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Weekly Highlights | From Sustainability Trends on Earth to the Rise of Polluting Space Missions

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By illuminem

· 4 min read

1. How the Billionaire Space Race Could Be One Giant Leap for Pollution

By The Guardian

  • Companies such as SpaceX , Virgin Galactic and Space Adventures are driving the private space industry, which comes with vast environmental costs
  • The emissions for one long-haul plane flight are 1-3 tons of carbon dioxide (per passenger) compared to 50-75 tonnes for one rocket launch
  • The space tourism market is estimated to reach $2.58bn in 2031, growing 17.15% each year of the next decade

2. Bring On More Solar And Wind — But Have Backup Power And Energy Storage

By Forbes

  • Wind and solar energy are intermittent fuels. Therefore, they must be firmed up by green and safe energy storage systems. Most often, natural gas is used as the safety net
  • Tesla Inc. is investing $5 billion in a battery storage manufacturing facility while Xcel Energy has received hundreds of bids to help it integrate energy storage into its wind and solar energy networks
  • California will integrate additional 20,000 MW of wind and solar resources to its current capacity  - a figure that could grow by another 15,000 MW by 2030

3. China's New Carbon Market, the World's Largest: What to Know

By New York Times

  • China, the world’s biggest source of greenhouse gas pollution, opened a national carbon emissions trading market on Friday
  • This initiative is part of Mr. Xi’s plan to achieve the two objectives declared last year: China’s emissions of carbon dioxide will peak before 2030 and the country will achieve carbon neutrality before 2060
  • In 2019, China’s greenhouse gas output accounted for 27 percent of global emissions, more than the combined total of the next three biggest emitters: USA, EU and India

4. Volvo's Plan to Drive the Green Steel Market

By GreenBiz

  • Volvo is planning to manufacture its cars with fossil-free steel by 2026
  • The Swedish carmaker signed a statement of intent with Nordic steelmaker SSAB to commercialise a process to produce steel using green hydrogen instead of coal
  • Steel is one of the largest sources of carbon emissions in car manufacturing: it accounts for 35% in internal combustion vehicles and for 20% in EVs, where batteries are responsible for a larger part of the pie

5. Lightbulb Moment: the Battery Technology Invented in a Brisbane Garage that Is Going Global

By The Guardian

  • Dominic Spooner’s startup Vaulta is working on a reusable battery creating less waste
  • Vaulta has signed agreements with aerospace and car battery companies (e.g. Braille Battery). Furthermore, last month the company received a federal grant to commercialise its technology
  • Vaulta’s technology reduces the number of components used in battery cases, thus decreasing the battery size by ~18%

6. Biden and Merkel Fail to Resolve Differences about Nord Stream 2 Gas Pipeline

By Reuters

  • Merkel says Russia could face EU sanctions if Russia uses energy as a weapon in dealings with other countries
  • The US will not go further in agreement around how such actions would be triggered
  • Not providing details about the agreement will prevent Russia to acknowledge and eventually evading those measures

7. Sustainability Trends Report 2021

By Generation Investment Management

  • Natural Solutions: 2021 is a critical year for nature, with many global summits on biodiversity, food and climate change
  • Energy: A huge acceleration in clean energy projects, together with a stop to fossil-fuel projects, are needed to keep within the +1.5°C target
  • Mobility & Buildings: Cities are experimenting with many new schemes, taking cars off their streets. Disadvantaged communities lack access to amenities of sustainable cities

8. A Step Towards Creating Clean Hydrogen

By Technology Networks

  • Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have found a low-cost way to produce hydrogen as a clean source, by using sunlight to split off oxygen molecules from water
  • The key to this breakthrough came through a method of creating electrically conductive paths through a thick silicon dioxide layer that can be performed at low cost and scaled to high manufacturing volumes
  • The researchers’ next major challenge is to move on to the other half of the equation, applying these ideas to make devices for the hydrogen portion of the reaction

9. Oil falls $2 after OPEC+ Producers Agree to Raise Output

By Reuters

  • OPEC+ agrees to boost oil supply after the UAE and Saudi Arabia reached a compromise
  • Goldman Sachs sees 'upside' to oil forecasts from the OPEC+ deal
  • Oil skids along with other risk assets due to falling demand and new waves of Covid cases

10.Climate Policy Factbook


  • There are three concrete areas where G20 governments can act today to make significant contributions toward achieving the Paris Agreement goals
  • These are phasing out support for fossil fuels, putting a price on carbon emissions and making companies disclose the risks they face due to climate change.
  • Urgent work needs to be taken as only a small minority of countries are on the right track on all three components (only Germany and Italy in the G20)

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