Trump turmoil, climate change cost, greater powers for tax collectors, CCS in Abu Dhabi, and root and branch agreement on forests

Cop22 delegates say Trump victory won’t derail climate talks

Delegates to the UN climates in Morocco this week said the election of Donald Trump as US president must not derail talks to put the Paris Agreement to curb climate change into action.

The pact came into effect on 4 November, four years ahead of what UN negotiators had expected, as governments raced to ratify it ahead of the meeting in Marrakesh, and a potential Trump victory in the US presidential election. Trump, who has said climate change is a hoax, vowed earlier this year to cancel the Paris Agreement if elected.  

US withdrawal would not be possible under international law for four years, but Trump and his transition team are reported to have looked at several options for doing so. He has also promised to rescind the executive actions that President Obama has taken to limit US emissions of carbon within his first 100 days in office.

United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon said: “People everywhere look to the US to use its remarkable power to help lift humanity up and to work for the common good. The United Nations will count on the new Administration to strengthen the bonds of international cooperation as we strive together to uphold shared ideals, combat climate change, advance human rights, promote mutual understanding and implement the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Paul Watkinson, a French climate negotiator, tweeted: “Depressing US news, but the response has to be action not resignation, especially on climate.” 

Friends of the Earth’s chief executive officer, Craig Bennett, said: “If Mr Trump chooses to disengage then he will hand the next industrial revolution lock, stock and barrel to China. It is now more important than ever for individuals, communities, cities, regions and companies to lead the way in building a cleaner, safer future or us all.”

Australia this week became the 140th country to ratify the Paris Agreement, confirming its target to reduce emissions by between 26% and 28% below 2005 levels by 2030.



$23tr bill to combat climate change

Greenhouse gas reduction promises made by emerging economies in the run up to the United Nations climate conference in Paris at the end of 2015 add up to a staggering $23 trillion investment need, according to a study from the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC). The study came up with the figure by analysing the 2030 decarbonisation plans of 21 countries. The IFC calculated that the biggest opportunity – $16tn  – will be in infrastructure and green buildings in the highly populated Asian nations of China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, while Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico need $2.6tn, in particular for sustainable transportation. “There has never been a better time than now for climate-smart investing,” said IFC chief executive officer Philippe Le Houérou. 

The IFC report is available here.


EU plan to bolster power of tax collectors

Companies that use trusts and other structures to disguise their ultimate owners could find it harder to avoid the scrutiny of the taxman, under European Union rules agreed in principle this week.

Finance ministers from the 28 EU countries agreed that information on the beneficial ownership of companies should be reported to tax authorities from 1 January 2018. Banks and other financial institutions are already required, under anti-money laundering rules, to collect the beneficial ownership information, and must pass it on to authorities if they suspect criminality or terrorism, but until now there has been a Chinese wall preventing use of the information by tax collectors. The breaking down of this wall will “help prevent tax evasion and tax fraud”, an EU statement said. The rules are expected to be finalised in December after the European Parliament has examined it.


Abu Dhabi pioneers CCS on steel plant

The Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi is claiming a global milestone after rolling out the first full-scale carbon capture and storage plant capable of sequestering the greenhouse gas emissions from a steel works. The Al Reyadah facility will capture 800,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually and will inject it into oil wells rather than emit it into the atmosphere. Carbon capture and storage has a chequered history, with only a limited number of functioning facilities, mainly at natural gas processing and power plants. Arafat Al Yafei, CEO of Al Reyadah, said the new facility would contribute to the “overall sustainable growth strategy” of the United Arab Emirates, even though the captured CO2 will help increase oil and gas production capacity by being used to squeeze the last drops of oil out of the wells.


Breakthrough to protect forests

Palm oil companies and environmental groups have resolved a disagreement over how to define high-value forest areas in the context of corporate “no deforestation” commitments. Fifteen organisations, including the biggest palm oil companies, major palm oil buyer Unilever and NGOs such as Greenpeace and WWF, said they had agreed on an approach that would protect forests and peatlands considered to be of “high carbon stock” or “high conservation value”,  and that would be backed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. The agreement would help to designate forest areas that should be subject to conservation measures, participants said. Aditya Bayunanda of WWF-Indonesia said the deal was “an important step towards defining what zero deforestation actually means on the ground” and could be relevant beyond the palm oil sector.

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Main Image Credit: Lev Radin

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