Rising flooding costs on both sides of the Atlantic, Italian wind energy auctions, and the rest of the green business news from around the world this week

Study details how US flooding costs set to rise by more than a quarter by 2050

Climate change could result in the finan ial toll of flooding rising by more than a quarter in the United States by 2050 with disadvantaged communities bearing the biggest brunt, according to new research.

A University of Bristol-led study, published this week in Nature Climate Change, deployed advanced modelling techniques which forecast that average annual flood losses would increase by 26.4 per cent from $32bn currently to $40.6bn in less than 30 years.

The high-resolution assessment of flood risk found that while poorer communities with a proportionally larger white population face the most danger at present, future growth in flood risk will have a greater impact on African American communities on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Lead author Dr Oliver Wing, honorary research fellow at the university’s Cabot Institute for the Environment, said: “Climate change combined with shifting populations present a double whammy of flood risk danger and the financial implications are staggering. Typical risk models rely on historical data which doesn’t capture projected climate change or offer sufficient detail. Our sophisticated techniques using state-of-the-science flood models give a much more accurate picture of future flooding and how populations will be affected.

“The mapping clearly indicates Black communities will be disproportionately affected in a warming world, in addition to the poorer White communities which predominantly bear the historical risk. Both of these findings are of significant concern. The research is a call to action for adaptation and mitigation work to be stepped up to reduce the devastating financial impact flooding wreaks on people’s lives.”


European Environment Agency reveals weather extremes cost continent €500bn over 40 years

A news study of weather-related economic losses from the European Environment Agency (EEA) has revealed that floods and other forms of extreme weather have cost Europe about half a trillion Euros over the past four decades.

Between 90,000 and 142,000 deaths were also attributed to weather and climate-related events between 1980 and 2020, the overwhelming majority of them from heatwaves.

The data does not show a clear trend in terms of increased losses over the decades, but the report authors explained this was a result of increased investment in climate adaptation measures and the fact that economic impacts tend to be concentrated around a small number of the most extreme events – more than 60 per cent of the economic losses came from just three per cent of the analysed weather events.

The EEA’s Wouter Vanneuville told the Guardian that “the reason we don’t see a trend is not that climate change is not real, but because a lot of actions are going on against climate change. More and more countries are implementing adaptation strategies”.


‘Messy’ permitting regime blamed for undersubscribed Italian wind farm auction

Italy this week published the results of its latest renewables auction, confirming contracts for 975MW of  utility scale projects.

However, industry groups were left disappointed by the results given 3.3GW of contracts were on offer, including non-awarded capacity from previous undersubscribed auctions. Observers blamed difficulties securing planning permits for new projects as primary reason for the auction being undersubscribed.

“Italy is Europe’s prime example for how bad permitting leads to low renewables build-out,” said Giles Dickson, CEO of trade body WindEurope. “Neither the EU’s renewables target for 2030 nor Italy’s national targets for wind energy count for anything if there aren’t enough permitted projects that can bid in to the auctions. The latest undersubscribed auction shows once again that Italy urgently needs to fix its permitting arrangements. No other European country has more problems in permitting new wind farms than Italy.”

The group noted that in its its current National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) Italy has committed to having 19.3GW of wind energy by 2030, nearly all of it onshore. But meeting the target would require Italy to build around 1GW a year of new wind farms by 2030 and the new EU renewables target of 40 per cent renewables energy by 2030 would require an even faster build rate.

“At its current rate Italy is not building enough new wind farms to meet its European energy and climate commitments,” said Dickson. “After another undersubscribed auction the backlog of non-awarded wind energy capacity just keeps piling up.”

Plans advance for Perth’s solar powered indoor farm

Indoor agritech specialist IGS has this week announced a new partnership with vertical farming specialist Eden Towers, which will see the firms work together on a commercial scale vertical farm in Western Australia that aims to grow leafy greens and other specialty crops.

The farm will be an Australian-first, located next door to the Shire of Murray’s Western Australian Food Innovation Precinct (WAFIP) in Nambeelup to the south of Perth in the Peel Business Park. The four-tower industrial scale farm will be the centrepiece of the site and aims to generate 120 tonnes of produce per annum when it is fully operational next year, including lettuce, spinach, kale and basil, as well as indigenous crops.

Working alongside Winjan Aboriginal Corporation, Eden Towers, and IGS will first use the vertical farm near Perth to grow food crops like the warrigal plant, a type of bush tucker spinach, and bush tucker celery, with a view to broaden the crop over time to pharmaceutical and cosmetic crops.

The project will deploy Growth Tower structures developed by Scottish-headquartered IGS, which create a precision-controlled indoor ecosystem where plants can thrive all year round without soil. As such, the is expected to use 98 per cent less water and achieve up to 15 times higher yields compared to a greenhouse or open field.

David Farquhar, CEO at IGS, said: “Australia’s agricultural production is growing, but it’s vital that’s delivered in an environmentally sustainable way if we’re to curb the emissions our farming habits produce globally. Eden Towers is passionate about sustainable farming across Australia, and we’re excited that they have chosen our platform to help deliver this project and to support indigenous crop growth and the local community.”


Convex rules out insuring controversial coal projects

Environmental campaigners have celebrated a major victory this week, after UK and Bermuda based specialty insurer Convex ruled out insuring Adani’s controversial Carmichael coal mine in Australia and any new thermal coal mine and associated infrastructure.

Convex was targeted by ‘Stop Adani’ campaigners last year due to its position as one of a few remaining specialty insurers to not rule out support for the controversial coal project.

Convex responded this week with a statement confirming it “will not insure the construction or operation of any new thermal coal mine and/or its dedicated infrastructure”.

“Convex’s decision to stop insuring new thermal coal mines and their associated infrastructure means it has finally ruled out insurance for Adani’s disastrous Carmichael coal project in Australia,” said Edoardo Riario Sforza, a campaigner with Market Forces. “Every insurance company on Earth should be running a mile from Adani’s climate-wrecking coal mine. The fact there are now 43 major insurers on the public record saying they won’t touch the Carmichael project demonstrates the reputational risk any company associated with it faces.”


Gas price crisis impacts EU coal phase out

New data from think tank Ember has highlighted how soaring gas prices served to almost halt the EU’s coal power phase out efforts last year, as energy suppliers increased their reliance on ageing coal plants.

The EU’s emissions trading scheme and new emissions standards across the bloc had resulted in a reduced reliance on coal power in recent years, as gas and renewables have proved more competitive. But soaring gas prices have made it more economic for suppliers to fire up coal plants, despite record high carbon prices.

“As a result of soaring gas prices in the second half of 2021, new renewables replaced fossil gas instead [of coal generation],” Ember said in its sixth annual European Electricity Review.

The think tank said that as a result coal power declined just three per cent from 2019 to 2021, compared to 29 per cent in the two previous years.

“The gas crisis is a paradigm shift for the EU’s electricity transition,” said Charles Moore, Ember’s Europe Lead. “Legislation is the only way to guarantee that coal plants are closed by 2030; volatile gas prices have made it clear that you cannot rely on market forces alone”

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