Renewable energy defies the coronavirus crisis to hit record growth in 2020, as McDonald’s unveils its new plant-based range – McPlant. Meanwhile, a further £40 million is to be ploughed into England’s green spaces as part of a plan to restore species and combat climate change, the UK government is to issue its first green sovereign bonds to help fund the transition to net zero, and the UK is to bring the ban on selling new petrol and diesel cars forward to 2030. It’s the Good With Money weekly news brief.
Renewable energy defies Covid-19 to hit record growth in 2020
Global renewable electricity installation will hit a record level in 2020, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The IEA report reveals that almost 90 per cent of new electricity generation in 2020 will be renewable, with just 10 per cent powered by gas and coal. The trend puts green electricity on track to become the largest power source in 2025, displacing coal, which has dominated for the past 50 years.
The upward curve for renewables comes as the coronavirus pandemic has caused a heavy decline in the fossil fuel sector.
Growing acceptance of the need to tackle the climate crisis by cutting carbon emissions has made renewable energy increasingly attractive to investors. The IEA reports that shares in renewable equipment makers and project developers have outperformed most major stock market indices and that the value of shares in solar companies has more than doubled since December 2019.
How renewables can make you money
McPlant: McDonald’s to launch plant-based burgers
McDonald’s is to introduce a line of plant-based meat alternatives called “McPlant” in 2021.
The fast food giant said it would offer plant-based burgers, chicken substitutes and breakfast sandwiches. The move comes as Barclays Bank forecasts that consumption of meat alternatives is set to be worth $140 billion (£106 billion) by 2029.
McDonald’s has tested out a plant-based burger in Canada with its vegan foods producer Beyond Meat. However, shares of Beyond Meat plummeted after the announcement by McDonald’s as it was not clear who would supply the fast-food chain with the meat alternative.
The move towards meat substitutes has been driven primarily by concerns over meat’s effects on health, the environment and animal welfare.
McDonald’s international president Ian Borded said: “As we have worked to better understand customer demand, some markets around the world have tested plant-based products.. we have created a delicious burger that will be the first menu option in a plant-based platform we are calling McPlant.”
Is the plant-based sector immune to greenwashing?
Extra £40m for green spaces in England, pledges PM
A further £40 million is to be ploughed into green spaces in England as part of a plan to restore species and combat climate change, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.
The government says the cash will fund new national parks and greater protections for England’s iconic landscapes, and provide thousands of jobs in conservation. Environmentalists welcomed the investment but said it was a fraction of what is needed to restore Britain’s depleted wildlife.
The scheme is part of the prime minister’s 10-point plan for combating climate change, which is due to be unveiled this week.
The natural environment funding will go to environmental charities creating or restoring important habitats like peatland and wetland; preventing or cleaning up pollution; creating woodland; and helping people connect with nature. Mr Johnson said this will in turn create and retain skilled and unskilled jobs, such as ecologists, project managers, tree planters and teams to carry out nature restoration.
It comes as a new report reveals the government’s conservation watchdog Natural England has been “cut to the bone”, with staff underpaid, undervalued and overworked and feeling unable to protect England’s most valuable wildlife sites.
UK to issue first green sovereign bonds to help fund net zero
The UK will issue its first green bonds to fund investment in tackling the climate crisis and aid the recovery from Covid-19, chancellor Rishi Sunak has said.
Making a statement in the Commons, Mr Sunak said the government wants to “renew the UK’s position as the world’s preeminent financial centre” following Brexit. He said financial services “will be essential to our economic recovery from coronavirus, creating jobs and growth right across our country”.
Investment in low-carbon energy infrastructure, reducing emissions from transport and retrofitting homes to make them more environmentally friendly are among measures being targetted by governments to help stimulate their economies in the wake of devastation caused by the pandemic.
Through green bonds, governments can borrow money for these projects at low interest rates while giving steady, long-term income to investors such as pension funds which are seeking stable investments that benefit the environment.
What is a green bond, and how can it help save the planet?
UK to ban sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030
The sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned within a decade, Boris Johnson is set to announce this week as part of a broader package of green initiatives.
In February the prime minister said he was bringing forward a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 to 2035. Now he is expected to move the date to 2030 in an attempt to jump-start the market for electric cars in the UK and propel the country towards its goal of net zero emissions by 2050.
However, ministers are expected to keep the less ambitious date of 2035 for an end to the sale of hybrid cars that are powered by electric batteries as well as traditional motors. While electric car sales are rising strongly, they were still below seven per cent of all new vehicles bought across the UK last month, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, a trade body.