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Experts predict greener, cleaner trends this year

By Milliam Murigi
Tuesday, January 19th, 2021
A section of a road engulfed in mist. Photo/COURTESY
In summary

Climate change will be front and centre

Companies must be prepared to address climate change in 2021 or risk getting left behind by an accelerating global debate.

Growing public awareness, proliferating policy proposals, and the opportunity for increased public investment in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis have elevated climate to the top of the economic policy and regulatory agenda globally.

Climate is increasingly top-of-mind for corporate shareholders and investors.

This momentum will translate into a growing array of policies, regulations and practices in all geographies and at all levels that could reshape the operating environment and investment landscape for industry

Green hydrogen will begin its ascent

Although recent years have seen green hydrogen lacking in popularity due to financial constraints – it can be up to four times as expensive as its grey counterpart, 2021 will see greater adoption of this more environmentally friendly matter.

Investors are piling into hydrogen – a potential solution for a clean energy future – and it’s now predicted to become an US$11 trillion marketplace by 2050.

A recent survey of 1,000 industry executives concluded that hydrogen fuel cell technology would ultimately outperform battery-powered electric vehicles. k. 

Attention to environmental justice

 “Environmental justice” is the extent to which poor or minority communities bear a disproportionate burden of pollution or environmental harms.

In 2021, we should expect rules or guidance requiring more serious attention to whether polluting facilities are being placed within already burdened and disadvantaged neighbourhoods or towns.

Renewable Energy

Although the pandemic has recently pushed environmental concerns to the bottom of the priority list, sustainability is set to place firmly at the top of government and business agendas on 2021.

The coronavirus has served to highlight the importance of the relationship between people and the planet we live on.

With material waste piling up due to increased medical need for single-use plastic, lockdown restrictions have fundamentally changed the lives and expectations of consumers, and the predicted global recession decimating government and company budgets, renewable energy providers will be forced to innovate like never before.

Electric vehicles uptake will go up

The global electric vehicle market is ready to explode. The market enjoyed a 40 per cent year on year growth from 2018 to 2019.

Now companies are being pressured for greater specificity on their carbon emissions.

As a result, commercial transport is more likely than ever to join the consumer electric vehicle market, turning it into one of the major green agenda trends of 2021.

New product formats

Aware of the growing implications of climate change, contemporary consumers are increasingly wary of their purchasing habits.

To feel good about the lifestyle decisions they make, many are focusing on a brand’s commitment to sustainability and ethics prior to settling on a product.

Brands, especially in personal care and beauty have started looking to new product formats in the hopes of reducing waste.

They are offering their products in the tablet/pill format. This approach is proven to significantly decrease carbon emissions, both in manufacturing, as well as in shipping.

More lenders will walk away from fossil fuels 

The capital flight from dirty energy will not only accelerate in 2021 it will go beyond coal to hit oil and natural gas.

Data by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) shows more than 150 major global financial institutions now have coal exit policies in place, with 65 banks committing to tighter lending guidelines this year alone.

The future looks gloomy for the world’s filthiest fossil fuel and the outlook for oil and gas isn’t hunky-dory either.

A more climate-conscious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

In 2020, China pledged to become carbon neutral by 2060, bringing the world closer to its goal of limiting warming to 2o Celsius.

But if the world’s biggest emitter keeps driving up emissions through its activities overseas even as it shrinks its carbon footprint at home, the nation wouldn’t exactly present itself as a shining model at next year’s climate negotiations in Glasgow. 

Once the pandemic is under control, China is expected to revive its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a massive infrastructure project spreading across nearly 70 countries from Asia to Europe.

Following recent warnings that the initiative could lead to 3o Celsius of warming, the greening of projects launched under the scheme will be a key theme in 2021.

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