Energy, Environment, Sustainable Development

Written by  //  January 27, 2023  //  Environment & Energy, Sustainable Development  //  No comments

Created in 1974 to ensure the security of oil supplies, the International Energy Agency has evolved over the years. While energy security remains a core mission, the IEA today is at the center of the global energy debate, focusing on a wide variety of issues, ranging from electricity security to investments, climate change and air pollution, energy access and efficiency, and much more.

Study: Enough rare earth minerals to fuel green energy shift
By Seth Borenstein
(AP) The world has enough rare earth minerals and other critical raw materials to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy to produce electricity and limit global warming, according to a new study that counters concerns about the supply of such minerals.
With a push to get more electricity from solar panels, wind turbines, hydroelectric and nuclear power plants, some people have worried that there won’t be enough key minerals to make the decarbonization switch.
Rare earth minerals, also called rare earth elements, actually aren’t that rare. The U.S. Geological Survey describes them as a “relatively abundant.”
This new study looks at not only those elements but 17 different raw materials required to make electricity that include some downright common resources such as steel, cement and glass.
A team of scientists looked at the materials — many not often mined heavily in the past — and 20 different power sources. They calculated supplies and pollution from mining if green power surged to meet global goals to cut heat-trapping carbon emissions from fossil fuel.
Future Demand for Electricity Generation Materials Under Different Climate Mitigation Scenarios By Seaver Wang and Zeke Hausfather
(Breakthrough Institute)  Material production must expand to meet future power generation material needs
Geologic reserves of materials are sufficient to meet all projected future demand
The magnitude of material needs scales directly with wind and solar deployment
Emissions impacts of material production are non-negligible, but limited in magnitude

2022

27 December
The faux urgency of the climate crisis is giving us no time or space to build a secure energy future
by Judith Curry
The desire for cleaner, more abundant, more reliable and less expensive sources of energy is universal. However, the goal of rapidly eliminating fossil fuels is at odds with the urgency of providing grid electricity to developing countries. Rapid deployment of wind and solar power has invariably increased electricity costs and reduced reliability, particularly with increasing penetration into the grid. Allegations of human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region, where global solar voltaic supplies are concentrated, are generating political conflicts that threaten the solar power industry. Global supply chains of materials needed to produce solar and wind energy plus battery storage are spawning new regional conflicts, logistical problems, supply shortages and rising costs. The large amount of land use required for wind and solar farms plus transmission lines is causing local land use conflicts in many regions.
Given the apocalyptic rhetoric surrounding climate change, does the alleged urgency of reducing carbon dioxide emissions somehow trump these other considerations? Well, the climate ‘crisis’ isn’t what it used to be. The COP27 has dropped the most extreme emissions scenario from consideration, which was the source of the most alarming predictions.

Dec 23
East-West battleground will shift from fossil fuels to metals
(Reuters Breakingviews) – The global trade war will shift from fossil fuels to metals and raw materials. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine highlighted the risk of relying on autocratic states for energy. Even if Europe’s gas crisis eases, Western manufacturers’ focus will switch to reducing China’s dominance in materials key to a cleaner economy.
Europe needs to cumulatively spend $5.3 trillion on clean energy projects by 2050. That requires a sixfold increase in the global production of copper, lithium, graphite, nickel and some rare earths by 2040, International Energy Agency estimates show. Yet China dominates the processing, and to a lesser extent the extraction, of many critical industrial ingredients. It refines 58% of lithium produced globally, 65% of cobalt and over one-third of nickel and copper. Ostracised Russia is also big in nickel, palladium and cobalt. Europe, which imports between 75% and 100% of most metals, looks particularly vulnerable.
In response, Western companies can strike deals with suppliers in friendly countries, open mines at home, or boost recycling. The first approach is the fastest and is underway. In 2022 carmakers have ramped up partnerships with mines and invested directly in mining projects, data from Fitch Solutions shows. General Motors took a stake in Australia’s Queensland Pacific Metals to secure nickel and cobalt for green SUVs.
Opening new mines at home looks safer but takes longer. Take lithium. Europe doesn’t currently mine an ounce of the key electric-vehicle battery component. And the United States only supplies 2% of global demand. But things are changing.
… Europe would need to invest $5.3 trillion in new power generation projects, particularly wind and solar, as well as green hydrogen developments to free itself from fossil fuels by 2050, according to Bloomberg NEF estimates.
Total demand for metals and minerals critical to shifting away from fossil fuels would need to grow by six times by 2040 to help the world reach global climate goals, according to estimates from the International Energy Agency.
In 2019, China accounted for 64% of the global production of graphite, 60% of rare earth elements, 13% of lithium and 8% of copper, IEA data shows.
The People’s Republic also accounts for 87% of the global refining and processing of rare earth elements, 65% of cobalt, 58% of lithium and 40% of copper.

18 December
EU reaches deal on critical climate policy after marathon talks
The agreement is crucial to the bloc meeting its target of cutting CO2 emissions by 55 percent by the end of the decade.
(Politico) A major overhaul of the bloc’s flagship carbon market and a brand new fund to protect vulnerable people from rising CO2 costs were agreed on by EU negotiators in the early hours of Sunday as part of a “jumbo” trilogue that started on Friday morning.
“After 30 hours of (net!) negotiation time we have an agreement about a new ETS and the creation of a social climate fund (SCF),” tweeted Esther de Lange, vice chair of the European People’s Party and a key climate lawmaker.
Touted as the cornerstone of Europe’s climate efforts, reforming the Emissions Trading System (ETS) is key to achieving the goal of slashing 55 percent of CO2 emissions by 2030 from 1990 levels.

Facing headwinds at home, Europe and Japan are pushing waste-to-energy technology across South East Asia
There are more than 100 waste-to-energy projects recently constructed, being built or planned in the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand that often involve European or Japanese companies. But they are attracting local opposition over their green credentials. Freelance journalists Nithin Coca, Alexandra Buba, Geela Garcia and Nicha Wachpanich report.

16 December
3 innovations that will help achieve a technology-led transition
The journey to a carbon neutral world will not be possible without technology.
Both public and private sectors must back innovation in areas such as energy conservation and sustainable fuel.
Innovation has already led to advances in renewable aviation fuel, low global warming molecules and sustainable buildings.
(WEF) We cannot advance sustainability pledges at a national level without innovation from the private sector. Organizations are already working across a vast portfolio of sustainability-focused technologies, from innovative systems to make urban infrastructure smarter and less energy intensive, to decarbonization offerings and solutions for harnessing alternative fuel sources such as hydrogen and renewables.

13 December
U.S. touts fusion breakthrough as one of ‘most impressive scientific feats’ this century
It will still take at least “a few decades” to turn the laboratory breakthrough into a viable source of energy for people and businesses, one Energy Department official said.
U.S. scientists have scored a breakthrough in fusion technology, showing for the first time that humans can wield the technology in a controlled reaction that combines atoms to create a net increase in energy, a major breakthrough that could eventually lead to a new source of clean, inexpensive power.

2 December
Global energy efficiency progress is accelerating, signalling a potential turning point after years of slow improvement
(IEA) Government ambition on efficiency has grown in 2022 as fuel prices soared, with many major policies, spending commitments and public campaigns launched

12 October
Trade and Sustainability Discussions at WTO Approaching Next Milestone
Following a ministerial statement in 2021, TESSD participants, under the coordination of Canada and Costa Rica, have stepped up their work plan on trade and sustainability-related issues earlier this year.
(IISD) … TESSD participants, established four informal working groups, which cover trade-related climate measures, environmental goods and services, circular economy – circularity, and subsidies.
A high-level stocktaking event in December will likely lead to three outcomes: a summary document informed by the working groups’ efforts; a statement by the co-convenors; and a list of possible TESSD deliverables for MC13.

31 August
How the Baltic Sea Countries Can Shield Europe from Russia’s Energy Weapon
For centuries, the Baltic Sea has been the scene of international conflicts and rivalry. Today, however, eight of the region’s countries are members of the European Union and are determined to increase their energy cooperation in order to neutralize the Kremlin’s main source of geopolitical leverage over Europe.
Russia’s use of energy as a political and economic weapon has put the countries around the Baltic Sea on the frontline of the international energy crisis. But by strengthening energy security, phasing out Russian fossil fuels, and increasing our offshore wind power capacity seven times in just eight years, the region’s countries will play a key role in shielding Europe from Russia’s energy weapon.
…the Baltic Sea Energy Security Summit, held in Denmark this week, brought together the President of the European Commission, the EU Energy Commissioner, Prime Ministers, Presidents, and Energy Ministers from Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark.
Baltic Sea Energy Security Summit taking place in Denmark

30 August
‘It’s getting extremely hard’: climate crisis forces China to ration electricity
(The Guardian) The disruptions are being felt all over the country, with cross-regional business activities and supply chains being hit in various ways. The price of commodities such as silicon metal has risen due to the power restrictions, and there are growing concerns about a shortage of automobile parts in Shanghai for companies including the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation and Tesla.

Over the past week the Guardian has put much of its own energy (pun intended) into the enormous hike in UK energy prices: the impact on those struggling; the likely economic upshot; the supernormal profits of energy companies that underlie a broken market. A power vacuum caused by the never-ending Tory leadership contest has not helped.

28 June
G7 Leaders’ Communiqué
Sustainable Infrastructure
46. Building on our commitments in Carbis Bay, we have further shaped and implemented our Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) as a joint offer to narrow the investment gap for sustainable, inclusive, climate resilient, and quality infrastructure in emerging markets and developing countries, based on intensified cooperation, democratic values, and high standards. We will mobilise the private sector for accelerated action to this end. Over the last year we have made concrete progress in fostering investments in local vaccine and medicine production as well as on Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETPs) in emerging markets and developing countries. We launched the first JETP with South Africa at COP26 and welcome the progress set out in the update to Leaders and are currently working towards further JETPs with India, Indonesia, Senegal, and Vietnam. Building on these important steps we underscore our commitment to country-led partnerships in close dialogue with interested partner countries, aligning with existing initiatives and using existing coordination mechanisms.
47. We will continue to operationalise, implement, and promote high international standards for transparency, good governance, environmental, and climate as well as financial and debt sustainability, such as the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment. We call on all international public and private actors to further align and join our efforts towards putting these standards into practice at policy and operational levels, strengthening the necessary capacities and improving enabling environments.
48. Recognising the importance of mobilising private capital for sustainable infrastructure and the key role of Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) and Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) in leveraging private capital and shaping and implementing country-led partnerships, we will further intensify dialogue and joint action with interested partners, in particular MDBs, DFIs and private investors, to better align efforts and consolidate a pipeline of bankable projects including flagship projects reflecting G7 collaboration to narrow the infrastructure gap and drive transformational progress globally.
49. Building on our initiatives and strong commitment, and using all financial instruments at our disposal, we aim at collectively mobilising up to USD 600 billion in public and private investments with a particular focus on quality infrastructure over the next five years. We welcome the Joint Action Proposal of the MDB/DFI Expert Group on Infrastructure and Investment, and look forward to a concrete proposal for developing an investment platform for sustainable infrastructure projects by the end of the year. We also welcome further steps to deepen collaboration among MDBs and DFIs, by pooling forces with a particular focus on project preparation capabilities and aligning support for policy and regulatory frameworks for sustainable infrastructure investments.
50. We welcome the Emerging Market Climate Action Fund as an example of a concrete innovative and market-led approach to mobilise private investments for climate relevant infrastructure and to enhance multilateral finance and collaboration.
Sustainable Development
51. Recognising the particular strain multiple crises have put on developing countries we reaffirm our strong commitment to put the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda at the center of our agendas to mainstream sustainable development across all policy priorities. We will accelerate our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 by mobilising all sectors and levels of society.
52. We will spare no effort to increase global food and nutrition security and to protect the most vulnerable whom the food crisis threatens to hit the hardest, as laid out in our Statement on Global Food Security.
53. Guided by the objectives of the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063, we are determined to deepen our partnerships with African countries and organisations in compliance with multilateralism and the rules-based international system. We reiterate our support to initiatives to strengthen the business environment and sustainable infrastructure investments in Africa.
54. With the support of our partners we have made significant progress towards and are approaching the targets agreed last year by the G7 and G20 to complement the 2021 general SDR allocation for countries most in need, especially in Africa, including through voluntarily channelling SDRs or budget loans, to reach a total global ambition of USD 100 billion. We call on others to join us in the endeavour to increase the amount of total support to the most vulnerable countries, including through pledges to the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust and Resilience and Sustainability Trust. We welcome the independent review of the Multilateral Development Banks’ capital adequacy frameworks. We call on MDBs to urgently assess how to step up their policy and financial support, and maximise the pace of their disbursement, including of USD 170 billion committed by the World Bank Group to respond to the current crisis, to help vulnerable countries and households in response to compounding crises while preserving their credit ratings.
55. In the spirit of feminist development, foreign and trade policies and to empower women and girls, we will strengthen the rights, resources and opportunities for women and girls in all their diversity in every sphere. We are deeply concerned about the deepening learning crisis generated by emerging conflicts and chronic emergencies worldwide, particularly for the most marginalised learners, and stand steadfast in our commitment to protecting and prioritising girls’ education.
56. Cities are places of diversity and identity, exchange and integration, creativity, and solidarity. They are crucial to driving prosperity and ensuring equal opportunities for all. We acknowledge the significant role of cities, their associations, and networks as actors in our transformation towards sustainable development. We commit to foster exchange among and with cities. We task our relevant Ministers to develop a joint understanding of good urban development policy to be adopted at the first ever G7 Ministerial Meeting for Sustainable Urban Development, and to decide on joint initiatives for unlocking the full potential of cities to promote social, cultural, technological, climate-neutral, economic, and democratic innovation for the common good.
57. We endorse the Elmau Progress Report 2022, following up on our development-related commitments in previous years.

2021

30 October
Doug Saunders:The flaw in the foundation of the net-zero emissions plan? It’s right in our infrastructure’s foundations
(Globe & Mail) Getting to net zero by 2050, in other words, is best seen as a big, expensive global megaproject that is going to require vastly more cement and steel than we currently use – and that’s the optimistic scenario, the one where we do manage to prevent a climate disaster.
We need to recognize that part of that megaproject will have to involve governments directly helping these industries adopt new and expensive technologies, and fairly fast, because unlike the auto industry, they’re not going to find it profitable to do it on their own.
Building a green future, after all, counts for little if the building materials themselves are part of the problem.
June
THE CHALLENGE OF DECARBONIZING HEAVY INDUSTRY
Samantha Gross
(Brookings) Heavy industry makes products that are central to our modern way of life but is also responsible for nearly 40% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Steel, cement,
and chemicals are the top three emitting industries and are among the most difficult
to decarbonize, owing to technical factors like the need for very high heat and process
emissions of carbon dioxide, and economic factors including low profit margins, capital
intensity, long asset life, and trade exposure.
Can we reduce emissions by reducing demand for these products? Especially for steel and cement, the answer is largely no
Many technologies that will be important parts of a net zero-energy system, such as transportation infrastructure, renewable power generation and transmission infrastructure, CCUS equipment, and
CO2 or hydrogen pipelines will consume large amounts of steel and cement. Plastics and other materials derived from basic chemicals will also play an important role in a low-carbon economy, including providing lightweight materials for cars and other modes of transport and insulation for efficient buildings. Additionally, developing countries will require steel, cement, and
chemicals to support their growing populations and increasing prosperity.
Wise use of infrastructure investment could increase countries’ resilience to climate change, but construction of such infrastructure could be an important source of emissions itself.
Ideally, recovery packages will include infrastructure investments and programs to green the industries that produce the raw materials for infrastructure construction.
It’s too early for green procurement standards in most cases, but assistance with pilot projects and new technology implementation would be a good use of recovery funding, as well as attention to green building practices in the projects themselves.

2020

10 September
How clean energy jobs can power an equitable COVID-19 recovery
Despite recent losses during the pandemic, clean energy jobs are projected to grow fast in the next decade. These positions offer equitable wages, promote transferable skills, and pose lower formal educational barriers to entry, making them crucial for the post-pandemic recovery, argue Joseph Kane and Ranjitha Shivaram.
(Brookings) This July, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden released his $2 trillion climate plan, touching on many interconnected themes, from clean energy to resilient infrastructure to environmental justice. But the plan’s emphasis on jobs was most apparent. “When I think about climate change, the word I think of is ‘jobs,’” Biden said in his announcement.
Investing in infrastructure and creating more jobs remain areas of bipartisan interest at the federal level, especially given their potential to stimulate the economy after COVID-19. Biden’s plan goes one step further by linking infrastructure job creation to climate action, specifically in the transition to a clean energy economy.
Mitigating or reducing greenhouse gas emissions is crucial to address climate change. A transition to clean energy is a big part of that, through shifting the country to clean energy sources, enhancing energy efficiency, and minimizing environmental impacts. Several federal climate proposals, including the Green New Deal, have aimed to accelerate this transition while generating more jobs, and Biden’s plan reaffirms the importance of social and economic equity. People, not projects, are the foundation for addressing an increasingly extreme climate.

24 July
After COVID-19, nations can tackle environmental crises by shifting priorities to sustainable development
Kai Chan, professor, the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability UBC
(The Conversation) A little over a year ago, in May 2019, a United Nations report on biodiversity made headlines for the bad news it contained: A million species at risk of extinction. The biosphere’s many contributions to people are being degraded by a variety of industrial activities and resource use. Freshwater, soils and a stable climate are all under threat and giving way to droughts, floods, zoonotic diseases and more.
Amid all the bad news, however, were bright lights. I was one of the authors of that report, and we found a way out of the mess, with the seeds of solutions sprouting all over the world. While the report delivered a jarring message that only transformative change could address the climate and ecological crises, it also laid out a pathway to sustainability.
After days of negotiations with 132 nations over the wording of the report’s summary, the other authors and I left Paris full of hope. Yet 14 months later, many nations already seem to have lost their way, focusing on restoring pre-COVID-19 economies rather than building resilient social and ecological systems for thriving sustainability.
We are often told we need more technology, innovation, investment and incentives for sustainability. In truth, we actually need to shift all four. And restricting damaging forms of technology, innovation, investment and incentives is often harder — but more important — than boosting desirable kinds.
Technology, for one, is not only a source of good. It is also an enabler of ever-increasing human activity and associated environmental impacts.

26 June
Bloomberg: To reboot their economies, local Chinese governments are going on a construction binge, adding coal power plants at an accelerated pace. The same impulse will likely result in new fleets of fossil fuel-powered generators along pristine stretches of China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” in Central Asia, Africa and elsewhere. China is the biggest financier of mines and power facilities in the developing world.
This could turn out to be a destructive legacy of Covid-19. For all its massive investment in renewable energy since the 2008 Olympics, China still burns half the world’s coal. And its search for post-Covid growth is likely to supersede considerations about the environment, given the risks posed by high unemployment and social discontent.
China’s seeming retreat on climate change sets up a new source of tension with the West, much of which is headed in the opposite direction. Britain hasn’t burnt a lump of coal for weeks—the longest uninterrupted period since the Industrial Revolution. Sweden and Austria have shuttered their last coal-fired power plants, and France is about to follow.
It’s a similar story in the U.S., where gas and renewables are now cheaper; many of the coal-burning power plants that closed down as the economy collapsed this spring will never reopen. Indeed, the U.S. is on track to produce more electricity this year from renewable power than from coal for the first time on record.
In many countries, investors are retreating from coal amid a social backlash, pushing up the cost of financing coal projects. A push toward teleworking in the post-Covid economy, the advance of electric cars, and consumer misgivings about air travel are all likely to accelerate these trends.

Why are pollinators dying?
“Insectageddon” has many causes.
(David Suzuki Foundation) Reckless use of pesticides and transformation of farmland into bleak, massive monocultures have displaced and harmed countless species. Coupled with the loss of natural habitat due to sprawling human-built landscapes and the changing climate, this is putting insects at risk, according to many experts. It is eerily similar to the “silent spring” scientist Rachel Carson observed in the 1960s when widespread pesticide use was killing millions of songbirds.
Why are pollinators important?
Insects make up two-thirds of all life on Earth. It is estimated that wild insects provide ecological services worth $57 billion annually. More importantly, these species are irreplaceable parts of the natural world. Insects are a key food source for birds and fish and play a vital role in forests and fields as decomposers. They also ensure that plants and crops flourish. Over three-quarters of wild flowering plants and one-third of the food we eat depend on insect pollination.
Dwindling bee and butterfly numbers should be a compelling enough reason for action, but the story of Canada’s pollinators is complicated by the European honeybee. It’s an introduced species, managed like livestock. They’re good pollinators, but many of Canada’s native bees are more effective, yet they fly largely under the radar.

17 June
Sustainable Development Starts with Children
By Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand and administrator of the United Nations Development Programme
The emergence of teen climate activists like Greta Thunberg is no gimmick. In fact, to galvanize climate action and achieve sustainable development, children must be put at the center of national strategies, and giving them a healthy future must be placed above all other concerns.
(Project Syndicate) Climate change is happening now. That was apparent in Australia’s recent unprecedented bushfires, in which 18 million hectares burned and an estimated one billion animals died. It was also reflected in India’s 2019 heat wave, among its longest and most intense in decades. And a warming planet is contributing to the global spread of dengue, a mosquito-borne viral infection.Yet, even as the clock runs out on our ability to avert a catastrophe, global climate action is not gaining the needed momentum. As Thunberg and other youth activists have underscored, it is our children who will bear the brunt of this failure, as they inherit an increasingly inhospitable planet.
Children are our most precious resource, and they deserve to live long, healthy, and productive lives. To determine how to enable them to do just that, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the Lancet recently convened a landmark commission – which I co-chaired, along with Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Minister of State in Senegal – that brought together 40 experts on child health and wellbeing.As the commission’s report – “A Future for the World’s Children?” – notes, the key is to invest in people while they are young. Evidence shows that hungry children have poorer health, worse educational outcomes, and earn less as adults. Children who are exposed to violence are more likely to commit violence. Conversely, children who receive proper nutrition, appropriate care, and quality education grow up to be healthy, productive citizens, who are presumably better equipped to raise healthy, productive children of their own.

2019

24 September
Food for Sustainable Development
Jeffrey D. Sachs , Angelo Riccaboni
(Project Syndicate) Feeding a planet of 7.7 billion people is no easy matter. Every person on the planet needs, expects, and has the right to a healthy diet. Every farmer needs, expects, and has the right to a decent livelihood. The roughly ten million other species on the planet need a habitat in which they can survive. And every business that produces, processes, and transports food needs and expects to earn a profit.
It’s a tall order – and it’s not being fulfilled. Over 820 million people are chronically hungry. Another two billion or so suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, such as a lack of vitamins or proteins. Around 650 million adults are obese, an epidemic caused in part by ultra-processed foods that are stuffed with sugar, saturated fats, and other chemical additives.But the problems go far beyond hunger and diet. Today’s agro-industrial practices are the main cause of deforestation, freshwater depletion and pollution, soil erosion, and the collapse of biodiversity. To top it off, human-induced climate change, partly caused by the food sector, is wreaking havoc on crop production. With more warming and population growth ahead, the crisis will worsen unless decisive changes are made.

Leave a Comment

comm comm comm