the UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance – launched the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (or GFANZ).  

Corralling the mighty weight of over 160 firms, GFANZ is doing essential work in the race towards carbon neutrality. Yet it is not alone – delve deeper into its connections and we learn that it was co-founded by the Net Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA). This in turn joins three further initiatives – and as we looked further, we became embroiled in an intertwined web of alliances. 

Although initially appearing to be a Sisyphean task, navigating the web of financial net zero alliances gives a very real sense of the scale of the movement – how many financial companies have set net zero targets, for example. It also increasingly makes the Race to Zero look like an achievable goal. 

Below is our timeline infographic of the evolution of Financial Net Zero Alliances. Please feel free to share it (tagging @GongComms) – we welcome collaboration and input to improve our work. We are aware this is an ever-growing universe; if you have additional financial alliances that you think ought to be represented in the network, please feel free to email us on NetZero@gongcommunications.com.

What does it mean to be a Net Zero company?

In short, being a Net Zero company means meeting the goal of net zero carbon emissions – or becoming carbon neutral – by 2050, in order to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius (in line with the Paris Agreement). While there is no standardised definition or criteria for use, society is becoming increasingly wary of greenwashing. All of the financial alliances for net zero listed in this article require their signatories to be transparent about their goals and to set science-based targets. The Collective Commitment to Climate Action (CCCA) has published a set of guidelines for climate targets setting for banks that underpin the NZBA (and can be downloaded here). 

Is there an overview of all of the financial net zero alliances? 

We couldn’t find one, which formed the basis of our own research. By way of overview: beyond GFANZ, the Net Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA) is a collection of 43 of the world’s biggest banks (including Bank of America, BNP Paribas, Barclays, HSBC, Santander and UBS) – which in turn joins three existing initiatives, namely the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance (AOA), the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative and the Paris Aligned Investor Initiative. It incorporates the insurance industry (with the soon-to-be-launched Net Zero Insurance Alliance (NZIA), the internationally-led Asia Investor Group on Climate Change (AIGCC) and the Investor Group on Climate Change (Australia and New Zealand). In turn, both of these are part of Climate Action 100+, an investor-led initiative to ensure the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters take necessary action on climate change. 

One of the original financial net zero alliances, Bankers for Net Zero is run in partnership with Volans, which has recently published a must-read white paper on aligning finance to a net zero economy. 

How many financial companies have set net zero targets?

The good news is that the number of financial companies that have set new zero targets is increasing almost too quickly to assign a meaningful number. In September 2020, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) reported that the number of net-zero commitments from local governments and businesses had more or less doubled in less than a year, mainly from members of the UN Race to Zero campaign. 

Our research into the financial alliances for net zero indicates nearly a thousand large financial institutions are now part of one or more alliance, with thousands more signatories to the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment. 

The economic potential of Nature-based Solutions

Vinesh Parmar, Account Executive

While the world continues to struggle with the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic, climate change issues remain critically important. Protecting and restoring nature are key to tackling climate change, yet taking stock of the impact of human-inflicted damage on biodiversity reveals an array of frightening statistics: an average of 60 per cent of vertebrates have been lost since 1970, 75 per cent of the earth’s land surface has been significantly altered by human action and two thirds of the ocean is reeling from human interference. Deforestation has caused the loss of a third of our forests and with it the earth’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide.

‘Building Back Better’ with Nature-based Solutions

There is increasing momentum to use the global recovery from Covid-19 to support climate change mitigation. As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has said, “We have a responsibility to recover better” than after the 2008 global financial crisis. Nature-based Solutions (NbS), – defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits” – offer an opportunity to avoid accelerated deforestation and biodiversity loss in short-term recovery plans.

Nature-based Solutions can include:

Protecting and growing these natural solutions could provide 37 per cent of the cost-effective CO2 mitigation we require to keep global warming under 2°C over the next decade. But crucially they could also minimize the social and economic impact of Covid-19 by creating employment and economic opportunities.

Profiling Nature-based Solutions

Green shoots of optimism are sprouting with the help of innovation. The Mesoamerican reef in the Yucatan Peninsula, the largest coral reef in the western hemisphere, is an important attraction to driving the USD9bn tourism economy in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Of equal significance is its role in absorbing wave energy, which protects beachfront settlements. Global Parametrics led the renewal of the landmark Mexican Reef Protection Program – a USD1.9m parametric protection solution that enables immediate financial support to restore key parts of the reef, essential in safeguarding the livelihoods of the coastal communities and drawing in tourists, which over 150,000 jobs rely on.

Meanwhile, the Coastal Resources Group is helping countries all over the world to restore their mangroves and create carbon ‘sinks’ – for example, the world’s mangroves sequester about 24 million metric tons of carbon in soil per year – and Malawi has invested 1.5 per cent of its domestic budget to its Youth Forest Restoration Program, employing thousands of young people to grow trees across 50,000 hectares of land (and protecting the livelihoods of its farmers).

Closer to home, the United Kingdom government announced that future flood defense efforts would focus on nature-based approaches, including grassland restoration and allowing rivers to flow more freely across the landscape.

Next steps

Nature-based solutions have a significant socio-economic role to play in a global recovery from Covid-19. A potential USD10tn in additional business revenue could be generated by moving towards a nature-positive economy and could contribute 395 million new roles to the global job market by 2030. As the world rebuilds in the wake of the pandemic, reassessing its priorities, we don’t need to look beyond what’s already around us to catalyse this transition. Instead, we need to invest in decisions that move us towards a sustainable, nature-friendly approach to economic growth and development.

 

 

Showcasing sustainability around the world

President Biden’s virtual Climate Summit this week has seen important international negotiations on climate and sustainability, and the year ahead promises yet more. Although rescheduled once because of the Covid 19 pandemic, the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 is due to be held in Glasgow in November, with international leaders coming together to add detail to their pledges.

Arguably, rescheduling last year’s event may not have been a bad thing. As a result of the pandemic, we learnt the positive power of cutting emissions (albeit imposed on us) – with the biggest annual fall in CO2 emissions since World War II according to one study – not to mention our capability in responding to existential threats. Meanwhile, the past year has seen some of the strongest climate commitments ever made by governments and business leaders – the EU Green Deal, a greener-than-expected Brexit deal, net zero pledges by China, South Korea and Japan, Joe Biden’s election as US President, rejoining of the Paris Agreement and hosting of this week’s virtual Climate Summit, which has seen yet more ambitious pledges from international leaders. Climate action is becoming institutionalised.

We all wait in hope that November will bring further ambitious international carbon pledges, and more importantly, the necessary action to complete them. The narrative for COP26 includes the assertion that ‘each of us has a part to play’ and in the run up to the summit, the conversation is mounting around how businesses, society groups, schools and individuals are taking action to tackle climate change and encourage sustainability – working #TogetherForOurPlanet.

A cursory glance at some of the sustainability stories around the globe shows that this can mean different things in different regions, but all are making strides towards a better future. Here are some of those stories we find most inspirational:

The importance of carbon removal in reaching Net Zero

The growth in net zero pledges over the last year – including asset managers BlackRock and Vanguard in March 2021 – has created unprecedented interest in carbon removal strategies and carbon markets. And rightly so. This article by our Finland-based client Puro.earth explains the difference between carbon offsetting and carbon removal, and why the latter is so integral to reaching our net zero targets. Microsoft is on board – it has pledged to be carbon negative by 2030, partnering with Climeworks and Puro.earth (including using the latter’s suppliers Carbofex, ECHO2 and Carbon Cycle to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through production of biochar, allowing carbon to be stored in soil for centuries) to reach its goal.

Powering-up for a greener, brighter future

The European Union has committed 550 billion euros to climate protection and clean technologies over the next seven years, and these plans hinge on batteries to store renewable energy and to power electric vehicles. Analysts say the next generation of batteries must last longer, charge faster and be safer and greener than those on the market now, allowing for innovation. International technology firm Systems Sunlight, has announced a new R&D centre, at which the company will develop innovative lithium battery technologies for the industrial energy storage sector, focusing on new technologies that will usher in a clean energy future.

Chilling out for a cooler climate

Unreasonable Group-backed company Sure Chill has developed a unique cooling technology that allows cooling equipment to maintain a constant temperature without constant power. Rather like a rechargeable battery, the tech is entirely natural and can be linked with solar – perfect for areas of the world with intermittent power. Sure Chill is also working with some of the world’s largest brands to develop solutions within home refrigeration, food and drink, and logistics —all of which contributed to the government of Dubai’s decision to choose Sure Chill as “one of the technologies most likely to change the world in the next 20 years”.

Protecting East African heritage against the threat of climate change

Established in 2016, the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund, in partnership with the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, offers financial backing for projects that tackle the threat from climate change to cultural heritage in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. In November last year, the Fund awarded five global heritage projects including the development of disaster risk management strategies for preserving Kenyan and Tanzanian coastal heritage at risk due to rising sea levels, and protection against the impact of flood threats to communities and monuments in Uganda.

Constructing a more sustainable future

With cement production responsible for 8 - 12 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions, the race is on to find a sustainable alternative for the construction industry. As part of our African Net Zero series, we spoke to Wolfram Schmidt from Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM) about his research into alternative materials like cassava and other agricultural residues as a source of ‘green’ African-made cement for future sustainable construction on the Continent. You can watch the full video here.

 

 

LOOKING FOR CARBON CAPTURE INSPIRATION? WE HAVE YOU COVERED.

You’ll know from our previous blogs that carbon dioxide removal (CDR) is scientifically argued to be the best route to mitigating climate change via a less CO2 intensive world. As a B Corp dedicated to being carbon Net Zero, at Gong we are always on the lookout for inspiring companies.

Here are our top 10 carbon capture, storage and usage innovations to help power a new green economy.

1. Biochar – CO2 that enriches the soil

Finnish company Carbofex turns biomass and organic waste into high value biochar products for soil enrichment, ultimately producing clean energy and permanently removing CO2. The pyrolysis process is explained by carbon removal marketplace PURO.earth as a long-lasting means of storing carbon for more than 1000 years. Other major players: Craig Sams’ Carbon Gold.

2. Green Cement for Africa – using agricultural residues

The production of cement produces vast amounts of CO2 – causing 8% of worldwide carbon emissions. This short video illustrates how researchers and engineers at the Federal Office for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) in Berlin are developing an innovative solution: a bio-concrete in which cement is mixed with residual materials from cassava shells.

3. Air Protein: the future of carbon-negative foods

The food industry is one of the biggest carbon emitters – even higher than the automobile industry. With synthetic biology, it is possible to transform CO2 into delicious, life-sustaining nutrition. In this article for Forbes, contributor John Cumbers outlines how Air Protein’s process uses many of the inputs of traditional crops but on a lot less land and at a vastly accelerated rate. Essentially, Air Protein has the potential to improve traditional farming efficiency by 3,500 per cent.

4. DroneSeed: replanting forests devastated by wildfires

Wildfire seasons continue to decimate landscapes at alarming rates. Reporting for CNN Business, Rishi Iyengar outlines in this story how DroneSeed has developed a way to replant trees six times faster. Covering up to 50 acres a day, it also cuts the supply chains for getting new seeds in the ground down from three years to three months.

5. Jet fuel reverse-engineered from greenhouse gases

At this stage, it’s just an experimental process, but there’s a team at Oxford University working on turning carbon dioxide into jet fuel. Outlined in this story from Wired.com, lead researcher and founder of green fuel firm Velocys Tiancun Xiao discusses the organic combustion method that could be a climate game-changer.

6. Transforming agri-waste to energy: Sistema.bio

Sistema.bio is a company that creates biodigesters to take organic waste and transform it into renewable biogas and a powerful organic fertilizer. In total, the company has offset 211,000 tonnes of CO2. This blog describes the story of Veronica, from Kenya, who outlines how Sistema’s biodigesters provide farmers with more than renewable energy: they improve economies by cutting costs and enhancing farm productivity too.

7. Direct air capture ‘buries’ CO2

Direct air carbon capture company Climeworks has started construction of a plant in Iceland that will trap and bury 4,000 mt/year of CO2. The plant will run on renewable energy and will capture emissions directly from the air. The company is also powering the plant with clean energy from ON Power’s Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plan, minimising the plant’s impact. It is scheduled to be online in Spring 2021 – read more on Forbes.com, here.

8. Carbon-negative Vodka

Brooklyn company Air Co has developed a process for making vodka that converts carbon dioxide into alcohol. The distilled alcoholic beverage is made with a process that uses electrical energy to convert carbon dioxide into ethanol – according to Air Co, the first time it has been used for large-scale production of vodka.

We can all drink to that!

9. AirCarbon – pellets that strengthen other materials

Newlight uses a microorganism-based biocatalyst to extract carbon from methane or CO2 and strings it together into a long-chain bioplastic molecule, called AirCarbon. Following polymerization, AirCarbon is converted into a pellet for downstream use, including in extrusion, cast film, and injection molding applications. Watch their XPRIZE video here.

10. Mangrove restoration

Mother nature of course, can’t be bettered.  And mangroves are even more effective than rain forests at sequestering carbon.  The world’s mangroves sequester about 24 million metric tons of carbon in soil per year. A mangrove forest on the Pacific island of Kosrae, in Micronesia, can store as much carbon annually as a tropical rain forest in Panama. This organisation is helping countries all over the world to restore their mangroves as a nature based solution and carbon sink: https://coastalresourcesgroup.org/

The UN climate change report – a catalyst for technological improvements?

 

Isabelle Alenus-Crosby

According to a recent UN report, climate change poses a greater threat to food and security than previously thought. The IPCC warns that global warming is leading to more volatile weather patterns that have already begun reducing crop yields worldwide. As temperatures rise, rainfall patterns change, and pests and diseases spread.

Growing up in various countries in Africa, I was often witness to the type of erratic weather patterns described in the report. I vividly remember a particularly harsh drought in Tanzania the early 1980s, where almost no rain fell for several years. Water shortage in Dar es Salaam was such that lines of people were seen hauling sea water to their homes so that their toilets could be flushed. The little water that came out of the taps was carefully boiled and filtered for drinking and food preparation. People did what they could to save water, and prayed for bad weather.

What I also remember, is that the international community reacted rather surprisingly.  Instead of simply sending food parcels to the worse hit areas in the North, it was decided to test out a completely new type of agriculture. Especially designed crops, adapted to the worse climates on earth, delivered very impressive results in less than a decade.

In one of my previous blogs “seeds of change” I mention that thanks to various technological advancements, Africa now has access to crops that are resistant to heat, droughts, floods and pests and may signify that in the future Africa will be exporting food, something that could never have been imagined a couple of decades ago.

It was the punishing climate in many parts of Africa that prompted these technological improvements, saving the African continent as a direct result. Perhaps these same crops will now save the world?