Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Brazil rejected millions in aid for rainforest fires. Hours later, Jair Bolsonaro hinted at a reversal
- Climate change: UK doubles aid to £1.44bn to support developing countries
- Kids play in Arctic seas as 22C heatwave grips North Pole at climate change frontline
- Fuel duty must rise if we are to cut carbon emissions
- Government rhetoric on green energy needs to be matched by action
- The mid‐summer drought over Mexico and Central America in the 21st century
There is more coverage from around the world of the fires in the Amazon rainforest and their international political repercussions. After initially turning down $20m in foreign aid agreed at the G7 summit, CNN reports that the Brazilian government backtracked and accepted the offer on the condition it was “able to administrate the aid” itself. Presidential spokesperson Rego Barros stated the money “will have the total governance of the Brazilian people”, according to Reuters, which noted the decision came after state governors told president Jair Bolsonaro that they needed the money. The news service also notes that earlier on Tuesday, the Brazilian leader had announced he would only accept aid if French president Emmanuel Macron withdrew the “insults” levelled against him. The two men had previously been embroiled in a “deeply personal and public war of words”, Reuters notes. BBC News notes that Macron had accused Bolsonaro of lying to him about his commitment to tackling environmental issues. Separately, the New York Times reports that after initially refusing G7 help, Brazil decided to accept $12 million in aid from the UK to tackle Amazon fires, after the nation’s foreign minister Ernesto Araújo was offered the help by his British counterpart Dominic Raab. Politico reports that US president Donald Trump gave his controversial Brazilian counterpart his “full backing” on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Norway’s biggest investors have told companies to ensure they don’t contribute to environmental damage in the Brazilian Amazon. According to the Guardian, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has now hit the highest August level since the current monitoring system began in 2015. Amidst the international furore, Reuters reports that on Tuesday a Brazilian congressional committee approved a proposed constitutional amendment to allow currently banned commercial agriculture to take place on indigenous reserves. The same outlet notes a call, from Peru and Colombia to fellow Amazonian countries, for a presidential meeting next month to discuss forest fires.
A number of outlets move their attention to Africa, where forest fires have also been raging. MailOnline reports on Nasa imagery showing more than a million square miles in the Congo Basin affected by fires and notes comments from Macron that “the forest is burning in sub-Saharan Africa too”. A piece in the Independent includes the caveat that the fires in Africa may not be the result of an increase in burning activity by small-scale farmers following government encouragement – something that has been implicated in Brazil. A piece in EurActiv also takes a wider look at the issue and finds this summer has been “catastrophic” for the world’s forests. Yale e360 has a video showing two decades of wildfires on a map, based on Nasa imagery. Meanwhile, the Washington Postreports that Donald Trump has opted to exempt Alaska’s 16.7-million-acre Tongass National Forest from logging restrictions imposed two decades ago, putting the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest at risk.
Associated Press has an explainer looking at the role the Amazon rainforest plays in climate change and what the fires mean for this. The Washington Postalso has a piece looking at “what you need to know” about the Amazon fires. Voxfeatures a piece considering how fires and deforestation may be pushing the Amazon rainforest towards a “dieback” scenario, which it terms an “irreversible cycle of collapse”. The Daily Mirror also reports on scientists’ warnings about a “point of no return” for the Amazon. Carbon Brief has produced a summary of extensive news coverage on this topic so far [see above].
The UK’s Department for International Development and its Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have pledged to contribute £1.44bn to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) over the next four years, according to Energy Live News. It says this means the UK is “doubling its support” to help developing countries cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Over 40 countries are already funding projects through the GCF, many alongside the private sector, the outlet notes. Business Green notes that Germany and France also promised to contribute more money to the fund, and MailOnline includes comments from prime minister Boris Johnson at the G7 summit declaring “a very active environmentalist administration, protecting habitat, protecting biodiversity but reducing CO2 and reducing climate change emissions from technological progress”.
The Daily Mirror devotes considerable space to an “exclusive” report from Greenland, “the climate crisis front line”, where it says 22C temperatures are “melting the ice at an unprecedented rate”. Central to its coverage are photos of children splashing each other in the sea and locals in Qaanaaq, one of the world’s most northerly cities, wearing T-shirts, scenes the paper says “were unheard of here in August 10 years ago”. The paper’s front cover as well as the first five pages are all dedicated to climate change reporting, as well as an editorial, which sys the melting of sea ice and burning Amazon are “warnings that man-made climate change is endangering the future of life itself”.
Following speculation that fuel duty could be cut in an emergency pre-election budget next month, an opinion piece by Claire Haigh in the Times argues against such a move in the context of rising temperatures and Britain’s net-zero target. Haigh, who is chief executive of Greener Journeys, a coalition of the UK’s main public transport organisations, points out road transport is the “only big sector where emissions are rising” and says fuel duty is an important tool to help cut pollution. [Transport is the largest contributor to UK emissions and fuel duty has been frozen since 2010, whereas train and bus fares have increased with inflation.] “If we are serious about tackling climate change and air pollution, we cannot contemplate cutting such taxes. Instead, we should be raising them,” Haigh writes. She also points to a recent report from the House of Commons science and technology committee concluding that the net-zero target was “undeliverable” without new policies to promote clean growth, including a reduction in the cost of public transport relative to private transport. “The prime minister has already set out his stall as an advocate for better public transport. In response to the fires in the Amazon rainforest, he has joined other world leaders in reaffirming his commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change. It is time to put his words into action. Fuel duty should be raised to help to bring about a transport revolution. At the very least the government should end the freeze and increase fuel duty in line with inflation,” she concludes.
An open letter in the Guardian signed by a coalition of trade groups and technology firms has called for a clearer and more consistent approach from the government towards the UK’s clean energy transition. Specifically, they say there is a need for extensive subsidy-free renewables balanced by on-site battery storage across the UK. “The government has set out strong ambitions for the UK to be a world leader in flexible generation, most recently through the plans for a new Smart Export Guarantee. However, its rhetoric is not being matched by action. In the last two years [energy regulator] Ofgem has removed ‘embedded benefits’ for distributed generation and storage, de-rated benefits for batteries in the capacity market and eliminated feed-in tariffs for rooftop solar. Government now also plans to increase network charges and hike VAT for homeowners who invest in residential solar and storage,” they write. Such a “stop-start approach”, they note, has made the UK a less attractive place for renewable energy investors. An accompanying news piece in the Guardian notes that Boris Johnson recently used his first speech as prime minister in the House of Commons last month to back Britain’s “burgeoning battery manufacturing industry”, which he called a world leader.
A new study assesses potential future changes in the “mid-summer drought” (MSD), a part of the annual rainfall cycle in the Southern Mexico and Central America (SMCA) region that sees a relatively dry period in July and August. The MSD is “expected to be affected as the SMCA experiences an enhanced differential warming between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans towards the end of the 21st Century”, the researchers say. Using a collection of climate models, the researchers find that “in the future the spatial extension of the MSD will decrease, and that in certain areas the MSD will be more intense but less frequent compared to present conditions”.