Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Climate change: Europe's extreme rains made more likely by humans
- Extinction Rebellion: Activists begin two weeks of London protests 'targeting root cause of climate crisis'
- Climate crisis unlikely to turn rivals China and the US into green collaborators
- Democrats argue new report on Keystone pipelines bolsters Biden cancellation
- Maersk takes biggest step yet to decarbonise container shipping
- Nature crisis: Talks resume on global plan to protect biodiversity
- IMF chief: how the world can make the most of new special drawing rights
- How a Glasgow PACT can advance the climate agenda at COP26
- Climate action will stall until the finance problem is solved
Heavy rain as intense as the downpours behind the recent deadly flooding in Germany and Belgium has been made up to nine times more likely by climate change and up to 19% more intense, BBC News reports, covering a new “rapid attribution” study from the “World Weather Attribution” group of researchers. The broadcaster quotes one of the study authors saying: “It is difficult to analyse the climate change influence on heavy rainfall at very local levels, but we were able to show that, in western Europe, greenhouse gas emissions have made events like these more likely.” Reuters reports that the analysis found climate change made extreme rainfall of the kind that caused the floods “at least 20% more likely to happen in the region”. It quotes a study co-leader saying: “We will definitely get more of this in a warming climate.” The newswire adds: “During the last year alone, scientists found that US drought, a deadly Canadian heat wave and wildfires across the Siberian Arctic have been worsened by a warming atmosphere.” [See the Carbon Brief map of all climate attribution studies to date for more.] The Independent says the attribution focused on rainfall rather than river level records, in part because “some river measurement stations were destroyed by the flood”. It says that the analysis found rainfall as extreme as seen during the floods was between 1.2-9 times more likely as a result of warming to date of 1.2C. It adds: “[I]f global temperatures reach 2C above pre-industrial levels, such extreme rain would become a further 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely, according to the analysis.” The New York Times runs the story under the headline: “Climate change contributed to Europe’s deadly floods, scientists find.” It says the analysis found warming made the record downpours behind the floods more likely and more intense. The paper adds: “Both findings are in keeping with a basic fact of climate change, that warmer air holds more moisture.” The Times explains how the analysis worked: “Scientists calculated the role of climate change on the intense rainfall that caused the floods by analysing weather records and computer simulations to compare today’s climate, which is about 1.2C warmer on average globally than in pre-industrial times, with the climate of the past. They found that climate change had made such intense rainfall between 1.2 and 9 times more likely to happen and had also increased the amount of rain that fell in one day by between 3% and 19%.” The paper adds that the recent IPCC report said there is “unequivocal evidence that humans are warming the planet, and that human-caused climate change is the main driver of changes in weather extremes”, adding: “The [IPCC] report found that as temperatures rise, western and central Europe will be exposed to more extreme rainfall and flooding.” The Guardian also refers back to the IPCC’s findings and says the new study of the July floods “reinforces the hard evidence that carbon emissions are the main cause of worsening extreme weather”. The Financial Times, Sky News, Politico, Bloomberg, BusinessGreen, Forbes and i newspaper all have the story.
In other news of extreme weather, the Times reports that electricity firm National Grid is working to restore power to tens of thousands of homes in the US states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, in the wake of Tropical Storm Henri. Reuters reports on the storm “threaten[ing] flash floods in the US Northeast on Monday drenching the region over the weekend”. It quotes an insurer saying: “Climate change is not necessarily the direct cause…But it certainly has its fingerprints all over it.” E&E News via Scientific American reports that global warming is affecting storms like Henri, with “tropical cyclones…wandering further north and maintaining high intensity”.
The Guardian reports on the aftermath of the floods in the US state of Tennessee, which have left more than 22 people dead and many more missing. BBC News says the “record-breaking flooding” in the state began on Saturday. It adds: “Many factors contribute to flooding, but a warming atmosphere caused by climate change makes extreme rainfall more likely.” Reuters says rescue teams are searching for “dozens missing”. Another Reuters article says President Biden has approved federal aid for Tennessee, in the wake of the flooding. The New York Times has an article under the headline: “What role does climate change play in disasters like the Tennessee flooding?” It quotes a climate scientist saying: “This is exactly the type of event we expect to see with increasing frequency in a warming climate.” The Washington Post runs under the headline: “Tennessee floods show a pressing climate danger across America: ‘Walls of water’.” National Public Radio has a piece titled: “The floods in Tennessee aren’t freak accidents. They’re a new reality.” It says the floods are “another deadly example of climate change after a summer of climate-driven calamities”.
Finally, Associated Press reports that firefighters in California are “battl[ing] a dozen large wildfires”. Elsewhere, Reuters reports that villagers have been evacuated as forest fires spread near Athens, Greece. MailOnline reports that global wildfires have released a “record” 4.7bn tonnes of CO2 in 2021 to date.
There is widespread coverage of the start of two weeks of protests launched yesterday by Extinction Rebellion (XR) in London, with Sky News reporting that the activists are “demanding the government stops new investment in fossil fuels”. The broadcaster reports: “The campaign group expects thousands of people will take part in their ‘Impossible Rebellion’, which will ‘target the root cause of the climate and ecological crisis’.” The protests are highlighted in a brief story next to a frontpage image on today’s Financial Times. BBC News leads its coverage by reporting that the protest group has “built a huge table in Covent Garden as part of its fifth mass protest to demand the government stops using fossil fuels”. Press Association via Belfast Telegraph reports that XR blocked roads in central London and that, by Monday evening, some 52 arrests had been made. The Guardian says the pink XR table “blocked one of Covent Garden’s busiest junctions on the first day of the group’s latest wave of protests targeting London”. The Times says XR “blockades West End of London”. The paper notes that the group’s protests in 2019 resulted in hundreds of arrests and says the “relatively low number” so far “suggests that the police have taken into account a Supreme Court ruling that obstruction can be a legitimate and lawful form of protest”. It adds: “The Ziegler judgment, handed down in June, ruled that the exercising of protest rights could constitute a ‘lawful excuse’ for obstructing the highway, even if the protest is considered disruptive.” ITV News says protestors were “kettled” by police. The Evening Standard says “dozens” were arrested on the first day of the protests. The i newspaper also has the story. Another Evening Standard article asks: “As wildfires burn and flood waters rise, the environmental rabble rousers are back in the capital. But what’s changed – and is London ready for the chaos?” The Daily Telegraph uses its coverage of the protests to report that Dr Gail Bradbrook, one of the founders of XR, “has admitted that she drives a diesel car”. A comment for the Guardian by Greg Muttitt of NGO the International Institute for Sustainable Development runs under the headline: “How can Britain commit to net-zero and still drill for millions more barrels of oil?” He says it is “hypocrisy” to consider approving a “massive” new oilfield off Shetland as the UK prepares to COP26 climate summit in November.
Elsewhere, Reuters reports that police have ended the occupation of Norway’s oil ministry by “scores of Extinction Rebellion activists” who had blocked access to the building for more than five hours yesterday.
South China Morning Post reports that, although climate change has been regarded as one area of cooperation between China and the US, the prospect of such a collaboration is “now in dispute”. The Hong Kong-based publication says that, according to researchers and analysts, the two countries will likely “aggressively compete in their climate policies” instead of teaming up to cut the use of fossil fuels or promote renewable energies. (The news comes after John Kerry, US President Biden’s climate envoy, told CNN that he would visit China “in three weeks”. Read last week’s Carbon Brief China Briefing for more on that.) In a separate report, South China Morning Post says that Sinopec – a petroleum and petrochemical enterprise group – is building two of the world’s “biggest solar hydrogen plants” in a bid to achieve carbon neutrality a decade before the national target.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that China is making “one of its biggest pushes yet” into Middle Eastern renewable energy. It says that a group led by China Three Gorges Corporation – a state-owned power company – “is buying” Alcazar Energy Partners, a Dubai-based wind and solar developer. Another Bloomberg article says that Chinese cities “aren’t ready for climate disasters”. Separately, China’s Oil and Gas Weekly reports that the country’s thermal power, steel, cement, petrochemical and chemical industries have “huge demand” for carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technologies to help reduce their emissions. Furthermore, Quartz explains “why China’s carbon market isn’t working”. The outlet says that the market’s record-low price last Friday was “the latest sign that the market’s structural flaws are preventing it from working as an effective weapon against climate change”.
Elsewhere, Xinhua reports that various areas of Henan province has “gone all out” to tackle “a new round of heavy precipitation”. The state news agency says that the provincial meteorological observatory released “several” red alerts for heavy rain on Sunday. (Red is the most severe in China’s four-tier, colour-coded weather warning system.) It adds that the region faced a “severe flood-control situation”. (More than 300 people died in floods in Henan last month. This issue of China Briefing covered the disaster.) Finally, Yicai.com reports that China’s National Forestry and Grasslands Commission (NFGC) will take part in the national emissions trading scheme (ETS) to “encourage the full use of forest and grass-based carbon sinks in the implementation of emissions offsetting mechanisms”.
A group of Democrats in the US House of Representatives is pointing to a new report on oil spills from the Keystone pipeline as supporting the cancellation of the Keystone XL extension, reports the Hill. The independent watchdog the Government Accountability Office (GAO), found, says the Hill: “[S]ince 2010, Keystone’s accident history is similar to that of other pipelines, but that its record has worsened in recent years.” Reuters reports: “[The GAO] found multiple problems with the construction, manufacture and design of the Keystone pipeline.” Politico also has the story, reporting that the GAO found the company behind the pipeline had an oil spill record “worse than the national average” over the five years to 2020, after two major spills. Separately, Yale Environment 360 reports that electrifying the US federal vehicle fleet “could yield billions in savings by 2030”.
Shipping giant Maersk has ordered eight new vessels capable of running on “green” methanol as well as traditional bunker fuel, the Financial Times reports. The paper continues: “Maersk expects to take delivery of the eight ships from Hyundai Heavy Industries in early 2024 and has an option for four more the following year, making it the first container shipping company to order large carbon-neutral vessels capable of sailing from China to Europe and across the Pacific. It ordered a small carbon-neutral feeder vessel in February. Each vessel costs about $175m, about 10-15% more than a traditional ship as it will be able to run on both bunker fuel and carbon-neutral methanol. Carbon-neutral methanol costs about double bunker fuel, but Maersk executives said they thought customers such as Amazon and H&M were willing to pay up for green transport.” Meanwhile, Climate Home News reports that three Pacific island nations are calling for zero-carbon shipping by 2050, with an effort to reopen the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) target of a 50% reduction by the same date. The outlet reports: “In a proposal to the UN’s shipping body, the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Kiribati cited a major report published earlier this month summarising the latest climate science…The island states’ proposal will be considered at the IMO’s next environmental committee meeting 22-26 November, shortly after UN climate talks at COP26 in Glasgow, UK.”
UN negotiators have resumed work on the text of a global deal on protecting nature, BBC News reports. It says the draft Global Biodiversity Framework “aims to conserve at least 30% of the world’s land and oceans”. The broadcaster adds that the deal was due to have been agreed at a UN summit in China this October but talks have been delayed until April 2022, having already been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic last year.
Writing for the Financial Times, International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva describes the organisation’s new $650bn “special drawing rights allocation” (SDRs), saying: “This injection of fresh international reserve assets marks a milestone in our collective ability to combat an unprecedented crisis.” Georgieva writes: “SDRs can help countries with weak reserves reduce their reliance on more expensive domestic or external debt. And for states hard pressed to increase social spending, invest in recovery and deal with climate threats, they offer a precious additional resource.” She adds: “The IMF is also engaging with its members on a possible new Resilience and Sustainability Trust that could use SDRs to help poor and vulnerable countries with structural transformation, including climate-related challenges. Another possibility could be channelling SDRs to support lending by multilateral development banks.”
In a comment for Climate Home News, Richard Black, honorary research fellow at Imperial College London writes that less than three months out from the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November there is still not a definitive answer to the question of what the UN talks are for. Black says: “There is no shortage of ideas. It is the ‘climate justice COP’ to some interested groups, the ‘health COP’ to others, the ‘net-zero COP’ to yet others. Many nations, blocs, thinktanks, academics, business groups and civil society organisations have proffered visions and lists of priorities. But still there is a vacancy for a simply expressed aim.” He argues that what is missing is not agreement on the ingredients of a successful COP26 outcome but a “way of encapsulating them”. He adds: “In two years of talking about the COP, the best encapsulation I have seen is the three-part ‘Glasgow PACT’. Let me unpack the PACT.” The “A” in PACT is for ambition, Black explains, with governments needing to raise their collective targets to cut emissions. He continues: “To become reality, ambition needs backing up with real-economy action…Although the formal negotiations cannot kick-start all of this, agreements made at COP26 between governments and business sectors could. It needs to be Clean, it needs to be a genuine Transformation.” Finally, Black writes, the “P” stands for promises, including the $100bn in climate finance for developing countries, which must be delivered: “No delivery, no deal.” He concludes: “The three elements are mutually reinforcing. The A and CT are two sides of the same emission-cutting coin; delivering on the finance P will help unlock a CT in the developing world, while successful A and CT will minimise the eventual need for both adaptation and loss and damage support that make up such an essential part of P.”
The “big money” needed to tackle climate change will be for “buildings, boilers and cookers, that were built with, or built to run on, fossil fuels”, writes Sam Arie, an analyst at investment bank UBS, in a comment for the Financial Times. He writes: “In total we think as much as $300tn in extra investments could be needed to re-tool the global economy with assets that can be fabricated, distributed, operated and eventually recycled using clean energy sources alone. To put that in context, humanity’s investment spend today (for everything we do) is about $20tn a year. Finding another $300tn over 30 years may not be impossible. But then our investment budget needs to go up by 50% from tomorrow and the increase must be funded somehow…at a profound level [this] is the reason why the finance question remains unanswered – and the climate crisis unsolved.” Arie concludes: “If we want to avoid that dire outcome [outlined by the recent IPCC report in the event that emissions are not reduced], then we must urgently address the question of how we are going to pay for a better one.”
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