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Daily Briefing

05.07.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Climate change: Trees ‘most effective solution’ for warming
Climate change: Trees ‘most effective solution’ for warming

News.

Climate change: Trees 'most effective solution' for warming

New research suggests an area the size of the US is available for planting trees around the world, reports BBC News, which “could have a dramatic impact on climate change”. The study, published in Science, used 80,000 global satellite images of tree cover and databases of soil and climate conditions to show that the space available for trees is far greater than previously thought, and could reduce CO2 in the atmosphere by 25%. “The analysis found there are 1.7bn hectares of treeless land on which 1.2tn native tree saplings would naturally grow”, reports the Guardian, That area is about 11% of all land and equivalent to the size of the US and China combined – and excludes encroaching on agricultural land and urban areas. “Forest restoration is by far our most powerful planetary solution today,” co-author Prof Tom Crowther told Scientific American. However, a scientist not involved in the study cautioned that the estimate is “very broad brush“, reports Vox, and while it highlights the potential of forests, “there’s so much more research to do”. And two other scientists writing in the Conversation argue that “the best solution to climate change remains leaving fossil fuels in the ground”. They point out that “massive reforestation only works if the world’s current forest cover is maintained and increasing”. They add: “It won’t be easy, but society needs to protect the forests we’ve got, and protect new forests in perpetuity to permanently keep carbon sequestered in trees and out of the atmosphere.” The IndependentSky Newsand CNN also have the story.

BBC News Read Article
'Grave concern' as sales of low emission cars fall

Sales of low-emission cars in the UK have fallen for the first time in more than two years, BBC News reports. It says sales of plug-in hybrid cars in June halved compared with the same month a year earlier, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), while hybrid electric vehicle sales were down 4.7%. The decline comes as overall sales of new cars continued to fall, dropping 4.9% in June from the year before. The SMMT is calling the fall in sales of alternatively fuelled cars a “grave concern”, reports the Guardian, and warns the industry is “being undermined by confusing policies and the premature removal of purchase incentives”. A £4,500 grant was abolished for plug-in hybrids last November and cut to £3,500 for pure electric cars, notes the Times. Despite this cut, sales of battery electric vehicles “were one of the few bright spots”, says BusinessGreen, rising more than 61% year-on-year.

Meanwhile, BBC News covers a new report warning that electrifying cars will not address traffic jams, urban sprawl and wasted space for parking. The Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) report calls on the government to devise a strategy allowing people to have a good standard of living without needing a car, it says. And another BBC News piece reports that Jaguar Land Rover is expected to announce today “an investment worth hundreds of millions of pounds in electric vehicle-making”. The money will prepare its Castle Bromwich plant for building electric cars.

BBC News Read Article
Exclusive: How Extinction Rebellion plans to shut Heathrow airport down

In an “exclusive”, HuffPost UK reports that climate protest group Extinction Rebellion (XR) is planning a “mass disruption” at Heathrow airport this autumn using drones. In a leaked document seen by HuffPost UK, XR will organise “day after day” of disruption across two weeks in a bid to stop flights. “Toy” drones would be flown no higher than 6 feet, weigh less than 7kg, and be kept away from Heathrow’s designated flight paths, in a bid to ensure “non-violent action”. The protest would be less disruptive because holidaymakers will be given two months’ notice, reports the Daily Telegraph. It quotes XR spokesperson Jayne Forbes saying: “We committed to giving two months notice as that was one of the issues that came up in our consultation, that people need more time to maybe change arrangements if necessary. What we’d rather that they didn’t fly at all, that kind of change of arrangement would be best.” The group is pushing forward with the revised strategy after initial plans for June were postponed, notes the Evening Standard. It says the plan “will be decided on next week” by XR members. In a statement, Heathrow airport says: “We agree with the need to act on climate change and have invited members of Extinction Rebellion to meet with us,” reports the Sun. The Daily Express also has the story.

Meanwhile, the Independent reports that a consultation document put out by Heathrow about the planned third runway warns that “climate change has the potential to have a direct effect on the airport”. The airport expansion “will have to take into account changing weather patterns and conditions as a result of climate change, including heatwaves and higher temperatures, the likelihood of storms, and also flood risks”, says the paper.

HuffPost UK Read Article
India plans $330bn renewables push by 2030 without hurting coal

India says it needs $330bn in investments over the next decade to power its renewable energy drive, but coal will remain central to its electricity generation, reports Reuters. It says India wants to raise its renewable energy capacity from the current level of 22% of total installed capacity up to 40% – or about 500 gigawatts – by 2030. Reuters quotes the government’s economic survey, presented to parliament yesterday, saying that “additional investments in renewable plants up to year 2022 would be about $80bn at today’s prices and an investment of around $250bn would be required for the period 2023-2030″. According to the newswire, the annual economic survey warned against “sudden abandonment of coal based power plants without complete utilisation of their useful lifetimes” as this would “lead to stranding of assets that can have further adverse impact on the banking sector”.

Reuters Read Article

Comment.

The Times view on falling sales of hybrid cars: Green Setback

The decline in sales of low emission vehicles “is not chance”, says a Times editorial. “Last October Philip Hammond, the chancellor, scrapped subsidies for plug-in hybrids. Theoretically this was to focus on fully electric models, yet the subsidy for those was reduced by £1,000.” The Times draws parallels with the scrapping of the green deal home improvement fund by David Cameron’s Conservative government in 2015. It warns that meeting the UK’s net-zero goal set out by Theresa May will “need to create incentives for householders and businesses alike”. It concludes: “The government should look at the decline in low-emission car sales as a cautionary tale of what happens when environmentalism is left to power itself.”

Editorial, The Times Read Article
A far more vigorous response is needed to phase out carbon emissions by 2050

“Complacency remains the greatest barrier” to achieving the UK’s net-zero goal, warns Labour MP Matthew Pennycook in a piece for the Red Box section of the Times. “The lure of complacency is particularly strong in the UK given our relatively strong performance in reducing emissions by international standards,” he says. While there is “undoubtedly cause for pride in the UK’s record when it comes to climate action…we are not currently on track to meet our binding emissions targets for the period 2023 to 2032, and…our annual rate of emissions reduction is slowing”. “In the years ahead, business as usual will no longer cut it,” he warns. “We need a commitment from ministers to radical policies of the kind that would drive deep decarbonisation across the whole economy – in transport, construction, agriculture, buildings, land use and resources – and put us back on track to meet our carbon budgets.”

Matthew Pennycook, The Times Read Article
Enough of the climate nightmare. It’s time to paint the dream

“Imagine the cities and towns of the future: clean, green, with decent air quality, hospitable to walking and cycling, powered by renewables, with green space, not concrete jungles, and rewarding jobs in green industries,” writes former Labour leader Ed Miliband in the Guardian. This “isn’t just a conceit for the imagination, but a tangible vision of the future”, he says, describing a “road map to a green new deal” produced by the thinktank Common Wealth, of which Miliband is a board member. A green new deal “should not just decarbonise today’s economy, but build the sustainable and just economy of tomorrow’, says Miliband. This is achieved by “connecting the two great long-term crises that confront us today: the climate emergency and inequality”, he says. “As well as truth-telling about the disaster that will confront us if we do not act, with the costs falling on those least responsible, ours must be a story of how we build a more equal, prosperous, democratic society.”

Ed Miliband, The Guardian Read Article

Science.

Effects of historic and projected climate change on the range and impacts of an emerging wildlife disease

Global warming is often predicted to result in more severe disease epidemics. However, unambiguous evidence that temperature is a driver of epidemics is largely lacking. This study applies provides a detailed examination of the effects of temperature on ranavirus epidemics in UK common frogs. They find strong evidence that higher temperatures drive increasing severity of epidemics. In wild populations, ranavirosis incidents were more frequent and more severe at higher temperatures, and their frequency increased through a period of historic warming in the 1990s. Laboratory experiments using also showed that higher temperature increased ranavirus incidence. These results, combined with climate projections, predict severe ranavirosis outbreaks will occur over wider areas and an extended season.

Global Change Biology Read Article

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