1- Global CO2 emissions hit a record even as Europe’s decline
Global CO2 emissions reached a new high in 2022 due to the combustion of fossil fuels, particularly in emerging markets in Asia, according to data from the International Energy Agency. The report showed that energy-related emissions increased by 0.9%, surpassing 36.8 billion metric tons. Nevertheless, the European Union saw a decrease of 2.5% in emissions due to a mild winter, while China’s emissions fell slightly by 0.2% due to weakened economic growth, reduced construction activity, and COVID-19 containment measures. The US experienced a growth of 0.8% in emissions, mainly due to the exceptional cold weather at the beginning of the year. Severe weather conditions accounted for about one-fifth of the growth in emissions last year, and there was an upsurge in the demand for cooling, which is likely to continue with the increasing frequency and severity of heatwaves due to climate change.
2- UN agrees ‘once-in-a-generation’ treaty to protect biodiversity in oceans
After nearly 15 years of negotiations on a treaty to protect biodiversity on the high seas, the United Nations has signed an agreement that aims to counter threats to marine biodiversity and create a new body to lead conservation efforts and establish marine protected areas on the high seas. The agreement will also set ground rules for conducting environmental impact assessments for commercial activities in the oceans. Efforts to protect marine species, which often cross national borders, have been hampered by a patchwork of laws. The high seas have suffered from commercial fishing and mining, as well as pollution from chemicals and plastics. The European Union pledged €40 million to facilitate ratification of the treaty and over €800 million for ocean protection in general by 2023. The conference resulted in “341 new commitments” worth around €18 billion.
3- The climate benefits of a four-day workweek
The UK hosted the world’s largest four-day workweek experiment from June to December 2022, involving over 60 firms and organizations. The trial aimed to determine whether reduced work time would impact employee productivity and pay. The pilot was managed by 4 Day Week Global, a non-profit that had conducted comparable tests in the US and Ireland. The trial also sought to examine the four-day workweek’s impact on the environment by reducing carbon emissions and promoting eco-friendly behavior, as evidenced by a decrease in car usage and an increase in pro-environment actions. Nevertheless, some experts cautioned that a reduction in working hours could result in more environmentally harmful international travel.
4- Smoke from Australian bushfires depleted ozone layer by up to 5% in 2020, study finds
According to a study published in the journal Nature, intense and frequent bushfires can trigger molecules that demolish the ozone layer. Smoke from the Australian bushfires in 2019-20 has been found to have reduced the ozone layer temporarily by 3% to 5% in 2020, which may slow down the ozone’s restoration process. The smoke’s aerosols can activate chlorine to create substances that demolish ozone molecules, much like the process that leads to the formation of the Antarctic ozone hole every spring. The ozone hole’s recovery rate could be slower than anticipated due to the possibility of more bushfires occurring in the future.
Source: The Guardian
5- EU agrees to push for worldwide phaseout of fossil fuels at COP28
The European Union (EU) has agreed to push for a worldwide phaseout of fossil fuels at the upcoming COP28 climate summit in Dubai. The bloc sees fossil fuels as a vulnerability in the face of climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, and geopolitical risks. The EU emphasizes the need to peak fossil fuel use in the near future to reach net zero emissions, with a transitional role for natural gas. The EU also calls for an end to financing new coal infrastructure in third countries, as well as a global phase-out of environmentally harmful fossil fuel subsidies. This stance is a stronger position than the one taken at COP27, where countries failed to agree on a phaseout of oil and gas due to opposition from oil-rich nations. The EU’s position raises hopes that this year’s summit could lead to a comprehensive phaseout deal. However, the UAE’s appointment of an oil company executive as president of the talks may overshadow progress.
6- Paris Olympics 2024: Athletes to be kept cool without air conditioning in sustainability drive
Organizers of the 2024 Paris Olympics aim to cut emissions in half and have a positive impact on climate change, but environmental groups criticize this as misleading. Paris plans to limit construction using existing or temporary infrastructure and offer low-carbon menus for spectators. But according to independent watchdog Carbon Market Watch, this strategy relies heavily on carbon offsetting, which is problematic and does not address the real problem. To make the Olympics more sustainable, experts suggest reducing the size of the event and implementing independent sustainability standards.
7- Instituto Terra: Transforming Degraded Land into Thriving Forest in Brazil
Instituto Terra, an environmental NGO founded by Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado and Sebastião Salgado in Brazil, has transformed an arid and degraded cattle farmland into a lush forest through the planting of over 2.5 million native seedlings from 297 species of the threatened Atlantic Forest biome. The initiative, which started in the late 1990s, prioritizes community involvement and educational actions to promote sustainable development in the Doce River Valley region. The forest’s reestablishment has allowed for the return of endangered species such as jaguatiricas, demonstrating the success of the NGO’s efforts.
Source: Instituto Terra
8- The East Coast Whale Die-Offs: Unraveling the Causes
There has been a significant increase in the number of humpback whales stranded along the East Coast of the United States. These recent incidents have raised concerns about the impacts of offshore wind farm construction. Some wind farm opponents have attributed the strandings to research activities involving the use of sound waves to map the seafloor. However, scientists have rejected any evidence linking these events to the development of offshore wind energy. But these events have highlighted the complex nature of the ocean, the significant transformations the North Atlantic has undergone in recent decades, and the need to learn better about marine environments before deploying wind turbines in the region.
Source: Yale Environment
9- Silicon Valley Bank Collapse Threatens Climate Start-Ups
The failure of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) could have a significant impact on financing for climate technology startups, many of whom depend on the bank for loans to cover capital expenditures on factories and equipment. SVB was recognized for lending to fledgling companies, and the downfall could decelerate the rate of funding for startups. The fall of SVB also endangers a crucial source of financing for entrepreneurs trying to diminish carbon emissions, since other banks may not be eager to lend to startups that are pre-revenue. Many startups, like Sublime Systems, are searching for locations to establish plants, which will take years to construct and will be of small-scale, and depend on loans from banks such as SVB.
Source: New York Times
10- Biden administration approves controversial Alaskan oil Project
ConocoPhillips’ Willow oil project in Alaska has been given the green light by the Biden administration, despite opposition from environmental groups and nearby tribal communities who fear it will harm the pristine wilderness and contradict the President’s climate change goals. The Interior Department has approved three drilling sites at the project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, with Conoco expected to produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil daily and around 280 million tons of greenhouse gases over the next 30 years. While the project has been scaled down from Conoco’s original request, critics see it as a political compromise.