News In Brief 30 January 2017


The FT reports that the “sale of the Green Investment Bank has been thrown into doubt with reports that the government could scrap the long-running process and opt for a flotation instead.” The government-owned bank, which has invested £2.7bn in green energy projects, has been up for sale since 2015 with Australian investment bank Macquarie the most likely buyer. A “Whitehall official” denied that the sale process was about to be aborted but admitted that an IPO was possible. The government will come under pressure to clarify its strategy this Wednesday, when the sale is debated in the House of Commons.  The Edinburgh-based bank was set up in 2012 and has put money into a variety of projects, from a wind farm off the east coast of England to low energy street lighting schemes across the UK.


The UK government published a report on the findings of trials to test the benefit of using behavioural insights to increase sustainable travel to work.  Focusing on Heathrow airport –  being the UK’s largest single site employer with about 76,000 staff who work for 350 employers – Heathrow provided a large scale setting to test the impact of behavioural insights on increasing sustainable travel, with almost half of employees travelling in Single Occupancy Vehicles at the outset of the study. The Heathrow Commuter Team (HCT) has historically been successful in increasing the numbers of staff who choose to travel sustainably to work. In related news Nottingham City Council, Nottinghamshire County Council and Derby City Council have won a bid for funding from the Department for Transport to support sustainable transport projects across the UK, to encourage cycling and walking, and improve access to jobs. Nottingham will receive just under £1.5 million; Derby will receive just over £1 million; Nottinghamshire will get £150,000. The money will be used over a three year period to encourage people to use sustainable modes of transport through two projects.


Manchester in the northwest of the UK announced plans to plant three million trees – one for every man, woman and child – in Greater Manchester over the next 25 years. The “City of Trees” project hopes the effort will not only green the region but improve our understanding of the benefits trees provide to society. These include reducing stress; improving air quality; and lowering the amount of time shoppers spend in retail areas. The project is also testing how trees can reduce flooding in built-up areas. The City of Trees project is working with researchers from the University of Manchester in an experiment to see how trees can help reduce surface water flooding in built up areas and clean up storm water.


President Donald Trump’s administration has instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to remove the climate change page from its website, according to Reuters. The order comes as Trump’s administration has moved to curb the flow of information from several government agencies who oversee environmental issues since last week, in actions that appeared designed to tighten control and discourage dissenting views. Myron Ebell, who helped guide the EPA’s transition after Trump was elected in November until he was sworn in last week, said: “My guess is the web pages will be taken down, but the links and information will be available.” The page includes links to the EPA’s inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, which contains emissions data from individual industrial facilities as well as the multiagency Climate Change Indicators report, which describes trends related to the causes and effects of climate change.


Gender-lens investing aimed at advancing gender equality around the globe could help create nearly $300 billion in market impact by 2025, a report from the United Nations Foundation and BNY Mellon finds. The report found that, in addition to the social impact, investing in Sustainable Development Goal 5 – achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls – would create significant global consumer and market impacts for investors in five sectors: child care ($140 billion); water ($80 billion); energy ($40 billion), telecommunications ($20 billion); and contraception ($5 billion). Currently, 290 million children under the age of three do not have access to child care; 663 million people lack access to clean water; 1.2 billion people lack electricity at home; 200 million fewer women than men own mobile phones; and 225 million women have an unmet need for contraception. The report calls for institutional investors to incorporate a products-and-services approach into their existing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategies; for individual investors to shift investments toward companies that offer products and services that support gender equality, with a focus on companies that have committed to quantifiable goals or measures; and for asset managers to create new funds and financial instruments for institutional and individual investors focused on companies that support gender equality.


The Irish Parliament passed a Bill in a 90 to 53 vote in favour of dropping coal, oil and gas investments from the €8bn (£6.8bn) Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, part of the Republic’s National Treasury Management Agency. The Bill is likely to pass into law in the next few months after it is reviewed by the financial committee. Once enacted, the law would require the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund to sell its investment in fossil fuel industries over the next five years.


In the US, California’s utilities are asking for more than $1 billion to spend on electric car-charging stations that will help the state meet its goal of getting 1.5 million zero-emissions vehicles on the road by 2025. California is moving forward with plans to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and fight global warming, despite President Donald Trump’s promises to kill similar efforts on the federal level. The state’s air regulators have published a plan to cut emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. The utility industry is looking to electric car-charging as one of the few areas of growth, as the increased use of rooftop solar panels and energy-efficient appliances weakens power sales.


Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt, who was hired in 2015 to help reform the German car-maker Volkswagen’s culture in the wake of the diesel scandal, is stepping down “due to differences in their understanding of responsibilities and future operating structures within the function she leads.” Before joining Daimler’s board of management in 2011, Hohmann-Dennhardt served as a judge at the First Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court. Her joining of the VW management board in October 2015 was seen by many as indicating sweeping changes within VW, which has the worst possible corporate governance rating, according to Institutional Shareholder Services.



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