Welcome to another two weekly review of energy and environmental events and developments from both here in New Zealand and around the world. As always, we hope you find our collection of stories to be of interest in what continues to be a rapidly evolving area.

Leonardo DiCaprio has just addressed the UN General Assembly Climate Change Summit, saying humankind is looking at climate change as if it were fiction, as if pretending that climate change wasn’t real would somehow make it go away. He identifies clean air, water and a liveable climate as human rights, and refers to mass protest marches recently held around the world, saying the time for “decisive, large scale action” against climate change is now, or the world economy will die. His call for action, to governments, and business and industry leaders, was put into a personal context “As an actor I pretend for a living. I play fictitious characters often solving fictitious problems”. “I pretend for a living. But you do not. The people made their voices heard on Sunday around the world and the momentum will not stop. And now it’s YOUR turn, the time to answer the greatest challenge of our existence on this planet... is now”.

Warning bells are sounding louder and louder about Global Warming. Amelia Urry reports that the US has just had the hottest August, on the tail of the hottest May. This is not just in the US, or only on land. The oceans account for 93.4% of the warming in our atmosphere, and this past June to August has been the hottest both on land and sea.

Driving the warming is a steep rise in greenhouse gas levels. The World Meteorological Organisation is warning that we are running out of time to keep these gases at levels that will halt temperature rises. Carbon dioxide levels have increased at the fastest rate in 30 years. And Michael Slezak reports that the pause in global warming that we saw from 1997 to 2013, due to the winds over oceans effectively burying the heat in the water, may be no more. Human induced warming is now set to go non-stop, unless we take urgent action to stop greenhouse gas emissions.

We next examine a selection of articles released ahead of the September 23rd United Nations summit on Climate Change, showing a groundswell of support for a shift to a new economic model based on renewable generation and sustainability.

A report presented to governments, business and finance leaders one week before the summit, titled ‘Better Growth, Better Climate: The New Climate Economy Report’ finds that over the next 15 years, about $90 trillion will be invested in infrastructure in the world’s cities, agriculture and energy systems. The report, representing the view of business and policy leaders from 19 countries, sets out a ten-point Global Action Plan that, if fully implemented, could potentially achieve up to 90 percent of the emissions reductions needed by 2030 to avoid dangerous climate change.

Lord Stern, as a co-author of the report, has gone on to say that tackling climate change can, in fact, be a boon to prosperity, “Reducing emissions is not only compatible with economic growth and development – if done well, it can actually generate better growth than the old high carbon-model”. Indeed, the report predicts the benefits in economic growth and improvements in health will far outweigh the costs of its implementation.

It appears the views expressed in the report are increasingly being reflected by those in the business and investment community. Driven by an increasing recognition of this at Board level, Directors are now focussing on a longer term-view of their company’s performance. This change in focus is in response to greater shareholder and investor interest, a change in business risks and a growth in realisation of their legal responsibility to provide good oversight and guidance to the business they are associated with.

Indeed, six recent surveys have confirmed that this shift is well underway, and why sustainability makes good business sense. We examine a new report released by Grant Thornton, ‘The State of Sustainability at Food and Beverage Companies’, which finds sustainability is viewed as a competitive advantage, and that their target consumers are becoming increasingly discerning of the goods and products they consume. Overall, the findings were that shifting to more sustainable production would result in increased profitability, echoing the findings of a 2013 Harvard Business School study.

Which is probably the main reason 340 financial investment institutions, managing 15 trillion in assets are calling for an ambitious global climate deal to give them certainty to invest in clean technology. They are also calling for an economically meaningful price on Carbon, and to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels, which at $700 billion per annum are six times greater than the subsidies available for renewable energy.

That sustainable businesses are worthy of recognition has already been recognised by Wall Street, in the form of the 15-year-old Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. The assessment criteria this year covered tax strategy (to address the growing risks associated with tax optimization schemes); social and environmental reporting factors, including materiality; human capital development policies; and performance scoring related to occupational health and safety, and talent recruitment and retention. There are 24 Industry Group categories and a Group Leader for each category. We wish to recognise two of those group leaders, in Westpac Banking Corp and Woolworths.

We finish off this week with a couple of stand-alone stories.

First we have a look at a firm favourite of ours, Beer. Although this article looks at contaminants in German beer, the worrying thing it highlights is the infiltration of plastic particles into almost all areas of the world. Plastic waste of various sizes can be found just about everywhere you look. Plastic bags and containers can be found at the side of the road, tonnes of it floating in the oceans of the world, and now, minute particles in beer. As the study concludes, there is not enough plastic present in beer to present a danger to the public, but it’s clear - plastic has penetrated the human environment on just about every level.

We wrap up this week with another look at Neonicotinoids. This class of insecticides is known to harm bees, and now, as seen in the publication of a study by the Radboud University in the Netherlands, there is a real danger to birds as well. “Water pollution levels of just 20 nanograms of neonicotinoid per litre led to a 30% fall in bird numbers over 10 years, but some water had contamination levels 50 times higher”. It’s hard not to imagine contamination levels this high having an effect on other living creatures, humans included!

Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and we look forward to catching up with you again. If you have any items of interest you would like to submit, then please feel free to forward them.

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