Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Climate change: UN negotiators 'playing politics' amid global crisis
- What will you do about the climate crisis? The parties answer
- Tighter climate policies could erase $2.3 trillion in companies value: report
- Leading scientists condemn political inaction on climate change as Australia 'literally burns'
- The world solved the ozone problem. It can solve climate change
- Reduction in surface climate change achieved by the 1987 Montreal Protocol
There is continuing widespread coverage of the COP25 UN climate talks currently being held in Madrid. BBC News says: “UN negotiators meeting in Madrid have been accused of ‘playing politics’ while the climate crisis grows. The talks – now in their final week – are bogged down in technical details as key countries seek to delay efforts to increase their pledges, observers say. Ministers are due to arrive in the Spanish capital this week to try to secure an ambitious outcome. US presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg is due to attend, while Greta Thunberg will also address the meeting.” It adds: “Inside the convention centre, the central question of increasing country pledges to cut their carbon has been pushed aside as negotiators resort to protecting national interests…A group of countries including China, India and Saudi Arabia are pushing for these pre-2020 commitments be adhered to – even if it means achieving them post-2020. Observers believe this is partly a negotiating tactic designed to put pressure on richer nations in any discussions about improving pledges in the period after 2020.” The Guardian notes that there is a lot of attention on Australia at the talks: “Australia’s plan to use an accounting loophole to meet its international emissions targets has been formally challenged at UN climate talks, with about 100 countries wanting the practice banned under the Paris Agreement. Delegates from developing countries led by Belize and Costa Rica have introduced a ban on using carryover credits from the Kyoto protocol into the text of the rulebook for the Paris climate agreement.” The Guardian has a separate Q&A on “what’s on the agenda in Madrid and what it means for Australia”. The Sydney Morning Herald says “[Australia’s] Morrison government could be forced to justify Australia’s plan to count ‘carry-over credits’ towards the country’s Paris climate target, with a global summit set to debate eliminating their use”.
Meanwhile, Climate Home News reports that countries have “failed to reach agreement on the time period future climate pledges should cover at UN talks in Madrid”. Associated Press notes that Brazil’s environment minister Ricardo Salles has said at the talks that “Brazil can’t stop deforestation in the Amazon without the help of rich countries”. Climate Home News also has an article about how “Chile has walked back a plan to announce an enhanced climate target during the COP25 climate talks it is leading”. BBC News says that the Madrid COP “could have a huge bearing on the Glasgow event next year”. The Guardian’s Fiona Harvey has spoken to Johan Rockström, joint director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who says: “We are at risk of getting so bogged down in incremental technicalities at these negotiations that we forget to see the forest for the trees…We must bend the curve next year. Next year is the year of truth…Geoengineering has to be assessed, maybe even piloted already in case we need to deploy it…It makes me very nervous.” Carbon Brief has produced a video of various attendees saying what they think needs to happen by COP26 in Glasgow to keep the Paris Agreement on track. And Carbon Brief’s Simon Evans has published a Twitter thread on the latest Article 6 draft text.
Separately, there is extensive coverage of Greta Thunberg’s appearance at the talks on Friday, followed by her leading a huge climate march in central Madrid that same evening. Reuters says the 16-year-old Swede told youth protestors at COP25 that “change is coming whether you like it or not because we have no other choice”. The Guardian notes that Thunberg also remarked that the global wave of school strikes for the climate over the past year has “achieved nothing”, because greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise. Reporting from the march, Associated Press says that “organisers claimed 500,000 people turned out for the march, but authorities in Madrid put the number at 15,000 without an immediate explanation for the disparity in the count”. BBC News says that “simultaneous protests [were] also being held in the Chilean capital of Santiago, which was initially expected to host the UN conference”. The Hill reports that “climate change protesters blocked streets near the World Bank in downtown Washington during rush hour Friday morning to demand financial institutions divest from fossil fuels”. MailOnline has an article about how Thunberg yesterday visited Madrid’s Complutense University to attend an event where she said that: “I don’t want to be the only voice of youth at the summit.”
With the UK’s general election taking place on Thursday, there is continuing coverage across the national media on what the parties are pledging on climate change. The Guardian has a feature in which the Conservatives, Greens, Labour, Lib Dems and SNP all answer a range of questions on the topic. Questions include: “Is the climate crisis the biggest issue the UK faces as a nation?”; “Does your party support the students striking from school and/or the Extinction Rebellion protests demanding urgent action on the climate crisis?”; and “Will your government use planning law to actively support onshore wind and solar farms?” BBC News carries a selection of questions about climate change and the environment submitted by readers, viewers and listeners across its networks and then seeks to answer them. They include “How could UK industry be affected by promises to tackle climate change?” sent in by “Ron Barton, Guildford”. BBC News also reports on Friends of the Earth’s conclusion that “Labour has the strongest policies to protect nature and combat climate change”.
Meanwhile, the Guardian has published an interview with Labour advisor Tom Bailey who is a “key architect” of the party’s “plan for a green industrial revolution”. Bailey says: “If we had written this 10 or 15 years ago it would have looked very similar. The curves on the graphs would be slightly less steep because at that stage we had not wasted a decade or more. Now we just need to get on with it.” iNews reports that the Liberal Democrats will today launch its “£100bn” plans to tackle climate change. BBC News says that Labour “plans to make England’s entire bus fleet electric by 2030 with a £4bn investment”. DeSmog UK has an investigation, also reported by the Independent, showing that “British political parties and individual politicians have received more than £9m worth of donations from the aviation industry, with the vast majority going to the Brexit Party and the Conservatives”. The Independent carries an election-themed editorial highlighting that “far more attention has been paid to Labour’s plans to cut rail fares by a third…than to the question of how to decarbonise the whole of our transport system”. Vice has an interview with Paul McCartney who says that the “only people who aren’t responding are the government”. And LBC Radio says that Extinction Rebellion has launched a new wave of protests this morning in London.
All of the main parties’ climate- and energy-themed manifesto pledges can be viewed in Carbon Brief’s interactive grid.
Reuters reports on new findings by UN-backed Principles of Responsible Investing (PRI), which show that tighter government climate regulations by 2025 could “wipe up to $2.3tn off the value of companies in industries ranging from fossil fuel producers to agriculture and car makers”. PRI, which represents investors with $86tn of assets under management, says that any abrupt policy shifts risk severely disrupting current investment strategies. “As the realities of climate change catch up, social pressure mounts, and low carbon solutions get cheaper, it’s highly improbable that governments will be allowed to let the world sleep-walk into greater rises in temperature without being compelled into forceful action sooner,” says PRI’s Fiona Reynolds. Most exposed is the fossil fuel sector which could lose one third of its current value, the report says. Reuters adds: “Coal firms could lose as much as 44% in value, while the world’s top oil and gas companies risk losing up to 31% of their current market share, according [to] the report which forecasts oil demand peaking around 2027.” BBC News also carries the story.
Leading scientists in Australia have, reports the Guardian, “expressed concern about the lack of focus on the climate crisis as bushfires rage across New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland, saying it should be a ‘wake-up call’ for the government”. The paper adds: “Climate experts who spoke to Guardian Australia said they were ‘bewildered’ the emergency had grabbed little attention during the final parliamentary sitting week for the year.” Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a climate scientist with the University of NSW’s Climate Change Research Centre, tells the paper she is “surprised, bewildered, concerned” that the emergency has prompted little discussion from political leaders: “Here we are in the worst bushfire season we’ve ever seen, the biggest drought we’ve ever had, Sydney surrounded by smoke, and we’ve not heard boo out of a politician addressing climate change.“ Separately, the Guardian reports on a new survey in Australia, which shows that “the proportion of voters nominating global warming and the environment as their top issue is at an all-time high, helping Labor win votes at the May 2019 election despite its shock loss”. It adds: “That is the conclusion of the Australian National University’s election survey…explaining the result was caused instead by an erosion of Labor’s working class base and the Coalition’s perceived advantage on the economy and taxation.”
An editorial in the New York Times says it is “worth remembering as we struggle, often despairingly, to find common ground in the battle against climate change” that humans have before found “planetary responses” to environmental problems. “Compared with the manifold complexities of global warming, dealing with ozone depletion was, in fact, relatively simple. But the key point is that it happened, and it’s worth asking why the world has not responded with similar resolve in dealing with the main global warming gases like CO2, about which we have known a lot for a long time.” It concludes: “Are there reasons now to hope for serious action? Yes: a trifecta of frightening reports in the last year from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the need to act before things spin out of control, on deforestation and other damaging land-use practices, on dying reefs and rising sea levels. Plus: a cascade of natural disasters, including catastrophic wildfires and hurricanes. Plus: the dramatic drop in the cost of producing carbon-free energy like wind and solar power. Plus: well-publicised concerns on the part of every contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, and equally well-publicised efforts by state and local officials, to fill the global leadership vacuum left by President Trump.”
Meanwhile, an editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald says at COP25 in Madrid “Germany, Sweden and New Zealand are among those taking a dim view of Australia’s use of Kyoto ‘carryover’ credits to count for the Paris target – a shortcut they could have taken but didn’t”, adding: “Australia also remains wedded to coal and gas exports to fund our long-term welfare when it actually undermines our future and those of our Pacific neighbours. When the penny finally drops, and Australia inevitably starts asking for serious climate action, don’t expect a sympathetic hearing abroad. Perhaps they’ll send us some cans of clear air.” The Guardian carries an opinion piece by Maisa Rojas, who is the scientific coordinator for the COP25 climate summit and director of Chile’s Centre for Climate and Resilience Research. She says that “global heating plus inequality is a recipe for chaos – just look at Chile”.
Also in the Guardian, its editor-in-chief Kath Viner launches the paper’s Christmas charity appeal, which is focused on trees: “The climate emergency – the most urgent issue of our time – felt to us to be a compelling choice for the 2019 appeal…We hope we can inspire you to give generously and help protect the planet we share.” Separately, a business editorial in the Observer says the public trading of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, is “evidence of the gaping chasm between Europe’s growing climate movement and the carbon addiction the rest of the world just cannot kick”. It concludes: “Saudi Aramco’s market triumph may be more muted than planned, but it is still a deafening warning about tackling the climate crisis.”
A new study assesses the climate change benefits of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, the international agreement to reduce chlorofluorocarbon emissions and thus the size of the stratospheric ozone hole. As of today, “as much as 1.1C warming has been avoided over parts of the Arctic”, the researchers say, adding: “Future climate benefits are even stronger, with 3-4C Arctic warming and ~1C global average warming avoided by 2050; corresponding to a ~25% mitigation of global warming.” The authors conclude: “The Montreal Protocol has thus not only been a major success in repairing the stratospheric ozone hole, it has also achieved substantial mitigation of anthropogenic climate change both today and into the future.”
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