Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Climate change: COP25 talks to open as 'point of no return' in sight
- Bank of England's Carney to become UN climate finance envoy
- John Kerry launches star-studded climate coalition
- Attenborough: Boris Johnson’s absence from climate debate was shameful
- Students stage global strikes to pressure UN climate summit
- Brazil's Bolsonaro says DiCaprio gave cash 'to set Amazon on fire'
- Managing climate change
- Recommended temperature metrics for carbon budget estimates, model evaluation and climate policy
Political leaders and climate diplomats are meeting in Madrid for the start of two weeks of talks “amid a growing sense of crisis”, reports BBC News. Speaking on the eve of the meeting, UN secretary general António Guterres said yesterday the climate crisis was imminent and political leaders had to respond. He said: “In the crucial 12 months ahead, it is essential that we secure more ambitious national commitments – particularly from the main emitters – to immediately start reducing greenhouse gas emissions at a pace consistent to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.” Guterres told reporters that “the point of no return is no longer over the horizon…It is in sight and hurtling toward us”, reports the Associated Press. Guterres noted that the world has the scientific knowledge and the technical means to limit global warming, but “what is lacking is political will”, says Politico. He said: “Political will to put a price on carbon. Political will to stop subsidies on fossil fuels. Political will to stop building coal power plants from 2020 onwards. Political will to shift taxation from income to carbon. Taxing pollution instead of people.” While last year’s summit in Poland yielded a framework for reporting and monitoring emissions pledges and updating plans for further cuts, sticking points remain, says Reuters – not least over an article on how to put a price on emissions, and so allow them to be traded. “I don’t even want to entertain the possibility that we do not agree on Article 6,” Guterres said. “We are here to approve guidelines to implement Article 6, not to find excuses not to do it. BusinessGreen describes the implementation of Article 6 as “highly contentious”. Climate Home News (CHN) has a piece unpacking this “issue climate negotiators cannot agree”. (Carbon Brief published an in-depth Q&A on Article 6 last week.)
The talks were due to be held in Santiago, Chile, but were moved at short notice to Madrid, because of ongoing civil protests in the Chilean capital, notes the Press Association. CHN reports that COP leaders hope to “to assemble an alliance of countries that will pledge to curtail carbon emissions and pile pressure on laggards”. While Chile will still lead the meeting, “Spain is wielding more influence over the talks”, says CHN. Environment minister Teresa Ribera tells the outlet that Spain could “not expect to be silent” on the issue of raising ambition. Ribera tells the Financial Times that Spain’s last-minute decision to host the talks was essential to prevent the collapse in international climate efforts: “We couldn’t have the risk that the conference didn’t take place at a critical moment, and risk the implosion of the whole system to deal with climate change.“ Ahead of the meeting, a coalition of small island states “issued an impassioned plea to the industrialised world”, says the Guardian. “We see [these talks] as the last opportunity to take decisive action,” said Janine Felson, deputy chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), adding: “Anything short of vastly greater commitment to emission reduction, a new climate finance goal and tangible support for disaster risk reduction will signal a willingness to accept catastrophe.” This could be the last year in which a US team will play a part in the negotiations, says a BBC News COP25 primer: “The Americans are due to leave on 4 November 2020, one day after the next US presidential election and five days ahead of the critical COP26 in Glasgow.” Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, will lead a group of Democratic lawmakers to the COP, says CNN. Pelosi announced on Saturday she will bring a congressional delegation “to combat the existential threat of our time: the climate crisis”, though she did not specify which dates the group will attend the conference. Meanwhile, the new head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, will attend the COP and then travel to Africa in her first week in the job, “highlighting two of the key priorities for the EU executive over the next five years”, says Reuters. And the Guardian interviews Kristalina Georgieva, the new managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), at the COP. According to Georgieva, it makes sense for the IMF to play a prominent role in tackling climate change: “In a world that’s eager for higher growth, this is an opportunity to accelerate investment in low-carbon technologies and speed up the transition to a low-carbon world.” Finally, the Guardian has a briefing on the COP, Politico has “six things you need to know about COP25”, and BBC News has a short video explaining what to expect from the talks.
Bank of England governor Mark Carney will take up a role as UN special envoy for climate action and finance when his term ends next year, reports Reuters. Announcing the appointment at a news conference ahead of the UN climate summit in Madrid, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said the Canadian was “a remarkable pioneer in pushing the financial sector to work on climate”. A Bank of England statement defined Carney’s role as “galvanising climate action and transforming climate finance” before the UN’s 2020 climate change summit, due to take place in Glasgow, says Politico. It adds: “Carney will step down as Bank of England chief on January 31. The UN will pay him a nominal $1 per year for his role.” The appointment “reflects a global push for central banks to play a bigger role in tackling climate change”, says the Financial Times. Carney said his new role would provide “a platform to bring the risks from climate change and the opportunities from the transition to a net-zero economy into the heart of financial decision-making”, reports the Guardian. Carney replaces billionaire Michael Bloomberg after the former New York mayor stepped down to focus on the US presidential race, the paper adds.
In other financial news, the FT reports that “Christopher Hohn’s activist hedge fund TCI has outlined plans to punish directors of companies that fail to disclose their CO2 emissions in a move that underlines rising investor concerns over climate change and the pressure on boardrooms to respond”. According to letters seen by the FT, TCI has warned Airbus, Moody’s, Charter Communications and other companies to improve their pollution disclosure or it will vote against their directors and called for asset owners to fire fund managers that did not insist on climate transparency. And the Guardian reports on new analysis that suggests coal “is on the way to becoming uninsurable” as most projects cannot be financed, built or operated without insurance.
John Kerry, the former US senator, secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee, has formed a new coalition of world leaders, military top brass and Hollywood celebrities to push for public action to combat climate change, reports the New York Times. It continues: “Former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are part of the effort. Moderate Republican lawmakers like Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California, and John Kasich, the former governor of Ohio, are on the list. Stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Sting and Ashton Kutcher round out the roster of more than 60 founding members. Their goal is to hold more than 10m ‘climate conversations’ in the coming year with Americans across the political spectrum.” The group is dubbed “World War Zero,” says the Hill and their stated aims are to unite “unlikely allies with one common mission: making the world respond to the climate crisis the same way we mobilised to win World War II”. Kerry appeared on NBC’s Meet The Press yesterday morning, says the Guardian, where he explained that “we’ve got to treat this like a war”. He added: “We’re going to do the things we need to do, we’re going to organise, we’re going to mobilise, we’re going to talk to literally millions of Americans over the course of the next months, and this is going to become a primary issue.” The group will begin town meetings in January, but will not promote any specific policy plan, notes Axios. The Independent and Politico also have the story.
Sir David Attenborough says it was “shameful” that Boris Johnson did not take part in the UK general election debate on climate change last week, reports the Press Association. Speaking to Channel 4 News, Sir David said he found it “really rather sad” that Thursday’s debate was the first in the election about climate change, notes PA, adding: “I mean, I don’t know what else [Johnson] had to do, but it would have to be very, very important to dodge this one. I think.” Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that Boris Johnson has been urged by 350 leading climate researchers to robustly challenge Donald Trump on his “dangerous” and “irresponsible” denial of the risks of climate change during the US president’s visit to the UK this week. In the letter, the academics said Trump’s “unscientific denial” of the risks of climate change was harming lives. It asks Johnson to “seek to persuade him to take strong domestic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to join coordinated international action including the Paris agreement”.
Thousands of people in Asia and Europe joined rallies demanding more action on climate change on Friday, ahead of the UN climate talks in Madrid this fortnight, reports Reuters. Strikes were taking place in 2,300 cities in 153 countries around the world, Reuters adds, including Mumbai, Tel Aviv, Vienna and Frankfurt. There were “large turnouts in Madrid”, the venue for COP25, says the Guardian. Tens of thousands of children across the UK took time off school to protest as part of the “Fridays For Future” international movement, says the Press Association. Swedish activist Greta Thunberg had been due to join a student strike in Lisbon, notes Reuters, but her voyage across the Atlantic from New York by yacht was hit by high winds, delaying her by a few days. BBC News has a feature on Thunberg.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has accused actor Leonardo DiCaprio of “giving money to set the Amazon on fire”, reports BBC News. During brief remarks at the presidential residence on Friday, Bolsonaro said: “This Leonardo DiCaprio is a cool guy, right? Giving money to torch the Amazon.” BBC News notes that Bolsonaro “gave no evidence and did not elaborate, although the statement appeared to echo a live webcast he gave on Thursday” where he accused the environmental NGO WWF of involvement with four volunteer firefighters arrested on allegations of starting fires to generate NGO donations. Bolsonaro said: “So what did the NGO do? What is the easiest thing? Set fire to the forest. Take pictures, make a video. [WWF] makes a campaign against Brazil, it contacts Leonardo DiCaprio, he donates $500,000…A part of that went to the people that were setting fires. Leonardo DiCaprio, you are contributing to the fire in the Amazon, that won’t do.” In response, DiCaprio posted a statement on Instagram saying: “While worthy of support, we did not fund the organisations targeted,” reports the New York Times. He also said he was proud to stand by the groups protecting “these irreplaceable ecosystems”. He added that he remains “committed to supporting the Brazilian indigenous communities, local governments, scientists, educators and general public who are working tirelessly to secure the Amazon for the future of all Brazilians”. WWF has also denied obtaining photos from firefighters and receiving a contribution from DiCaprio, says the Hill. Carbon Brief summarised the media reports around the Amazon fires earlier this year.
As the climate talks get underway in Madrid, the Financial Times has published a special report on “managing climate change”. This includes articles on why the “spectre of increased drought divides world’s rich and poor”, how “asset owners must grapple with growing dangers”, the “net-zero challenge” facing Madrid, and why “cyclone devastation prompts Vanuatu to weigh legal action”. The collection also features opinion pieces on “why ‘100% renewable energy’ pledges are not enough”, how “shades of green run across political spectrum”, and why “you can’t keep a good idea [of carbon pricing] down”.
A new perspective paper in Nature Geoscience explores why “recent estimates of the amount of CO2 that can still be emitted while achieving the Paris Agreement temperature goals are larger than previously thought”. One potential reason for these larger estimates “may be the different temperature metrics used to estimate the observed global mean warming for the historical period, as they affect the size of the remaining carbon budget”, the researchers say. They add: “Here we explain the reasons behind these remaining carbon budget increases, and discuss how methodological choices of the global mean temperature metric and the reference period influence estimates of the remaining carbon budget.”
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