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Daily Briefing

20.08.2021
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING A billion children at ‘extreme risk’ from climate impacts – Unicef
A billion children at ‘extreme risk’ from climate impacts – Unicef

News.

A billion children at ‘extreme risk’ from climate impacts – Unicef
The Guardian Read Article

A new report from Unicef warns that almost half the world’s 2.2 billion children are already at “extremely high risk” from the impacts of climate change, reports the Guardian. The analysis, which combines high-resolution maps of climate and environmental impacts with maps of child vulnerability, finds that nearly every child around the world was already at risk from at least one type of environmental hazard, such as heatwaves, floods, cyclones, disease, drought and air pollution, the paper explains. It adds that one billion children “live in 33 countries facing three or four impacts simultaneously”, including India, Nigeria and the Philippines, and much of sub-Saharan Africa. At the report’s launch – with youth climate activists on the third anniversary of Greta Thunberg’s first school strike – Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore said: “For the first time, [this report gives] a complete picture of where and how children are vulnerable to climate change, and that picture is almost unimaginably dire. Virtually no child’s life will be unaffected.” According to Unicef’s Children’s Climate Risk Index, the UK comes in at 111th on the index of 163 countries, says the Daily Telegraph, which is less vulnerable than the US at 80th but more vulnerable than the trio of Iceland, Luxembourg and New Zealand that face the least risk. The Unicef index “also revealed that countries which have contributed the least to carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere face the worst consequences of climate change”, says the Times. Fore said that “improving children’s access to essential services, such as water and sanitation, health, and education, can significantly increase their ability to survive these climate hazards”, reports BusinessGreen. She added: “Unicef urges governments and businesses to listen to children and prioritise actions that protect them from impacts, while accelerating work to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” The Hill also has the story.

Greta Thunberg accuses the UK of lying about its climate success ahead of COP26
The i Newspaper Read Article

Climate campaigner Greta Thunberg has accused the UK of lying about its progress on tackling climate change, reports the i newspaper, in what the outlet describes as “an embarrassing broadside directed at the hosts of the COP26 climate conference”. Speaking at the launch of the Unicef Children’s Climate Risk Index (see above), Thunberg said that “there’s a lie that the UK is a climate leader and that they have reduced their emissions by 45% since 1990”, pointing out the statistics do not include the UK’s share of emissions from international aviation, shipping and imported goods, the outlet explains. Thunberg continued: “If you don’t include all emissions of course the statistics are going to look much nicer…I’m really hoping that we stop referring to the UK as a climate leader, because if you look at the reality that is simply not true. They are very good at creative carbon accounting, I must give them that, but it doesn’t mean much in practice.” Thunberg also criticised global leaders for continuing to treat climate change as a “faraway, distant problem”, reports the Daily Telegraph. She said: “It feels like…they’re trying to create loopholes, instead of actually trying to find solutions that would actually turn things around.” Thunberg said leaders needed to act rather than just talk at COP26, reports Reuters, adding: “I don’t expect them to do that, but I would be more than happy if they could prove me wrong.” Sky News also has the story.

Extinction Rebellion to target City of London
The Times Read Article

Extinction Rebellion (XR) says it plans to disrupt the City of London with a protest lasting at least two weeks from Monday, reports the Times, but has said it has no plans to target public transport directly. The activist group said next week’s protests would include marches and site occupations in the City of London and it expected them “to be disruptive”, the paper notes. XR said the protests would be “joyous” and have a “celebratory” air while highlighting the billions poured into fossil fuels and high-carbon activities by financiers based in London’s financial districts, reports the Guardian. The Evening Standard reports the comments of lawyer and XR activist Tim Crosland, who said: “The City of London is the arch financier of the carbon economy. It supports 15% of global carbon emissions…It hosts BP, Shell, Glencore, Anglo American, and Russian oil and gas companies such as Gazprom and Rosneft.” XR protesters have already held a demonstration at ExxonMobil’s Fawley Refinery in Hampshire – the biggest oil refinery in the UK – calling for an end to investment in fossil fuels, reports DeSmogHampshireLive says the campaigners “blocked the entrance to ExxonMobil’s Hythe Terminal near Fawley Refinery in Hampshire in a protest against Fawley expansion plans”. Reuters also covers the planned protests.

UK: Only small cuts in flying and driving needed to beat climate change, says Blair institute
The Times Read Article

A report from Tony Blair’s thinktank says that the UK’s net-zero target can be reached with small reductions in flying and driving and continuing to eating meat and dairy, reports the Times, which puts the story on its frontpage with the headline, “Only minor change needed to hit climate target, say experts”. The report from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change “rebuts claims that meeting the UK’s legally binding target of net-zero by 2050 will require a ‘total transformation’ of people’s daily lives and says the number of behaviour changes needed over the next 15 years is ‘relatively limited’”, the paper continues. [Note, the report says that “meeting the net-zero goal – and our arguably more difficult interim targets in 2030 and 2035 – cannot rely on technology deployment alone. It will also require significant behavioural changes from consumers (and voters) across the country”.] For example, the report suggests that “average kilometres travelled per person by plane would need to fall by only about 6% between 2019 and 2035”, the paper says, while meat and dairy consumption would have to be cut by 20%, but ‘we do not all need to become vegetarian’“. The Daily Express notes that, according to the report, “living standards would not be impacted in order for emissions savings to hit the target needed”. The MailOnline also has the story.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that leaders from across the energy, construction, financial services and housing industries are pressing the government to “urgently” develop a strategy to deal with the UK’s inefficient, leaky homes or “risk missing” its 2050 net-zero target. And a joint investigation between the Independent and DeSmog uncovers that Conservative MP Brendan Clarke-Smith – who claimed that the UK’s net-zero goal would be a “hard sell” to voters because of inaction from China – took a £3,000 donation from a car import business operating in the country.

China’s carbon trading scheme could reduce emissions by 30-60% by 2060, report says
South China Morning Post Read Article

China’s national emissions trading scheme (ETS) – which started trading on 16 July – can potentially reduce the country’s carbon emissions by 30-60% of current levels by 2060, South China Morning Post reports, citing new analysis. The findings suggest that the national ETS’s initial impact would be “limited”, but the scheme could lead to a “more material change” in industries and companies it covers by the middle of this decade”, the publication writes. Meanwhile, China Daily, a state-run newspaper, reports that China’s carbon market “has been operating smoothly” since its launch last month. The outlet cites Huang Runqiu, the minister of ecology and environment. A separate opinion piece in China Daily says that the national ETS has “the potential to play a key role in achieving China’s long-term climate goals”. The piece is authored by Yue Xiaohua, associate professor at the Institute of Law, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Elsewhere, Yicai, a Chinese financial outlet, reports that the eastern parts of China will bear “higher climate risks” in the future compared to the rest of the country, according to Chao Qingchen, deputy director of the National Climate Centre. Commenting on the IPCC report, Chao told the press on Wednesday that China was expected to witness more intense extreme weather events and higher chances of compound and concurrent extreme events due to increasing climate change. In particular, eastern China – an economically developed and densely populated part of the country – would be a “highly risky” area to extreme precipitation, she noted. National Business Daily and China News Service, a state-run newswire, also feature Chao’s remarks. (For more details on compound events, see Carbon Brief’s explainer on what the IPCC report says about extreme weather.)

In other China-related news, Bloomberg says that the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in northern China has greenlighted a “massive” power project that will use solar and wind to produce green hydrogen. CNBC explains how China’s extreme weather “deals a big blow” to insurance companies. It notes that the severe flooding in central China’s Henan province last month resulted in a “record single-event” insurance loss of $1.7bn. China’s state news agency, Xinhua, says that the country has released “a slew of” policies to “turbocharge” the energy storage industry. The official outlet writes that power generation firms are “encouraged” to build energy storage facilities and improve their capability to “shift” peak loads. Finally, People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, reports that China’s market regulator has set up a dedicated “leaders group” to support the efforts for emission peaking and carbon neutrality.

US: Biden administration to review climate impacts of federal coal leases
Reuters Read Article

The Biden administration announced yesterday that it would conduct a formal review of coal sales on federal lands to study their impact on climate change and value to American taxpayers, reports Reuters. The review “seeks to pick up where a previous analysis started during the administration of Democrat Barack Obama left off. That review, which put a temporary stop to federal coal leasing, was shelved [by] former President Donald Trump”, the newswire explains, adding: “The move is the latest in a string of efforts by the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden to address climate change by reining in fossil fuel development on public lands.” An Interior Department spokesperson said the review was “in response to longstanding concerns about the federal coal leasing program”. The spokesperson also said the review isn’t expected to affect lease sales, lease changes or permitting for existing leases, notes the Hill. The Washington Post looks at how “court actions this week make it clear that the US judiciary is shaping the United States’ climate trajectory as much as the White House”.

In other US news, the Hill reports that the Dixie wildfire is the first in recorded history to burn across the Sierra Nevada. The New York Times reports that forecasts suggests that the severe drought that has gripped much of the western half of the US in spring and summer is likely to continue at least into late fall. And Reuters reports on how “drought-weakened bee colonies” in the US are affected production of honey and almonds. Finally, the Wall Street Journal looks at how “changing climate is making heatwaves hotter, longer and more frequent” in the US.

Rain fell at the normally snowy summit of Greenland for the first time on record

For the first time on record, precipitation at the summit of Greenland, roughly two miles above sea level, fell as rain on Saturday and not snow, reports CNN. It continues: “Temperatures at the Greenland summit over the weekend rose above freezing for the third time in less than a decade. The warm air fuelled an extreme rain event that dumped 7bn tonnes of water on the ice sheet…It was the heaviest rainfall on the ice sheet since record keeping began in 1950, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), and the amount of ice mass lost on Sunday was seven times higher than normal for this time of year.” Jennifer Mercer, programme officer for the Office of Polar Programs at the National Science Foundation, tells the outlet that, because of the rain event, operations at the Summit Station would need to change: “It means that we need to consider weather events that we have not had to deal with before in the history of our operations there”. She adds: “Increasing weather events including melting, high winds, and now rain, over the last 10 years have occurred outside the range of what is considered normal…And these seem to be occurring more and more”. The Washington Post reports the comments of Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the NSIDC, who says: “This event by itself does not have a huge impact, but it’s indicative of the increasing extent, duration, and intensity of melting on Greenland…Like the heat wave in the [US Pacific] north-west, it’s something that’s hard to imagine without the influence of global climate change.”

Comment.

After Greta Thunberg’s strike, adults are still failing children on climate change
Greta Thunberg, Adriana Calderón, Farzana Faruk Jhumu and Eric Njuguna, The New York Times Read Article

In a guest essay for the New York Times, a group of youth climate activists from Sweden, Mexico, Bangladesh and Kenya, working with the international youth-led Fridays For Future movement – including Greta Thunberg – write that “young people like us have been sounding this alarm for years. You just haven’t listened”. Tomorrow marks “three years since Greta Thunberg’s strike”, they write, “and today, millions of children and young people have united in a movement with one voice, demanding that decision-makers do the work necessary to save our planet from the unprecedented heatwaves, massive floods and vast wildfires we are increasingly witnessing. Our protest will not end until the inaction does”. For children and young people, “climate change is the single greatest threat to our futures”, they say, pointing to a new “Children’s Climate Risk Index” from Unicef that will “provide the first comprehensive view of where and how this crisis affects children”. They continue: “The fundamental goal of the adults in any society is to protect their young and do everything they can to leave a better world than the one they inherited. The current generation of adults, and those that came before, are failing at a global scale.” And they conclude: “We have less than 100 days until the UN climate change conference, also known as COP26, in Glasgow. The world’s climate scientists have made it clear that the time is now – we must act urgently to avoid the worst possible consequences. The world’s young people stand with the scientists and will continue to sound the alarm. We are in a crisis of crises. A pollution crisis. A climate crisis. A children’s rights crisis. We will not allow the world to look away.”

Science.

Co‐occurrence of California drought and north-east Pacific marine heatwaves under climate change
Geophysical Research Letters Read Article

Climate change will “dramatically increase” the frequency with which two weather extremes – drought in California and marine heatwaves in the nearby north-east Pacific Ocean – occur together, a new study says. Researchers use climate model outputs to analyse sea surface temperatures and soil moisture content out to the end of the 21st century. They find that, due to the increasing frequency of both types of events under a warming climate, the frequency with which drought and marine heatwaves co-occur will increase by 50% by 2100. The authors write: “Understanding changes not just in extremes but in their co-occurrence is critical to projecting the future impacts of multiple ecosystem stressors.”

THE BRIEF

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Get a Daily or Weekly round-up of all the important articles and papers selected by Carbon Brief by email. By entering your email address you agree for your data to be handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy.