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Daily Briefing

19.05.2017
Today's climate and energy headlines
Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

19.05.2017 | 9:23am
DAILY BRIEFING Climate talks end in call for solidarity, but real test is to come, Conservatives commit to shale gas and electric cars, & more
Climate talks end in call for solidarity, but real test is to come, Conservatives commit to shale gas and electric cars, & more

News.

Climate talks end in call for solidarity, but real test is to come

A fortnight of climate talks has come to a close in Bonn, Germany, reports Climate Home. The talks “ran smoothly enough”, it says, despite fears over potential US withdrawal hanging over proceedings. Incoming COP23 president and Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama “issued a coded warning to Donald Trump about the dangers of climate change”, reports the BBC. Fiji urged Trump to “stay in the canoe”, reports Reuters. A pared-down US delegation at the talks in Bonn “quietly worked to promote long-standing US climate interests”, according to a second Reuters article. However, the US stance on climate change threatens to stand in the way of strong statements from the G7 and G20 groups of leading nations, both due to meet in coming weeks, reports the Associated Press, citing comments from Jochen Flasbarth, a senior German official. The EU has also issued a “blunt warning” to Trump, according to the Independent, issuing a statement calling the Paris Agreement “irreversible and non-negotiable”. The statement, from EU climate commissioner Migeul Arias Cañete, came at the launch of an €800m EU fund designed to help 79 African, Pacific and Caribbean nations implement the Paris accord, reports Reuters. Separately, more than 100 NGOs have asked the European Commission not to interfere in the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative, reports Climate Home. InsideClimate News reports on a “murky compromise” reached at the Bonn talks over the involvement of observers during negotiations. It says: “Participants in global climate negotiations will have at least another year to debate the role fossil fuel companies and other influential industries should play in the international talks, after negotiators…kicked the can down the road.”

Climate Home Read Article
Conservatives commit to shale gas and electric cars

The Conservative election manifesto includes “strong support” for shale gas and electric vehicles, reports the Financial Times, along with a goal for Britain to have the lowest energy prices in Europe. The Conservatives would aim to strip councils of powers to block shale gas drilling, reports the Times. Greenpeace Energydesk looks at the details of proposed changes to planning rules, which would make fracking exploration wells “permitted development”, a category that includes the building of boundary walls. A second Times articles looks at how a plan for a sovereign wealth fund paid for by fracking revenue has been criticised as “vacuous”. The manifesto plan for a review of energy costs was accompanied by a watering down of plans to cap energy bills, says the Telegraph. The manifesto backs a fracking “revolution”, says the Independent. The Conservatives are the only major party to back fracking, notes DeSmog UK. Still, the manifesto commits to climate targets and clean tech investments, reports BusinessGreen. Bloomberg says the manifesto “suggest[s] more curbs for wind farms on land” in England, while the Times notes the manifesto’s backing for onshore wind on Scottish islands. The door is also left open to more onshore wind on the Scottish mainland or in Wales, the Times notes. Politico compares the 2017 Conservative manifesto to the 2015 edition, pointing to 2015 pledges to expand new nuclear and gas, both lacking in 2017. Green Party leader Caroline Lucas called the Tory manifesto an “absolute car crash for the environment”, reports the Independent. You can compare the Conservative manifesto to other parties in Carbon Brief’s election grid.

Financial Times Read Article
France needs 'massive' renewables growth, nuclear not only energy solution, says PM

New French prime minister Edouard Philippe wants his country to see a “massive and rapid” growth in renewable energy, reports Reuters. Philippe also said nuclear power was the not the country’s only energy solution. In a second article, Reuters reports comments by new ecology minister Nicolas Hulot, saying that France will seek to cut nuclear’s share of the power mix to 50% by 2025. The Financial Times profiles Hulot, describing him as a “green activist”, widely known for his nature documentaries, and a “veteran opponent of nuclear power”. His appointment is “potentially disconcerting” for the French energy industry, the FT says. Climate Home also covers developments in France.

Reuters Read Article
6 Ways U.S. Weakened Climate Change Language in Arctic Declaration

The US requested six changes to a draft Arctic Council declaration, each weakening language on climate change, reports InsideClimate News, which has obtained a copy of the draft showing track-changes from the US State Department. The eight-nation council issued its declaration last week, which included an acknowledgement of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Yet early drafts had much more “aggressive” language on climate, InsideClimate News says, based on conversations with “multiple sources who were part of the negotiations”. In one of the changes, the declaration was changed from “Noting…the Paris Agreement…and encouraging its implementation” to “Noting the…Paris Agreement…and its implementation”.

InsideClimate News Read Article
Sea level rise will double coastal flood risk worldwide

Small but inevitable rises in sea level will double the frequency of severe coastal flooding in most of the world, reports the Guardian, covering new research that takes into account the large waves and storm surges that can tip waters over coastal defences. The Express and New Scientist also cover the new research.

The Guardian Read Article
Climate change is turning Antarctica green, say researchers

Plant growth in Antarctica has “shot up” in the past 50 years says the Guardian, covering new research on moss banks. The rate of moss growth is now four to five times higher than it was before 1950, the paper adds. The Washington Post and the Independent also have the story. Separately the Mail Online covers research that helps explain why the Antarctic is warming less quickly than the Arctic. Antarctica, with an average elevation of 2,500m, is much higher than the Arctic, which clocks in at an average 1m. Carbon Brief has the details on the study, which helps explain slower warming at southern high latitudes.

The Guardian Read Article

Comment.

Miles of Ice Collapsing Into the Sea

In a three-part special feature on the Antarctic, which includes immersive 3D video and other visuals, the New York Times reports from a trip to Antarctica to “understand how changes to its vast ice sheet might affect the world.”

New York Times Read Article
The Big Green Bang: how renewable energy became unstoppable

The shift to cleaner power is disrupting entire industries, writes Pilita Clark in a Financial Times “Big Read”. She asks if the 21st century will be the last one for fossil fuels, saying “it is early, but the evidence is mounting. Wind and solar parks are being built at unprecedented rates, threatening the business models of established power companies. Electric cars that were hard to even buy eight years ago are selling at an exponential rate, in the process driving down the price of batteries that hold the key to unleashing new levels of green growth.” Clark interviews prof Vaclav Smil, an energy expert who is sceptical that the clean energy transition will be faster than previous shifts, which have taken decades. But she concludes on an optimistic note, writing that the future of green power “appears assured. So much so that an industry that has spent years on the defensive is beginning to show a rising sense of confidence.”

Pilita Clark, Financial Times Read Article
Rightsizing carbon dioxide removal

In a Perspectives article for the journal Science, two researchers argue that “betting the future on planetary-scale carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the atmosphere is risky.” With the current pace of more traditional mitigation techniques – such as energy efficiency, renewables and decreasing deforestation – “far from sufficient” to meet the terms of the Paris Agreement, CDR techniques are increasingly asserted as key to climate policy, they say. But many scenarios “bet the future on CDR technologies operating effectively at vast scales within only a few decades.” “The meteoric rise of CDR technologies in planning for climate solutions has stirred up discomfort and debate,” they write. “The question now is not whether to either reduce emissions or deploy CDR,” they say: “the answer is both.”

Christopher Field & Katharine Mach, Science Read Article

Science.

United States agricultural stakeholder views and decisions on climate change

Although the majority of US farmers believe the climate is changing, many remain sceptical of the issue and uncertain about the human causes, a new study finds. Researchers reviewed the published literature on US agricultural stakeholder views and decisions on climate change, focusing on farmers and ranchers from different regions. Farmers’ climate change mitigation and adaptation decisions vary widely, the researchers find, and are often correlated with belief or other factors such as personal experience of extreme weather, costs of change, or fear of regulation.

WIRES climate change Read Article
Widespread Biological Response to Rapid Warming on the Antarctic Peninsula

Biological activity on the Antarctic Peninsula has increased as the region has warmed in the last 50 years, a new study says. Researchers collected core samples from 150-year old mosses along a 600km transect of the Peninsula. The results show a rapid increase in moss growth rate and microbial activity, the researchers say, which suggests the Peninsula is undergoing fundamental and widespread change.

Current Biology Read Article

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