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State of the Planet: The EU is Back – Air Quality Success – Pigeon Air Patrol – Thin Ice

Germany's Angela Merkel arrives at the 17 March 2016 EU summit in Brussels. Photo: European Council
Germany's Angela Merkel arrives at the 17 March 2016 EU summit in Brussels. Photo: European Council

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 18 March 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

It’s Earth Hour tomorrow.

The Daily Planet has 9 fun ways for you to participate in the annual 60-minute global event.

The EU is back! Well, kind of at least.

Following two weeks of worry about a lapse in European climate change leadership – and last week’s ground breaking US-Canada climate agreement – climate change is at least back on the EU agenda. Earlier this week, it was still feared that climate change would not be discussed at this week’s European summit. But Business Insider reported yesterday that the prime ministers and presidents would discuss climate change after all.

Europe will still ratify the Paris Agreement on time.

In statement late last night, European leaders said they look “forward to the signature of the Paris Agreement in New York on 22 April.” It also says the EU and its member states should be able to ratify the Paris Agreement as “soon as possible and on time.” But will Europe ramp up its climate change legislation to meet the targets agreed in Paris? The proof will be in the pudding, and many climate action leaders will sound the alarm bells and make their case in the days and weeks ahead.

Although last night’s statement focused on previously agreed emissions reductions, renewable energy and efficiency targets, it also mentions the “remaining proposals.”

This is legislation EU leaders had already agreed was needed but which hasn’t been fleshed out yet – possibly leaving the door open for those to be strengthened before they “swiftly engage the legislative process.” But Poland in particular could prove a reluctant parter, more about that in the final item of this week’s State of the Planet.

The success of Europe’s air quality policies has unmasked the true extent of the rise of Arctic temperatures.

Because air quality has increased drastically over the last decades, part of the masking effect of polluting particles has been reduced. This has revealed the true warming of the Arctic by greenhouse gases, the Daily Planet reports.

A very special Pigeon Air Patrol dominated the skies over London this week.

Start-up company Plume made headlines around the world this week with a very special way to measure air quality over London. The French entrepreneurs behind Plume strapped small backpacks with sensors to a flock of pigeons, and sent them across the city to gather air pollution data, CNN, the Guardian, Huffington Post and many others report. Plume is supported by Climate-KIC.

Meanwhile, new “stunning” NASA data points to a “climate emergency.”

February smashed a century of global temperature records, and the Guardian newspaper quotes a scientist at the Potsdam Centre for Climate Impact Research (PIK) saying “We are in a kind of climate emergency now (…) This is really quite stunning … it’s completely unprecedented.” PIK is a Climate-KIC partner. The annual growth rate of carbon dioxide measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii also saw the largest year-to-year increase in 56 years of research.

The shortlist for the 2016 Guardian Sustainable Business Awards has been released.

IKEA, PricewaterhouseCoopers and SABMiller are among the nominees. Climate-KIC has been shortlisted for two awards.

The new North American climate change collaboration is set to further discourage offshore drilling.

Last week’s announcement by Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau comes six months after Shell pulled out of Alaska in a major u-turn. Vice reports that the US and Canada may be further raising the bar by making national and global climate goals a key consideration in deciding whether drilling activities move forward.

Canada’s prime minister says his country sees climate change as an “opportunity”.

Justin Trudeau called for world-wide investment in innovation, clean-tech and start-ups in an interview with Bloomberg. If you’re wondering what last week’s US-Canadian announcement looked like from behind the scenes in Washington DC, the Daily Planet has a story on how glamorous climate policy can be in 2016.

A major US supermarket chain is moving into solar energy.

The NASDAQ listed Whole Foods Market is going to install solar panels on nearly 200 stores, instantly propelling it into the top 25 solar companies in the USA.

Scotland’s climate change progress is “Exemplary” UN climate change secretary Christiana Figueres has said.

She praised Scotland for its progress on climate change, the BBC reports. The UK government has also confirmed the “net-zero emissions” goal from the Paris climate summit will be enshrined in national law. The country’s current goal of an 80 per cent reduction by 2050 will be tightened to a carbon neutral target, Business Green reports. The UK’s new budget, however, was criticised for not taking into account the climate change goals, Bloomberg reports.

The photo of the week goes to… “Fossil Fuels On Thin Ice.”

Soon on Ice Road Truckers? REneweconomy reports about a photo that went viral this week and shows a fuel truck sinking through melting ice on the Arctic Circle, following the hottest February on record. The daring driver reportedly escaped unharmed.

The Délįne Ice Road crossing is closed. RCMP and ENR are on scene. The public is asked to remain clear of this area…

Posted by Environment and Natural Resources – Sahtu Region on Saturday, March 5, 2016

London might soon have a low-carbon business district.

The area will “accelerate the development of the next generation of smart businesses that achieve success whilst minimising waste, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions,” so says Richard Templer, director of Innovation at the Grantham Institute. The first step in creating the district would be the launch of a global cleantech exhibition and festival in 2018, according to Imperial College’s website. Imperial College and the Grantham Institute are Climate-KIC partners.

Some of the visitors to the 2018 global cleantech exhibition in London will likely be flying on biofuel.

United Airlines is the first US airline to introduce biofuel in its passenger jets. The company has started with flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco and has plans to expand further, the Washington Post reports. KLM, a Climate-KIC partner, has already experimented with transatlantic biofuel flights.

The indigenous peoples of the Arctic regions have long argued they are the first to experience and suffer from the effects of climate change.

They also possess a wealth of traditional knowledge, and new research will now document that, the Toronto Star reports. A Canadian province also announced an investment of $13 million in microgrids to help indigenous communities reduce reliance on diesel fuel.

Bill Gates was interviewed on Reddit this week, the Daily Planet was there to see what he had to say about climate change.

A lot of public and private risk taking is needed to lower the cost of clean energy he said. Gates and his wife Melinda also happen to be one of the power couples the Daily Planet recommends you invite to your climate change or cleantech gala.

Looking for something to fix?

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

  • A mud shortage is eroding California’s climate defenses. It’s threatening plans to block flooding from sea level rise through the restoration of wetlands in the Bay Area, where homes and office buildings are packed into low-lying areas.
  • The repeated storms that battered Europe’s Atlantic coastline during the winter of 2013/14 were the most energetic in almost seven decades, new research has shown. They were part of a growing pattern of stormy weathers which have the potential to dramatically change the state of beaches along the western side of Europe, EurekAlert reports.
  • The EU’s climate change policies are facing a major political challenge, new ideas are more than welcome in Brussels. How can we get all member states on board to develop a strong, coherent European response to the agreement made in Paris? Countries like Poland – where current governments are not interested in further strengthening climate change policies, present a problem – Climate Home reports.

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