US hints at vision for a new global climate deal

  • 18 Sep 2014, 18:15
  • Mat Hope

Obama chicago | Shutterstock

UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon has summoned world leaders to a climate summit next week. Cue the international negotiations machine creaking into gear.

At the meeting, countries will be invited to clarify their visions for a new global climate deal, due to be agreed in 2015. To get the ball rolling, some big hitters are already announcing what they see as being the key elements of a new deal.

Last week, the UK released a document outlining its approach. Today, it's the US's turn.

In a  submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which oversees the formal negotiations but isn't involved in the meeting next week, the US clarifies how it thinks a new agreement should work. Here's the key bits.

Uniform contributions

Countries are due to outline what they're willing to do to cut emissions by the end of March next year, known as intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs). The US thinks every country's INDC should at least look the same, even if their level of ambition differs.

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How climate-ready is your house?

  • 18 Sep 2014, 17:22
  • Robert McSweeney

Sandbags | Shutterstock

Are you pulling out all the stops to climate-proof your home? Have you installed ceiling fans, planted trees for shade and taken our flood insurance? It's unlikely you have, according to a new study of household actions in the UK.

While we make simple actions to deal with a cold snap or heatwave, the research finds, households are struggling to prepare for long-term changes in climate.

What action can you take?

As global leaders prepare to convene in New York to discuss how to curb greenhouse gas emissions, a new paper discusses another side to limiting climate change - adaptation.

Adaptation means taking steps to increase our resilience against climate change that our past emissions have already committed us to, impacts that are now unavoidable.

The study, published in the journal Climatic Change, looks at adaptation measures people can take in their own homes. And the good news, is some actions are easy.  You've probably done many without realising. Putting on an extra jumper in a cold spell or eschewing the Sunday roast in favour of a salad during a heatwave are both adaptive responses.

Some actions aren't as simple as changing your diet or dipping into your wardrobe, however.

The study looks reviews published research on climate adaptation in UK households and finds that while we're pretty good at doing the easy things, we're not so great at making plans for the long-term.

A checklist

The paper runs through some adaptation options available to UK households, which we've illustrated in a checklist below. The list on the left are examples of actions for managing current risks, while the list on the right shows how to climate-proof for the longer-term.


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Daily Briefing | EU offers sweetener to get countries to back climate goals

  • 18 Sep 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Credit: Rock Cohen

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EU to help countries reach emission targets 
The European Commission is set to offer carbon intensive countries a sweetener to get them to agree to the region's emissions reduction goals. The commission wants to set a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2050. Countries like Poland fear meeting the target would be too costly. So the commission is set to establish two investment funds - called the new innovation facility and the modernisation fund - that would help poorer EU nations reduce emissions from their power networks and factories. The schemes would be funded by the revenue from nine per cent of the EU's carbon market's allowances. The shifting carbon price makes it difficult to put a value on the proposed funds, however. 
Financial Times 

Climate and energy news

Analysts: Global offshore wind market poised for fivefold growth 
Global offshore wind power is set to grow from 7.1 gigawatts in 2013 to 39.9 gigawatts by 2020, according to research firm GlobalData. The average annual growth of the market is expected to fall slightly, however. The projection suggests technological advances and cost reductions mean the market will expand in the US and China, while continuing to grow strongly in the UK and Germany.

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An uncertain future for global farming under climate change, study shows

  • 17 Sep 2014, 20:01
  • Robert McSweeney

Maize Plants | Shutterstock

Climate change is likely to cause an expansion of land suitable for growing crops globally, but on average the quality of land will decline, a new study shows.

A warmer world would mean more cropland for northern latitude countries such as China, Russia and Canada, but there are trade-offs elsewhere, with much of Africa having to manage with less cropland and fewer harvests per year.

Suitable cropland

Not everywhere in the world is suitable for growing crops. Some areas are too dry, or too cold, while other areas have poor quality soil or are too hilly. The climate plays a significant role in determining what we can grow and where.

At the moment, about 40 per cent of the Earth's land is used for farming, though there are huge differences between countries. For example, over 60 per cent of India is used for agriculture, whereas the figure for Canada is much lower, at just seven per cent.

You can see in the map below how this varies across the world; the darker the red colour, the more land is used for farming.

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Scotland decides: What independence could mean for the country’s climate and energy policies

  • 17 Sep 2014, 14:10
  • Simon Evans & Mat Hope

Scotland flag | Shutterstock

Scotland's voters are set to decide whether the country will separate from the rest of the UK.

Here's our guide to what independence might mean for the country's climate and energy policies.

Scotland would get the lion's share of North Sea oil and gas tax revenues, but might have to forego some of it to keep the sector going

One of the  largest economic prizes at stake in the referendum is North Sea oil and gas.

The Scottish government says Scotland would have a right to 90 per cent of future North sea oil and gas tax revenues. The UK government says it's more like  73-88 per cent.

The split largely depends on where the maritime border  would be drawn. The final boundary would have to be negotiated between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 At 11.52.55Source: HM Government " Scotland analysis: Borders and citizenship"

It also depends on how much oil is worth in future and how much it costs to extract. In 2012/13 an 84 per cent share of North sea tax revenues was worth £5.6 billion. But future revenues are  highly uncertain.

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Why ExxonMobil is betting on a higher carbon price than Google

  • 17 Sep 2014, 11:00
  • Mat Hope

Times Square | Shutterstock

As carbon markets  spring up across the world, companies are increasingly being made to pay to emit greenhouse gases. To keep one step ahead, many already factor a carbon price into their investment decisions.

And most expect to pay much more than current prices, a new  report shows.

Not-for-profit organisation CDP asked companies whether they consider carbon pricing in their investment decisions. 150 companies, including global giants like ExxonMobil and Mars, say they do. Of the 27 companies that divulged their internal carbon price, all but two set it at a higher level than current carbon markets.

We explore which companies have their own carbon price, and why they differ.

Higher carbon price

Companies from across six sectors  revealed their internal carbon prices to CDP.

The graph below shows the wide range of carbon prices companies use to work out which projects to invest in. The further to the right a bubble is, the higher the carbon price.

As you can see, utility companies that invest in things like electrical grids and water systems, the energy sector, and companies that trade in materials like metals and chemicals generally have the highest internal carbon prices:

Company Carbon Prices By Sector

Source: Data from CDP's Global corporate use of carbon pricing report. Graph by Carbon Brief.

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Daily Briefing | Rethinking free carbon permits

  • 17 Sep 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

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Lawmakers to test EU's five billion euro carbon permit giveaway 
A European Parliament committee will vote next week on whether to force a rethink on giving billions of euros worth of carbon allowances away for free to heavy industries, Reuters reports. The vote has been triggered by an objection from Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout. If the committee backs his objection, the matter will be put to a vote of the whole European Parliament that could force the European Commission to redraft its plans. 

Climate and energy news

Scientists Find 'Direct Link' Between Earthquakes And Process Used For Oil And Gas Drilling 
A study from the US Geological Survey has found a "direct link" between the injection of fracking wastewater into the ground and earthquakes, according to Climate Progress. The research is "just the latest" to have made the link to so-called frackquakes, it says. We took a look at research linking shale gas extraction to water contamination here
Climate Progress 

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The technologies that could grow the global economy and save the planet, at no extra cost

  • 16 Sep 2014, 17:50
  • Ros Donald

City solar | Shutterstock

Investment choices in global infrastructure over the next 15 years will determine the future of the world's climate system.

That's the conclusion of the New Climate Economy report , which concludes that if investment goes into advanced technologies, there need not be a trade-off between improving living standards around the world and the health of the climate. Indeed, those investments could cost the same as ones we'd need to make anyway.

In 2013, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate was created to investigate whether the global economy can continue to grow while tackling the risks of climate change. It's not an obvious combination.

On one hand, fossil-fuelled growth - especially in fast-developing countries like China - has pushed greenhouse gas concentrations to  record levels. On the other, governments justifiably want to improve the living standards of their populations. Since the Industrial Revolution, that has equated with rapid emissions growth as energy networks expand and production ramps up.

But new technological advances mean the apparent conflict between the two goals is a "false dilemma", according to the chair of the commission and former president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon. Speaking at the launch, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the audience the two goals could be "mutually reinforcing".

Cities: public transport and new materials

Cities are growing at an unprecedented rate, and that's set to continue over coming years. Urban areas already generate around 70 per cent of global energy use and energy related emissions.

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Behind the headlines: Fracking and water contamination

  • 16 Sep 2014, 15:45
  • Simon Evans

Fracking rally | Shutterstock

There are fears that hydraulic fracturing used to extract shale gas could be behind water contamination in the US. These fears have been a touchstone of anti-fracking protests around the world.

New research that's attracted a lot of media interest today seems to put paid to those concerns, finding faulty well casings are to blame instead.

But depending on which headline you read, you might have come away with a different impression. So what's really going on?

Contradictory coverage

The new study looked at drinking water samples from 133 wells in the Marcellus and Barnett shale areas of the US. The researchers wanted to know why these wells contained higher than usual levels of hydrocarbons like methane. Was the contamination caused by nearby fracking or was it naturally present in the water? 

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Three graphs showing why climate action is good for the economy

  • 16 Sep 2014, 11:50
  • Mat Hope

Windfarm field | Shutterstock

The world is going to have to spend trillions investing in new transport, buildings and energy systems. So why not spend a little more to get all the long-term benefits of a cleaner, greener economy? That's the questions posed by a group of senior politicians, economists and business leaders today.

The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate's new  report says the world is set to spend $89 trillion over the next 15 years upgrading the infrastructure underpinning the global economy. It says it would cost just $270 billion more each year- an extra five per cent - to do this in a climate friendly way.

Once the economic benefits of having cleaner air, more energy efficient buildings and reduced fossil fuel dependency are taken into account, these upgrades are effectively free, it says. And that's before the economic benefit of avoiding climate change is factored in.

Here's three graphs showing why the report says investing in a low carbon future is good for the global economy.

Economic shifts

The global economy is set to undergo some profound economic shifts in the next 15 years, the report says. The additional cost of making that growth low carbon? A "relatively modest" $4 trillion, the report says.

But as this graph shows, implementing low carbon policies can save money, too:

NCE global investment bars

The world is set to invest about $6 trillion a year to drive economic growth - $89 trillion over the next 15 years. A low carbon approach would add $600 billion a year for energy efficient buildings, transport systems and industry, and $330 billion to switch from fossil fuels to renewables.

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