A new report from the International Energy Agency and the International Renewable Energy Agency concludes that the planet is not on track to decarbonise quickly enough. The Breakthrough Agenda Report 2022 assesses progress on emissions reduction in five key high emitting sectors – power, hydrogen, road transport, steel and agriculture. The report points out that global emissions need to halve this decade the limit temperature rises to 1.5C yet they are still rising. Serious collaboration at scale is necessary – without international collaboration the transition to net zero emissions could be delayed by decades.
For the agriculture sector, the IEA and IREA call for immediate improved access to finance for smallholder farmers in developing countries through increasing the flows of public finance and leveraging private finance. The report says that current agricultural practices are depleting natural resources as well as contributing over a fifth of global emissions. The flows of finance are necessary to cut emissions and to increase productivity and resilience. Overall farm emissions have increased 0.6% per year since 2000. The report calls for these to fall by around 20% by 2030 and for agricultural expansion to halt.
Solve food waste to cut prices
Food waste remains a major problem – not least in the EU where, new research suggests, 153m tonnes of food are wasted every year, 15m tonnes more than is imported into the bloc. In terms of wheat alone, the amount wasted in the EU is equivalent to around one half of Ukraine’s exports.
Curing on-farm waste could make significant inroads into food price inflation, according to the research from the Feedback EU group. Some estimates put the proportion of EU food production that’s wasted every year at 20%, worth 143bn, and responsible for 6% or more of the region’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Primark pulls out of Myanmar
Fashion brand Primark is set to stop sourcing from Myanmar following an investigation by the Ethical Trade Initiative into human rights and business conduct in the country, following 2021’s military coup. The ETI has found evidence of forced labour in Myanmar’s garment sector and has urged brands to cut ties with factories in the country.
The ETI also says that its typical business standards are not being met by the Myanmar garment sector, which means that human rights due diligence is not possible. Primark has undertaken to conduct what it calls a responsible exit from Myanmar –highlighting its consciousness of responsibility towards the workers whose livelihoods depend on the employment at supplier factories.
Barry Callebout cocoa 100% traceable by 2025
The world’s biggest chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebout says that it is on track to meet its target to be able to trace all the cocoa it directly sources by 2025, a key measure to prevent deforestation. So far 60% of the cocoa in the company’s direct supply chain is traceable to farm level.
The traceability of Barry Callebout’s indirect supply chain is something the company says it is working on. The new EU due diligence requirements are likely to require companies to show that all products, however sourced, do not impact protected forests.
Illegal practices still widespread in forest sector, says Chatham House
New research from Chatham House finds that the forest sector is still not making an effective contribution to sustainable development and that illegal practices remain widespread, contributing to high rates of deforestation and undermining rural livelihoods. The “Establishing fair and sustainable forest economies” report concludes that with the global climate and biodiversity crises becoming more evident, establishing resilient land and forest economies should be a priority. There has been, the report says, some remarkable progress in forest policy and governance in some countries compared with little or no progress in others.
Market access regulations and public procurement policy have helped to encourage more responsible practices, and more transparency and participation in policymaking have helped to improve management and oversight of the sector. However, despite the improvements in governance, in places there have been poor implementation of policy and institutional reforms. The Chatham House researchers put this down to weak institutions, entrenched corruption and the absence of the necessary political will, which may be down to a mismatch between national and local priorities. They call for a redoubling of effort to bring about further reform including enhancing transparency and institutional strengthening.
Air quality court action in Germany
A group of seven German citizens are suing the federal government over the levels of air pollution in the cities of Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf. They are using human rights legislation to claim that their right to be able to breathe clean air is being violated and the government is failing to protect their health. They say that they are having to breathe air that is up to five times more polluted that the World Health Organisation’s acceptable limits. The pollution levels are in fact in line with German rules, but the claimants make the point that the WHO’s safe level recommendations were cut in 2021 without a similar reduction in in Germany’s national pollution level rules.
Depending on how the case turns out, the courts could compel the German government to take action. Earlier in 2022, the advocate general to the European Court of Justice said that human rights legislation could be used by citizens to win compensation – whether more such cases will be raised elsewhere remains to be seen.
EasyJet drops use of carbon credits
The role of offsetting in the transition to a net zero economy was pulled into focus by the announcement from UK based airline EasyJet that it was halting its use of carbon credits to offset its emissions in favour of decarbonisation of its operations via more efficient aircraft, sustainable aviation fuel and other operational improvements. The airline has already arranged contracts for five years of sustainable aviation fuel and is making investments to optimise aspects of flight patterns to reduce fuel burn.
EasyJet has recently upgraded to new more fuel-efficient Airbus aircraft and is also working with jet engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce to develop the use of hydrogen as a fuel. Since 2019 EasyJet has offset 8.7m tonnes of carbon. The new measures will apparently lead to a 78% drop in emissions. What’s unclear is how the airline would cut the remaining 22% of emissions – so perhaps a return to the carbon markets is on the cards in a couple of decades time.