Edition for 03 March 2020

Top Stories

'Ethical' super funds invest in coal, oil, gas (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Sustainable investment options offered by two major industry superannuation groups and wealth giant AMP have millions invested in the fossil fuel industry, despite pledging to apply strict screening based on environmental, social and governance standards.
  • Giant retail super fund provider AMP's $117 billion portfolio also includes an "ethical leaders balanced fund" that promises to "boycott the bad" by "actively avoiding" investing in fossil fuels, tobacco and nuclear power.
  • AMP said these companies represent less than 5 per cent of the total portfolio and it only excludes companies that make 10 per cent or more of their revenue from carbon-intensive fossil fuels.

Will Synthetic Biology Be In The Toolbox Of BP’s New Climate-Neutral CEO? (SynBioBeta)

  • The state’s searing summers and frosty winters combined with its unique, arid ecology put it at severe risk from climate change.
  • But a few points from BP’s new climate focus do deserve recognition: “The world’s carbon budget is finite and running out fast; we need a rapid transition to net zero,” Looney said.
  • In the petroleum world, ExxonMobil has partnered with scientists from Synthetic Genomics, Inc. (SGI) to develop a strain of algae able to convert carbon into an energy-rich fat that can be processed into biodiesel.
  • And since 2007, BP itself has funneled over $300 million into the Energy Biosciences Institute, a partnership institution at UC Berkeley, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

GE says it's going green. Overseas, it's still pushing coal (LA Times)

  • GE says that its coal plants are more environmentally friendly than the global average, and that it has upgraded the design of several projects, including the northern Vietnamese plant dubbed Vung Ang 2, to reduce carbon emissions.
  • “GE provides the best available technology, no matter which fuel is chosen.” Environmental groups argue that coal plants pollute poor communities, and that any expansion of fossil fuel-based power jeopardizes efforts under the Paris climate agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels by 2030, seen as essential to staving off the worst effects of climate change.
  • GE has endorsed the Paris climate agreement and says renewable energy is its future.

BlackRock faces critics on Amazon deforestation (CBSNews)

  • Unlike with coal, BlackRock has not pledged to sell off its investments in companies in the industry, including companies that have been tied to fires in the Amazon, such as Bungee Limited and Archer Daniels Midland.
  • The letter got wide attention because of Fink's prediction that climate change was already having an impact on the stock market and the long-term outlook for investors, and because Fink said his company was going to do something about it.
  • A BlackRock spokesperson said the firm is in the process of rebranding a number of its funds as environmentally and socially "aware" to let customers know that these funds include companies with favorable characteristics but are also "optimized to offer a similar risk and return profile to broad market indices."

Climate change: Greenpeace stops Barclays from opening branches (BBC News)

  • Images of people bearing slogans such as "Stop Funding Fossil Fuels" were stuck on the windows and "pop-up exhibitions" displaying photographs of climate change were used to block major Barclays branches in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London and Manchester.
  • "Barclays must stop funding the climate emergency, that's why we've taken action today.
  • From floods to bushfires and record heat in Antarctica, the impacts of this crisis are staring us in the face," said Morten Thaysen, climate finance campaigner at Greenpeace UK.

The Energy 202: Senate prepares to vote on big energy bill this week (Washington Post)

  • The bill, dubbed the American Energy Innovation Act, isn’t specifically about climate change.
  • The word “climate” appears only once in a two-page summary of the bill.
  • But most GOP lawmakers and President Trump, who has called global warming a “hoax,” are still shying away from addressing climate change head on.

Texas Criminal Trial Highlights Climate Liability For Factories In Floodplains (NPR News)

  • Opening arguments ended Monday in Texas in the highest profile criminal case ever brought against a company and its employees for allegedly failing to adequately prepare for the effects of climate change.
  • The prosecution's focus on whether extreme weather events such as Hurricane Harvey are foreseeable — and whether companies are liable if they fail to adequately prepare for such storms — makes this case an important test of the legal system's power when it comes to adapting to wetter, more frequent storms driven by climate change.
  • "That's the big question in this case: When is something an act of God that is unforeseeable, versus when is [it] a thing that we should have prepared for, given what we know about the increasing impacts of climate change?

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