Analysis

Daily Briefing | Obama makes urgent appeal in Alaska for climate change action

  • 01 Sep 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Glacier Bay, Alaska

Glacier Bay, Alaska | Shutterstock

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Scientists pinpoint Arctic warming hotspots behind severe northern hemisphere winters 
Recent research suggests a warming Arctic could be the cause of a series of very cold winters in the US and Asia. Now, a new study picks out the exact areas in the Arctic circle where unusually high temperatures appear to be driving severe winters in mid-latitude countries. The findings could help scientists forecast very cold conditions and give people time to prepare, the study says.      Carbon Brief 

Warming tropical oceans could see 'widespread and intense' species loss, study warns 
The tropics could see a huge drop in biodiversity as marine life heads for cooler waters, a new study suggests. Rising sea temperatures could push fish, molluscs and crustaceans towards higher latitudes, the researchers find. But species that can't move fast enough are likely to face local extinction if emissions remain very high, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.      Carbon Brief

Climate and energy news

Obama Makes Urgent Appeal in Alaska for Climate Change Action 
During a rare visit to Alaska, President Obama issued a global call for urgent action to address climate change, declaring that the US was partly to blame for what he called the defining challenge of the century and would rally the world to counter it. "Climate change is no longer some far-off problem; it is happening here, it is happening now," Obama told an international conference on the Arctic. "We're not acting fast enough."  Reuters said that with 16 months left of his presidency, Obama was using the Arctic trip "to build support for tough new rules on carbon emissions from power plants ahead of a hoped-for international climate deal at a UN summit in Paris in December that could cement his legacy on the issue". The Guardian noted how "shrinking Alaskan glaciers served as a vivid backdrop for Barack Obama's latest push for action on climate change". Today, Obama will visit the "nearby Seward glacier to see its shrinkage for himself". The  BBC said Obama "pleaded" for world leaders to agree to cut carbon emissions at crucial talks in Paris later this year.  NBC said he used "unusually blunt language". Via Medium.com, Obama (or, more likely, his staff) is blogging his visit to Alaska.      New York Times 

Energy companies more reliant on 'dirty' coal to produce electricity than they were a decade ago 
The Independent's frontcover story reveals that two of Britain's largest energy suppliers - British Gas and SSE - are more reliant on coal to produce the electricity they sell to customers than they were 10 years ago. "In the past 10 years the percentage of electricity generated from renewable sources has grown by 400% - yet total carbon emissions from generation have only fallen by around 8%. This is because while the Big Six energy companies are now buying more than a third of the energy that they sell from polluting coal-fired power stations, they have cut back on buying power from more expensive but greener gas-fired power stations...The statistics come as the campaign group 38 Degrees and the Big Deal, a consumer collective, prepare to launch a drive to persuade consumers to switch energy suppliers to companies offering zero-carbon electricity."      The Independent 

Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say 
On Saturday, the frontpage of both the Independent and its sister paper "i" led with the story by the papers' science editor that 2015 is near certain to be the hottest year on record globally. "Climate scientists are predicting that 2015 will be the hottest year on record "by a mile", with the increase in worldwide average temperatures dramatically undermining the idea that global warming has stopped - as some climate-change sceptics claim." Connor quotes climate scientists such as James Hansen and UEA's Phil Jones. Connor also wrote a separate comment piece for the  Independent in which he says that, according to some scientists, "the 'hiatus' is nothing more than an illusion resulting from flaws in the way data was collected".      The Independent 

Dutch government to appeal against emissions ruling - report 
The Dutch government will appeal against a district court ruling ordering it to cut greenhouse gases emissions faster than now planned, the Dutch daily Trouw has reported this morning. The government will announce its decision to contest the June 24 ruling, the paper said, citing anonymous sources in The Hague.      Reuters 

'Supergiant' gas field discovered in Mediterranean 
A "supergiant" gas field holding the equivalent of 5.5bn barrels of oil has been discovered off the coast of Egypt, the largest ever find in the Mediterranean. Italian oil group Eni said the find was enough to supply Egypt with gas for decades, in a major boost to the country's struggling economy. The BBC said Eni, which has full concession rights to the area, is the biggest foreign energy firm in Africa. In June, it signed an energy exploration deal with Egypt's oil ministry worth $2bn (£1.5bn) allowing the company to explore in Sinai, the Gulf of Suez, the Mediterranean and areas in the Nile Delta. Reuters said the discovery, which follows other significant discoveries in the area, "is expected to have a major impact on the region's economy and potentially offer Europe new supply options, allowing it to lessen its dependence on Russian gas imports".      Daily Telegraph 

U.N. climate talks begin divided, but with hope for Paris accord 
Chances that governments will work out a UN accord to combat climate change in December seem brighter than in the run-up to a failed attempt in 2009, experts said as delegates from almost 200 nations met in Bonn on Monday for five further days of formal negotiations. "We're closer to an agreement" than at the same time before Copenhagen, Elina Bardram, head of the European Commission delegation, told Reuters. "But there's a lot still to be done." Meanwhile, Yvo de Boer, the former UN climate chief, has criticised French plans for the involvement of heads of state at the start of this December's climate summit in Paris. He told  RTCC: "If the high-level segment is at the beginning of the COP, what purpose is it supposed to serve? My experience is, politicians travel in order to celebrate success. To fly to Paris and just show a bit of leg at the beginning of a conference is not really enough of a reason."      Reuters 

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Warming tropical oceans could see ‘widespread and intense’ species loss, study warns

  • 31 Aug 2015, 16:00
  • Robert McSweeney
Coral colony on a reef, Egypt

Tropical reef | Shutterstock

The tropics could see a huge drop in biodiversity as marine life heads for cooler waters, a new study suggests.

Rising sea temperatures could push fish, molluscs and crustaceans towards higher latitudes, the researchers find. But species that can't move fast enough are likely to face local extinction if emissions remain very high, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.

Sea surface temperature

There are around  230,000 known species swimming, floating and crawling around the world's oceans. A key factor in where they are located is the temperature of the water.

The map below shows the distribution of marine species around the world. You can see from the areas shaded yellow or red that there tends to be a larger number of species in warmer, tropical waters than in cooler waters towards the poles.

Total -richness -2006Current distribution of marine species in the world's oceans (as of 2006). Orange and red areas show areas where number of species is high, while blue areas show areas where biodiversity is low. Graph on right-hand side shows number of species by latitude - where the further to the right the line is, the more species found. Source: García Molinos, et al. (2015).

But warming oceans may see marine life venturing away from their current habitats. A study from earlier this year, for example, found that warming waters in the Arctic could allow more species to bridge the chilly divide between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and mix more easily.

The new study, published in Nature Climate Change, looks at how rising sea surface temperatures could affect how species are spread across the world's oceans.

Researchers modelled the impact of future temperature change on around 13,000 marine species - over 12 times more than any other study.

Habitat range

The researchers first estimated what temperatures each species can tolerate - based on how cold and hot their existing habitats get and how far their existing ranges stretch.

The researchers then modelled how their habitat ranges could change as the oceans get warmer. Of the four pathways of future climate change developed for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC ), the study uses two: a moderate scenario where global emissions level off around the middle of the century ( RCP4.5) and the scenario with the highest emissions of the four ( RCP8.5). Global emissions are currently  tracking just above this scenario.

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Scientists pinpoint Arctic warming hotspots behind severe northern hemisphere winters

  • 31 Aug 2015, 16:00
  • Robert McSweeney

Recent  research suggests a warming Arctic could be the cause of a series of very cold winters in the US and Asia. Now, a new study picks out the exact areas in the Arctic circle where unusually high temperatures appear to be driving severe winters in mid-latitude countries.

The findings could help scientists forecast very cold conditions and give people time to prepare, the study says.

Extreme weather

Temperatures in the Arctic are increasing more than twice as fast than the global average - a phenomenon known as  Arctic amplification. One of the main reasons is the loss of sea ice in the region. As Arctic sea ice melts, energy from the sun that would have been reflected away is instead absorbed by the ocean.

Scientists have linked the rapidly-warming Arctic to extreme weather in mid-latitude regions of the northern hemisphere - from  severe winters in North America to  longer-lasting summer heatwaves in Russia.

But most of the research to date has considered warming in the Arctic as a whole. In the new study, just published in Nature Geoscience, researchers look at how unusually warm temperatures in two distinct areas of the Arctic could be leading to severe winters in North America and East Asia.

Arctic regions

The study focuses on the two regions of the Arctic where air temperatures have been warming the fastest since 1998. The map below shows these two areas: the Barents and Kara Seas (in red text), and the East Siberian and Chukchi Seas (in yellow).

Arctic Regions

Arctic regions map. The two regions considered in the study are the Kara-Barents Seas (in red text) and the East Siberian-Chukchi Seas (yellow). Source: NSIDC, amended by Carbon Brief.

Analysing air temperature records from 1979 to 2014, the researchers found that when conditions over the Barents-Kara Sea region were warmer than usual, East Asia tended to experience a cold winter. This link has also been identified by  other scientists.

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Daily Briefing | Subsidies for small scale solar face steep cuts

  • 28 Aug 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Rooftop solar panels on a house

Rooftop solar panels | Shutterstock

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New NASA videos show stark ice loss from Earth's ice sheets 
NASA yesterday released brand new images showing the pace of ice loss from Earth's two vast ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica. The amount of ice lost from the frozen expanses is accelerating and together have helped raise global sea level by more than 7cm since 1992.      Carbon Brief

Climate and energy news

Subsidies for small scale solar face steep cuts 
The government yesterday announced  plans to cut subsidies for electricity generated from rooftop solar panels by almost 90 per cent. Energy secretary Amber Rudd said that as of January, feed-in tariffs would fall from 12.9p per kilowatt hour to 1.63p and that if the cost to consumers of subsidising clean technologies couldn't be reined in, the scheme may be scrapped altogether, reports  Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The cuts are the latest sign that the government is "diluting support for renewable energy after the exit of their Lib Dem coalition partners," says  The Times. Despite internal documents admitting the changes could result in "significantly lower rates of deployment", a Decc spokesperson insisted that falling costs will make it "easier for parts of the renewables industry to survive without subsidies", reports  The Guardian. Yesterday's decision attracted fierce criticism from green groups, who warn the short-sighted "assault" on solar power could kill off a promising industry. The cost of solar panels would need to fall by more than £800 for home owners to see a return on their initial investment, according to analysis by The Energy Saving Trust reported in  The Telegraph. BusinessGreen has some  more reaction as well as  ten things you need to know about the new feed-in tariff review.  The Financial Times,  Reuters and  The Daily Mail also have the story.      BBC News 

Extreme Arctic sea ice melt forces thousands of walruses ashore in Alaska 
Thousands of walrus have been forced to come ashore on a remote island off Alaska, scientists report, because of extreme loss of Arctic sea ice. Just as President Obama embarks on a tour to highlight the consequences of climate change in the Arctic, villagers reported seeing animals come ashore in the Chukchi Sea to rest and find food in the absence of sea ice, their preferred habitat. Since 2000, the forced migration of walruses - known as a "haul out" - has become an increasingly regular occurrence, according to US government scientists.  Associated Press and  The Washington Post have more on the story.      The Guardian 

Middle East faces 'extreme' water stress by 2040 
About one-fifth of all countries will experience chronic water scarcity by 2040, with the Middle East the worst affected, according to a new report from the World Resources Institute. Palestine, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates scored five out of five for water stress, based on ratings developed by the US thinktank, with many others moving from "medium" to "high" stress as climate change disrupts temperature and rainfall patterns. A separate  report from the European Drought Agency yesterday confirmed the severe drought experience by swathes of Europe this summer are consistent with scientists' projections for a warming continent, reports  The Guardian. Elsewhere,  BusinessGreen looks at efforts to develop an extreme heat action plan in India, which this year experienced one of its worst heat waves in history.      RTCC 

Obama lauds New Orleans' progress since Katrina, says more to be done 
Visiting New Orleans on Thursday, President Obama heralded the progress the city had made since Hurricane Katrina swept through 10 years ago, but said more needed to be done to tackle poverty and inequality. The city saw devastating flooding after the government was slow to respond to the disaster. "What started out as a natural disaster became a man-made disaster, a failure of government to look out for its own citizens," Obama told reporters.  Time looks at the cities most vulnerable to the next Katrina.      Reuters 

Ocean warming and acidification needs more attention, argues US 
The US government has urged the international community to devote more resources to slowing the impacts of climate change on the oceans, with corals, shellfish and other marine life a particular concern. "We are asking the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] in their next series of reports to focus more on ocean and cryosphere...We need to keep pushing up until the Paris conference and beyond," said David Balton, deputy assistant secretary for oceans and fisheries at the US State Department.       The Guardian

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New NASA videos show stark ice loss from Earth's ice sheets

  • 27 Aug 2015, 15:15
  • Roz Pidcock
Supra glacial Lakes over the Ice Sheet in Greenland. Aerial Shot.

Greenland ice sheet | Shutterstock

The US space agency, NASA, yesterday released brand new images showing the pace of ice loss from Earth's two vast ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica.

The amount of ice lost from the frozen expanses at the very north and south of the planet is accelerating, say the scientists, and together have helped raise global sea level by more than 7cm since 1992.

Greenland

The Greenland ice sheet covers approximately 1.7m square kilometres (660,000 square miles), an area almost as big as Alaska. At its thickest point, the ice sitting on top of the land is more than 3km deep.

Since 2004, Greenland has been losing an average of 303bn tonnes of ice every year, according to  NASA data, with the rate of loss accelerating by 31bn tonnes per year every year.

In the animation below, red shows areas that have lost ice, blue shows areas that have gained ice.

Change in the mass of the Greenland Ice Sheet between January 2004 and June 2014, as measured by the GRACE satellite. Source: NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio.

The stunning video images above come from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE ) twin-satellite. The satellites orbit the poles, measuring changes to the Earth's land and water masses and work out differences in the planet's gravitational field every 30 days. 

Some of the ice lost from Greenland is as result of the huge glaciers melting. But most of it is down to warming air overhead directly melting the surface of the ice sheet. A NASA  press release accompanying yesterday's data explains:

"Greenland's summer melt season now lasts 70 days longer than it did in the early 1970s. Every summer, warmer air temperatures cause melt over about half of the surface of the ice sheet - although recently, 2012 saw an extreme event where 97% of the ice sheet experienced melt at its top layer."

Greenland officially reaches the end of the summer melt season next week, when scientists will be able to say how 2015 has compared with previous years in terms of the speed of ice loss.

Changing ocean currents and temperatures are also melting the Greenland ice sheet from the bottom up, scientists say. A new three-year NASA project called Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG ) aims to get a better handle on how the rate of ice loss compares to surface melting.

Antarctica

Covering nearly 14m square kilometres (5.4m square miles), Antarctica is more than eight times the area of Greenland. The continent is also losing ice, though less quickly than its northern counterpart. Antarctica has lost, on average, 118bn tonnes of ice per year since 2004, compared to Greenland's 303bn tonnes.

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Daily Briefing | Global sea levels climbed 3 inches since 1992, NASA research shows

  • 27 Aug 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Erosion caused by rising sea levels

Protection from erosion | Shutterstock

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Celebrating soils: Why are they so important for our climate? 
A guest post by Pete Smith, professor of soils and global change at the University of Aberdeen, on why soils are so important for producing food and fuel, and keeping ecosystems healthy. "Changes in the climate can affect how much carbon soils store, but understanding the effects is not straightforward," he says. "Putting soils at the centre of environmental, sustainable development and climate policy should be the lasting legacy of the International Year of Soils in 2015."     Carbon Brief

Climate and energy news

Global sea levels climbed 3 inches since 1992, NASA research shows 
Sea levels worldwide rose an average of nearly 3 inches (8 cm) since 1992, the result of warming waters and melting ice, according to a panel of NASA scientists. In 2013, the IPCC said sea levels would likely rise from 1 to 3 feet (0.3 to 0.9 meters) by the end of the century. The new research shows that sea level rise most likely will be at the high end of that range, said University of Colorado geophysicist Steve Nerem. Sea levels are rising faster than they did 50 years ago and "it's very likely to get worse in the future," Nerem said.  Time said that scientists warn that "we haven't seen the worst of it yet"; ocean currents and weather cycles have actually offset some sea level changes in the Pacific, which means the West Coast could see a huge jump in sea levels in the next 20 years. In the Washington Post, Chris Mooney noted that the "intensive research effort" into sea-level rise "reflects the growing urgency of the topic". He adds: "Recent scientific reports have documented apparently accelerating ice loss from Greenland, and potential destabilization of parts of the West Antarctic ice sheet." Nasa has released a new  data visualisation showing ice mass loss from Greenland since the year 2004 totalling 2,500 gigatons.     Reuters 

Investors fear European energy groups will slash dividends 
The global market turmoil witnessed this week, combining with longer-term trends, continue to impact various sectors. The FT reports how fears that the collapse in oil prices "will force big European energy groups to slash investor payouts have sent yields on their dividends soaring, to the highest levels in almost three decades versus the rest of the stock market". In the UK, the  Telegraph reports that "Tata Steel says it will mothball plant in South Wales with fears for hundreds of jobs as the steel industry suffers another blow". The paper says imports of cheap steel, Sterling's strength and high energy costs in the UK are to blame. And in the US, the  FT reports that a "natural gas glut prompts price warning". It adds: "Hot summer weather has done little to burn off an impending US natural gas glut, prompting warnings of record-breaking inventories and lower prices for the fuel in the year to come."     Financial Times 

Tropical storm Erika strengthens, heads toward Florida 
A tropical storm watch was extended to the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas yesterday as Erika, the fifth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, closed in on the Eastern Caribbean and appeared to be heading for Florida, the U.S. National Hurricane Center has said. Erika remained "a very disorganised storm" on Wednesday but had the potential to reach hurricane status near Florida by Monday, the Miami-based government forecaster said. The last hurricane to hit Florida was Wilma in October 2005. Meanwhile, in the week marking 10 years since Hurricane Katrina devastating New Orleans, the  Guardian reports on how the city has launched a "resilience roadmap to tackle climate and social challenges".     Reuters 

What does China's Black Monday mean for the climate? 
RTCC asks analysts: "What does China's economic slowdown mean for emissions, low carbon investment and December's crucial Paris climate summit?" Ailun Yang, China strategist at NGO Climateworks Foundation, tells RTCC that "whenever the economy isn't doing so well, there is always a tendency to make a big supportive package…Very often, those packages will then go into carbon intensive industries". However, Jonathan Grant at PwC says: "The [UNFCCC] negotiations often proceed in isolation of external events, and in many respects ignore short term fluctuations as they are focused on the longer term low carbon transition."     RTCC 

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Celebrating soils: Why are they so important for our climate?

  • 26 Aug 2015, 16:25
  • Professor Pete Smith
Water erosion through corn field

Water erosion | Shutterstock

A guest post from Prof Pete Smith, Professor of Soils & Global Change at the University of Aberdeen and Coordinating Lead Author of the  Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) chapter from Working Group III of the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report.

From the 800th anniversary of the  Magna Carta to the 60th birthday of the  Birds Eye Fish Finger, there are plenty of reasons to mark 2015 as an important year. But you could be forgiven for being unaware that 2015 is also the UN International Year of Soils.

By putting soils centre stage, the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) aims to raise awareness of how important soils are for producing food and fuel, and keeping ecosystems healthy. But soils have also been thrust to the forefront of international science because of climate change.

Globally, the top metre of soils contains about  three times as much carbon as in our entire atmosphere. Losing carbon from the soil into the atmosphere can add to climate warming. But if soils can be managed in a way that means they store more carbon, they can help to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, and thereby help limit climate change.

Climate impacts on soils

Changes in the climate can affect how much carbon soils store, but understanding the effects is not straightforward. Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns can have both positive and negative implications for soil carbon storage.

Plants absorb carbon dioxide through  photosynthesis, and transfer this carbon into the ground when dead roots and leaves decompose in the soil. Rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, and warmer temperatures,  could give a boost to plant growth on the one hand and  decomposition on the other. Whether carbon in the soil increases or decreases depends on the balance between the two.

But getting this boost also depends on there being enough water and  nutrients to support the extra growth. Drier soils could also limit how well dead plant matter decomposes in the soil, leaving them more at risk of being eroded by the weather.

In other words, changes in temperature and precipitation can be both beneficial and detrimental to soil carbon storage.

Peat -bog

Irish peat bog. Credit:  Shutterstock

Regional variations

The impacts of climate on soil carbon also vary depending on the type of soil and where in the world they're found.

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Daily Briefing | Iran’s oil output plans put focus on Opec strategy

  • 26 Aug 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Oil refinery

Oil refinery | Shutterstock

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Ten years on from Hurricane Katrina: What lessons have we learned? 
Hurricane Katrina, which wreaked destruction on the southern US 10 years ago this month, went on to become a focus for arguments about the link between climate change and (individual) extreme weather events. Carbon Brief has spoken to some scientists in the field to find out what has and hasn't been learned since 2005.      Carbon Brief 

Russian industry paid to increase emissions under the UN's carbon credits scheme 
The UN's carbon credits scheme could have caused emissions to rise by 600 million tonnes, due to weak regulation and "perverse incentives", says a new study. Russia and Ukraine in particular come under fire for creating more waste in order to destroy it, earning tradable carbon credits in the process.      Carbon Brief

Climate and energy news

Iran's oil output plans put focus on Opec strategy 
Iran intends to accelerate crude production and exports as soon as international sanctions are lifted, putting focus on a worsening oil rout and Opec's strategy to combat low prices. Bijan Zanganeh, Iran's oil minister, said yesterday that the country would increase output by 500,000 barrels a day as soon as restrictions are removed. While the fight for market share between Opec members and non-members is well under way, a tussle within the group is also intensifying, the Financial Times writes.  Reuters also covered the story. Brent oil was trading at about $44 a barrel yesterday, close to 6-1/2-year lows hit this week on global oversupply and worries about the severity of an economic slowdown in China.      Financial Times 

World must face up to cost of carbon reductions, says European climate expert 
Former European commissioner for climate action Connie Hedegaard has urged countries to acknowledge the cost of reducing emissions to fight climate change, and called on politicians to shift away from short-term thinking. "It's extremely important to acknowledge it's not for free to make this sort of change. But neither is continuing business as usual," she said. Speaking at the City of Sydney's CityTalks 2015 yesterday, Hedegaard agreed with Tony Abbott that wind turbines are not "beautiful", but called power plants "visually awful".      Guardian Environment 

California governor spars with oil industry over climate bill 
The oil industry is selling a "highly destructive" product, California's Governor Jerry Brown said this week as he pushes a bill that would cut the state's oil consumption in half by 2030. The state Senate has already passed the bill, and members of the Assembly are considering it during a session set to end next month.       The Hill 

Court orders Russia to pay compensation for Greenpeace ship seizure 
A court in the Netherlands has ordered Russia to pay compensation for seizing the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise during a protest against an offshore oil platform two years ago, Reuters reports. Moscow has dismissed the ruling as lacking legal authority.      Reuters 

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Daily Briefing | Carbon credits undercut climate change actions says report

  • 25 Aug 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
UN flag

UN flag | Shutterstock

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Russian industry paid to increase emissions under UN carbon credits scheme 
The UN's carbon credits scheme could have caused emissions to rise by 600 million tonnes, due to weak regulation and "perverse incentives", says a new study. Russia and Ukraine in particular come under fire for creating more waste in order to destroy it, earning tradable carbon credits in the process.      Carbon Brief

Climate and energy news

Carbon credits undercut climate change actions says report 
The UN's carbon credits scheme may have increased emissions by 600 million tonnes, according to a new study by the Stockholm Environment Institute. Russia and Ukraine in particular come under fire for using the mechanism to earn money instead of cutting their greenhouse gas emissions. The useless credits have undermined the EU's emissions trading scheme, which a UN official tells  The Guardian could have been an "outstretched middle finger...a mix of retaliation and crime.  RTCC and  Carbon Pulse also covered the story, as did  Carbon Brief.    BBC 

Obama to speak 'frankly' on 11-day climate change tour 
President Barack Obama is undertaking an 11-day "climate change tour", where he will speak on the topic in Las Vegas, New Orleans and Alaska. Brian Deese, a senior White House advisor, said it was an attempt to speak "frequently and frankly" about the issue. His comments at the Las Vegas Clean Energy Summit yesterday have already been widely covered.  The Financial Times reports that Obama announced a series to actions to promote homegrown power, including $1bn in loan guarantees from the Department of Energy, and $24m for 11 projects to increase the productivity of solar panels.  The Guardian reports that Obama singled out the Koch brothers for criticism, accusing them of "standing in the way of the future".  The New York Times and  The Hill also covered the speech.      USA Today 

Greenland glacier sheds chunk of ice that covers MANHATTAN 
The Jakobshavn glacier in western Greenland has shed a chunk of ice measuring around 12.5 square kilometres this week, in what is one of the most significant calving events on record. Images from the European Space Agency show images of the fast-moving glacier before and after the event. The level of ice lost "could cover the whole of Manhattan Island by a layer of ice about 300m thick", according to comments reported by the  BBC.     The Daily Mail 

India primed for renewables spurt in climate plan 
India's environment minister Prakash Javadekar has given more clues about the possible contents of India's contribution to the UN climate deal, known as its "INDC". Briefing media on Monday, he said that India might target 300 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030, according to comments reported in the  Business Standard. However, the contribution itself is not expected to be released until September.  Reuters also covered his comments that rich countries should be leading the way on tackling climate change.      RTCC 

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Russian industry paid to increase emissions under UN carbon credits scheme

  • 24 Aug 2015, 17:05
  • Sophie Yeo
Saint Basil Cathedral at Red Square, Moscow Kremlin, Russia.

Saint Basil Cathedral | Shutterstock

A loophole in the UN's carbon market may have led to an increase in emissions from some Russian factories, according to a new  study published in Nature Climate Change.

It suggests that weak environmental oversight of the UN's 1997 carbon credit scheme led to "perverse incentives" for some industrial plants to increase emissions, so they could then be paid to reduce them.

This scheme was created to provide countries with a cheaper and efficient means to reduce emissions, but could instead have caused emissions to rise by 600 million tonnes of CO2, claims a parallel study by the same authors.

The study focuses on four factories in Russia, which stood to benefit in particular due to the country's unique circumstances.

Carbon Brief looks at what has happened, and why these industries have been able to slip through the net when it comes to cutting emissions.

UN jargon explained

In 1997, countries signed a UN agreement called the Kyoto Protocol, committing so-called "Annex 1" developed nations to reduce their emissions.

This included provisions for a new carbon market scheme. Under this, countries are allowed to generate a carbon credit for every tonne of additional greenhouse gas that they cut or remove from the atmosphere. Instead of counting this reduction towards their own target, a country can sell it on to another industrialised nation.

This scheme is known as "joint implementation". The idea behind it is that emissions are reduced cost effectively, with the potential for foreign investment enabling host countries to make cuts that may have otherwise been too expensive.

While carbon dioxide is the main driver of climate change, this scheme can also be used to trade reductions in other greenhouse gases.

Today's study looks at two greenhouse gases that emerge as waste gases from industrial processes: hydrofluorocarbon-23 (HFC-23) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

These gases have a high  global warming potential, which means that a small volume of them causes the same temperature rise as a large amount of CO2. HFC-23 is 12,000 times more potent than CO2 and SF6 is 16,300 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year time frame.

"Perverse incentives"

This means that factories earn more credits for cutting emissions of these two gases than they would for cutting the same volume of CO2.

Furthermore, these gases can be reduced cheaply, and for less than the price of a carbon credit. This means that cutting HFC-23 and SF6 and selling the credit can be a quick way for industries to turn a profit.

This creates a "perverse incentive" for factories to increase their production of these waste gases - to produce more, reduce more, and, therefore, earn more. And this is exactly what has been taking place in Russia, argues the study.

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