Report: UK retailers surpassing carbon reduction commitments early

Report: UK retailers surpassing carbon reduction commitments early

A group of more than 25 of the UK's largest retailers have collectively reduced their absolute carbon footprint by more than one-third (36%) since 2005, a new study has found.

Companies taking part in 'Better Retail, Better World' include John Lewis & Partners, M&S, Fenwick and Kingfisher - the owner of B&Q and Screwfix 

Companies taking part in 'Better Retail, Better World' include John Lewis & Partners, M&S, Fenwick and Kingfisher - the owner of B&Q and Screwfix

Carried out by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) as part of its ‘Better Retail, Better World’ campaign, the study explored the emissions reduction, water management and waste reduction efforts of 27 big-name UK retailers, including the likes of John Lewis Partnership, Ikea and Fenwick.

It concluded that the group has reduced its collective, absolute carbon emissions by 36%, as of the end of 2018 – surpassing the ‘Better Retail, Better World’ target of a 25% reduction by 2020. This figure was calculated against a 2005 baseline.

A large proportion of this progress was accounted for by efforts to decarbonise energy, with this specific part of the group’s footprint down 67% in the same timeframe. A further key progress area was deliveries to stores, where collective, absolute emissions were down 47%, also in the same 13-year period.

Nonetheless, slower progress was recorded across efforts to decarbonise refrigeration and transport. Supermarket members of the BRC’s initiative – Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Lidl, M&S, Ocado, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – have collectively reduced emissions from refrigeration by 55% since 2005, putting them off-track to meet a 2020 target of 80%.

According to the Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs, fridges at food retailers account for between 3% and 6% of the UK’s total electricity consumption. Moreover, older fridges and freezers produce high levels of fluorinated gases (F-gases).

A recent report found that European retailers are behind schedule to implement natural refrigerants into operations, with the average supermarket refrigeration system thought to leak up to a quarter of its refrigerant charge annually –  the equivalent of more than 1,500 metric tonnes of carbon emissions.

Nonetheless, there are notable examples of retailers committing to phase-out F-gases. Aldi UK has invested £20m in natural refrigerants across all of its stores – a move which could see its potential annual refrigerant gas carbon emissions cut by 99% – while the likes of AsdaWaitrose and Sainsbury’s are using F1-inspired technology to steer cold air directly back down fridge units to stop it from spilling out onto the aisles.

While praising this progress, BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson also urged retailers to up their low-carbon ambitions and actions in the wake of the Government’s declaration of a ‘Climate Emergency’.

“It is ever more important for businesses to unite to tackle these global challenges,” Dickinson said.

“While we can see significant progress being made, we should not underestimate the scale of the challenge before us. The public wants to know that the food they eat, the clothes they wear and the goods they buy, are ethically made and responsibly sourced. Better Retail Better World brings together retailers to collaboratively play their part in creating a sustainable future.”

Dickson’s comments come shortly after a survey of more than 1,800 UK retailers found that two-thirds believe it will take three years or more to transform their business models, processes, operations and products for holistic sustainability.

Sarah George


The World’s Most Innovative Economies

ECONOMY

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Ranked: The World's Most Innovative Economies

The World’s 10 Most Innovative Economies

In the 21st century, innovation has become the heart and soul of economic policy. Developed and developing nations alike are in the race to leave industrialization behind, adapting instead to technology-focused, entrepreneurial societies.

Customized cancer treatment, faux meat products, and the smart home technologies are frequently positioned as ‘the next big thing’. But which countries are consistently innovating the most?

Today’s graphic comes from the seventh annual Bloomberg Innovation Index and highlights the 10 most innovative economies, and the seven metrics used to rank 2019’s top contenders.

Measuring Innovation

Bloomberg calculated each country’s innovation score using seven equally-weighted metrics.

  1. R&D Spending
    All research and development funding invested in an economy each year.
  2. Patent Activity
    Number of domestic patents filed, total patent grants, patents per population, filings per GDP, and total grants awarded measured against the global total.
  3. Tertiary Efficiency
    Total enrollment at post-secondary institutions, graduation levels, and number of science and engineering graduates.
  4. Manufacturing Value-added
    Manufacturing output levels that contribute to exports and domestic economic growth.
  5. Productivity
    Overall productivity levels of the working-age population.
  6. High-tech Density
    Number of domestic high-tech public companies, measured against the number of domestic public companies and the global total of public high-tech companies.
  7. Researcher Concentration
    Number of professionals currently engaged in research and development roles.

More than 200 countries were initially considered for Bloomberg’s Innovation Index. Any country reporting in less than six categories was automatically eliminated, leaving 95 countries remaining. Bloomberg publishes the results for the top 60 most innovative economies each year.

Notable Countries in the Top 60

The U.S. rejoined the top 10 after dropping to 11th in 2018 for low scores in education. Israel moved up five spots to 5th place, while Romania made the largest overall gain, jumping six spots to rank in the top 30.

Brazil rejoined the list at number 45, after not being included on the 2018 list. The United Arab Emirates made the list for the first time, marking the highest debut ever at number 46.

Tunisia and Ukraine were the two countries with the largest losses, which both fell out of the top 50 this year. To date, South Africa is the only Sub-Saharan nation to be ranked in the index.

Newcomers to the Innovation Index in 2019 are some of the largest emerging economies, such as India, Mexico, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia.

Impact of Global Innovation

Innovation is complex─many factors play a role in the ideation, development, and commercialization of any new technology. And while innovation success can fuel economic growth, it is generally more accessible in high-income economies, where R&D funding is readily available.

“The battle for control of the global economy in the 21st century will be won and lost over control of innovative technologies.”

—Tom Orlik, Bloomberg Economics

The focus of an economy that prioritizes innovation, however, is not simply allocating resources for a group of people─it’s discovering new methods, models, and products that create a better quality of life for society.


From climate change to urbanisation: BlackRock's five megatrends that will disrupt society

31 July 2019, source edie newsroom

A new report from BlackRock has found that climate change, resource scarcity and growing consumerism will create disruptive structural shifts across industries as a "confluence of global megatrends" begin to clash.

Emerging economies will pose challenges around consumerism, but can also benefit from cheaper clean technologies 

Emerging economies will pose challenges around consumerism, but can also benefit from cheaper clean technologies

BlackRock’s Megatrends: The forces shaping our future report has found that key megatrends around technological advancements, demographic shifts, new areas of global wealth and rapid urbanisation are all set to reach new milestones within the next five years and have urged investors and corporates to consider the climate-related impact of future investment decisions.

“Most major economies are undergoing powerful shifts in their demographic profiles, while resource scarcity and climate change are coming under greater scrutiny,” the report states.

“Rapid urbanisation is pulling in significant investments and changing consumer behaviour, especially in high-growth emerging economies. At the same time, the increasing ubiquity of technology is redefining business models in a host of industries and unleashing widespread disruption. These forces, which we call megatrends, are giving rise to a new set of powerful investment themes.”

Noting that 18 of the 19 warmest years on record all have occurred since 2001, BlackRock lists climate change and resource scarcity as a key megatrend to be addressed by investors and corporates. However, climate change and low-carbon innovation are themes that run through the rest of BlackRock’s highlighted megatrends.

Technological breakthrough

The report notes that new technologies will either work to resolve or accelerate megatrends, but that breakthrough innovation is required to address some large-scale challenges, such as climate change.

BlackRock notes the growth in electric vehicles (EVs), e-commerce, solar panels, robotics, blockchain, cloud computing, streaming and smart grids as examples of where incumbent businesses may tweak business models to capture new economic opportunities while addressing societal or environmental needs.

There are also investment considerations, with BlackRock urging the financial services sector to “assess the lifecycle of new technologies” to avoid bottlenecks the stunt technological growth. An example of this would be to also invest in lithium mining to help spur the production of EV batteries.

Demographics and social change

While this part of the report mostly focuses on the fact that most advanced economies are “ageing rapidly”, it does note that automation and digitalisation will assist with this age shift, but also trigger challenges for younger economies. This digitalisation could also come with an increased carbon footprint for business.

Increased cases of immigration, largely exacerbated by climate change, will also lead to further strain on societies.

The investment considerations of this megatrend largely focus on the “distinctly different spending priorities” of younger generations, with millennials more willing to align with brands that promote health and wellbeing or low-carbon products and services.

Emerging global wealth

The World Bank notes that China alone is set to add one billion people to the global middle class between 2005-2030; the country is also forging ahead with a $1trn Belt and Road Initiative to improve trade routes across south Asia, improving wealth across developing countries.

While emerging global wealth does create issues around the growth of consumerism and consumption in primarily linear economies, the report notes that emerging markets can adopt cheaper and better technologies such as clean energy and battery storage from developed economies.

Primarily, the investment considerations focus on closed-loop models to ensure the growth in consumption doesn’t lead to a growth in waste. Investors should also be able to satisfy the rising demand for food, clean energy, cheaper healthcare, faster telecom networks and work with global companies to facilitate the creation of viable and sustainable solutions.

Climate change and resource scarcity

“An expanding population and the rising demand for food, energy and materials continue to strain the finite resources of the planet,” the report states. “The need for solutions that improve energy efficiency, lower food waste and provide alternatives to scarce resources has never been greater. Underlying these trends is the persistent increase in global emissions which has led to intensifying debates around climate change and how we can resolve it.”

The report also adds that land area dedicated to agriculture has not increased in the last 20 years and that to produce more with less, “productivity improvements need to be relentless”.

The investment opportunities for resource scarcity are focused on chemical and fertiliser companies as well as technologies such as drones, predictive weather analytics and precision agriculture that are necessary to increase yield across the world.

Rapid urbanisation

The final megatrend highlighted in the report is rapid urbanisation. According to McKinsey, the top 50 cities account for 8% of global population, 21% of world GDP, 37% of urban high-income households and are home to 45% of firms with more than $1bn in annual revenues.

Urbanisation is intrinsically linked with economic growth, meaning many issues around consumerism will also have to be addressed under this trend. However, the consumption of clean energy and access to low-carbon transport and infrastructure are also prevalent.

The investment opportunities, in this case, are to address the built environment, particularly as large-scale transport infrastructure, airports and bridges become essential to living. Again, EVs will require significant investment in terms of charging and grid integration.


24 Questions That Show Nukes Are NOT The Answer

July 29th, 2019 by  at CleanTechica


1. How many more decades of uranium does the planet have left?

There are about 8 decades of supply remaining.

“Uranium abundance: At the current rate of uranium consumption with conventional reactors, the world supply of viable uranium, which is the most common nuclear fuel, will last for 80 years.” If nukes were fully built out to provide our full energy needs, we would have about 5 years of uranium remaining on the planet.

Note that nukes are not renewable energy. Anything that has to be mined is, by definition, not renewable.

Image via Land Art Generator Initiative

2. How much are US taxpayers paying to store nuclear power waste?

Billions of dollars and counting.

“The Maine Yankee nuclear power plant hasn’t produced a single watt of energy in more than two decades, but it cost U.S. taxpayers about $35 million this year,” the LA Timesreports.

“Almost 40 years after Congress decided the United States, and not private companies, would be responsible for storing radioactive waste, the cost of that effort has grown to $7.5 billion, and it’s about to get even pricier.

“With no place of its own to keep the waste, the government now says it expects to pay $35.5 billion to private companies as more and more nuclear plants shut down, unable to compete with cheaper natural gas and renewable energy sources.”

3. Where is the radioactive nuclear spent fuel stored?

Typically, on the site of the nukes where it was generated.

No location wants to receive all of this toxic material. Nevadans do not want to receive these materials at Yucca Mountain. So, for the moment, there is no single repository for nuclear waste in the US. Most of the US nuclear waste sits at the nuke sites that create it, and nuclear power sites are not really designed to be repositories.

“The United States has over 90,000 metric tons of nuclear waste that requires disposal. … This spent nuclear fuel, which can pose serious risks to humans and the environment, is enough to fill a [US] football field about 20 meters deep. … For the most part, this waste is stored where it was generated — at 80 sites in 35 states. The amount of waste is expected to increase to about 140,000 metric tons over the next several decades. However, there is still no disposal site in the United States.”

4. How many years does the spent nuclear fuel stay radioactive and have to stay isolated to keep life forms safe?

Hundreds of thousands to millions of years.

“Of particular concern in nuclear waste management are two long-lived fission products, Tc-99 (half-life 220,000 years) and I-129 (half-life 15.7 million years), which dominate spent fuel radioactivity after a few thousand years.” (Vandenbosch, Robert & Vandenbosch, Susanne E. (2007). Nuclear waste stalemate. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. ISBN 0874809037.)

5. How many years do spent solar panels and wind turbines stay radioactive?

Yes, that’s right … Zero years. For that matter, zero minutes. Also, some of these technologies can be recycled.

6. How many great, great grandkids will we make happy when they inherit our generation’s spent nuclear energy waste?

None.

7. How much land is needed for solar power to meet annual global energy needs?

Not much.

Below are 19 locations for solar plants placed strategically around the globe, courtesy the Land Art Generator Initiative. Red arrows have been added as some of these dots are small. Of course there are plenty of other locations that are already in place helping out, and more to come, plus millions of rooftop solar power systems.

Image via Land Art Generator Initiative

Massive solar power deployment could easily be done, and should be done, in a more decentralized way to reduce demands on the electrical grid. Decentralization would also reduce transmission distances. This is just a graphical representation to show the amount of land that would be needed.

8. How much land is needed to power the US with solar?

Again, not much. A few counties in Texas could do the job.

9. Remember how many humans were killed by the Chernobyl nuclear accident?

Tens of thousands. Estimates vary.

10. Remember how many were killed from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown?

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, but the numbers vary based on the organization doing the study.

11. How many were forced to move due to the radiation caused by the Fukushima meltdown?

47,000.

12. How many people have been killed by wind power meltdowns?

That’s right. None.

13. How many people have been killed by solar power meltdowns?

Right again. None.

14. How much does the insurance cost for nukes since their disasters are so bad?

N/A

They are uninsurable. No nukes are truly insured. The public insures them.

The public risks their lives so that a very small number of people can financially profit from nukes.

“The conclusions of the [meltdown liability] study are rather startling, with damage estimates varying from a minimum of 150 billion euros to a maximum of around 6 trillion euros. It states that ‘the calculated sum which would have to be made available in case of a nuclear disaster is 6.09 trillion euros.’

“If the resulting liability insurance premium were to be added to the cost of generating electricity at a nuclear power plant, it is estimated that the cost per kilowatt-hour would increase by between 0.14 and 67.3 euros, making nuclear energy totally uncompetitive with renewable sources.

“In the end, the issue is academic. As the authors of the German study point out, ‘there is no way to guarantee full coverage of the risk.’ They emphasize that in practical terms, nuclear disasters at atomic energy plants are not insurable. Which is, of course, why no nuclear reactor has ever been insured against the risk of disaster anywhere in the world. And it’s also why, when such disasters do occur, society at large, through the contributions of ordinary taxpayers, has to foot the bill.”

In the US, the Price-Anderson Act has been created to give an appearance of insurance. “[E]nacted into law in 1957 as an amendment to the Atomic Energy Act,” it gives the appearance of insurance in the US, but it significantly under-covers the potential for the real liability that would be incurred with a meltdown.

“The Act provides ‘omnibus’ coverage, that is, the same protection available for a covered licensee or contractor extends through indemnification to any persons who may be legally liable, regardless of their identity or relationship to the licensed activity. By providing omnibus coverage, those who may be harmed are assured of the availability of funds to pay their claims, and firms that contribute in some manner to the design, construction, operation or maintenance of covered licensees are all protected. Many of these companies, support services and equipment suppliers likely would not have participated in the nuclear industry without some liability limitation.”

Do you understand this act then? It was constructed to 1) give an appearance of public coverage in case people irradiated and die, and 2) covers all parties who own, operate, and construct such monstrosities in case they blow up. Without this US government financial protection, nukes would not ever be built. Clever.

What about the cost? “In a recent German study, the low-case values calculated were 255,528 cancers [caused from Chernobyl-4] and €199 billion (2011 euros) – which corresponds to frequently quoted orders of magnitude. But the high-case figures reported by the study are far larger, with 5.3 million cancers and €5,566 billion (2011 euros). It is unusual for experts to produce such a high estimate, with a single accident leading to millions of cancers and total damage amounting to thousands of billions of euros.”

A thousand billion is a trillion. €5,566 billion is $6.237 trillion, disregarding inflation since these are 2011 euros.

15. How many millions (or billions) of gallons of ocean/river water are needed per day to cool nukes?

“California’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Station takes in 2.5 billion gallons of coastal water (9.46 billion liters) a day and discharges the same volume heated up by 23 degrees [Fahrenheit (12. 8 degrees of heat Celsius)],” according to one source.

16. Do we have any concerns with spent nuclear fuel being dumped or stored illegally?

Yes.

“Due to historic activities typically related to radium industry, uranium mining, and military programs, numerous sites contain or are contaminated with radioactivity. In the United States alone, the Department of Energy states there are ‘millions of gallons of radioactive waste’ as well as ‘thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel and material’ and also ‘huge quantities of contaminated soil and water.’ Despite copious quantities of waste, the DOE has stated a goal of cleaning all presently contaminated sites successfully by 2025. [The Fernald, Ohio site for example had ’31 million pounds of uranium product,’ ‘2.5 billion pounds of waste,’ ‘2.75 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris,’ and a ‘223 acre portion of the underlying Great Miami Aquifer had uranium levels above drinking standards.’ The United States has at least 108 sites designated as areas that are contaminated and unusable, sometimes many thousands of acres.”

“Authorities in Italy are investigating a ‘Ndrangheta mafia clan accused of trafficking and illegally dumping nuclear waste. According to a whistleblower, a manager of the Italy’s state energy research agency Enea paid the clan to get rid of 600 drums of toxic and radioactive waste from Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany, and the US, with Somalia as the destination, where the waste was buried after buying off local politicians. Former employees of Enea are suspected of paying the criminals to take waste off their hands in the 1980s and 1990s. Shipments to Somalia continued into the 1990s, while the ‘Ndrangheta clan also blew up shiploads of waste, including radioactive hospital waste, sending them to the sea bed off the Calabrian coast. According to the environmental group Legambiente, former members of the ‘Ndrangheta have said that they were paid to sink ships with radioactive material for the last 20 years.”

17. Have you ever seen a thermal plume of the water near a nuke?

Take a look. The entire ocean ecosystems are changed in these areas.

18. What’s melting the ice caps?

Global warming primarily, but nukes heating the oceans to some small degree that has never been quantified can’t be helping any.

19. How much land is needed to produce enough energy for the planet with wind energy?

Very little.

Hint: they are mostly offshore

A combination of solar and wind would reduce the demand for each, though, and a melded blend of both wind and solar would be ideal. There is also geothermal and wave energy that could be added to the mix.

When wind turbines are deployed on land, wind power also makes a great companion to farming, helping out the farmers financially while producing clean energy. Crops are currently being grown below many windmills around the world.

Note about hydropower: while hydro energy is renewable, it is often not ecological since the dams ruin river ecosystems. When full renewable energy is achieved, the dams should be dismantled to restore river ecosystems.

20. How long does it take to build a nuke?

About a decade, give or take, or even longer. There are years for financial planning, siting hearings and approvals, and then “the mean construction time of 441 reactors in use today was 7.5 years.”

In comparison, how long does it take to build solar plants and wind farms? About a year or two, typically, depending upon permitting requirements.

Wind farm construction times are usually within two years, but can vary depending upon the scope of the project, location, regulations, land negotiations, construction, and testing. After the financial investment decisions comes siting, permitting, and a PPA (power purchase agreement), which typically needs to be signed with the local utility, which will buy the electricity.

Then comes the construction, which is fairly fast: “Construction time is usually very short – a 10 MW wind farm can easily be built in two months. A larger 50 MW wind farm can be built in six months.”

Photovoltaic solar farm construction times are usually inside of six months, but the entire projects — including siting and permitting — are often completed inside of two years. This depends on many factors, including regulations and size of the project.

21. Are nukes targets for terrorism plots?

Yes.

They are vulnerable to bombings and cyber attacks.

22. Forget about this safety ‘nonsense,’ nuclear power is less financially costly, right?

No.

When we look at Lazard’s levelized cost of energy (LCOE) analyses, we see that nuclear is more expensive than wind, solar, and geothermal. This CleanTechnica article from Zach Shahan shows the financial cost considerations well, and nuclear clearly loses out to renewables.

This is the current LCOE analysis, version 12, which shows even cheaper utility-scale wind and solar.

23. Are any solar power or wind power components radioactive such that they could be used or enriched in any way to make nuclear weapons?

No.

24. What is the “Suicide Corps” and what do its members have to do with nuclear power?

In the aftermath of the Fukushima reactor meltdown, the elderly were recruited by a group to go into the radioactive plant to do work since they were going to die soon anyway. Yes, really.

Conclusion: Nukes are NOT the answer.

Safe, renewable energy is the answer.


UK oil & gas keeps rising. Clean Energy blueprint can reverse it

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In the UK the £2.3bn (=$2.9bn / €2.6bn) in new oil and gas subsidies introduced since 2014 will state-fund the addition of twice as much carbon as its coal phaseout saves, says a new report “Sea Change: Climate Emergency, Jobs and Managing the Phase-out of UK Oil and Gas Extraction”. Can the UK call itself a climate leader if its existing policies push it over its emissions limits? It can, if you consider this: the UK took 16 years to become the world’s 5th largest oil producer after its first oil discovery in 1969. The same commitment can deliver a successful, affordable, job-creating transition (using only existing technology), writes Greg Muttitt of Oil Change International, one of the authors of this detailed policy report.

Our new report Sea Change: Climate Emergency, Jobs and Managing the Phase-out of UK Oil and Gas Extraction reveals, for the first time, the climate impact of North Sea oil and gas extraction, and shows the way to a job-creating energy transition. To deal with the climate emergency, the UK needs to immediately stop approving new oil and gas drilling and redirect support to clean jobs and renewable energy.

The UK’s climate conversation has gained considerable urgency in recent weeks, in large part thanks to the work of Extinction Rebellion and the school strikers. Earlier this month, the UK’s Scottish and Welsh governments and the UK parliament declared a state of “climate emergency”. Also this month, the government’s official adviser, the Committee on Climate Changerecommended that the UK stop (net) emitting greenhouse gases by 2050 and Scotland do so by 2045. (We blogged about the Committee’s recommendation here).

Our new report, co-published last week with Platform and Friends of the Earth Scotland, highlights a crucial piece of that needed action: stop expanding oil and gas extraction.

£2.3bn of new oil and gas subsidies

“We are working with the industry to ensure that we extract every drop of oil and gas that it is economic to extract.” – Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond

Oil and gas extraction has been a consistent absentee from government climate policies over the years. While the UK remains a major oil and gas producer, no government has ever proposed restricting extraction to within climate limits.

In fact, the opposite has happened: the policy of both UK and Scottish Governments is to maximise oil and gas extraction, even though both governments aim to be seen as climate leaders. As Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has put it: “We are working with the industry to ensure that we extract every drop of oil and gas that it is economic to extract.”

To this end, the £2.3 billion in new oil and gas subsidies introduced since 2014 – mostly by Hammond’s predecessor George Osborne – will add twice as much carbon as the UK’s coal phaseout saves, according to analysis in our new report. And if that’s not bad enough, the government’s ambition through future subsidies is to double this additional oil and gas.

This is the cognitive dissonance at the heart of UK and Scottish climate policy. The very same day that the Committee on Climate Change published its recommendations for net-zero emissions in 26 or 31 years’ time, was the deadline for oil company bids for new 30+ -year licenses to explore for and extract oil and gas, in the latest licensing round. Another round is expected to be launched in the coming months, and another next year, and the following year, and so on.

The government must stop this new licensing, which adds yet more carbon to an overloaded atmosphere. When you are in a hole, you need to stop digging.

Fracking is opposed, North Sea oil isn’t. Why?

But it is not just governments: the media have generally treated oil and gas extraction entirely separately from climate change, and few commentators draw the connection. With almost all current extraction offshore, is it a case of out-of-sight, out-of-mind?

In his classic social history of North Sea oil, Christopher Harvie observes that even in its ’70s and ’80s heyday, there were no miniature rigs in toy shops, no pubs named The Driller, no literature set offshore, not even a mention in the major political memoirs of the day. And now, we see, no North Sea in the climate debate.

Thankfully, people have found it easier to see the climate incompatibility of opening a new fossil fuel frontier with onshore fracking, and Scotland and Wales have effectively stopped the industry. But new oil and gas offshore presents the same dangers.

Oil drilling rigs in the Cromarty Firth, Northeast Scotland. IMAGE ©Elliottsday / Pixabay

Existing fossil fuel commitments already exceed warming limits

Oil Change International’s previous analysis has shown that carbon emissions from the oil, gas and coal in already-producing fields and mines would exceed the warming limitsset in the Paris goals, of well below 2 degrees, and pursuing efforts to keep to 1.5 degrees.

The carbon in these developed reserves is “locked in”, as the infrastructure has been built and the capital invested. Reducing those emissions requires shutting projects early, a task that can be economically, politically and legally difficult. The more fields and mines that are opened, the more will have to close early.

The UK has 5.7 billion barrels of oil and gas in already-producing fields. The government and industry want to go further and extract 20 billion barrels.

Let’s assume (and hope) that at some point in the future, governments will eventually start to act at a sufficient pace to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change. If in the meantime the UK and others have opened yet more fields and mines, they will all have to be closed that much faster, in order to stay within carbon budgets.

By continuing to license new oil and gas, the UK is either helping push the world beyond climate limits, or setting up a deferred collapse of the industry when sudden global emissions cuts finally come. A deferred collapse would be devastating for oil workers and for communities like those in the northeast of Scotland.

UK climate leader? What if every nation followed UK oil & gas

Clean Energy is now affordable

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Three different studies – by the Centre for Alternative Technology, by Stanford University and by Vivid Economics – have shown how the UK could be entirely powered by clean energy by 2050 or earlier. Three more studies – by the Technology University of Sydney, by consultancy Navigant and by the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis – have shown how this could be achieved worldwide.

All six of these studies use only existing technology, showing that there is no practical barrier to a full transition. With wind and solar now cheaper than gas power in the UKand through much of the world, in all six studies, the transition is affordable. In fact, it could save consumers and taxpayers money, if governments stopped protecting the profits of fossil fuel companies.

If transformation of the energy system within 20 or 30 years sounds ambitious, bear in mind that with active government support, the UK became the world’s fifth largest oil producer just 16 years after the first oil discovery in 1969.

The Just Transition blueprint

Our report presents new modelling by Platform and Transition Economics of the jobs impact of an energy transition. It finds that for every oil and gas job affected by a managed phase-out of extraction, more than three new jobs could be created in renewable energy or energy efficiency retrofits of homes.

We detail the policies that would be needed to enable a Just Transition to a clean economy within the next two or three decades, including public investment, green industrial policy, protection of the rights of workers and investment into oil-dependent regions such as the northeast of Scotland.

We call on the UK and Scottish Governments to do and support four things, to meet their climate commitments while protecting livelihoods and economic well-being:

  • Stop issuing licenses and permits for new oil and gas exploration and development, and revoke undeveloped licenses;
  • Rapidly phase out all subsidies for oil and gas extraction, including tax breaks, and redirect them to fund a Just Transition;
  • Enable rapid building of the clean energy industry through fiscal and policy support to at least the extent they have provided to the oil industry, including inward investment in affected regions and communities;
  • Open formal consultations with trade unions to develop and implement a Just Transition strategy for oil-dependent regions and communities.

The choice facing the governments now has a parallel in the Brexit story. Either the governments must embrace the challenge and start addressing it in a planned and structured way, or if they keep deferring it, the UK may be forced to crash out of fossil fuels with no deal and no plan.

Now is the time to act. Now is the time to begin a managed phase-out of oil and gas extraction.

***

Greg Muttitt is the Research Director at Oil Change International


Why Anti-Money Laundering Should Be a Top Priority for Financial Institutions

BANKS Published on By

anti-money laundering

Why AML Should be a Top Priority for Financial Institutions

The to-do list for any financial executive is surely daunting. From navigating technology changes to managing talent effectively, there’s many initiatives competing for attention.

One issue that’s been in the headlines for many years is anti-money laundering (AML). When criminals are able to successfully hide the illicit origins of their cash, both the financial institution and society suffer. So, what makes AML more important now than it has been in the past?

Rising up the Priority Ladder

Today’s infographic from McKinsey & Company explains the factors which have brought anti-money laundering urgently to the forefront in recent years.

1. Regulatory Action

Enforcement actions related to AML have been on the rise. Since 2009, regulators have levied approximately $32 billion in AML-related fines globally.

2. Threat Evolution 
Criminals are using more sophisticated means to remain undetected, including globally-coordinated technology, insider information, and e-commerce schemes.

3. Reputational Risk

AML incidents put a financial institution’s reputation on the line. There’s a lot at stake: today, the average value of each of the top 10 bank brands is $45B.

4. Rising Costs

Most AML activities require significant manual effort, making them inefficient and difficult to scale. In 2018, it cost U.S. financial services firms about $25.3B to manage money laundering risk.

5. Poor Customer Experience

Compliance staff must have multiple touch points with a customer to gather and verify information. Perhaps not surprisingly, one in three financial institutions have lost potential customers due to inefficient or slow onboarding processes.

It’s no wonder anti-money laundering has now become a top priority for many CEOs in the financial industry.

A Wave of Innovation

In the last five years, there has been an explosion of “RegTech” startups—companies that address regulatory requirements using technology.

Global RegTech Investments, 2014-2018

YearAmount Invested (USD)
2014$923M
2015$1,110M
2016$1,150M
2017$1,868M
2018$4,485M

Over 60% of these are focused on solving Know Your Customer (KYC) and AML issues. What does this technology look like in practice?

Customer onboarding

A hypothetical U.S. retail firm, ABC Electronics, applies online to open an account at AML Innovators Bank. Their information is verified and screened using a fully automated process.

If they are determined to be a lower-risk client, they will be fast-tracked through the approval process with decisioning in six hours or less. For high-risk clients, decisioning occurs within about 72 hours.

Transaction Monitoring

ABC Electronics requests to send multiple international wire payments to various beneficiaries. Each transaction is automatically screened based on various factors:

  • A same name or subsidiary transfer carries the lowest risk
  • Transfers to a known, similar industry in a high-risk jurisdiction carry medium risk
  • Transfers to an unknown industry in a high-risk jurisdiction carry high risk

These transaction scores, combined with algorithms that track a client’s expected vs. actual transaction behavior, will update ABC Electronics’ risk rating in real time.

Management oversight

As risk updates occur, ABC Electronics’ rating is integrated into AML Innovator Bank’s overall portfolio risk.

Senior risk management teams will be able to view a heat map that highlights the highest risk areas of the business.

Structural Change, Big Gains

Just as financial crimes continue to evolve, so do AML schemes.

How can organizations stay ahead of the game? They can focus on actively managing risk, deliberately investing in technology and analytics, and prioritizing areas where RegTechs will have the highest near-term impact.

By investing in AML, financial institutions create competitive advantages:

  • Improved efficiency
  • Superior customer experience
  • Scalability
  • Readiness to adapt to new regulations
  • Reduced reputational risk
  • Ability to attract top talent

With such benefits on the table, one thing is clear: Anti-money laundering efforts are more important now than they have ever been.


REGOs: The need for a new renewable energy certificate of origin

Image: Getty

BLOGS SUPPLY

Image: Getty

There is a problem with green electricity. The current system of accounting for the provenance of green electricity does not reflect the benefit that consumers expect. The Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGO) certificate was developed to meet an EU requirement for all member states to be able to record and report what proportion of electricity consumption was from renewable sources and are issued at a rate of 1 REGO per MWh (Megawatt hour) of electricity generated.

Suppliers use the REGO to calculate their Fuel Mix Disclosure, which is what consumers and customers of suppliers are shown to demonstrate how “green” a tariff or company is. REGOs can only be used once to demonstrate that a unit of electricity is from a particular renewable energy source.

But, they can be bought and sold separately from the actual unit of electricity that came from the renewable generator. Because of this the price suppliers pay for REGOs is based on a simple supply/demand economic, and because there is currently sufficient renewable generation capacity to meet demand, that price is low at c. 30p-50p per certificate which equates to only around 1% of the wholesale cost of electricity. In addition, almost all this renewable capacity is subsidised generation – so is already being paid for through consumer bills.

These economic conditions mean that unfortunately this system does nothing to support new, unsubsidised, renewable generation, and nothing to cut carbon emissions.

Critics of the system see REGOs as a loophole that allows suppliers to become seemingly “green” overnight for a rock bottom price, without actually forming relationships directly with renewable generators.

This is true, but doesn’t get to the crux of the problem, which is that buying power from old, subsidised renewable generation is currently treated the same as that from new, unsubsidised renewable developments. This is key because we need about 3GW of new renewable generation capacity annually if we are to achieve our 2050 net-zero target and work towards averting a catastrophic climate breakdown. This means that REGOs from subsidised generation are not truly green as they do not incentivise the build of new renewable developments – known as additionality.

Change is needed, and needed fast, to enable us to meet the net-zero 2050 target. We need a sustainable market to deliver the sort of consistent increase in renewable capacity, and that means a move away from subsidy towards market-based mechanisms.

One simple resolution would be to introduce a new certificate that is only for new, unsubsidised renewables – let’s call it the Green Renewable Energy Endorsement certificate (GREEn). The GREEn would place new value on additionality, by allowing suppliers to distinguish between old and new renewable generation. Suppliers will be able to launch “additional” tariffs allowing consumers to buy a product that truly supports the fight against catastrophic climate change.

One immediate challenge will be educating consumers about the difference between a REGO backed green tariff, and a “new GREEn” tariff as at the moment many people believe that by buying power from a “green” electricity supplier, or a “green” tariff is enough, so communicating the importance of new generation will be key. As a nation we’re on the right track on that front, general awareness of climate change is on the rise and has increased by over 75% from Q1 of 2018 to Q1 of 2019¹.

This awareness has driven new UK Government policies, such as the 2050 net-zero carbon target, but more must be done to educate consumers about the plan to hit that target. Decarbonising the electricity sector is a relatively easy and quick win – and one that leads to lower long-term power pricing. Once consumer demand for additional tariffs grows suppliers would be incentivised to launch longer term GREEn Purchase Agreements (GPAs) with developers, owners and operators of new generation and the price of GREEns would rise, helping to finance the delivery of new subsidy-free renewable generation, and recognising the part it is playing in reducing carbon emissions.

As the market for REGOs has transformed, now is the time for Ofgem and BEIS to reassess new ways to provide the most support to renewables in the subsidy-free market context. It is clear that decarbonising the UK’s energy industry and building new cost-effective renewables will be key if we are to meet our 2050 net-zero target.

GREEns have the potential to be the key that unlocks this new unsubsidised clean energy capacity and make electricity more affordable for all in the long term.

Note: ¹ Information taken from Google Trends.


UK Wholesale Power Prices since the Millenium

by Dr Iain Staffell - Imperial College London

Power prices have risen by 50% in the last year due to the rising cost of gas and carbon emissions, and uncertainty around Brexit weakening the pound. Electricity on the day-ahead market averaged £60/MWh over the quarter, up from £42/MWh this time last year. Rather than seeing extreme price spikes as in previous years or during specific events such as the Beast from the East, day-in day-out baseload prices have been creeping up as the year progresses. Consumers may see price rises going into the winter, giving the opportunity to switch to a cheaper, and greener, tariff.

Electricity generators are facing sustained pressure on three fronts: the cost of natural gas has been climbing since August, the price paid for emitting CO2 emissions has risen throughout the year, and the pound remains weak against foreign currencies.

Gas prices have risen 50% since June. The growth of liquified natural gas (now 9% of Britain’s gas supply) has globalised the gas market, and so soaring demand from China pushes up gas prices at home. This is especially important as gas power stations exert six times more influence in setting the price of power than any other technology in Britain. Gas stations are more dominant in Britain than in other European markets, and more dominant now than ever before, as they are the primary source of flexible capacity.

Secondly, the price of emitting CO2 on the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has quadrupled in the past 12 months. This comes after many years of hovering around €5 per tonne as many governments had issued so many permits to pollute that the market was flooded.

Thirdly, energy is an international commodity. Gas prices are linked to oil (traded in US dollars), carbon permits are priced in Euros, and even domestically produced fuels (now just 44% of the UK’s gas) can be exported easily, so their value is determined internationally. This matters because the pound fell against the Euro and Dollar since the EU referendum. Analysis for Ofgem shows that the Brexit vote caused an 18% increase in electricity prices, primarily because of the currency devaluation.

Little can be done about international fuel prices. Weakening Britain’s carbon price support could make electricity cheaper, especially from coal-fired stations. But the six remaining coal stations have little ability to set power prices, so price reductions would be muted while the cost of gas remains high. A longer-term strategy would be to further diversify into other energy sources, particularly renewables which can lock-in long term fixed prices and break free from the volatility of fossil-fuel markets.

Average wholesale electricity price each quarter since the electricity spot market was created in 2001 alt

Authors: Dr Iain StaffellProfessor Richard GreenDr Rob GrossDr Malte Jansen, and Professor Tim Green.


A Pathway To 350 PPM Part 1: Carbon Sequestration Is Vital

July 12th, 2019 by  Ryan Logtenberg is a director of the 2 Degrees Institute.


Humans are responsible for emitting around ​55 billion tonnes of CO​2e​q/year​, with 2⁄3 of the emissions coming from the burning of fossil carbon. Currently, there are ​414 PPM​ of CO​2​ in the atmosphere, and it’s rising at just over 2 PPM per year. Even if we were to completely stop burning fossil carbon, we would still see an increase in the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) entering the atmosphere, largely from agriculture and potentially from ​positive feedback loops​ triggered by a hotter world.

Global greenhouse gas emissions per type of gas & source

Source: PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, EDGAR v5.0/v4.3.2 FT 2017 (EC-JRC/Pbl, 2018); Houghton and Nassikas (2017)

Positive feedback loops are arguably the most frightening aspect of climate change because they lead to a phenomenon known as “runaway global warming,” a condition in which the warming planet releases trapped greenhouse gases, causing it to warm even faster, regardless of human intervention. One positive feedback loop that gets a lot of attention is the warming of the arctic permafrost. As the arctic tundra melts, methane, a powerful trapped greenhouse gas is released, which leads to more warming, which, in turn, leads to more methane being released, and so on. Some other examples of positive feedback loops include the melting of the ​polar ice cap​, droughts causing ​forests to burn​ and release more CO​2, a​nd warming oceans causing the gasification of ​methane hydrates​ on the seafloor. Scientists have theorized that the gasification of methane hydrates could have been the cause of the greatest extinction event to have occurred on earth known as the “Great Dying” or the ​Permian–Triassic Extinction Event​.

Photo shows permafrost thaw ponds on peatland on the shores of Hudson Bay, Canada. Photo ​by ​Steve Jurvetson

According to a paper by ​Hansen et al​., a safe level of atmospheric CO​2​ to avert runaway global warming is below 350 PPM. Before our discovery and use of fossil carbon, pre-industrial CO​2 levels hovered around ​280 PPM​. So we have our work seriously cut out for us not only to reduce our emissions, but remove (sequester) GHGs from the atmosphere.

Different types of GHGs naturally remain in the atmosphere for different lengths of time. The three most abundant human caused greenhouse gases are nitrous oxide, methane, and carbon dioxide.

Nitrous oxide​ (N​2O​ ) is the third most abundant greenhouse gas and represents 6.2% of human caused greenhouse gas (anthropogenic) emissions. N​2O​ will persist in the atmosphere for about 114 years before being naturally dismantled by chemical reactions in the stratosphere.

Methane​ is second on the list, representing 16% of total anthropogenic emissions. When looking at the global warming potential averaged over a ​20-year time scale​ as opposed to the standard 100-year, methane represents 1⁄3 of anthropogenic emissions, making it a much more serious greenhouse gas in the short term. Methane is a relatively short-lived gas that survives in the atmosphere for only about 12 years before it is broken down by chemical reactions.

Carbon dioxide​ takes the crown contributing 76% of anthropogenic emissions. It naturally survives in the atmosphere between 20 to 200 years with 20% surviving for many thousands of years.

Carbon Sequestration is vital for overcoming the climate crisis

In order to quickly return atmospheric greenhouse gases to safe levels and avoid triggering positive feedback loops, not only do we need to stop burning fossil carbon, we need to implement carbon sequestration strategies. In other words, we need to take CO​2​ out of the atmosphere and store it away, perhaps underground, or more likely, in material forms, like wood. There are two types of carbon sequestration: Geological Carbon Capture and Storage (GEO-CCS) and Biological Carbon Capture and Storage (BIO-CCS) also known as carbon farming. GEO-CCS uses technology, including sorbents, electricity, and heat, to capture and store the whole CO​2​ molecule ultimately underground. BIO-CCS relies on the natural photosynthesis of plants to separate the oxygen atoms of CO​2​ and store the carbon atoms in the stem and roots of plants. Some BIO-CCS examples include forestry, timber and biomass plantations, and ecosystem protection and restoration.

Geological carbon capture & storage

The most popular GEO-CCS technological solutions currently under development to capture CO​2​ from the atmosphere involve ​giant walls of fans,​ sorbents, and heat to extract CO​2​ from the air. The CO​2 must then be compressed at 300psi to become a liquid form and then transported and pumped underground into porous rock, empty oil wells, and mines. All these steps, including the upstream emissions required to construct an air-sourced carbon capture facility, requires a tremendous amount of energy for each molecule of CO​2​ removed. ​Experts​ in the field believe that money is much better spent on renewables (wind, water, solar) that prevent the CO​2 and non-CO​2​ air pollutants from fossil-carbon combustion from getting up there in the first place.

Until we stop burning fossil carbon and have excess renewable energy, GEO-CCS will remain an inefficient and impractical solution for sequestering atmospheric CO​2.​

Biological carbon capture & storage: Carbon Farming

All green growing plants sequester carbon from the atmosphere by storing it in their roots, stems, and leaves. Unlike GEO-CCS solutions, storing carbon in plants require only sunlight, water and green leaves.

Since BIO-CCS only stores carbon, unlike GEO-CCS that stores the much bulkier CO​2 molecule, the oxygen atoms of CO​2​ are returned to the atmosphere and help reverse declining global ​oxygen levels​. ​​BIO-CCS, or more specifically the planting of trees, is a very ​inexpensive option​ for sequestering carbon. The drawback of using plants to sequester CO​2​ is that they require space and lots of it.

When we stop burning fossil carbon we will still be adding about 27% of our current emissions (14.9 gigatonnes of CO​2e​ q) into the atmosphere each year. Perhaps a realistic goal is that we should aim to sequester at least 20 gigatonnes of CO​2e​ q/year to not only capture the equivalent emissions we cannot avoid but also to start drawing down our atmospheric CO​2​ levels back below 350 PPM.

How much land will be required for carbon farming to sequester 20 gigatonnes CO​2e​q/year? Experts estimate afforestation of land in the USA could sequester ​8.4 tonnes/CO​2/​hectare per year​. To sequester 20 gigatonnes would require the planting of 2.4 billion hectares of land, an area the size of North America.

The values are about 3 times better in the tropics that support a year-round growing season and have suitable rainfall. ​25 tonnes CO​2/​hectare per year​ could be sequestered by tree planting which would require 800 million hectares of land, an area slightly larger than Australia.

With a growing population and the world’s tropical forests being cleared each year for agricultural land to feed the world, it seems unlikely that we can find the land to sequester this much CO​2​ with trees, or is it?

Look for part 2 of this article, where I discuss our options.

About the author: Ryan Logtenberg is a director of the 2 Degrees Institute. The 2° Institute mission is to develop and support strategies that empower people to make the behavioral and lifestyle changes needed to prevent our planet from warming by 2 degrees Celsius.


‘Time to act’: Government slammed by CCC over ‘shortfall’ in net zero policy action

Image: Getty

Image: Getty

Current policy is insufficient for previous emissions targets and must be ramped up if the net zero goal is to be reached, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has said.

Only one of the 25 policy recommendations made by the CCC last year for getting the fourth and fifth carbon budgets back on track been implemented, it revealed as it published its 2019 Progress Report. Ten of those policies have not shown even partial progress.

The CCC has claimed there is a substantial gap between current plans and future requirements and an even greater shortfall in action and that net zero policy must be implemented across all levels and departments of the government. Policy should also be business friendly, providing a clear direction and investable set of rules and incentives that leave room for innovation.

Lord Deben, CCC chairman, said legislating for net zero and making a bid to host COP26 are “historic steps forward” that position the UK as a global leader, but action is needed to support this.

“It’s time for the Government to show it takes its responsibilities seriously. Reducing emissions to net zero by 2050, requires real action by Government now," he said.

Vehicle bans and EV incentives

Surface transport emissions – which excludes aviation and shipping - fell by 2% in 2018, with the greatest reduction coming from cars. But transport is on the ‘frontline’ of decarbonisation as the largest emitting sector, the CCC said. Its report urges the Department for Transport to prioritise reducing emissions, working with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and HM Treasury to achieve this.

A phase out of internal combustion engine vehicles should be brought forward to between 2030 and 2035, a recommendation reiterated from the CCC’s Net Zero report. An earlier date is not only needed to reduce transport emissions in line with 2050 targets, it said, but will also have lower financial costs. This would mean a rapid increase in the market share of EVs during the 2020s.

The government should also clarify that only battery electric or other zero carbon vehicles will be permitted to be sold after this point, a recommendation echoed by the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) in a report last week.

In the next year, the government should also put into place stronger incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles and create a plan for the roll out of zero emission HGVs. In the long term, the development of charging infrastructure should be continued, a decision on the future of HGVs should be made and a 98% reduction in emissions by 2050 should be aimed for.

The CCC did, however, praise the increased deployment of charging infrastructure, which rose from 16,700 chargers in June 2018 to 23,500 in June 2019.

Routes to market and contingency plans

Decarbonisation of the power sector was celebrated overall in the report, with CCC saying the success was driven by strong policy. Emissions in the sector fell by 10% in 2018, placing them 68% below 1990 levels. And low carbon generation accounted for a record high of 54% of the UK’s total generation, with renewables increasing by 12%.

However, emission reductions are slowing in comparison to the average annual reductions of 14% since 2012. In addition, contingency plans for the possibility of new nuclear projects not being delivered have not been set out. Plans for additional low-carbon generation to be brought forward in this scenario should be created in the next year.

The CCC also pointed to contract prices for nuclear projects remaining significantly higher than those of renewable technologies such as wind and solar.

In the forthcoming Energy White Paper, the government should outline plans for a route to market for solar and onshore wind. Blocking the technologies from participating in the Contracts for Difference auctions without providing another route to market is limiting the potential speed of decarbonisation and adding to costs, the CCC said.

The Energy White Paper should also aim to support a quadrupling of low-carbon power generation by 2050. This would mean the deployment of more low-carbon capacity in the 2020s, which would potentially be consistent with a carbon-intensity of 50gCO2/kWh by 2030.

The government should also develop and deliver, in coordination with Ofgem, a plan to upgrade networks in the 2020s to accommodate new electricity demands, for example from electric vehicles, and future proof them to help limit costs.

Longer term milestones for the power sector include reaching 320TWh of low carbon generation by 2030 and 99-100% low carbon generation by 2050.

The CCC also said it doesn’t expect renewables without a government-backed contract to be deployed at a enough scale to meet a potential low-carbon generation gap in 2030. And additional low-carbon generation from long-term contracts will affect the marginal value of new generation and the volatility of revenue, the CCC says, which could diminish the role of renewables without a government contract over the next decade.

Steps to be taken

Alongside recommendations for individual sectors, the CCC also issued four strategic priorities for the government:

  • Net zero must be embedded across all levels and departments, with strong leadership at the centre.
  • Government policies must be business friendly to encourage investment and innovation.
  • The public should be engaged in the transition, and policy and low-carbon products should be designed to reflect this.
  • International increases in ambition should be supported and UK ambition should be celebrated.

Other recommendations made by the CCC to reach net zero include the development of a plan for operational carbon capture and storage by the mid-2020s, a strategy for developing low carbon hydrogen use as well as the start of large-scale hydrogen trials and detailed policy for energy efficiency.

A government spokesperson said the government has “set a strong example” by legislating for net zero, reducing power sector emissions and championing adaptation.

“We know there is more to do and legislating for net zero will help to drive further action,” the spokesperson said, continuing to outline government plans to set out solutions for tackling emission from heat, energy, transport, aviation, agriculture and transport in the coming months. A formal response to the recommendations will be released in October.