Patrick Schröder

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A field with solar panels in front of the RWE Weisweiler power plant in Eschweiler, Germany on March 21. Oliver Berg/picture alliance via Getty Images

On Feb. 6, the European Council and European Parliament made a significant agreement in the fight against climate change. The Net-Zero Industry Act (NZIA) establishes a benchmark for the European Union to manufacture 40 percent of expected demand in clean technologies by 2030. As well as onshore and offshore wind, hydro, and geothermal, this figure would include solar. In parallel, the EU’s Solar Energy Strategy aims to scale up generating capacity in solar from 263 gigawatts (GW) today to almost 600 GW by 2030—an increase of more than 140 percent that will make solar the largest source of electricity production in the EU.…  Seguir leyendo »

French farmers stop their tractors on the A16 motorway near L'Isle-Adam, on January 30, 2024, as French farmers maintain roadblocks on key highways into Paris (Photo by SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP via Getty Images)

As many countries prepare to go to the polls in 2024, the need for a transition to Net Zero emissions has become a key political battleground. In Europe, the sustainability of farming practices is the latest flashpoint, intertwining political interests, ideologies and food supply.

Farmers’ protests have spilled into the streets of Paris, Berlin and Brussels, transforming urban centres and turning motorways into battlegrounds where the clashes between agricultural interests, sustainability policies, economic inequality and nationalist manipulation play out.

In France, the EU’s biggest agricultural producer, a blockade of 800 tractors has surrounded the capital to ‘ starve Paris’. The farmers’ grievances range from government taxes, cheap imports and water storage issues to price pressures from retailers and red tape from regulations, particularly around the controls on nitrogen fertilizer and pesticides.…  Seguir leyendo »

Garment workers block a key intersection as they protest in Dhaka on November 12, 2023. (Photo by Abdul Goni/AFP via Getty Images)

Bangladesh’s general election, scheduled for January 7, will likely be plagued by controversy and violence.

Growing anti-government sentiment, rooted in calls for the reinstatement of a neutral caretaker government abolished in 2013, has become intertwined with the grievances of the country’s strategically important textile sector.

Thousands of opposition leaders have been arrested following a major rally in October. This comes amid growing frictions with the West: the US imposed visa restrictions on several Bangladeshi nationals in 2021 for ‘undermining the democratic election process’ and the 2023 Civicus Monitor Report has recently downgraded Bangladesh’s civic space to ‘closed’, its lowest category.

Bangladesh’s 2018 general election was not considered free and fair by many observers, following a near unanimous victory for the ruling Awami League party, which secured 293 of 300 seats.…  Seguir leyendo »

Mayada Adil, Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals, speaks at the opening session of the second Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit in September. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

In the lead-up to the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the outlook for the future of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seemed rather bleak.

Global efforts to achieve these ambitious targets by 2030 had lost momentum, weakened by an unprecedented combination of wars, waves of populist nationalist politics, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Global Sustainable Development Report 2023 showed that only about 12 per cent of the SDG targets are on track and some 30 per cent of targets had either seen no movement or regressed below the 2015 baseline.

The sheer scale of the gap in financing required to achieve the SDGs, which the OECD estimated at $3.9 trillion in 2020, seemed to deepen the gloom.…  Seguir leyendo »

Wind turbines at Romeral Eolic park in Toledo in Spain on 10 March 2023. Photo: Oscar del Pozo/AFP/Getty Images.

It was possibly a coincidence when both the UK and the EU published their updated strategy documents on critical raw materials in the same week. The UK government published the Critical Minerals Refresh on 13 March 2023 which reinforces the government’s commitment to the Critical Minerals Strategy. Three days later, the European Union’s Critical Raw Materials Act and the EU Net-Zero Industry Act (NZIA) were released alongside each other on 16 March 2023.

These different policies aim to ensure the sustainable supply of critical raw materials which are vital to the digital economy and net-zero transition. The key issues addressed in the strategies include the dependency on imports of critical materials – such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and rare earth metals – and key technologies – such as batteries and solar photovoltaics – as well as increased vulnerability to price volatility and potential supply disruptions.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tuvalu, a low-lying South Pacific island nation of about 11,000 people, has been classified as extremely vulnerable to climate change by the United Nations Development Programme. Photo: Getty Images.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s recent 10-day tour of the Pacific Islands has put China’s Pacific strategy into the global spotlight. Drawing attention to growing US-China strategic competition in the region, the tour has raised the spectre of securitization of the South Pacific. But such concern is overshadowing a long-standing Pacific call for security from a threat of a different kind.

‘Climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific,’ according to the 2018 Boe Declaration on Regional Security, outlined by the Pacific Islands Forum. The need for climate security was re-emphasized recently by Fijian Defense Minister, Inia Seruiratu, who stated, ‘The single greatest threat to our very existence is […] human-induced climate change.…  Seguir leyendo »

Here a critcally endangered sea turtle attempts to make its way past a disposed plastic bottle on Samandag Beach in Hatay, Turkiye on 2 September 2021. Photo: Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

With the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, the world has shifted into a period of renewed geopolitical conflict. The multilateral system and its institutions – cornerstones of the existing global order – are straining to deal with these rapidly changing circumstances. These are new challenges for global sustainability. Yet, an important element to the solution to this conflict, could also be a green one.

Sustainability as a megatrend

As the invasion of Ukraine was unfolding, the latest UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) met in Nairobi, Kenya, where world leaders agreed a set of resolutions to create a legally binding treaty to stop the global plastic pollution crisis.…  Seguir leyendo »

A guard is seen behind fences delineating the closed-loop 'bubble' set up by China as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images.

In times of rising geopolitical tension around the world, this year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing could have been seen as an opportunity to improve diplomatic dialogue and people-to-people engagement between China and the West. Instead, deteriorating relations between both sides in recent months, have contributed to a widening ideological rift, while at the same time, consolidation of the China-Russia alliance.

Though the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has maintained its position that the Olympics are not about politics, in the build-up to the tournament in China this year, national boycotts as a result of the country’s worsening human rights record in Xinjiang, began to increase in number.…  Seguir leyendo »

Solutions for resilient semiconductor supply chains

Semiconductor shortages have become a critical technological vulnerability and a potential national security threat for major economies including the United States, China, and Europe, as all countries and many industries rely on Taiwan for cutting-edge semiconductor devices.

The ongoing supply chain shortage of chips is also becoming a chokepoint for the clean energy transition around the world. But circular economy solutions could help reduce systemic risks and address these multiple challenges.

The current crisis of global microchip shortages that started in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to continue well into 2022 and beyond. Furthermore, there are new long-term supply chain risks on the horizon stemming from US-China geopolitical dynamics and resulting trade decisions.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian authorities imposed a state of emergency in northeast Siberia in August 2021 as wildfires engulfed the Yakutia region following record-breaking temperatures. Photo: Getty Images.

The impacts of a changing climate pose a serious threat to global security and rethinking traditional security concepts, understanding the interconnected demands of climate security, sustainable human development and regenerative economic systems are all needed to address arguably the most serious threat to global security we face.

The impact of a changing climate on security

There is no doubt that climate change is fast becoming a major security risk. Severe weather events, mass migration, diminishing global freshwater supplies and changing disease vectors are adding to old and new security concerns as a result of their potential to exacerbate fragile situations and increase the vulnerability of countries – particularly countries already affected by conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »

Extinction Rebellion environmental activists do a performance as they protest in the streets of St Ives, Cornwall during the G7 summit on 13 June 2021. Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images.

This year has been coined a ‘super year‘ for the environment, meaning there has never been a better time to deliver a global green recovery. G7 leaders have committed to a new partnership to build back better for the world (B3W). For the partnership to become a progressive, future-proof alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, it will need to develop real solutions that tackle climate change, build sustainable and inclusive infrastructure in low- and middle-income countries, and address growing social challenges.

Despite some progress, the G7 have so far failed to adequately commit to the urgent need to tackle ever growing natural resource consumption and generation of waste – the primary drivers of climate change, biodiversity loss and many other environmental and geopolitical challenges.…  Seguir leyendo »

Inspection at Bitfarms in Saint Hyacinthe, Quebec. Photo by LARS HAGBERG/AFP via Getty Images.

The global cryptocurrency market has been riding high of late and topped $2 trillion in April 2021 for the first time. But one of its best known advocates, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, pulled the brakes on its rise when he announced Tesla would be suspending customers’ use of Bitcoin to purchase its electric vehicles. The decision wiped an estimated $365 billion off the market.

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are digital or virtual currencies – using decentralized networks based on blockchain technology – and are currently receiving renewed attention as a possible counter to the risk of post-pandemic inflation. At the same time, the debate has resurfaced about its fast-growing energy consumption, carbon emissions, and environmental impact.…  Seguir leyendo »

The garments industry in Bangladesh is a major driver of economic growth and has also become a major source of empowering woman workers in the country. Photo: Getty Images.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed decades-old risks, while creating new ones, in the global textile industry relating not only to the disastrous environmental impacts of garments but also geopolitical tensions impacting resource supply. However, the circular economy can potentially provide solutions to mitigate these risks but the transition will need to involve new governance mechanisms and incorporate just transition principles in order to be successful.

Going circular

The global textile industry is one of the largest polluters in the world taking a disastrous toll on the environment in terms of chemical loads to water resources, pesticide use in cotton farming, waste generation at the end-of-life stage and more.…  Seguir leyendo »

The opening session of US-China talks in Anchorage, Alaska on 18 March 2021.

The latest bilateral talks between the US and China show that the evolving dynamics between the two countries are becoming increasingly complex. The stakes are high and too much is on the line to let the US-China rivalry escalate into a military conflict. Instead, both countries need to come together to develop a joint vision for a sustainable and peaceful world.

In recent years, several simplistic narratives seem to have taken hold in the US-China relationship, chief among them, that liberal democracies are under threat by the rise of non-democratic competitors around the world, particularly China, who seemingly threaten the international rules-based system.…  Seguir leyendo »

The US Capitol is seen on 8 February 2021 one month after the insurrection which left five people dead. Photo: Getty Images.

The attempted insurrection of the US Capitol one month ago was the tipping point of a political trend that has seen conspiracy theories moving from the side-lines into the centre of politics. From the 2016 US presidential election, to Brexit, political events over the last several years have given rise to so-called ‘post-truth politics’, characterized by a lack of agreement over the nature of truth.

For the adherents of conspiracy theories, ‘nothing is as it seems’ and they therefore believe in alternate realities which have contributed to a new form of relativism in contemporary society, bearing significant implications for national and international political issues ranging from climate change, vaccination programmes, democratic elections and diplomatic relations between countries.…  Seguir leyendo »

New shoot of a plant in a dried up lake bed caused by prolonged drought. Photo by: Sven-Erik Arndt/Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

It is well-known that existential threats due to biodiversity loss and the rapid transformation of the global biosphere which most basic conditions of human existence depend on are growing, and that the potential crossing of climate change tipping points will have catastrophic effects due to cascading effects.

But 2020 is a real turning point, because the total weight of human-made materials – which has doubled roughly every 20 years since the middle of the last century – is now exceeding that of the planet’s natural biomass. However, there is little sign world leaders have understood the importance of this new reality.…  Seguir leyendo »

G20 leaders projected at the historic site of al-Tarif on the outskirts of Riyadh ahead of the G20 virtual summit in Saudi Arabia in November 2020. Photo: Getty Images.

The leaders of the G20 have endorsed the concept of the ‘circular carbon economy’ (CCE) as a way to promote economic growth and manage emissions in all sectors.

Championed by Saudi Arabia under its presidency of the G20, the CCE is framed as an extension of the circular economy and adds a new category – remove – to the established principles of reduce, reuse, recycle (the 3Rs) referring to removing carbon dioxide (CO2) both at the combustion stage and directly from the atmosphere.

Removed from reality?

The CCE purports to include a wide range of technologies, but at its heart, the CCE agenda is a renewed push for technologies to remove and store CO2, and to turn that stored CO2 into value-added products.…  Seguir leyendo »

Lima city employees picking up garbage during lockdown measures in Peru amid the COVID-19 crisis. Photo: Getty Images.

The world is currently witnessing how vulnerable existing production and consumption systems are, with the current global health crisis harshly exposing the magnitude of the risks associated with the global economy in its current form, grounded as it is in a linear system that uses a ‘take-make-waste’ approach.

These ‘linear risks’ associated with the existing global supply chain system are extremely high for national economies overly dependent on natural resource extraction and exports of commodities like minerals and metals. Equally vulnerable are countries with large manufacturing sectors of ready-made garments and non-repairable consumer goods for western markets. Furthermore, workers and communities working in these sectors are vulnerable to these changes as a result of disruptive technologies and reduced demand.…  Seguir leyendo »

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen unveils the European Green Deal in December 2019. Photo: Getty Images.

In December 2019, the EU launched the European Green Deal, a comprehensive policy package which aims to make the continent carbon-neutral by 2050. It contains a wide range of legal and policy measures including support for restoring ecosystems and biodiversity, low-carbon mobility, and sustainable food systems and healthy diets.

Even though the UK has now left the EU, and the UK government has made clear that there will be no regulatory alignment and no rule-taking from the EU, this will affect Britain’s markets, trade negotiations and stance in global climate action.

The UK has essentially three choices in how to react.…  Seguir leyendo »

Demonstrators march in Santiago, Chile during street protests which erupted over a now suspended hike in metro ticket prices. Photo: Getty Images.

One year ago, during the last annual Conference of Parties (COP) held in Katowice, the Polish government launched a Solidarity and Just Transition Declaration, signed by 56 governments including the UK, making the case for why the green transition must be just.

Three years earlier in 2015, the landmark Paris Agreement also included provisions for a just transition where it stated that the decarbonization process should be ‘Taking into account the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities’. In practice, however, the concept of a just transition has not yet been implemented and has not been sufficiently considered by governments or corporations around the world.…  Seguir leyendo »