Parliament pensions clean up as bug found to feast on plastic

Written by Lori Campbell on 30th Mar 2020

Parliament’s pensions fund slashes its investment in fossil fuels, scientists discover a bug that feasts on toxic plastic and Sir David Attenborough warns the world not to forget about climate change in the war against coronavirus. Meanwhile, global efforts on the ozone help to reverse southern jet stream damage, the world’s wind power capacity is up by a fifth after a record year and London tops the rankings for its green finance offerings. It’s the Good With Money weekly newsbrief. 

Parliament pension fund cuts fossil fuel investments

UK parliament’s pension fund has cut its investment in fossil fuel companies to bring MPs’ pensions in line with the government’s climate action targets.

A report from the £700 million pension fund shows that almost a third is now being invested in low carbon and environmentally sustainable funds. It follows calls from hundreds of MPs to align the fund with the government’s legally binding climate commitments.

The decision by the pension fund’s trustees to back a push for greener investment has resulted in renewable energy infrastructure investments making up 5 per cent of the fund for the first time.

However, the pension’s trustees have stopped short of divesting entirely from fossil fuel companies and retain multimillion-pound investments in the oil companies Royal Dutch Shell and BP. The annual report reveals that the fund has decreased its investment in BP by almost two-thirds in the past year, to £4.4 million, and cut its holdings in Shell by a quarter, to £8 million.

 Find out how to clean up your own pension in our Good Guide to Pensions

Scientists find bug that feasts on toxic plastic

A bacterium that feeds on toxic plastic has been discovered by scientists. The bug not only breaks the plastic down but uses it as food to power the process.

The bacterium, which was found at a waste site where plastic had been dumped, is the first that is known to attack polyurethane. Millions of tonnes of the plastic is produced every year to use in items such as sports shoes, nappies, kitchen sponges and as foam insulation. However, it is mostly sent to landfill because it is too tough to recycle.

When broken down it can release toxic and carcinogenic chemicals which would kill most bacteria, but the newly discovered strain is able to survive. While the research has identified the bug and some of its key characteristics, much work remains to be done before it can be used to treat large amounts of waste plastic.

“These findings represent an important step in being able to reuse hard-to-recycle polyurethane products,” said Hermann Heipieper, at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ in Leipzig, Germany, who is one of the research team.

Top 10 countries doing the most to tackle plastic pollution

Global efforts on ozone help reverse southern jet stream damage

Global reductions in ozone-depleting chemicals is returning the southern jet stream to a normal state after decades of human-caused damage, reveals a new study.

Scientists say the findings prove it is possible to heal some climate systems if governments act promptly and together to deal with the causes. The southern jet stream is a powerful wind that shapes weather patterns and ocean currents in the southern hemisphere, particularly in the summer.

Up until about 2000 it had been shifting from its usual course and moving southwards towards the Antarctic at a rate of one degree of latitude each decade. This has affected storm tracks and rainfall over South America, east Africa and Australia.

The change was driven by the depletion of the ozone layer by manmade chemical compounds found in fridges, aerosols and other industrial processes

These chemicals, which were used in vast quantities until they started to be phased out under the United Nations 1987 Montreal protocol, thinned the ozone layer, causing a widening “hole” high above the south pole that affected wind patterns. The new paper, published in the journal Nature, shows that the Montreal protocol has paused the southward movement of the jet stream since the turn of the century and may even be starting to reverse it as the ozone hole begins to close.


World’s wind power capacity up by fifth in record year

The world’s wind power grew by almost a fifth last year thanks to a boom in offshore projects.

The global wind power industry had a record year in 2019, according to The Global Wind Energy Council. Wind power capacity grew by 60.4 gigawatts, or 19 per cent, compared with 2018.

Offshore wind capabilities were the driving force as new projects were completed, and they now make up a tenth of all projects.

The annual report found that some countries are still expanding their onshore wind at growing rates. The US and China are the world’s biggest markets for onshore wind, and together make up almost two-thirds of global growth in wind power.

How to invest in renewable energy bonds

London tops green finance rankings

London has topped a ranking list of major cities for the quality of its green finance offerings and services.

The bi-annual Global Green Finance Index (GGFI) from Z/Yen and Finance Watch ranks 59 cities in accordance with the quality, delivery and depth of green financial services and offerings. It ranks cities based on the quality and depth of their green finance offerings, capabilities and mechanisms.

The UK capital came first on the list for “quality” of green finance and sixth for “depth”, putting it third on the index as a whole.

Amsterdam came first overall, indicating that it is number one in the world when it comes to the depth of its green finance markets and the quality of the products that can be traded there.

See the top-rated ethical and sustainable funds in our latest Good Investment Review

Attenborough warns world not to forget about climate change in war against coronavirus

TV legend Sir David Attenborough has warned the world not to let coronavirus deflect it from another global battle -with climate change.

Ahead of the release of his new show David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet, the champion of the planet warns the world not to take its eyes off the climate change. He says he is washing his hands and observing social distance guidelines like the rest of us.

But Sir David – whose film A Life On Our Planet has been put back to November because of the pandemic – says the virus is no real surprise.

He said: “There’s always been plagues. There are diseases. That is part of the natural world and tightly packed as we are and travel as we do, it is hardly surprising it spreads.

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