Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Biden to tap former Michigan governor Granholm to lead energy department
- US must invest $2.5tn by 2030 to get to zero carbon
- Fed joins central bankers backing Paris climate goals
- Earth may be even closer to 1.5C of global warming than we thought
- The Morrison government subsidising dirty fuel amid the climate crisis beggars belief
- The energy white paper and the nuclear stand-off
- Calculation of external climate costs for food highlights inadequate pricing of animal products
- An updated assessment of near‐surface temperature change from 1850: the HadCRUT5 dataset
The coverage of US president-elect Joe Biden’s picks for top climate and energy jobs continues, with several publication reporting on the apparent decision to bring in former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm to run the energy department. Politico notes that this is the agency that will play a “key role” in developing the technologies needed to fulfil Biden’s “pledge to move the country off fossil fuels”. It adds that Granholm’s experience dealing with the car industry would prove useful as the new administration seeks to scale up the rollout of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure. Other responsibilities mentioned in the article include supporting the rollout of renewables and reducing emissions from the nation’s building stock. The Independent notes that Biden’s vision for the department is in “stark contrast” to the one helmed by current president Donald Trump’s appointees, who used the position to support fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, citing “two sources familiar with the process”, Reuters confirms reports that Biden will name Gina McCarthy, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under president Barack Obama, to a “new role leading domestic climate policy coordination at the White House”. Currently, the president of environmental group the Natural Resources Defense Council, McCarthy helped create some of the Obama administration’s “signature climate policies” such as the Clean Power Plan, the news wire reports. The Financial Times adds that, while the Biden transition team declined to comment on these reported appointments, a person “familiar with its deliberations” said both women had been chosen because they were “experienced leaders who would be ready to lead from day one”. The newspaper says the picks of Granholm and McCarthy were expected to be welcomed by progressive groups, “which have lobbied hard to make sure no candidates who were viewed as too close, or too sympathetic, to the fossil fuel sector were given the roles”. The newspaper adds that Biden announced on Tuesday he would nominate former presidential rival Pete Buttigieg to be his transport secretary, a post which, if confirmed, would make him the first ever openly gay cabinet secretary. In a New York Times piece compiling all of this week’s reported environmental staff appointments for the new administration, it notes that the transport role is is “expected to become climate-centric” under Biden. It reports that the final pick to lead the EPA “might not come until after Christmas”. Bloomberg also covers the appointments, noting that Biden was picking a “team of veteran leaders to fight climate change”.
A report by Princeton University researchers suggests it will cost $2.5tn (£1.85tn) in spending over the next decade to get the US on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050, according to Bloomberg. However, crucially, the analysis concludes that developing renewables, building energy efficient homes and rolling out electric vehicles would “help to pay for itself”, the website adds. The New York Times also reports on the paper, noting that the net-zero target it examines has been endorsed by president-elect Joe Biden, as well as numerous states and businesses. The newspaper says the study is based on “several exhaustively detailed scenarios” which arrived at “a common set of drastic changes that the US would need to make over the next decade to stay on pace for zero emissions”. According to the article, these include nearly doubling the rate of wind and solar expansion over the next decade, expanding the electricity grid capacity by roughly 60% by 2030, increasing sales of electric cars from 2% to 50% within a decade and shutting down “virtually all” of the 200 remaining coal-burning power plants by 2030.
In Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that the UK’s Climate Change Committee is encouraging leaders to follow its government’s lead and legislate carbon reduction targets. The piece notes that a bill had been introduced into the House of Representatives that mimics the UK’s Climate Change Act by independent MP Zali Steggall. While the bill was rejected, the CCC’s chief economist Mike Thompson has written to Steggall’s parliamentary inquiry into setting such goals to endorse the idea of UK-style targets.
Meanwhile, in the UK, the i newspaper reports that minister have been accused of “rowing back” on green commitments after announcing an initial investment in the offshore wind industry “which is less than half the amount originally pledged”. The funding in question was announced in the recent “10-point plan” to address climate change, and was made up of £160m for “modern ports and manufacturing infrastructure” to support offshore wind. According to the newspaper, a proposed contract published by the government is for “a sum of around £70m”. Carbon Brief has more on the 10-point plan.
The US Federal Reserve has announced that it has joined an international group of central banks supporting the international climate targets and focusing on climate change risk, the Financial Times reports. The Fed is one of eight new members to join the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) and the move comes as the new president-elect Joe Biden intends to re-join the Paris Agreement, the piece notes. Reuters states that for years the bank has “stayed on the sidelines” as other central banks pushed to use their regulatory and research clout to address global warming. However, it notes that this appears to be changing as last month for the first time the Fed included climate change in its regular assessment of financial stability vulnerabilities. The New York Times says the new decision to join an international climate network had come “to applause from the left”. The newspaper says the move is the latest sign that the bank must take extreme weather events into account as they pose a growing risk to the financial system, “whether doing so is politically palatable or not”.
Emissions may have warmed the planet 18% more than previously thought, “raising the prospect of the world having less time than expected to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement”, according to New Scientist. The article is based on a new paper from scientists at the Met Office, which brings the world’s three key temperature datasets “in line” and suggests the temperature increase so far is towards the upper end of previous ranges. According to the magazine, the global temperature is thought to have increased around 1.07C since pre-industrial times, up from a previous estimate of 0.91C. It notes that with this update the Met Office’s Hadley Centre Climatic Research Unit Temperature (HadCRUT5) is now more aligned with the higher estimates provided by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The article quotes one of the authors, Prof Tim Osborn of the University of East Anglia, who says: “Climate change hasn’t suddenly got worse. It’s just our estimate of how much warming has taken place has improved.“ The Daily Telegraph also covers the story.
Dr Bill Hare, a climate scientist and managing director of Climate Analytics, writes for the Guardian about Australia’s lack of appropriate policies to tackle emissions from transport, stating that energy minister Angus Taylor “seems to be wilfully ignoring Australia’s huge transport emissions problem”. He says that a new federal strategy around electric vehicles (EVs) does not appear to be suitably ambitious. “A draft discussion document, which was leaked on Tuesday, contains no emissions standards, nor targets for EVs (nor any other new support for them), except an already-announced co-funding arrangement for charging stations,” he writes, adding that the Australian fleet of 19.2m vehicles is one of the world’s most polluting and least efficient. Hare notes that the resources apparently set aside for EVs in the leaked draft discussion document “appear dwarfed by the planned AUS$2.3bn (£1.29bn) subsidy to oil refineries”. To tackle this sector, he concludes that Australia needs “stringent new standards for the CO2 emissions intensity of new vehicles, a target for EVs, incentives to support their uptake – and of course strategies to increase the share of public transport”.
BusinessGreen editor James Murray writes following a string of media coverage examining the UK’s new energy white paper, much of which focused on the government’s plan to build new large nuclear capacity. He says that while the government’s decision to pursue talks over a new Sizewell C nuclear plant have dominated the headlines he is “not sure the inevitable reignition of the row over the UK’s nuclear plans is the most important part of the long-awaited energy white paper”. He says that the “reality is the government was always going to keep the door open for new nuclear in the UK”, but notes that “for me it risks distracting from the huge sweeping significance of…the exciting new phase of the UK’s green industrial revolution plans”. He continues: “Here is a credible, coherent, and, dare I say it, holistic plan for building a zero-emission energy system that promises action on pretty much every single front that can enable that core goal of a ‘decisive and permanent shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels’”. Murray says there is still a lot of policy detail to be consulted on and finalised, but concludes that its ultimate message is “huge changes are coming”.
The cost of foodstuffs is much higher when accounting for “external” factors such as environmental and societal impacts, a new study finds. The researchers say that external greenhouse gas costs are highest for conventional and organic animal-based products, followed by conventional fairy products and lowest for organic plant-based products. The authors conclude that “policy measures that close the gap between current market prices and the true costs of food” are needed. Carbon Brief recently explored the climate impact of meat and dairy in an interactive feature.
A new study presents an updated version of the Met Office Hadley Centre/Climatic Research Unit global surface temperature dataset, HadCRUT5. This dataset is a record of monthly average near‐surface temperatures, relative to the 1961-1990 period, from 1850 to 2018, compiled using data from ships, buoys and land-based weather stations. This update includes an improved dataset of sea‐surface temperature, which better accounts for historical changes in how ships and buoys take measurements at sea. The update also includes an expanded compilation of measurements made at weather stations on land. For more on data adjustments, see Carbon Brief’s explainer.
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