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The latest climate change news from WWF

The European Investment Bank in Luxemburg. © Wikimedia Commons

The European Investment Bank (EIB) today became the world's first public lender to commit to ending funding for coal, oil and gas by 2021.

 

Responding to the news, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF's global climate and energy practice said: "We face our future every day when we experience unprecedented fires, floods, extreme cold, heatwaves and droughts. We need to step up our climate ambition if we are to have a chance to tackle the climate emergency. Ambition is about specific measures. And the European Investment Bank's announcement today that its new energy lending policy will exclude all fossil fuels projects from 2021 is an example of ambitious climate action.
 

"They have set a new global standard. All other banks, private and public, must follow suit. Cutting funding for polluting fossil fuel projects and switching to clean renewable energy is the least we must do to address this crisis."

Margaret Kuhlow, global leader of WWF's Finance Practice said: "
This is good news. Public finance needs to lead the way in the transition to decarbonzied economies and all finance needs to be aligned with the 1.5°C target of Paris."
 
For further information, contact Mandy Jean Woods mwoods@wwfint.org 

Posted: November 14, 2019, 12:00 am
Nord Stream II comprises the planning, construction and operation of a new twin subsea pipeline that would connect European consumers with Russian gas fields.  © Nicklas Liljegren/SjöfartsverketBrussels, Belgium - 14 November 2019 
 
The European Investment Bank (EIB) today became the world's first public lender to commit to ending funding for coal, oil and gas. In a major boost for climate action and the EU's green credentials, it agreed to stop providing loans to fossil fuel projects by 2021. Other public and private banks must now urgently follow suit.
 
The decision today follows months of discussions and in-fighting between Member States, who are the EIB Board members, particularly over whether or not to maintain funding for gas projects. 
 
Tonight 19 EU Member States, including Germany, supported the policy. Three voted against because they wanted more flexibility on gas funding - Poland, Romania and Hungary - and six abstained. Of those six, Estonia, Lithuania, Malta and Cyprus did not vote due to a perceived lack of flexibility on gas, and Luxembourg and Austria abstained because they were against the inclusion of nuclear. Although the European Commission had pushed for more gas to be included, in the end it supported the proposal.
 
Sébastien Godinot, Economist at WWF's European Policy Office said:
"Hats off to the European Investment Bank and those countries who fought hard to help it set a global benchmark today. All public and private banks must now follow suit and end funding of coal, oil and gas to safeguard investments and tackle the climate crisis. The EIB itself must not make use of the exemptions in its energy policy that allow it still to finance some gas projects: it should focus exclusively on clean power sources like wind and solar. In this way, it will start morphing into the EU's Climate Bank."
 
What does the new EIB energy lending policy do?
 
The good
  • Phases out all fossil fuel support by the end of 2021 - since 2013, the EIB has lent €13 bn to coal, oil and gas projects.
  • Integrates the Energy Efficiency First principle, coupled with a new building renovation initiative.
  • Proposes a new energy transition package, with the EIB proposing to give up to 75% financing to projects in Member States or regions with a 'more challenging transition path'.
The bad
  • It postpones the end of financing to gas projects until 2021, which opens a gap for billions of Euros to be lent to gas at a time when scientists tell us there is no more space in the environmental budget for fossil fuel emissions.
  • It allows further financing for any gas infrastructure that could potentially transport so-called 'green gas' in an undefined future. Given that 'green gas' is nowhere near being commercially available, there is a risk that fossil gas pipelines will still be financed with the excuse that they could one day be used for low-carbon gases. 
  • It sets an emissions threshold of 250 grammes of CO2 per kilowatt, which is completely at odds with the 100 grammes threshold set by the EU's other central environmental regulation, the EU Taxonomy for Sustainable Investments (currently in trilogue negotiations). This is way too high, allowing efficient gas power plants still to be eligible.
The EIB must ensure that it ends gas funding once and for all, and put the EU on a path to climate neutrality. WWF calls on incoming EU Commission President Von der Leyen and Vice-President Timmermans to make this a priority for their mandate.
 
Contact:
Sébastien Godinot
Economist, WWF European Policy Office
+32 489 46 13 14
sgodinot@wwf.eu

Sarah Azau
Media Manager, WWF European Policy Office
+32 473 57 31 37
sazau@wwf.eu
Posted: November 14, 2019, 12:00 am
WWF staff and supporters at the climate march in New York City.  © WWF-US / Keith ArnoldOver the past year new science and impressive grass-roots action have driven climate change back up on the international agenda. Four groundbreaking reports by IPCC and IPBES - on 1.5°C, land, and oceans and cryosphere, and biodiversity - show us the dangers and costs of business-as-usual and the benefits of urgent and transformative actions and halving emissions by 2030.

The global movement of youth and other citizens has brought millions to the streets, sending a powerful message that societies demand immediate action on climate change, social justice and equitable access to the benefits of development.

The Climate Action Summit 2019 called for greater climate ambition from countries. While it was framed as "the start of the race," the response was weak from countries representing the vast majority of global emissions. Seventy other countries indicated they would enhance their national plans or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). This is an inadequate response, given that climate change impacts the world's poorest countries more than the rich countries who are historically responsible for the problem.

The Summit did, however, further channel energies by subnational and non-state actors, including investors, towards climate action with stepped up efforts towards sectoral decarbonization and an accelerated transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and zero-carbon technologies.

The coming year provides a huge opportunity for Parties to the Paris Agreement to mobilize and harness concerted action to avert a climate catastrophe and the worsening social conflicts that will inevitably emerge. We are now well into the first iteration of the agreement's five-year ambition cycle, where countries must revisit the ambition of their NDCs and submit ambitious long-term strategies (LTS) to bring the world closer to the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C.

COP25 is a chance for all countries to take meaningful collective decisions to inform NDC revision and enhancement in the current ambition cycle. It is also an opportunity to ensure, through progress on Loss and Damage, that the poorest and most vulnerable communities have the resources to respond to severe and irreversible impacts that they did not cause.

WWF recommends the Chilean COP25 Presidency and all Parties focus on three priorities: closing the 1.5°C gap with enhanced NDCs, mobilising urgent action from state and non-state actors, and filling gaps and strengthening the multilateral response to the climate crisis.

Read more: Responding to the Climate Crisis - WWF expectations for COP25
Posted: November 13, 2019, 12:00 am
The US government today initiated the formal process to withdraw from the global climate Paris Agreement.
Responding to the news, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF's global climate and energy practices and President of COP20, said: 

"It is disappointing that the US Government has decided to formally withdraw from the Paris Agreement. We know that this decision would be reversed sooner rather than later because no one can pull out from a process that is about the safety, welfare and security of citizens. And no-one can deny we have to face the consequences of the climate crisis with clear, strong and decisive action. 

Their abdication of responsibility on the climate crisis does not preclude the rest of the world from doing its part. In this time of planetary emergency we have to have responsible leaders and actors doing their part for a more sustainable planet. Now, more than ever, we need leaders - especially high emitting countries, cities, companies and other actors - to accelerate their efforts to scale up and speed up climate action. If we are to avoid the very worst impacts of the climate crisis, we need to get the world on a net zero emissions pathway without further delay."

For further information, contact Mandy Jean Woods mwoods@wwfint.org 

 
Posted: November 4, 2019, 12:00 am
Posted: October 30, 2019, 12:00 am
UNFCCC flags outside the Bonn International Conference Centre. © WWF/Naoyuki YamigishiResponding to the news that the Chilean government has withdrawn from hosting COP25 scheduled for 2-13 December in Santiago, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF's global climate and energy practice said: 

"We express our concern over the unfortunate news that the Chilean government has decided to withdraw from hosting the annual UN climate talks (COP25) due to start in a few weeks. Urgent climate action is inextricably linked to social vulnerability, environmental justice and a just transition. We express our solidarity with the people of Chile and appreciation to all Chileans and others worldwide who had been working very hard to make COP25 a success.

"We expect a fast response from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat. We hope that in this time of climate crisis, they will soon announce updated plans for COP25, so that we continue with all efforts to urgently move the world to a net zero pathway.

"We encourage world leaders to continue to support the process and show it by stepping up their own country pledges to ensure an extremely ambitious 2020."

For further information, contact:  
Mandy Jean Woods: mwoods@wwfint.org
 
Posted: October 30, 2019, 12:00 am
A banner protesting against a proposal to build a massive nuclear dump in the Lake District to house all of the UK's nuclear waste. © Global Warming Images / WWFBrussels, Belgium - 22 October 2019
 
What's happening?
On Wednesday 23 October, the European Parliament will start negotiations with the Council and the European Commission over a new classification system for sustainable investments. This is known as the EU taxonomy. 

Why does it matter?
The aim of the taxonomy is to show which economic activities are sustainable to help guide investors and prevent greenwashing. If it works properly, it would be a crucial tool for shifting billions of Euros from dirty to clean investments. 

The European Parliament adopted a position in March which, though weakened by less progressive parties, is the most ambitious of all the institutions. The Council has a fairly conservative position, but Member States are completely split over several critical issues - for example, whether nuclear energy should be included as "sustainable". It is crucial that the Parliament, and forward-looking Member States, stand firm. 

Sébastien Godinot, Economist at WWF European Policy Office said:
"Nuclear power is not sustainable - ask anyone who lives near Chernobyl or Fukushima. The French government and its allies need to withdraw their disgraceful support for nuclear or the taxonomy is dead in the water, because no clear-headed investor will touch nuclear with a barge-pole. On this, and on the other critical issues, MEPs must hold firm to their position, to ensure we have a taxonomy which works." *

What are Member States in disagreement over?
- On whether nuclear should be included. Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Greece and Cyprus all want nuclear out of the taxonomy.
- On whether the taxonomy has only two categories - 'green' activities and 'other', or several which look at degrees of sustainability, covering the full economy. France, supported by Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Germany and Malta, want a full taxonomy.
- On how far investors need to disclose their taxonomy alignment for green funds only or for all funds. France, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal and Belgium favour fuller disclosure.
- On the timeline for the first part of the taxonomy, which covers climate. Austria, Portugal, the Netherlands and Sweden are pushing for faster implementation. 

What is the European Parliament's position?
It's not perfect, but it's more progressive than that of the Council. The European Parliament supports the taxonomy only labelling fully 'sustainable' activities. But it also includes a crucial review clause to expand the taxonomy to unsustainable activities. It also does not want any nuclear, or coal and high-carbon activities to get the 'sustainable' rating. Finally,it wants investors to disclose the degree of taxonomy alignment for all funds, and to only market as 'sustainable' those funds fully aligned with the taxonomy.
 
What does WWF want?
WWF is calling for a taxonomy which gives every economic activity a ranking from dark green to red, a bit like the Energy Efficiency label you see on fridges. This would help companies to make their business models sustainable and investors to make environmentally-sound choices. What's more, to make a difference this rating must be publicly available - known as 'disclosure'. 
 
Last month, WWF and over 50 organisations jointly launched a statement with ten priority issues on the EU 'taxonomy' for sustainable investments.  
 
More information:
*See for example this report from BNP Paribas, which says [WWF's italics]: 
"For clarification purposes, the following sectors are excluded from the BNP Paribas Green Bond Framework: defence and security, palm oil, wood pulp, nuclear power generation, coal-fired power generation, unconventional oil & gas, mining and tobacco." 
https://invest.bnpparibas.com/sites/default/files/documents/bnpp_green_bond_framework_12-01-2018.pdf

Contact:
Sébastien Godinot
Economist, WWF European Policy Office
+32 489 46 13 14
sgodinot@wwf.eu

Sarah Azau
Media Manager, WWF European Policy Office
+32 473 57 31 37
sazau@wwf.e
Posted: October 22, 2019, 12:00 am
Bela Voda, Open Mine-3 © WWF-BulgariaJust Transition in Eastern and Southern Europe contributes to the local development in the target regions by having a positive impact in all the important aspects of the transition process – social, economic and environmental.
 
16 October 2019 (Brussels, Belgium) - A group of 41 mayors from 10 coal regions in 9 European countries are launching a statement supporting a just transition to the post-coal era. Two of the mayors - from the Czech Republic and Germany - presented this statement to the EU Commission's Deputy Director-General for Energy, Klaus-Dieter Borchardt at the meeting of the EU "Coal Regions in Transition Platform" in Brussels on 16 October. The Platform aims to help regions overcome their dependence on coal by developing sustainable economic activities.
 
In the declaration they:
  • affirm their commitment to the Forum of Mayors on Just Transition;
  • encourage governments to engage in dialogue with regional stakeholders;
  • underline the importance of transparency and consultation with local governments in the European Commission's' "Coal Regions in Transition Platform" initiative; 
  • urge that appropriate mechanisms are made available at the national and European levels for capacity building and to ensure financial support for the just transition;
  • welcome the proposal of the European Union institutions for a Just Transition Fund, under the condition that it will be adequately funded and used for the support of local communities and the development of sustainable economic activities creation in coal and lignite mining regions;
  • call on the European Council, the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Energy Community to strengthen their support for just transition; and
  • commit to continued action, at the local level on just transition and to supporting each other in creating a sustainable future for the benefit of all our citizens. 
The signatory mayors come from Germany, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Greece, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. Two are from non-EU countries (Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro) where phasing out coal is not yet even being discussed, showing that in some cases, regions are taking the lead. Mayors from countries covered by WWF Central and Eastern Europe included:
  • Elza Velichkova - Bobov Dol, Bulgaria
  • Vasile Jurca - Petrila, Romania
  • Nicolae Dunca - Aninoasa, Romania
  • Tiberiu Iacob-Ridzi - Petrosani, Romania
  • Lucian Resmerită - Lupeni, Romania
  • Katarína Macháčková - Prievidza, Slovakia
  • FrantišekTám - Bojnice, Slovakia
  • Silvia Grúberová - Handlová, Slovakia
  • Dušan Šimka - Nováky, Slovakia
  • Jozef Božik - Partizánske, Slovakia
"41 mayors have signed the Declaration and we hope to get more signatures. We know change is happening but we now need help from the EU to build our capacity at regional level to cope with the change and to help us access the necessary resources to support a fair and successful transition for all our communities" - Kamila Bláhová, Mayor of Litvinov, Czech Republic
 
One of the signatories is the mayor of Bob dol in Bulgaria. WWF-Bulgaria has been working with stakeholders in the Bob dol and Pernik Municipalities for the past year. A study of the Southwest coal region in Bulgaria was conducted which provided 3 scenarios for possible coal-free prosperity for the region.

Mayors' Declaration and full list of signatories
 
Incoming EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has committed to achieving a climate neutral Europe by 2050. To help coal regions reduce emissions and restructure their economies, she wants to set up a 'Just Transition Fund'. Ensuring there is enough money going to affected regions, and that it is spent only in ways that will support workers and communities in a move towards sustainable net zero emissions is crucial for achieving climate neutrality.
 
"In Weisswasser, we have navigated many hurdles, for example overcoming depopulation in the 1990s. But we cannot ensure a fair energy transition alone. Our Declaration shows that mayors are ready to engage with the EU and national governments on this issue.  We need the EU to show it is listening and work with us on a successful transition for all Europe's coal regions." - Torsten Pötzsch, Mayor of Weisswasser, Germany
 
"Mayors and their regions are looking forward to a future after coal. They are showing their commitment to that future by signing and handing over this declaration. To help them and ensure no-one is left behind, EU funding and constructive dialogue with the impacted regions is crucial. - Juliette de Grandpré, Senior Policy Adviser, WWF Germany
 
Mayors' Declaration and full list of signatories
 
Contact:
Georgi Stefanov
Chief Climate and Energy Expert, WWF-Bulgaria
Tel: +359 889 517 976
Email: gstefanov@wwf.bg
www.wwf.bg / www.climatebg.org  
Skype: zoro_stefanov
 
Juliette de Grandpré
Senior Policy Advisor, WWF Germany
Tel: + 49 151-188 54 937
Juliette.deGrandpre@wwf.de
 
Sarah Azau
Media Manager, WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 473 573 137
sazau@wwf.eu 
 
Background:
Phasing out fossil fuel-based electricity generation, especially coal, is a prerequisite for fulfilling the European Union's commitment to the Paris Agreement and the leadership role the EU strives to have in global climate policy. Such a major change must be accompanied by a comprehensive Just Transition strategy aiming at minimising hardships for workers and their communities in the associated industries through active political and financial support, as well as shifting local economies towards sustainable economic activities.
 
The goal of the Just Transition Project is to develop tailor-made transition strategies for economic transformation of specific regions in Bulgaria (Southwest Bulgaria), Greece (Western Macedonia), and Poland (Silesia), supported by best practice examples from Germany, away from coal and towards sustainable economic activities. A key message is to make the stakeholders from Bulgaria, Greece, Poland, as well as Germany and Brussels recognise "the just transition" as a fully legitimate part of climate change policies. 
Posted: October 16, 2019, 12:00 am
Map showing the regions of mayors who have signed the EU just transition declaration (October 2019) © WWF GermanyBrussels, Belgium - 16 October

What's happening?
A group of 41 mayors from 10 coal regions in 9 European countries are launching a statement supporting a just transition to the post-coal era. 

Two of the mayors - from the Czech Republic and Germany - are presenting this statement to the EU Commission's Deputy Director-General for Energy, Klaus-Dieter Borchardt at the meeting of the EU 'Coal Regions in Transition Platform' in Brussels on 16 October. The Platform aims to help regions overcome their dependence on coal by developing sustainable economic activities.

The signatory mayors come from Germany, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Greece, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. Two are from non-EU countries (Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro) where phasing out coal is not yet even being discussed, showing that in some cases, regions are taking the lead.

Why does it matter?
Incoming EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has committed to achieving a climate neutral Europe by 2050. To help coal regions reduce emissions and restructure their economies, she wants to set up a 'Just Transition fund'. Ensuring there is enough money going to affected regions, and that it is spent only in ways that will support workers and communities in a move towards sustainable net zero emissions, is crucial for achieving climate neutrality.

Kamila Bláhová, mayor of Litvinov in the Ústí nad Labem region, Czech Republic said:
"41 mayors have signed the Declaration and we hope to get more signatures. We know change is happening but we now need help from the EU to build our capacity at regional level to cope with the change and to help us access the necessary resources to support a fair and successful transition for all our communities"

Torsten Pötzsch, mayor of Weisswasser in the Lusatia region of Germany said:
"In Weisswasser, we have navigated many hurdles, for example overcoming depopulation in the 1990s. But we cannot ensure a fair energy transition alone. Our Declaration shows that mayors are ready to engage with the EU and national governments on this issue.  We need the EU to show it is listening and work with us on a successful transition for all Europe's coal regions. "  
 
Juliette de Grandpré, Senior Policy Adviser, WWF Germany said:
"Mayors and their regions are looking forward to a future after coal. They are showing their commitment to that future by signing and handing over this declaration. To help them and ensure no-one is left behind, EU funding and constructive dialogue with the impacted regions are crucial.

In the declaration they:
  • affirm their commitment to the Forum of Mayors on Just Transition
  • encourage governments to engage in dialogue with regional stakeholders 
  • underline the importance of transparency and consultation with local governments in the European Commission's' "Coal Regions in Transition Platform" initiative 
  • urge that appropriate mechanisms are made available at the national and European levels for capacity building and to ensure financial support for the just transition
  • welcome the proposal of the European Union institutions for a Just Transition Fund, under the condition that it will be adequately funded and used for the support of local communities and the development of sustainable economic activities creation in coal and lignite mining regions, 
  • call on the European Council, the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Energy Community to strengthen their support for just transition
  • commit to continued action, at the local level on just transition and to supporting each other in creating a sustainable future for the benefit of all our citizens. 
The EU Platform for Coal Regions in Transition will meet in Brussels on 16 and 17 October.

See the Mayors' Declaration and full list of signatories.
More on WWF's regions beyond coal initiative

Contact:
Juliette de Grandpré
Senior Policy Advisor, WWF Germany
Tel: + 49 151-188 54 937
Juliette.deGrandpre@wwf.de

Sarah Azau
Media Manager, WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 473 573 137
sazau@wwf.eu 
Posted: October 16, 2019, 12:00 am
Mavropigi coal power plant, Greece © Europe Beyond CoalBrussels, Belgium - 15 October 2019

In a blow to the climate and the EU's green credentials, the European Investment Bank's Board failed a second time to agree to end funding for coal, oil and gas today, instead pushing the decision back to 14 November. 
 
The postponement follows weeks of wrangling between Member States.  France supports a phase-out of fossil fuel funding as originally proposed by the European Investment Bank (EIB) in July, while the EU Commission, Germany and Eastern European countries want gas projects still to be eligible for EIB support. 
 
Sébastien Godinot, Economist at WWF's European Policy Office said:
"We are appalled by the backward-looking stance of Germany, the EU Commission and others. They are sabotaging the EIB's commitment to align with the Paris Agreement. The EIB has therefore missed an opportunity to begin morphing into the EU 'Climate Bank', and set a global benchmark by ending its support for fossil fuels. We urge all Member States and the Commission to support this on 14 November." 
 
Contact:
Sébastien Godinot
Economist, WWF European Policy Office
+32 489 46 13 14
sgodinot@wwf.eu

Sarah Azau
Media Manager, WWF European Policy Office
+32 473 57 31 37
sazau@wwf.eu
Posted: October 15, 2019, 12:00 am