Nov 2 (Reuters) – The United States on Tuesday unveiled a plan to slash emissions of the greenhouse gas methane from oil and gas operations as part of its strategy to crack down on climate change, drawing cautious support from both environmental groups and drillers.
The announcement coincided with the U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, where the United States, the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, is seeking to reclaim leadership on the world stage by demonstrating tangible steps to curb emissions at home.
U.S. President Joe Biden has set a target to slash greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50% by 2030 but is struggling to pass climate legislation through a deeply divided Congress, making policies by federal agencies more crucial.
His administration and the European Union are also seeking to lead a new international pact to reduce methane economy-wide by 30% by 2030, drawing participation from over 100 countries.
Methane is the second-biggest cause of climate change after carbon dioxide. Its high heat-trapping potential and relatively short lifespan in the atmosphere means cutting its emissions can have an outsized impact on the trajectory of the world’s climate.
At the center of the U.S. plan to tackle methane domestically is an Environmental Protection Agency proposal that will for the first time require oil and gas operators to aggressively detect and repair methane leaks. Oil and gas operations account for a third of methane emissions.
“The timing of this is critical. As we speak, world leaders are gathering right now in Glasgow and they are looking to the United States for true leadership,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan told Reuters in an interview. “This proposal is absolutely bold, aggressive and comprehensive.”
Specifically, the proposal will require companies to monitor 300,000 of their biggest well sites every three months, ban the venting of methane produced as a byproduct of crude oil into the atmosphere, and require upgrades to equipment such as storage tanks, compressors, and pneumatic pumps.
The rules will most likely take effect in 2023 and will be aimed at slashing methane from oil and gas operations by 74% from 2005 levels by 2035, an amount equivalent to the emissions created by all U.S. passenger cars and planes in 2019, according to the summary.
While the United States has never before proposed to regulate methane emissions from existing sources, the Obama administration in 2016 introduced curbs on methane emissions from new oil and gas infrastructure.
Those regulations, which were weaker than the new EPA proposals, were scrapped by former President Donald Trump before being reinstated earlier this year by Congress.
The new EPA rules are expected to add “pennies” to the cost of a barrel of oil or thousand cubic feet of gas, according to the EPA’s analysis. But oil industry group the American Exploration & Production Council said they could add “siginficant new costs associated with compliance.”
The American Petroleum Institute, which represents the U.S. oil and gas industry, said it was reviewing the proposals.
“We support the direct regulation of methane from new and existing sources and are committed to building on the progress we have achieved in reducing methane emissions,” it said in a statement.
Major producer BP Plc (BP.L), which has been seeking to burnish its green credentials and is investing heavily in clean energy, said it applauded the EPA proposals.
Washington-based environmental group Earthworks also called the proposals a positive step, but its policy director, Lauren Pagel, said “no well should be exempt from common-sense pollution standards when we know all wells pollute.”
The American Lung Association also said the proposal was a good start but the EPA needs to “set stronger limits and finalize them into law without delay”.
One issue of contention is the fact the EPA’s well monitoring proposal applies only to sites emitting an estimated three tons of methane per year or more.
The agency said the three ton threshold would capture sites responsible for 86% of leaks.
Smaller sites will require less scrutiny.
Oil and gas industry groups had pressed the EPA to exclude smaller wells from the regulations, citing the sheer number of such wells and the costs of the monitoring and repairs.
Environmental advocates, meanwhile, had pushed for all well sites to be covered, and were also seeking limits on flaring: the practice of burning off methane that comes out of the ground as a byproduct during crude oil drilling.
The EPA said it will release a supplemental proposal next year to flesh out the rules and possibly expand them to include additional methane sources, including abandoned oil and gas wells, flares and tank truck loading.
The Biden administration’s methane strategy will also include a new proposal by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration requiring companies to monitor and repair leaks on about 400,000 miles (643,740 km) of previously unregulated natural gas gathering lines.
The administration’s broader methane plan also proposes new voluntary measures from the Agriculture and Interior departments to tackle methane emissions from other major sources, including landfills, agriculture and abandoned wells and coal mines.
Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Nichola Groom; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Alistair Bell
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Advancing green mobility for a sustainable future
Accelerating decarbonisation, the transition to SDVs and reshaping urban ecosystems, are helping revolutionise the global automotive industry
By Amit Chadha, CEO & Managing Director, L&T Technology Services
The world is changing. There is an urgent need for a transition toward sustainable practices to combat the threat of climate change. As global temperatures rise and weather patterns evolve, achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 could still help prevent irreversible damage to our planet.
With global carbon emission levels continuing to rise at an accelerated rate, there is a growing momentum toward addressing the scenario on war footing. As the most visible source of emissions, the automotive industry, and, consequently, the future of mobility, is in focus. By helping accelerate decarbonisation, reshape evolving urban ecosystems, and redefine the global automotive industry – we can help reverse the trend and preserve our shared future.
Green mobility has emerged as a major enabler in this direction. Leading stakeholders are becoming increasingly invested in developing a deeper understanding of the multifaceted realm of green mobility and its potential to shape a sustainable future.
Accelerating decarbonisation: A global mandate
Decarbonising the transportation sector is crucial to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change. Fossil fuel-based vehicles are responsible for a substantial portion of carbon dioxide emissions, exacerbating the greenhouse effect. To accelerate decarbonisation, governments and businesses today need to prioritise the adoption of clean, renewable energy sources, such as electricity and hydrogen, for powering vehicles and other modes of public transportation.
Automakers, recovering from the impact of the pandemic and global supply chain disruptions, are therefore exploring new avenues to meet the rising demand for electric mobility. Electric vehicles (EVs), by eliminating the need for fossil fuel-powered engines, play a vital role in improving overall air quality and have emerged as a promising solution for reducing carbon emission levels. They are capable of meeting the diverse needs of all kinds of drivers and offer affordable mobility and maintenance options. Recent advancements in battery technology, including the growing availability of charging infrastructure and incentives for adoption, have led to a significant rise in the EVs popularity.
However, to achieve widespread adoption of electric vehicles, there is a need to address key issues such as battery disposal, supply chain sustainability, and equitable access to EV technology.
Reshaping urban ecosystems: Driving the frontiers of change
Urban areas are central to the momentum around green mobility transformation. As growing global populations gravitate towards cities – congestion, pollution, and limited availability of green spaces have emerged as major challenges. As a result, cities must increasingly reinvent themselves to promote sustainable mobility and improve the quality of life for their residents.
Smart technologies and vertical green systems can contribute to a reduction in the energy demands of buildings by providing shade and insulation, mitigating urban heat islands, and cooling down public spaces. They also enable carbon sequestration, a reduction in pollution levels, and improvements in biodiversity.
Implementing efficient transportation systems, such as buses and trains powered by clean energy, can further reduce individual vehicle usage, traffic congestion, and emissions. Pedestrian-friendly infrastructures, cycling lanes, and micro-mobility solutions like e-scooters and bike-sharing programs can further help promote eco-friendly transportation choices. At a macro-infra level, smart city technologies and data-driven urban planning practices are helping optimise traffic flow, reduce idling times, and minimise fuel consumption.
Integrating green mobility into urban ecosystems is therefore a win-win proposition – fostering cleaner air, enhanced mobility options, and healthier communities.
From a public health perspective, improved air quality can drive a decline in respiratory and cardiovascular diseases linked to air pollution. Healthier citizens translate to a more productive workforce and reduced healthcare costs, further strengthening the growing impetus for vehicle electrification. The shift towards vehicle electrification offers significant economic benefits, including greater job creation, enhanced research and development, and greater investments in sustainable innovations. A consequent reduction in the demand for fossil fuels, scarce in terms of availability and mostly imported, in turn, helps enhance energy security and stabilise fuel prices.
Software Defined Vehicles: Pioneering the change
The global automotive industry is at the core of driving the emerging frontiers of green mobility. Traditional automakers and new entrants are racing to produce eco-friendly vehicles, and this competitive spirit, in turn, is transforming the industry landscape.
Automakers worldwide need to embrace sustainable practices by reducing their carbon footprint during the production process and implementing circular economy principles. Moreover, investing in research and development of alternative materials and manufacturing processes can lead to lighter, more energy-efficient vehicles. The rise of autonomous vehicles presents an opportunity to optimise transportation networks, enhance traffic flow, and reduce accidents. Leveraging this technology, in combination with electric and shared mobility solutions, can lead to a more sustainable and efficient future for transportation.
Software would play a key role in this direction, delivering a streamlined passenger and driver experience paradigm while ensuring conformity with the evolving regulatory standards. With Software Defined Vehicles (SDVs) increasingly constituting a focus area for major automakers worldwide, the future would witness a greater demand for digital engineering services to unlock new value streams.
The importance of ecosystem partnerships
Automotive industry stakeholders are already working with ER&D partners who can deliver across the value chain and understand each of the key parameters in the EV/SDV ecosystem. However, approaching separate vendors for product conceptualisation, design and development, testing, maintenance, manufacturing and after-sales support can increase costs and complexities.
An ER&D partner, equipped with multi-industry expertise, digital engineering capabilities, and a co-innovation commitment, can help drive transformation initiatives for transportation enterprises, overcoming technology constraints with cross-vertical learnings. Leveraging global delivery capabilities, the partner can also provide computing models that consume less energy, boost performance, and optimise data-led algorithms. In addition, they can enable scalable software stacks that leverage sensors and physical components to provide the safety and performance that electric vehicles need.
ER&D companies are also increasingly being called upon to help redefine focus areas with software, ensuring third-party integration, driving feature deployment, enabling CloudOps and fast over-the-air updates. The rising complexities within the connected car landscape further call for adopting software-defined designs that can overcome multi-layered challenges – ranging from development to subsequent deployment, maintenance, and updates.
A multi-stakeholder approach
Achieving the goal of green mobility demands collaboration among various stakeholders. Governments play a crucial role in enacting policies and regulations that incentivise the adoption of sustainable practices and technologies. Subsidies for EVs, emission standards, and urban planning regulations are some of the ways governments can drive the transition towards greener mobility.
Private sector involvement is equally critical. Corporate sustainability initiatives, investment in research and development, and partnerships for innovative mobility solutions can accelerate the transformation. Additionally, consumer awareness and support for eco-friendly practices are essential in shaping market demands and influencing business decisions.
Advancing green mobility is a pivotal step towards a sustainable future. By accelerating decarbonisation, embracing the transition to SDvs, reshaping urban ecosystems, and revolutionsing the automotive industry, this can combat climate change on a significant battleground. The collective efforts of governments, industries, and individuals are crucial in driving this transformation.
Embracing green mobility is therefore not just about reducing emissions, but rather, about fostering a healthier, cleaner, and more resilient world. It is about our common future –striving together toward a prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable tomorrow.
The Perils of “Fast Homewares”: Rethinking Consumerism for a More Sustainable Future
by Brian Walmsley, founder of ReBorn
In a world obsessed with constant consumption and rapid turnover of goods, the term “fast homewares” has become emblematic of a troubling trend in the UK and beyond. It refers to the relentless purchase of cheap, disposable home goods, often produced in the Far East from virgin materials, which inevitably break easily and are, regrettably, mostly unrepairable. This cycle of short-lived homewares has dire consequences, including detrimental effects on carbon emissions, landfill sites, and sustainability efforts. With an estimated 70 million items of homeware discarded to UK landfills each year, it’s time to confront the challenges posed by fast homewares and usher in a more responsible, sustainable approach to home goods consumption.
Homewares: An Economic Giant with an Unsustainable Cost
The homewares industry is huge, representing a significant part of the UK’s retail landscape, boasting sales worth approximately £26 billion annually. Major retailers such as John Lewis, IKEA, Amazon, Dunelm, NEXT, eBay, and numerous others have built their empires on this lucrative sector. However, the enormous success of companies such as these also comes with a hefty environmental price tag.
The Dark Side of Fast Homewares
Fast homewares perpetuate a cycle of overconsumption and waste, primarily due to the low-quality materials used in their production. These items are designed to be cheap and disposable, encouraging consumers to replace them frequently. As a result, valuable resources are squandered and an alarming amount of waste is generated, much of which ends up in landfills.
Landfills in the UK are inundated with discarded homewares that are not biodegradable. The degradation process of these items is slow, releasing harmful chemicals into the soil and groundwater, further harming the environment.
The production and transportation of fast homewares also contributes significantly to carbon emissions, particularly when manufactured overseas and shipped to the UK. This extensive supply chain emits greenhouse gases at various stages, exacerbating climate change.
The Road to Redemption: A Sustainable Homewares Industry
The solution to the fast homewares crisis lies in reimagining the industry’s fundamental principles. Instead of prioritizing low cost and disposability, we should shift our focus to quality, durability, and sustainability. Embracing the principles of the circular economy, which emphasize repairability and recyclability at the end of an item’s life cycle, is essential. This approach aligns with the concept of “cradle to cradle,” where products are designed to be regenerated or repurposed, minimizing waste.
Producers and retailers should consider ‘Quality over Quantity’ focusing on areas such as:
Durable Goods: Manufacturers should produce homewares built to last. Investing in high-quality materials and craftsmanship will reduce the need for frequent replacements, ultimately benefiting consumers and the environment.
Repairability: Homeware products should be designed with ease of repair in mind. Providing repair services and spare parts ensures that items can be fixed rather than replaced, extending their lifespan.
Recycled Materials: Utilizing recycled materials in the production of homewares significantly reduces the demand for virgin resources, lowering the industry’s environmental footprint.
Closed-Loop Systems: Creating closed-loop systems for homeware materials, where products can be recycled and remanufactured indefinitely, aligns with the circular economy’s goals.
Local Supply Chains: A local supply chain enhances transparency and traceability, allowing consumers to make informed choices about the products they buy.Moreover, producing and sourcing homewares locally drastically reduces the carbon emissions associated with long-distance shipping, benefiting both the environment and the local economy.
ReBorn Homewares: Pioneering a Sustainable Revolution
It is these challenges and opportunities that led to the creation and launch of ReBorn® homewares. This innovative company is committed to redefining the way we think about homewares, with a focus on style and sustainability.
The ReBorn range is all made in the UK from recycled materials and are circular by design. This means that all items can be repaired or “ReBorn again” in future. The Wiltshire based team prioritizes quality over quantity, ensuring that its products stand the test of time. Their items are designed to be both aesthetically pleasing and durable.
Moreover, by sourcing all materials and opting to manufacture locally, this significantly reduces the environmental impact associated with long-distance transportation.
Join the Sustainable Homewares Movement
To address the urgent issues posed by fast homewares, we all play a role in reimagining the industry. Consumers can make a difference by choosing quality over quantity, opting for repairable and sustainable homewares, and supporting companies that prioritize responsible production methods.
Retailers, too, have a crucial part to play by reevaluating their sourcing and production practices. They can collaborate with manufacturers like ReBorn to offer sustainable, locally sourced products to their customers.
The homewares industry’s transformation into a more sustainable and environmentally conscious sector is not only possible but imperative. By embracing durable, repairable, and locally sourced goods, we can significantly reduce our carbon footprint, minimize waste, and pave the way for a more responsible and sustainable future.
Let us all be part of this journey towards a sustainable homewares industry that benefits us, our planet, and generations to come. The time for change is now.
A bank’s ESG record depends on how its technology is built
Source: Finance Derivative
By Tony Coleman, CTO, Temenos
ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) has become mission-critical for banks, from meeting regulatory obligations to aligning with customer values to win market share.
Many banks have turned to technology to manage their ESG position. But technology is not a panacea. It also presents a risk that banks fall short of their ESG targets.
Technology that greens
Let’s look at the environmental pillar. Run on-premises or in a private datacentre, technology can be a big consumer of carbon. But deployed with the right infrastructure partners, it can enable banks to reduce their carbon footprint. Cloud is the best example of this. Banks that outsource their computing infrastructure to the public cloud hyperscalers can benefit from their economies of scale and energy efficient build principles.
The geographical spread and scale of these datacentres allows for carbon-aware computing, which involves shifting compute to times and places where the carbon intensity of the grid results in lower carbon emissions. One study of Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure concluded its datacentres emit 98% less carbon than traditional enterprise IT sites. These hyperscalers have a focussed mindset and the deep pockets to match. The new Graviton3 processors that AWS is now installing in its public datacentres, which claims to use 60% less energy than the standard X86 models that have been in wide circulation, is an example of the progress that only a hyperscaler can achieve.
The green benefits ‘of the cloud’ are enhanced by software purposefully built to run ‘in the cloud’. Software vendors that are committed to decarbonising their solutions in the build phase pass those wins down the supply chain to banks. For example, the latest version of the Temenos Banking Cloud was built with a 12% improvement in carbon efficiency. How the software operates can have an even more profound benefit for banks. For example, banking software that runs ‘scale-to-zero’ protocols will automatically shut down or scale down availability according to demand for its service. This is one factor that has contributed to a 32% carbon efficiency improvement in the run time of the latest Temenos Banking Cloud release.
Collecting this evidence is not simply an internal tracking exercise. Regulations are reaching a point where publishing data against ESG targets will be legally mandated. In Europe the ECB and the Bank of England have launched climate risk stress tests to assess how prepared banks are for dealing with the shocks from climate risk. Meanwhile, initiatives like the UN-convened Net-Zero Banking Alliance (representing over 40% of global banking assets), the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero and the Principles for Responsible Banking add to the clamour for banks to evidence their progress. Tracking ‘Scope 3 emissions’, which includes all indirect emissions that are not owned or controlled by the bank, is the next phase. Recognising this, Temenos has developed a carbon emissions calculator, which gives our customers deeper insight into carbon emissions data associated with their consumption of Temenos Banking Cloud services.
The same concept can be extended to a bank’s customers, with carbon calculators and automated offsetting schemes that help people build towards their personal environmental goals. Doing so brings a bank’s green credentials into the public sphere, turning environmental initiatives into commercial opportunity.
Flowe, a cloud-enabled digital bank built on green principles, launched in June 2020. It is the first bank in Italy to be certified as a B-Corp and has been able to maintain its overall carbon footprint close to zero, saving 90.81% – 96.06% in MTCO2e emissions compared to the on-premise alternative. Within six months of launch, 600,000 mainly young Italians had become customers, at one point onboarding 19 new customers per second. This rapid launch and growth was only possible with the agility and scalability of cloud. Read more about this story.
Technology that reaches
Cloud also enables financial inclusion, a key tenet of ESG ambitions. Today, anyone with a mobile phone and internet connection can access banking services. With elastic scalability and software automation, banks have an almost limitless capacity to serve more customers. And they might not be where you think; 4.5% of US households (approximately 5.9 million) were “unbanked” in 2021. In the past, banks would have seen them as unprofitable targets. But as cloud and the associated automations cut go-to-market and operational costs, the commercial case for inclusion becomes stronger.
Embedded finance gives banks another avenue of reach. Via simple APIs, banks can provide their solutions to non-financial businesses. This ready-made audience might otherwise take years to reach through a bank’s own marketing and sale channels. The embedded finance market is set to be worth $183 billion globally in 2027. That can be seen as a proxy of greater financial inclusion.
AI offers another opportunity to improve financial inclusion. Armed with AI, banks can deliver highly personalised products and experiences for customers. People can be directed to the most appropriate investments, including funds that promote sustainability and loans made with a better understanding of the applicant’s ability to pay it back. ZestAI (previously Zest Finance), a leading provider of AI-powered credit underwriting, claims that banks using its software see a 20%- 30% increase in credit approval rates and a 30-40% reduction in defaults.
But mismanaged, AI can have a dark side. If the data used to train them has bias, systems will perpetuate these discriminations. This can lead to unequal access to financial services and unjust or irresponsible credit decisions. In a study conducted by UC Berkeley, Latin and African-American borrowers were found to pay 7.9 and 3.6 basis points more in interest for home-purchase and refinance mortgages respectively, representing $765 million in extra interest per year. What’s more, AI algorithms are often complex and difficult to understand, so it is hard for customers to challenge decisions and for regulators to enforce compliance.
ESG by design
So how do banks reconcile the ESG benefits of technology with the risks? The answer is in how the technology is built; or more specifically, in the principle of ESG by design.
ESG by design is the concept of incorporating environmental, social, and governance factors into new technology and software features from the outset. The desired outcome is that the solution’s architecture, functions and UX enable ESG optimisation. But it is enabled with a commitment that all decisions taken through the design and build phase are judged through the lens of ESG criteria and targets.
At Temenos, ESG by design is a core principle to how we build technology. Let’s unpick what that means in practice, with some examples.
- Shift-left is how we systematically embed ESG into our banking software services. It means estimating the potential carbon footprint of a new project from the start, and then working back to mitigate it at every stage. The same goes for usability, compliance, and other factors that impact ESG. Detecting and addressing issues earlier in the development process is more effective than taking remedial actions after the event, which risks both compromising the efficacy of the solution and increasing the cost and time of the development lifecycle.
- If there’s a choice to be made, banks should make it. Though ESG goals align with most bank’s commercial aspirations (i.e less carbon equals less cost, more choice and better experiences equals more customers) it is not binary. Banks will have varying appetites of commitment to ESG. Take scale-to-zero, which I referred to earlier. Limiting service availability and adding latency impacts the customer experience and regulatory SLAs, such as payment processing speeds.
The optimum balance is not a call for us, as the technology vendor, to make. Instead we give banks the parameters and configurabilities to make the choice themself. This higher degree of control encourages banks to (a) use carbon-aware computing solutions, and (b) engage with the technology with more purpose.
- Use technology to improve technology. Humans are fallible. AI is only as good as the people that program it. Their biases become the system’s biases. But the black box nature of many AI systems means that these biases go unnoticed. At Temenos we embed an explainable component to our AI tools (XAI). It allows us and our banking clients to understand how AI decisions have been made, and in doing so surfaces flaws that can be fixed. We extend this capability to a bank’s customers, allowing them to interrogate and challenge decisions.
- The complex supply chains in technology makes ESG a collaborative effort. The work we do at Temenos to support banks with their ESG goals would be undermined if our partners didn’t share our same commitment. That means working with hyperscalers and partners in our ecosystem, and opening ourself up to third party validation. We did just that, using an independent carbon calculation platform (GoCodeGreen) to assess our carbon efficiency. I shared the evidence earlier; a 32% carbon efficiency improvement in the run time of the latest Temenos Cloud release, and a 12% improvement in build time. These are the sort of independently verified data points that banks should be asking their technological providers to submit.
Collaboration also means being honest about what others can do better, and enabling their innovations. The Temenos Exchange has almost 120 vendors that are continually extending and improving our core solutions. These include Bud, an AI capability that drives highly personalised experiences for lending and money management; and Greenomy, that makes it easier for banks to capture sustainability data and report on it.
ESG by design is an holistic approach to all tenets of ESG: energy efficiency, financial inclusion, transparency and accountable governance. By working with technology partners that elevate ESG to a core design principle, banks can recognise a wide range of commercial opportunities and ensure compliance with evolving regulations. That should make ESG a core selection criteria of software vendors. Banks will want to find the evidence that their technology partners are as serious about ESG as they are; and that they have the design and build practices that bring these to life.