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Daily Briefing

19.06.2020
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Bank of England bond portfolio ‘at odds with climate goals’
Bank of England bond portfolio ‘at odds with climate goals’

News.

Bank of England bond portfolio ‘at odds with climate goals’

In its first assessment of the climate risks it faces, the Bank of England has “admitted” that its corporate bond holdings have emissions footprints that are not aligned with the Paris Agreement targets, according to the Times. The assessment considers climate risks to the bank’s asset portfolio, which it said is “materially aligned with that of the UK”, the newspaper reports. While this means it has a low carbon footprint relative to other G7 nations, the banks notes it “needed to go further to meet climate goals”. Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reports that BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, has voted to kick out bosses at Volvo and London-listed miner Evra after they failed to make progress on climate risk reporting. The newspaper describes the action as “a warning shot at boardrooms failing to tackle climate change”.

Reuters reports that the Vatican has told Catholics to drop any investments in the arms trade and fossil-fuel industries, with a manual telling them to “shun companies that are harmful to human or social ecology, such as abortion and armaments, and to the environment, such as fossil fuels”.

In an “exclusive” story, City AM reports acting Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey has called for every high street bank and building society in the UK to offer “green accounts” that invest in green technology and the green economy.

Finally, a piece in Bloomberg examines the difficulty of assessing how much climate change costs, noting the “economics of climate attribution are lagging behind the impacts of dangerous weather”. It concludes that while there is a “cottage industry” of economists “trying to tally bottom-up economic costs of climate change. There’s still a long way to go to get to anything close to a full accounting”.

The Times Read Article
Hopes for EU-China climate deal centre on a green recovery

The coronavirus crisis offers an opportunity for the EU and China to “cooperate on building a greener global economy” and inspiring other countries to do the same, according to observers who discuss the issue in a new feature for ChinaDialogue. This comes after a landmark summit between the two world powers was delayed by the pandemic, dashing hopes that this would be an opportunity to forge a new climate deal, the website notes. It adds that a “joint push” is still seen as “the best hope to drive global climate action and build momentum ahead of next year’s UN climate talks”. The article marks the first in a series co-published by Clean Energy Wire and ChinaDialogue exploring the prospects for EU-China cooperation on climate, investment and the low-carbon transition.

Meanwhile, following the International Energy Agency publishing its “sustainable recovery plan” yesterday (which was covered by Carbon Brief), the Financial Times reports that several governments and investor groups have “thrown their weight behind” the proposal. Those welcoming the strategy include Spain and Denmark, and a group of investors representing more than £10tn in assets, the newspaper reports.

In more green recovery news, Reuters reports that EU lawmakers have approved green finance rules under the so-called “sustainable finance taxonomy” that ensure investments “do not prop up polluting industries”, something they say should also guide spending of hundreds of billions of euros in coronavirus recovery funds. The European Commission’s proposal for a green European recovery is detailed in Carbon Brief’s interactive tracker, which was published earlier this week and will be updated as more packages are announced. A piece in Bloomberg reports that green investors in the EU are buying “pollution allowances” in a bet on tighter rules after the shock of coronavirus lockdowns.

BusinessGreen notes that UK business secretary Alok Sharma has emphasised the role of finance in a green recovery as he announced £12m of funding “to help advance low carbon economies in Asia, Africa, and South America”.

ChinaDialogue Read Article
Coronavirus will hasten ‘peak oil’ by three years, says research firm

The Financial Times reports that research firm Rystad Energy has adjusted its estimate for the world hitting “peak oil” consumption from “around 2030” to “2027 or 2028”. The paper notes that in its annual report the company has cut its estimate of potential oil production “by an amount that exceeds the reserves of Saudi Arabia” as the coronavirus crisis continues to drive significant structural changes to the market. The American Petroleum Institute has reported demand for petroleum in the US increased by 14% last month over demand in April, after dropping dramatically in the early days of the crisis, according to the Hill.

Meanwhile, ABC News reports on concerns from Fijian and Samoan leaders that climate change action will “lose momentum” amid the ongoing pandemic, as Pacific island nations try to convince all countries to register more ambitious emissions reductions targets under the Paris Agreement this year.

Financial Times Read Article
Climate change tied to pregnancy risks, affecting black mothers most

The risk of babies being born prematurely, underweight or stillborn rises in pregnant women who are exposed to high temperatures or air pollution, according to a new study reported by the New York Times which examined more than 32m births in the US. It notes a key finding that African-American mothers and babies are harmed “at a much higher rate than the population at large”. According to the newspaper, the research adds to a “growing body of evidence” that ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by pollution and global warming. The Guardian also reports on the study, pointing out that social determinants of health, such as poverty and stress levels, impact people of colour the most, and noting a “growing movement among medical practitioners” that aims to educate patients about climate change.

Separately, another piece in the Guardian features insights from BAME activists and academics in the US and the UK discussing how addressing systemic racism is “fundamental to achieving environmental and climate justice”. It notes that these “environmental inequalities” are being emphasised by the coronavirus crisis.

Finally, E&E News reports on a “slip-up” by communications firm CRC Advisors that allegedly revealed oil firm Chevron was behind a messaging campaign during Black Lives Matter protests suggesting white environmentalists are hurting black communities. An email sent to journalists by the company stated: “Despite this claimed solidarity, environmental organisations, composed of predominantly white members, are backing radical policies like the Green New Deal which would bring particular harm to minority communities”. The new website notes that the email ended with “a revealing tagline”: “If you would rather not receive future communications from Chevron, let us know by clicking here”. Chevron has “denied involvement in the messaging campaign”, according to E&E News.

The New York Times Read Article
UK is no longer a 'wet and rainy' country, head of Environment Agency says

The Daily Telegraph reports on comments from the head of the UK environment agency about the national impact of climate change. Sir James Bevan tells the paper: “Most people will look out the window today and think ‘it’s raining – this is a wet country, and we don’t need to worry about water’. And they’re wrong.“ The new report from the agency finds that more than 70% of people see the UK “as a wet and rainy country and believe we have enough water to meet our needs”, but Sir James notes periods of extreme dry weather, linked to climate change, are putting strains on our water resources. The Daily Mail also has a piece about the new report and the agency’s request for people to turn off taps and take showers to save water.

Meanwhile, in the US, after a May that “tied for the hottest on record”, the New York Times reports that government scientists at the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration anticipate a “blistering summer”, with hotter than average temperatures across almost the entire country.

The Daily Telegraph Read Article

Comment.

Green investing has shortcomings

An Economist editorial considers the issues surrounding climate finance, which it says “suffers from woolly thinking, marketing guff and bad data”. While it notes that finance does have a key role in fighting climate change, it says “a far more rigorous approach is needed, and soon”. The piece notes a few factors that are leading to these shortcomings, including the relatively limited influence fund managers can have on some firms, difficulties in assessing the carbon footprints of corporations and lack of motivation. “That is because the externalities of greenhouse-gas emissions are not accurately priced into the cost of energy. Dedicated green investors might still call for climate-friendly decisions, but they might not carry enough weight to determine how firms behave,” the leader states. It says governments must “force firms to improve their disclosure”, noting that “asset managers need to drop the gimmicks and set coherent and measurable objectives”. Finally, it concludes that carbon taxes have the power to “unlock” finance, giving investors and banks a strong motive to shift “away from dirty industries”. “Climate finance is still in its infancy. There is a lot of room for improvement.” The Economist also has a feature headlined: “How much can financiers do about climate change?”

Editorial, The Economist Read Article

Science.

Strong intensification of hourly rainfall extremes by urbanisation

A new study assesses the impact of the urban heat island effect on short‐duration heavy rainfall events. Using the case study of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, the researchers find that “hourly intensities of extreme rainfall have increased by ~35% over the last three decades, nearly three times more than in surrounding rural areas, with daily intensities showing much weaker increases”. The researchers explain that “the urban heat island effect creates a more unstable atmosphere, increased vertical uplift and moisture convergence”, adding: “This, combined with weak surface winds in the Tropics, causes intensification of rainfall extremes over the city, with reduced rainfall in the surrounding region.”

Geophysical Research Letters Read Article

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