News Press Review

State of the Planet: Electric Cars Go Mainstream – Renewables Surge – Paris Signing On Track – Millennials Want Action

Tesla unveiled its Model 3 electric car last week. Photo: Tesla
Tesla unveiled its Model 3 electric car last week. Photo: Tesla

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 8 April 2016 edition of the Daily Planet’s weekly State Of The Planet. Don’t hesitate to send your tips and comments to @peter_koekoek or

Is it an iPhone, is it an iPad? It’s a car! Some 325.000 people (and counting) just put down a deposit for a technology solution to climate change, shattering expectations. That’s big.

Tesla’s South-African born CEO Elon Musk thought the same thing, tweeting: “Definitely going to need to rethink production planning…” Climate change was front and centre at the presentation of his company’s new electric car Model 3 in California, which will sell for ‘only’ $35.000 in the US and is available around the world. Musk kicked off with:  “(…) the last time there was this carbon concentration was 11 million years ago, that was approximately when primates starting walking upright (…) the world was very different, we don’t want to return to that situation!”

“It stands to reason if a vehicle is spewing toxic gas, that’s obviously bad for your health,” he said. The Daily Planet thinks this is a fair assessment.

MSNBC reported yesterday that the number of pre-orders represents $14 billion in implied future sales, and that Tesla joked, at the end of a press release, “it would have written more on the subject, but needed to get back to increasing its Model 3 production plans.” The first deliveries are scheduled for the end of next year.

So what does Tesla’s success mean for the planet?

“Given the massive scale of the emissions problem in the transportation sector alone, Tesla can’t change the world fast or on its own,” an article in the Washington Post argues. However, it may be putting pressure on traditional car manufacturers to invest in electric vehicles, it suggests. At the Daily Planet, we like to think that it may also inspire a new generation of clean-tech entrepreneurs. Or as a writer at Slate puts it: Does it save the world? It’s a good start.

And what does it mean for Europe?

French environment minister Ségolène Royal has told Musk of her vision to transform France’s oldest nuclear site into a Tesla factory, so says the Guardian.

Who dares, wins,” she said, reportedly. Royal is said to be meeting Tesla management in a week.

Royale also says the Paris Agreement could enter into force in two weeks.

France’s Royal also said that more than 120 countries – about two-thirds of those participating – are ready to sign the UN’s accord to fight global warming, the AFP reports. At least 55 countries responsible for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions have ratify the accord for the deal to enter into force. Royal expects this will happen on 22 April at the official signing ceremony in New York.

New data: 21 countries have already decoupled the link between economic growth and emissions.

A comparison of GDP and emission data shows that 21 countries – mostly Europe and the United States – have managed to grow their economy while decreasing carbon emissions in recent years. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has already said that global emissions stalled in the previous two years, even as the economy grew, according to Carbon Brief.

Wind and solar are now crushing fossil fuels… two to one.

Bloomberg reports that while oil, natural gas, and coal are going through a period of dramatic downsizing, renewables have been thriving. Clean energy is now seeing twice as much global funding as fossil fuels.

In fact, the world has invested $2.3 trillion in renewables over the last 12 years.

With last year’s record-breaking investment of almost $300 billion in renewable energy, the world’s total investment since 2004 has now reached $2.3 trillion, the Daily Planet report. A graph shows how investment has progressed over the last 12 years.

China, meanwhile, is set to more than triple its solar power capacity in just five years.

Bloomberg reports the world’s biggest emitter of global-warming emissions is hoping to use solar energy as a means to help meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement.

Belgium has just become the latest EU country to quit coal power altogether.

Following last week’s white smoke from Scotland, Belgium has now become the seventh EU country to quit coal, joining Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Malta. Climate Home reports Portugal is also phasing out its coal plants, aiming for a 2020 end date. The UK and Austria are set to follow in 2025, and Finland at “some point next decade.”

Even the Financial Times thinks coal is dead, and that new fossil-fuel burning power plants will be left “stranded.”

FT associate editor and chief economics commentator Martin Wolf writes: “Virtually all new fossil fuel-burning power-generation capacity will end up ‘stranded.’” He points out that it makes no sense to build new fossil-fuel powered electricity plants when their life span will be decades, which we don’t have. They will ultimately have to be scrapped before their time is up, which will be a waste of money and not much of an investment.

“It is highly desirable to invest in research and development. It is a long-time scandal how little is invested in [renewables] R&D relative to subsidies to fossil fuels by governments,” he writes.

In Australia, luckily, it is becoming cheaper to stop new coal and gas projects every day.

The cost of stopping all new coal and gas projects in Australia has plummeted, the Guardian reports. It now costs 20 per cent less of what it was estimated to just 2.5 years ago.

Michael Bloomberg and some really big companies think climate risk information should form part of a business’ routine financial filings.

The recommendation was the main point made in a report published by a taskforce led by the media mogul and former New York City mayor. Members include companies ranging from mining giant BHP Billiton to the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Climate Home reports.

Some 12.000 years ago, Europe used to be free, wild and dangerous, an innovative nature documentary shows.

Whether you spend most of your time in an office, a workshop or laboratory – most of us can do with a little reminder of planet Earth’s natural beauty. If you can’t step out into it yourself, the cutting-edge cinematography and beautiful narration of French filmmaker Jacques Perrin may be the next best thing. The Daily Planet has the trailer of his latest film: “Les Saisons.”

The European Commission is set to crack down on waste.

The European Union’s waste and recycling laws will be backed by tougher enforcement by the Juncker Commission than seen under previous administrations, EurActiv reports. The six EU bills on waste, packaging, landfill, end of life vehicles, batteries and accumulators, and waste electronic equipment are knowns as the Circular Economy Package.

What’s the air quality where you are? Wherever you are, this is now just a tap on your phone away.

A French start-up has even managed to make it fun. The Daily Planet reports their app is easy to use and includes social feature that allows you to edit and upload your own photos to social media with “fancy air quality filters.” Check out this overview of 11 users from around the world who posted a photo of their city along with air quality data.

Canada and the US are set to follow through on their methane promises.

US and Canadian officials, including the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Gina McCarthy and Canada’s Catherine McKenna (both performed a happy dance for the occasion), are meeting this week to discuss the implementation of the recent agreement between President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industry by up to 45 per cent from 2012 levels by 2025,  the Guardian reports.

Millennial voters will eventually push climate change denying politicians towards climate action, says Bill Nye the Science Guy.

“I don’t think [the US Republican Party] can quite get enough votes without millennials. Climate denial is almost entirely generational. Only now and then do you meet a young person — nobody your age is a climate denier. Very few. It’s all old people,” the International Business Times quotes the American scientist and entertainer. Just last week, the Daily Planet showed you how Bill Nye explains climate change with emoji.

Great Britain is considering quitting the European Union, and going it alone.

But the UK would miss out on substantial energy and climate change benefits if it would. Climate diplomacy and energy policy experts at E3G and the Green Alliance have published key evidence to support that.

Can a shocking climate change video be hilarious?

If you thought the Daily Planet’s Leonardo DiCaprio April Fools’ joke was amusing, don’t miss this 2015 prank by a US advocacy group.

The Daily Planet wonders, will the UNFCCC’s Christiana Figueres reserve Tesla Model 3 cars for her team in Bonn?

This is what Canadian software company Traction on Demand has offered to its 200 employees, according to a press release. Reserving a Model 3 involves a $1000 deposit. “We expect to see over 100 Teslas in the parking lot once the orders are fulfilled,” they told CleanTechnica. The company also confirmed 65 per cent of employees had accepted the offer.

“The purpose of the program is to inspire our community of employees as well as other purpose driven organisations to invest in sustainable technologies, like the Model 3,” they say.

As for Figueres: she seems to be a fan, so who knows! But Tesla may face some German competition from BMW

Looking for something to fix?

Some of these stories may just inspire your next business venture:

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