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Daily Briefing

17.10.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Climate change: Boris Johnson to chair new committee
Climate change: Boris Johnson to chair new committee

News.

Climate change: Boris Johnson to chair new committee

The UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson is to chair a new cabinet committee on climate change in a bid to co-ordinate policy across government, BBC News reports. It adds: “Details on the climate committee membership and how often it will sit are not yet available.” [The Committee on Climate Change proposed such an arrangement, suggesting that the chancellor should also attend, in its latest progress report to government, as Carbon Brief reported at the time. It called for “transparent public reporting of progress and plans”.]

Meanwhile, BusinessGreen notes that on Tuesday business secretary Andrea Leadsom called building a pathway to net-zero emissions her “number one priority” and has “promised a raft of new policies in 2020 to help get there”. It asks if government plans for net-zero are “finally starting to come together” and concludes: “The green economy may still be a long way from the credible and comprehensive net-zero policy framework it wants to see, but the foundations are now being laid.” In the Daily Express, energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng attacks Labour’s net-zero proposals and cites Carbon Brief’s new analysis showing that, for the very first time in Q3 2019, more electricity in the UK was generated by renewables than by fossil fossils. And a Times editorial backs pilot plans to return rivers to a “more natural state”, saying: “In an era of climate change, it is vital that the natural habitat be resilient.”

Separately, the Financial Times reports on draft rules proposed by the Financial Conduct Authority, which would force all UK-listed companies to disclose their risks from climate change from next year. The paper says the financial watchdog’s plans, if adopted, would mark a “significant ramping up of official policy”, going “further and faster that the UK government”. The draft rules will go out for consultation early next year before being finalised, the FT adds.

BBC News Read Article
Battle to block third runway at Heathrow resumes in court

There is widespread coverage of a Court of Appeal challenge in which activists – and the mayor of the city – are attempting to block plans for a third runway at London’s Heathrow airport. The Financial Times says the case is strengthened by the government’s recently adopted legal goal of reaching net-zero emissions, according to those launching the challenge. The paper notes: “Last month the Committee on Climate Change, the government’s official advisory body, said aviation was likely to be the biggest-emitting sector of the economy by 2050 and suggested that curbing demand for flying was one way to reduce aviation emissions.” The Guardian reports that lawyers for the claimants will argue the runway would violate the rights of children and future generations. BusinessGreen also covers the appeal.

Meanwhile, coverage continues of the Extinction Rebellion protests in London. Climate Home News says there have been 1,600 arrests so far and suggests the action has been “undeterred, if not galvanised” by a city-wide ban issued by police. The Guardian says protestors have defied the ban and also targeted search giant Google, with nursing mothers “blockad[ing]” its London headquarters “in protest at the company’s funding of climate deniers” – a move also reported by Reuters. (Another Guardian article says US Democrats have called on Google to “stop funding climate crisis deniers”.) The deputy assistant commissioner of London’s police force “insisted” the city-wide ban on Extinction Rebellion protests was “legal”, ahead of a High Court challenge, Press Association reports. Sky News reports that London commuters this morning “drag[ged]” an Extinction Rebellion protestor from on top of an underground train. Activists disrupted rail services in the east of the capital this morning, Reuters says.

BBC News reports on an open letter from celebrity supporters of the protests, under a headline focusing on the letter’s admission that journalists are “right” to call them “hypocrites”. It quotes the letter saying: “We live high carbon lives and the industries that we are part of have huge carbon footprints. Like you, and everyone else, we are stuck in this fossil-fuel economy and without systemic change, our lifestyles will keep on causing climate and ecological harm.” The celebrity letter is also covered by the TimesDaily TelegraphSun and others. DeSmog UK reports that 800 scientists have signed a declaration in support of climate protests around the world. Separately, RealClimate recounts the errors in a recent statement “at odds with the scientific consensus” on climate change, signed by 500 people and due to be launched in a press conference on Friday. It notes: “Most of the academics who signed the petition have no or little experience within climate research. Some of the signatures also have connections with political think tanks.”

Financial Times Read Article
Climate emergency e-petition gathers a record-breaking 370,004 signatures

A record-breaking number of Australians have signed an e-petition calling for the government to declare a “climate emergency”, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The petition comes two days after a parliamentary motion on such a declaration was blocked, the paper says. An editorial in the same paper reflects on the opposition Labor party’s approach to climate change, seen as part of its failure to win this year’s general election. In the Guardian, an investigation reports on Australia’s “epidemic of land clearing [that] is sabotaging efforts to address climate change”, which it says has “global consequences”. A second Guardian piece says Australia “spends billions planting trees – then wipes out carbon gains by bulldozing them”.

The Sydney Morning Herald Read Article
Prince William calls for climate change action on glacier visit

More political action on climate change is needed, Prince William said on a visit to a melting glacier in Pakistan, BBC News and others report. “Global warming has seen the Chiatibo Glacier in Broghil National Park retreat by some 10 metres a year due to higher temperatures melting the ice,” BBC News explains. The visit and Prince William’s comments are also reported by ITV News, the Daily TelegraphPress AssociationMetro and others. Reuters says the visit was designed to highlight the impacts of global warming and quotes the prince saying: “I hope to learn what more we all can do to help prevent and mitigate this impending global catastrophe.”

BBC News Read Article

Comment.

The Guardian's climate pledge 2019

A piece by the Guardian’s editor-in-chief Kath Viner and her country editors in the US and Australia explains the paper’s “climate pledge 2019”. It lists a series of pledges covering the paper’s reporting, use of language on the “climate crisis” and on reaching “net-zero emissions by 2030”, under a plan that is being developed. The piece explains: “We believe that the escalating climate crisis is the defining issue of our lifetimes and that the planet is in the grip of an emergency.” Another piece, by Guardian US editor John Mulholland, explains his view that “the climate crisis is the most crucial story we cover in America”. And a comment piece by Guardian Australia editor Lenore Taylor says the country “wasted decades in climate denial – and must break free of the mire of disinformation”. A short glossary from the Guardian explains the changes it has made in its use of language, including using the phrase “climate crisis” rather than “climate change”, which it says is “no longer considered to accurately reflect the seriousness of the overall situation”.

Editors, The Guardian Read Article
Japan spent mightily to soften nature’s wrath, but can it ever be enough?

A feature in the New York Times reports on the aftermath of Typhoon Hagibis, which breached at least 55 levees after record-breaking rains last weekend and storms that left 70 people dead, as well as more than 10,000 homes flooded. The feature says: “Japan, a nation grimly accustomed to natural disasters, has invested many billions of dollars in a world-class infrastructure meant to soften nature’s wrath. But with the flooding in areas across central and northern Japan in recent days, the country has been forced to examine more deeply the assumptions that undergird its flood control system. That is raising a difficult question, for Japan and for the world: Can even the costliest systems be future-proofed in an age of storms made more powerful by climate change?” It quotes one professor of river engineering saying the country is seeing “rain of a strength that we have never experienced” and adding that “realistically, there will be rains you can’t defend against”. The feature says: “That has not always been the view of the Japanese government. For centuries, it has seen disaster management as a problem to be solved by engineering.”

Ben Dooley, Makiko Inoue and Eimi Yamamitsu, The New York Times Read Article

Science.

Rapid CO2 release from eroding permafrost in seawater

Erosion of permafrost along Arctic coastlines could potentially be “a major source of CO2”, a new study suggests. The authors note that “along the rapidly eroding coastlines of the Arctic Ocean…whole stretches of the coast simply collapse, sink or slide into the ocean; including the previously frozen organic carbon”. The researchers “simulated greenhouse gas release in response to coastline collapse in a laboratory experiment by simply mixing permafrost with seawater”. Their findings “show that large amounts of CO2 are being produced during the Arctic open‐water season”. The study concludes: “With increasing loss of sea ice, longer open‐water seasons and exposure of coasts to waves, we highlight the importance of coastal erosion for potential CO2 emissions.”

Geophysical Research Letters Read Article

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