Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Climate change: 'Adapt or die' warning from Environment Agency
- IEA warns clean-energy spending must triple to curb climate change
- Climate summit chief sets up fight over Paris Agreement’s goal
- Macron reveals €30bn plan to ‘reindustrialise’ France in likely re-election bid
- UK: Sunak to apply tough ‘value for money’ tests on gas bailouts
- Britain's energy vulnerability plays straight into China's hands
- Impact of rising temperatures on the biomass of humid old-growth forests of the world
BBC News reports on a strongly worded warning from the UK’s Environment Agency that hundreds of people could die from floods in England, in similar events to those that struck parts of Germany earlier this year. It quotes Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the agency, who says “it is adapt or die”. The agency has released the report which assesses England’s readiness to cope with the risks of climate change, which lays out the impacts of a 2C temperatures rise for England, the news website adds. Among the measures being called for are “new thinking on flood protection, closer partnerships between government and businesses and projects to restore natural systems that absorb carbon and hold back rainwater”, it continues. The story is also reported by the Times, which features it on its frontpage. It says that the agency’s report warns of changing rainfall patterns that could increase peak river flows by 27% by the 2050s and 52% by the 2080s. Other risks mentioned by the newspaper include water shortages resulting from a combination of droughts, overextraction from rivers and the growing population. The Daily Mail also has the story, reporting that, according to Howard Boyd, adaptation measures such as flood barriers or reducing water use are just as important as cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The report is widely reported elsewhere, including by Sky News and the Washington Post.
Meanwhile, in other UK news, Unearthed reports that more than 100 fires have been reported on northern England’s carbon-rich peatlands “just weeks before the government is set to host COP26”. It notes that heather is being deliberately burned on grouse-shooting estates to maintain the ecosystem for grouse hunting, despite being the UK’s “biggest natural terrestrial carbon store”.
Separately, COP26 president-designate Alok Sharma has told Politico that his Conservative colleagues who are sceptical about the high costs of climate policies should be aware that “the longer you leave it, the more it’s going to cost you”, urging them to read the latest Office for Budget Responsibility report on fiscal risks. His comments come after a group of Conservative MPs called the Net Zero Scrutiny Group has built an alleged membership of about 40, plus climate-sceptic lobby group the Global Warming Policy Foundation has been relaunched as Net Zero Watch, the piece notes.
Finally, the Daily Mirror reports that some of the UK’s most popular TV soap operas, including Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale, are joining together for their very first crossover episode, with a storyline “focused on climate change” to coincide with COP26.
There is widespread coverage of the latest annual World Energy Outlook report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). In its coverage, the Financial Times states that, even if all current net-zero pledges by governments were implemented, the world would only achieve 20% of the emissions cuts by 2030 required to hit the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, according to the IEA report. It also quotes Fatih Birol, IEA executive director, who tells the newspaper that volatility in energy markets will continue to present a risk unless investment in clean power is tripled over the next decade. Birol says that although projected investment in oil and gas was now aligned with the net-zero by 2050 target, public spending on renewables was only at a third of the future levels required. As it stands, the Guardian says that the report warns current plans will fall 60% short of the 2050 net-zero target. It says that with the COP26 climate summit looming, the energy outlook has been redesigned this year as a “guidebook” for world leaders who are attending the event in Glasgow. The agency warns that up to $4tn (£2.94tn) in investment over the next decade will be required to get the world on track, it adds. In its coverage, the New York Times also notes that nations have “made significant strides in the fight against climate change”, with wind and solar power now the cheapest source of new electricity in most markets and sales of electric vehicles worldwide hitting records last year. Reuters has picked out some of the key charts from the new report, including one showing what CO2 emissions trajectories look like under different IEA scenarios, and anther showing the changes in fossil fuel demand required to get onto these pathways. Carbon Brief also covers the report in depth.
Another Financial Times piece reports that, according to a report by the trade body RenewableUK, UK planning authorities are approving less than half of the onshore wind capacity that the country will need to install each year to achieve the country’s net-zero targets.
Separately, according to BusinessGreen, the capacity of carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects planned around the world has grown by 48% over the last nine months, increasing from 73m tonnes per annum (Mtpa) in 2020 to 111 Mtpa in the first nine months of this year.
Alok Sharma, president-designate of COP26, has said in a speech that he will be pushing hard for countries to cut their emissions this decade by enough to give the world a chance to stop global warming breaching 1.5C, the stretch target of the Paris Agreement, Politico reports. The articles notes that this is a “deep disagreement over just what was agreed in Paris six years ago” and says that Sharma’s decision to focus on 1.5C “sets up a fractious finale for COP26”. It adds that some “big emitters” say that the original deal aims mainly for a 2C target, and quotes Laurent Fabius, the former French prime minister who was president of the 2015 summit that resulted in the Paris deal, who says that the 1.5C target was an aspiration and that the agreement would survive if it was not met. The Times says that Sharma used his speech to urge China, Russia, Australia and other G20 countries that have not come forward with more stringent climate targets yet to “step up” their efforts before the summit.
Separately, the newspaper adds that Prince Charles addressed delegates via video link at COP15, the UN biodiversity conference being hosted by China, “at one point in Mandarin”. A separate Times article notes that the prince launched a “charm offensive” to persuade some of China’s biggest companies to “join his environmental initiatives and take stronger action on climate change”. Climate Homes News reports that while China’s president Xi made no climate announcement at the opening of the event, he said the nation “will release implementation plans for peaking carbon dioxide emissions in key areas and sectors as well as a series of supporting measures”. It adds that Beijing signed a ministerial statement as part of the G20 in July stating that it intended “to update or communicate an ambitious [2030 climate plan] by COP26,” but it is yet to do so. BBC News reports that Prince Charles has urged Australian prime minister Scott Morrison and other leaders to attend COP26. Bloomberg says China’s Xi Jinping used his COP15 speech to highlight that “construction on the first phase [of a project], comprising 100 gigawatts of wind and solar, in the desert has started smoothly”. Bloomberg adds it is a “massive renewable energy project that’s bigger than all of the wind and solar power in India”.
Reuters notes that UN climate envoy Mark Carney has said that the world’s multilateral development banks need to “up their ambition” in terms of the financing provided for climate-related projects ahead of COP26. Separately, another Reuters piece reports that the Asian Development Bank’s will boost its climate financing goals by $20bn to a new target of $100bn for the 2019-2030 period “and aims to launch its concept for retiring coal-fired power plants at the COP26 climate conference”.
Climate Home News reports that Alok Sharma also announced in his speech (see above) that there will be a “solidarity fund” provided by the UN to cover the extra accommodation costs of developing country delegates who test positive for Covid-19 during COP26 and need to self-isolate. Meanwhile, BusinessGreen reports on comments from Labour’s shadow business secretary Ed Miliband, urging Boris Johnson to “get off the sun lounger and start being a statesman” ahead of COP26 (it adds that the prime minister is reportedly taking a break at a Spanish villa owned by environment minister Lord Zac Goldsmith). Miliband warned that without dedicated intervention from the government COP26 risks becoming merely a “greenwash summit”, BusinessGreen adds.
In more COP26 news, Reuters reports that lawmakers on the European Parliament environment committee have agreed to support a proposal that all countries increase their national climate goals every five years – rather than every 10 – a stance opposed by major emitters including China and India. the piece notes that this is one of the final pieces of the Paris Agreement “rulebook” up for discussion at the COP26 talks.
Bloomberg has a piece titled, “why some surprising countries are setting net-zero goals”, noting that Russia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates – “three of the world’s most fossil-fuel reliant countries” – indicated last week that they could be net-zero within decades. It adds that while some had welcomed the targets, others said they indicated that “net-zero” had “lost all credibility if any petrostate could simply declare a target without any accountability”, adding that “the truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle”.
French president Emmanuel Macron has “given a taste of his likely re-election bid” with an announcement of a €30bn (£25.4bn) plan to “reindustrialise” France, making it a global leader on green hydrogen and building new, smaller nuclear reactors, the Guardian reports. The piece notes that nuclear power, which generates 70% of French electricity, has “become a point of fierce debate in the run-up to next year’s election”, with support from the right and opposition from green politicians. It adds that Macron also said France should be able to build a low-CO2 aeroplane and produce 2m electric and hybrid cars by 2030. Politico reports that the biggest chunk of the plan – €8bn – is devoted to the energy transition, and Macron identified small nuclear reactors with efficient waste management systems as his “goal number one”, even though they accounted for just €1bn of the plan. Another Politico piece reports that there is also a dispute over nuclear power in Belgium, where the government is set to decide whether to go ahead with a plan to shut down all nuclear reactors by 2025 or prolong the two newest reactors.
According to EurActiv, France was among the signatories of a joint opinion article signed by 10 EU countries and published across major European newspapers on Monday, which declared that “nuclear power must be part of the solution” to climate change and the rise in energy prices. The piece refers to the inclusion of nuclear power in the EU’s green finance taxonomy, which defines the economic activities that can be labelled as a sustainable investment. The topic “has been the subject of heated debate at the EU level”, EurActiv adds. According to a draft policy plan seen by Reuters, the European Commission “will in 2022 follow this year’s bumper package of climate law with further proposals, including tighter air pollution limits and a system of carbon removal certificates”.
Meanwhile, in Australia, the Guardian has an explainer article asking: “Should Australia build nuclear power plants to combat the climate crisis?” The piece states that renewable energy could meet 100% of demand by 2025 “at certain times of day at current rates of progress”, but notes that the prospect of an Australian nuclear power station “still looms large in the public conversation”.
UK chancellor Rishi Sunak will apply tough “value for money” tests to taxpayer-backed aid for the steel sector and other big energy users, according to the Financial Times. The news comes after prime minister Boris Johnson supported a rescue plan to “mitigate” the impact of rising gas prices on the UK’s energy-intensive industries, “siding with business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng”. According to the newspaper: “The Treasury said it was working through a support package suggested by Kwarteng as quickly as possible, but it became clear on Tuesday that any support would come with strings attached”. The Guardian reports that Kwarteng has put forward a proposal to prop up struggling factories, although it says that according to Whitehall sources they will only get support if they can prove they have been pushed to the brink of closure. Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reports that “four more energy suppliers are in line to collapse amid soaring wholesale gas and electricity prices”.
Separately, the Daily Telegraph reports that electric car grants are set to be cut under Treasury plans, “with Rishi Sunak embroiled in a Cabinet row over the government’s green agenda just weeks before the COP26 climate summit”.
Meanwhile, in Europe, the Financial Times reports that chief executives of European utilities have written to EU governments “urging them to avoid drastic market interventions such as Spain’s windfall tax, as countries resort to emergency measures to curb the energy crisis”.
A piece by former Conservative party leader and prominent pro-Brexit campaigner Iain Duncan Smith in the Daily Telegraph laments the fact that the UK went from being a net energy exporter to being a net importer in the 2000s. He says that “in their rush to decarbonise, our leaders have failed to anticipate the continuing need for fossil fuel reserves”, pointing in particular to what he sees as the potential for “low cost shale gas exploration”. He writes: “The ambition to increase the proportion of renewable energy is a noble objective, but policy makers must recognise that while we get there, energy security is no less vital. The lights and heating need to remain on and industry needs energy supplies available at reasonable prices. Furthermore, as we look to develop hydrogen as a genuine and reliable alternative to gas, we will still need gas.”.
Meanwhile, climate-sceptic writer David Rose has written a “special report” for the Daily Mail stating that China has “made a mockery of Boris Johnson’s great green jobs boast”. He writes that despite the expansion of windfarms off Scotland, the “green revolution” is passing by Fife, with some components being manufactured a factory in southern China.
A new study projects that rising air temperatures over the 21st century will drive a decrease in the above-ground biomass of old-growth forests of 41% in the tropics and 29% globally. The authors run a model to determine the impact of monthly air temperature on above-ground biomass of old-growth forests. They compare results using air temperature observations over 1970-2000 to those using air temperature projections over 2081-2100. The study estimates that above-ground biomass will decrease in all humid lowland areas except boreal regions.
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