Today's climate and energy headlines:
- COP26: Glasgow to host UN climate change summit in 2020
- European Green Deal portfolio handed to EU vice president, in major elevation
- UK government announces £500m green investments
- National Grid control room ‘did nothing wrong’ during blackout
- Leak suggests UN agency self-censors on climate crisis after US pressure
- Poor countries will hold the rich to account on climate finance
- Attribution of extreme weather events: how does climate change affect weather?
Next year’s major UN climate change summit will officially take place in Glasgow, according to BBC News, in an outcome that brings an end to months of speculation. The news outlet reports that after forming a partnership with Italy that will see preparatory events held there, the UK has won the bid to host COP26, meaning up to 30,000 climate delegates will descend on Glasgow’s Scottish Events Campus at the end of 2020. Climate Home News reports that Turkey, which had previously expressed an interest in hosting the summit, had left the UK-Italy proposal “the only bid on the table” after withdrawing its application. The Press Association notes that next year’s talks mark the full adoption of the Paris Agreement, as well as as deadline for countries to come forward with stronger emissions targets. Announced by foreign secretary Dominic Raab, the move “underscores the UK’s efforts to make climate policy a centrepiece of its foreign policy agenda” after three years of Brexit domination, the Financial Times reports. The Herald quotes Scottish climate change secretary Roseanna Cunningham saying it is right the event should come to Scotland’s largest city given the nation’s “leadership in climate action”. Meanwhile the Guardian’s coverage carries comments from NGOs calling for the government to take “concrete action” on its net zero commitment as part of its hosting role, as well as encouraging other nations to follow suit.
Dutch social democrat Frans Timmermans has been named as the executive vice president who will be responsible for the EU’s efforts to hit net zero emissions by 2050, Climate Home News reports. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced her new appointee, who will develop the “European green deal” over the next five years as head of the EU’s climate change directorate, according to the news site. France 24 notes that the Dutch politician will “effectively be the number two in the incoming commission” as von der Leyen has made cutting emissions a key priority for the next five years. Reuters reports on comments made by the new president in which she said that “bold action against climate change” would be vital. POLITICO has a piece looking at the “big challenges” facing Timmermans, including getting “central European countries on board to push through ambitious new climate targets and policies” including signing the entire block up to go carbon neutral by 2050. The Guardian and the Economist also note the new appointment in their coverage of the latest events in Brussels. Other key environmental appointments in the commission under von der Leyen include Estonia’s Kadri Simson, who will oversee energy, and Lithuania’s Virginijus Sinkevičius, who will head up environment and oceans.
The British government has announced a £400m fund to develop rapid charging infrastructure points for electric vehicles, as well as a further £143m for green projects such as greenhouse gas removal technologies and measures to tackle air pollution, Reuters reports. The charging infrastructure fund comprises £200m from government, which is matched by the private sector, according to BusinessGreen. The number of electric car rapid charging points will double in the next five years under the new plans, the Daily Telegraph reports.
Separately, BusinessGreen also reports that the government’s flagship clean growth strategy would require an overhaul in order to achieve the 2050 net-zero target it has set itself. According to the website, one minister told parliament that such an updated strategy was “absolutely vital”, and it quotes Nick Molho, from the Aldersgate Group thinktank calling for investment in “no regret areas” such as energy efficiency and electric car uptake.
A technical report published by the UK’s National Grid reiterates earlier statements that a lightning strike caused the unexpected failure of a windfarm off the coast of Yorkshire and part of RWE’s Little Barford gas plant in Bedfordshire, according to the Times. The result of this was the worst blackout the UK has seen for years, in which more than one million homes were left without power. National Grid says this was an “extremely rare and unexpected event”, and that its control room “did nothing wrong”, the paper notes. Press Association also has the story, noting that energy network protection systems worked “in line with their design”, according to the company. The Financial Times notes comments from he report stating the energy regulator Ofgem should review “whether it would be appropriate to provide for higher levels of resilience in the electricity system”. However, the Guardian says the National Grid also “conceded” that it would have to bring forward improved safeguards, which are currently due in 2022.
“Leaked communications” from a US-based official of the International Organization for Migration suggest the UN’s refugee agency is censoring itself when discussing climate change and its global impact on migration, according to the Guardian. An email reported by the paper says the US state department has informed the agency that documents related to programme activities it funds “must not be in conflict with current [US government] political sensitivities”. The Guardian piece also notes that agency sources and further communications suggest the agency is avoiding making any direct references to climate change when it comes to projects funded by the US Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration and other US government entities such as USAID.
Philippines politician and “alternate member” for Asia Pacific of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) board Loren Legarda writes a piece exhorting richer nations to commit more money towards climate finance for the developing world. At an upcoming “pledging conference” in Paris this October, such mobilisation “must progress beyond previous efforts”, she writes, noting this “is a major concern for developing countries, especially for the Philippines and other countries that have yet to receive grants from the GCF”. “As we near 2020, the issue of replenishment is becoming more and more prominent. It is the year by which the developed countries committed to jointly mobilise $100bn in climate finance per year… A decade since then, however, I beg to ask: Will the developed countries be able to keep their promise?” She notes that some nations, including Germany, Norway, France, and the UK, had pledged to boost their commitments, and says developing countries “remember those who stood by their words”. In conclusion, she affirms the vital role of the GCF, “especially in this time of climate crisis when developing countries grapple for any and all available climate finance they can get to stay alive”.
A new “climate change shorts” paper in the journal Weather discusses the “attribution” of extreme weather events to climate change. Attribution is the field of research concerned with estimating “whether and to what extent the likelihood or intensity of an extreme event occurring has changed due to human‐induced climate change”, the authors write. The paper notes that there are “still many aspects of extreme events…where we cannot reliably estimate likelihoods of events and their changes”. It concludes: “While we are very confident that the risk of a European heatwave like the one observed in 2003 has at least doubled due to climate change, we cannot currently attribute small scale events such as, for example flash floods, hail storms or tornadoes.”
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