The Climate Spectrum (#1)

Welcome to the inaugural edition of ‘The Climate Spectrum’ – your comprehensive guide to the ever-evolving world of climate change, environmental policy, and sustainability. In this newsletter, we aim to bring you a rich tapestry of topics, spanning from the pressing challenges of global warming to innovative strides in green technologies. As our reader, you’re invited to delve into a thought-provoking journey through climate news from around the globe, uncovering insights and perspectives that go beyond the ordinary. Join us as we explore the multifaceted dimensions of climate change and its impact on our world.

Climate Change

First chance of 1.5°C year: heat beyond human tolerance

It’s official: 2023 was Earth’s hottest year ever recorded, beating the previous record set in 2016 by a huge margin. Last year was also the first in which the world was close to 1.5°C (1.48°C) hotter than the pre-industrial average (1850-1900). We are brushing against the threshold scientists urged us to limit long-term warming to.

Some scientists, including former Nasa climatologist James Hansen, predict 2024 will be humanity’s first year beyond 1.5°C. As once dire warnings from climate experts become our shared reality, what can you expect? Read more in the Imagine newsletter.

Climate Change Policy

The Inflation Reduction Act: A Catalyst for Global Green Investment and EU’s Strategic Response

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) introduced by the Biden administration has become a significant magnet for companies worldwide, keen on investing in green technologies. This act, with its lucrative tax breaks and rebates for environmentally friendly technology produced in the U.S., is reshaping the global investment landscape. However, this shift presents a challenge for European Union (EU) companies, as the IRA’s allure might draw potential investments away from Europe.

EU’s Response: The Case of Northvolt

In response to this challenge, the EU has adopted more flexible state aid rules, exemplified by the recent aid provided to Swedish battery producer Northvolt. The European Commission approved a substantial €902 million in German state aid, enabling Northvolt to construct a gigafactory for electric vehicle (EV) batteries in Heide, Schleswig-Holstein. This €2.5 billion investment marks the first application of the EU’s ‘matching aid’, a measure designed to counter the risk of investment diversion due to the IRA.

Climate Change Litigation

A Rising Force in Environmental Justice

Climate change litigation has emerged as a powerful tool in the battle against environmental degradation, with its roots tracing back two decades to Australia. This approach has since gained momentum in the United States and is gaining traction in the United Kingdom. In an era where environmental concerns are paramount, these legal battles represent a pivotal shift in how societies are addressing the climate crisis.

The European Union has recently opened the gates to class-action lawsuits and this change signifies a new era for environmental activism in Europe, empowering citizens to hold corporations and governments accountable.

The Exxon Case: A Landmark in U.S. Environmental Litigation

A notable example of this litigation trend is the Exxon case in Minnesota, which has garnered significant attention. This case, detailed in The Guardian (read more), revolves around suing a major oil company, seeking not only justice but also financial reparations for damages caused by climate-related disasters such as floods, wildfires, and extreme heat.

Exxon’s strategic plea to shift the case from state to federal court (which likely would have made the case easier to defend) highlights the intricate legal maneuvers involved in such litigation. This week, the US Supreme Court denied this plea. The case is not just about compensation; it’s about holding big oil companies accountable for their role in exacerbating the climate crisis and allegedly deceiving the public about the dangers of burning fossil fuels.

Litigation Funding: Fueling the Fight for Environmental Justice

The concept of litigation funding, as reported by The Star (read more), is adding a new dimension to climate change litigation. With the promise of high returns, sometimes exceeding 25%, this funding model is not just a financial investment but also a step towards societal change. The “feel-good factor” of supporting environmental causes is drawing more investors to these cases.

This trend is particularly potent in Europe, where increased regulation is anticipated to lead to more litigation. With more public information and scrutiny, the landscape of environmental justice is rapidly evolving.

The Climate Case Chart: A Treasure Trove of Information

For those interested in the depth and breadth of climate change litigation, the Climate Case Chart (visit here) offers a comprehensive database. This resource includes a global database of climate change caselaw and is meticulously organized by type of claim, complete with links to decisions, complaints, and other case documents. Examples: “Klimaatzaak” in Belgium or “Urgenda” in The Netherlands

2024 promises to be another monumental year for climate change litigation and these climate lawyers are already gearing up for it.

Environment & Health

Microplastics in Our Diet: A Disturbing Reality

Recent studies highlight a concerning presence of microplastics in bottled water and various food items. Researchers have found that these tiny particles are not just in our environment, but also in our bodies, including blood and organs. A detailed study by Columbia and Rutgers Universities discovered nearly a quarter million nanoplastics in a liter of bottled water, some even penetrating human blood. Another study by the University of Toronto and the Ocean Conservancy revealed microplastics in 90% of common proteins like seafood, chicken, and plant-based alternatives.

Are we unknowingly consuming millions of microplastics yearly? The health implications of this exposure are still unfolding.

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