Daily Briefing | UN climate deal plans favour rich, say developing countries

  • 03 Dec 2014, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

UN plans for 2015 climate deal favour rich, say developing countries 
A tense atmosphere marked the beginning of the UN climate talks in Lima, as African countries accused co-chairs of driving an imbalanced process. Some negotiators expressed concern that a draft agreement prepared by the co-chairs did not treat adaptation and finance with the same importance as emissions reduction commitments. The group of less-developed nations said that rich counties should do "substantially more" to cut emissions and provide cash to enable the poor to curb greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change, reports RTCC.     RTCC

Climate and energy news

Antarctica Losing Mt. Everest's Worth of Ice as Melt Triples 
Antarctic glaciers are losing in water weight the equivalent of Mount Everest every two years, with melting rates on part of the continent tripling over the past decade. A 21-year analysis by NASA and the University of California finds that glaciers in the bay of the Amundsen Sea, Antarctica's fastest-melting region, lost an average of 83 gigatons of ice a year from 1992 to 2013.     Bloomberg New Energy Finance 

Germany targeting coal plants to reach 2020 climate goals 
Germany's cabinet will agree plans to cut carbon emissions by up to 78 million tonnes by 2020 to help meet ambitious targets to fight climate change. The package, which will push operators to shut some coal-fired plants, is essential if Chancellor Angel Merkel is to avoid the embarrassment of missing her government's goal of a 40 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020, says Reuters.     Reuters 

El Niño set to cause commodities worries 
Leading meteorologists are on the verge of declaring the emergence of the El Niño weather phenomenon after chances of its occurrence were downgraded earlier this year. In its closely-watched latest bulletin, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said climate indicators were "currently close to, or exceed, El Niño thresholds", with "climate model outlooks suggesting further intensification of conditions likely".      Financial Times 

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Meat and dairy consumption could mean a two-degree target is "off the table"

  • 02 Dec 2014, 23:59
  • Robert McSweeney

Wind turbine and cow | Shutterstock

Without a shift in meat and dairy consumption, limiting global temperature rise to two degrees is unlikely, says a new study by Chatham House.

The thinktank surveyed the meat and dairy eating habits of thousands of people in very different parts of the world. The findings show consumers underestimate the contribution of meat and dairy production to climate change, leading to them underestimate the effect that limiting meat and dairy consumption can have on limiting emissions.

The sizeable footprint of meat and dairy

The meat and dairy industry is responsible for 14.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. That's more than is produced by all cars, trains, planes and ships in the world.

Livestock emissions come directly from animals, from digestion and manure, and from transporting animals and producing their feed. Greenhouse gases are also released when forests are cleared to make way for pasture or for cropland in order to grow animal feed.

Chatham House _Livestock _Fig4

Livestock sector emissions by source. Chatham House.

China is the biggest consumer of both meat and dairy products, with the US, the EU and Brazil also in the top five. The top ten largest meat and dairy consuming countries are shown in the chart below.

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Truth is "the first casualty" in the energy and climate debate - a report from the Spectator Energy Forum

  • 02 Dec 2014, 17:30
  • Simon Evans

Google Earth

Yesterday Carbon Brief attended a provocative event on energy hosted by right-leaning magazine the Spectator.

The tone of the event was set by the titles assigned to panel discussions including "how broke is the UK energy market" and "does Europe have a credible energy policy"

The whole thing was best summed up by Marcus Trinick, partner at law firm Eversheds, which hosted the event. Trinick said:

"There is no such thing as objective truth in energy policy. Truth is the first casualty of the discussion. Everyone has a position."

Here's a summary of some of the discussions that took place.

Predictions are hard, especially about the future

The broadly unforeseen yet transformational impacts of the north American shale revolution were cited frequently at the event.

This is a good example of how hard it is to predict the future of energy. But the failure to accurately predict the future signified different things to different people. For Aldo Flores-Quiroga, secretary general of the International Energy Forum, it suggested that assumptions on energy futures should always be discussed and questioned.

These assumptions have recently been converging around a shared set of ideas, he said. For instance the idea that future increases in energy demand will be driven by rising Asian consumption and that rising demand can be met by unconventional oil and gas supplies. Yet the evidence around the profitability and productivity of shale gas was unclear, Aldo-Quiroga suggested.

Aldo-Quiroga also questioned the value of oil price projections. Predicting where oil prices will go in future is "futile", he said.

"I know it's the business of traders and investors to bet on prices but I don't know why people do these very long-term projections. There are too many moving parts, we just don't know what will happen."


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Climate policy goes commercial: E.ON takes advantage of the new economics of a low carbon energy market

  • 02 Dec 2014, 17:15
  • Mat Hope

E.ON logos | Shutterstock

German energy company E.ON yesterday announced it was splitting the company in two,  "spinning off"  its fossil fuel assets. The reason for the move? The European energy market's trend towards low carbon energy sources and services, and the ever decreasing profitability of fossil fuels, it says.

The move is being hailed as a  "watershed moment" for Germany's  ambitious efforts to decarbonise its energy sector.

But why does E.ON think its new model is more profitable? And why aren't all energy companies doing the same?

Energy transformation

E.ON's decision to restructure has more to do with a need to do something about its bottom line than environmental concerns. E.ON's profits  fell by 20 per cent over the last 12 months, continuing a long term decline.

That was partly as a consequence of Germany's ambitious climate and energy policies, known as the  Energiewende. Germany aims to get 80 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050. Currently, it gets about 30 per cent, up from about 15 per cent when the Energiewende was announced in 2010.

Renewables' rapid expansion has made the wholesale cost of electricity plummet, and put many of Germany's big utility companies with large stakes in fossil fuels under  severe financial pressure.

The German government is also pressing ahead with a plan to phase out nuclear power by 2022. That's bad news for E.ON, which has a stake in 11 of the country's nuclear plants.

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Road to Paris: a timeline of negotiations for a global climate deal

  • 02 Dec 2014, 11:00
  • Rosamund Pearce

This week, delegates from 196 governments are convening in Lima for what they hope will be a productive UN climate summit.  After an upbeat start, the hope is that Lima could provide a stepping-stone to the UNFCCC Paris summit next year.

The aim for Paris? To produce a global climate treaty that can bind all nations, including the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.

Despite 25 years of negotiating, such an agreement would be the first of its kind. The last attempt to achieve a global climate agreement in Copenhagen was widely regarded as  " disastrous", resulting only in a political accord.

The meeting in Lima follows the publication of the IPCC's 5th assessment report. A spokesperson from the Association of Small Island States described this latest report as "a roadmap for how to be successful in Paris. What is needed now is for leaders to take the wheel".

So where are we on the road to Paris? What progress has been made since Copenhagen, and what's left to do before the summit? Here's our summary of the road travelled by policymakers so far, as well as the route ahead.

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Daily Briefing | Bank of England investigating risk of 'carbon bubble'

  • 02 Dec 2014, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Bank of England | Shutterstock

Bank of England investigating risk of 'carbon bubble' 
The Bank of England is to conduct an enquiry into the risk of fossil fuel companies causing a major economic crash if future climate changes rules render their coal, oil and gas assets worthless. This concept, known as the "carbon bubble", has gained rapid recognition since 2013, and is being taken increasingly seriously, the Guardian says.     The Guardian 

Climate and energy news

How close is a global climate deal? 
With the latest round of international climate change talks start on Monday in Lima, Peru, the Financial Times has a Q&A on the prospects for a global climate deal. It covers the importance of the talks, what has happened so far and the likely stumbling blocks to success.      Financial Times 

German utility E.ON to split to focus on renewables, grids 
Germany's largest utility E.ON is to split in two, spinning off its power plants to a new company so that it can focus on renewable energy and power grids, Reuters reports. The wire calls it a "dramatic" response to industry changes that could trigger similar moves at European peers. EnergyDesk has a useful Q&A on E.ON's decision. Business Green also has the story. Another German utility, RWE, has rejected the idea of following its rival, reports the Financial Times.      Reuters 

Climate funds for coal highlight lack of UN rules 
Japan has allocated about $1 billion in "climate finance" loans to the construction in Indonesia of power plants fired by coal, the Associated Press reports. Japan gave the money to help companies build three such plants in Indonesia and listed it with the United Nations as climate finance, Associated Press says. Japan says the plants burn coal more efficiently and are therefore cleaner than old coal plants.      Associated Press 

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Factcheck: The Times claims climate-related deaths estimate is ‘exaggerated’

  • 01 Dec 2014, 13:10
  • Mat Hope

Mosquito | Shutterstock

Earlier this year, the UN's World Health Organisation released a  report suggesting climate change could cause an extra 250,000 deaths annually between 2030 and 2050. Today, The Times claims that figure has  been 'exaggerated'.

The Times's headline was based on comments by an analyst for for the climate skeptic thinktank the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). The GWPF told the paper that the WHO's estimates were "based on false assumptions" which led to the supposedly inflated headline figure.

But the GWPF's critique has a number of flaws. Despite the GWPF's claims, the WHO's report takes care to outline its assumptions in detail, and explicitly states that projections about climate change-related deaths remain uncertain.

Climate change-related deaths

The WHO modeled how rising temperatures, emissions and sea levels impact nutrition, malaria, dengue fever, diarrhoeal disease, and heat-related deaths.

Alongside the report, the WHO produced a factsheet, summarising its key findings. The WHO's modelling suggests there could be "approximately 250,000 additional deaths due to climate change per year between 2030 and 2050."

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 13.03.22.png

Source:  World Health Organisation. Graph by Carbon Brief.

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Europe’s energy and climate policies get mixed review

  • 01 Dec 2014, 11:00
  • Simon Evans

Windfarm | Shutterstock

The European Union is a global leader on climate change, but there's still plenty of room for improvement. That's the conclusion of a new energy policy review from influential thinktank the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The report summarises the big issues countries face when trying to decarbonise their energy sectors while keeping the lights on and preventing energy bill hikes.

It argues against schemes to pay power companies to ensure they're always ready to supply energy when required, such as the  capacity market currently being introduced in the UK. It also calls for a higher EU energy efficiency target, expanding  energy efficient policies, rapid  reform of EU carbon markets and caution when assessing  shale gas's potential contribution to the energy mix.  

IEA publications tend to be fairly weighty and this is no exception. We've picked out some of the most interesting findings and recommendations from its 312 pages.

Shale gas pessimism

Back in 2012 the IEA published a widely-referenced report setting out how hydraulic fracturing of shale rocks could deliver a new "golden age" of natural gas. It said Europe could expect to produce 77 billion cubic metres of shale gas per year by 2035, about the same as the UK's annual demand.

That outlook was pared back in 2013, when the IEA  said countries were failing to replicate the North American shale gas revolution. Its new review is even less optimistic. It says the EU has yet to evaluate the potential of shale gas and has only "limited" exploration experience.

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Daily Briefing | UN climate talks begin as global temperatures break records

  • 01 Dec 2014, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

UN climate talks begin as global temperatures break records 
195 countries are meeting in Lima, Peru, to lay the groundwork for a new global deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Leaders aim to agree the deal by the end of 2015. The negotiations start as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has revealed that the global average temperature over land and ocean from January to October was the hottest since records began in 1880, the BBC reports. The US and China's deal to cut emissions, agreed a fortnight ago, has given fresh impetus to the negotiations, Telegraph columnist Geoffrey Lean argues. That makes the Lima talks the best chance for a generation for countries to agree some fundamental aspects of a new deal, the Guardian says. The UK's energy and climate change secretary tells the Telegraph that the deal is essential to protect "the way of life we take for granted". If the negotiations fail, it will be the world's poorest countries that are hit hardest, the Guardian argues.      BBC News 

Climate and energy news

As Mexico Addresses Climate Change, Critics Point to Shortcomings 
Mexico has pledged to curb its emissions significantly by 2020 and to produce one-third of its energy from clean sources by 2024 as climate change increases the threat of extreme weather. But the country may miss those targets unless the government tightens regulation on the private sector, analysts say. As countries meet in Lima, climate targets will come under increased scrutiny. RTCC has collected many, and mapped them.      New York Times 

Plan Outlines Low-Carbon Future for Germany 
A sophisticated computer model shows there are several economically viable ways to achieve a low-carbon future in Germany, researchers say. The model shows the switch from fossil fuels to renewables could cost around €500 billion, but could deliver savings of between €600 billion and €1,000 billion by 2050. Such investment could deliver an energy system that was 80 per cent renewable, the researchers say.     New York Times 

Humans and climate change make Peru a dark place for bears 
Peru's spectacled bear is a "vulnerable" species that is being put at further risk by climate change, the International Union for Conservation of Nature says. The bears' mating season is closely linked to the mountains' fruiting season, but that is starting earlier in the year due to climate change, leaving them with less food at a vital time.     The Times 

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Daily Briefing | Coal use in China could peak earlier than previously forescast

  • 28 Nov 2014, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

China nears peak coal as carbon and clean growth policies bite 
Coal use in China, the world's biggest polluter, could peak earlier than previously forecast as slower economic growth cuts power demand and the government clamps down on energy-intensive industries to meet its emissions reduction goals, reports Reuters.       Reuters 

Climate and energy news

U.S., British data show 2014 could be hottest year on record 
This year may eclipse 2010 as the hottest since records began in the 19th century, according to data for January to October from the three major global temperature datasets. Though the period is already among the warmest ever recorded, natural variability and the effects of recent volcanic eruptions mean the final rankings are hard to predict, scientists explain. The World Meteorological Association will announce this year's preliminary ranking on Wednesday next week during annual UN climate talks taking place this year in Peru.      Reuters 

How could man intervene to change the climate? 
The BBC imagines some of the "nightmare scenarios" of what might go wrong if we intervene with our climate through geoengineering. What if India tried to head off a rise in temperatures only to find that Pakistan suffered from massive flooding, for example. Geoengineering ideas - ranging from blocking the Sun's rays with sulphur particles in the upper atmosphere to artificial trees soaking up carbon dioxide - seem so outlandish that many refuse to take them seriously, says the BBC's David Shukman. But of all the challenges with geo-engineering - the technological hurdles, the enormous gamble with weather patterns, the dangers of conflict - perhaps the greatest is diplomatic, he surmises.      BBC News 

UN climate change deal must have legally binding targets, says EU 
A senior official has said the European Union will push hard for a legally binding deal to cut carbon emissions at next year's talks in Paris. Countries' claims that they could not impose economy wide targets were "disingenuous" and liable to stall the negotiating process, the anonymous official added. The US has tabled a 'buffet option' for discussion that would contain some legally binding elements but allow countries to determine the scale and pace of their emissions reductions.     The Guardian 

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