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Daily Briefing

13.12.2018
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Climate change talks lead to renewed pledge to cut emissions
Climate change talks lead to renewed pledge to cut emissions

News.

Climate change talks lead to renewed pledge to cut emissions

The EU, Canada, New Zealand and “scores” of developing countries have promised to “toughen” their existing pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions, in what the Guardian describes as “the most positive message yet to come from the ongoing talks in Poland”. By doing so, they hope to limit global warming to 1.5C. The announcement – made yesterday – came at the end of a day where the UN secretary general António Guterres “made an impassioned intervention to rescue the talks”, in a speech at the plenary also covered by Climate Home Newsand Politico. “Failing here in Katowice would send a disastrous message to those who stand ready to shift to a green economy,” he said. “To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change. It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal.” Slow progress after more than a week of negotiations prompted Michal Kurtyka, the Polish president of the talks, to tell delegates time was precious, Reuters says. The talks officially end on Friday, although they “may extend into the weekend due to the current deadlock”, the Financial Times suggests.

In other news about the talks, the Washington Post reports that small island nations, who are vulnerable to sea-level rise, are “making the loudest calls for quick action on carbon emissions”. Canada’s environment minister told Reuters– ahead of an event today from the “Powering Past Coal Alliance” – that governments are working on a fair way to phase out coal use. Former US vice president Al Gore told the conference that “Trump’s stance on global warming may actually advance the cause of tackling climate change”, Time writes. In an interview with the Washington Post, Gore said that he doesn’t think the latest climate conference is “on the White House radar screen” and that he hopes that it “stays that way”. “But it’s better when the US is actually providing leadership”, Gore commented. A piece in Axios also notes a “dearth of American leadership” at the conference. ReutersEurActiv and the New York Times have all published summaries of the conference so far.

Elsewhere, Climate Home News reports that “competing visions of climate justice have alienated Saudi Arabia from other developing countries” at the talks. In a speech yesterday Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama called for the IPCC Special Report on 1.5C to be welcomed: “Let me make this perfectly clear. Fiji welcomes the IPCC special report on 1.5 degrees. And we thank the thousands of scientists who contributed to it.” Saudi Arabia has refused to formally welcome the report. In an interview with Carbon Brief, the kingdom’s senior negotiator Ayman Shasly explains why: “You would not say things like, you ‘welcome’ it…because that [means] we are giving legitimacy to some scientific report…that had its own issues of scientific gaps, knowledge gaps.” DeSmogUK reveals that at least 35 delegates from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Russia and the US – countries who “forced the UN climate negotiations to weaken language” around the acceptance of the 1.5C report – “have ties to the oil, gas and mining industries”. “Most of the Saudi Arabian delegates currently work for state oil and gas producer Saudi Aramco,” DeSmogUk says.

The Guardian Read Article
Global bankers spurn Trump's pleas to keep making loans for coal

The US president is “trying to recruit international lenders to his pro-coal crusade” but “they aren’t enlisting”, Bloomberg reports. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) adopted a plan yesterday that rules out direct financing of coal plants and mines, despite opposition from the US – the bank’s biggest shareholder. The news follows a joint pledge earlier this month by nine multilateral development banks to scale up their support of climate-friendly projects and scale back their assistance for carbon intensive ones. This “underscore the limits of both Trump’s campaign to revive coal and his influence on the world stage, where his proselytising for the fossil fuel is winning few converts”, Bloomberg writes. The Financial Times also covers the move by the EBRD, adding that it: “will bring into sharper relief the activities of Chinese and other development banks that finance huge numbers of coal and oil projects around the world”. Reuters also carries the story. Elsewhere, Axios reports that “US firms face mounting risks over coal investments”.

Bloomberg Read Article
Climate change is 'shrinking winter'

Snowy mountain winters in the western US are being “squeezed” by climate change, according to research being presented at this year’s American Geophysical Union meeting. Scientists found that rising temperatures are reducing the period during which snow is on the ground in the mountains – snow that millions rely on for their fresh water, BBC News reports. Prof Amato Evans, one of the researchers who carried out the investigation, tells BBC News that the early arrival of summer is a driving force behind sometimes devastating wildfires: “We’ve got less snow, we’ve got a longer fire season, we’ve got infestations [of pests that thrive in warmer temperatures] – these ecological issues; it’s a kind of perfect storm of really bad outcomes, which then result in – in some cases – these massively dramatic fires.”

BBC News Read Article
El Niños to strengthen because of global warming, will cause 'more extreme weather', study says

El Niños will be stronger and more frequent in the decades ahead due to global warming, a new study has found, causing “more extreme events” around the world. The natural weather phenomenon will occur roughly once every 10 years, rather than once every 15 years, according to research published in the journal Nature. “During extreme El Niños, marine life in the eastern Pacific can die off, and mass bleaching of corals across the Pacific and beyond can occur,” USA Today explains.

USA Today Read Article
Australia’s carbon emissions highest on record, data shows

Australia’s carbon emissions are again the highest on record, according to new data from Ndevr Environmental. Its data for this year up to September “shows that Australia is still on track to miss its Paris target” of a 26%-28% cut to emissions on 2005 levels by 2030, the Guardian reports.

The Guardian Read Article

Comment.

We are 12 years from potential climate catastrophe – here’s how we can walk back from the brink

“Beyond 2C of warming, all bets are off. The world’s coral reefs will all be dead, hundreds of millions more will suffer compared to 1.5C, and there will be unimaginable impacts on the natural world and ecosystems on which we depend,” writes Nick Bridge, the UK foreign secretary’s special representative for climate change, in an opinion piece for the Independent. “So we must act now to prevent disaster later”, he says, adding that: “new approaches in politics, economics and society are critical”. Bridge goes on to discuss raising the ambition of the UK’s emissions cuts: “it requires citizens, business and government to come together as we did in 2008 to achieve the world’s first Climate Change Act, but on a much bigger scale.”

Nick Bridge, The Independent Read Article
The Guardian view on global warming: time is running out

An editorial in the Guardian says that it is “appalling” that negotiators at the latest UN climate talks are “finding it so hard to push ahead with implementing the climate deal signed three years ago in Paris”. “This is largely because rising rightwing nationalism has vitiated the global solidarity needed to avoid a catastrophe”, the paper argues. “Effective action to tackle climate change requires global cooperation”, yet “none of this is possible when the most important actors on the world stage think that the chief business of the nation state lies at home”, it says. The editorial ends on a note of optimism: “Public opinion is way ahead of national politics…This means that there are breakthroughs.”

Editorial, The Guardian Read Article
The US is still in the Paris climate deal. Here’s how leaving would actually play out – in 2020

A feature in the Washington Post reminds the reader that despite President Trump’s announcement that the US was exiting the Paris climate agreement last summer, the nation hasn’t left yet. “After joining the agreement, a country can’t leave for three years, after which there is a one-year waiting period for the leave to be fully in effect”, environment reporter Chris Mooney explains. This timeline “has major political resonance”, Mooney notes, since the “earliest possible day” that the US withdrawal could be complete is 4 November 2020, and the next US presidential election will be on 3 November 2020. “This is where things get very interesting…the election could potentially put the US right back in again if the Democrat wins”, Mooney says. He concludes that: “US participation in the Paris climate agreement seems likely to be a live matter of political debate in the next two years.”

Chris Mooney, The Washington Post Read Article

Science.

Increased variability of eastern Pacific El Niño under greenhouse warming

Global warming could make El Niño events in the eastern Pacific more variable – leading to more extreme weather, a new study says. El Niño is a natural phenomenon that occurs every few years, when interactions between the ocean and atmosphere cause changes to the climate across the Pacific region. Using modelling, the new study finds that climate change could influence this natural cycle, causing sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific to become more variable.

Nature Read Article
Global outsourcing of carbon emissions 1995-2009: A reassessment

A reassessment of carbon flows between countries finds “no systematic and consistent emission outsourcing from developed to developing countries”. The analysis shows that, some developed countries, such as the UK, the US, Canada and Australia, increasingly “outsourced” their emissions between 1995 and 2009 by shifting toward more carbon-intensive goods in their imports and less carbon intensive goods in exports. However, other developed nations, such as Norway, Sweden and Finland, and “advanced Asian countries” maintained a positive emission trade balance, the results suggest. “These results contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the impact of international trade on global carbon emissions,” the authors say.

Environment Science & Policy Read Article
Assessing the efficiency of changes in land use for mitigating climate change

The potential of changes to diets and food production to tackling climate change could have been “underestimated”, a new study says. In this study, the researchers develop a new index for measuring the total capacity of land to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, called the “carbon benefits index”. Using this, they show that the average European’s diet is responsible for as many greenhouse gases over 30 years, as are normally calculated for each European’s consumption of everything else combined, including energy.

Nature Read Article

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