Weather warnings, low-cost heating, Dutch backing SDGs, Chinese workers’ oppression, new business ethics, Indonesia fights CO2, Ecotricity’s accolade

Insurance firms warn of climate risk protection gap

A GLOBAL network of 29 insurance industry organisations has warned of the urgent need to address the growing $100bn annual climate risk “protection gap” in two reports released this week.

Since the 1950s, the frequency of weather-related catastrophes such as windstorms and floods has increased six-fold, leading to previously insurable assets becoming uninsurable, or those already underinsured being further compromised.

“The insurance industry’s role as society’s risk manager is under threat,” said Maurice Tulloch, chairman of global general insurance at Aviva and chairman of ClimateWise, the network of mainly European insurers and reinsurers convened by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, which authored the reports.

“Our sector will struggle to reduce this protection gap if our response is limited to avoiding, rather than managing, society’s exposure to climate risk. As a risk carrier and risk manager, the insurance industry has significant, and as yet untapped, potential to lead others, in reducing this gap.”

ClimateWise’s Investing for Resilience report highlights ways that insurers can start to align their asset management, underwriting and risk management activities to support greater investments in resilience across financial markets. Recommendations include support for green bonds, resilience impact bonds and investments in resilience-enhancing infrastructure.


UK councils urged to invest in low-carbon heat

Image Credit: CF Møller

USING WASTE to power and heat buildings, increasing energy efficiency and supporting community renewable energy projects could help local authorities turn their cities into healthier and better places to live, an audience of local authorities was told last week.

Patrick Allcorn, head of local energy at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, told the Low Carbon Britain conference in London, organised by 3ppp, that few UK cities mention waste in their energy strategies, despite the huge opportunities to use it to power district heat networks and avoid punitive landfill taxes. “Some of the most advanced cities [on climate change] are still putting their waste into lorries and shipping it to landfill to be buried.”

He said cities also had to raise the bar on implementing energy efficiency in buildings. A survey of the UK’s non-domestic building stock by BEIS last month found that low cost energy efficiency technologies could save owners and tenants £1.3bn each year. He pointed out that GPs in nine local authorities refer people to boiler companies and insulation firms because of escalating cold-home-related illnesses. “We don’t have the money to waste any more.”

Toby Heysham, director of Pinnacle Power, said the UK lags the rest of Europe badly on low carbon heat networks, though these could provide local authorities with a low-cost source of heat, able to use the waste heat generated by power stations, as well as heat from waste incineration and other fuel sources. He pointed to the Greenwich Peninsula Energy Centre, which will open next year, the largest district heating network in Europe.

The heat network, which Pinnacle will operate, working with the local council and developer Knight Dragon, will supply heat to 15,700 residential units and 3.5 million square feet of commercial space, saving enough CO2 to take 18,000 cars off London’s roads and affording prices that are below neighbouring developments. Fuel sources will include waste heat from sources as diverse as the Thames to the local tube network.

Local authorities are put off undertaking such projects because of the complexities, particularly about funding, he said, but these can be overcome. “People think it’s difficult but it doesn’t need to be.”


Dutch pension funds back SDGs

A GROUP of 18 Dutch financial institutions, which collectively manage over €2.8tr in assets, have invited the Dutch government and central bank to join in a concerted effort to support the sustainable development goals. The Dutch SDG Investing Agenda initiative, which was launched this week at the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN)’s conference in front of 700 investors, is the first in the world to bring together national pension funds, insurance firms, and banks around a shared SDG investment agenda.

In a new report Building Highways to SDG Investing, its signatories offer concrete ways to scale investment in the SDGs, which will require an estimated $5trn-$7trn in annual finance to realise the 17 goals.  Per Herman Mulder, co-facilitator of the SDGI Agenda, said: “In today’s tumultuous world, public-private action is ever more important as a driver for positive change.” 


Labour conditions in Chinese toy factories slated

Image Credit: Radu Bercan

AN INVESTIGATION by US-based NGO China Labor Watch finds that workers producing toys such as Thomas the Tank Engine, Hot Wheels, and Barbie are working 11 hour days for as little as $223 a month.

The investigation at four toy factories that produce for Mattel, Hasbro, Disney, McDonalds and Wal-Mart revealed violations such as long working hours without rest breaks, lack of safety protection from hazardous chemicals, low wages and poor food and accommodation. The group’s founder and executive director, Li Qiang, described the conditions of workers as a “world of misery” with 10 people squeezed into a small dormitory, no hot showers, and overtime reaching more than three times the legal limit in China.


Institute of Business Ethics updates guidance

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THE INSTITUTE of Business Ethics has published new guidance this week on how to develop and implement an effective code of ethics. This will be the third time that the IBE, which is celebrating 30 years this year, has given guidance on how companies can implement an effective ethical code.

The new IBE nine-step model addresses the most common concerns encountered in business today, including social media, brand protection, risk management and prioritising ethics over profits. These are cited as new concerns that were not highlighted as important when the guidance was last updated in 2003. IBE’s director, Philippa Foster Back CBE, said: “A code of ethics will help to ensure consistent behaviour throughout a business … and underlines the organisation’s commitment to ethical leadership to its staff and other stakeholders.”


Indonesia bans converting peatlands into plantations

Image Credit: H Dragon

ENVIRONMENTAL groups have hailed Indonesia’s ban on converting peatlands into plantations this week. Under the new regulations companies must also restore peatlands they have degraded.

Indonesia is the sixth largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and peat soils contain huge quantities of carbon. When peatlands are drained or cleared by fire to make way for the production of commodities like palm oil and wood fibre, the CO² is released into the atmosphere.

"This regulation will be a major contribution to the Paris climate agreement and a relief to millions of Indonesians who suffer the effects of toxic haze from peat fires," said Nirarta Samadhi, Indonesia country director for the World Resources Institute (WRI). WRI estimates that by 2030 the total climate benefits of the revised regulation could equal approximately 5.5-7.8 Gt CO², equal to all the greenhouse gases emitted in a year by the United States.


Ecotricity and Union lauded for fast growth potential


GREEN electricity company Ecotricity and ethically sourced Union Hand-Roasted Coffee have been named in the prestigious Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100. The accolade recognises businesses with exceptional growth potential.

Ecotricity was named among the 10 most disruptive companies for its pioneering investment in green gas and Europe’s largest “electric highway” of 300 charging points at UK service stations. Union was cited as one of 10 “ones to watch” because of its plans to double in size over the next three years. The London-based company pays farmers 25%-50% above the minimum fair trade price. It also launched the world’s first single-origin Rwandan coffee, helping to spark a coffee boom in the war-torn country. It recently won the best European roaster for 2016 at the European Coffee Symposium for the third year running.

Main Image Wildfire Credit: Premier of Alberta
climate risk  low-carbon  energy efficiency  SDGs  Labour Watch  business ethics  greenhouse gases  Ecotricity 

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