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Daily Briefing

30.10.2018
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING £60m ‘greenery drive’ to plant 10m trees in England
£60m ‘greenery drive’ to plant 10m trees in England

News.

£60m 'greenery drive' to plant 10m trees in England

More than 10m trees will be planted across England with the injection of £60m of new funding over five years, the Guardian reports. The money was announced as part of chancellor Philip Hammond’s 2018 budget yesterday. Most of the money, £50m, will pay landowners for planting trees that lock up carbon. The Woodland Trust said the money was a step in the right direction in terms of tackling climate change and wildlife losses, but not enough in total, the Guardian adds. The Independent reports that environmental campaigners condemned the small amount set aside for tree planting in comparison to the £30bn – 500 times more – pledged for roads. “Reforesting Britain needs root-and-branch reforms in the way we use land, not just a few million quid for saplings,” said Liz Hutchins, Friends of the Earth campaign director, according to the Independent. “We need to double the UK’s forest cover if we’re going to avoid climate breakdown, and this won’t be nearly enough money.” BusinessGreen reports that Hammond’s address “paid scant regard to climate change, energy, and broader environmental issues” but that the Red Book providing the detailed policy and tax changes contained in the Budget did feature “a raft of new environmental and climate policy moves”. The Financial Times leads on the provisional £16-a-tonne carbon emissions tax set out in the budget in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The level is broadly in line with the current EU ETS price, the FT adds, suggesting “it would be high enough to continue disincentivising the use of coal by power plants and factories”. As Carbon Brief’s in-depth budget coverage notes, the chancellor also maintained the UK’s top-up Carbon Price Support at £18/tCO2, such that total carbon prices would be more or less maintained – though the budget also signalled a cut from 2021-22 if prices “remain high”. BloombergReuters and Carbon Pulse also have the story. BusinessGreen also has a summary of the reaction to the budget from the green economy, while its editor James Murray asks what Hammond’s assertion of the “end of austerity” means for climate action. “[W]hat is notable by its absence from the speculation about how the ‘end of austerity’ will be put into practice is any indication that it will mean an end to environmental austerity,” he writes. Writing in the Guardian, Green party MP and co-leader Caroline Lucas says no mention of climate change was “unforgivable”. “The only explanation is that the chancellor lost a whole section of his speech,” she writes. “This was the most nature-depleted budget in decades.”

The Guardian Read Article
Fracking company Cuadrilla wants relaxation of quake rules

Fracking firm Cuadrilla is calling for the safety limits on earthquakes caused by its activity to be relaxed, the Times reports. The request comes after a small tremor yesterday forced Cuadrilla to stop work for the second time in four days, it adds. Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive, said the limit for a “red” event which requires fracking to stop should be increased to a magnitude of 2 on the Richter scale, up from 0.5 today. The tremor yesterday, of 1.1 magnitude, was the biggest so far, the Guardian reports. The stop-start of operations will cost Cuadrilla financially, the Guardian adds, with lawyers for the firm having said every day of delay costs £94,000. The delays due to the tremors were widely covered in the media, including in the BBCITV NewsReuters, the Financial Times, the Independent and the MailOnline. The Press Association also produced a piece on “everything you need to know about fracking and earthquakes”. Carbon Brief’s Q&A on fracking in the UK from last year looks at what it could mean for the climate.

The Times Read Article
Climate change is 'escalator to extinction' for mountain birds

Scientists have produced new evidence that climate change is the extinction of driving tropical bird species who live near a mountain top, BBC News reports. Birds living at the highest levels cannot go any higher to escape a warmer world, and have been forecast to decline, it adds. A separate BBC News story reports on a recent study which found nearly 35% of the world’s wetlands were lost between 1970 and 2015. “Cities around the world are frequently flooding during extreme weather, largely because they are fast losing the wetlands that work as a natural defence, experts warn,” the BBC adds. Meanwhile the Times reports that wildlife populations have fallen globally by an average of 60% since 1970, according to this year’s “Living Planet Report” compiled by the Zoological Society of London and WWF. Pollution and climate change are among the threats to wildlife, the report said. The report said a “global deal” for wildlife similar to the Paris agreement is needed to protect animals.

BBC News Read Article
Paris Agreement: National carbon targets failing to match international pledges

Only a handful of countries have enshrined Paris Agreement pledges in national legislation, BusinessGreen reports. A new report from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy finds greenhouse gas emission reduction pledges submitted under the Paris Agreement may be insufficient to deliver on the treaty’s goal of keeping temperature increases “well below” 2C, but that even those pledges are at risk of being missed. Carbon Brief’s climate pledge tracker summarises the pledges made by each country.

BusinessGreen Read Article

Comment.

Brazil’s new president will make it harder to limit climate change

“It is being described as a catastrophe for the planet,” writes Michael Le Page in New Scientist of the election of Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil. His election “looks likely to further weaken protections for the Amazon rainforest and make the goal of limiting global warming to under 2C even harder to achieve,” says Page. An rare editorial in Climate Home News warns that “what happens now is a matter for the whole planet”. “It is Climate Home News’ view that the election of the former army captain is the most critical new threat to efforts to control climate change,” the editorial says, based on the promises and statements Bolsonaro has made, in particular with regards to the Amazon. CHN says his “political pivot” to the powerful agricultural lobby is particularly worrying. In Motherboard, Ed Atkins says Bolsonaro’s Brazil is a “disaster” for the Amazon and global climate change. Buzzfeed meanwhile has an article on “why climate activists are hitting the panic button” over Bolsonaro. “If he opens the Amazon to more business, as his backers want, he threatens the country’s ability to meet its climate goals under the Paris climate agreement – and the world’s ability to prevent catastrophic climate change,” says the article.

Michael Le Page, New Scientist Read Article

Science.

Let it snow

The November issue of Nature Climate Change features a special collection – in print and online – dedicated to the topic of snow. It includes comment articles, reviews, perspectives and original research “documenting the importance of snow in the climate system, and how this may change with continued warming”. For example, one paper reports that snow coverage is now one month shorter across large swathes of the northern hemisphere compared to 40 years ago.

Nature Climate Change Read Article
Climate change causes upslope shifts and mountaintop extirpations in a tropical bird community

Recent warming is causing an “escalator to extinction” for birds in the Andes, a new study warns. While species that live on mountains can shift it higher elevations as temperatures warm, those that live only near mountaintops may run out of room. The researchers find that high-elevation species on a remote Peruvian mountain “have shrunk in range size and declined in abundance, and several previously common species have disappeared”. The findings support projections that warming will likely drive widespread local and global extinctions of “high-elevation taxa in the tropical Andes”, the study concludes.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Read Article
Stability of the arctic halocline: A new indicator of arctic climate change

A new study proposes a new Arctic climate change indicator based on the strength of the Arctic halocline – a salinity barrier which marks the transition between the layer of cold, fresh water and sea ice in the upper Arctic Ocean and the warmer, saltier water beneath. This indicator provides a measure of the vulnerability of sea ice to transfer of heat up though the ocean, the researchers say, as well as how well-mixed the ocean is – which affects exchanges in nutrients and carbon. It can therefore provide “a powerful tool for detecting and monitoring transition of the Arctic Ocean towards a seasonally ice-free Arctic Ocean”, the authors conclude.

Environmental Research Letters Read Article

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