BNP Paribas does good
French bank BNP Paribas SA released A$140 million in green bonds as a reward to 100 companies on the Australian Climate Transition Index.
All of these eight year bonds pay a fixed coupon with a potential return based on performance of the index, comprised of 300 Australian companies expected to thrive in the transition to a low carbon economy.
The Australian Climate Transition Index, developed by BNP Paribas, ClimateWorks, ISS ESG and Monash University, is the country’s first equities index tied to climate performance and includes 40 per cent of the nation’s emissions.
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has already committed $60 million as a cornerstone investor alongside First State Super and QBE Insurance Group Ltd.
This is the latest addition to increasingly popular green bonds, estimated to hit $350 billion issued globally, as investors try to clean up dirty investment portfolios.
We’re beyond ideology now… surely!
From the UK comes something that should inspire our politicians to follow their British counterparts: the UK government has announced a $3.65 billion grant scheme for home owners to retrofit their homes for sustainability.
The Green Homes Grants scheme provides for between £5000, and £10,000 for low-income earners.
The AFR generously reports that think tank Beyond Zero Emissions recently “called for a similar scheme in Australia, as part of a Million Jobs Plan backed by Atlassian co-chief executive Mike Cannon-Brookes and First State Super chief executive Deanne Stewart”.
The paper quoted BZE chief executive chair Eytan Lenko saying, “the UK government is a Conservative government, and they clearly see the economic benefit.
“We are beyond ideology on this stuff now – it’s all about green jobs and growth.”
“There’s not any fundamental roadblock to stop this from happening in Australia. The fact that we’re seeing other countries do this means we shouldn’t feel like we’d be on the bleeding edge – it’s just keeping up with what other countries are doing in terms of economic stimulus.”
(BZE’s chief operations officer Heidi Lee on Wednesday moderated two of our sessions at Flick the Switch and is the subject of a podcast still in production.)
Sadly the nation’s leading (or only) financial paper went on to mention the pink batts scheme under prime minister Kevin Rudd, and the unrelenting campaign to brand it a failure, a campaign that one of the AFR’s own journalists called out as hogwash.
- See our article on this here, On myopic split systems thinking – and environmentalism’s struggle with racism
- And prime minister Kevin Rudd’s letter to the editor in response.
Goggle eyed at Google’s sustainability bond
Alphabet Inc, Google’s parent company, has leapt into the sustainability bond story in a typically impressive way, issuing US$5.75 billion in sustainability bonds at record low yields, the largest sale of its kind in corporate history.
To qualify, projects must fall into one of Alphabet’s eight priorities: clean energy, energy efficiency, clean transport, green buildings, circular economy, affordable housing, racial equality or support for small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
“The proceeds from these sustainability bonds will fund ongoing and new projects that are environmentally or socially responsible and enable investors to join us in tackling critical issues,” Alphabet chief financial officer Ruth Porat said in a statement.
“We believe that these investments benefit our communities, employees and stakeholders, and are an important part of fulfilling Google’s mission and goal of creating value over the long term.”
Microsoft commits to zero waste by 2030
Microsoft president Brad Smith not wanting to feel left out in the space has comitted to achieving zero waste for Microsoft’s operations, products and packaging by 2030.
The company will build new Microsoft Circular Centers to reuse and repurpose old hardware and data servers, eliminate single use plastic packaging and invest US$30 million into Closed Loop Partners, an investment firm dedicated to circular economy solutions.
By 2030, the company expects to divert at least 90 per cent of its corporate waste, manufacture entirely recyclable Surface devices, use completely recyclable packaging and divert at least 75 per cent of all project construction and demolition.
This is the third stage of Microsoft’s environmental sustainability initiative, designed to address carbon, water, waste and ecosystems.
US restricts plane emissions, or does it?
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a landmark proposal to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from planes, a first for the US.
These new regulations would follow those set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, a United Nations agency.
On the surface, this is a remarkable shift in policy given the Trump administration’s penchant for rolling back environmental protections, especially within the past few months.
However, environmental groups are speaking out against what they consider a toothless measure. Sierra Club chief climate counsel Joanne Spalding stated that these weak standards could actually set the US back from existing standards developed in 2016
“Once again, former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler is putting industry interests over the public interest in a safe and healthy climate by proposing a rule that does nothing at all to curb pollution from airplanes, on the heels of his rollback of clean car standards and in the middle of a pandemic.”
Irish Supreme Court holds government accountable for emissions plan
Last Friday, the Irish Supreme Court ruled against the government’s 2017 National Mitigation Plan, which allowed an increase in greenhouse emissions contrary to its 2015 Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act.
The case was brought forward by the environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment claiming that the Irish government was undermining its responsibility to cut emissions within the next few years.
The Court’s unanimous decision ruled that the government needed to more specifically identify objectives as to how it would realistically achieve a low carbon transition by 2050.
A spokesperson for Friends of the Irish Environment told BBC reporters that “governments around the EU have no excuse now” and the Republic of Ireland should “no longer make promises it will not fulfill.”
Worldwide coal shrinks for the first time
For the first time in recorded history, the number of coal fired power plants in 2020 has decreased around the world.
According to a report from the Global Energy Monitor, there was a 2.9 gigawatt decline in coal power within the first six months of 2020, with 21.2 GW retired over the 18.3 GW that began operation.
This fall came thanks to a major decline in India, strong pollution legislation in the EU and slow commissioning from COVID 19 pandemic though there were still significant increases in Chinese coal projects.
As historic as this moment is, there is still a long way to go when it comes to shutting down coal power with 189.8 GW worth of coal plants under construction with another 331 GW in planning.
Let us hope this historic first is not the last.