Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Boris Johnson presses G7 to sign climate ‘Marshall plan’
- Carbon dioxide in atmosphere hits record high despite pandemic dip
- UK: Johnson's low-carbon agenda at risk as French shut nuclear plant
- EU countries give final approval to multibillion euro green transition fund
- US seeks less costly clean hydrogen in climate fight
- Xie Zhenhua: Chinese entrepreneurs should actively prepare to enter the carbon market
- US: Police make mass arrests at protest against oil pipeline
- Mexico checks AMLO’s power
- FEMA disaster aid often widens racial disparities
- The future of nuclear energy in India: Evidence from a nationwide survey
- Tradeoff of CO2 and CH4 emissions from global peatlands under water-table drawdown
UK prime minister Boris Johnson will “push G7 leaders to back a new climate change plan to help developing countries to decarbonise their economies and limit global warming”, the Times reports. According to the paper, Johnson’s proposal is based on both the American Marshall plan that helped to rebuild European economies after World War II and the Belt and Road Initiative that has “provided strategic Chinese infrastructure investment to nearly 70 countries since 2013”. However, it adds that the Treasury is “resisting any commitment to provide new UK money before the autumn spending review”. Climate Home News reports that in discussions over the weekend, finance ministers “merely reaffirmed” their existing commitment to “increase and improve” climate finance contributions, without committing to any numbers. However, it adds that the UK “is hoping to broker agreements on climate finance and vaccine support to developing countries when G7 leaders meet in Cornwall this week”.
The Guardian reports that Mozambican politician Graça Machel has called on wealthy countries to share vaccines, as well as for progress on climate change. It adds that, according to Machel, “the global solidarity inspired by the Covid pandemic disappeared as soon as vaccines came along”. Meanwhile, the Guardian reports on a new study, which finds that wealthy nations are breaking their climate commitments by funding a new “gas dash” in the south. According to the report, low- and middle-income nations received nearly $16bn a year over 2017-19 to fund gas-related projects, the newspaper reports. Inside Climate News adds that “advocates are calling for an end to natural gas development, but some poor nations say doing so would unfairly penalise them and stifle economic growth”.EnergyMonitor also covers the study.
In related comment pieces, Washington Post reporter Brady Dennis writes that the key question at G7 will be whether or not “rich countries help poor ones grapple with climate change”. Meanwhile, a Guardian editorial on the UK’s aid cuts says that global security in the face of climate change “can only be secured by rich and poor countries working together” and Evening Standard reporter Philip Colins pens a comment piece entitled, “Britain can’t be a global leader if we are the only G7 member to cut aid”. The chief foreign affairs commentator for the Financial Times, Gideon Rachman, writes that the G7 is the “last chance” for the West, adding that the meeting “must take bold initiatives on covid and climate”. However, he notes that several “core issues”, including climate change, “ultimately require Chinese co-operation”.
Atmospheric CO2 levels have reached their annual peak, averaging 419 parts per million (ppm) over May 2021, the New York Times reports. This is according to separate analyses from both the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it adds. Bloomberg notes that May 2021 marks the highest CO2 level in the past 4.5m years and Reuters adds that 417ppm was recorded in May 2020. According to the Associated Press, CO2 levels are now 50% higher than the preindustrial levels – which were around 280ppm. The Washington Post reports that reaching this record high, despite the “startling drop” in emissions driven by covid lockdowns, is a “sober reminder” that “turning the tide of climate change will take even more massive efforts over a much longer period of time”. The Hill, Phys.org and the Los Angeles Times also cover the news.
In other new research, the Conversation unpacks new research which finds that lake heatwaves “could last between three and 12 times longer and become 0.3C to 1.7C hotter” by the end of the century. MailOnline reports that “‘glacier blood’ caused by a mysterious microalgae could be a precursor to understanding climate change” and the Conversation reports that “whiter-than-white paint” could cool buildings by nearly 5C. Meanwhile, MailOnline reports that great apes could lose up to 94% of their homelands due to climate change, human population growth and “destruction of wild areas”. India Today reports that, according to new research, climate change will worsen the Indian monsoon. And the Hindustani Times covers a new report which finds that India may have already lost 3% of its GDP due to global warming, and stands to lose 10% if global temperatures rise to 3C.
EDF has announced that the Dungeness B nuclear plant in Kent will be closed seven years ahead of schedule, the Daily Telegraph reports on the frontpage of its business section. The closure is “casting doubt over the prime minister’s plan to cut carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050”, according to the newspaper, as the nuclear plant “once produced enough electricity to supply every home in Kent, while helping the UK avoid more than 50m tons of carbon dioxide.” According to Bloomberg, the EDF website says that the two 40-year-old reactors have been offline since 2018 due to “‘significant’ technical challenges”. The Times reports that EDF has since spent £200m trying to fix the problem, but found issues including corrosion to the boilers, which cannot be fixed. The decision to close the plants means the UK will lose five of its eight nuclear plants in the next three years, “removing low-carbon generation capable of supplying ten million homes”, it adds. Reuters also covers the announcement.
In other UK news, a court has heard that home secretary Priti Patel “may have influenced the police response to XR blockade of printing press”, the Independent reports. Meanwhile, BusinessGreen covers a new study which finds that the UK would need over 10 times its current offshore wind capacity to reach net-zero emissions in the next decade. The i newspaper reports that due to “restrictive” regulations, UK consumers are “at the bottom of the list” to try lab-grown meat. Meanwhile, the Times reports that, according to a global study, “British citizens are more concerned about the coronavirus pandemic and climate change than threats from states such as China and Russia”. And a separate piece in the Times reports that environmental campaigners are calling for rewilding in Scotlands national parks.
Reuters reports that EU countries have approved the bloc’s €17.5bn green transition fund – the “Just Transition Fund”. According to the newswire, the fund “combines money from the EU’s budget and its Covid-19 recovery fund” to support the communities most affected by the shutdown of coal, peat and oil shale. Poland, Germany and Romania are currently “in line for the biggest share”, it adds. A separate Reuters piece reports that the European Commission announced that changes in state aid laws “to allow EU countries to subsidise up to 100% of renewable energy projects” are being considered. A further piece in Reuters reports that Monday “marked the start of trading of European carbon futures and options on ICE’s Netherlands-based exchange in Amsterdam, after a migration from London”, but notes that trading was “briefly suspended due to technical issues”. In other European news, the Financial Times reports that “Europe risks falling behind the US and China in efforts to decarbonise unless it legislates for a radical expansion of renewable energy”.
The US Department of Energy has set a goal to reduce the cost of hydrogen power by 80% – to $1 per kilogram – in a decade, Reuters reports. This is the first in a set of “initiatives to accelerate and innovate in clean energy” called Energy Earthshots, according to the newswire. It adds that in a statement, Jennifer Granholm, the US energy secretary, said: “Clean hydrogen is a game changer…It will help decarbonise high-polluting heavy-duty and industrial sectors, while delivering good-paying clean energy jobs and realising a net-zero economy by 2050.” The Hill adds that the Energy Earthshots “will seek to, within a decade, speed up breakthroughs in affordable and reliable clean energy, according to a department statement”.
In other US news, the Hill reports that climate change is “emerging as a sticking point in infrastructure negotiations, as proposals from President Biden and Republicans remain disparate on actions to address the warming planet”. It adds that although Republicans increased their offer by $50bn last week, the White House said it “still did not go far enough on climate change”. Meanwhile, a separate piece in the Hill reports that a senate Democrat, Sheldon Whitehouse, has warned that he is “very anxious” about US climate legislation. A further piece in the Hill reports that the acting chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has “lamented” the “insufficient funding for the agency to achieve its mandate”.
Meanwhile, the New York Times carries a feature headlines: “Offshore wind farms show what Biden’s climate plan is up against.” It notes that Europe currently has 5,400 offshore wind turbines and the US has only seven, adding that “legal, environmental and economic obstacles and even vanity have stood in the way,” of further wind farms. A separate piece in the New York Times reports that a pair of wildfires in Arizona have “burned tens of thousands of acres and forced hundreds of residents to evacuate”, and the Boston Globe reports that “ninety-degree days are occurring earlier and now number twice the historical average”.
China’s special climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, has called on all entrepreneurs to “actively” prepare to participate in the upcoming national emissions trading scheme (ETS), reports National Business Daily. Xie also said that enterprises are the “main force” in China’s efforts to tackle climate change, the Chinese financial outlet states. It adds that Xie gave a total of four pieces of advice to help companies reach their carbon emissions peak and become “carbon neutral”.
Meanwhile, Chinese Science News says China needs a “carbon neutral” pathway with “Chinese characteristics” to hit the climate goal. Zou Caineng, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, writes in the paper that China only has just 30 years to reduce its carbon emissions from the peak to zero while EU countries have 60 or 70 years. He notes, China cannot copy the “carbon-neutral” models of “western” countries. Sixth Tone reports that Chinese officials have called for an urgent “strategic rethink” in the climate change era. Experts told the website that researchers from multiple disciplines would need to collaborate on climate change mitigation.
The Guardian focuses on a new report from environmental campaigners who urge Chinese banks to stop funding overseas agribusinesses that accelerate deforestation, biodiversity loss and climate change. The campaigners says that China is funnelling billions into “harmful production” of beef, soy and palm oil, the newspaper writes. Elsewhere, China’s state news agency Xinhua reports that Chinese authorities on Friday started the prosecution process against Liu Baohua, former deputy director of the National Energy Administration (NEA), over suspected bribery. Carbon Brief’s weekly China Briefing has given more details of Liu’s case and its implications on China’s energy authority.
In China-related comment, Ben Marlow – chief city commentator at the Daily Telegraph – warns that “evangelical green lobbyists” could “destroy any chance of western companies cashing in on the commodities boom” while allowing “those in China, India and Russia build, dig and explore for raw materials unhindered by their responsibilities to the planet and concerns about climate change”.
Police made “mass arrests” at an oil pipeline protest in Minnesota on Monday, the New York Times reports. According to the newspaper, the planned expansion of Line 3 – a $9bn pipeline – would “carry hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil through Minnesota’s delicate watersheds and tribal lands”. The Washington Post reports that the “intensifying conflict” over Line 3 is driven in part by indigenous activists, who say the project would risk polluting tribal waters in the Mississippi river as well as contributing to climate change. It adds that the pipeline is operated by Enbridge, a Canadian company, who say that the protests “done little to impede the replacement of the decades-old pipeline”. Inside Climate News also covers the protests. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the US Department of Transportation’s pipeline regulator gas advised oil and gas pipeline operators to “update their inspection and maintenance plans for curbing the release of potent greenhouse gas methane”.
The Wall Street Journal carries an editorial on the outcome of the recent Mexican midterm election. The piece says that the vote is “good news”, as it “delivered a sharp rebuke to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s ruling Morena Party coalition”. It continues: “The party will now need cooperation from the Green Party – always a party for hire – to govern. AMLO’s ambition to rewrite the constitution – whether to reverse market liberalisation, especially in energy, or centralise power in the presidency – becomes far more difficult.” Reuters also reports on the election, noting that Lopez Obrador cast the election as a “vindication of his policies”, including “the need to strengthen state control of the energy sector”. See the Carbon Brief‘s new Mexico profile for more on the country’s politics and energy mix.
Christopher Flavelle – a New York Times reporter – pens an opinion piece about racial inequality in the assistance that the US federal government provides to families following disasters. The piece notes a growing body of research which shows that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is responsible for helping Americans recover from disasters, “often helps white disaster victims more than people of colour, even when the amount of damage is the same”. The paper notes that climate change will drive greater financial damage fro disasters, adding that “marginalised communities tend to be both the most exposed to damage and least able to recover financially”. It adds that, according to research, applicants in ZIP codes with a higher proportion of black residents are less likely to get an inspection – without which FEMA typically will not fund repairs. It adds that Black families are more likely to have their requests denied “with no reason given”, and receive between 5-10% less money when compensation is awarded. It also notes that the process of seeking help from FEMA is “demanding”, making is difficult for those who are “temporarily displaced, whose livelihood may be disrupted, and who may be also struggling to care for children or other family members”.
Scientific American reports that an upcoming overhaul of flood insurance “will financially benefit many of the nation’s lowest-income communities by cutting premiums for a large share of their residents”.
There is “substantial” public support for the expansion of nuclear energy in India, according to a new study. Analysing a national survey, the researchers find that “public perceptions about the benefits of nuclear energy outweigh the potential risks”. The results indicate that “concerns about energy security and climate change correlate with support for nuclear energy”, the authors say, which suggests that “members of the Indian public are willing to accept possible risks of nuclear energy to realise the benefits of energy security and, to a lesser extent, climate change mitigation”.
The drying of global peatlands will have an overall warming effect by the end of the century, new research says. The study projects how “water-table drawdown driven by climate drying and human activities” will affect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from peatlands, noting that drawdown typically increases CO2 and reduces methane (CH4) emissions. The study estimates a net increase in GHGs of 0.73-0.86bn tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year by 2100, depending on the scenario of global warming. An accompanying News & Views article says that the study adds to recent research that “clearly highlight[s] the urgent need for conservation strategies to promote wet conditions, particularly in drained peatlands”.
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