What do the Labour leadership candidates think on climate and energy?

  • 21 Aug 2015, 10:15
  • Sophie Yeo & Simon Evans
Labour party logo

Labour logo | Shutterstock

The UK's Labour party will soon choose a new leader, following the resignation of Ed Miliband after May's election.

As former climate and energy secretary, Miliband had long been engaged on issues of emissions reductions, energy efficiency and the UN climate negotiations.

The leadership contest is between four candidates: Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall - none of whom have held a climate-related position in government to date.

Carbon Brief has created a grid, distilling the candidates' thoughts on key climate policy issues.

Frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn has released a detailed  manifesto of his climate and energy policies. Andy Burnham has also released a formal  manifesto, which briefly touches on the environment.

We have also collected climate- and energy-related statements from the candidates' speeches, blogs, newspaper articles, interviews and essays.

Labour -leadership -grid

The Labour Leadership Grid. Visit our Google doc for the full, interactive version.

What do they think?

Each candidate has acknowledged that climate change is a key threat that must be tackled.

That is not to say they always agree on how the problem should be approached.

Perhaps the most widely reported climate angle of the leadership campaign has been left-winger Jeremy Corbyn's suggestion that he could reopen coal mines in South Wales. Both Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper have explicitly rejected this, preferring instead to focus on creating jobs in the technology sector - in Cooper's case, this could include clean coal technology.

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Paris 2015: Tracking country climate pledges

  • 19 Aug 2015, 10:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Updated 19 August with the Dominican Republic's INDC.

31 March marked the loose deadline for countries to submit their pledges to the UN on how far they intend to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

These promises, known as "intended nationally determined contributions", or INDCs, will determine the success of the deal that the UN hopes to sign off in Paris in December this year.

While only five countries plus the EU made the deadline, more than a hundred others are expected to filter in throughout the coming eight months.

Carbon Brief is tracking the pledges made by each country. We'll update this post as each INDC comes in.

To find out exactly what an INDC is and why it matters, read our INDC explainer.

Click to enlarge:

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Who has pledged an INDC so far, and what percentage of the world's emissions are covered. Credit: Rosamund Pearce, Carbon Brief, based on EU data

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Australia disappoints with weak UN climate pledge

  • 11 Aug 2015, 17:20
  • Sophie Yeo

Drop of Light | Shutterstock

Australia has pledged to reduce its emissions by 26-28% by 2030 based on 2005 levels - the latest in a line of countries to formally submit its contribution to a UN climate deal expected later this year.

The target has been criticised by analysts, politicians and campaigners as too low, putting Australia behind the other countries that have already outlined their future climate targets.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott disagreed. He  said:

"It's better than Japan. It's almost the same as New Zealand. It's a whisker below Canada. It's a little below Europe. It's about the same as the United States. It's vastly better than Korea. Of course, it is unimaginably better than China."

The pledge

Australia has made its pledge relative to a 2005 baseline, and covers all sectors of the economy, including land use emissions.

In its contribution, known in UN jargon as an  "intended nationally determined contribution", or INDC, Australia says that it will implement the upper range of its target (28%) "should circumstances allow".

It also stresses that it "reserves the right to adjust our target" ahead of its finalisation under the global agreement expected to be signed at the end of this year.

Assuming that Australia does meet the 28% end of the target, this is what Australia's emissions trajectory will look like up to 2030.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 At 11.22.11

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Explainer: New negotiating text provides clarity on UN climate deal

  • 28 Jul 2015, 17:00
  • Sophie Yeo

UN Photo/Mark Garten

The United Nations has released a new document outlining what the Paris climate deal could look like, which countries hope to sign in December this year.

The two diplomats responsible for steering the challenging negotiations towards a successful outcome in December, Dan Reifsnyder from the US and Ahmed Djoghlaf from Algeria, released a new text - or a "tool", as they are calling it - last Friday.

It is the product of a six weeks of work, following  the latest round of talks in June. It attempts to summarise the latest positions and thinking from the 196 parties involved in crafting the new deal, which will guide international efforts to tackle climate change beyond 2020.


The new text is based on the  Geneva negotiating text - an 86-page document that countries constructed in February, following a major round of talks in December 2014 in Lima.

The new text has been reduced to 76 pages through a process of careful streamlining. This largely involved erasing duplication and redundancies from the Geneva text - a messy, if comprehensive, document, that had, as far as it was possible, attempted to accommodate all parties' views.

The co-chairs have not removed any substantive language or options from the text concerning the final content of the agreement. This sort of whittling down is the responsibility of the parties, and is likely to commence in earnest in Bonn in upcoming sessions, the first of which begins this August

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Japan's 2030 climate pledge leaves room for coal expansion

  • 21 Jul 2015, 11:15
  • Sophie Yeo
Mt. Fuji with fall colors in Japan.

Mt Fuji | Shutterstock

Japan has finalised its emissions reductions pledge to the UN, targeting a 26% reduction below 2013 levels by 2030.

This goal was widely expected. The Japanese government proposed an early, informal version of the pledge, known as an "intended nationally determined contribution" (  INDC), in June. Despite a month of deliberations, the goals contained in this draft have not changed.

Japan's INDC is closely tied to its long-term energy strategy out to 2030, written by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and  published in Japanese on Thursday.

The government says that its 2030 emissions reductions targets are a "bottom-up calculation...based on the amount of domestic emission reductions and removals assumed to be obtained" by this strategy.

Japan's energy history

Until recently, nuclear formed the bedrock of Japan's energy supply, meaning that around 30% of its power was generated without emitting carbon dioxide.

That changed with the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Three of the plant's six nuclear reactions went into meltdown after it was hit by a tsunami triggered by an earthquake. Following this, almost all of Japan's nuclear reactions were either shut down or suspended. By 2014, Japan had gone from generating 29% of its electricity from nuclear to none at all.

Japan turned to fossil fuels to fill the gap, causing its emissions to rise. In 2013, Japan registered its highest rate of emissions to date, at 10.8% higher than they were in 1990. For comparison, the  EU saw its emissions peak in 1979.

This caused Japan to backtrack on its 2020 pledge under the Copenhagen accord. Originally, Japan had said it would reduce its emissions by  25% on 1990 levels. In November 2013, the government announced it would instead target a reduction of 3.8% below 2005 levels - equivalent to an  increase of 5.2% on 1990 levels.

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UK academics call for strong action on climate change at Paris summit

  • 21 Jul 2015, 06:00
  • Roz Pidcock

Tom Morris

Academics today threw their weight behind calls for a strong climate deal in Paris later this year, urging governments to take immediate action to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Today's communiqué, a joint endeavor by learned societies across the sciences, social sciences, arts, humanities, engineering and medicine, calls on governments, including the UK, to "seize the opportunity" in Paris to strike an ambitious deal to curb climate change.

Staying pretty close to what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its  latest report, the document doesn't cover new ground as such.

But it sends a signal to negotiators that the science community supports a global agreement in Paris, says  Prof Eric Wolff, professor of earth sciences at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of the Royal Society, one of the 24 institutions endorsing today's communiqué.

Other signatories include the British Ecological Society, the Institute of Physics, the Royal Astronomical Society, the Royal Meteorological Society and the Wellcome Trust.

Facing up to risk

In a few months' time, governments will meet in Paris to discuss how the world can limit global temperature to the  internationally-agreed 2C above pre-industrial levels.

Today's statement is an appeal to negotiators from the science community to base their discussions firmly in the latest science about the risks of exceeding 2C. It says:

"A rise of 2C above pre-industrial levels would lead to further increased risk from extreme weather and would place more ecosystems and cultures in significant danger. At or above 4C, the risks include substantial species extinction, global and regional food insecurity, and fundamental changes to human activities that today are taken for granted."

But climate change is not only a future problem. Prof Camille Parmesan, expert in the impacts of climate change on natural systems at the University of Plymouth, tells Carbon Brief that even with 0.8C of warming since pre-industrial times we are already starting to see a decline in biodiversity. She says:

"We're already seeing contraction of species in the most sensitive ecosystems, such as those dependent on sea ice or those living on mountain tops. We're also seeing declines in some tropical systems, such as coral reefs, and the valuable services they provide for fish nurseries, tourism and coastal protection."

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Analysis: How much does the UK spend abroad on 'climate finance'?

  • 15 Jul 2015, 09:55
  • Sophie Yeo

Flickr | DFID

In the world of climate finance, 2020 is an important year. By this point, as was agreed at the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009, developed countries are expected to "jointly mobilise" $100bn per annum for developing nations.

The agreement didn't identify exactly how this money should be raised. The final accord said: "This funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance." As is the case with other developed countries, pressure is growing on the UK to play its part.

Between now and 2020, there are no formal requirements on the UK to donate. But without proof that rich countries will contribute and have a credible plan to scale up funds between now and the end of the decade, many commentators say it will be difficult to strike a meaningful deal at the UN's climate conference in Paris this December.

The UK, which contributes 0.7% of its gross national income to overseas aid, is one of the most generous donors.

But how much of this goes towards climate finance, and how is it distributed? Carbon Brief looks at the available data.

Climate -finance -tree

Source: Rosamund Pearce for Carbon Brief

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    The Carbon Brief Interview: Syukuro Manabe

    • 07 Jul 2015, 11:45
    • Leo Hickman
    Portrait fo Syukuro Manabe

    Syukuro Manabe | InterAcademy Council

    Syukuro Manabe is the senior meteorologist on the program in atmospheric and oceanic sciences at Princeton University. After completing his doctorate at the University of Tokyo in 1958, he began working as a research meteorologist at the US Weather Bureau. From 1963-1997, he was the senior research meteorologist at NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. From 1997-2002, he was the director of global warming research program at the Frontier Research Center for Global Change in Japan.

    Yesterday, Carbon Brief published the results of its  survey of climate scientists asking them to name the most influential studies of all time. The clear winner was a paper published in 1967 written by Syukuro Manabe and Richard. T. Wetherald.

    The interview began via email:

    CB: Please can you compare, in lay terms, a climate model from that period [the late 1960s] to one today?

    SM: Parameterisations of subgrid scale processes (eg, moist convection, cloud, land surface processes) were much simpler. The large-scale process (eg, the dynamics and thermodynamics of atmospheric circulation) is practically identical.  

    CB: Did you realise at that stage the importance they would end up having - and how much they would be scrutinised and debated - decades later?

    SM: No. As the first step towards developing 3D model of the atmosphere, I developed 1D radiative-convective model of the atmosphere. As a by-product, I investigated the role of greenhouse gases for maintaining the vertical profile of temperature in the atmosphere and for causing it to change.

    CB: In the 1960s, you were using computers to better understand how our climate worked. Now computers are used to create projections for emissions scenarios and such like?

    SM: From 1960s onward, we were interested in understanding as well as predicting climate change. Equal emphasis should be placed on both of these objectives.

    CB: Are we too reliant on models in trying to form a policy response to climate change? Where should we be using models to our advantage? And where should we apply caution to their use?

    SM: Models have been very effective in predicting climate change, but have not been as effective in predicting its impact on ecosystem and human society. The distinction between the two has not been stated clearly. For this reason, major effort should be made to monitor globally not only climate change, but also its impact on ecosystem through remote sensing from satellites as well as in-situ observation.

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    Raise carbon price to address aviation emissions, says Airports Commission

    • 01 Jul 2015, 14:45
    • Sophie Yeo
    Heathrow airport departures sign with a plane in the sky

    Heathrow airport | Shutterstock

    The Airports Commission has  recommended a third runway at Heathrow, advising that this is the best way to expand the UK's aviation sector.

    While some, such as  Chancellor George Osborne, have focused on the boost that airport expansion could bring to the UK's economy, others have expressed doubt over whether the UK can simultaneously cater for increased demand for flights and hit its legally binding emissions targets.

    The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has recommended that, in order for the UK to cut its emissions 80% by 2050, emissions from aviation must be limited to 2005 levels. At this time, the sector emitted 37.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

    In February 2013, CCC chairman Lord Deben  wrote to Howard Davies, the head of the commission, to highlight the limitations imposed on the aviation industry by the need to constrain its carbon emissions.

    Davies has attempted to alleviate Deben's climate concerns in a  letter published today alongside the final commission report.

    An exchange of views

    Research by the commission in preparation for the report reveals the difficulties of expanding the UK's airport capacity and staying within the 37.5MtCO2 cap.

    A new runway at either Heathrow and Gatwick would push the UK's aviation sector beyond this limit - although Heathrow expansion would do so by a wider margin. Carbon Brief has already  explained the consequences in detail.

    In his letter to Davies, Deben wrote:

    "Aviation emissions at 2005 levels could be achieved with fuel and operational efficiency improvements, use of sustainable biofuels and by limiting demand growth to around 60% by 2050 compared to 2005."

    But limiting growth to 60% is easier said than done. The CCC  says that the number of passengers travelling by aeroplane could grow by more than 200% if airport expansion is unconstrained and there is no attempt to put a price on carbon.

    With some constraints and a carbon price of £200 per tonne of CO2 by 2050, growth in demand could be limited to 115% says the CCC - but this is still almost double its target.


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    Explainer: Aviation's battle to limit rising emissions

    • 30 Jun 2015, 10:45
    • Sophie Yeo
    Aircraft Landing

    Aircraft landing | Shutterstock

    Tomorrow, the Airports Commission is expected to make its recommendation on how to expand the aviation industry in the UK.

    Sir Howard Davies, the economist behind the report, has weighed up three options: a new runway at Heathrow, a new runway at Gatwick, and extending Heathrow's northern runway. 

    But a question mark hangs over how the new runway would be compatible with the UK's climate change targets, rendering it an issue of not where it should be built, but whether it should be built at all.

    The UK's dilemma is a microcosm of the global story of rapid expansion in the aviation industry, at a time when emissions need to rapidly decrease.

    UK aviation emissions

    Under the UK's 2008 Climate Change Act, emissions must be reduced by 80% on 1990 levels by 2050.

    In 2009, the government  decided that aviation emissions must be capped at 2005 levels - 37.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) - by 2050. However, in 2012, it  said it would not officially incorporate this target into its legally binding carbon budgets due to policy uncertainty at an international level.

    Nonetheless, the government has informally left space within its carbon budgets to accommodate 37.5MtCO2 from the aviation sector in 2050.

    Currently, aviation emissions are set to far exceed 2005 levels in 2050. Even if no new runways are built in the UK, CO2 emissions are expected to be at 47Mt in 2050, according to  statistics from the Department of Transport.

    Aviation Infographic FinalClick to expand. Credit: Rosamund Pearce for Carbon Brief

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