Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Boris Johnson considers giving drivers up to £6,000 in diesel and petrol car scrappage scheme
- Earth just had its warmest May on record amid startling Siberian heat wave
- China threatens to pull plug on new British nuclear plants
- This recovery will be greener than the last one
- Strong summer atmospheric rivers trigger Greenland ice sheet melt through spatially varying surface energy balance and cloud regimes
- Phenology of heat waves over India
In a frontpage “exclusive”, today’s Daily Telegraph reports that “drivers will be given up to £6,000 to swap their petrol or diesel cars for electric ones under plans being considered by Boris Johnson ahead of a major speech to relaunch the economy”. It adds: “Mr Johnson is understood to have pencilled in Monday, 6 July for the speech, in which he will set out his plans to get Britain back on its feet. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, is expected to make a statement on the economy shortly afterwards…The Telegraph understands that one of the most eye-catching ideas currently intended for the speech is a new car scrappage scheme, inspired by Gordon Brown’s diesel scrappage drive but this time focused on electric vehicles. Britain’s three biggest car makers, Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover and BMW — which makes the Mini — all have electric cars at the heart of their manufacturing strategy, and the Government is desperate to keep their UK factories open. Nissan, which makes the Leaf electric vehicle in Sunderland, manufactures more than 500,000 cars in total at the factory, which is Britain’s biggest, and is crucial to the economy of the entire north east…It would also fit with the Government’s commitment to banning the sale of all new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars by 2035. The scrappage scheme, dubbed “cash for clunkers” within Government, would sit alongside a £1bn investment in charging points to make electric cars a practical alternative for drivers making longer journeys.”
Several other UK newspapers have also been briefed on the government’s future plans to stimulate the economy. The Times on Saturday reported: “The Treasury’s favoured candidate [for a stimulus package] is an expansion of the Conservatives’ manifesto promise of a £9bn programme to improve domestic insulation, carbon capture storage and hydrogen technologies. Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser, however, is said to be worried that that package was ‘not enough about the future’. Departments, thinktanks and businesses are being cajoled to come up with more radical options.” The Daily Mail says “the prime minister is calling for a ‘green recovery’ and new investment is expected in electric vehicles and battery technology to help the ailing car industry”.
The Guardian reports on the concerns of climate campaigners who fear that the “failure of governments and central banks to set out a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis is threatening to derail vital UN climate talks aimed at staving off global catastrophe”. The newspaper adds: “On Friday, the UK and the UN attempted to revive the stalled COP26 climate talks, with a coalition of businesses committing to a Race for Zero, signing up to reduce their emissions to net-zero by mid-century. Close to 1,000 businesses have joined the campaign, including household names such as Rolls-Royce and the food and drink majors Nestlé and Diageo.” The launch of “Race for Zero” is also covered by BBC News, which quotes the UN as saying that “around a third of the world’s GDP is already committed to the principles of Race to Zero” [aiming for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050]. BusinessGreen notes that Boris Johnson tweeted his support for the initiative on Friday, saying: “We cannot lose sight of the need to protect our people and our planet from the devastating threat of climate change and biodiversity loss if nothing is done.” The i newspaper reports on how Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow business secretary, is “calling for a ‘zero carbon army’ of young people to plant trees, install electric vehicle chargers and insulate homes, in a nationwide effort to cut carbon emissions and spur an economic recovery from Covid-19”.
Meanwhile, in other green stimulus news, Bloomberg says that its calculations show that Germany has announced the the “world’s greenest stimulus plan”. It explains: “Divided into 57 different points addressing sectors from taxes to families to agriculture, the budget allocates about €41bn to areas like public transport, electric vehicles and renewable energy…Germany’s Green Party leader Annalena Baerbock called it ‘better than feared’ and Greenpeace Germany executive director Martin Kaiser saying he was ‘pleasantly surprised’.” However, the Financial Times reports today that “in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and with recession looming, the fight [in Germany] against the country’s coal lobby has been overshadowed”. The FT adds: “With Germany facing the possibility of its worst recession since the second world war, public attention has shifted away from the Greens and back to mainstream parties. This time last year the Greens were riding high in opinion polls with 27%of Germans backing them. The latest Forsa poll showed support for the party has now slipped to 16%. Omid Nouripour, a Green parliamentarian, insists his party is regaining ground and will continue to gain support as Germany heads into a third dry summer, putting climate change back on the agenda. He says he is more frustrated by lack of government ambition when it comes to incorporating sustainability into economic recovery plans.”
Elsewhere, the Guardian in Australia covers a new report by EY (formerly “Ernst & Young”), which shows that “stimulus programmes backing clean energy as a path out of recession would create nearly three times as many jobs for every dollar spent on fossil fuel developments”. The Daily Telegraph’s business section interviews Lord Browne, the former chief executive of BP, who says that it is “scientists and engineers who hold the key to a sustainable recovery – not politicians or businessmen”. Finally, the Financial Times covers a new report by Finance Watch which warns, says the paper, that “climate change poses a bigger threat to financial stability than the coronavirus pandemic and the rules on bank lending to fossil fuel groups must be tightened to address it”.
The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service is the first major meteorological centre to publish data showing that last month was, globally, the hottest May on record, reports the Washington Post. The newspapers says that this record heat was propelled by “astonishing warmth in Siberia”, adding: “The January through May period was the second-warmest such period on record since at least 1979, scientists found…Globally, May was 0.63C above average compared with average May temperatures from 1981-2010, beating the previous record set in 2016…This is significant because 2016 was the warmest calendar year on record, boosted to the No.1 spot by both human-caused global warming and a strong El Niño event in the tropical Pacific Ocean…The regions of the globe that were most above average during May include the areas you’d expect to be cold, even at that time of year, namely Siberia, Alaska and Antarctica. In Siberia, average temperatures were up to 10C above typical values for the month.” The Press Association also covers the new data, saying: “The last 12-month period also matched the hottest on record and was close to 0.7C warmer than average…Despite the global increase in average temperatures, some regions saw below-average temperatures, including southern Brazil, parts of Canada, parts of southern Asia, and Australia.” (Last week, Carbon Brief published a guest post by the Met Office showing why the UK experienced a record-breaking spring this year.)
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that “Germany’s Rhine river is entering dry summer months with water levels at their lowest in two decades, prompting fears of shipping disruption on Europe’s most important inland waterway”. It adds: “A mix of glacial run-off and rain feeds the river, but contributions from glaciers have dwindled in recent years as summer melting outpaces ice formation in winter thanks to global warming. Forecasters have warned that Europe faces a tinder-dry summer, conditions that would spark a repeat of an October 2018 impasse that was severe enough to dent German economic growth.” The Sunday Times says that scientists in the UK are warning that “Wales, the Lake District and parts of Scotland and Yorkshire have become so dry that many areas are already in drought with some at risk of wildfires”. It adds: “In southern England the soil is now so arid that there is a state of ‘agricultural drought’, risking widespread crop damage, according to the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology research institute.”
The Sunday Times reports that “Britain is on a collision course with China after Boris Johnson approved plans last week to build up alternatives to Huawei in the 5G network, a move that caused a heated cabinet split in the government’s most secret committee”. The newspaper adds: “China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, has privately fired a warning shot at the government, telling business leaders that abandoning Huawei could undermine plans for Chinese companies to build nuclear power plants and the HS2 high-speed rail network. Government officials dismissed the comments as ‘sabre-rattling’.” The Sunday Times explains that China has a minority share in nuclear power plants at Hinkley Point in Somerset and Sizewell C in Suffolk, both in partnership with EDF of France: “But China General Nuclear Power Corporation also hopes to build its own nuclear reactor at Bradwell in Essex, a deal that a full-blown diplomatic war could put in doubt.”
There is widespread comment across the UK newspapers about the prospect of a green stimulus package by the UK government. In the FT, business columnist Pilita Clark writes: “Too much has changed since the last [economic crash in 2008]. Green technology costs have fallen. Green job numbers have grown. Renewable energy companies alone employed 11m people globally at the end of 2018, up from about 3.5m in 2010. Countries have agreed to compensate coal workers and other losers in the green energy shift. All this makes it much harder to argue climate action automatically costs jobs…The direction of travel is clear and it means this recovery will be shaped in a very different way to the last one.” An editorial in the FT says: “Britain needs a fiscal policy that encourages economic restructuring, helps put people back to work and shifts them into new jobs where appropriate…Spending on infrastructure should be accelerated. The [chancellor’s upcoming] fiscal statement is an opportunity to heed calls from almost 200 business leaders to support Britain’s transition to net-zero carbon emissions.”
An editorial in the Sun on Sunday looks at the prospect of a “cash for clunkers” car scrappage scheme: “A revival of the car scrappage scheme is a good place to start. But it must not only apply to electric cars. Costly e-cars are out of the reach of most pockets, and charging points are thin on the ground. Rishi [Sunak] should make sure there is money off any new motor…The economy won’t get out of first gear if Britain doesn’t get motoring.” Also in the Sun on Sunday, Sky News business “guru” Ian King warns that the chancellor’s public spending may top £1tn a year for the first time by the end of this parliament in part due to supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy: “Mr Sunak’s problem is how to pay for it. Ideally, higher public spending is financed by growth, which automatically generates more tax revenues. But after the pandemic, growth will be hard to come by. Viable businesses will have gone bust and left the economy with permanent scars. Accordingly, the chancellor will have to pay for public spending increases by raising taxes, making savings elsewhere or raising borrowing. The first would be risky and difficult.”
An editorial in the Sunday Times says: “For Boris Johnson and his cabinet…it is important that they claw back the damage they have suffered during the crisis with a concerted and successful effort to get the economy moving…If a coherent plan emerges to rebuild the economy better, and greener, and with a minimal rise in long-term unemployment, we will cheer it to the rafters. But let us see if that is what we get.” In the Daily Telegraph, the Brexiteer economist Roger Bootle says: “Economic growth offers the only relatively painless way out. Policies on tax, energy, green issues, trade, planning, regulation and public investment need to be radically reshaped to maximise economic growth.” In the Sunday Telegraph, columnist Tom Welsh asks: “Why is the Treasury reportedly seeking to revive the economy through ‘green jobs’, when any jobs would do?”
In the FT, Iceland managing director Richard Walker writes: “The UK must highlight the many ways that business can power a green recovery. This requires a whole new way of looking at entire sectors…Reducing carbon “in use” with better insulation and air-source heating is a must; and lowering carbon “in build” is also a huge opportunity — timber-framed construction should be preferred over polluting steel and concrete…Nothing could be more misguided than suspending environmental targets because of Covid-19. Now is the time for policymakers to work with industry to deliver a truly green, clean and resilient economic recovery.”
Finally, in a commentary article for Xinhua in China, writer Ma Qian says: “Decision-makers worldwide should ride the momentum of a declining carbon emissions, and kickstart the recoveries in their countries in a greener and more sustainable way, like offering stronger financial support for environmentally-friendly industries, and encouraging a broader use of clean and renewable energies…Governments around the world should resist the temptation to turn inward and instead enhance global cooperation. They should stick to the long-term goals of emission reductions agreed upon in the Paris climate accord.”
Atmospheric rivers could be enhancing mass loss from the Greenland ice sheet, a new study finds. Atmospheric rivers are bands of moisture running through the atmosphere. Rapid Arctic warming has likely boosted the amount of moisture carried by atmospheric rivers, which has in turn led to more surface melting from the Greenland ice sheet, the study says. Moisture can boost ice melt through complex surface-atmosphere interactions, the authors say.
Heatwave vulnerability increases in India have been highest in in the north, northeast and southeast parts of the country, a new study says. The research looks at changes to heatwaves in India from 1951-2015 and explores the possible drivers. The authors say: “The causation of heat waves was identified as the advection of heat by anomalous southwest, west and northwest wind flow from the three maximum temperature zones.”
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