Top Stories

January 11, 2022


Bill Gates-backed fund aims to invest $15bn in clean tech

A Bill Gates-backed private-public fund called Breakthrough Energy Catalyst (BEC) is preparing to invest in clean-tech projects worth as much as $15 billion in the US, EU and UK, aiming to subsidise technologies at scale to help countries reach net-zero emissions. The fund, which has raised $1.5 billion in private capital from philanthropies and companies, will invest in four key areas: direct air capture, green hydrogen, aviation fuel and energy storage technologies. The fund hopes to mobilise as much as $15 billion, or ten times the initial investment, by using innovative financial structures and partnership agreements. Several governments have lent their support to the fund, including the US Department of Energy, the UK and the EU, where it has a $1 billion partnership with the European Commission. (Financial Times)*


Climate change ‘overtakes pandemics as biggest global concern’

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2022 has found that failure to act on climate change has overtaken infectious diseases as the biggest concern for global experts. Specifically, the annual global survey found that three environmental risks concerned experts most: climate action failure, extreme weather, and biodiversity loss. Survey respondents also said that social cohesion and livelihood crises have deteriorated the most since the onset of the pandemic, while also noting impacts on mental health as well as climate action. The survey was largely filled out by people in Europe where 44% of respondents came from. Some 41% of respondents came from the business world, while others were sourced from academia, government and charities. Respondents represented several different fields of expertise, with economists being the most represented. (Independent)


Ikea cuts sick pay for unvaccinated staff forced to self-isolate

Swedish-owned furniture company Ikea has cut sick pay for unvaccinated staff who need to self-isolate because of Covid-19 exposure and, in some cases, for workers who test positive. Unvaccinated workers, without mitigating circumstances or exemption, who test positive will be paid full company sick pay in line with Ikea’s absence policy, and those needing to isolate due to close contact could now receive as little as £96.35 a week – the Statutory Sick Pay minimum. Ikea is not the first to set such rules. From this week, sick pay cuts will be implemented at utility company Wessex Water and in the US, several major companies have started penalising unvaccinated workers. It comes as firms struggle with mass staff absences and rising costs. (BBC News)


US hit by 20 separate billion-dollar climate disasters in 2021

The US was hit by 20 separate billion-dollar climate and weather disasters in 2021, one of the most catastrophic climate years on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) annual report. Damage from the year’s 20 most costly disasters, which included thousands of wildfires, frigid temperatures, hailstorms, tornadoes, and tropical storms, totalled around $145 billion and led to at least 688 deaths. This makes 2021 the third costliest extreme weather year on record. Overall, the US saw its fourth-hottest year on record fuelled by historic highs in December that produced spring-like temperatures on the east coast. NOAA estimates between 44% and 56% of the US was affected by drought during 2021 owing to extreme weather caused by climate change.  (The Guardian)


Octopus Renewables taps European firms for wind power PPA deals

Estonian energy provider Eesti Energia, US building materials company Owens Corning and US consumer goods firm Kimberley-Clark have snapped up power purchase agreements (PPAs) with Octopus Renewables for a total of 3,000GW of wind power that can help to decarbonise their European operations. Kimberley-Clark – the parent company of Andrex, Kleenex and Huggies – has purchased 150GWh of wind energy to power three UK manufacturing sites and distribution centres. Eesti Energia will take 1,400GW of clean energy for five years to supply Estonian customers with clean energy, and Owens Corning will take 1,500GWh of renewable wind energy to help decarbonise its European operations. Corporate PPAs offer a subsidy-free route for delivering large-scale wind and solar farms, while providing businesses with clean power for a locked-in price over the contract length. (Business Green)

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B4SI Annual Review 2021