News Press Review

France Shatters Green Bonds Record: This Week’s 10 Biggest Climate Stories

Collage: Daily Planet
Collage: Daily Planet

Welcome to the 31 January 2017 edition of the Daily Planet’s weekly State Of The Planet press review.

Catch up on the latest developments in the transition to the zero carbon economy with some of the biggest stories about climate change this week. Don’t hesitate to send your tips and comments to @peter_koekoek or peter.koekoek@climate-kic.org.

1. This refreshing data visualisation reveals where your city’s trees are.

Trees help keep cities cool and remove air pollution, but how much of your city is actually covered by them? The Daily Planet reports how a new interactive website lets you explore and compare trees in cities around the world. Launched last month, the tool crunches Google Street View data to visualise the aboveground portion of trees and other vegetation in a city.

2. European teams win Elon Musk’s Hyperloop competition in California.

Hyperloop teams from the Netherlands and Germany were the main winners at a competition organised by SpaceX this weekend. Out of a total of 27 teams from the US and around the world, the Europeans were among the only three teams to proceed to the final stage of the competition on Sunday (29 January) and successfully completed test runs with their scaled-down prototype pods in a 1.25-kilometre Hyperloop tube.

A team from Climate-KIC partner Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) won the main prize, securing the most points in total across all judging categories. The award for the fastest Hyperloop pod went to a team from TU Munich in Germany, a university very active in Climate-KIC’s entrepreneurship and education programmes.

3. Trump’s attack on climate science – and facts in general – is met with resistance in the US and around the world.

In a letter published by the New York Times, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists says it has moved its famous Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to midnight because of Trump’s “mistaken belief that the threats posed by nuclear weapons and climate can be ignored or that the words of a president of the United States do not matter to the rest of the world.

Environmental organisation NextGen Climate has created a copy of the climate change section of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website at saveourepa.com. Al Gore, meanwhile, is organising a climate change conference in February to replace a major national climate summit cancelled by Trump’s administration according to Inside Climate News.

Following the Women’s March, the next big march could be about science according to Climate Central. Organisers have already set up a website, a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

Scientists from around the world pledged support for their American colleagues. The Guardian quoted Robert Macdonald, a Canadian researcher, as saying: “One of the wonderful things that happened for us during our darkest days (…) was the support we had received from international scientists and from our brothers and sisters down in the States,” he said. “Now we’re there to stand with them shoulder to shoulder. We’ll be there for them.”

One way to stay informed about the latest developments in the United Sates is by following the dozens of ‘rogue’ accounts set up by staff at US government agencies muzzled by the new administration. Reuters reports how scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and other bureaus protest “restrictions they view as censorship” since Trump’s inauguration.

4. Europeans must “lead the free world“ on climate action says the president of the EU’s investment bank.

The president of the European Union’s multi-billion investment bank has called on Europeans to unite and lead the charge against climate change according to the Daily Planet. The fact that last year was the hottest year on record should “remind us that climate change needs urgent action,” Werner Hoyer said earlier this week (24 January) at a press conference in Brussels. “We Europeans must lead the free world against the climate sceptics,” he said, pointing to the “change in the world order last weekend,” a not so subtle reference to the change of power in the White House.

5. France has issued a record $7.5 billion in green bonds to boost investment in renewables.

Although France is not the first to issue so-called “green treasury bonds,” the French have issued far more bonds and with a much longer maturity date than others, Renewable Energy Magazine reports. The 22-year bonds were sold to banks, insurers and other institutional investors, according to the magazine. The proceeds go to investment in renewable energy projects and other sustainable initiatives.

“By becoming the first country to issue a sovereign green benchmark bond, France has confirmed its role as a driving force for the implementation of the (…) Paris Climate Agreement,” said Anthony Requin, CEO of Agence France Tresor, which manages French government debt, according to Renewable Energy Magazine. Climate-KIC helps cities issue their own green bonds through its Low Carbon City Lab programme.

6. Ireland has passed a law to become the world’s first country to fully divest from fossil fuels.

According to the Independent, the Irish Parliament passed the legislation in a 90 to 53 vote in favour of dropping coal, oil and gas investments from the country’s €8 billion investment fund. The bill forces the fund to sell its fossil fuel investments over the next five years.

7. Three gigantic Californian battery storage plants are going live this week.

The three installations – built by Tesla, AES and Altagas, according to Bloomberg – are all officially going live in southern California around the same time and will be used to store excess electrcity generated so it can be used when demand increases. This type of storage could replace gas plants used to deal with peak demand. Bloomberg says the projects “would have been the largest battery storage facility ever built. Combined, they amount to 15 per cent of the battery storage installed planetwide last year.”

8. A new interactive atlas puts a spotlight on the planet’s solar power potential.

A new web-based tool provides free access to accurate data about the solar power potential of your location – or any other part of the world, the Daily Planet reports. Not all places on the planet equally suitable for solar power, and that does not only include the amount of solar radiation that reaches the surface. The air temperature and terrain elevation may also impact how well solar equipment will fare in a particular area.

9. US solar power now employs more people than oil, coal and gas combined.

Last year, solar energy employed more than 40 per cent of the electric power generation sector’s workforce in the United States according to the Independent. All traditional fossil fuels combined only made up a little over 20 per cent of the sector’s employees according to the US Department of Energy (DOE).

10. General Motors and Honda team up to manufacture new Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology.

Mass production of the new fuel cell systems by the American and Japanese automakers is expected to kick-off in the US around 2020 according to Industry Week. The companies are investing $85 million each in the new joint venture.

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