Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Climate experts fear Aukus will dash hopes of China emissions deal
- World weather groups forecast a year of global warming of 1.5C before 2025
- Eon calls for green energy levies to be axed to ease pressure on UK bills
- New rating system downgrades India in terms of climate action, makes case for target upgradation ahead of COP26
- China’s carbon neutral goals might require up to $46.6tn in investment: expert
- US: Exxon, Chevron, BP and others called to testify on climate disinformation
- Prince William makes heartfelt point about his kids as he vows to fight climate change
- Do we need to shrink the economy to stop climate change?
- Wave of net zero emission targets opens window to meeting the Paris Agreement
The timing of the new defence deal between the US, UK and Australia has dismayed climate experts, reports the Guardian, who “fear it could have a negative effect on hopes of a deal with China on greenhouse gas emissions ahead of vital UN climate talks”. The newspaper says that “the Aukus trilateral security partnership has been interpreted as seeking to counterbalance Chinese power in the Asia-Pacific region, and has been likened to a new cold war by China”. But China, the world’s biggest annual carbon emitter, will “play a pivotal role at COP26”, says the Guardian. It quotes Tom Burke, founder of the E3G environmental thinktank: “This [Aukus announcement] is bad timing ahead of COP26, as Glasgow is time-critical and it’s hard to see what was critical about the timing of this announcement. It does not appear to suggest that the prime minister [Boris Johnson] is taking Glasgow very seriously. And it exposes the fact that he has not got much to offer ahead of Glasgow.”
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that UN secretary-general António Guterres has warned that COP26 is “at risk of failure due to mistrust between developed and developing countries and a lack of ambitious goals among some emerging economies”. And the Thomson Reuters Foundation carries a feature under the headline: “Where is the money? Climate finance shortfall threatens global warming goals.”
The Financial Times reports that the world is “likely to temporarily exceed 1.5C of warming since pre-industrial times within the next five years”, according to a major report by leading weather organisations and scientists. It adds: “The latest report compiled by groups including the World Meteorological Organization and the UK’s Met Office, and involving the IPCC, said there was a 40% chance that average global temperatures would rise by at least 1.5C above pre-industrial levels in one of the years to 2025. It was unlikely, however, that the five-year mean temperature would be 1.5C warmer…John Kennedy, an expert scientist at the UK’s Met Office, said new and more accurate data had indicated that the world had warmed ‘slightly more’ in recent years than had been thought. Temperatures had risen by about 1.1C in total so far.” The Independent approaches the story from a different angle saying that “global coronavirus lockdowns have failed to make a dent in the climate crisis, according to a report headed by the world’s leading meteorological agency”. The Times notes that the report says “global emissions in the power and industry sectors were already at the same level or higher between January and July this year than in the same period in 2019”.
Meanwhile, the Independent also covers on its frontpage another report which concludes that “storms, droughts, floods and other extreme weather disasters have killed 17,242 people since the start of the Covid pandemic”. The news outlet continues: “Climate disasters have also impacted at least 139.2 million people since March 2020, according to the analysis, which examines how extreme weather and Covid have combined to drive devastating impacts around the world…The new report, from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), warns that the Covid and climate crises have worked in tandem to drive human suffering. For example, the need to evacuate from extreme weather events has forced millions to forgo social distancing measures.”
Separately, BusinessGreen says: “Greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas production and refining in the world’s leading economies could be collectively almost twice as high as official estimates, according to fresh data released today based on real-time satellite observations. Climate TRACE, a technology and academic coalition backed by former US vice president Al Gore, claims its research…offers the ‘world’s first’ comprehensive accounting of global greenhouse gas emissions based primarily on direct, independent satellite observation.” And the New York Times reports new findings published by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which show that “after a summer of blistering heat across much of the [US], the hotter-than-normal conditions that have contributed to severe drought across the West are forecast to continue into the fall”.
There is continuing coverage in the UK media of the sharp increase in electricity prices which has predominately been caused by a spike in wholesale gas prices. The Financial Times carries the views of Michael Lewis, chief executive of Eon UK, which is one of the UK’s biggest energy suppliers. He says that “UK ministers should take urgent steps to reduce the stress on household finances from soaring energy prices by removing costly green levies from consumer electricity bills”, according to the newspaper. He adds that levies that fund renewable energy subsidy schemes and make up a quarter of electricity bills, should instead be funded via general taxation. The newspaper says that Lewis believes that “removing such additional costs, which also include social policies such as discounts for vulnerable households, was a ‘short-term imperative’ to help consumers during what was ‘going to be a very challenging winter’, as wholesale gas and electricity prices spiral to unprecedented levels”. He says that the levies increase bills “unnecessarily”, adding: “It’s effectively a regressive tax and…would be better in the overall tax base.”
Meanwhile, the Times says that “soaring gas prices have forced two industrial sites in the north of England to close as fears grow of a winter energy crisis”. It adds: “The two sites, which employ about 600 people, produce roughly 40% of the UK’s fertiliser needs…The high gas prices affect the cost of electricity, especially in Britain which relies on power stations that burn gas. Several other factors have compounded the situation in the electricity market. Dermot Nolan, the former chief executive of Ofgem who works at Fingleton, the management consultancy company, said that the higher gas prices were exacerbated by ‘relatively low wind output’. Wind speeds have been unusually low across Europe for the past few months. Wind farms are producing less power than usual and gas plants are having to fill the gap…Coal prices are also high, pushing up the costs of firing up Britain’s few remaining coal plants. The situation is made worse by ageing nuclear reactors having to shut for unplanned outages. A series of gas and coal plants are also offline or out of action for maintenance.” Bloomberg has a news feature headlined: “UK’s green push leaves country at the mercy of the weather.” New Scientist has a Q&A headlined: “Are UK energy supplies in trouble after fire at French power link?” The Daily Telegraph reports that “senior government officials held an emergency meeting yesterday in a bid to protect British farmers from the energy crisis”.
In other UK news, the Times says that “Britain’s overseas bases could become too hot for training over the next few decades, according to the military chief in charge of its climate change response”. Another Times article reports that “ministers aim to secure a multibillion-pound investment from Saudi Arabia to fund renewable energy and infrastructure projects in the UK after yesterday’s announcement of a £10bn deal with the United Arab Emirates”. BusinessGreen covers the government’s reshuffle and notes that “Simon Clarke, a long-standing champion of the net-zero transition and clean technologies, has returned to government as chief secretary to the Treasury”, while “Greg Hands is to become the new minister for energy and clean growth, moving from his current position at the Department for International Trade”. The Guardian reports that “the company seeking to open the UK’s first new deep coalmine in 30 years is gambling on the UK’s and EU’s failure to address climate change, the public inquiry into the mining plans has heard”. The Independent says that “scientists have expressed ‘concern’ over government plans for hydrogen home heating”. The Financial Times notes that “the UK is set to pass an environment bill that will allow products linked to deforestation in food supply chains, dismaying both leading food companies and retailers as well as green groups”. And the Economist looks at the challenges of the UK switching away from fuel duties to a “system of road-pricing” as electric vehicles become the norm in coming years.
Finally, the frontpage of the Daily Telegraph says that home secretary Priti Patel “orders police to get tough on climate activists after M25 protests”. An accompanying editorial says: “There is obviously a right to legitimate protest. But that right has to be balanced against other considerations, including the ability of everyone else to go about their business.”
The Times of India reports that “a stringent new rating system [by] Climate Action Tracker [CAT] has downgraded [India]’s overall rating from [the] ‘almost sufficient’ category in November last year to ‘highly insufficient’ category at par with China, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, South Korea, Argentina and Mexico this month.” The Hindustan Times reports that, according to CAT’s new “modelled domestic emissions pathway”, emissions will “continue to rise and are consistent with 4C or more of warming” under India’s “current targets and policies”. It adds that CAT has “highlighted that while India has been reducing its share of global coal power, it continues to be the second largest coal pipeline globally, behind China and has over 200GW [gigawatts] of coal-fired capacity in operation”, which India’s “Central Electricity Authority projects will increase to almost 266GW over the next few years” with “significant risk that India’s coal assets will be stranded”. The newspaper notes: “Interestingly, India has used CAT’s analysis several times in the past to showcase that it was among few countries globally to have a 2C compliant [climate pledge, known as its NDC].” It quotes a senior Indian environment ministry official responding to the new rating, saying: “Countries should be assessed on the promises delivered not just words but deeds.” [The new CAT rating system is designed to reflect whether policies are in place to meet climate pledges.]
Separately, the Times of India reports that India has come up with a draft “safeguards information system (SIS)” that helps countries report “how they have been protecting the rights of communities while simultaneously taking up forest conservation measures”. This, it says, is “necessary to access result-based financial support for REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation)”. It continues: “India’s national REDD+ strategy is one of the tools to achieve the country’s NDC target for the forestry sector”, which is “to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3bn tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030”.
In other India energy news, Reuters analysis of government power data shows that India’s “coal-fired electricity generation so far this month fell 1.5% from year earlier, while power output from renewable energy jumped 53.6%”, with output “driven by a more than doubling of wind power production and an 18.6% rise in solar power generation”. This, it says, “could provide relief to utilities across the country which are struggling with a coal shortage, forcing India to ask power plants to import coal”.
Global Times reports that China’s goals of peaking emissions before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality before 2060 might require up to 300tn yuan ($46.6tn) of investment. The state-run newspaper – an affiliation with People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party – cites Zhang Xiaohui, dean of the Tsinghua University PBC School of Finance, who made the remarks at an economic forum in Beijing. According to the publication, Zhang added that China’s net-zero pursuit would cost up to 7.5tn yuan each year until 2060, the equivalent of about 10% of the annual investments made in the country.
Meanwhile, China’s state macroeconomic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), released a new set of instructions yesterday to improve the country’s “dual control” policy designed to regulate energy intensity and total consumption, 21st Century Business Herald reports. The outlet says that, according to analysts, the new instructions have increased the flexibility and feasibility of the “dual control” policy and can, therefore, better balance emission reduction and economic growth. Reuters also covers the story. It says that NDRC has required that the “dual control” targets and the total energy consumption target be set “reasonably”. NDRC has also directed that a five-year “dual control” objective should be set for different provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, Reuters adds. CGTN, the English arm of the state broadcaster, CCTV, features the instruction, too.
In other news, Beijing Evening News reports that the Chinese capital city is striving to become a “first-class hydrogen city in the world”. One of the plans is to put 212 hydrogen-fuelled buses into use during Beijing 2022 Olympics, which is scheduled to start next February. Finally, Chinese industry news portal Beijixing Electricity Net reports that China’s Southern Power Grid has confirmed two official goals. The report says that the state-run company aims to increase the newly installed “new energy” capacity by “around 100 gigawatts (GW) by 2025 and an extra 150GW by 2030. The outlet adds that the company intends to boost the portion of non-fossil capacity in the overall energy capacity to 60% and 70%, respectively, by 2025 and 2035.
Several outlets in the US covers the news that the House Oversight Committee has, as the New York Times states, “widened its inquiry into the oil and gas industry’s role in spreading disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming, calling on top executives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Royal Dutch Shell, as well as the lobby groups American Petroleum Institute and the United States Chamber of Commerce, to testify before Congress next month”. It adds: “Thursday’s demands from the powerful Oversight Committee put senior executives from some of the world’s largest oil companies at the centre of an investigation into the role their industry has played in undermining the scientific consensus that the burning of fossil fuels is a root cause of global warming.” Reuters quotes the House Oversight Committee’s Democrat chairwoman Carolyn Maloney: “I plan to get to the bottom of how fossil fuel companies have raked in trillions of dollars of profit at the expense of our planet and our health, all while spreading doubt and disinformation about the dangers of fossil fuels.” The newswire adds: “The letter [sent by the committee to the executives] cited a study in the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change that said 91 think tanks and advocacy organisations that downplayed global warming were funded by Exxon and industry groups.” Relatedly, the Guardian carries an opinion piece by Mark Hertsgaard under the headline: “Exxon helped cause the climate crisis. It’s time they owned up.”
Separately, the Guardian reports that “Facebook has announced new efforts to combat climate crisis misinformation on its platform, including by expanding its climate science centre to provide more reliable information, investing in organisations that fight misinformation, and launching a video series to highlight young climate advocates on Facebook and Instagram”. It continues: “But critics say the new push, announced on Thursday, falls short and will allow vast amounts of climate misinformation to slip through the cracks.” And another Guardian article says that “the new [UK] international trade secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, has been accused of rejecting the science behind the climate emergency after a series of tweets came to light showing her dismissing those who believe in global heating as ‘fanatics’…[The Labour party] unearthed a series of tweets sent by Trevelyan between 2010 and 2012 that explicitly reject the science of global heating. ‘Clear evidence that the ice caps aren’t melting after all, to counter those doom-mongers and global warming fanatics,’ read one.”
Several UK newspapers carry the views of Prince William ahead of today’s revealing of the winner of his Earthshot prize. The Daily Mirror says he “made a personal vow to be able to look his children in the eye and promise them he did all he could to fight climate change”. The Sun says: “Prince William summoned up the crusading spirit of JFK yesterday to blitz the ‘global pessimism’ around climate change…Today he will unveil the first 15 finalists of his ambitious ten-year £50m Earthshot Prize – dubbed the ‘Nobel prize for the environment’ The winners will share £50m to develop ideas to tackle global warming.” An editorial in the Sun describes the prize as “fantastic and inspiring”. Reuters and the Daily Mail also cover the news.
Writing in the New York Times, Spencer Bokat-Lindell examines the “green growth orthodoxy…whose adherents populate European governments, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Bank and the White House”. They believe, he says, that the “global economy can both continue growing and defuse the threat of a warming planet through rapid, market-led environmental action and technological innovation”. But, he notes: “In recent years, a rival paradigm has been gaining ground: degrowth. In the view of degrowthers, humanity simply does not have the capacity to phase out fossil fuels and meet the ever-growing demand of rich economies. At this late hour, consumption itself has to be curtailed.” He walks through the various “for and against” arguments as part of the newspaper’s “debatable” series. He states: “At the moment, degrowth has no mass constituency. But some of its animating ideas are nonetheless exerting an influence on political economic thought –particularly the critique of GDP growth as the lodestar of human progress.”
Current national net-zero emissions pledges, if fully realised, would allow the world to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to “well below” 2C, according to a new study. Researchers examine 131 national pledges to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions – covering nearly three-quarters of all global emissions – and determine the global warming implications of these targets using multiple methods and scenarios. While current policies project a warming of 2.9-3.2C by 2100, they find that this range drops to 2.0-2.4C when all current national net-zero pledges are taken into account. The authors write that the “considerable momentum” towards net-zero must “immediately” translate into short-term actions to keep the Paris target within reach.
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