Today's climate and energy headlines:
- UK: Calls for government to step up climate action with 100 days to COP26 summit
- China flood death toll rises to 33, stoking climate change debate
- Merkel: Germany has not done enough to hit Paris climate targets
- G20 agrees statement on environment, struggles over climate progress
- Climate change: Airbus aims for 'climate-neutral' flights by 2035
- A 3C world has no safe place
- With 100 days until COP26, the Paris agreement pledges are crucial
- Suga’s net-zero pledge sparks fierce debate
- The Saudi Prince of oil prices vows to drill 'every last molecule'
- The recent emergence of Arctic Amplification
Campaigners are calling on the UK government to “ramp up its domestic climate action and diplomacy” ahead of hosting the COP26 climate summit later this year, Press Association reports. It adds: “Campaigners are accusing [prime minister] Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak of being ‘missing in action’, as they stage a protest in Parliament Square to mark 100 days to the conference, and ahead of a gathering of ministers in London to discuss plans for the summit.” The Guardian also carries the story and reports: “[A]s [COP president Alok] Sharma prepares for a key meeting of world ministers this weekend, and as the US steps up its diplomacy before COP26, climate experts and veterans of the UN talks told the Guardian that Johnson was failing to take the reins, both internationally and at home.” The Sun interviews Sharma about the diplomacy ahead of COP26, under the headline: “We CAN fight climate change…but only if China and Russia do their bit too, says Alok Sharma.”
In related UK developments, the Guardian reports that the government is facing “the threat of legal action over plans to allow exploration at the Cambo oilfield near Shetland after promising to put an end to new oil exploration licences that do not align with the UK’s climate goals”. In an interview with Channel 4 News, International Energy Agency chief Fatih Birol says he hopes the UK will be an “inspiration for the rest of the world” as the government considers the Cambo decision. He tells the broadcaster: “If we want to reach net-zero in 2050, namely, to have a temperature increase, maximum 1.5C…we have to reduce the consumption of oil, gas and coal substantially. And if we reduce the consumption of oil in line with what is needed to reach those targets, we will not need to invest in new oil or gas exploration or new coal mining. Very clear. We do not need any more to explore, discover, new oil reserves. The ones we have already today are more than enough to meet the demand.” Press Association via Belfast Telegraph reports: “Cambo drilling plans incompatible with climate change targets, Greens warn.”
Meanwhile, BBC News reports that road planners “can effectively ignore climate change when they are deciding whether to grant permission for new road schemes, environmentalists have said”. It adds that transport secretary Grant Shapps has “promised a review of [the government’s] £27bn highways policy which will be completed within two years”. The Independent says the government is to review its £27bn road investment plan “because of ‘fundamental’ changes in travel patterns brought on by the Covid pandemic”. It adds: “The move was given a cautious welcome by the climate campaigners who had demanded the government’s ‘outdated’ roads strategy was updated to reflect commitments to tackle climate change.
BBC News political correspondent Chris Mason reports from Whitehaven in Cumbria, site of a proposed new coal mine, under the headline: “Climate change, a coalmine and a town that needs jobs.” Finally, the i newspaper reports that a group of MPs and peers is to introduce legislation that would set government targets for making homes more energy efficient. It reports: “The Minimum Energy Performance of Buildings Bill, tabled in the Commons by Conservative MP David Amess, and in the Lords by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Foster, would mandate the Government to ensure that all privately rented homes are band C by 2028, with commercial buildings following by 2030 and all homes in band C by 2035…Officials from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have indicated privately that they are likely to support the Bill.”
The official death toll from the devastating floods in central China rose to 33 on Thursday, the Financial Times reports, adding that the “record-breaking rainfall…ha[s] raised fears that the country’s early warning systems remain ill-equipped to handle extreme weather events worsened by climate change”. It continues: “China officially accepts the science of climate change and president Xi Jinping has made it a political priority to cap the country’s carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and reach ‘carbon neutrality’ by 2060. But it is rare for Communist party officials to link individual weather events to broader ecological shifts. Unlike recent flooding in Europe, Chinese state media and officials have avoided connecting the floods in Henan to climate change.” (See the tweets by Carbon Brief’s Hongqiao Liu on this issue.)
Separately, Reuters reports that the floods “are threatening supply chains for goods ranging from cars and electronics to pigs, peanuts and coal”. It adds: “Transport of coal, which generates most of China’s power, from top mining regions like Inner Mongolia and Shanxi via Zhengzhou to central and eastern China was ‘severely impacted’, the state planner said on Wednesday, just as power plants scramble for fuel to meet peak summer demand.”
Another Reuters article says that “at least 18 people have died in the western Indian state of Maharashtra after torrential monsoon rains caused landslides and flooding that submerged low lying areas and cut off hundreds of villages”. The latest disaster comes just days after extreme rainfall fatally struck Mumbai in the same state.
Meanwhile, a Bloomberg article looks at how the “jet stream is [the] key link in climate disasters” including the floods and recent heatwaves and fires. It says: “Deadly weather as far apart as China, Germany and the US reveal the devastating impact of a swinging jet stream.” And the Washington Post has an article headlined: “Summer of floods: The climate connection behind deadly downpours around the world.” See last year’s Carbon Brief article on the jet stream and weather extremes for more.
Several publications report the comments of German chancellor Angela Merkel who, says the Guardian, “has conceded Germany’s record on reducing carbon emissions was ‘not sufficient’ to meet the global warming targets of the Paris climate agreement”. The paper reports: “Not just Germany, but the whole world had failed to meet its targets, she said. ‘I am equipped with sufficient sense for science to see that objective circumstances demand that we can’t continue at the current pace but have to up the tempo,’ Merkel said.” Reuters also has the story. Meanwhile, Politico reports on “how Germany’s big parties line up on climate, mobility policy”. A comment for the New York Times says of Germany’s recent floods: “Nearly 20 years on from our last major flood, the conclusion is inescapable: Climate change is right here, right now, and it hurts. But you wouldn’t know that from the country’s politics. Coming just two months before September’s momentous elections, which will decide who replaces chancellor Angela Merkel after 16 years in power, the catastrophe has so far done strangely little to shake up the contest.” A feature for Reuters looks at the aftermath of the floods and how they have “highlight[ed] the vulnerability of Europe’s top economy to an increasingly unpredictable climate”.
Environment and energy ministers from the G20 group of rich nations have agreed a statement on the environment, Reuters reports: “The seven-page document covered numerous subjects including food security, the sustainable use of water, marine litter, sustainable finance and how to better educate the young on climate issues, said Italian Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani. A summary released by his office was short on concrete policy commitments, but nonetheless Cingolani called the result ‘particularly ambitious’ and said it reflected the aims of Italy’s G20 presidency.” The newswire adds that the G20 climate and energy statement is on the agenda for today: “Friday’s statement, directly addressing climate change commitments, is likely to prove more challenging.” It reports: “Barring last-minute progress, it looks unlikely the Naples G20 gathering will make reference to the $100bn [pledge of climate finance made by rich nations in 2009 and not yet met] or make any other firm financial pledges.” It adds that “a cluster of countries [are] resisting firm commitments”.
A senior manager at aircraft maker Airbus says that zero-emissions planes will be flying by mid-century, reports BBC News. It adds: “Airbus has set a target of commercial ‘climate-neutral’ flights by 2035, with hydrogen as a primary power source.” It quotes Gareth Davies, Airbus head of industrial architecture for wing, saying: “We have a challenge today to try and symbolically get towards a zero emissions product by around 2050…So, essentially, we’re looking at by the mid-point of the century, that we will have products flying with that target and with that goal.” The Guardian reports on a hearing in parliament under the headline: “Airlines need to do more than plant trees to hit net-zero, MPs told.”
Elsewhere, a commentary for Green Air by climate scientists Keith Shine and David Lee argues against the implementation of “navigational avoidance” a proposal to limit non-carbon dioxide warming impacts of flying: “[I]n reality, many years’ research is needed to establish whether it is viable…Rather than decreasing aviation’s climate impact, premature implementation of the strategy risks increasing it.”
“The most terrible thing about the spectacular scenes of destruction that have played out around the world over the past weeks is that there is no safe place from which to observe them,” says an editorial in the Economist, part of a package featuring on the magazine’s frontpage. The editorial continues: “Unfortunately, 2021 will probably be one of the 21st century’s coolest years.” The piece goes on to consider the implications of the 3C world that is expected to result “even if everyone manages to honour today’s firm pledges” and concludes: “Cutting emissions is thus not enough. The world also urgently needs to invest in adapting to the changing climate.” The editorial adds “it is also prudent to study the most spectacular, and scary, form of adaptation: solar geoengineering”. An accompanying feature in the Economist is titled: “Three degrees of global warming is quite plausible and truly disastrous.” Another Economist article looks at how the “private sector [is] start[ing] to invest in climate adaptation”.
Elsewhere, an editorial in the Los Angeles Times says climate change is “driving extreme floods, wildfires and heat” and asks: “Will the world meet the moment?” It concludes: “As the last few weeks have shown, there’s no time to waste. The summer has already given a terrible glimpse of the future if we don’t change course now.” An editorial in the Washington Post runs under the headline: “Hey, world, are you noticing? Floods! Fires! Could it be time to do something about climate change?” It says there are “two lessons” of recent extreme weather events: “First, we must reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving global warming. Second, even as we do so, we must prepare for the temperature rise that is unavoidable.” A comment for the Washington Post by columnist Eugene Robinson says: “We are fiddling while the world burns, floods and chokes.” In the New York Times “on politics” column, Maggie Astor writes under the headline: “The west is burning. Covid is surging. US politics are stagnant.” Another New York Times comment by Spencer Bokat-Lindell, an editor for the paper’s opinion section, asks: “Where is Biden’s climate change revolution?” Separately, analysis from Axios says wildfires in the US, Canada and Siberia are “unusually intense” for the time of year “and emitting larger amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than typical during midsummer”.
A number of commentators mark 100 days to COP26 including in the Financial Times, where former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres writes:“In 100 days time the same 195 governments [that met in Paris in 2015] will gather in Glasgow at COP26, a necessary moment of truth. Under the Paris deal all countries must deliver new, tougher emission cuts.” She continues: “Success at COP26 depends on three elements: first, all G20 countries must commit to cutting emissions by at least 45%. To leaders in China, India and Australia who are yet to deliver 2030 targets, I say this: it is in your economic self-interest to accelerate your shift from coal-based electricity and start to address your looming transport emissions…Second: the world’s wealthiest nations must deliver on their pledges…Third: CEOs of the world’s leading corporations must face the reality that only through preventing the crisis can they have business continuity.”
For the Times Red Box, former UN climate envoy Rachel Kyte writes under the headline: “The clock is ticking to make COP26 a success.” She says “we need commitment and leadership in action, not just words” and adds: “The what – net-zero emissions by 2050 – must come with a how – clarity on structural changes and policies to drive achievement.”
A feature in a special supplement on Japan and sustainability in the Financial Times recounts how new prime minister Yoshihide Suga used his first address to parliament to pledge that the country would reach net-zero emissions by 2050, a “surprise” move that is “forcing Japan to rethink its energy strategy”. Other features in the FT supplement include one titled: “Sun fails to shine on Japan’s solar sector.” Another look at how “High costs dog Tokyo’s hydrogen buses”. (The Economist has a feature on Japan’s hopes of becoming a “hydrogen superpower”.) A third Financial Times piece says Japan is “fac[ing] heat” over financial support for a coal plant in Bangladesh. Meanwhile, the Guardian reports: “Australia’s reliance on gas exports questioned as Japan winds down fossil fuel power.”
A profile of Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, by Bloomberg’s Javier Blas, quotes him saying: “We are still going to be the last man standing, and every molecule of hydrocarbon will come out.” The piece also recounts how bin Salman “got his way” at last year’s G20 meeting where “European ministers wanted a greener statement; Saudi Arabia didn’t…The communiqué that emerged endorsed several of Saudi Arabia’s pet fixes to the climate crisis.”
According to a new study, Arctic amplification – the phenomenon that sees the frigid north warming at a faster rate than the rest of the globe – emerged much more recently than previously thought. Using observations and palaeoclimate records spanning the last century, combined with climate model simulations, researchers show that the region was actually cooling over much of the 20th century, even as global average temperatures rose. The researchers attribute this trend to a combination of local aerosol forcing and natural variability that contributed to a cooler climate in the Arctic. The authors write that this “disruption” of the amplification effect is likely “unique” to the 20th century – and that Arctic amplification is expected to be a “consistent feature” under a warming climate.
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