Mitigation Update: Catholic Organizations, Soot-free Buses, Net-zero Buildings, and Citizens Advance Mitigation Action
UN Photo/R Marklin
story highlights

Catholic church organizations from around the world have announced that they will divest from fossil fuels.

A new report shows that the EU and its member states continue to subsidize fossil fuels with €112 billion per year.

The world's four largest bus manufacturers have committed to supplying 'soot-free' buses to megacities.

The Citizens Climate Pledge announced that it seeks to achieve 100 million pledges by individuals to take climate action by 2020.

World Green Building Week provided an opportunity to promote the advancement of net-zero buildings.

29 September 2017: Recent mitigation news includes a diversity of measures through which governments, civil society organizations, the private sector and citizens are seeking to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). This article summarizes activities related to divestment from fossil fuels, fossil fuel subsidies, ‘soot-free’ public transportation, citizen pledges for climate neutrality, and a conference to advance the development of ‘net-zero’ buildings.

Largest Catholic Coalition Divestment to Date

A coalition of 40 Catholic institutions from five continents has announced that it is divesting from fossil fuels. The coalition is the largest group of Catholic institutions to jointly announce their divestment from fossil fuels to date.

Announced by the Global Catholic Climate Movement, a global network of Catholic member organizations responding to Pope Francis’ call to action in the Laudato Si’ encyclical, the coalition’s decision to divest is based on both the value its institutions assign to environmental protection as well as an assessment of the financial rationale of preparing for a carbon-neutral economy.

The coalition comprises a wide range of church organizations, Catholic charitable organizations, and Catholic banks and credit organizations, including the Sacro Convento, Assisi, Italy, a monastery complex and holy site housing the remains of St. Francis, after whom Pope Francis is named, and considered the spiritual home of the Franciscan brothers. Other members include: the Episcopal Conference of Belgium, the first Catholic episcopal conference in the world to divest; the Catholic Archdiocese of Cape Town, South Africa; the Bank für Kirche und Caritas eG (Bank for the Church and Caritas), Germany, which has a balance sheet of €4.5 billion and is one of the first Catholic banks in the world to divest; and Oikocredit Belgium, an ecumenical financial institution and one of the world’s largest sources of private funding for microfinance. [Global Catholic Movement Press Release]

Report Finds Annual Fossil Fuel Subsidies in Europe Amount to €112 Billion

A report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe has shown the extent to which European governments and the European Union (EU) are subsidizing oil, gas and coal. The report highlights the extent of such subsidies within Europe, with the aim of raising awareness among decision-makers and the general public, and highlighting the inconsistency of these policies with pledges to comply with the Paris Agreement.

Although the EU and its Member States pledged to phase out environmentally harmful subsidies by 2020, the report finds that between 2014-2016, €108 billion per year was provided from 11 European Member States and €4 billion from the EU itself, totaling €112 billion in yearly fossil fuel subsidies over the period.

The report titled, ‘Phase-out 2020: Monitoring Europe’s Fossil Fuel Subsidies,’ names the transport sector as the main beneficiary of the subsidies, finding that it received 44% of the total government support identified by the research. The researchers identify subsidies received by the transport sector that include tax breaks that reduce the price of diesel. In the report, ODI and CAN Europe warn that such subsidies are discouraging the transition to low-carbon transport such as electric vehicles, and exacerbating health impacts as a result of air pollution. [ODI Press Release] [CAN Europe Press Release]

Bus Manufacturers Commit to Bring Cleaner ‘Soot-Free’ Buses to 20 Megacities

As part of the Global Industry Partnership on Soot-Free Clean Bus Fleets, four of the world’s largest bus and engine manufacturers have announced that they will support major cities in efforts to tackle climate change and toxic air pollution by facilitating the purchase of buses fitted with low emissions technologies. The four companies, BYD, Cummins, Scania and Volvo Buses, have committed to make “soot-free” engine technology available in 20 megacities starting in 2018. Each city will then report publicly on the number of soot-free buses sold each year. The cities involved in the initiative are Abidjan, Accra, Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Casablanca, Dar es Salaam, Dhaka, Istanbul, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Lagos, Lima, Manila, Mexico City, Nairobi, Santiago, Sao Paulo, and Sydney.

Announced at the meeting of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), in Paris, September 2017, the initiative is part of the Global Industry Partnership on Soot-Free Clean Bus Fleets, which is led by C40 Cities, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), Centro Mario Molina Chile, and UN Environment. The commitment was announced at the CCAC Clean Buses for Clean Air Workshop in Paris.

An engine is considered to be soot-free if it meets ‘Euro VI’ or ‘EPA 2010’ norms, or includes a diesel particulate filter, gas-powered engine, or dedicated electric drive engine. Black carbon emissions, one of the most harmful pollutants for human health as well as a major contributor to climate change, can be reduced by more than 99% in the cleanest versions. When combined with low-carbon fuels and engines, soot-free buses can further decrease their impact on the climate. According to UN Environment, fewer that 20% of all buses sold globally are soot-free. [UNEP Press Release]

Network to Help Citizens Transition to Climate Neutrality Launched

A global network to help citizens reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions was launched during ‘Zero Emissions Day’ on 21 September, in New York. The network, known as ‘I-CAN,’ aims to promote climate neutrality and mobilize citizens to halve their carbon footprint in the next 10 years, in response to figures showing that up to 70% of global consumption-based GHG emissions come from individual households. Also known as the “Citizens Climate Pledge,” the initiative includes an online calculator to accurately measure individuals’ carbon footprints.

Individuals can take part through implementing measures such as reducing their energy consumption in their homes, using low-carbon transport, reducing meat consumption and making choices to consume low carbon products and services.

The network aims to contribute to achieving a balance between global GHG emissions by sources and removals by sinks in the second half of this century, in order to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5ºC relative to preindustrial levels, a central goal of the Paris Agreement. With a key focus on North America, China, and India, the first milestone of the initiative is to achieve 100 million citizen pledges by 2020.

The I-CAN launch event was organized by Sustainable Westchester Inc., Scandinavia House, and Global Crisis Information Network Inc., with the support of UN Climate Change, Stormwarning Association, and the Climate Leadership Council of Finland. [UNFCCC Press Release]

World Green Building Week Focuses on Net-Zero Buildings

The 2017 edition of World Green Building Week, an annual event involving thousands of businesses, civil society groups and individual stakeholders from around the world, was held from 25 September to 1 October. The theme for 2017 focused on the need to make all buildings ‘net-zero’ by 2050.

Led by the World Green Building Council, the event’s aims included raising awareness about ‘net-zero buildings,’ which are highly energy-efficient buildings sourced by renewable energy to achieve net zero carbon emissions, and can include buildings for which the whole life cycle from extraction of raw materials to the eventual destruction and disposal of the building is net-zero.

The global event involved: local events all over the world; a social media campaign, using the #OurHeroIsZero hashtag, in which users shared reports and photos of their buildings to raise awareness across their network of the importance of net zero; the opportunity to host conferences, webinars and tours of net-zero buildings; and resources to help people to make their own buildings net zero through retrofitting. [UNEP Press Release] [World Green Building Week Website]


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