Green GDP metrics, renewables-powered coal ports, and all the big green business stories from around the world this week

IEA indicates it could make its data publicly available

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is reportedly keen to respond to calls from academics and campaigners for it to scrap its paywall and make all its energy and emissions-related data open to the public.

Media reports this week suggest the Paris-based agency is considering moving to making its data open source, following an open letter last year from a group of leading academics that argued that the think tanks paywalls were making it difficult for researchers to track the progress of the global energy transition and the response to the climate crisis.

Critics argued that given the agency is primarily funded by governments its data sets should be made publicly available.

Responding to the calls late last year, the IEA’s executive director Fatih Birol reportedly said that he was “hopeful that we may be able to find a creative solution with the support of several members and large philanthropists that could permit us to make it a public good, in the interests of boosting market transparency and promoting good energy/climate decision making”.

The move would have to secure approval from member countries, but with the next ministerial meeting slated for the first week of February observers are hopeful the data could be made public in the coming months.


Brussels sparks major row after labelling nuclear and gas ‘green’ 

The long-running row over whether or not nuclear and gas-related projects should be classified as ‘green’ under the EU’s planned sustainable investment taxonomy reignited on New Year’s Eve, after the European Commission released long-delayed technical rules on its green investment guidebook to diplomats that retained controversial proposals to classify nuclear and gas projects as ‘green’, as long as certain conditions are met.

The draft plans, which were presented just hours before a deadline expired, immediately sparked a major row between those member states that maintain nuclear and gas have a critical role to play in the net zero transition and those that fear that classifying them as ‘sustainable’ investments amounts to ‘greenwashing’ that would undermine the wider sustainable investment market.

Reports suggested opponents of the draft plans do not have the supermajority required to block them, given pro-nuclear states such as France and the Czech Republic are insistent nuclear should be included, while the bloc of Eastern European states want to see investment in gas as a ‘bridge fuel’ to help them reduce their reliance on gas power.

However, Austria’s government reiterated its threat to sue the Commission if the plans are approved, while Germany’s new Economy and Climate Action minister Robert Habeck warned the plans “water down the good label for sustainability”.


Giant Australian coal port unveils plan to source 100 per cent renewable power

It is unlikely to secure too many plaudits from environmental campaigners, but the world’s largest coal port has this week announced plans to switch to renewable power for running its own operations.

The Port of Newcastle in Australia said the move would support its plans to decarbonise the business by 2040 and increase the non-coal portion of its business so that coal only makes up half its revenues by 2030.

The company confirmed this week it has signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) with energy giant Iberdrola, which will see it source renewable power from the Bodangora wind farm near Dubbo in New South Wales. The power will be used, in part, to charge up the port’s fast expanding electric vehicle fleet.

The port’s chief executive, Craig Carmody, stressed that the company was committed to curbing its reliance on coal shipments. Speaking to the Guardian, he acknowledged the Port of Newcastle’s title as the largest coal port in the world “isn’t as wonderful as it used to be”.

“I would prefer to be doing this now while we have control over our destiny, while we have revenue coming in, than in a crisis situation where our revenue has collapsed and no one will lend us money,” he said. “We get 84 cents a tonne for coal shipped through our port. We get between $6 and $8 for every other product. You can see where I’d rather have my money.”

He also argued the Australian government’s high profile support for coal power was less relevant than international investors growing reluctance to support the carbon intensive industry. “In some ways it doesn’t matter what the policies of government are, equities and debt markets, they’re making the decision for us,” he said “It doesn’t matter what the policy settings are in Australia, it’s what some investor in New York or Tokyo is thinking. We don’t really have a choice. Nobody wants to invest in [being part of the fossil fuel supply chain].”


Honda ramps up plans for Wuhan EV plant

Honda this week became the latest global auto giant to beef up its electric vehicle (EV) production plans, announcing that its China joint venture is to build a new EV factory in Wuhan.

In a statement, the Japanese manufacturer said the plant was slated to open in 2024 and would boast an annual capacity of 120,000 vehicles.

The move is set to expand Honda’s presence in the world’s largest EV market and provide a boost to its plans to transition to only offering EVs by 2040. It also provides further evidence that Japanese automakers are ramping up their interest in the burgeoning EV market, just weeks after Toyota unveiled a $35bn EV investment plan that represented something of a departure from its previous focus on the hybrid market.


Brazil moves to retain coal subsidies under ‘Just Transition’ banner

Brazil’s net zero pledge is facing yet more scrutiny, after the government published plans for a new ‘Just Energy Transition’ law which would allow it to continue to subsidise the coal industry until at least 2040.

Brazil has a target to halve emissions by 2030 and deliver net zero emissions by 2050, but campaigners have repeatedly warned that the Bolsonaro government has no credible strategy in place to meet the targets and is instead continuing to support the fossil fuel industry while broadly failing to crackdown on deforestation.

Green groups responded angrily to the new law, which would effectively revoke previous plans to end subsidies for thermal coal-powered plants by 2027 and phase out three large coal power plants in the Santa Catarina region by 2025.

The new law states the government must buy, at a set cost, energy generated by a group of thermal plants in Santa Catarina, while mandating that 80 per cent of the energy produced must use coal mined in the region.

“This is bad news for consumers and the environment,” Ricardo Baitelo, a project coordinator at the Institute of Energy and Environment (IEMA), told news agency Reuters.


France confirms plans to make car adverts promote alternative travel

The French government has confirmed plans to move ahead with a new law that would require car adverts to carry environmental warnings and advise customers to consider cycling, walking, public transport or ride-sharing as alterntive transport options.

The legislation, which sits alongside plans to increase taxes on the most polluting cars, is designed to support the government’s plans to phase out the sale of internal combustion engine cars by 2035 and slash emissions by 40 per cent against 1990 levels by 2030. 

The law is set to come into force in March and will give auto manufacturers a choice of three slogans to incorporate in all TV, radio, print, and online ads: “for short journeys, walking or bicycling is preferable”, “think about carpooling”, or “on a daily basis, take public transport”.


RWE and Northland Power team up to develop 1.3GW German offshore wind cluster

RWE and Northland Power have announced they have joined forces to co-develop a 1.3GW cluster of offshore wind farms in the German North Sea.

The partners have established a joint venture through which they plan to jointly develop and construct three wind farms, which are all expected to start commercial operation between 2026 and 2028. RWE Renewables will hold 51 per cent and Northland Power 49 per cent of the shares in the new venture.

Sven Utermöhlen, CEO for wind offshore at RWE Renewables, said the venture could make a major contribution to the new German government’s ambitious clean energy targets. “Offshore wind power plays a central role in this, and is indispensable for supporting the decarbonisation of industry in particular,” he said. “RWE is making its contribution to this and is significantly stepping up the pace here. This includes the collaborative delivery of the 1.3GW offshore cluster with Northland Power, through which we can achieve considerable synergies to deploy at our new wind farms, while at the same time actively supporting the energy transition in our home market Germany.”

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