US Supreme Court limits EPA authority
In the most important climate change case to come before the US Supreme Court in over a decade, the court voted 6 justices to 3 in favour of West Virginia, a major coal mining state, and 18 other mostly Republican-led states. The decision has restricted the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants, including coal-fired, under the 1970 Clean Air Act. The court argued that the EPA lacked the authority to limit emissions across whole states, and that this should stay in the remit of Congress. The ruling represents a blow to the Biden Administration’s plan to decarbonise by 2035 and could have further implications for government agencies beyond the EPA. The ruling could have knock on effects, to limit the powers of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is currently drafting a new rule requiring public companies to disclose their Scope 3 Emissions.
India’s single use plastics ban
A national ban on 19 single-use plastics has come into effect in India this week. Brought in to combat worsening pollution, the ban includes straws, plastic cups and cutlery, confectionary wrapping, earbuds, and ice-cream sticks. A rapidly growing economy, India uses around 14 million tonnes of plastic annually, but lacks a comprehensive national system for waste management. The Modi government had initially planned to implement the ban in 2020, later postponing to give the industry more time to prepare; however, whilst plastic manufacturers are still appealing to the government for a further extension, FMCG companies including PepsiCo and CocaCola, as well as Indian companies Amul, Parle Agro and Dabur, continue to lobby for the exemption of plastic straws.
Alliance on Sustainable Cocoa
The EU, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, along with the cocoa sector, have announced an agreement to gear up efforts to make cocoa more sustainable. At the Sustainable Cocoa Initiative’s high-level ‘Cocoa Talks’ event, the parties jointly endorsed an ‘Alliance on Sustainable Cocoa’, a roadmap to improving the social, economic and environmental sustainability of cocoa production and trade. The agreement covers a set of concrete time-bound actions, aiming to halt deforestation and child labour, whilst improving the living income for farmers in the cocoa supply chain in West Africa. The Alliance has also pledged to help cocoa producing countries prepare to implement future EU legislation on deforestation and mandatory corporate due diligence.
SAC halts use of Higg index
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which includes 250 top fashion retailers, has paused it’s transparency program, which uses the Higg Materials Sustainability Index. This comes after the Norwegian Consumer Authority ruling that Norwegian outdoor brand Norrona must stop using the index for external communication, due to its often inaccurate data, which can then give false credence to sustainability claims around garments labelled with it. The NCA also warned that the H&M Group should stop the use of the index on its product pages. Among the issues with the Higg Index, according to the court as well as campaigners, are the outdated information it uses, and limits to its methodology. The SAC has announced that it will be commissioning a third-party review of the Higg Index’s data and methodology, and will work directly with its program partners to provide more accurate data.
Microplastics in beef and pork
New research commissioned by the Plastic Soup Foundation has found microplastics in beef and pork for the first time. Scientists at Dutch university VUA found plastic particles in 75% of the products that they tested, and in every animal blood sample. The scientists also tested animal feed pellets and found microplastics in every pellet tested – indicating, they concluded, that feed could be a possible contaminant route. Earlier this year, VUA researchers had found microplastics in human blood for the first time. The potential harm that microplastics can cause humans and animals is not yet clear, but the fact that particles are found to be in blood samples means that they have a route to travel around the body, potentially lodging in organs.
UN Ocean Conference
The UN’s oceans conference recently comprised of five days of discussions in Lisbon, Portugal, primarily focused on how to deliver on UN Sustainable Development Goal number 14, which relates to protecting life under water. SDG14 has been split into some specific targets including on sustainable fishing, reducing pollution and tackling ocean acidification. More than 6,000 participants from 150 countries took part in the Lisbon event, and adopted the ‘Lisbon Declaration’, which includes a series of science-based action points some of which are specifically geared towards helping the island nations most highly impacted by ocean health. In total conference participants made 700 commitments to protect national waters and develop marine protected areas.
Soy sector comes under pressure
Campaigning group Mighty Earth is maintaining the pressure on the soy sector with a new investigation that links soy-based animal feed used by suppliers to UK supermarkets with deforestation and biome destruction in Brazil. Mighty Earth says that 27,000 hectares of the Cerrado grassland biome have been converted to soy farms since mid-2020, in spite of an industry pledge from supermarkets not to buy meat linked to any ecosystem destruction perpetrated since August 2020.
Volvo to leave the EAMA over slow pace of internal combustion engine manufacturing ban
Swedish car maker Volvo seems set to leave the European Automobile Manufacturers Association by the end of 2022, due to a disagreement over how soon companies should cease the manufacture of vehicles with internal combustion engines. Volvo has committed to a 100% electric range by 2030, compared to the European Union’s proposed deadline of 2035. The Association’s view is that even 2035 was premature, prompting Volvo to state that its corporate policy is not aligned with the Association, and that it plans to leave. Volvo has stated that the car industry has a major role to play in deciding whether or not the planet has a chance to curb climate change.