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Your Weekly Sustainability News Roundup

Each week we share the top sustainability news stories from around the world. Here’s this week’s round up:

This week we explore how investors are putting pressure on large governments to tackle climate change, the cancellation of a controversial pipeline in North America, and Poland’s plans to move away from coal.

Leading investors Urge Governments to End Support for Fossil Fuels:

A group of 457 investors who hold almost a third of the world's assets under management have called for governments around the world to end support for fossil fuels and set targets for rapid reductions in carbon emissions to limit the damage from global heating. The group totalling €28tn in assets signed a joint statement calling for governments to significantly strengthen their plans to cut carbon emissions in the next decade and to bring detailed targets in line with scientists’ estimates of what is needed to limit the climate crisis and subsequent economic fallout.

Among this group were major business players such as Avivia, Allianz, Amundi, BNP Paribas & HSBC. Experts believe that this is the largest group of investors by assets ever to join a concerted call for climate action. The letter stated, “We stand at the beginning of a pivotal decade in which institutional investors and government leaders worldwide have the power to raise ambition and accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis.”  The joint letter came ahead of the G7 Summit in Cornwall this week and the Cop26 United Nations climate conference, to be hosted in November in Glasgow. Climate Action is expected to be at the main forefront of the G7 talks.

A separate study suggests that little progress has been made since the Paris climate agreement. It further indicated that none of the G7’s biggest stock market indices were on a path towards the necessary carbon cuts. US and UK stock markets have heavy exposure to oil, gas and coal companies, many of which intended to keep drilling despite warnings from the IEA. 

€7Bn Oil Pipeline in North America Cancelled:

TC Energy has halted its controversial oil pipeline across Canada and the US following longstanding opposition from climate campaigners and after US president Joe Biden revoked their permit to build. The Keystone XL pipeline was proposed in 2008 to bring oil from Canada’s western tar sands to US refiners. This pipeline was expected to carry 830,000 barrels per day, but the project has been delayed for the past 12 due to opposition from US landowners, Native American tribes and environmentalists.

Other North American pipelines have faced steady opposition from environmental groups, which are concerned about spills and want to slow and expansion of oil production. In 2016, there were a series of protests regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in the US state of South Dakota that lasted almost a year and saw 1 death, 300 injuries and over 500 arrests as well as widespread media attention. There were countrywide solidarity marches as well as celebrity support from actors like Leonardo DiCaprio. President Obama put the construction on hold in 2016, however, President Trump signed an executive order in 2017 to continue on with construction.

Jared Margolis, a senior attorney at the “This is a landmark moment in the fight against the climate crisis, we’re hoping that the Biden administration will continue to shift this country in the right direction by opposing fossil fuels.” TC Energy responded that they would continue to coordinate with regulators, stakeholders and indigenous groups to meet its environmental and regulatory commitments and ensure a safe termination of and exit from the project.

 Poland to Close Europe’s Most Polluting Power Plant by 2036

According to a draft document published by local authorities, Poland plans to scale down and eventually close Europe’s most polluting power plant over the next 15 years. The document, which is subject to public consultation is part of the Lodz region’s application for support from the EU’s Just Transition Fund, aimed at helping regions bear the cost of shifting to a climate-neutral economy.

The move comes after energy group PGE abandoned a plan to develop an open-pit lignite coal mine in Złoczew to fuel the Bełchatów plant after concluding the project would be loss-making, the document said. The company responded by saying “scheduling the dates of shutting down the power units of the Bełchatów power plant… [and] abandoning the plan to exploit the Złoczew deposit are of fundamental importance for planning the future of the Bełchatów complex, its employees and the inhabitants of this region.”

Poland still generates most of its electricity from coal but is under rising pressure from neighbouring countries and the EU as a whole. The Polish government has faced court actions over failures to tackle the climate crisis already this year. Some will see this scale-down of the power plant over the next 15 years as not fast enough to reach net-zero by 2050. Their coal industry currently employs about 80,000 people and is politically influential in the country.

Tune in next week for another round of sustainability news from around the world.