Analysis

Daily Briefing | DECC energy statistics on wind, coal and gas

  • 26 Sep 2014, 09:40
  • Carbon Brief staff

UN climate chief: New York Summit is 'clearly not enough' 
Christiana Figueres, head of the United Nations climate change secretariat, has warned politicians and businesses against becoming complacent following the success of this week's New York Summit. Figueres said the summit had delivered beyond her expectations, but the commitments announced would still not be enough to keep global warming below two degrees. "Very good, celebrate, but it is clearly not enough," she said.  BusinessGreen 

Climate and energy news

 Green Deal Finance Company warns investors it could be wound up 
The Green Deal Finance Company (GDFC) has privately warned investors it could be forced to close in the near future, after the Green Investment Bank raised concerns about whether the company will be able to meet the criteria for for future funding. The GDFC provides the loans that underpin the government's flagship Green Deal energy efficiency financing scheme. It has informed the Department of Energy and Climate Change a rescue package has to be put in place by October 14 or it will have to consider voluntary liquidation. BusinessGreen 

US Homeland Security moves to tackle climate change risks 
Protecting the infrastructure of American cities from the effects of climate change is rising on the agenda of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to a top agency official. The statement came at a three-day 'Rising Seas Summit' aimed at building resilience to threats such as rising sea levels. The department has already launched regional efforts to assess where gaps in adaptation and preparedness may be, the official said.  Reuters 

Climate change could be slower than forecast 
Carbon dioxide emissions have less impact on the global average temperature than has been claimed by the UN's climate change advisory body, according to a study. The authors found that warming of the atmosphere was likely to occur more slowly than predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The study found that if the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubled, the temperature would rise by up to 1.8 degrees centigrade over 70 years. The IPCC said in its report last year that the increase would be up to 2.5 degrees. The Times 

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China tops new list of countries most at risk from coastal flooding

  • 25 Sep 2014, 12:14
  • Robert McSweeney

Ride on flood | Shutterstock

Over 50 million people in China will be at risk from coastal flooding by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to stay high, a new study finds.

The research shows Asian countries dominate a top-20 ranking of most vulnerable nations from rising sea levels, with China topping the list.

Interactive map

A team of researchers from the US climate news website Climate Central mapped sea levels around the world using a global database of tide gauge measurements. They then combined these measurements with projections of how much scientists expect sea levels to rise with climate change.

The result is an interactive map, showing the number of people in each country likely to be living with significant risk of flooding by the end of the century. The map can be adjusted for different scenarios of future carbon emissions and sea level rise.

The size of squares shows population at risk, while the colour indicates the proportion of total population at risk.

Climate Central _floodmap

Global estimates of population number (square size) and proportion (square colour) at risk from coastal flooding by 2100 by country. Assumes current emissions trends continue, and a central estimate of sea level rise.   New York Times

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UK coal power back to historic lows as electricity demand continues to fall

  • 25 Sep 2014, 10:45
  • Mat Hope & Simon Evans

Aragon windfarm | Shutterstock

The UK's demand for electricity is falling and generation is becoming less carbon intensive, new government statistics show.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change's (DECC)  quarterly energy statistics show gas partially replaced coal power between May and July this year. Low carbon energy sources such as wind, solar and nuclear generated almost five per cent more electricity than in the same three months last year, the data shows.

Coal returns to historic low

The share of electricity generated by coal-fired power stations fell to 28.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2014, compared to 34.5 per cent in the same quarter last year. This matches the historic low coal-fired electricity generation reached in 2009-10.

Since then, falling coal prices and impending plant closures due to EU legislation had seen a surge in coal use. The latest data suggests this was a temporary blip, as we  predicted earlier this year.

So what did we turn to instead of coal? Gas, nuclear and renewables all claimed a larger share of the generation.

Renewables fall

Despite renewables' overall share of generation increasing, the total amount of electricity generated by wind and solar farms actually fell by about 10 per cent in the second quarter of 2014, compared to the same period last year, as the chart below shows.

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Daily Briefing | Reflecting on Ban Ki-moon's climate summit

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

China and U.S. Promise to Combat Climate Change 
The world's two largest polluters committed to taking action against global warming but offered few specifics, says Climatewire's Lisa Friedman. The nations' statements fell well short of what some had hoped for, she reports. AP has 'factchecked' president Obama's speech and  concludes it "spins statistics". Two videos, one from  Bloomberg and one from  The Telegraph, look at how serious China is about tackling climate change. 
Climatewire 

Climate and energy news

Natural gas is not a good climate solution, even without methane leakage 
The authors of a new research report take to Grist to explain why they think the idea of natural gas as a bridge fuel towards electricity sector decarbonisation is flawed. More abundant natural gas is unlikely to cut electricity emissions much on its own, they say, even assuming there is no methane leakage. They come to this conclusion after modelling the US electricity sector under a range of scenarios. 
Grist 

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Behind the scenes at Ban Ki-moon’s climate summit: The view from New York

  • 24 Sep 2014, 17:40
  • Ed King

Wreathed in red and clutching her microphone tightly, a nervous Natasha Bedingfield surveyed what must have been the oddest audience in her brief career. The British pop star was an unusual choice to wrap up what was a fairly extraordinary UN climate summit, held in and around its headquarters alongside New York's East River.

"Love is a powerful thing", she told the remaining delegates inside the sumptuous General Assembly hall, who were probably as surprised as she was to see her on stage. In many ways her appearance summed up this meeting. Eye-catching, full of endeavour and high notes, ending with little tangible to take home, bar the memories.

Ban Ki -moon Opens Climate SummitBan Ki-moon opens the climate summit. Credit: UN Photos

That may sound unfair, given the bombardment of low carbon pledges from governments, businesses and foundations built on oil money over the best part of 48 hours. By the time he had finished his closing summary, just before Natasha swept onto the podium, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon could proudly say the summit had seen progress on forests, cities, finance and much more.

How much of this money was new, and how many of these plans - some of which seemed hastily cobbled together - will withstand scrutiny is likely to become clear in the next few days.

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Summaries of country statements given at the UN secretary general's climate summit

  • 24 Sep 2014, 16:30
  • Simon Evans, Christian Hunt and Mat Hope

The 65 summaries below are taken from the statements made to the UN secretary general summit yesterday by country delegates, often verbatim. We take you from Angola...

Angola

The world needs a two degree limit for warming.
Angola backs common but differentiated responsibilities [developed countries to lead]
Africa is particularly vulnerable.
Angola is already witnessing desertification, drought and torrential rain.
It has a national adaptation plan.

...through to Vietnam.

Vietnam

If sea level rises 1 metre, 40 per cent of the Mekong delta will be inundated.
We must limit temperature rise to less than 2 degrees.
Equity, common but differentiated responsibilities.
National commitments must take into account historical responsibility.
Calls on developed countries to increase commitment and action.
Vitenam aims to reduce emissions 8-10 per cent compared to 2010, reduce energy consumption per GDP by 1-1.5 per cent per year.
Plans to reduce power sector emissions 10-20 per cent compared to BAU.
Is in the process of drafting iNDCs.

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All the significant announcements from the UN climate summit, and whether they’re new

  • 24 Sep 2014, 13:50
  • Mat Hope, Simon Evans & Christian Hunt

Obama & Ban Ki-moon | Shutterstock

World leaders gathered in New York yesterday for the UN secretary general's climate summit. Over 125 countries sent delegates in an attempt to reinvigorate international efforts to tackle climate change.

Jonathan Grant, director, sustainability & climate change at consultancy PwC has  wisely said "It will take time to sort the new announcements from the old, and to understand whether the new announcements are a step change from business as usual".

Here's our effort at beginning to pick through the hours and hours of speeches to separate the new announcements from the old.

We have a full summary of country statements here.

International commitments

The United States was one of the only nations to come armed with completely  new policy announcements.

President Obama signed an executive order directing federal agencies to consider climate resilience when designing programmes and allocating funds. He also ordered government agencies such as NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to  give their data to other countries to assist with managing climate change, and to extend programmes to train developing country scientists.

Oxfam America described the plans as  "not revolutionary".

China's Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli reiterated his country's goal to cut carbon intensity by 40 to 45 per cent of 2005 levels by 2020.

He also said China's carbon emissions would peak "as early as possible".  A senior Chinese climate negotiator made a similar statement earlier this year, but it had not been considered official government policy until now. The flexible language makes it hard to tell exactly what the commitment means.

 

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Daily Briefing | World leaders address UN climate summit

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

Ban Ki-moon & Obama | Shutterstock

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Climate summit advances towards Paris deal 
Yesterday's climate summit in New York marked "a positive start" on the road to a new global agreement, with France promising a billion dollars for the Green Climate Fund and a declaration to end emissions from deforestation by 2030, reports the BBC. The gathering of 120 world leaders in New York yesterday resulted in a day of impassioned speeches but, as anticipated, delegates held back on making new commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions, says The GuardianThe Independent called it a "fragile consensus" on climate change, with prime ministers and presidents vowing to be united in time to strike a deal to limit climate change in Paris next year. You can see live coverage of the summit here. 
BBC News 

Climate and energy news

UK pays £200m to tackle deforestation in poor countries 
The UK has committed in excess of £200m to tackle deforestation in poor countries, as part of a new UN declaration to halve deforestation globally by 2020 and halt it completely by 2030. The pledge could save between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tonnes of carbon emissions per year - the equivalent of taking all the world's cars off the road, reports The GuardianThe TImes has more on the new agreement, signed by 32 countries. Brazil refused to sign the deal, saying the measure had been drafted "behind closed doors", says ITV News
The Telegraph 

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Antarctic sea-ice hits new high as scientists puzzle over the cause

  • 23 Sep 2014, 16:59
  • Robert McSweeney

Broken Ice | Shutterstock

For the third year in a row, the extent of sea-ice around Antarctica has surpassed the previous record high. The extent is now the largest since satellite records began in 1979.

But at the North Pole the decline of Arctic sea-ice continues to accelerate. Scientists haven't yet been able to pin down why the opposite is happening in the Antarctic.

Poles apart

The two poles are very different. The Arctic is a body of water surrounded by land, while the Antarctic is a continent surrounded by water.

It's around this time of year the Antarctic reaches its winter maximum extent and the Arctic reaches its summer minimum .

The latest figures show that at over 20 million square kilometers (sq km), Antarctic sea-ice currently covers a larger area than at any time over the 35-year satellite record.

The blue line on the figure below shows the sea-ice extent for 2014. Typically the annual peak is in September, but it may grow further before the end of the year.

 

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Labour's vision for a low carbon UK

  • 23 Sep 2014, 15:30
  • Mat Hope

The Labour party is preparing for government. At least, it hopes it is.

The talk in the corridors of the party's annual conference is bullish, with shadow cabinet ministers plotting ways to put themselves into office next May. One thing is clear: they think presenting Labour as climate champions could be a way to differentiate themselves from their Conservative rivals.

We went to Manchester to find out what a Labour government would do to the UK's energy and climate policy.

Energy efficiency

Unsurprisingly, Labour says it's unhappy with the government's current policies.

Labour's most prominent energy announcement this year is a plan to overhaul household energy efficiency policy. Party leader Ed Miliband nodded to the policy in his speech this afternoon, saying it was part of the party's plan to become a "world leader in the green economy".

Shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint today claimed a range of policies including free home energy use assessments and a "decency standard" for rented properties should help five million homes become energy efficient in the next 10 years.

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