News briefs: Greenwashing, UN climate awards

Plus: What did Ford and GM know about emissions, and what started SoCal's Silverado fire?

Above, the Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort in Aruba is the Caribbean's only hotel to achieve carbon neutral certification. Photo: Bucuti & Tara.

UN Global Climate Action Award Winners: flooring, finance, forests

The recipients of the 2020 United Nations Global Climate Action Awards were announced this week, the UN says, for “shining a light on some of the best examples of what people across the globe are doing to combat climate change in a year that has cast darkness upon so many.” This year’s award-winning projects demonstrate leadership on climate change by nations, businesses, investors, cities, regions and civil society as a whole, according to the UN news release. They range from the Caribbean's only carbon-neutral hotel (the Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort in Aruba, above), to the world's first platform fully dedicated to green bonds, to the first all-women solar team in Lebanon. UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said, “COVID-19 has altered lives, economies and the nature of business on every continent — from the largest cities to the smallest villages. It is the most urgent threat facing humanity today, but we cannot forget that climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity over the long term.” See the full list of the 2020 UN Global Climate Action Awards recipients.

Greenwashing worries spur scrutiny by fund managers

As interest grows in investing strategies based on ESG principles, fund managers are starting to look beyond the ESG label to the entire business of the borrower — and questioning whether it makes sense to divide their activities into green and non-green portions, according to a report from The Financial Times. (Subscription) The report quotes Tom Chinery, a corporate bond portfolio manager at Aviva Investors, as saying, “We don’t buy a bond because it’s green, but because the company is,” said. “And when we meet with a company that is selling a green bond, the first question we ask is if they are doing anything they wouldn’t be doing anyway.” The FT goes on to note that “even if investors are happy with the issuer’s profile, they worry that green debt is simply a means to relabel investment that was already taking place, providing little incentive to the issuer to change its behavior in service of fighting climate change, and if a government or business backslides on its commitments, bondholders typically have little power to hold them to account.”

SoCal utility says equipment may have sparked fire

Southern California Edison, a subsidiary of Edison International (EIX), said this week it’s looking into the possibility electrical equipment may have caused the Silverado fire, which has burned almost 14,000 acres in Orange County, southeast of Los Angeles, according to published reports. The Los Angeles Times reports that in a brief report to the state Public Utilities Commission, Edison said it appeared that a “lashing wire” attached to a third-party telecommunications line may have struck a primary conductor, and an investigation was underway. More than 70,000 people were under evacuation orders in the foothills.

GM, Ford reportedly hid climate change data for decades

An exclusive investigation by E&E News reports scientists at General Motors (GM) and Ford Motor Co. (F) knew as early as the 1960s that car emissions caused climate change. The discoveries “preceded decades of political lobbying by the two car giants that undermined global attempts to reduce emissions while stalling U.S. efforts to make vehicles cleaner.” The report also says researchers at both automakers found strong evidence in the ‘60s and '70s that human activity was warming the Earth, but in the following decades, both manufacturers largely failed to act on the knowledge that their products were heating the planet.

SET awards announced for energy, climate business models

The winners of the international Start Up Energy Transition (SET) Award 2020 for the most innovative and effective business models in the fields of energy transition and climate protection have been announced: instagrid (Germany) in the Renewable Energies and Materials category, SwitchDin (Australia) in the Digital Energy Systems category, Enerbrain (Italy) in the Energy Efficiency Solutions category, EcoG (Germany) in the Smart Mobility category and Liter of Light (Philippines) in the Special Prize: Quality Access and SDG-7. The SET100 list offers a current insight into start-ups. Every year, the SET initiative publishes the 100 most innovative and promising applicants for the SET Award. The list makes it clear that all parts of the world are working passionately towards protecting the climate and achieving the goals of the energy transition.