Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Britain pledges to reach net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050
- Adani mine: Australia approves controversial coal project
- Norway's $US1tn sovereign wealth fund to dump billions in coal investments
- Climate change seen posing threat to global peace in next 10 years
- The Times view on Britain’s carbon target: Net‑Zero
- How historical trends in Florida all‐citrus production correlate with devastating hurricane and freeze events
- Climate as a risk factor for armed conflict
There is continued coverage of the UK’s new climate goal of cutting emissions to net-zero by 2050. The Washington Post says environmental groups “welcomed the announcement but raised concerns about how, exactly, Britain plans to reach net zero greenhouse has emissions”. It adds: “Others said the target was not ambitious enough or would be impossible to achieve.” The Times reports that the net-zero target has been “welcomed worldwide”. The Financial Times says that the Labour opposition is considering an even earlier 2030 target for net-zero. The paper explains: “In an interview with the Financial Times, [shadow chancellor John] McDonnell said he was talking to experts about whether it would be possible to hit the target as early as 2030, as demanded by many leftwing activists.” The paper quotes the former head of the government’s Committee on Climate Change Adair Turner saying: “The way I see it is that 2030 is really forcing it…The 2050 target is a sensible one, there is a logic about being able to roll over capital bases, if you take 30 years to do something you can transform the economy at a low cost.” The Evening Standard diary column reports on the “blistering statement” issued in response to the net-zero news by activist group Extinction Rebellion, which it says called the target a “death sentence” – as also reported by Sky News. In the Daily Mail, an article says a “row ensued last night when it emerged [the net-zero] policy would be reviewed in five years”. [As Carbon Brief’s in-depth Q&A explains, this five year “assessment” is not tied to any automatic legal review of the net-zero goal. Instead, the Climate Change Act already allows targets to be reviewed at any time, if certain conditions are met.] Another Financial Times article asks what the “greatest challenges” are in meeting the net-zero goal, pointing to transport, heating and industry. The Daily Telegraph looks at what net-zero will mean for agriculture, energy and transport. Press Association asks how life will change under net-zero. A piece for BBC News looks at what net-zero will mean for heating, aviation, diets and waste, asking if the goal should be met sooner. The Daily Telegraph reports that meeting net-zero could “require tax on meat, flights and fuel…but each person could get [a] £300 dividend”. The Times reports on how the UK’s gas networks could be “adapted for hydrogen” as part of meeting the net-zero goal. Sky News reports on snap polling carried out by Sky Data, which it says shows that: “Taxpayers won’t pay to meet PM’s 2050 emissions target.” [The headline is based on a series of questions that mischaracterise the estimated investment needed to meet net-zero as being entirely a matter of government spending, funded via tax increases, raised borrowing or cuts to other services.] Al Jazeera and the New York Times also cover the UK’s net-zero target. Climate Home News covers Japan’s plan to go carbon neutral “in the latter half of this century”.
The state government of Queensland has given final approval to the controversial Adani coal mine in the Galilee Basin, BBC News reports. It says: “Construction at the mine site could begin within days, but Adani must wait for additional approvals before it can begin extracting underground coal.” The approval opens up “one of the world’s largest untapped coal reserves”, according to the Financial Times. Industry group the Queensland Resources Council said the approval could be the “ice-breaker” that will allow other coal projects to go ahead, reports ABC News. Reuters and the Guardian are among those also reporting the Adani approval.
Norway, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, is to divest from “a slew of coal companies and oil explorers”, reports ABC News, after the country’s parliament approved the plan. The divestments will amount to $13bn, the Guardian says. This includes a $1bn stake in mining giant Glencore, reports Reuters, and another $7.5bn in oil stocks, reports Bloomberg.
The world’s changing climate poses a threat to peace in countries around the world, according to an annual “peace index” covered by Reuters. The index is from the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace, it adds. Sky Newsalso covers the index, saying “more than 100 million people in eight of the world’s 25 least peaceful countries are at high risk of a climate hazard”.
“At the conclusion of her premiership, Theresa May has made what may prove to be a historic undertaking to the benefit of future generations,” begins an editorial in the Times, saying the net-zero emissions 2050 target for the UK “should be welcomed”. It concludes: “Adopting this target can generate growth by reducing productivity losses from pollution, improving energy efficiency and encouraging labour to acquire new skills. As a nation, Britain has little to fear and much to gain from a greener enterprise economy. As with any insurance policy, there is always going to be a cost. But with it comes peace of mind.” The decision to strengthen the UK’s 2050 climate goal to net-zero is: “One of [prime minister] Theresa May’s most consequential decisions of her unhappy premiership,” says an editorial in the Guardian, adding that it comes “not a moment too soon”. In the piece (which references two Carbon Brief articles), the paper sets out the scale of the challenge in areas such as heating and transport. It concludes by saying: “What is needed is a government that will balance the ecosystem, rather than obsessing with balancing its budget…All this is feasible; the technologies are available and could become much cheaper if they were widely deployed. What has been missing is the political ambition; it is a shame that Mrs May only supplied this as she is departing.” An editorial in the Evening Standard says while some will see the 2050 target as “a gesture by a prime minister searching for a legacy”, it adds: “We think it is much more important than that.” It goes on to emphasise the need for rapid action to back the goal: “If the target is to be met, emissions must fall fast now. 2050 may still sound a long way off but roll back the other way and you only reach the late Eighties. That, by chance, was when a Conservative leader now much-praised by those who want to take the job she once held gave a visionary speech to the UN General Assembly calling for action on climate change…Margaret Thatcher was right. To quote her from another context, this is no time for her successors to go wobbly.” In the Daily Telegraph, an editorial says the net-zero target is the “wrong approach to climate change”. [Reaching net-zero in the second half of the century is required by the Paris Agreement, signed by almost every nation on earth.] The paper says reducing emissions is a “legitimate policy”, but argues the UK has only cut CO2 by “exporting those emissions”. [The UK’s overall footprint including imports is at the lowest level for 20 years.] The Telegraph also incorrectly says the UK’s previous target has been to cut emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2030, whereas this was in fact the target for 2050. It concludes that a “better approach” than setting targets is to “encourage investment in green energy research, development and new technologies”. The Sun’s editorial calls the net-zero target “idiotic”, saying: “No one has yet told the public they will need to scrap their car, gas cooker and heating, take fewer foreign holidays and eat less meat as the price of ‘progress’.” [A recent Sun article makes exactly these points and was widely available to the public.]
A series of comment articles also address the new net-zero emissions target for 2050. For the Guardian, Green MP Caroline Lucas writes that the target is “a lot less impressive than it looks”. Lucas points to a series of policy rollbacks on climate change under the current government, arguing: “What really matters is action, not words. For all her claims of leadership on climate, May’s record in office has been pitiful.” Writing in CapX, Joe Ware of Christian Aid criticises the chancellor for “overstating” the costs of meeting the goal: “[Philip] Hammond’s naysaying also fails to distinguish between spending and investment. Almost all of the UK’s net-zero cost is investment, which will create an economic return.” In the Daily Telegraph, columnist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard says the chancellor’s “£1tn bill for hitting net-zero is innumerate nonsense”. He says a leaked letter from Hammond – the source of the £1tn figure – is a “clutter of absurdities and category errors”. A similar viewpoint is put in a letter to the Financial Timesfrom Prof Michael Grubb, director of University College London’s Institute for Sustainable Resources. Grubb says the Treasury is showing “apparent confusion between investment and net costs”, and says: “When will the treasury finally acknowledge that it is a victim of economic theories that reflect zero understanding of industrial innovation?” In the Daily Mail, columnist Stephen Glover says Theresa May’s “plan for a green legacy is as doomed as her lost Brexit deal”. Glover raises a series of objections including the fact that other countries also emit greenhouse gases and that meeting the net-zero goal “would transform the way we live our lives”. BusinessGreen editor James Murray argues the net-zero target is “a genuinely historic breakthrough that promises to define the UK’s eventual post-Brexit revival”. In the Independent, James Dyke writes that the net-zero target is a “fantasy while we’re all still praying at the altar of economic growth”. A comment piece in the Guardian by Miatta Fahnbulleh says the net-zero target “will fail if the chancellor remains complacent”.
Hazardous weather is one of the most influential factors in the overall decline in citrus production in Florida, a new study says. The researchers consider the constraining effects of cold air outbreaks in combination with landfalling hurricanes on citrus production across Florida’s Citrus Belt. “Historical data show that individual events of this nature can have significant effects, but when considered in combination across seasons, their occurrences reshape the borders of Florida’s Citrus Belt and the Indian River District,” the authors find. The conclude: “Growers must be ready to withstand such destructive phenomena. Planning and preparation remain as crucial as ever.”
A new study uses expert judgement to assess the weight of evidence for whether climate variability and climate change affects “organised armed conflict within countries”. Through interviews and group discussions, the 11 experts agree that climate does indeed impact on conflict, and “intensifying climate change is estimated to increase future risks of conflict”. However, the experts also note that “other drivers, such as low socioeconomic development and low capabilities of the state, are judged to be substantially more influential, and the mechanisms of climate–conflict linkages remain a key uncertainty”.
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