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 business travellers plan to cut future flights, a former coal-burning plant transitioning to a green energy hub in the west of Ireland, and how a geothermal plant has made one Italian town carbon free.
Poll finds only 1 in 3 Business Flyers Expect to Return to Same Level of Air Travel:
Thanks to the increased use of video conferencing, most business travellers will take fewer flights than they used to, according to a recent poll. The poll surveyed business travellers in seven european countries and was commissioned by the European Climate Foundation. The huge reduction in air travel caused by Covid-19 had no impact on the work life balance or productivity of the majority of business flyers, with a further one in five saying the shutdown actually had a positive impact.
Before the pandemic, carbon emissions from aviation were growing at 5.7% a year despite countries agreeing to the Paris Climate accord in 2015. Green advocates have argued that this pandemic and subsequent shutdown of the industry provides a chance to make the sector more sustainable. Business class seating provides airlines with their largest pool of revenue but results in more emissions per person as each passenger in business class occupies greater space than those in economy seating. Business travellers also fly much more frequently than holidaymakers with 10% of those surveyed taking more than 10 flights a year.
Proponents against the environmental impacts of the aviation industry have also argued that frequent flying is an elite and unfair activity because just 1% of the world’s population causes half of aviation’s carbon emissions in one year. Alethea Warrington, of the climate action charity Possible, said, “Flying for business meetings burns up time and money, as well as our climate. What we need now is investment in affordable train travel, not unnecessary airport growth which threatens to crash the climate”. A spokesperson for the International Air Transport Association, which represents the world’s airlines, said it was difficult to assess future demand while most borders remained in effect closed and with no clear timetable for reopening.
Former Coal-burning Plant to Become Renewable Energy Site in Ireland:
The Electricity Supply Board (ESB) of Ireland announced a multi billion-euro programme that aims to transform a coal-burning power plant into a renewable energy site. The former plant located in Clare, in the western part of Ireland, will be revitalised with sustainability in mind over the next decade and will have the capacity to power 1.6m homes in Ireland. The project will contribute significantly to the Irish government’s target of a 51pc reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.
Built in the 1980s, the Moneypoint plant primarily burns coal and according to the ESB, produced 25% of Ireland’s electricity requirements at its peak. However, it is due to cease coal burning by 2025 and the site will become a centre for green energy instead. ESB plans to build a floating offshore wind farm of 1,400 megawatts off the coast near the site. The plant will become the centre for the construction and assembly of floating wind turbines as well as investing in hydrogen production, storage and generation at the facility. The site is also one of the deepest ports in Europe which will allow for easy access for ships transporting wind turbines and exporting hydrogen to Europe.
ESB chief executive Pat O’Doherty said the programme has the potential to transform the economy. “We have to take carbon out of the Irish economy, we have long signalled our intention to cease burning coal at Moneypoint, today we are unveiling plans for a reimagined Moneypoint, which will not only create hundreds of jobs, but will also help Ireland to meet its climate targets and maintain secure supplies of electricity into the future”.
Geothermal Plant in Italy a Model for Sustainability:
Thanks to a local geothermal plant, the town of Chiusdino in the Tuscany region of Italy is carbon-free. The plant is part of the world’s oldest geothermal complex, offering energy efficiency that brings environmental and economic benefits to the area. It achieves this carbon-free status through its district heating system which generates at the plant then is piped to the town in the form of steam. This system is present in 10 municipalities near the plant and provides heating to more than 10,000 residential users.
The design of the plant took into account the world’s highest quality standards and the most innovative environmental technologies. During the plant’s regular operation and maintenance, all relevant safety and environmental standards are applied out of respect for the local community that relies solely on the plant for heating. The plant, like others in the region, reuses materials, recycles waste, recovers and recirculates oils among other sustainable tasks.
The town estimates that because of the plant, they will emit 2,500 fewer metric tonnes of CO2 a year and avoid the importation of 1,000 tonnes of oil equivalent. District heating plants like Chiusdino enable the reuse of residual heat for the benefit of the town’s population, allowing people to save on their heating costs, while also serving as an incubator for the creation of new businesses that can benefit from the low cost of heat. District geothermal heating has also boosted the value of local real estates. Because of its high environmental standards, it is seen as a model facility for the future of sustainability and reducing emissions.
Tune in next week for another round of sustainability news from around the world.