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PwC commits to net zero by 2030, globally

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PwC is making a worldwide science-based commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. The commitment includes supporting our clients to reduce their emissions as well as reducing those from the PwC network’s operations and suppliers.

PwC commits to decarbonise its operations, including its travel footprint, and neutralise its remaining climate impact by investing in carbon removal projects. It will also engage its suppliers to tackle their climate impact.

The PwC network (“the network”) will work with its clients to support their efforts to make a net zero future a reality for all. In FY20 (July 2019-June 2020), PwC firms provided services to 84% of the Global Fortune 500 companies and more than 100,000 entrepreneurial and private businesses. It is this position that will allow PwC to play an integral role in driving the transition to a low-carbon economy worldwide.

To support these efforts, the network will continue to contribute to public policy developments in support of net zero at national, regional and global levels.

Bob Moritz, Global Chairman of the PwC network, said: “Businesses and economies must evolve quickly to address the significant challenges facing our societies and our planet. Whether you look at this through the lens of human need or from a capital allocation perspective, it is in the interests of everyone that we see systemic change that averts climate catastrophe and unlocks the potential of green growth.”

“A net zero world is within reach. Getting there will take innovation, hard work, collaboration and bold thinking but the benefits will be immense. The business community has a responsibility to act and we are determined to play our part, not just in our own operations and supply chain, but also in the way we advise and support our clients to create a sustainable world for future generations.” 

Raising our ambition further, faster

The network’s net zero goal includes a science based target aligned with a 1.5°C trajectory. PwC commits to reducing its total greenhouse gas emissions by 50% in absolute terms by 2030. This includes a switch to 100% renewable electricity in all territories, as well as energy efficiency improvements in our offices and halving the emissions associated with business travel and accommodation within a decade. Emissions associated with flights alone currently represent around 85% of the network’s total carbon footprint. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to remote working and demonstrated the feasibility of new client service models, as part of a longer-term transformation of PwC’s services.

PwC will also invest in carbon removal projects, including natural climate solutions. For every remaining tonne (CO2 equivalent) that it emits, PwC will remove a tonne of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to achieve net zero climate impact by 2030. Our projects will be selected on the basis of quality criteria and verification of carbon reduction impact, and will also support broader local economic and social development co-benefits. 

Working with our clients to accelerate net zero transformation

To address the climate challenge, a radical transformation is needed in every sector of the global economy and all parts of the world.  

With global reach across 157 countries, industry coverage, and its 284,000 people that support clients at every stage – from reshaping strategy and transformation, to deals, reporting, audit, and tax – the PwC network has a huge opportunity to accelerate the transition to a net zero future in collaboration with its clients.   

The network supports organisations as they develop and implement concrete plans for how to get to net zero. This includes re-alignment of corporate strategy, people and talent, governance and accountability, operating model, innovation and research and development (R&D), tax strategy and reporting, and enterprise and supply chain transformation. Other areas include partnerships and alliances, and corporate affairs and regulatory engagement.

Building on existing client work in sustainability and net zero transformation, PwC will infuse science-led climate analysis into its areas of service. For example, its Advisory practice is integrating climate risks into relevant engagements, providing clients with insights about climate risks and opportunities as well as helping them to transform their business processes. Another major focus area will be integrating climate-related and other ESG-related factors into mainstream corporate disclosures and governance, where PwC’s Assurance practice will support the development of high-quality, aligned disclosure and measurement standards and help clients embed these into their reporting and governance. Across its Tax practice, PwC will be helping clients understand how net zero transformation will impact tax strategy, transparency and compliance obligations, subsidy and incentive opportunities, and revenue impacts for both public and private sector organisations. 

To further scale its capabilities to support clients in these areas, PwC has appointed Peter Gassmann to lead its new global Environmental, Social and Governance practice. In addition, Nadja Picard has been appointed as PwC’s new Global Reporting Leader to drive the network’s support for clients to incorporate non-financial disclosures in their corporate reporting. 

Helping shape and accelerate the global climate and policy agenda

PwC supports reform that puts the needs of stakeholders at the heart of the market economy and connects goals, actions and outcomes into desired social and economic results that fuel long-term sustainability. Supporting the net zero transition is a key part of this process.

As stakeholder expectations rise, organisations increasingly need to report on their environmental and social impacts and demonstrate progress. As a result, there is a greater need for consistent, comparable ESG standards so investors and other stakeholders can clearly see how businesses are creating long-term value for the organisation and society. PwC is supportive of global efforts to develop transparent and robust ESG reporting frameworks and standards, including through work with the World Economic Forum International Business Council, the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), amongst others.

PwC will also contribute to broader understanding of how to achieve net zero. PwC will shortly be launching a practical guide, “Building Blocks for Net Zero Business Transformation” aimed at business executives to help companies of all sectors and sizes move from net zero pledges to wholescale business transformation. The research has been produced in association with Microsoft, who PwC advises on net zero transformation, as a contribution to the recently launched CEO-led Transform to Zero initiative. 

Further details of the network’s plans to achieve the 2030 net zero ambition, support clients and suppliers and advance the global climate debate will be shared over the coming months.

Bob Moritz added: “An important lesson of COVID-19 is that people can find ways to do the impossible when they have to, and we are taking some of that spirit into our efforts to tackle the global climate crisis. The changes we need to make will not be easy, but are nothing compared to the harm that runaway climate change would inflict on society. We are excited about working together, with clients, with partners and all of our stakeholders, to achieve our goals and play our part to support global efforts to help address the impacts of climate change for a more sustainable and fairer world.”

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GHG emissions from pyrolysis are nine times higher than in mechanical recycling

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New study published today by Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) finds that greenhouse gas emissions from pyrolysis of plastic packaging are nine times higher than that of mechanical recycling. The “Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling” study is based on the estimated future recycling content targets in plastic packaging.

BACKGROUND: In the context of the revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD), the European Commission (EC) assigned the independent consultancy Eunomia to consider the possible introduction of recycled content targets for plastic packaging by 2030. Based on the estimated future recycling content targets in plastic packaging, Eunomia determined to recycle quantities that must come as outputs from chemical recycling or mechanical recycling. Chemical recycling, in this case, means thermo-chemical (i.e. pyrolysis) recycling.

With this study, commissioned by ZWE and Rethink Plastic alliance to Öko-Institut, we calculated the impact of Eunomia’s proposed scenario regarding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and carbon loss. The study compares seven scenarios to meet the projected recycled content target by 2030, and puts them into perspective with the Paris Agreement commitments to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

The study found that: 

  • Pyrolysis GHG emissions are nine times higher than those in mechanical recycling – in all scenarios considered over 75% of greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to chemical recycling;
  • Over half of the carbon content of plastic is lost in the pyrolysis process and has to be replaced by new plastic;
  • Mechanical recycling must be prioritised over pyrolysis wherever possible –  shifting 30% of the production attributed to chemical recycling by Eunomia to mechanical recycling would reduce GHG emissions by 31%;
  • Combining shit to more mechanical recycling together with a reduction of 20% of packaging would result in a 45% reduction of GHG emissions compared to the “chemical recycling scenario”.
  • Combining mechanical and chemical recycling to transform plastic waste into recyclate avoids the GHG emissions associated with the use of primary plastic.


ZWE’s Chemical Recycling and Plastic-to-Fuel Policy Officer, Lauriane Veillard says: “The revision of the PPWD should serve as a lever to make the packaging sector more circular and be in line with European climate commitments to limit Global Warming to 1.5 Degrees Celsius. There are other ways than pyrolysis for contact-sensitive materials. The climate impact of the managing pathways should be considered when setting targets. The revision is the opportunity to rethink the overall volume and the use we make of plastic packaging.“

With this in mind, ZWE urges the European Commission (EC) to consider the reports’ findings in the upcoming revision of the PPWD and to:

  • Introduce legal safeguards to prioritise mechanical recycling over pyrolysis;
  • Consider the climate impact of different recycling technologies when settings targets for recycled content;
  • Incentivise measures such as design for recycling and innovations along the plastic packaging value chain to facilitate mechanical recycling.

Lauriane Veillard adds: “If we are serious about achieving net-zero emission economy, mechanical recycling must be preferred over pyrolysis. However, this cannot be achieved unless legal safeguards as part of the P&PWD revision are introduced to prioritise mechanical processes for recycling packaging waste complemented with ambitious prevention and reuse targets”. 

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UN spotlights transformational potential of family farming for world food supply

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María Fernanda Masís and her family are the owners of the hot sauces brand Xoloitzcuintle, named after their farm. Photo: UNEP

A Global Forum highlighting the UN’s Decade of Family Farming (UNDFF) got underway on Monday, aimed at identifying priority policies to boost support for family farmers and agricultural development worldwide.

The UNDFF runs through the end of 2028, and the Forum is being convened by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, pointed out in his video address to the Global Forum’s opening that the world is moving backwards in its efforts to eliminate hunger and malnutrition.

Growing hunger

He said the number of people facing hunger increased in 2021, and it risks rising further especially among the most vulnerable, of which almost 80 percent live in rural areas and are small-scale, family farmers.

Family farmers around the world are also subject to the new challenges to food systems everywhere, created by the climate crisis, as well as conflict. The war in Ukraine has added further pressure, to already fragile agrifood systems, UN agencies said.

Mr. QU said the forum provides a way, firstly, to discuss “the unique role of family farmers in transforming our agrifood systems; two, take stock of achievements and challenges in the implementation of the UN Decade; and three, strengthen collaboration to ensure global food security, enhance livelihoods and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.

80 percent

Family farmers need to be at the centre of efforts to transform agrifood systems if we are to make real progress towards ending hunger,” Mr. Qu said.

He added that “family farming is the main form of agriculture in both developed and developing countries and is responsible for producing 80 percent of the world’s food,” in terms of value.

Family struggle

He noted that often, these family farmers struggle to feed their own families.

Since its launch three years ago, the UN Decade of Family Farming has been promoting integrated policies and investments to support family farmers, and FAO has been assisting national implementation of international tools and guidelines to strengthen family farming, Mr. Qu told the virtual forum.

He also noted that FAO hosts the Family Farming Knowledge Platform to facilitate the exchange of experience, innovation and specialised knowledge.

In addition, the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31 includes a priority area of work aimed at better supporting small-scale food producers and delivering concrete results.

Push for the future

The main objectives of the Global Forum are to provide a general overview of policy trends and the relevance of family farming to the global push towards reaching the Sustainable Development Goals; highlight the main outcomes of the first three years of implementation; and re-orient the UNDFF agenda through the practical lessons learned so far.

Participants include representatives from national governments, governmental agencies, UN agencies, family farmers and their organizations, civil society organizations, as well as NGOs; the private sector, the media and academia.

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Microalgae promise abundant healthy food and feed in any environment

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By Sofia Strodt

Feeding a growing world population that will reach 9.8 billion by 2050, according to United Nations forecasts, and the need to conserve natural resources for generations to come may seem conflicting at first.

But a solution, while not yet in sight, is certainly not out of reach. European scientists recently have developed an appetite for microalgae, also called phytoplankton, a sub-group of algae consisting of unicellular photosynthetic microorganisms.

Most people are familiar with the largest form of algae, kelp or seaweed. It can grow up to three metres long and, in some forms, is a well-known delicacy. The related species microalgae, which can be found in both seawater and freshwater, have gained attention in research due to their extraordinary properties.

These microscopic organisms can be used for animal feed, particularly in aquaculture, and various foods including pasta, vegan sausages, energy bars, bakery products and vegetable creams. 

Most commercial microalgae cultivation centres on the production of dried biomass such as chlorella or spirulina powder as a food providing considerable health benefits. Some microalgae strains not only accumulate up to 65–70% of protein but also are sustainable sources of omega-3 fatty acids – a substance that is conventionally derived mainly from fish and fish oil.

Additional bioactive compounds, such as vitamins B12, K or D, mean microalgae contain significant health properties, potentially reducing the risk of cancer and cardiovascular illness.

Desert algae

‘Microalgae can be cultivated in many different locations, under very different conditions,’ said Massimo Castellari, who is involved in the Horizon-funded ProFuture project aimed at scaling up microalgae production. ‘We can grow it in Iceland and in a desert climate.’  

The technologies for the intensive cultivation of microalgae have been in development since the 1950s.

Today, microalgae are cultivated in open- or closed-system photobioreactors, which are vessels designed to control biomass production. The closed-system version, while more expensive to build, offers more control over experimental parameters and less risk of contamination. 

The substance is by no means just a trendy food supplement. For example, in Chad, a landlocked, low-income country, the consumption of spirulina harvested from Lake Chad has significantly improved people’s nutritional status because spirulina is an excellent source of proteins and micronutrients.

On top of its nutritional value, microalgae offer climate benefits by sequestering carbon dioxide as well as economic advantages by using farming areas more efficiently and – through the use of non-arable land – expanding the possibility of biomass production. 

With a total of less than 57 000 tonnes cultivated in 2019, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), production of microalgae is still very much in its early stages. By comparison, primary-crop output was 9.4 billion tonnes in 2019. 

Food inflation

Russia’s continuing war in Ukraine has highlighted just how vulnerable global food supply can be. Halts to Ukrainian grain exports and increases in energy prices have helped push food inflation around the world to record highs, with developing countries being hit disproportionately hard. In May this year, costs for food had risen by 42% compared with 2014-2016, the UN reported.  

Last year, as many as 828 million people were affected by hunger – an increase of roughly 46 million compared with 2020 and a surge of 150 million since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FAO projects that some 670 million people will still face hunger by the end of the decade.   

While the benefits of cultivating organic microalgae for food and feed are substantial, market growth will require overcoming obstacles including a lack of automated production in the industry, according to Castellari, who works at the Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology in Barcelona, Spain.

‘The automatisation is still not completely implemented,’ he said. ‘There are small producers in Europe – many steps still involve manual labour. So they are still working on optimising the process.’ 

Processed biomass

The challenges go well beyond cultivation. With microalgae, biomass has to be processed, cleaned and dried before a usable powder can be obtained. The next step is to scale up production to drive down costs. 

In addition, there are regulatory challenges. Only a few species of microalgae are currently authorised in the European Union.

‘In Europe it’s still in a preliminary stage of development,’ said Castellari. ‘There are thousands of species of microalgae, but for food consumption or feed there are only seven species authorised.’ 

To gain knowledge about the possibilities to use other species, Castellari and his team are also investigating these other kinds of microalgae.

Due to these challenges, the portfolio of products containing microalgae remains limited today. But, if these hurdles can be overcome, the overall prospects for the microalgae industry are promising. Besides being a source of food and feed, the plant can be used for biofuels, cosmetics, fertiliser and health supplements.

Astaxanthin, a blood-red pigment extracted from algae, already has notable uses. A powerful antioxidant, astaxanthin can be found in seafood and is commonly used to colour shrimp. It is also sold in the form of pills as a food supplement.

Astaxanthin is thought to have potentially a positive impact on brain function, athletic performance and ageing skin, among other things.

Matteo Ballottari, associate professor of biotechnology at the University of Verona in Italy, helped start the European Research Council’s Horizon-funded project AstaOmega simultaneously to produce astaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids in microalgae for aquaculture and human nutrition. 

Quality and quantity 

Most omega-3 supplements are derived from fish oils. This, however, raises sustainability concerns such as damage to marine ecosystems as a result of overfishing.  

‘There is more demand for eating high-quality foods, along with an awareness for incorporating omega-3 rich ingredients in our diets,’ Ballottari said. Responding to this trend while feeding a growing world population is ‘a big challenge,’ he said.

Meanwhile, on the astaxanthin front, the AstaOmega researchers have made progress. They have been able to obtain a new strain that can produce astaxanthin on its own, without needing to be “stressed”. This means the researchers don’t have to change production parameters such as light intensity, temperature or nitrates concentration. Also, extracting the substance has become easier, resulting in lower costs.  

Scientists agree that microalgae have the potential to change the ways in which we eat for the better.  

‘Microalgae can help us to increase the protein production within Europe to reduce our dependence on other countries,’ said Castellari of the ProFuture project.  

Research in this article was funded by the EU and it was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine. 

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