illuminem's Weekly Briefings
Hello and welcome to our newly-minted top 5 sustainability stories! Each week, we handpick the most significant and attention-worthy news. Don't miss these essential headlines:
- Climate proposals pile pressure on US banks: 30% of major US bank shareholders supported proposals to phase out fossil fuel financing by 2030.
- EVs will account for one in five car sold in 2023: The IEA predicts EVs will account for 18% of global car sales in 2023, up from 4% in 2020.
- Europe's winter energy crisis curbs coal demand: Coal generation in Europe fell by 11% during winter 2022, with renewables making up 40% of EU power generation.
- Ohmium International raises $250M for green hydrogen: Green hydrogen firm Ohmium raised $250 million in a Series C round, signaling confidence in hydrogen production for decarbonization.
- Rising sea temperatures exacerbate global warming: Global ocean surface temperature reached a record 21.1°C in April, threatening marine ecosystems and increasing risks of flooding in US coastal areas.
1. Climate proposals pile pressure on US banks
Driving the news: 30% of shareholders of major US banks, including Goldman Sachs, BoA and Wells Fargo, supported proposals put forward by environmental activists calling for a plan to phase out financing of fossil fuel projects by 2030.
Why it matters for the planet: The support for these resolutions (against the boards' recommendation) highlights the pressure on banks regarding their financing of carbon-intensive companies.
- The largest sovereign wealth fund globally, Norway's oil fund, supported the transition plan resolutions proposed at BoA, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs, along with Legal and General Investment Management.
What’s next: The rejection of the proposals does not mean the end of the push towards sustainable investments.
- Watch for upcoming shareholder meetings at JPMorgan Chase (May 17th) and Morgan Stanley (May 19th), where similar resolutions will be tabled.
One quote: "Pressure is only going to increase" (Danielle Fugere, President, As You Sow, one of the activist groups behind the proposal).
One stat: The six largest US banks financed $1.6+ trillion in fossil fuel projects since the Paris Agreement (2016). This represents a 10% increase the previous five-year period (source: RAN).
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2. EVs will account for one in five car sold in 2023
Driving the news: The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that nearly one in five cars sold worldwide in 2023 will be electric vehicles (EVs).
- EVs are projected to account for 18% of global car sales in 2023, a significant increase from 4% in 2020.
- Sales are expected to reach 14 million vehicles, including both battery-only and plug-in hybrid models.
Why it matters for the planet: The IEA report indicates that EVs are becoming increasingly competitive with traditional gas-powered cars, and that the charging infrastructure is expanding rapidly .
- As a reminder, EU aims to phase out sales of non zero-emissions vehicules by 2035, and the US targets 50% EV sales by the decade's end.
What’s next: The US and the EU are currently in talks to address their differences on EVs subsidies.
- The EU is upset about the subsidies part of US President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which includes tax breaks for US-made EVs and batteries.
- A trade deal would allow European car-makers to access billions of dollars in US tax incentives for EVs.
One quote: "EVs are no longer marginal or niche at all" (Timur Gül, Head of energy Technology Policy, IEA).
One stat: 35% of global car sales will be electric by 2030, up from a forecast of 25% just a year ago (source: IEA).
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3. Europe's winter energy crisis curbs coal demand
Driving the news: A report by think-tank Ember found that coal generation in Europe fell by 11% (-27 TWh) during the winter of 2022 (Oct. - Mar.), due to warmer weather and soaring energy prices.
- 15 out of the 18 European Union (EU) countries that still use coal for power reduced their coal generation (vs 5-year average).
Why it matters for the planet: Europe's power mix did not experience a steep rebound in coal usage, despite the continent's worst energy crisis in 40 years due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
- The reduction in coal and gas generation contributed to the lowest winter emissions in the EU power sector's history.
- Renewables accounted for 40% of EU generation over the winter with fossil fuels at 37%.
What’s next: Europe must learn from the measures taken during this difficult winter and continue the transition away from fossil fuels. Sustainably maintaining demand reductions and focusing on demand flexibility will be crucial for the future of Europe's power system.
One stat: Total EU electricity demand was down 6% on the five-year average, saving €12 billion worth of electricity over winter (source: Ember)
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4. Ohmium International raises $250M for green hydrogen
Driving the news: Ohmium International has raised $250 million in a Series C round led by TPG Rise Climate, with participation from Hanover Technology Investment Management and other existing investors.
- Ohmium is a green hydrogen firm that designs and manufactures proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer systems used in the production of hydrogen.
Why it matters for the planet: Green hydrogen is considered by many as crucial for the rapid decarbonisation of hard-to-abate sectors, and this funding round is a vote of confidence in hydrogen's future.
- It will help Ohmium expand its manufacturing capabilities to 2GW per annum and deploy projects in the U.S., Europe, India, and the Middle East.
What’s next: The market will be watching how green hydrogen companies accelerate their plans for large-scale production facilities.
- The success of these facilities will be critical in demonstrating the viability of green hydrogen as a cost-effective and scalable alternative to fossil fuels.
One stat: The Series C round is five times larger than Ohmium's last fundraise of $45 million in a Series B round in April 2022 (source: Ohmium).
Click for an explainer of blue vs green hydrogen
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5. Rising sea temperatures exacerbate global warming
Driving the news: In early April, the global ocean surface temperature reached a record-breaking 21.1°C (approximately 70°F), surpassing the previous record of 21.0°C set in 2016.
- The Climate Reanalyzer, a tool from the University of Maine's Climate Change Institute, recorded this daily Sea Surface Temperature from April 1 to April 6.
Why it matters for the planet: Warming ocean surface temperatures hurts food webs and marine ecosystems. Already, the global population of marine species has declined by an average of 50% since the 1970s (WWF).
- Additionally, higher temperatures could increase flooding in the US Gulf Coast and southeastern regions.
What’s next: Record temperatures may signal the end of La Niña and the onset of El Niño, a climate pattern affecting global temperatures and weather.
- With La Niña, the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions and global warming are often subdued, making surface temperatures cooler.
- "We are likely seeing the climate change signal coming through loud and clear," said Mike McPhaden, a senior research scientist at NOAA.
One stat: The average surface temperature of the world's seas has increased by around 0.9C compared to preindustrial levels, with 0.6C coming in the last 40 years alone (source: IPCC).
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