Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Claire Perry to instruct Committee on Climate Change to scope net zero goal
- US environmental group wins millions to develop methane-monitoring satellite
- Energy sector on alert for cyber attacks on UK power network
- Trump's top energy aide stepping down
- Warming climate to nearly double demand for cooling appliances
- The Commonwealth can kickstart a global offensive on climate change
- To lead on climate, countries must commit to zero emissions
- Plant diversity enhances productivity and soil carbon storage
- Avoided economic impacts of energy demand changes by 1.5 and 2 °C climate stabilization
The British government will formally ask its official climate advisors, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), to consider the “implications” for the UK of meeting the 1.5C Paris target. Speaking during this week’s Commonwealth heads of government meeting in London, Claire Perry, minister for energy and clean growth announced that Britain would call on its official climate watchdog to explore how Paris would affect the UK’s long-term climate goals, following an IPCC report on 1.5C due later this year. The UK’s Climate Change Act already sets a legally binding long-term target of reducing emissions by 80% from a 1990 baseline by 2050, but experts – including the CCC – have warned that the UK will need to raise its ambition to comply with the Paris climate agreement. In a submission to the UN’s climate agency cited by Climate Home News, Perry wrote: “The UK will need to legislate for a net-zero emissions target at an appropriate point in the future to provide legal certainty on where the UK is heading.” [As Carbon Brief’s analysis noted, this repeats language from the UK’s Clean Growth Strategy, published last autumn]. Perry also pledged more than £8m of investment for technology to help tackle climate change and prepare for the extreme weather which will likely be exacerbated by climate change. Quoted by BusinessGreen, Laurence Tubiana, a key architect of the Paris agreement and chief executive of the European Climate Foundation, said: “For a safe climate we need all governments to aim for cutting pollution to net zero levels by 2050. This decision to review Britain’s long-term climate target sends a strong message to the EU and other big economies”. The government’s announcement was welcomed by others at the Commonwealth summit. Quoted in the GuardianFrank Bainimarama, prime minister of Fiji, told the meeting: “I am encouraged by Britain’s undertaking to review its climate targets with a view to increasing ambition. The [targets] we all promised to make in the Paris agreement should be setting high standards for the rest of the world to follow. But just as importantly, we in the Commonwealth can show how cooperation based on trust can supply the finance, technology and skilled resources to deliver the necessary transformation in our economies.” Reuters, MP Richard Benyon for Conservative Home, the Independent and the Telegraph also have the story.
The Environmental Defense Fund has been awarded tens of millions of dollars from a number of philanthropic organisations to develop a new satellite to help track methane emissions from fossil fuel facilities around the world. They hope to monitor around 50 major oil and gas fields, that account for approximately 80% of the world’s oil and gas production. The organisation aims to launch the satellite as early as 2020. If it succeeds at launching its probe, it will be the first environmental group to send its own satellite into space
Britain’s top energy companies have been warned to examine blackouts more closely, because frequent or long periods of disruption could be the sign of a cyber attack, the Financial Times reports. Fears over the ability of Russia in particular to disrupt the electricity grid have risen in the wake of the nerve agent attack in Salisbury and US-led military strikes on Syria. The Energy Networks Association commented: “Network companies are aware of the increased threat level relating to cyber security and work closely with Government and across industry to prepare for any attack.”
Mike Catanzaro, the US president’s top energy and environmental adviser, is expected to leave the White House next week. Working behind the scenes, Catanzaro has been “pivotal” in crafting Trump’s energy policies and in rolling back Obama administration environmental rules, such as efforts to repeal the Clean Power Plan, E&E news reports. Catanzaro clashed with EPA administrator Scott Pruitt at times, including over Pruitt’s plans to host a ‘red team, blue team’ debate. It’s unclear who will replace Catanzaro. The Hill also carries the story.
A warming world and an expanding middle class will result in energy demand for cooling overtaking that for heating by the middle of the century, new research predicts. Analysis from the University of Birmingham suggests that energy use for cooling appliances like fridges and air conditioners will rise by 90% from 2017 levels. “Cooling just really isn’t part of the big debate. And yet we lose 200m tonnes of food each year because of a lack of cooling. That has massive repercussions,” said Toby Peters, a professor in power and cold economy from the university.
Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, is optimistic that this year’s Commonwealth summit can foster “bold commitments to step up climate action”. In an opinion piece for the Guardian, she highlights that New Zealand “has committed to setting an ambitious new target of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050”. She continues: “The international consensus on climate change in Paris in 2015 was a historic achievement. Now we all need to do our part by delivering on what we signed up to…Leadership on climate change cannot be left to the big economies. It demands broad and deep action”.
The UK’s climate laws forged a path for others to follow, writes Sweden’s deputy prime minister Isabella Lövin. “Sweden borrowed heavily from the UK Climate Change Act in drawing up our own, as have other countries such as Denmark and Finland”, she says. But in the ten years since the adoption of the UK Climate Change Act science and diplomacy have moved on, she says, and “a number of other countries have stepped up since the Paris summit by committing to net zero emissions targets by 2040 or 2050”. She concludes: “when the IPCC and the Paris agreement are telling us that greenhouse gas emissions need to reach net zero by mid-century, it is incumbent on us all to reflect that in our national programmes. That, at the very least, is what it means in 2018 to be a ‘climate leader'”.
Forests, shrublands, and grasslands with high plant diversity could be better at storing carbon in their soils than areas with low plant diversity, a new study finds. The findings are based on field observations from more than 6,000 sites across China, as well as results from modelled simulations. “Ecosystem management that maintains high levels of plant diversity can enhance SOC [soil organic carbon] storage and other ecosystem services that depend on plant diversity,” the researchers say.
The costs of space heating and air conditioning could be “much smaller” if global warming is limited to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels rather than 2C, a new study concludes. The findings show “that stringent climate mitigation can work as a risk hedge to socioeconomic development diversity,” the researchers say.