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TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Brazil's Lula to send reps to COP27 climate summit after election win
- US: Biden accuses oil companies of ‘war profiteering’ and threatens windfall tax
- COP27: Nothing will change on climate until death toll rises in west, says Gabonese minister
- UK households face ‘very, very hard’ winter, warns National Grid chief
- Germany: Berlin to table fix-all climate ‘law’ ahead of world climate conference
- India to press rich countries to keep climate fund pledge
- China is doubling down on coal despite its green ambitions
- UK: Rishi Sunak may yet attend COP27 climate summit, says No 10
- The Guardian view on Lula’s comeback: good for Brazil and the world
- Rishi Sunak badly misread the national mood, and now a COP27 U-turn is looming
- Large and inequitable flood risks in Los Angeles, California
- Snowmelt risk telecouplings for irrigated agriculture
There is continuing media reaction to the Brazilian election, which was won by left-wing candidate Luiz Inacio Lule da Silva. A congresswoman-elect tells Reuters in an interview that Lula will “definitely send broad representation” to COP27. However, it notes that as Lula’s inauguration is not until next year, his will not be an official delegation. The Guardian says Marina Silva – who is tipped to become Brazil’s new environment minister – has “paid tribute to the murdered British journalist Dom Phillips and said Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s incoming government will battle to honour the memory of the rainforest martyrs killed trying to safeguard the Amazon”. Politico writes that “the EU is now keen to revive its ties with Brazil on climate change, deforestation and trade”, noting that “closer cooperation would not just ease trade between the economies on both sides of the Atlantic, but is also key for Brussels to be less dependent on China’s raw materials for its green transition”.
New Scientist writes that former president Jair Bolsonaro “publicly promoted the development of the rainforest, diluted environmental regulation and gutted key environmental institutions of funding and expertise”, causing deforestation to rise to a 15-year high. It continues: “In contrast, Lula has campaigned to protect the rainforest and deforestation plummeted by 72% between 2004 and 2016, when Lula and his successor, Dilma Rousseff, were in power. Lula has pledged to remove illegal miners and ranchers clearing the Amazon.” The Times has published a piece under the headline: “Lungs of the Earth breathe sigh of relief at Lula’s election victory”. The New York Times and BusinessGreen quote Lula’s victory speech on Sunday night: “Let’s fight for zero deforestation”. However, Climate Home News warns that “a right-wing dominated Congress and political inertia will make it challenging”. Reuters, Politico and Axios discuss the the positive outcomes of the election for the Amazon. However, the Washington Post says Lula “faces a tremendous challenge, given the scope and impact of policies passed under Bolsonaro and the accumulated damage”.
Carbon Brief analysis, which finds that a victory for Lula “could cut Brazilian Amazon deforestation by 89%”, has been widely cited in media coverage of the election results.
President Joe Biden yesterday “threatened” to implement a new windfall tax on major oil and gas companies unless they “ramp up production to curb the price of gasoline at the pump”, the New York Times reports. Biden told reporters: “It’s time for these companies to stop war profiteering, meet their responsibilities to this country, give the American people a break and still do very well.” The Financial Times also quotes Biden: “At a time of war, any company receiving historic windfall profits like this has a responsibility to act beyond the narrow self-interest of its executives and shareholders”. The Guardian notes that the speech comes ahead of the the 8 November midterm election. Politico calls Biden’s comments “his sharpest yet” against the industry. However, Bloomberg says the promise “will be all but impossible to deliver”, as “such a proposal is unlikely to pass the current Senate, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans”. “The president name-checked both Exxon and Shell in his speech,” the Hill says. This comes as the Independent reports that BP’s profits have more than doubled over the past quarter. “BP to buy back more shares after profit doubles to $8bn,” the Financial Times says. (Elsewhere, Reuters reports that BP will pay around $2.5bn in UK tax this year, including the windfall levy.)
In other US news, the Associated Press writes that heading into the midterm election, “many Republican candidates are seeking to capitalise on voters’ concerns about inflation by vilifying a key component of President Joe Biden’s climate agenda: electric vehicles”.
Gabon’s environment minister, Lee White, has warned that “the world will only take meaningful action on the climate crisis once people in rich countries start dying in greater numbers from its effects”, the Guardian reports. It adds that White said “broken promises on billions of dollars of adaptation finance have left a ‘sense of betrayal’ before COP27”.
In other COP27 news, the Guardian reports that climate protesters will be “corralled” away from the conference, and that visitors to Sharm-el-Sheikh will face “searches and video surveillance in taxis”. The Independent says that “a Briton unlawfully jailed in Eygpt will starve himself of food and water when the COP27 climate summit gets underway”. Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that “two-thirds of US money for fossil fuel pours into Africa despite climate goals”. The paper notes that US funding of fossil fuel energy projects in Africa “ramped up” after the Paris agreement. Bloomberg writes about “the complex climate politics facing John Kerry at COP27”. And outlets including the New York Times, New Scientist, Reuters and China Dialogue have published summaries of key issues to watch at COP27.
Many UK households will find this winter “financially very, very hard”, despite government support to limit the rise in gas and electricity bills, the chief executive of the Nation Grid, John Pettigrew, has told the Financial Times. The Guardian adds that Pettigrew has warned of an “exponential increase” in customers seeking help with their energy bills. National Grid has created a £50m emergency fund for vulnerable households, the paper says. BBC News says that “blackouts would be a last resort this winter if energy supplies run low”, according to National Grid. Bloomberg reports that according to an outlook from the Met Office, “the likelihood of a colder three-month period overall is slightly greater than normal”. The Daily Telegraph says the Met Office forecast is “fuelling fears of energy shortages and a bidding war for gas supplies”. And Time says: “This year’s energy crisis is going to look mild once next year’s kicks in. It is winter 2023-24 that is going to be the real crisis.” The Evening Standard reports that “early a third of a million households have signed up for a programme to help them save on their energy and reduce the risk of power cuts this winter”.
In other UK news, the Guardian reports that Labour lead Keir Starmer has said that “winning the battle against the climate crisis provides the biggest opportunity in decades to make the economy deliver for working people”. And the Times reports that “Britain’s post-Brexit environmental watchdog has warned the government that it could be made the subject of a unique court challenge over its repeated failure to meet legal deadlines on tackling air and water pollution”.
The German government is “looking to table a sweeping climate emergency programme to address the country’s shortcomings ahead of COP27”, according to internal documents seen by Euractiv. The outlet notes that this will be the first COP for the newly installed German government, adding that “to show that Germany is more than talk, the ministry for economy and climate action is pushing for a package of emergency measures to achieve the 2030 target of reducing 1990’s emissions by 65%”. It continues: “The government wants multiple transformation roadmaps for the buildings, traffic, energy, agriculture and waste sectors. The majority of listed actions are already in place, or were announced previously. As such, the climate emergency package is more of a list of commitments, spelling out the German measures clearly ahead of the beginning of COP27 on 6 November.” However, the Associated Press notes that Germany is postponing decisions on emissions cuts in the transport sector until 2023 “amid strong opposition from one governing party to the idea of a universal speed limit”.
Reuters reports that German industry curbed gas demand by nearly a fifth last month, due to rising energy prices. And AP writes that German chancellor Olaf Scholz has “urged climate activists Monday to show ‘creativity’ and avoid endangering others”.
India will use COP27 to urge rich countries to keep their $100bn-a-year promise to help developing countries “deal with climate change and switch to cleaner energy”, two government sources have told Reuters. “The cost of decarbonisation and coping with the impact of climate change will be huge…overall costs have gone up, so the pledge to provide $100bn per year cannot be static,” the officials are quoted as saying, adding: “It needs to go up.” India is expected to speak “for itself and other developing nations” to ask for a “clear, complete roadmap for the funding that should immediately start flowing”, the officials said.
Other priority issues for India at COP27 include a “multilaterally-agreed definition of finance, a new collective goal on finance beyond 2025 and matters related to transparency of financial flows”, the Hindustan Times reports. India’s environment and climate minister Bhupender Yadav is expected to make a speech at the World Leaders’ Summit on 7 November and will lead an 18-member delegation, it adds. However, “there is no confirmation yet whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend it”.
While India has said that “loss and damage (L&D) finance will be a key negotiation point at COP27”, its updated climate pledge “has no mention of L&D” even as the economic damage from climate change is estimated at “1.8% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually by 2050”, experts point out in Mongabay. According to Ritu Bharadwaj of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), “unless India explicitly identifies these issues in its NDCs, they may not be formally recognised”. Loss and damage expert Saleemul Huq is quoted in the story as saying “developing countries have agreed not to pursue ‘liability and compensation’ (let alone ‘reparations’)…so the demand for finance to help victims is based on a sense of solidarity and empathy now”.
Bloomberg reports that China is building a “vast array of new coal-fired power stations”, “potentially more than the operating capacity of the US, even though it knows the plants will probably never be fully used”. The “puzzle” of why the world’s “leading installer of clean energy” is investing so much in the “worst polluting” – and “increasingly expensive” – fossil fuel “shows the depth of Beijing’s concern over the global squeeze in energy supplies”, the outlet says. It adds that the move also “reflects planning for a gradual relegation of coal’s role, from prime power source to a widely available but often idle backup to China’s rapidly expanding renewables fleet”.
Meanwhile, the state-run industry newspaper China Energy News reports that, according to Li Gao, director general of the department of climate change of china’s ministry of ecology and environment (MEE), as of 21 October, the cumulative carbon emission allowances traded through the national carbon emissions trading market reached “about 196m tonnes, with a cumulative turnover of 8.58bn yuan ($1.17bn)”. He adds the market is “generally operating in a smooth and orderly manner”. Elsewhere, CNBC writes that oil prices fell on Monday after “weaker than expected factory activity data out of China” and in reaction to “concerns that the country’s widening Covid-19 curbs will curtail demand”.
Finally, quoting Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson of China’s foreign ministry, the Global Times writes that as a “flagship” project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has become a “landmark in China-Pakistan cooperation”, which has “strongly contributed to Pakistan’s economic development and the improvement of livelihoods there”. The Joint Cooperation Committee Meeting (JCC) of the CPEC “highlighted the significance of key projects for energy and infrastructure development, including power plants, motorways and highways, which have provided a myriad of opportunities for socioeconomic development in Pakistan”, the state-run newspaper adds.
Downing Street’s decision for Rishi Sunak to skip COP27 is “under review”, the Guardian reports. This announcement comes after Sunak faced “days of criticism” for his plan not to attend the summit, the paper says. It adds: “A cross-party group of parliamentarians, including several Tories, led by Chris Skidmore, wrote to Sunak on Monday afternoon urging him to go to Egypt. The RSPB and Friends of the Earth also called on the PM to join world leaders including Emmanuel Macron of France and Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, at the summit.” The Independent says “the prime minister’s skipping of COP27 has been attacked by his own climate leader, the COP26 president Alok Sharma, who has also been removed from the cabinet.” It adds: “Mr Sunak might be pondering a rethink partly because his rival Boris Johnson, who led the UK’s efforts at COP26 in Glasgow last year, is considering going to the summit”. Sunak “was accused of undermining the UK’s climate leadership by deciding not to attend the climate summit”, the Independent says separately. According to BBC News, No 10 said on Thursday that Sunak was not expected to attend “due to other pressing domestic commitments” – but on Monday, the prime minister’s official spokesman said this position was “under review”. The i newspaper, Reuters and BusinessGreen also cover the story.
Meanwhile, the Times trails a news feature on its frontpage under the headline “King Charles and his COP27 party: it’s a very hot topic”. The paper writes that Sunak is denying King Charles a trip to COP27, but that Charles will host an official “pre-COP” reception instead, attended by Rishi Sunak, Alok Sharma and John Kerry – US special presidential envoy for climate.
Lula da Silva’s victory in the Brazilian election is “good for the world”, a Guardian editorial argues. It outlines that damage that the Amazon sustained under Bolsonaro, and says that Lula has “pledged to reverse his predecessor’s policies that have worsened the climate emergency”. The editorial notes that Lula “faces a Congress dominated by self-seeking conservative politicians of the Centrão (‘big centre’) – who have been allied with Mr Bolsonaro”, but concludes that “thanks to his environmental policies and his defence of democracy, Lula can count on the support of the world’s leading powers”. Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman – writers for the plum line blog – have penned a piece in the Washington Post arguing that Bolsonaro’s loss “should give humans a glimmer of hope”. The piece calls Lula’s victory “good news for the battle against climate change”. It adds that this comes after two other “major global events” – the US Congress’s bill on climate change, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine which is “inspiring a stronger push toward a green-energy future”.
In international comment, the climate sceptic Wall Street Journal has published an editorial with the title: “Climate doomsday is nigh – again”, with the subheading: “And the UN says it’s your fault for eating meat, among other sins.” Elsewhere, Peter Lewis – executive director of strategic communications and research company Essential – calls for Australian energy to be made a public commodity in the Guardian. Columnist Peter Coy has penned an opinion piece in the New York Times under the headline: “To electrify the US, we’re going to need a lot more electricity”. He says that “for the US to eliminate fossil fuels entirely would require three to possibly even five times as much electricity-generating capacity in the coming decades as the country has now”, but that “electricity-generating capacity in the US grew just 0.3% from 2011 to 2021”.
Several outlets respond to suggestions the latest UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, may attend COP27 in person this month. The Guardian’s Gaby Hinsliff writes: “Sunak still needs to prove to his country that he gets why the climate matters. And that’s why he should have moved heaven and earth to be in the room.” The Independent‘s climate correspondent Saphora Smith and political editor Andrew Woodcock write that “a decision for Mr Sunak to attend the conference would be widely welcomed by climate activists and other world leaders but would also be the first big U-turn of his premiership.” In a letter to the Times, Professor Lord Krebs, chairman of the adaptation sub-committee of the Committee on Climate Change 2009-17, cites a survey in Nature that suggests that nearly two thirds of 16-25 year olds were “very worried” or “extremely worried” about climate change. He continues: “I hope Sunak has a good answer when his daughters ask him: ‘Dad, why didn’t you help to save our future by going to Egypt?’” In contrast, an editorial in the Sun says: “Rishi Sunak will be right if he decides against a virtue-signalling appearance at the COP27 climate summit” when he has “a tsunami of problems here”. In her column for the Times, columnist Melanie Phillips (who incorrectly claimed earlier this year that global warming had paused over the past eight years) writes that Sunak’s COP u-turn is because so many members of his own party have been swept up in this “catastrophising” of “environmental apocalypse”, which has become “unchallengeable and axiomatic for such a lot of people”. She concludes: “This reflects a broader cultural shift that views modernity and progress as bad.”
The risks from flooding in the Californian city of Los Angeles are “disproportionately higher for non-Hispanic Black and disadvantaged populations”, a new study finds. The researchers use a “quantitative framework” to assess flood hazards from rainfall, streamflow and storm tides, and evaluate “exposure and vulnerability including ethnicity, race and socioeconomic disadvantage”. The findings show that “between 197,000 and 874,000 people (median 425,000) and between US$36bn and US$108bn in property (median US$56bn) are exposed to flooding greater than 30cm within the 100-year flood zone, risk levels far above federally defined floodplains and similar to the most damaging hurricanes in US history”. The results show that “inequality in flood risk is endemic”, an accompanying News & Views article says, adding: “Non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic and non-Hispanic Asian residents are 79%, 17% and 11% more likely than non-Hispanic white populations to be exposed to dangerous flooding >1 metre deep.”
New research highlights the potential knock-on impacts for agricultural trade as a result of changing snowmelt. The researchers use “irrigation and snowmelt dynamics and a model of international trade” to assess the “global redistribution of snowmelt dependencies and risks under climate change”. They estimate that “16% of snowmelt used for irrigation is for agricultural products traded globally, of which over 70% is from five countries”. Western Europe is “particularly evident” for importing products at risk, the study finds, adding: “In Germany and the UK, local fraction of surface-water-irrigated agriculture supply exposed to snowmelt risks could increase from negligible to 16% and 10%, respectively, under a 2C warming.”