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EU cars becoming cleaner

The cars that drove off Europe’s production lines in 2012 averaged 132.4 grams of greenhouse gases per kilometre, down 3.4 grams (or 2.5%) on the previous year. The continent’s car manufacturers have to cut emissions to below 130g/km by 2015, and 95g/km by 2020, under current EU laws. Fiat, Volvo, Toyota, Peugeot-Citroën, Renault and Ford have all now achieved the 2015 target ahead of time. Fiat is the most carbon-friendly of the big players, with an average performance of 118.4g/km. The Italian carmaker is followed by Toyota and Peugeot-Citroën at 122.1g/km and 122.4g/km respectively. The figures are revealed in a new report – How Clean Are Europe’s Cars?  – by the European Federation for Transport and Environment.

Greener energy on the rise in China

Renewable energy and gas are set to become the “new normal” in China over the next decade or so, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). The analyst firm expects 88GW of green energy to be added each year between now and 2030, representing a whopping investment of about $3.9trn. Large-scale hydroelectric projects are predicted to make up at least half of the new generating capacity, effectively replacing coal as the primary energy source. Coal accounted for 67% of China’s energy mix in 2012. It is set to fall to 44% by 2030, according to BNEF’s calculations. That isn’t to say that China will reduce absolute consumption of coal. The Asian powerhouse is expected to add 38GW of new capacity per year to its coal-fired power stations over the next decade – that’s equivalent to three large coal plants per month.

Meanwhile, China’s State Council anticipates that the size of the “environmental protection” sector is set to grow by 15% each year between now and 2015. The Chinese government projects the market for waste disposal companies, electric vehicle manufacturers, recyclers and the like to reach 4.5 trillion yuan (£474bn) a year within the next two years. Under a new state-sponsored plan, companies will receive state grants for technological innovation relating to reductions in air, water and soil pollution.

Growth in investors’ climate interest

More than half (53%) of asset managers opted to divest out of shares or refrained from investing in such equities because of concerns about climate change. According to a wide-ranging survey led by the European Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change around seven in ten (69%) asset managers say global warming influences how they manage their investment funds. The figures show a huge increase on 2011, when more than two-fifths (43%) denied that the issue had an impact.

Cycling’s economic benefits

Not only is cycling a healthy, green way to get around, but it can also generate economic benefits. A study by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) claims that cycling saves European nations about €200bn a year. The majority of the benefits (€114bn to €121bn) come through lower mortality and reductions in public health costs. Tourism represents another big win, with EU countries gaining €44bn through cycling-related holiday activities. The bicycle industry itself generates about €18bn a year. Lower carbon emissions (€1.4bn to €3bn), fuel savings (€2.7bn to €5.8bn) and reduced air and noise pollution (€1.2bn) are among other benefits. ECF draws together 70 member organisations in the EU, which represent about 34 million regular cyclists.

SMEs report eco-demand in US

Three-quarters of small businesses in the US say that demand for green products has risen in recent years. The study by EcoVentures International and others shows that 79% of small enterprises “strongly agree” that environmental credentials give their products and services a competitive edge. The survey draws on a base of 1,300respondents, many of which are “microbusinesses” (ie with five or fewer employees), which represent 88% of US companies. Notably, it covers the years 2008-2011, a recessionary period of reduced consumer spending in the US.

Targeting high biodiversity areas

Nearly two-thirds of the world’s plants are contained on just 17% of the world’s landmass. Birds, mammals and amphibians occupy a similar balance. Only one-sixth of this 17% is currently protected, however. These statistics form the basis of an article [] in the journal Science, which argues that conservationists and policymakers should target their efforts on unprotected areas, which include the likes of Madagascar, New Guinea, Ecuador and coastal Brazil. Restoring and conserving the natural ecosystems in these unprotected areas would cost an estimated $110bn a year.

UK public not all Nimbys

Solar panels and wind farms remain a hit with the British public, with 84% and 67% of people respectively saying that they would back their installation in their locality. And 55% report a willingness to pay more for green electricity. By contrast, just a third said they would support fracking for shale gas in their area. The findings are based on a survey by pollster ComRes, which was commissioned by the BBC. Nuclear is unpopular, too, with half of those interviewed saying they would oppose more nuclear stations in the UK.

Wales hitting waste target

Wales is on track to meet its 52% waste recycling target by the end of 2013. Provisional figures from April 2012 to March 2013 show that the country is exactly on target. Wales will increase its recycling goal to 58% by 2015-16 as part of an incremental strategy to achieve zero waste by 2020.

Organisation snapshots

WHO downbeat on future healthcare investment

Between 2010 and 2060, the estimated annual increases in health expenditure due to ageing will be less than 1% and falling in five European countries, the World Health Organisation’s annual report reveals. The flat-lining of health expenditure comes despite an expected (although unspecified) rise in the number of older people suffering chronic diseases and disability over this period. More positively, the WHO’s World Health report for 2013 finds that average domestic investment in health-related research in low- and middle-income countries has been growing 5% each year for the past decade or so. This trend is most visible in emerging economies such as Brazil, China and India.

Floods will become major risk

The economic value of assets at risk from floods is expected to be about $45trn by 2050, according to a new report by the OECD. By the turn of the century, two-fifths of the world’s population will be susceptible to water stress, with nearly one-fifth exposed to floods. The statistics are presented in the Water Security for Better Lives report, released during World Water Week in September. The OECD also published a second report, Water and Climate Change Adaptation, which reveals that 32 countries now see climate-related water risks as a “primary concern”. Meanwhile, half the countries surveyed indicate that climate change impacts on water supply and sanitation represent “key” concerns.

Company insights

Merck cuts carbon footprint

Merck has reduced its direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 10.4% since 2009, surpassing its 10% reduction goal three years ahead of schedule. The biggest gains for the pharmaceutical giant derive from a reduction in fleet miles driven, a shift to more fuel-efficient vehicles and the introduction of on-site renewable energy production. As revealed in its latest sustainability report, Merck’s private generation capacity comprises 5,400MWh of solar-powered energy a year and 11,700MWh of wind energy (based on two 2MW wind turbines).

On water, however, Merck has achieved only a 4% reduction in consumption since 2009. Its annual water use currently stands at 41bn litres, 73% of which is sourced from nearby surface water and groundwater resources. Its water reduction goal is 15% for 2015 (based on a 2009 baseline). It recycles or reuses 15bn litres of the water it uses.

Diageo ups water efficiency

Diageo has improved water efficiency in its operations in Africa by 32% since 2007, the company’s new Sustainability and Responsibility Report reveals. This is consistent with the UK-based brewer’s goal of providing access to clean drinking water to one million people every year until 2015. Other highlights from the past 12 months include support for more than 300 responsible drinking programmes in more than 40 countries and job training for more than 25,000 people in Latin America and the Caribbean. Also of note is its sustainable procurement programme. More than half (52%) of the raw materials it uses in its African operations are now sustainably sourced. 

Crown Estate reduces carbon intensity

The Crown Estate, which manages an £8.1bn portfolio of properties owned by the British government (on behalf of the monarch), has achieved a 19% improvement in its carbon emissions intensity, according to its new Total Contribution Report. The report, which follows the International Integrated Reporting Council’s draft guidelines, reveals that the company averted 4m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

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