In this issue:
NZ in the dock
In a landmark case, the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law (COSIS) has taken action against high emitting countries in the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). The Commission includes The Bahamas, Niue, Palau, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Vanuatu. COSIS argues countries are obliged to protect the marine environment under the UN convention on the Law of the Sea and that carbon emissions absorbed by the sea constitute marine pollution. New Zealand will be giving evidence on 15th September. The proceedings are being webcast.
G20 strong on rhetoric
The declaration from the recent G20 summit puts addressing climate change front and centre for international action. The declaration retains commitments to limit warming to 1.5C, talks of tripling renewable energy capacity globally by 2030 and sets ambitions to accelerate the attainment of the UN SDGs.
SDGs possible – but not before 2050
Meanwhile Earth4All, a collaboration of economists and scientists, has developed a five point plan to achieve the SDGs. The strategy calls for transformations in wealth distribution, food systems, energy systems, the empowerment of women and human development in low-income countries. However, it also suggests even with these transformations starting now, attaining the full set of SDG’s will still take more than 20 years.
Battery prices expected to continue downward trend
A new report from Trendforce indicates the cost of lithium batteries will continue to head down despite long-term concerns over shortages of critical minerals and the cost of their extraction. Prices have dipped recently because of a fall in demand for EVs and the report suggests a price war could be looming as battery supply exceeds demand.
Large lithium find eases long-term price concerns
While the current drop in battery prices may arise from near-term market conditions, the longer term concerns over lithium availability and market concentration has eased following the discovery of large lithium deposits in the US. Situated in a volcanic caldera along the border of Nevada and Oregan, the deposit is estimated to hold around 120 million tonnes of lithium, which is more than the Bolivian salt flat, making it the largest depository so far discovered.
Another SAF breakthrough
Last week we reported a breakthrough in the development of sustainable aviation fuel. This week, we can report another. Between 10% and 25% of aviation fuels must be “aromatic”. This prevents thickening or freezing at cold temperatures and improves the integrity of seals in the fuel system. To date, no alternative to fossil aromatics has been found. However, scientists from MIT believe they have broken this barrier using lignin biomass. When commercialised, this could bring 100% sustainable aviation fuels to fruition.
Are we outside the safe operating space for humanity?
According to the developers of the planetary boundaries framework, the answer is yes. In 2009 the group set nine parameters that are critical for maintaining the stability and resilience of the Earth system as a whole. In its latest update, the group reports we are currently exceeding six. Earth’s climate, biodiversity, land, freshwater, nutrient pollution and ‘novel’ chemicals (nuclear waste, microplastics) sit outside safe levels. Acidity of the oceans, the health of the air and the ozone layer are still considered within safe limits but the oceans and air pollution are heading in the wrong direction. The report emphasises all is not lost. It likens these results to a report from the GP of high blood pressure; not lethal in itself but a key risk factor for safety.