Archive for the ‘Express 195’ Category

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is & Invest for Good!

Posted by Ken on July 28, 2013
Posted under Express 195

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is & Invest for Good!

As the saying goes: Put your money where your mouth is. That is exactly what is advocated by environmental champion Bill McKibben, as he calls for investors worldwide to divest from fossil fuel holdings. This demonstrates a strong commitment by investors to withhold support for the fossil fuel industry responsible for the much of the emissions of climate change causing greenhouse gas emissions.  Read more

Investors back away from fossil fuel assets and fracking

Long-term investors are divesting from fossil fuels and saying no to fracking. Is the writing on the wall for oil, coal and gas?

By Oliver Wagg in Guardian Professional (18 July 2013):

On his recent trip to Australia, climate activist Bill McKibben tried to persuade financiers to join his quest to rid the planet of fossil fuels.

Climate change disciple Bill McKibben, co-founder of environmental campaign group, underwent a baptism by fire on his June tour of Australia, one of the world’s largest fossil fuel producers and polluters per capita.

Having stepped off his plane from the US on to the set of the nation’s premier debate show, the ABC’s Q&A, McKibben spent the next day trying to convince Australia’s financiers to join his quest to rid the planet of polluting fossil fuels. Next stop – the Uniting Church of New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory – to say a big thank you for being the first church in the world to divest their portfolio of fossil fuel holdings.

Just as tobacco, alcohol and munitions have been shunned by church investment funds as sin stocks for years, polluting fossil fuels are now being targeted because of their substantial contribution to environmental degradation. The Uniting Church says fossil fuel industries exacerbate the “climate change emergency” and cause great harm. Divestment is the solution and is considered more effective than lobbying state and federal governments for tougher regulations.

This month, one of the biggest and most influential US church groups, the 1.1 million member United Church of Christ (UCC) announced a plan to divest its fossil-fuel holdings, making it the first major US religious body to do so. While its Australian counterparts have deployed a negative screen, whereby holdings in fossil fuel companies are simply excluded, the UCC calls for shareholders to “engage with fossil fuel companies, intensively search for fossil fuel-free investment vehicles and identify ‘best in class’ fossil fuel companies”.

By June 2018, a plan would be prepared to divest UCC funds in any fossil-fuel company, except for those identified as “best in class” – meaning those that are top of the class for mitigating the environmental impact of extracting and burning of fossil fuels.

A similar best-in-class approach is employed by big institutional investors. One of Norway’s biggest insurers and pension funds, the €60bn Storebrand, announced in early July the exclusion of 13 coal and six oil companies with exposures to oil sands to reduce its exposure to secure long-term, stable returns.

“There is too much risk in fossil fuel in the long run – at some point that is going to affect the valuation of the companies,” says Storebrand’s head of sustainable investments, Christine Tørklep Meisingset. “We’re a long-term investor – we have to be there in 30, 40 or 50 years time to provide pensions, which is one of the reasons we have been working in the sustainable investment space.”

Meisingset says identifying a sustainable fossil fuel company is in reality challenging, although there are differences in their performance over a whole set of criteria. “That’s what we use our sustainability ratings for – to gradually increase the quality of what we own. In addition, we screen out the worst performers in the high risk industries – many of the worst performers [in the energy sector] are coal companies,” Meisingset says.

One of the main challenges for large institutional investors such as Storebrand is the requirement to track a reference or benchmark index means it is often locked into owning assets that might otherwise be seen as unsustainable. Storebrand does not offer ethical funds, since the same sustainability standards are applied to each and every company and sector. “This offers an unprecedented level of security for our clients. No matter which fund or portfolio their assets are invested in, the same high standards apply,” Meisingset says. But Storebrand does screen out tobacco and controversial armaments.

Climate change campaigners praise Storebrand’s move. “This appears to be the time when the moral case for action is joining with the sober thinking that in terms of dollars and cents it’s good business to pull money out from the fossil fuel industry,” says US managing director Phil Aroneanu. “A bet on fossil fuels is a bet against a sustainable future.”’s position is that if the world burns more than 565 gigatonnes of carbon it will not stay below the internationally agreed limit of 2C of warming from pre-industrial levels. This of course has dire consequences for large producers such as Australia, which has proven coal and gas resources that would eat up around a third of the entire world’s carbon budget. backs divestment of fossil fuel assets, but what is often overlooked is it asks for a phased sell-down rather than an overnight sale. Indeed, most divestment plans have little financial impact on the individual fossil-fuel companies. That cannot be said of their reputations.

In a similar vein to Storebrand, Dutch bank Rabobank announced the exclusion of “unconventional energy extraction projects” – typically involving shale gas and oil sands – from its loans portfolio because of the environmental and social implications. The bank, which specialises in financing agriculture and food businesses, has declared fracking of shale gas risks water and soil contamination by the chemicals injected into the shale rocks to extract the gas. Its restriction on loans applies also to farmers who decide to lease their land to energy companies for extraction operations.

Fossil fuel executives are angry at some of the statements made by both ethical and sustainable investors. As reported previously, the chair of the Australian Coal Association Dr Nikki Williams says claims about carbon bubbles and unburnable carbon by activists disregards many important factors. “So, if fund managers are looking to solid, long-term returns on their investments, then divesting from fossil fuel assets will not serve them well,” she says.

Yet even the largest Australian mining companies have already seen the writing on the wall. BHP Billiton has said capital expenditure will decline after 2014 as no new coal projects are planned in Australia beyond those that are already underway. Meanwhile, Rio Tinto has put about $3bn of Australian thermal coal assets up for sale. “This is not exactly a vote of confidence for the future growth of an industry,” UK researchers Carbon Tracker says.

Oliver Wagg is a freelance journalist specialising in sustainable business and investment, renewable energy and climate change science and policy


Carbon Neutral Copenhagen & Clean Energy Capital Houston

Posted by Ken on July 28, 2013
Posted under Express 195

Carbon Neutral Copenhagen & Clean Energy Capital Houston

As cities house an increasing proportion of human populations worldwide, their environmental footprint are set to increase accordingly. In anticipation of this, cities worldwide have moved towards greater sustainability, in energy and water use, emissions, and waste creation. Houston, Texas recently announced the purchase of over 140 megawatts of renewable energy over two years; while Copenhagen aims to be the first carbon-neutral capital city in the world. Read more

Houston becomes largest purchaser of renewable power in the US

By Nick Michell (18 July 2013):

Houston, Texas has announced the purchase of over 140 megawatts (MW) of renewable power over the next two years. The deal will make the city the largest municipal purchaser of renewable power in the United States, and in the top 10 overall, according to estimates by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

“Houston is already known as the energy capital of the world, but we are committed to becoming the alternative energy capital of the world as well,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “Purchasing green power reduces the environmental impacts of electricity use, decreases the cost of renewable power over time, and supports the development of new renewable generation.”

Houston’s purchase of green power will account for half of its annual electricity demand, using almost 623,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of green power per year, which is equivalent to the amount of kilowatt-hours needed to power over 55,000 homes each year.

The city has purchased renewable energy credits that are Green-E certified. Taking advantage of more cost effective and cost competitive REC (renewable energy certificates) prices, Houston has maintained a relatively flat power price while also increasing its percentage of renewable energy in its portfolio. The city has committed US$2 million for this 2-year agreement.

In addition to purchasing green power, Houston is also working to reduce its emissions. According to recent data published in the 2013 Carbon Disclosure Project report, the city’s emissions have realized a 26 percent decrease from the 2007 greenhouse gas emissions inventory.

Houston has committed and invested in many programmes that reduce cost, improve efficiencies, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Projects such as the municipal energy efficiency retrofit program, for example, which upgraded 6 million square feet of the city’s buildings to achieve 30 percent energy reductions, have helped Houston achieve and surpass its climate goals.




Copenhagen aims to be world’s first carbon neutral capital

CleanTechnica  (19 April 2013):

Copenhagen’s ambitious plan to be 100% carbon-neutral by the year 2025 continues to move forward. This plan, once achieved, will make Copenhagen the world’s first carbon-neutral capital. The City Council there, acting on the plan approved last August, will soon begin the first of several large-scale changes.

These changes include: replacing coal power with biomass, adding more wind and solar energy to the grid, improving energy efficiency, increasing bike use/improving infrastructure, and improving public/mass transportation systems.

Copenhagen, and more broadly Denmark, already possess substantial renewable energy infrastructure and capacity, and of course a strong cycling culture, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

With regards to cycling, 36% of all trips taken to work or school are currently via bike. These trips are taken over a 249-mile expanse of bicycle tracks. And during peak travel times, more than 20,000 cyclists, on average, enter the city every day. That’s all pretty impressive, but with some infrastructure improvements, those numbers could likely rise much higher.

By the year 2025, the city is aiming for 75% of all trips to be made either by foot, bicycle, or public transit. To achieve this goal, the city is implementing a variety of new infrastructure improvements/changes: “green wave” traffic signals set to the speed of oncoming bikes, 44 miles of new bicycle tracks (paved paths separated from cars and pedestrians by curbs), “angled footrests that enable cyclists to rest without dismounting at intersections,” improvements to existing tracks — making them wider, smoother, and better lit, and the creation of “bicycle superhighways.”

The first of these 26 planned bicycle superhighways opened just last year — an 11-mile link connecting Albertslund with Copenhagen. Two more are currently under construction, to be followed by a further 23 after that.

With regards to mass transit, the currently in construction “City Circle Line,” once completed, will put 85% of the city’s population within only 650 yards of a Metro station. That should provide a substantial boost to the Metro’s ridership once it’s completed in 2018, and help to take some cars off the road. And the city’s bus fleet is currently been converted to run on biogas. “The city projects that 20 percent to 30 percent of all cars and small trucks, and 30 percent to 40 percent of all heavy vehicles, will run on electricity, hydrogen, biogas, or bioethanol by 2025,” Yale Environment 360 notes.

With regards to renewable energy and energy efficiency, there is already substantial infrastructure in place. Wind power currently supplies about 30% of Denmark’s electricity. And there are “state-of-the-art facilities where waste heat from power plants is used to keep buildings warm via the world’s largest district heating network, or where waters from the city harbor are deployed to cool department stores, office buildings, hotels, and data centers.”

As a result of this infrastructure, Copenhagen has been able to reduce its emissions by 21% from 2005 to 2011. Currently, the city emits about 2 million tons of CO2 a year. “Earlier initiatives were on target to reduce emissions to 1.16 million tons by 2025. The new plan approved last year will slash CO2 emissions even further, to about 400,000 tons by 2025. More time will be needed to wean private cars from fossil fuels. So Copenhagen plans to add at least 100 wind turbines to the grid over the next dozen years, and wind electricity not used in the city will be exported to other parts of Denmark to offset Copenhagen’s remaining several hundred thousand tons of transportation emissions.”

“Copenhageners like the ambition, they like being part of the idea of going green for the whole city,” Copenhagen Lord Mayor Frank Jensen said in an interview with Yale Environment 360. “Our focus as a city, as citizens, is all about livability.”

Interesting to note, as the mayor mentions, is that many of the city residents themselves “are putting their own money into the low-carbon drive, half of the turbines in the harbor wind farm, known as Middelgrunden (pictured above), were funded by individual Copenhagen shareholders.”

That sort of personal monetary investment isn’t really present, to a large degree anyways, in many other regions, and will no doubt be very helpful in the fulfilling of Copenhagen’s ambitious plans.

It’s currently estimated that direct city investment in the 2025 Climate Plan will total “only” around $472 million, but with private funds factored in it could be as high as $4.78 billion, according to Copenhagen officials. “We can see that we have to invest a lot of money to reach the target,” Mayor Jensen told me. “But we can see also that we can create a lot of new jobs with that huge investment. Copenhagen can be a green laboratory for developing and testing new green solutions.”

“It’s a very ambitious plan,” he said. “But it’s also something we can do.”


Last Word: Why David Fogarty Stopped Reporting On Climate Change for Reuters?

Posted by Ken on July 28, 2013
Posted under Express 195

Last word

Why David Fogarty Stopped Reporting On Climate Change for Reuters?

Has Reuters fallen off the climate bandwagon? Can this well-reputed source still be trusted to produce fair and independent coverage of climate change? David Fogarty, formerly climate change correspondent for Asia, said he left the international news organisation earlier this year after being told climate change “just wasn’t a big story for the present” and his role was abolished. “Debate on some story ideas generated endless bureaucracy by editors frightened to take a decision”, said David, “reflecting a different type of climate within Reuters – the climate of fear”.  Read more

Note from the Editor:

I met up with David Fogarty this month and he confirmed what he said about Reuters, which was reported on The Baron blogsite.

He had earlier told me by email: “In the best traditions of journalism, I set up my own media consultancy in Singapore – -  focusing on working with clients with a real green streak. An NGO in Indonesia is also looking at hiring me for specific projects. I recently signed a contract with UNEP for ad hoc editing and writing.”

We have carried some of David’s reports in our newsletter before  – you can do a search and find them simply by entering David Fogarty and abc carbon express – and he was also nominated and elected to the Global 100 Sustain Ability Leaders list last year. – Ken Hickson

Climate change: Reuters says ‘no change’ in editorial policy

The Baron (17 July 2013):

Reuters is committed to providing fair and independent coverage of climate change that complies fully with the Trust Principles, the company affirmed after a former specialist reporter said it had become harder to get climate change stories published by the agency.

A Reuters spokesperson provided the following statement: “Reuters is committed to providing fair and independent coverage of climate change that complies fully with the Trust Principles. Reuters has a number of staff dedicated to covering this story, including a team of specialist reporters at Point Carbon and a columnist. There has been no change in our editorial policy.”

Thomson Reuters Point Carbon provides news, analysis and consulting services for European and global power, gas and carbon markets. Its 55,000 clients include the world’s major energy companies, financial institutions, organisations and governments in more than 150 countries.

David Fogarty, formerly climate change correspondent for Asia, said in a letter to The Baron on Monday that he had left the organisation earlier this year after being told climate change “just wasn’t a big story for the present” and his role was abolished.

“Progressively, getting any climate change-themed story published got harder. It was a lottery. Some desk editors happily subbed and pushed the button. Others agonised and asked a million questions. Debate on some story ideas generated endless bureaucracy by editors frightened to take a decision, reflecting a different type of climate within Reuters – the climate of fear,” he wrote.

Climate change

Here’s what David Fogarty wrote and it appeared in full in the The Baron on Monday 15 July 2013. It was also provided as a link on the ABC (Australia) Environment portal:

The parlous state of Reuters’ climate and environment coverage is baffling and a massive disservice to paying clients [■ New regime brings change of climate at Reuters]. Climate change has become one of the stories of the century and a top economic, political and humanitarian focus for the globe.

Financial clients from banks, insurance firms, miners, agricultural giants to central banks and power generators want news on climate change impacts and policy. They want the best scientific analysis on future impacts on changes in weather patterns, sea level rise and impacts on crops – i.e., food security.

Climate change touches every facet of human life and every economy. It’s a massive business story. Yet some people seem to view it only as a debate between climate scientists and paid-for climate sceptics and oil-industry lobbyists trying to promote business as usual.

Reuters’ senior managers seem oblivious to the wider picture. Climate change reportage is vital to the public and Reuters’ clients, the very people editors should be doing everything to retain as revenues falter.

President Obama gets it. Just read his latest ■ climate action plan.

The scientific community gets it. Obama noted that 97 per cent of scientists agree that the planet is warming and humans are a driver of that change; and that scientific evidence, “accumulated and reviewed over decades” tells us that these changes will have profound impacts on all of humankind. The World Bank gets it, so does the IMF, IEA and the United Nations.

Obama doesn’t need to look far to see the threat from climate change. From deadly wildfires, massive storms such as Hurricane Sandy, to monster tornadoes and droughts and floods, the past couple of years has been a record-setter for the US for weather extremes. It’s the same picture in Australia and miners, farmers, city dwellers and insurers have all been hit. And then look at Europe, Pakistan and China.

From very early in 2012, I was repeatedly told that climate and environment stories were no longer a top priority for Reuters and I was asked to look at other areas. Being stubborn, and passionate about my climate change beat, I largely ignored the directive.

It was a strange repositioning of editorial focus for Asia, which has some of the world’s top polluters and some of the greatest environmental challenges taxing economies and governments.

In April last year, Paul Ingrassia (then deputy editor-in-chief) and I met and had a chat at a company function. He told me he was a climate change sceptic. Not a rabid sceptic, just someone who wanted to see more evidence mankind was changing the global climate.

Progressively, getting any climate change-themed story published got harder. It was a lottery. Some desk editors happily subbed and pushed the button. Others agonised and asked a million questions. Debate on some story ideas generated endless bureaucracy by editors frightened to take a decision, reflecting a different type of climate within Reuters – the climate of fear.

By mid-October, I was informed that climate change just wasn’t a big story for the present, but that it would be if there was a significant shift in global policy, such as the US introducing an emissions cap-and-trade system.

Very soon after that conversation I was told my climate change role was abolished. I was asked to take over the regional shipping role and that I had less than a week to decide.

I decided it was time to leave.

By far one of the most bizarre climate e-mail exchanges occurred on 30 October regarding Hurricane Sandy. I offered to kick-off a story from Asia leading on the storm’s impact on public opinion on climate change, given it occurred a week before presidential elections and was the type of storm climate scientists say we should expect as the planet warms. There was a huge amount of commentary to draw on from other media and commentators.

A senior Top News editor in Asia shot down the idea saying “climate change is one of those topics that can get people’s backs up”. Michael Stott, the Europe, Middle East and Africa regional editor in London, in turn, shot down that editor’s view and urged the story to be written, saying: “Many other media will follow this trail – it’s an obvious angle and one we should explore”.

Reuters in the US did the story, about 48 hours later than everyone else, despite reporters there itching to get a story out sooner.

Since I’ve left, I’ve lost count of the number of people who have asked me why Reuters’ climate change coverage has changed in tone and fallen in volume. That’s a good question for David Thomson, who is very keen to unlock value for his family’s acquisition of Reuters. He could do worse than restoring much needed resources to the climate and environment file to better serve clients and rebuild the Reuters brand. The Guardian and others have done well in this arena and capitalised on Reuters’ decision to abandon climate and environment reporting leadership.

One other thing. Climate change-linked issues can win Pulitzer Prizes. Just ask ■ InsideClimate News, three of whose reporters won a Pulitzer in April.

David Fogarty

New regime brings change of climate at Reuters

12 July 2013:

Winds of change are blowing through Reuters’ environmental coverage. One of its three regional environment correspondents “is no longer with the company” and the other two have been ordered to switch focus, people inside the agency say.

A perceptible shift in Reuters’ approach to the global climate change story has attracted international attention. Scientists and climatologists as well as non-governmental and international environment bodies have detected a move from the agency’s straight coverage towards scepticism on the view held by a vast majority of scientists that climate change is the result of human pollution of the atmosphere and environment. They see generally fewer stories on the issue. Some say they have been taken aback by Reuters’ new direction and are concerned that this could contribute to a change in government and public perceptions of climate change.

The three regional environment correspondents – one each reporting on the Americas, Asia, and Europe, the Middle East and Africa – typically covered climate policy, climate science, carbon markets and energy policies and impacts on energy firms, international climate negotiations, deforestation, and climate change impacts on agriculture.

The specialist correspondent for Asia was Singapore-based David Fogarty, who was transferred to more general news reporting before he left earlier this year after two decades with the company including four years on the Asia climate change beat. His opposite numbers in the other two regions are Alister Doyle, based in Oslo from where he has written about the environment for a decade, and Deborah Zabarenko, based in Washington from where she has reported on the environment and climate change since 2006.

Typical of the new focus of environment reporting – insiders say editors and sub-editors have also been steered in the new direction – was a story earlier this year headed Climate scientists struggle to explain warming slowdown. It reported that some experts were saying their trust in climate science had declined because of many uncertainties.

A blog posting on The Guardian website challenged the premise of the report and said warming was in fact speeding up. It asked Why is Reuters puzzled by global warming’s acceleration? The Guardian said: “We often hear from the media that the (surface air) warming has slowed or paused over the past 15 years. This isn’t a puzzle; climate scientists are well aware of several contributing factors, as a recent Reuters article… eventually discussed. The accelerated warming of the oceans is likely the main contributor.”

Criticism of the Reuters story was taken up across the blogosphere. Comments contributed to some of these postings said the writer of the story under whose byline it was issued should not be blamed for its tone as the edited version on the Reuters service may well have been substantially altered from the original.

Insiders say internal discussion over Reuters’ new direction came to a head two weeks ago in an “open disagreement” between the editor for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Michael Stott, and the new managing editor, Paul Ingrassia, who was moved to London from New York in April.

Ingrassia, who was recruited to Reuters in 2011 as deputy editor-in-chief, had been a long-time motor industry writer for The Wall Street Journal and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for his reporting of a management crisis at General Motors. He said in April that his new appointment to London put him at “the geographic centre” of the news operation.

The result of the reported row was Stott’s abrupt dismissal after a 25-year, high-profile career with Reuters. The two editors had differed previously about a global warming story that quoted climate scientists at the time of Hurricane Sandy in New York last October. Stott himself is saying nothing about the circumstances of his departure.