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$1B Cleantech Fund Launched: This Week’s 15 Biggest Climate Stories

Bill Gates heads a new $1 billion venture capital fund for clean technologies. Photo: JStone / Shutterstock
Bill Gates heads a new $1 billion venture capital fund for clean technologies. Photo: JStone / Shutterstock

Things are moving quickly as our planet makes the transition to a new, clean economy. You want to stay in the loop – but you’re busy, that’s why we keep an eye on the headlines for you!

Welcome to the 13 December 2016 edition of the Daily Planet’s weekly State Of The Planet with some of the biggest stories about climate change this week. Don’t hesitate to send your tips and comments to @peter_koekoek or

1. This amazing NASA app puts the planet in the palm of your hand.

All you want for Christmas… is this amazing NASA smartphone app that visualises near-real-time planet-wide climate data from a fleet of Earth science satellites, the Daily Planet reports. Get it while NASA’s Earth observation programme still exists!

2.Bill Gates has launched a $1 billion venture capital fund to boost clean technologies.

Along with 19 other high-profile investors, Bill Gates has formed a new venture capital firm. Breakthrough Energy Ventures, led by Gates, will pour at least $1 billion into cleantech companies over the next 20 years according to TechCrunch.

According to the fund’s website, the new firm will focus on the challenges electricity, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing and buildings. Many of these themes broadly correspond to the focus areas of Climate-KIC, the EU’s climate innovation initiative.

The fund was launched in collaboration with Mission Innovation, the international initiative that commits 20 countries plus the European Union to double their clean energy research budgets. Mission Innovation was launched at the COP21 summit in Paris by the participating countries and a number of high-profile investors.

3. It has been one year since the Paris Agreement on climate change was adopted at the COP21 climate summit.

EU climate chief Miguel Arias Cañete marked the occasion with a tweet, reiterating that the accord is “irreversible and non-negotiable.”

China’s CCTV news quoted former French foreign minister Laurent Fabius who called the Paris Agreement a historic turning point in the goal of reducing global warming. In the US meanwhile, mayors are calling on the incoming president to keep the US committed to the accord according to PennEnvironment.

4. Climate action can prevent 120,000 deaths per year in the EU by 2050 from heatwaves alone.

“We have already observed an increase in deaths from excessive heat, flooding and storms,” writes EU health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis for EurActive. “As the population in Europe is ageing, and elderly people are more vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, this problem is expected to become considerably worse,” he says.

The commissioner calls for action against climate change and points out that the economic cost of heatwaves is estimated at €150 billion by 2050 unless something is done.

5. Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City say they will ban diesel cars by 2025.

Four of the world’s biggest cities have vowed to ban diesel cars from their city centres by 2025 in order to improve air quality, City Metric reports.

6. European and US Companies dominate 2016’s Carbon Efficiency top 10.

American and European companies dominate the top 10 in a ranking of businesses that emit the least amount of carbon per generated revenue, the Daily Planet reports. The rankings reveal that out of the world’s 2,000 biggest companies, the 1,000 least carbon-intensive have outperformed the 1,000 most carbon-intensive over the last five years.

7. The International Energy Agency has cut coal demand forecast for fifth year in a row.

Global coal use is flat lining as China continues to restructure its economy, according to Climate Home.

8. Experts say US clean energy innovation is moving forward despite Trump’s appointment of a fossil-fuel advocate at the Environment Protection Agency.

The American energy market has already shifted away from the most polluting fossil fuels, driven more by investors and economics than by government regulations, the New York Times reports. “Those market forces could make Mr. Trump’s promise to create at least half a million energy jobs a year in the nation’s coal mines and oil shale fields all but impossible,” the article says.

But without additional government policies the shift from coal, oil and natural gas will not be rapid or substantial enough to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, according to the New York Times.

9. Meanwhile, brand new Dutch coal plants are crashing in value.

The grim financial state of coal power stations opened in 2015 offer a cautionary tale to investors in countries like Japan and Poland, according to Climate Home. The Dutch government will unveil its coal phase-out plan before Christmas, following a series of delays according to an article on Greenpeace’s Energy Desk.

10. And the Dutch have announced €12 billion in renewable energy subsidies.

An “Energy Agenda” published by the Dutch government last week – which sets out how greenhouse gas emissions can be cut up to 95 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050 – highlights how subsidies would be phased out as renewables become more viable, Reuters reports.

11. Here are 5 climate action mayors to follow on Twitter.

A new global coalition of more than 7000 mayors wants to implement the Paris climate accord together. The Daily Planet helps you get to know some of them via social media.

12. The populist retreat from reason invokes ‘echoes of Galileo.’

Anjana Ahuja writes in the Financial Times how the astronomer was put under house arrest and forbidden from propagating his correct belief that the Sun did in fact not revolve around Earth. “For those struggling with poverty and joblessness, it is understandable that climate change might seem a frivolous addition to a hierarchy of concerns. But do not be hoodwinked into thinking science is the villain,” she writes.

13. Al Gore celebrates Europe’s climate action successes in his latest live broadcast.

Al Gore’s latest climate action telethon put the spotlight on a number of European success stories during a day-long broadcast.

14. ‘Want to bring back jobs, Mr. President-Elect? Call Elon Musk.’

Cleantech superstar Elon Musk “is arguably the one person in the nation more responsible than anyone else for generating a vision for the re-emergence of manufacturing in the United States en masse. And he is revered among most of his peers here in Silicon Valley and elsewhere,” writes Andrew Ross Sorkin in a piece about Donald Trump’s plans to reinvigorate the manufacturing sector for the New York Times.

15. Are you thinking about going electric in 2017? Here are 10 things to do to get ready for your first electric car.

If your family is not filled with clean air electric vehicle advocates, climate hawks and early adopters, you can always rely on Cynthia Shahan who helps you pick your first electric car based on her own experience in an article for CleanTechnica.

Looking for something to fix?

One of these stories may just inspire your next project:

  • Even a little global warming accelerates mass extinctions. That’s the conclusion of a recent study by the University of Arizona according to Deutsche Welle.
  • Giraffes are suffering from a ‘silent extinction’ in Africa. Drought and climate change are aggravating factors, Reuters reports.

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