Germany’s climate diplomacy coup, Duke Energy’s ambitious new coal phase out plans, and all the big green business news from around the world this week

Greenpeace International boss Jennifer Morgan appointed as Germany’s top climate diplomat

The new German government has underscored its commitment to climate action this week, with the shock news that Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan has been appointed as the new Special Envoy for International Climate Action in the Federal Government.

She is expected to start in her new role at the start of March and, once she obtains German citizenship, she will officially become a state secretary.

Morgan – who was born in the US, but has lived in Berlin for many years – has been a leading observer of the UN climate talks for decades. “As we journey deeper into the disruption of the climate emergency, it is clearer than ever that people power is what will create the space for those in governments to go beyond their comfort zones and to find the courage to do the right thing,” she said. “I only hope that I can, in this new role and challenge, match the courage I have found working within Greenpeace, with its courageous and tireless staff, with its networks, allies, and volunteers over these past 6, intense, years.”

Martin Kaiser, executive director of Greenpeace Germany, said the appointment further highlighted the new German government’s commitment to bolder climate action. “I am very pleased and proud that Jennifer Morgan has been appointed to this important and pivotal new role,” he said. “It is a testament and recognition of the decades-long commitment of Greenpeace activists to demand climate protection and stay below the 1.5C limit.

“With the appointment of the international Greenpeace boss Jennifer Morgan as Special Envoy for International Climate Action, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is sending a strong signal that the 1.5C target will be the guideline for Germany’s climate foreign policy.”


Duke Energy announces coal exit and net zero plan

US energy giant Duke Energy has this week announced a wide-ranging update to its climate plans, expanding its net zero targets and confirming a new target date for phasing out the use of coal power.

The company said it was now aiming to ensure energy generated from coal represents less than five per cent of its total generation by 2030, before fully exiting coal power by 2035 as part of the largest planned coal fleet retirement in the US energy industry.

It also said it would expand its previous 2050 net zero goals to now include Scope 2 and certain Scope 3 emissions. For its electric business, the new net zero goal will include greenhouse gas emissions from the power it purchases for resale, from the procurement of fossil fuels used for generation, and from the electricity purchased for its own use. For its natural gas business, it will adopt a new net zero by 2050 goal that includes upstream methane and carbon emissions related to purchased gas and downstream carbon emissions from customers’ consumption.

“As one of America’s largest electric and gas utilities, we and many of our stakeholders share the view that we can take a leadership role in tackling the greenhouse gas emissions associated with our business and value chain,” said Duke Energy chief sustainability officer, Katherine Neebe. “Policy changes and technological innovation are expected to play a key role in meeting these enhanced goals.”


Clean Oceans Initiative doubles funding goal to €4bn by 2025

Today at the One Ocean Summit in Brest, the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the European Investment Bank (EIB), and KfW acting on behalf of the German Federal Government committed to double the funding target of the Clean Oceans Initiative to €4bn by 2025.

In addition the group, which also includes Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) the Italian National Promotional Institution and Financial Institution for Development Cooperation, and ICO, the Spanish Promotional Bank, welcomed the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) as a new member.

The Clean Oceans Initiative is the largest common initiative dedicated to funding projects aimed at reducing plastic pollution at sea. In three years, the Initiative has already achieved 80 per cent of its target by providing €1.6bn in long-term financing for public and private sector projects that reduce discharge of plastics, micro-plastics, and other litter into the oceans through improved management of solid waste, wastewater, and storm water flows

“I am proud that AFD Group is contributing, alongside five prominent public development banks (PDBs), to the strengthening of the Clean Oceans initiative, which has committed to doubling its financing to reach €4bn by 2025,” said AFD Chief Executive officer Rémy Rioux. “This commitment, which was announced at the One Ocean Summit in Brest, demonstrates that PDBs work closely with coastal and river stakeholders to reduce plastic pollution in the oceans resulting largely from land-based activities.”


Italy embeds environmental protection in constitution

Italy has become the latest government to strengthen its legislative framework to better protect the environment, with the passage of a new constitutional law that places a formal requirement on the state to safeguard the environment, biodiversity, and ecosystems and act “in the interest of future generations”.

The new law also sets out a requirement to ensure any private economic initiative does not damage health or the environment.

Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani hailed the change “an essential step” in the country’s efforts to ramp up green investment and deliver on its climate goals. “I think this is a momentous day,” Cingolani said in a statement.

The move was also broadly welcomed by green groups, but at the same time they argued that the law would need to be properly enforced and used to inform policy decisions. Reuters noted that the Italian government has a mixed record of adhering to constitutional laws, highlighting how in 2012 Italy made the need to balance the state budget part of the constitution, but since then it has never achieved a balanced budget.


Reports: New York pension fund to divest from shale projects

New York’s state pension fund is set to sell $238m of stock and debt it holds across 21 shale oil and gas companies, including Chesapeake Energy Corp, Hess Corp, and Pioneer Natural Resources, after concluding they have not demonstrated they are ready to support the shift to a low-emissions economy.

Reuters reported the move this week after reviewing material from New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. However, the analysis showed the influential fund will retain holdings in another 21 shale companies including ConocoPhillips, CNX Resources Corp, and EQT Corp.


Poll: Public frustration with climate inaction builds

A new POLITICO Morning Consult Global Sustainability Poll has revealed mounting frustration from citizens who believe governments and businesses are failing to do enough to tackle the escalating global climate crisis.

The survey of consumers in 13 countries on five continents found a majority believe companies should share more of the costs of combating climate change, including through paying higher taxes. It also found that majorities in all the countries polled said they are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned”.

“While left-leaning voters are overall most likely to express concern about the climate, the ideological divide is small in most of the countries surveyed,” POLITICO reported. “The ideological gap is narrowest in the countries where citizens are most concerned about climate change: Brazil, South Africa and Mexico.”


Irish government announces ambitious Home Energy Upgrade Scheme

The Irish government is to offer generous grants to households that undertake deep retrofits tro improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan unveiled the new Home Energy Upgrade Scheme this week, which will cover between 45 and 51 per cent of the cost of deep retrofits that improve a home’s energy efficiency rating to a high B2 rating.

The Irish Times quoted senior sources in government as saying the programme would see the government contribute €26,000 of the €53,000 cost of deep-retrofitting works on an average hollow block semi-detached home with an E2 rating. Bringing the rating from E to B would reduce the heating bills by as much as two-thirds, leading to substantial savings each year, the paper said.

The funding is to be backed by a network of ‘one-stop shops’ to help households appy for grants, access to finance, and commission approved construction work.


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