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07 May 2024
Climate News April 2024
  • On the 19th of April, the Scottish government confirmed it is scrapping its plans to cut emissions in Scotland by 75% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. The Scottish government will also abandon its annual emission goals – which have been missed in eight out of the last 12 years – and replace them with “carbon budgets”, which are currently used to measure overall UK progress towards its climate targets.

 

  • The European Council announced on the 12th April that it has formally adopted the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). The directive has new rules aimed at reducing energy use and emissions from buildings across the EU, including targets for all new buildings to be zero emissions by 2030, and to phase out the use of fossil fuels in building heating systems by 2040. The legislation also sets goals to phase out or improve the lowest-performing buildings.

 

  • On the 24th April, the EU Parliament gave the final green light to new rules obliging firms to mitigate their negative impact on human rights and the environment. Such impacts include slavery, child labour, labour exploitation, biodiversity loss, pollution or destruction of natural heritage. The rules will apply to EU and non-EU companies and parent companies with turnover of more than 450 million euro. These firms will have to integrate due diligence into their policies, make related investments, seek contractual assurances from their partners, improve their business plan or provide support to small and medium-sized business partners to ensure they comply with new obligations. Companies will also have to adopt a transition plan to make their business model compatible with the Paris Agreement global warming limit of 1.5°C. Companies will be liable for damages and can be fined for non-compliance.

 

Global Climate News

  • Following the issuance of the Climate Change Bill in February 2024, Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment concluded the public consultation process for the Climate Change Bill on 5th April 2024. A revised draft is expected in May 2024 and the Ministry is aiming to submit the revised draft to the National Climate Change Policy Committee and the cabinet for their respective consideration in June 2024. The CC Bill has been developed by the Ministry and aims to establish a comprehensive framework to support Thailand’s climate change goals.

 

  • Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared a national disaster amid a prolonged drought that has destroyed around half the country’s maize crop. He joins neighbouring nations in southern Africa, Zambia and Malawi, both of which have recently declared similar states of emergency. This is partly attributed to the naturally occurring El Niño climate pattern. The drought also risks depleting the Zambezi River which could threaten electricity supplies in Zimbabwe and Zambia, who depend on hydropower dams.

 

  • Hundreds of millions of people in South and Southeast Asia are suffering from a heat wave that has forced schools to close and disrupted agriculture. In Bangladesh, temperatures in some areas have soared above 42 degrees Celsius. However, Thailand has been worst hit, with temperatures across the country breaking non-stop records for 13 months and refusing to drop between 30 degrees Celsius in Bangkok, even at night.

 

  • The latest climate-related news from Australia includes a heated debate around changes to rules around the consultation of Indigenous groups ahead of new gas developments.  In addition, the Australian government has also revealed the design of its new proposed vehicle emissions standards, announced $1bn for a “solar sunshot” program and tabled legislation to create the Net Zero Economy Authority.

 

  • The 4th year of the US Climate Action Summit also took place from 22nd -28th April 2024 in Washington DC. The Leaders’ Forum, the flagship event of the week, brought together over 200 climate leaders.

 

  • A study published on the 17th April presents research showing how monitoring the movement and behaviour of marine plankton could be used to predict future sea life extinctions due to climate change. The study suggests that plankton migrated to cooler, higher latitudes to escape the tropical heat associated with the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum (an interval of sustained high global temperatures equivalent to worst case global warming scenarios).

 

ISO Standards evolve to incorporate climate change considerations.

Given the rising concerns about climate change and its impacts, the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) has made changes to several Management System Standards to make climate change a key consideration, including within ISO 14001, ISO 9001 and ISO 50001. These changes emphasise the importance of addressing the effect of climate change within the framework of organisational management systems.

Original Clause 4.1: “Understanding the organisation and its context. The organisation shall determine external and internal issues that are relevant to its purpose and that affect its ability to achieve the intended result(s) of its XXX management system.”

  • This clause now explicitly includes the statement: “The organisation shall determine whether climate change is a relevant issue.”

Original Clause 4.2: “Understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties. The organisation shall determine: 
•    The interested parties that are relevant to the XXX management system. 
•    The relevant requirements of these interested parties. 
•    Which of these requirements will be addressed through the XXX management system.”

  • The clause now also states: “Note: Relevant interested parties can have requirements related to climate change.”

While the overall intent of the requirements for clauses 4.1 and 4.2 remain unchanged, these new inclusions ensure that climate change is considered within the management system.

What does this mean for your organisation?

If your organisation already holds certification, you will not need a new certificate issued and there is no need to transition to a new version of the standard. The focus is on enhancing the scope and effectiveness of existing certifications to encompass climate change considerations.

However, organisations are now required to ensure that climate change considerations are embedded within the fabric of their management system(s).

Whilst there is no one-size-fits-all approach as climate change impacts vary significantly across different industries and geographies, an organisation must determine whether climate change is relevant or not and if so, must ensure climate change aspects and risks and considered within their management system(s).

 

March was the 10th straight month to be hottest on record.

Data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) shows that land temperatures in March 2024 averaged 14.14°C globally – 1.68°C warmer than the average temperature in the late 1800s and 0.1°C hotter than the previous March record, which was set in 2016.

Sea surface temperatures have also been the warmest on record for 12 months in a row, with March 2024 recording an average of 21.07oC.

Samantha Burgess, deputy director of C3S, said: “Myself and other climate scientists are asking whether this year is a blip, a phase change, whether the climate system is broken and behaving in a different way to what we expect.” Burgess went on to say jumps in daily temperatures were even higher than those anticipated by climate models and that “it’s a long-term trend with exceptional records that has us very concerned”.

Scientists generally agree that El Niño is responsible for some of the heat and that temperatures should temporarily come down after El Niño peters out in the coming months. However, if we are still experiencing record-breaking temperatures by the end of the summer, we may be tipping into a new phase of even faster climate change.

 

Majority of CO2 emissions linked to 57 producers and countries.

The “vast majority” of carbon dioxide emissions released since 2016 can be traced to a group of 57 fossil fuel and cement producers. This mix of nation-states, state-owned firms and investor-owned companies produced 80% of the world’s CO2 emissions between 2016 and 2022, according to the Carbon Majors report by non-profit thinktank InfluenceMap.

Despite governments pledging to cut emissions under the Paris Agreement, the analysis finds that “most mega-producers” have increased their output of fossil fuels and other related emissions in the seven years following the agreement, when compared to the seven before.

 

 

Landmark court rulings and cases on the effect of climate change on human rights

European court rules human rights violated by climate inaction.

On the 9th April, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in favour of a group of 2,000 Swiss women who argued their human rights had been violated by their government’s insufficiently tough policies on climate change.

The women, mostly in their 70s, argued that their age and gender made them particularly vulnerable to the effects of heatwaves linked to climate change.

The court said Switzerland’s efforts to meet its emission reduction targets had been woefully inadequate. It is the first time the court has ruled on global warming. The ruling is binding and could potentially influence the law in 46 countries in Europe, including the UK.

However, UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, hit out at the “complete overreach” of an “illegitimate” ruling by the European court of human rights that imposes a duty on governments to achieve net-zero.” 

 

Climate crisis impacts citizens’ right to life: Indian Supreme Court

In a landmark judgement on the 5th April, India’s Supreme Court ruled that climate change “impacts the constitutional guarantee of [the] right to life”, emphasising that the country “must prioritise” renewable energy “as citizens have a right to be free from the adverse effects of the climate emergency”.

 

Climate change victims to testify in landmark rights case in Barbados.

Over 60 delegations have gathered in Barbados for the 166th session of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, where its first ever inquiry into the link between climate change and human rights will be conducted.

Judges will hear from various climate change victims including Julian Medina, a Colombian fisherman who will argue that his livelihood and those of many like him are being adversely affected by climate change.

The inquiry has been initiated by Colombia and Chile, whose governments are asking the hearing to define states’ legal responsibility to combat climate change and prevent it from violating people’s human rights, amid a proliferation of droughts, floods, landslides, and fires.

 

A big month of climate action from Biden’s administration

  • On the 2nd of April, the Biden Administration announced the selection of over 100 projects across the U.S. to receive $4 billion in tax credits, aimed at building the clean energy supply chain and supporting industrial decarbonization.

 

  • On the 4th of April, the Biden administration announced the selection of $20 billion of awards to fund thousands of climate and clean energy projects across the U.S., with a particular focus on low-income and disadvantaged communities.

 

 

  • On the 11th of April, the Biden administration assigned $830m in grants to support 80 projects around the country aimed at strengthening the nation’s ageing infrastructure against climate change. The funds come from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which was passed in 2021, and are expected to improve bridges, roads, ports, rail, transit and other infrastructure across 37 states.

 

  • US president Joe Biden marked Earth Day (22nd April) by announcing $7bn of investment into solar energy projects through the Environmental Protection Agency’s “solar for all” programme, funded by the Inflation Reduction Act. Biden said: “Solar for all program means 900,000 households will have solar on the rooftops for the first time and soon, millions of families will save over $400 a year on utility bills.”

 

MEPs adopt a new EU certification scheme.

The EU Parliament on 10th April adopted the provisional political agreement with EU countries on a new voluntary certification framework for carbon removals. The law will set-up an EU certification framework for carbon removals to boost their uptake and help achieve EU climate neutrality by 2050.

The legislation covers different types of carbon removals, namely permanent carbon storage through industrial technologies, carbon storage in long-lasting products and carbon farming. It aims to boost their use and improve the EU’s capacity to quantify, monitor and verify such activities in order to counter greenwashing.

 

 

UK: Network Rail to spend £2.8bn to cope with effects of climate crisis

Network Rail is planning to spend £2.8bn to protect the railway from the effects of climate change, warning it is having to cope with more extreme heat in the summer months and more floods in the winter. This is part of a wider £45.4bn five-year investment plan being undertaken by the company to upgrade Great Britain’s rail network. The investment will fund measures such as making embankments more resilient, recruiting 400 additional drainage engineers, training hundreds of operational staff to better interpret weather forecasts and installing CCTV at sites where there is a high risk of flooding.

 

Global projections of macroeconomic climate change damages

A new study published on the 17th of April estimates projected economic damages arising from climate change in exceedance of previous estimates. The study found that the world economy is committed to an estimated income reduction of 19% between now and 2049 independent of future emission choices (relative to a baseline without climate impacts). It is estimated that this 19% income reduction is already locked into the world economy over the coming decades as a result of the emissions that have already been released into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels.

However, this 19% is a global average; in the United States and Europe the reduction will be about 11%, while in Africa and south Asia it will be 22%, with some individual countries much higher than this.

Additionally, rising temperatures, heavier rainfall and more frequent and intense extreme weather are projected to cause $38tn (£30tn) of destruction each year by mid-century, according to the research.

The study also analyses different climate scenarios over the next century; if business as usual continues, the authors projected average income losses of more than 60% by 2100. However, if emissions fall to net zero by mid-century, income declines will stabilise by mid-century at about 20%.