The European Commission has been taken to court by environmental campaigners including Greenpeace after its decision to classify nuclear energy and natural gas as climate-friendly investments. The EU’s list of investments approved to be labelled and marketed as sustainable is intended to be a guide for investors to support green technologies.
The gas and nuclear plants were not included in the commission’s original legislation, but were added in January 2022, a move which was met by controversy and protest by several governments, including Spain and Denmark. ClientEarth and other NGOs argue the inclusion of gas breaks the EU’s own legally binding target to achieve net zero by 2050. The campaign groups seek to reverse the decision and have stated an intention to elevate the case to the European Court of Justice if it is not resolved in 16 to 22 weeks. The commission has received formal reviews of the taxonomy decision and will respond in due course.
Sustainable aviation deal takes off
The EU has agreed on a new deal for European airlines to transition into use of sustainable fuels. The deal includes sustainable fuel targets to increase supply and demand of these fuels, which produce net zero emissions or produce less CO2 than petroleum-based fuels. With the new proposal aiming to drive market adoption of green aviation fuels, 2% of fuel supplied to EU airports must be sustainable by 2025. This will increase to 6% in 2030, 20% in 2035 and 70% in 2050.
With high air travel demands, the aviation industry is one of the hardest to decarbonise. The use of sustainable fuel can, however, act as a steppingstone in gradually reducing air travel’s carbon footprint, in transition towards zero-emissions aircrafts in the long term. Hydrogen, electric and solar powered aircrafts are currently in development and expected to enter into service in around a decade.
Despite the EU’s reported pledge of €2bn in support, there has been criticism from airlines around the financial costs of switching fuels. The deal will be effective once approved by EU countries and the EU parliament.
US funds to curb Amazon deforestation
During a Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate meeting, US president Joe Biden has announced plans to provide $500m towards the Amazon Fund over the course of five years. Some say the $500m will be insufficient on its own to make significant progress. Others argue this initial funding will act as a catalyst for more countries to contribute, and will bolster the credibility of the climate protection agenda.
Biden also announced a US contribution of $1bn to the Green Climate Fund, an initiative for the financing of clean energy and climate change resilience projects in developing countries. By doubling the US’s overall contribution to the fund, Biden shared his optimism on the possibility of limiting warming to 1.5C with “the right commitment and follow-through from every nation”. The Green Climate Fund has said that this contribution will support climate change mitigation, low-emission transition and climate-resilient development in the most vulnerable countries in the world.
Climate change exacerbates gender inequalities in agriculture
The FAO has recently warned that women face inequalities constraining their full participation in the agricultural sector. In its latest report investigating women’s participation in agrifood systems from production to consumption, it observed marginalisation in female workers’ roles and worse working conditions than men’s – described as “irregular, informal, part-time, low-skilled, labour-intensive and thus vulnerable”. The first of its kind in ten years, the report highlights a 24% pay gap between female and male farmers on farms of equal size, with climate change adding pressure disproportionately on women.
Besides having worse working conditions than men, women are also responsible for unpaid domestic responsibilities, such as cooking, child-rearing and cleaning for their families. This unpaid care also contributes to inequalities in labour market participation, limiting the opportunity for employment. The report stresses that urgent action must be taken to empower women and close gender gaps in agrifood systems. This will enhance the well-being of women and their households, reduce hunger, boost incomes and strengthen agricultural resilience.