Global Investor Touts Methane Opportunity with Oil & Gas Industry

Institutional investors worldwide are increasingly encouraging oil and gas companies to improve and disclose their management strategies to minimise methane risk.

Methane – an invisible, odorless gas and main ingredient in natural gas – is routinely emitted by the global oil and gas industry, posing a reputational and economic threat to portfolios.

Natural gas is widely marketed as a low-carbon fuel because it burns roughly 50 percent cleaner than coal. But this ignores a major problem: methane. Natural gas is almost pure methane, a powerful pollutant that speeds up Earth’s warming when it escapes into the atmosphere.

Last month marked a significant milestone in investor action on the methane issue. The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) launched a new initiative representing 30 investors and $3 trillion in assets that will engage with the oil and gas industry across five different continents to improve its methane management and disclosure practices. The PRI initiative complements existing methane engagement efforts focused on the US led by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and CERES.

EDF Senior Manager Sean Wright recently sat down with Sylvia van Waveren, a Senior Engagement Specialist with Robeco Institutional Asset Management (Robeco), a Dutch-based investment firm managing over $160 billion, to discuss the matter and understand why some investors are keen to affect the status quo on methane.

Sylvia van Waveren, Senior Engagement Specialist, Robeco Institutional Asset Management

Wright: Why is methane a focus of your engagements? What do you see as the risks of unmanaged methane emissions? 

van Waveren: Methane is one of the most important drivers of engagement with the oil and gas industry. We invest in oil and gas companies worldwide. A year ago, we started engaging them, specifically on climate change – and within that the methane issue is included.

In the past, methane was viewed as a U.S. shale gas issue, but more recently it has become important in Europe as we learned that methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. So in that sense, we learned a lot from the U.S. discussions and we still do.

I would like to stress that we see the methane issue more as a business opportunity than a risk. What we often say to companies is that methane is a potential revenue source. It would be a waste if companies do not use it.

Wright: The scope of PRI’s initiative is global, with investors from 3 different continents as far away as Australia and New Zealand, and a plan to engage with companies from the Latin America, Europe, North America and Asia-Pac. What does this level of global collaboration convey about methane emissions?

van Waveren: I am happy and it is good to see that others have taken up the seriousness of this issue, as well. Methane is no longer a U.S. only problem. The issue is being raised and discussed in all kinds of geographies.

I’m a firm believer in collective engagements. They can be a powerful force when the issue is not contained within borders. That is the case with greenhouse gases. So yes, I’m happy to see the PRI initiative taking off and I am an active believer in getting this solved and bringing attention to this subject.

Wright: In your conversations thus far with companies about methane, what resonates best when making the business case for improving methane management and disclosure?

van Waveren: When we talk about motivation at the company level, I have to be honest, it’s still early days. The European companies are talking in general terms and just now conceptualising methane policies. If we’re lucky, they have calculated how much methane is part of their greenhouse gas emissions. And if we’re more fortunate, they are producing regional and segregated figures from carbon, but it’s really very meager how motivated the companies are and what triggers them most.

I really feel we should emphasise more with companies to get them motivated and to really look at the seriousness of methane. One issue that is particularly bothersome is that many companies do not know how to calculate, estimate and set targets to reduce methane. It is still a mystery to many of them. That’s why we come in with engagements. We need to keep them sharp on this issue and ask them for their actions, calculations and plans.

Wright: Who are other important allies that have a role in solving this problem, and why?

van Waveren: We always would like to have an ally in the government. For example, carbon pricing or carbon fixations are all topics that we look for from the government. But in practice, that doesn’t work. Governments sometimes need more time. So we do not always wait for the government. When companies say they will wait for government, we say, “You should take a proactive approach.”

We rely very much on our knowledge that we get from within the sector. We review data analyses and make intermediate reports of scoring. We find best practice solutions and we hold companies accountable. There are also times when we name names. So in that sense, that is how engagement works. The data providers and other organisations with good knowledge and good content on methane – and EDF is certainly one of them – are very instrumental to get the knowledge that we need.

Wright: Can you give me an example of a widespread financial risk facing an industry in the past that was proactively improved by investors leading the charge – similar to this initiative?

van Waveren: More than 20 years ago, we had a greenhouse gas issue – acid rain. Investors helped solve that problem. Because of this, I’m hopeful that investors can also play a positive role in reducing methane.

I would also say the issue of Arctic drilling. Not so long ago, this was top of mind when we talked to our portfolio companies. A lot of companies have now withdrawn from Arctic drilling, especially from offshore Arctic drilling. I think investors were quite successful in sending a clear signal to the industry in a collective way that we didn’t see Arctic drilling as a good process. Maybe profitable – if at all – to the companies, but certainly not for the environment

Wright: Thank you, Sylvia. We really appreciate your time and your thoughtful answers showing how investors can be part of the solution on methane.

Posted in Climate, EDF Europe, Energy, Methane, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How blockchain could upend power markets

Talk about a disruptive technology. The “world's leading software platform for digital assets,” blockchain
may be little known, but it could revolutionise electricity markets.

What is blockchain?

Blockchain, in short, is a secure, decentralised, and highly efficient way to manage and keep track of infinite transactions. Rather than being stored on a central server, peer-to-peer transactions are replicated across a number of computers, creating a data store that records exchanges in almost real time. To ensure t
he transactions are secure, authenticity and identity are maintained through cryptography and digital signatures.

Bitcoin – perhaps the most-recognised blockchain application – already is challenging conventional money exchangers. According to Cambridge University researchers, almost 6 million people use this cryptocurrency in order to make electronic peer-to-peer transactions without an intermediary such as a bank. And because blockchain technology is decentralised and accessible from multiple locations, Bitcoin funds can’t be frozen, withheld, seized, or taken.

New electricity opportunities

When it comes to electricity, blockchain could offer a reliable, rapid, and low-cost means to record and validate financial and operational transactions. These transactions could include selling and buying electricity – again without an intermediary, in this case the incumbent utility monopoly. In light of the rapid rise of distributed (decentralised) energy resources like batteries and solar panels, some analysts even believe the market for blockchain applications is significantly larger in the energy sector than for financial services.

Blockchain could serve as a backbone technology for electricity markets based on multiple sellers and buyers, or peer-to-peer transactions. This type of market stands in contrast to tradition: “The old system of a few big power plants and vertically-integrated utilities didn’t really need blockchain,” says Michael Liebreich, chairman of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

But the new, evolving energy system – which gives people more choice and control over their electricity use and costs – could take advantage of the disruptive technology.

European progress

Blockchain is gaining particular attention in Europe where utilities have less market control and distributed generation, like home solar and electric vehicles, is accelerating:

  • German electric utility RWE is testing a blockchain application for charging electric vehicles.
  • Vattenfall AB, the largest Nordic utility, plans a blockchain app that would enable customers to buy and sell power independently of the utility.
  • Austria’s Wien Energie, is participating in a blockchain trial focused on energy trading with two other utilities.
  • Finland’s Fortum aims to enable consumers to control appliances over the internet in connected homes.
  • Grid Singularity, a startup firm in Austria,is using blockchain technology to validate electricity trade and monitor grid equipment.

In the United States, Brooklyn residents are testing blockchain technology to buy and sell solar energy.

What next?         

Who will take most advantage of blockchain remains an open question when it comes to electricity markets.

The ability to trade electricity could increase substantially the power of customers, as well as grid flexibility and efficiency. Blockchain also could enable customers to easily switch to electricity suppliers with better offers. For example, Electron and Data Communications Company have a platform that enables British customers to sign up to a new seller within a day.

Businesses also may benefit. For instance, a factory with solar panels could sell its excess electricity to another manufacturer.

So, on one hand, the technology’s ability to circumvent a central point of authority – aka, the utility – suggests individuals and companies will safely and quickly exchange energy services, eliminating a key portion of the utility’s business and revenue.

Yet others argue that a blockchain platform will be a key asset to electric utilities, or:

“… part of the answer to updating and improving centralised, legacy systems with a distributed hybrid system made up of a patchwork of both large power plants and microgrids powered by distributed energy resources such as solar power.”

These analysts admit blockchain will disrupt electricity markets by enabling decentralised power, yet they believe “the established utilities are best placed to evaluate and make strategic bets on blockchain technology’s potential applications.”

Blockchain likely will face opposition from entrenched utilities, and regulators will want to ensure the platform is safe and reliable. Diverse stakeholders in electricity markets also will need to establish common industry standards. Yet as more stakeholders consider grid modernisation and new utility business models, this disruptive technology suggests innovative models and approaches for delivering efficient, reliable, affordable, and clean energy.

Posted in EDF Europe, Energy | Comments are closed

Bryony Worthington for Prospect magazine: Reasons for hope in the fight against climate change

Baroness Bryony Worthington, Executive Director, Environmental Defense Fund Europe

Nasa recently announced the discovery of a solar system with seven earth-sized rocky planets, three of which could potentially sustain life. Interesting news, but at 235 trillion miles away, no one is going there soon. In the meantime, we need to look after our only home. We must protect ourselves from climate change. Our fate turns on a race between physics and politics.

The physics of climate change is off and running—we’re not sure how fast, and we don’t truly know the end point. But we do know that in the last century, dramatic increases in fossil fuel burning and changing land use began fundamentally changing the composition of the atmosphere. Warming has already raised sea levels, caused ocean acidification and coral reef bleaching. It contributes to depleted biodiversity, droughts, mass migration and extreme weather events including recently extreme high temperatures in the Arctic, heatwaves in Australia, drought in Bolivia, famine in north east Africa, flooding in the United States.

As for the politics, even before Donald Trump, our response had been too slow. The most instructive single metric is the parts per million (ppm) of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which not merely continues to increase, but to accelerate. Over the last 50 years the average increase was 1.7 ppm; in the last five 2.5 ppm. We need to up our game.

In 2015, it seemed possible to hope after the world came together to tackle climate change in Paris, helped by a newly positive US approach. Then last year, the prospect of a Trump presidency galvanised countries to ratify in record time. The Paris Agreement included a clear statement: in the second half of this century, all man-made emissions of greenhouse gases must be reduced to zero or be captured and stored.

It falls to our generation to make this happen. The difficulty is we must do so through national politics, which find it hard to deal with threats that straddle borders and have an inbuilt time lag so that consequences only unfold in the distant future. The charge that other countries are free-riding is always a powerful excuse for inaction. And that has even more sting now that Trump has begun rolling back domestic environmental protections, and suggesting he may even withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement.

But is Paris, and the multilateral spirit it embodies, really doomed? The UK’s Climate Change Act demonstrates the multilateral merit in setting a unilateral example. A recent report by the Grantham Institute lists over 800 climate change-related laws now in place in 99 countries. Most recently, Sweden published legislation setting a net zero target by 2045, citing the UK’s climate act as its model. Thankfully there are also signs that much of the rest of the world—most importantly China and India—will stick to their efforts to begin to decarbonise and the EU Commissioner during his visit to China this week emphasised the importance of continued EU-China collaboration and leadership.

Keep reading

Posted in Climate, EDF Europe | Comments are closed

Methane: The Next Frontier for European Climate Leadership

Mark Brownstein, Vice President, Climate and Energy

Mark Brownstein, Vice President, Climate and Energy

With 2016 on pace to be the hottest year ever recorded, it’s never been more urgent for countries to work together to protect our climate. Europe, with its long history of climate leadership, has a pivotal role to play in driving the next wave of efforts.

European leadership was central to achieving the historic Paris Climate Agreement, as well as recent breakthrough agreements on carbon dioxide emissions from aviation and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in refrigerators and air conditioners.

But there is one critical climate opportunity still to be taken on in Europe, and that’s methane – one of the biggest levers we have today to slow the rate of warming.

The other important greenhouse gas

Methane is a powerful greenhouse pollutant, over 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide during the first 20 years it hangs around in the atmosphere. In fact, scientists say methane accounts for around 25% of the warming experienced today.

Accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere determines the amount of warming our planet will experience; reducing it now lowers the chance of long-term catastrophic climate change. Cutting methane affects the rate of warming, decreasing the probability of intense heat waves and slowing rapid sea level rise. That’s why an effective climate strategy requires action to reduce both carbon dioxide and methane.

Shrinking the methane footprint

Natural gas is mostly methane, and globally the oil and gas sector is one of its largest contributors. Curbing methane across this industry is also the single biggest, most affordable opportunity to eliminate a sizable chunk of these emissions.

Across the supply chain, tens of millions of tons escape each year. In 2012, the industry leaked as much methane as was produced by Norway, the world’s seventh largest producer. Losses would be higher if they included wasted gas now burned off in flares rather than put to productive use.

A recent study concluded that methane from fossil fuel development is up to 60% greater than previously estimated. This mirrors new measurements in the United States that strongly indicate the same. Without action, experts say, emissions will climb by more than 20% worldwide by 2030.

Natural gas is widely marketed today as a low-carbon fuel, emitting roughly half the carbon dioxide of coal when burned. But that ignores the methane problem. Consequently, whether gas can truly be seen as a greener substitute for coal and oil  remains in question until the methane that is emitted is fully measured, regularly monitored and significantly reduced.

If the world were to cut oil and gas methane emissions by 45% by 2025, as the United States, Canada and Mexico recently agreed to do, it would have the same climate benefit over 20 years as closing one-third of the world’s coal plants.

Untapped opportunity for Europe

The International Energy Agency says oil and gas methane emissions are among five key pillars to reduce global greenhouse emissions. Fortunately, there are cost-effective strategies to reduce these emissions, creating important opportunities for countries and companies trying to meet their greenhouse-gas goals.

Curbing oil and gas methane requires little in the way of new capital or fundamental changes in business practice. Often, it’s as easy as tightening valves and repairing leaks. In places like the state of Colorado, where industry reductions are required, companies are finding that the benefits outweigh costs of regularly checking for leaks.

Europe is a central player in the global oil and gas industry. Four of the world’s top 15 gas-producing corporations are headquartered in Europe, with the continent producing 8% of the world’s natural gas. Presently, Europe is the largest gas importer, globally, and the IEA predicts the continent’s gas to rise over the next decade. For its emissions, official inventories rank total EU oil-and-gas methane higher than those reported for Iran or Saudi Arabia.

Taking the next steps

In May, the five Nordic states committed to developing a global target to reduce oil and gas methane. It’s a step, but we need greater European ambition to seize the full climate benefit offered by reducing methane emissions.

European companies have begun engaging more in the methane challenge. BP, Engie, ENI, Repsol, Statoil and Total have all expressed concern about methane. They’ve started surveying parts of their operations for emissions and disclosing that information. But so far only a few European companies have an action plan to reduce their global methane emissions, and none have specific reduction targets. All of them should be doing both.

Likewise, European nations inside and outside of the European Union should revise and implement national standards for oil and gas methane and incorporate measures into commitments for achieving the greenhouse reductions agreed to in Paris. And while Europe’s data suggest that its oil and gas methane emissions have declined, studies have shown such estimates to routinely undercount emissions. Europe could also be instrumental in developing a worldwide oil and gas methane goal, building on the Nordic commitment and cultivating support in other parts of the world, similarly to how it led the international community in setting limits on global aircraft and refrigerant industry emissions.

In a world where we are looking for every available tool to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and stay below dangerous climate thresholds, we can’t afford missed opportunities. Europe can affect real change in the oil and gas industry and reduce methane emissions, showing once again that it can propel a global community forward on climate solutions.

This article first appeared on The Economist Perspectives blog, which can be viewed here

Posted in EDF Europe, Methane | Tagged | Comments are closed

EU climate policies after 2020

Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, rapporteur of the new ESR proposal (photo credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg)

Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, rapporteur of the new ESR proposal (photo credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg)

On 20 July, the European Commission published two proposals for regulations dealing with emissions outside the EU Emission Trading Scheme for years 2021-30. After the summer break at the European Parliament, this week we learnt the names of rapporteurs and committees members who will be responsible to take the proposals through the legislative process.

The new for mechanism setting emissions budgets, known as the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR), will require Member States to cut their emissions from transport, buildings, agriculture and waste sectors and other sources of non-CO2 greenhouse gases. Besides that, it will newly cover emissions from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF).

Unlike the previous emissions budget regulations in Europe that allowed lower income Member States to actually increase their emissions, the ESR will require all countries to reduce their emissions compare to 1990 levels (apart from Bulgaria who can, as the country with lowest GDP per capita in the whole Union, keep their emissions at the same level as in 1990). The shared target is a 30% reduction of non-ETS emissions but the individual targets and reduction trajectories differ among Member States according to their wealth and emission levels between 2016-18. Our analysis (attached below) shows that a key determinant of whether the EU is able to meet these new targets is the degree to which additional action is taken in relatively rich, big emitting countries such as Germany.

The new proposal includes flexibilities used in the past (such as trade between countries) and adds a couple of new ones, specifically an option for some Member States to transfer a part of their allowances under the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme into ESR, and an opportunity to claim extra allocations from LULUCF removals and use them to compensate emissions from other sectors.

We have prepared a short briefing report summarising these proposals and highlighting the key areas of interest. The document can be downloaded here: ESR briefing report.

Posted in EDF Europe | Tagged , , , | Comments are closed

Why Now is the Time for the UK to Ratify the Paris Agreement

Baroness Bryony Worthington, Executive Director, Environmental Defense Fund Europe

Baroness Bryony Worthington, Executive Director, Environmental Defense Fund Europe

This week in the UK, a statutory instrument setting an emissions limt 57% below 1990 levels, for the period 2028-32, passed into law. The fact that the Government announced the carbon budget that enacts this limit on June 30th, one of the most extraordinary days of one of the most extraordinary weeks in British politics, is a testimony to the strength of the UK’s Climate Change Act, which provides a legal metronome for climate action in the UK, whatever the political circumstances, even when they are so all consuming. The Climate Change Act is a flexible, long term, technology neutral approach to climate mitigation that can bend so as not to break. The 5th carbon budget is, in essence, the UK’s own Paris target, covering the same time period as the European Nationally Determined Contribution.

Also this week, I wrote to congratulate the RT Hon Greg Clark MP, the new Secretary of State for the Department of Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and asking him to demonstrate the UK’s continued commitment to climate change, domestically and internationally, by initiating the legal ratification process the Paris Agreement in the UK.

For the Paris Agreement to come into global effect, 55 countries, representing 55% of global emissions need to legally ratify it or otherwise join. Our recent analysis shows the world is tantalisingly close to reaching these thresholds, with countries representing 54.4% of global emissions (against a target of 55%) currently expecting to ratify by the end of 2016 (as illustrated in this briefing: EDF Europe Paris Agreement Briefing).

The UK is responsible for 1.5% of global emissions, so the UK would tip the balance and leadership on the issue could make all the difference, bringing many tangible benefits, both here and globally including ensuring our efforts are matched in other countries and securing new markets for exports of climate change beating goods and services.

During the 5th Carbon Budget debate in the House of Lords on Tuesday, the new Lords Minister Baroness Neville Rolfe, reflected on the Climate Change Act saying: “Leaving the EU will bring challenges and opportunities to the UK. However, it does not change the fact that climate change remains one of the most serious long-term risks to our stability… The Act was passed with near-unanimous cross-party support, and this legal framework has inspired countries across the world, including Denmark, Finland and France. At its heart is a system of five-year cycles, mirrored in the historic Paris climate agreement, which the UK helped to achieve.”

I asked the Minister when the UK will ratify the Paris Agreement and she replied: “I can confirm that this Government remain committed to ratifying the Paris agreement, which was agreed last year by 195 countries, as soon as possible.” The process of ratification is not a lengthy or complex one. Once tabled, a simple statutory instrument becomes law after 21 sitting days. For a fuller explanation of why and how UK can play a leading role in the next stage of the historic Paris Agreement’s progress please read our short briefing (EDF Europe Paris Agreement Briefing). There is no reason to delay and, given we have now set our own targets into law, many good reasons to begin the process as soon as Parliament resumes in September.

You can also read full coverage of the Carbon Budget debate and a transcript of my speech online here.

(Baroness Bryony Worthington was part of the team that helped draft the 2008 Climate Change Act. You can read her biography here.)

Posted in EDF Europe | Tagged , , , | Comments are closed

Environmental Defense Fund Europe’s Launch Event in London

Baroness Bryony Worthington, Executive Director, Environmental Defense Fund Europe (photo credit: Jim Winslett)

Baroness Bryony Worthington, Executive Director, Environmental Defense Fund Europe (photo credit: Jim Winslett)

On Monday night, Environmental Defense Fund Europe welcomed guests to its launch event at the historic venue of Guildhall in London. Hosted by Baroness Bryony Worthington, Executive Director of Environmental Defense Fund Europe, the evening provided an introduction to our organisation, its work and its team followed by a lively discussion of how we will achieve change in Europe.

“Whatever the political situation in the UK and Europe, I’m looking forward to moving the needle on a range of issues, from fisheries reforms to tackling climate change,” Bryony Worthington told guests before hosting two panel discussions.

One debate featured Rt Hon Lord (Greg) Barker of Battle and Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP. The discussion began with the impact of Brexit, with Greg Barker commenting, “It will force Westminster to take responsibility for the environment… Thank god for the Climate Change Act.”

Ed Miliband added, “What we’ve got to fight for is a vision of a new relationship with Europe which has environmental protection at the heart.”

(L-R) Baroness Bryony Worthington, Rt Hon Lord Greg Barker of Battle, Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP (photo credit: Jim Winslett)

(L-R) Baroness Bryony Worthington, Rt Hon Lord Greg Barker of Battle, Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP (photo credit: Jim Winslett)

Audience at the Environmental Defense Fund Europe launch event (photo credit: Jim Winslett)

Audience at Environmental Defense Fund Europe launch event (photo credit: Jim Winslett)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other panel debate featured Carl Ferenbach, Diane Regas and Steve Hamburg of Environmental Defense Fund. The panel provided an insight into the work of Environmental Defense Fund in the US over the past 50 years and how this will now expand into Europe. “In the US, we work with both Republicans and Democrats. Here in Europe we will work with all parties,” commented Diane Regas. “Europe has been a leader on climate change. There are a lot of reasons for that which we can take back to other parts of the world.”

(L-R) Baroness Bryony Worthington, Diane Regas, Carl Ferenbach, Steve Hamburg (photo credit: Jim Winslett)

(L-R) Baroness Bryony Worthington, Diane Regas, Carl Ferenbach, Steve Hamburg (photo credit: Jim Winslett)

Steve Hamburg went on to explain that collaboration and partnerships is crucial to the work of Environmental Defense Fund saying, “We can’t do the science by ourselves, but we can together. And where we can help is to make sure that science is brought to effect and results in good policy.”

Carl Ferenbach was keen to stress that Environmental Defense Fund would not shy away from tackling the big issues in Europe: “We have to all aspire to find solutions to the very large problems… Working through the complexities of Europe and finding the solutions which work will be incredibly enriching.”

The evening concluded with a stunning performance by Bishi, who performed two songs and lit up Guildhall with an incredible visual display.

Bishi (photo credit: Jim Winslett)

Bishi (photo credit: Jim Winslett)

The event took place during Climate and Business Week in London.

Bryony Worthington and Environmental Defense Fund Europe would like to express their gratitude to all those who helped with the event and attended. Special thanks also go to the High Meadows Foundation for sponsoring the event and CHI&Partners for producing the film which was shown at the start of the evening. Thanks also go to Bishi, Matt Harden for the visuals and the Bowfins for the further musical accompaniment.

 

 

 

Posted in EDF Europe | Tagged , | Comments are closed

Managing Spain’s small-scale fisheries with limited data? ¡Sí se puede!

June 9, 2016 – This article first appeared on the EDFish blog.

For the last three years, Environmental Defense Fund Europe has been working in partnership with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Spain through a nation-wide project focusing on the sustainability of small-scale coastal fisheries. Small-scale fishing is the lifeblood of many coastal Spanish communities. In order to preserve this way of life it is critical to understand how these fisheries are doing biologically. As in small-scale fisheries worldwide, many Spanish coastal fisheries have limited information available to work with, and a stronger link between science and management could be made.

Small-scale coastal fisheries in both Spain and globally tend not to have the detailed information needed to utilize the most commonly used fisheries assessment methods. It used to be that there was a lack of tools adapted for use in small-scale fisheries, meaning that many went unassessed. Without the information needed to understand the real state of the ecosystem, and guide scientific decision making, effective management was hard to do.

But today there are alternatives: assessment tools collated from across the world that can be applied to Spanish small-scale coastal fisheries. These tools can start to paint the picture of the state of the marine ecosystems in question, and assess their vulnerability to over-exploitation. Finding ways to evaluate the state of these fisheries means gaining a deeper insight that can guide more effective fishery management decisions: both in terms of how to focus future data collection and how to design appropriate management measures.

These tools use the sort of information that is more readily available in small scale fisheries, such as:

  • How many different stocks are targeted?
  • What do we know about the biology of the targeted species? E.g. At what size do they reach maturity and what is their size, distribution and spawning potential?
  • What do we know about the fishing activity taking place?

Collaborative workshop yields results

Last month, together with Gonzalo Macho from the University of Vigo, we brought together fisheries scientists, managers and government and NGO representatives to take part in an intensive training workshop aimed at learning practical ways to assess and manage Spain’s smaller, data limited coastal fisheries. The event showcased Environmental Defense Fund’s Adaptive Fisheries Management Framework, which outlines a process and a range of tools already in use in other data-limited fisheries across the world. Attendees came to Madrid from six autonomous regions of Spain where fishing is at the heart of local communities.

“The wolf was not as fierce as we feared!” – Participants at the workshop commented that they were surprised by how easily the tools could be used.

During the workshop, we applied the tools and methods to the six case study fisheries in a series of hands-on sessions designed to equip the communities to go back to the field and apply what they had learned to these, and many other data limited scenarios we find in Spanish coastal fisheries.

We will be producing a technical paper in the coming months that reviews the framework, showcases the tools, offers concrete examples and discusses important limitations and opportunities to improve these tools as we put them into use across Spain.

Fishery managers and scientists who joined us in Madrid are eager to start practical application of what they learned in the workshop, and it is important to create a discussion and support phase as this work gets underway.  With this in mind, we are also forming a working group to offer ongoing support as participants test and apply these methods in the fisheries they work with. We’re looking forward to an ever-evolving dialogue with these varied regions, and new learnings from their experiences.

Stay tuned for updates as we take the Adaptive Fisheries Management Framework out ‘into the field’ in Spain’s data limited coastal fisheries.

Posted in Oceans | Tagged , , | Comments are closed

Paris Agreement signing should give Britain confidence to lead on low carbon strategy

April 22, 2016 — This article first appeared on Business Green.

The historic climate agreement reached in Paris last year was widely hailed as a major diplomatic breakthrough. For the first time, virtually all nations have agreed to take action together to try to reduce the global risk of climate change. As we approach the signing ceremony in New York this week the sense of momentum is clear and the USA, Canada and China have all recently contributed with announcements to collaborate closely on existing and new climate commitments.

In Britain, however, climate change policies have just run up against an industrial crisis centering on the potential closure of Tata’s UK steel division and the ongoing quest to find a buyer. Measures to address climate change have been directly blamed for the potential loss of tens of thousands of jobs and some have even tried to blame me personally for my role in the drafting of the Climate Change Act which was, in fact, specifically crafted to give policy makers the tools to guide a sensible transition over long timescales.

There are many reasons for Tata Steel’s decision to put its plants up for sale, some external, such as global over-capacity, some internal to the company but climate policy is not one of them. Like most industrial companies, Tata’s participation in the European Emissions Trading Scheme has delivered it a subsidy in recent years thanks to more emissions allowances being granted to them than were needed to match emissions. Rather than rip up our climate ambitions, just as others are now arriving on the same page, the answer to the UK steel crisis is to embrace the challenge of eliminating emissions of greenhouse gases from industry and to invest in future proofing industrial processes.

The UK is ahead of other countries when it comes to climate change; we have legally binding caps on our economy that stretch all the way out to 2050, reducing our emissions by 80% compared to 1990 levels. Getting emissions down to this level will be no easy task and we do not yet know which technologies will get us there or their future costs, but this is no reason to slow the transition we have begun. On the contrary, because environmental policies are exempt from State Aid rules, we can use targeted climate policies to provide supportive investment frameworks, bringing new investment to our shores, in clean infrastructure that will create future proof jobs and export opportunities.

Rather than bemoaning policies that over the last 25 years have steadily brought on more renewable energy and improvements in efficiency, industry should be demanding supportive environmental policies of their own. Including those which can unlock investments to take advantage of the abundance of low carbon, low price electricity at times of high supply that National Grid is now predicting for this summer and in to the future. The majority of industries’ response to climate policies to date has been to seek exemptions and compensation. This has worked up to a point. The European emissions trading scheme for example has provided companies such as Tata with useful cushions against falling demand for their products, thanks to allocations of emissions allowances set according to historically high ‘grandfathered’ benchmarks. But as caps tighten this strategy cannot last forever. The attitudes of both industry and government need to change to develop specific targeted policies to support investment in the necessary transition to low and zero carbon industrial production.

Industries that have been able to switch their fuels to renewable sources easily, where additional green support policies exist, have already shown transition is possible, particularly in the paper sector. Unfortunately renewable forms of energy are not yet at the point where they can be used easily to decarbonize the production of metals since they are very energy intensive and also use coal for part of the production process. There are alternatives including electrification and carbon capture and storage, but to invest in these solutions will require significant sums and high degree of confidence in market demand. Tata themselves have been exploring options including their HISana project in Holland and Swedish steel maker SSAB is also at the forefront of exploring new investment options. Yet the challenge is to get the UK Government to provide industrial companies with policies that support industrial transformation with a widening of focus away from renewables only. UK leadership on climate change needs to be matched by leadership in industrial modernisation and innovation which will enhance our competitiveness.

The necessary policy tools already exist, carbon pricing provides the overarching framework and generates revenues that can be used to support transformative investments. While other countries move to implement carbon pricing policies alongside us, supplementary policies to bring technologies down the cost curve, should also be introduced. Contracts for difference, have been tested and proven in deploying large scale investment in renewable energy and they can be adapted for use in industrial sectors and should now be the main policy focus. Electrification of British steel capacity can be made to work if some of the risks of capital investment are reduced and new industrial electricity tariffs are introduced to provide time of use incentives to coincide with periods of high supply and reward storage technologies. We are currently exporting scrap steel for it to be recycled in furnaces elsewhere and then paying to import the finished product. Clearly this is a sign that a new approach to this hugely important primary industry can and must be adopted.

I look forward to the Paris Agreement coming in to force which should give the UK the confidence to continue with its own climate leadership and support a new era of investment in clean steel production and a broader industrial base. With the right policies, we can show that climate action can act as a spur for industrial innovation and investment, securing jobs for the remainder of this century. I look forward to working with industry in my new role, as Executive Director of Environmental Defense Fund Europe, to help find the ways that work to achieve that objective.

Posted in Energy | Tagged | Comments are closed

Baroness Worthington, on joining EDF

March 16, 2016 — Bryony Worthington recently joined EDF to lead our work in Europe, which focuses on marine fisheries and clean energy.

By many measures humanity has never had it so good. Development of the earth’s natural resources has delivered higher living standards for a larger number of people than ever before. We feed, clothe, shelter and maintain the health of more people more successfully than ever before. Elements of this progress, however, have come at an obvious cost to the natural systems that support all life. Left unchecked, our lack of attention to these systems could not only harm the environment but also reverse much of what we have achieved for humanity. Despite our progress, we are currently facing an evolutionary bottleneck and there is no turning back. We must find a way forward that sustains human prosperity and environmental progress.

The good news is, we’re making progress in working out what we need to do and how to do it. The nations of the world have recognized the need to act together to address the risk of climate change and many are already taking action to relieve pressure on the natural world. The age of digital information has connected individuals to each other and to up-to-the-minute data about our environment, and it has done so just in time: Seeing our environmental challenges more clearly builds our sense of urgency as well as our ability to do something about them.

I’ve spent my career advocating environmental solutions, and this week I start a new phase, as the head of Environmental Defense Fund in Europe. I’m delighted to be joining an organization that has a remarkable history of accomplishment across five decades. Combining rigorous in-house scientific, economic and legal analysis with the goal of ‘finding the ways that work,’ Environmental Defense Fund has helped win a great many battles to preserve the natural world: banning DDT in the United States, thereby saving the bald eagle and other great American birds of prey; removing lead from petrol; using cap and trade to cut acid rain pollution from power plants and save the lakes and forests of the northeastern U.S.; reducing overfishing by promoting rights-based fisheries management; putting in place wildlife-friendly land management policies and low-carbon energy investments; and, most recently, leading an ambitious series of peer-reviewed scientific studies and partnerships with energy and technology companies that have helped expose the problem of methane leaks from oil and gas infrastructure.

Environmental Defense Fund has always been at the cutting edge of evidence-based advocacy, not afraid to try new approaches and take risks if the potential environmental benefit warranted it. For example, it was the first NGO to successfully partner with brands like McDonald’s, FedEx and Walmart, helping them bring about huge changes in their operations and supply chains. (And to remain independent, it does not accept funding from its corporate partners.) Its focus on science and data means it has avoided becoming bound by a rigid ideological belief system. And it has remained resolutely nonpartisan, ready to work with governments and stakeholders across the political spectrum. While Environmental Defense Fund works closely with many NGO partners, the combination of strengths it brings to the table is unique. I am proud to be helping to introduce the organization in Europe, because I believe it can complement the remarkable work already being undertaken here.

Historically, Europe has made great progress addressing environmental problems. But there is so much more to do. We in Europe are still learning from our experiences of what works and what doesn’t. We’re developing a knowledge-based economy and delivering innovation in technologies and services, but we remain dependent on a highly capitalized fossil-fuel infrastructure and the ‘traditional’ ways of doing things. I’m looking forward to using my experiences in the public, private, political and not-for-profit sectors to increase the pace of change here across a wide range of environmental issues. I’ve always been a campaigner and will always remain one. Joining Environmental Defense Fund is an exciting new opportunity to make an even greater difference. The green shoots of a new era of environmental responsibility are emerging – our job is to help them develop firm roots and flourish.

Posted in EDF Europe | Tagged | Comments are closed
  • About this blog

    EDF Europe is a European affiliate of the international nonprofit organization, Environmental Defense Fund.

    Headquartered in London and under the leadership of Executive Director, Baroness Bryony Worthington, it provides a new environmental voice in Europe that advocates ways that work.

    More about EDF Europe »

  • Stay informed

    Get updates on EDF's latest work in Europe.

  • Categories