• FutureTrack

This Week in Sustainability News 04.11

This past week was filled with interesting sustainability and climate news, we’ve summarised the top stories below.


Temperatures in Europe have increased at more than twice the global average

  • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has reported that Europe’s climate has been warming at twice the rate of the global average in the past 30 years

  • WMO’s European State of the Climate report predicts that if the trends continue, Europe will be affected by severe heat, wildfires, floods, and other weather disasters.

  • Researchers found that from 1991 to 2021, temperatures in Europe have been increasing at an average rate of 0.5C a decade.

  • Some of the results of the increase in the average temperature on the European continent include the melting of the Alpine glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet which contributed to sea level rise.

  • Other extreme weather events in Europe, such as floods and storms, directly affected over 500,000 people in 2021 alone. The damages are estimated to exceed $50bn.

  • Some of the reasons explaining why Europe has been heating at such accelerated rates include a high percentage of land mass which heats faster than sea.

  • On a positive note, the report found that many European countries have succeeded in cutting their greenhouse gas emissions, and a 31% decrease was observed in EU emissions levels between 1990 and 2020.


European Central Bank threatens enforcement action against banks that ignore climate risks

  • The European Central Bank (ECB) states that most European banks are ignoring the severing of climate risk and are not doing enough to address it.

  • The ECB has published a review of 186 banks and found that even though 85% recognise climate risks in their basic practices, 96% of them undermine the scope of these risks.

  • The review states that some institutions have put basic measures in place such as the use of transitioning tools and targeted client engagement. However, the “wait-and-see” approach still prevails.

  • The ECB expects all banks to align with its guidance published in 2020, by the end of 2024.

  • European banks are also expected to put in place a comprehensive climate and environmental risk strategy by the end of 2023.

  • The ECB has announced that enforcement action will be taken against banks that don’t comply.


Schools shut in New Delhi as air pollution becomes a severe risk to health

  • New Delhi orders primary schools to shut as smog forms over the capital causing severe risk to the health of the city’s 20 million inhabitants.

  • The smog causes a surge in respiratory illnesses among New Delhi’s inhabitants every winter, when cold and heavy air sinks and traps harmful air pollutants and particulate matter, such as construction dust, vehicle emissions, and smoke from crop stubble burning.

  • The air quality index (AQI) has exceeded the 400-mark which has put most of New Delhi’s districts in the “severe” or “hazardous” category.

  • As a result, the capital’s primary schools have been shut and 50% of Delhi government employees have been ordered to work from home.

  • The order from the local authorities to temporarily close schools came after residents reported that air pollution started causing discomfort in breathing and irritation in the eyes, nose, and throat.

  • Scientist report that New Delhi has been the world’s most polluted capital for the last four years.


Most “home compostable” plastics fail to disintegrate, according to recent findings

  • Recent research published in the journal Frontiers in Sustainability has reported that most plastics labeled as “home compostable” fail to disintegrate after six months

  • The authors of the paper warned that if compostable plastic, which fails to decompose, ends up among food waste it will block the recycling process.

  • The solution recommended by the scientists and authors of the study is to simply use less plastic and reuse it.

  • The study findings are based on data from 900 people across the UK who took part in a home composting experiment. They were asked to look for traces of compostable plastic in their compost after six months of discarding it.

  • Another study published in 2019 reported that plastic bags marketed as biodegradable were still in great condition even after three years of being buried in the soil or sea. This means despite certain plastics being advertised as biodegradable and compostable, it is not specified how long and under what conditions they will degrade.

  • The researchers stated that marketing plastics as compostable or biodegradable constitutes greenwashing.