The Brexit threat to fighting climate change

In December 2015 in Paris, over 190 countries reached a historical agreement on fighting climate change. The European Union has had an important role in this agreement, and will be crucial to its success. But will the multiple political and economic woes on the continent undermine these efforts? And could the messy “Brexit” debate – and potential outcome – give it a further blow?

There has been major progress on renewable energy in the past few years with prices coming down, and rapid growth of clean technology in many countries. The EU – with its continent-wide renewable energy targets – has played a crucial role. But – if the Paris Agreement is to be honoured – efforts on these policies need to be stepped up, not disrupted.

As Lord Deben, a former UK Tory secretary of state, recently said: “The battle against climate change depends hugely on the ability of Britain to remain within, and be a leader in, the European Union. We’ve only got where we have got on climate change because of the European Union, there would have been no Kyoto Agreement without the European Union, and we do have to recognise that the idea that you can do anything environmentally on your own is just factually untrue.”

The UK will hold the presidency of the EU Council in 2017, which would be a great opportunity to lead on climate change in Europe, pushing for stronger policies to reflect the ambition of the Paris Agreement. But right now, how can Britain even think of doing that, while it has one foot out of the door?

Read the rest of the article on the Wake up Europe website.

Climate finance: Is Britain being taken for a ride?

In the last few days, the press has focused on the UK’s contribution to climate finance, particularly relative to other countries.

Some articles suggest that Britain is paying way beyond its dues: indeed for The Times, we ‘lavish’ money on the poor, and have ‘pledged far more than any other country to international climate funds’.

Under the UN climate convention, rich countries have committed to help poorer ones constrain their carbon emissions and prepare for climate impacts.

Read the rest on the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit blog.

Nine things you need to know about the Scottish “Energiewende”

The German Energiewende has been covered ­widely in the international press, with its pros and cons hotly debated (particularly in the ­English-speaking press). Perhaps less known is that Scotland is also undergoing a remarkable energy transition of its own, with growth of renewable energy far in excess of overall UK targets.

Read the rest of the article, originally published in early May on Sun & Wind Energy. 

Green bank raises hopes with offshore wind fund

In just over two years from its launch, the UK’s Green Investment Bank has ­invested £1.8 billion in 41 projects around the country. These are large sums, but still far from what is really needed to decarbonise the economy. Some observers say the green bank isn’t yet fulfilling its potential, for various reasons, among which the fact it can’t borrow in order to bring more money into the sector.

But the bank must be doing something right. Apparently there are now plans, at different stages of development, to launch similar ­institutions in seven countries across three continents. In the United States alone, projects to set up green banks are in place in six states. Or at least this is what the bank’s officials told me when I recently interviewed the head of investment banking there, Edward Northam, for Sun & Wind Energy magazine.

Northam explained the organisation’s offshore wind strategy: this sector has ­taken just under half of the bank’s existing investment, while the rest has gone to bioenergy, energy efficiency and energy from waste. He is now working (first close is apparently imminent) on the new offshore wind investment fund, which the banks says is the first of its kind in the world.

The idea behind this new fund is that new sources of capital for offshore wind could become available (with potential implications for other parts of the ­renewable sector). This is important because if we want to achieve rapid growth of renewables to meet global climate change targets, these technologies need to be deployed much faster. In particular, while there is plenty of money moving around the world and investors looking for good returns, the portion of investment going to renewable energy and energy efficiency needs to grow.

The hope is that the bank, through its new fund, will soon be able to offer “equity stakes” (or shares) in operational wind farms as a good opportunity for ­investors seeking long-term, inflation-linked ­returns, including long-term infrastructure investors such as sovereign wealth funds and pension funds. These are currently sitting on very large sums of money and if they started to invest more heavily in renewables it could make all the difference in the world.

Read the rest of the Q&A with Edward Northam here.