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Client update - 23rd April 2021

I will start with some good news, that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the global economy to stage a strong recovery, growing by 6.0% this year, the fastest pace since its records began 40 years ago, with growth of 4.4% in 2022. Encouraging news indeed. The IMF is currently forecasting that the Indian economy will grow by a whopping 12.5% this year making it the world’s fastest growing major economy. But with a rapidly intensifying second wave of infections, and new restrictions likely to be necessary, that forecast is at risk of being downgraded. As with all good news, we must remember that COVID has proved a resourceful enemy to the global recovery, and we will watch the news flow with great interest and plan accordingly.

As yesterday was “Earth Day” (an international event celebrated around the world to pledge support for environmental protection) and Boris Johnson used the opportunity to tell the summit of world leaders to “get serious” about stopping climate change, I thought I might leave the world of COVID behind once more and focus on some interesting examples from the theme of this year’s Earth Day – “Restore Our Earth”.

As a coffee drinker, I will start with one such example. What happens when you dump 30 trucks full of coffee waste on land set aside for reforestation? Well, the forest recovers much faster, according to a study based in Costa Rica. Researchers spread coffee pulp, a waste product of coffee production, across old agricultural land measuring 35 x 40m. The plot recovered four times faster than a control area. "The results were dramatic", said Dr Rebecca Cole from the University of Hawaii, lead author of the study. "The area treated with a thick layer of coffee pulp turned into a small forest in only two years while the control plot remained dominated by non-native pasture grasses." Working with collaborators from the Swiss research university ETH-Zurich, Cole's team spread a layer of coffee pulp half a metre thick across the entire area. This eliminated the invasive grass species, allowing native trees to recolonise quickly, their seeds spread by wind and animal dispersal. After two years, the area treated with coffee pulp had 80 percent canopy cover compared to 20 percent in the control area. The trees in the coffee pulp area were also four times taller and there were significantly higher levels of nutrients in the soil, including carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous.

As we await more news on when we may be able to take to the skies once more, it seems that food waste could be instrumental in producing sustainable aviation fuel. Greenhouse gases from the aviation industry currently contribute 12 percent of transportation emissions and are expected to continue growing. It is projected that the air industry's emissions will double from pre-pandemic levels by 2050. As such, researchers are working on finding viable biofuels for net-carbon-zero air travel. A recent study suggests using untapped energy in food waste to generate sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), will provide an avenue to deal with two types of pollution at the same time. Plenty of food waste currently ends up in landfills, where it generates methane gas, one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases. The researchers found that food waste has a 165% decrease in net carbon emissions compared to standard fuel. Some large aviation companies have already started investing in SAF with the hope of finding a solution that can be widely used.

Meanwhile, scientists in the US have developed a paint significantly "whiter than the whitest paint currently available". Tests carried out by researchers at Purdue University on their "ultra-white" paint showed it reflected more than 98 percent of sunlight. That suggests, the scientists say, that it could help save energy and fight climate change. Painting "cool roofs" white is an energy-saving approach already being rolled out in some major cities. Commercially available white paints reflect between 80 percent and 90 percent of sunlight. The scientists quote “It is a big deal, because every 1 percent of reflectance you get translates to 10 watts per meter squared less heat from the Sun entering your building. So, if you were to use the paint to cover a roof area of about 1,000 square feet (93 square metres), we estimate you could get a cooling power of 10 kilowatts. That is more powerful than the central air conditioners used by most houses". In the US, New York has recently coated more than 10 million square feet of rooftops white. Interesting times indeed.

It feels slightly strange welcoming friends back into our gardens as the lockdown restrictions loosen and the weather improves. We very much hope that COVID cases continue to fall and then from the 17th May we can once again visit our clients indoors, with their permission. Whilst we are aware of the risks to the global economy, and indeed to our day to day lives, there remains plenty of reasons to be cheerful and these are growing week by week. Do have a good weekend.

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