It is perhaps an indication of the maturing of the conversations around business tackling emissions and the route to a net zero position that some of the focus is shifting from whether companies have such plans to the credibility of their ambition. A new piece of research from leading financial services provider EY says that of the 78 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange’s FTSE100 that have public net-zero by 2050 intentions, the majority do not have interim goals or other plans to drive the plans forward. EY analysed the climate change strategies of the companies against the UK’s Transition Plan Taskforce, which was set up to provide companies and other organisations with best practice guidelines.
EY says that the most commonly omitted details are around business planning adaptation around finances and operational processes. Five companies were found by EY to comply with the taskforce’s recommendations. The UK government had announced in late 2021, around the Glasgow COP26 meetings, that big companies in high-emitting sectors would be the first to be mandated to produce net-zero transition plans. When this mandate will come into force is unclear, with a decision not expected until the second half of 2023.
EU agrees 42.5% 2030 renewables target
The EU has finalised its draft energy directive, with a headline target of renewables accounting for 42.5% of the bloc’s energy mix by 2030. This is a doubling of the current proportion of renewables and is in line with the EU’s target of a net reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 55% by 2030. Also in the directive are provisions for faster planning processes for renewable energy projects and targets for building emissions. Some EU member states had been pushing for a 45% renewables target by 2030, others preferred to stick at the previously agreed 40%. In the end a halfway compromise was agreed. There was also agreement on how hydrogen produced using low-carbon nuclear power would be treated under the directive.
There was some concern that the revised directive will allow for continued use of biofuels from soy and palm oil – with associated deforestation risks. The European parliament had called for an immediate phase-out of the palm oil and soy derived fuels, but this was watered down to a review by the European commission into soy and an assessment of the pace that palm oil can be removed from the fuel mix.
Aldi’s fresh food certification ambition
European food retailer Aldi has announced an ambition for all its UK fresh produce to be certified to the LEAF – Linking Environment and Farming – label by the end of 2023. The LEAF scheme is one of the biggest certification schemes for farmers in the world, with programmes for fruit and vegetables, other arable and livestock. The scheme is aiming to cover 85% of UK-grown fruit and veg by 2026.
Aldi was among the big UK food retailers signing up to a new net-zero collaborative action plan, which will be facilitated by WWF and WRAP. Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons, the Co-op and Marks & Spencer are the others involved in the scheme that aims to standardise approaches to carbon measurement. Currently the brands use a variety of methods, with common suppliers typically being asked for the same information in a variety of slightly different ways. Under the new plan, the retailers will work with their main common suppliers, using WRAP’s scope 3 emissions measurement protocols. The retailers intend to collectively identify and address challenges that are too complex to be tackled unilaterally.
US to Mexico waste colonialism
What to do with post-consumer waste, particularly plastic waste, is a complex challenge. The practice of developed economies shipping waste to be processed and recycled in other parts of the world has been around for some time. A row over so-called waste colonialism has been picked up by news non-profit Grist, reporting that US cities, including Phoenix in Arizona, which recently hosted the Super Bowl, are boasting green credentials because they are sending large quantities of plastic waste to facilities in Mexico, rather than trying to cut down on the waste in the first place. The plastics industry in the US has been coming under increasing criticism for continuing to push for ever more recycling in the face of skyrocketing amounts of plastic waste, particularly using materials that are typically not part of mainstream recycling programmes.
There are also concerns that the increasing shipment of plastic waste from the US to Mexico risks contravention of the Basel Convention that regulates the trade in plastic waste. In particular, it is against the provisions of the convention for waste to cross borders unless it is free of contamination and destined to be recycled in a sound manner. For example, bales of PET plastic that contain more than 2% of other plastic, paper or anything else, would be banned. The row will no doubt rumble on, but whatever the outcomes the truth remains that we can’t just recycle our way out of the plastics waste crisis.