Daily Briefing

Editor’s note: preparing for a climate-changed future

Absence of snow in an Alps ski resort
Absence of snow in the Alps. Ensuring that local and national economies can adapt to the impacts of climate change is all part of the ‘just transition’ (Photo: Olivier Chassignole/AFP via Getty Images)

The latest edition of our Sustainable Views newsletter

Dear reader,

Weather and climate change are clearly not the same thing, but there was little doubt in the minds of the locals I spoke to in the Alps last week that something was not quite right. An absence of snow, high temperatures and spring flowers poking through in mid-February was not, they said, the norm. One woman, who had been coming to the same village for 20 years, questioned the lack of preparedness of most Alpine villages and ski resorts, reliant on winter tourism, for a snow-free future.

Ensuring that local, as well as national, economies can adapt to the impacts of climate change is all part of the so-called “just transition”. As Mark Nicholls wrote for Sustainable Views last week, investors are increasingly interested in how they can help ensure the social implications of the transition to net zero are being managed. 

Yet, in the face of growing political polarisation, governments everywhere are dithering over their commitment to net zero. 

Farmers are on the frontline of climate change, but across Europe a hardcore group continues to demand the rollback of environmental norms. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has over the past four years led the charge for the EU Green Deal. However, today, as she announces plans to seek a second term, she is, in the face of this opposition, slowly giving ground on policies vital for the EU to meet its climate goals and, ultimately, to ensure a just transition that delivers economically and environmentally.

Investors, businesses and farmers need a clear sense of direction if they are to be enablers and benefactors of the energy transition. Dithering ultimately won’t help anyone. 

Following the recent news the UK opposition Labour party will not honour its headline pledge to invest £28bn a year in green infrastructure, a report by think-tank Common Wealth insists the party, if elected, should stick to financing Great British Energy through public rather than private investment for the benefit of the British public.

Labour has insisted plans for a publicly owned domestic clean energy company remain on the table. “Without major direct public investment in new renewable infrastructure, the clean power transition will be slower, costlier, and less secure,” says Common Wealth. On the other hand, “an ambitious public renewables company can harness the resources of our island home to cut bills and deliver genuine energy security”, it argues.

“This investment will pay for itself transparently through the creation of revenue-generating assets, rather than through the convoluted route of enhancing the tax base through general economic growth as with much public investment,” the think-tank continues.

The report cites research from the TUC that found direct investment of between £30bn and £40bn up to 2030 could lay the foundations for a public energy company the equivalent size of France’s EDF. The union has also argued a publicly owned energy company would keep down bills and boost energy efficiency measures, which would, in turn, create jobs. 

Meanwhile, Ukrainian prosecutors have issued an ecocide “suspicion notice” against a Russian colonel-general and four other Russian subordinates related to the shelling in 2022 of the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology National Research Center, which hosts a nuclear facility. 

“As far as we know, this will be the first case in the world of criminal prosecution for the crime of ecocide committed during war,” commented Ukraine’s prosecutor-general Andriy Kostin. 

Various former Soviet countries have ecocide laws and the call for international ecocide legislation is growing. The EU agreed in November 2023 to include ecocide-level crimes in the revised EU environmental crimes directive.

Finally today, we examine a report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis analysing the benefits and flaws of the European Green Bond Standard, due to come into force in November 2024. 

Until tomorrow,

Philippa

Philippa Nuttall is the deputy editor of Sustainable Views 

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