- Microsoft signs largest corporate solar agreement in US
- Britain intends to stay in Europe’s carbon market until at least 2020
- Mining companies struggle with wave of tax increases
- Great Pacific garbage patch found to be 16 times larger than previously thought
- Scientists use DNA-editing to dispense with the need for hops in brewing
Microsoft has announced the single largest corporate purchase of solar power ever seen in the US, signing an agreement with sPower to add 315 MW of electricity via two solar projects in Virginia. Microsoft has been powered by 100% renewable electricity since 2014 and is a member of the RE100 initiative. In 2016, Microsoft set further ambitious targets to source clean electricity for its data centres directly from local sources of energy; 50% by the end of 2018 and 60% by early 2020. The new agreement puts Microsoft firmly on track to meet these goals, whilst simultaneously supporting the growth of the solar industry in Virginia. Brad Smith, President, Microsoft, said: “This project means more than just gigawatts, because our commitment is broader than transforming our own operations; it’s also about helping others access more renewable energy.” (Climate Group)
Britain intends to remain in the European Union’s Emission Trading System (ETS) until at least the end of its third trading phase running from 2013-2020, its energy minister has announced. The status of Britain’s participation in the scheme following the country’s exit from the EU in March 2019 had previously been unclear. Energy and clean growth minister Claire Perry has said it had yet to be formally agreed with European lawmakers but the UK government wanted to provide certainty for companies covered by the scheme. Britain’s utilities and industry are among the largest buyers of permits in the ETS, which charges power plants and factories for every tonne of carbon dioxide emitted. Companies have urged Britain to stay in the scheme until the end of the current trading phase to avoid disruption, but are divided over Britain’s longer-term participation. (Reuters)
A wave of African tax increases is engulfing some of Canada’s biggest mining companies, leaving them scrambling to negotiate with newly assertive governments that have lost patience with traditional tax deals. First Quantum Minerals is the latest to be hit, having announced that it has received a 76.5 billion Zambian kwacha ($8.04 billion) bill for unpaid import duties from Zambia’s tax agency. First Quantum, which owns two copper mines in Zambia, denies it owes the funds. Its CEO, Philip Pascall, admitted he had been completely blindsided by the shock announcement. “I literally heard about this the day before yesterday,” he told investors. The massive tax assessment comes at a time when host governments, including Indonesia, Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo, are demanding a bigger slice of revenue from miners amid rising commodity prices. (Globe and Mail; Reuters)
An enormous area of rubbish floating in the Pacific Ocean is teeming with far more debris than previously thought, heightening alarm that the world’s oceans are being increasingly choked by trillions of pieces of plastic. The Great Pacific garbage patch – spanning 1.6 million km2 more than twice the size of France – contains at least 79,000 tons of plastic, new research published in Nature has found. This makes it up to 16 times larger than previous estimates, with microplastics making up the bulk of the estimated 1.8 trillion pieces floating in the patch, kept in rough formation by a swirling ocean gyre. While tiny fragments are the most numerous, nearly half of the weight of rubbish is composed of discarded fishing nets. (Guardian)
Technology & Innovation
Scientists in the US have created a more sustainable pint after discovering a way of getting the distinct hoppy taste into craft beer without the need for water-intensive hops. In a paper published by the journal Nature Communications, scientists from the University of California, Berkeley showed how they used DNA-editing software to manipulate the genome of brewer’s yeast, splicing in genes from mint and basil plants as well as two from normal yeast. This boosted the production of flavours normally provided by adding hops during the brewing process. The results were so convincing that employees of the nearby Lagunitas Brewing Company said the engineered beer tasted more hoppy than a conventionally brewed alternative. Hops are extremely resource-intensive, with each pint of craft beer requiring around 50 pints of water just to grow the hops. Synthesising the hoppy flavours therefore means that significantly less water and fertiliser is required. (Guardian)
Innovation Forum: How business can measure the impact – and ROI – of corporate sustainability
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