ESG Essentials: Renewables in China and the environmental damage of deep sea mining

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China surges in renewable energy deployment, set to exceed its goals five years early

New analysis by BloombergNEF found that China’s production of renewable energy has surged in 2023, comprising over half of the world’s wind deployments and a large proportion of the world’s solar construction. Under current projections, China is set to produce 1,200 gigawatts of energy through wind and solar by 2025, exceeding the country’s clean power target five years early.

The price of solar and other renewable power sources have rapidly declined in recent years, making it increasingly affordable for consumers and energy producers alike. China has led the way in both manufacturing and deploying solar panels, with a combined installed capacity of 228 GW, enough to power almost 2 million average American homes

While the growth of renewables in China is impressive, it pales in comparison to China’s overall power needs.The nation is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels and approved two new coal plants every week in 2022. It’s clear that even among these statistics, China has a long way to go to transition towards a clean domestic energy system.

Larry Fink announces he has stopped using the term “ESG”

Larry Fink, chairman of BlackRock, has announced that he has stopped using the term “ESG”, arguing that it has become “over politicised” among heated debates between Democrats and Republicans across the United States. 

Although he added that his opinions on ESG had not changed, and that BlackRock would continue to embrace sustainable investment, this development shows how deeply the political backlash against ESG in the US has affected even its strongest proponents. 

Nine Republican controlled states have withdrawn all public funds from BlackRock this year, accusing them of favouring a political agenda over delivering financial returns. Though there has been no federal action against ESG as of yet, Congress came close in March, deterred only by the threat of a presidential veto. While these political movements have not stopped the growth of ESG in the US or elsewhere, it has seemingly made many leading financial figures cautious about their public communication.

New report reveals shocking cost of Deep Sea Mining

New analysis from think-tank Planet Tracker has revealed the damage to biodiversity by deep sea mining will far outweigh the profits gained, calling into question claims that it represents a ‘green alternative’ to land-based mining. The harvesting of polymetallic nodules will cause ‘significant, permanent damage’ to deep ocean habitats, which contain ‘many of the most pristine, biodiverse and evolutionarily remarkable ecosystems on our planet’, the report asserts. 

It also shows that attempts to restore damage to these ecosystems will cost over $5 million per km2 mined, representing a greater cost than the entire global defence budget if all areas currently being explored are exploited. Doing so will affect an area of water greater than all the freshwater in the world, including ice and snow. 

In response, Planet Tracker has called for an urgent moratorium on deep sea mining, which is currently being debated by the International Seabed Authority. François Mosnier, head of Planet Tracker’s Oceans program, said “there are many false solutions to the climate crisis, but deep sea mining is one that can still be stopped…We call on financial institutions to join others in supporting a moratorium on deep sea mining

Groundwater extraction has changed the tilt of the Planet’s axis

Scientists from Seoul National University have concluded that humanity’s insatiable thirst for groundwater has actually affected the tilt of earth’s axis. The effect, though slight, has come as a result of global groundwater extraction of over 75 trillion gallons a year, which has proved enough to change the weight distribution and spin of the planet. 

Scientists have also identified that rapidly melting polar ice caps have also contributed to this effect, spurred on by climate change. 

Notably, as we learn more about the physical impacts of water consumption on the planet, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a report  that found half of the world’s population did not have access to enough clean drinking water.  They found that access to this resource would have saved over 1.4 million lives last year and added 74 million years to collective life expectancies. These statistics make clear that the planet is dangerously overextending the planet’s water supply, whilst millions still live without safe access.

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