Today's climate and energy headlines:
- COP26: Glasgow's UN climate conference opens with key speeches
- COP26: Leaders promise to save world’s forests in eight years
- India pledges new climate crisis goal: Net-zero by 2070
- US: Biden to unveil pledge to slash global methane emissions by 30%
- China: Xi Jinping makes no major climate pledges in written COP26 address
- COP26 must ensure a just transition that leaves no one behind
- Tackling deforestation must be at the heart of our response to the climate crisis
- Decarbonisation offers Australia immense opportunities. We just need leadership
- Climate impacts on global agriculture emerge earlier in new generation of climate and crop models
- Twenty years of climate policy: G20 coverage and gaps
COP26 kicked off in earnest yesterday with a series of speeches – available on the UNFCCC website here – from a wide range of world leaders, dignitaries and campaigners. UK prime minister Boris Johnson opened the session by warning delegates that the “anger and the impatience of the world” would be uncontainable “unless we make this COP26 in Glasgow the moment that we get real about climate change”, BBC News reports. The Press Association adds: “Boris Johnson has warned that richer countries’ record on climate change ‘is not exactly stellar’ and they had already ‘flunked’ parts of the Paris Agreement…Mr Johnson said he would be ‘backing the most vulnerable’ countries that are facing the ‘cataclysmic’ consequences of climate change as he pledged to call and hassle world leaders that he feels were backing out of environmental commitments.” Reuters reports that Johnson said private-sector money was needed to help developing countries decarbonise their economies and the Press Association adds that he has warned that world leaders will be judged with “bitterness and resentment” by future generations if they fail to act. Meanwhile, the Times reports that Johnson is urging world leaders to “defuse the bomb of climate change”, while Politico says that Johnson “channel[ed] Greta Thunberg” in his speech.
Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has unveiled $500m in international climate finance, which will go towards projects in Pacific and south-east Asia. It adds: “The prime minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, characterised Australia’s new commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050 as ‘a start’. But he said he wanted a concrete plan for Australia ‘to halve emissions by 2030’”. Morrison also “used his national statement at the COP26 to emphasise that Australia will probably overachieve on its 2030 emissions reduction target in an effort to blunt international criticism about his government’s lack of climate ambition”, the Guardian reports separately. The paper adds that Morrison says Australia may cut emissions by 35%, but that the 26% to 28% target will not be changed. Reuters adds that, according to Morrison, the path to net-zero will be charted by scientists, technologists, engineers, entrepreneurs, industrialists and financiers.
The New York Times reports on Biden’s 11-minute address, noting that he told world leaders that “we only have a brief window before us to raise our ambitions”. According to the newspaper, he warned that “climate disasters were already imposing trillions of dollars of economic costs”, but added hope that lower-emission energy sources “could create millions of jobs around the world”. The Guardian says that Biden “urged other world leaders to embark upon a transformational shift to clean energy”. Meanwhile, Politico notes that Biden “likened the global experience battling Covid-19 to the need to combat rising temperatures and the extreme weather events that accompany them”, and the Hill adds that Biden called climate change an “existential” threat. Elsewhere, Forbes says that Biden pitched the fight against climate change as an opportunity for investment. Meanwhile, the Washington Post notes that Biden “apologised” to world leaders for the inaction of the Trump administration on climate.
Reuters reports that UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres gave a speech, in which he “told leaders that failure at a conference on global warming would mean they should have to come back with improved pledges every year rather than according to the current five-year timetable”. The i newspaper adds that in his “hard-hitting speech”, he warned leaders to stop treating nature “like a toilet”, while the Hill leads its coverage of Gutteres’ speech with his quote: “We are digging our own graves”. According to the Guardian, Gutteres also told the conference: “Recent climate action announcements might give the impression that we are on track to turn things around. This is an illusion.” Separately, the New York Times says that Sir David Attenborough urged summit participants to help “rewrite our story” in his address. The i newspaper adds that Attenborough said his lifetime has been defined by a “terrible decline”, but that young people alive today could witness a “wonderful recovery”. And Forbes notes that Attenborough delivered his speech along with a film of illustrations past changes in atmospheric CO2 levels. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen urged the summit to put a price on carbon, saying that “nature cannot pay”. And the Hill reports that Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau called on world leaders to establish “a shared minimum standard for pricing pollution”. Separately the Hill reports that French president Emmanuel Macron “called upon the world’s ‘largest emitters’ to ‘scale up’ their emissions reductions commitment”.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the Queen delivered a pre-recorded message that “the time for words has now moved to the time for action”. BBC News says that she urged them to act “for our children and our children’s children” and Politico adds that she asked leaders to “rise above politics”. The Hill reports that Prince Charles urged world leaders to engage in “warlike” efforts to fight climate change. According to the Daily Telegraph, Prince Charles also warned that the cost of inaction is “far greater” than that of averting climate change. And the Washington Post carries a piece entitled “Prince Charles, once dismissed as a plant-talking oddball, takes his environmental bona fides to COP26”.
Meanwhile, Reuters carries a list of quotes from todays speeches. These include the president of Maldives: “Our islands are slowly being inundated one by one”, president of Malawi: “Neither Africa in general, nor Malawi in particular, will take ‘no’ for an answer. Not any more” and the prime minister of Barbados: “Our people are watching and our people are taking note…Can there be peace and prosperity if one third of the world lives in prosperity and two-thirds live under seas and face calamitous threats to our wellbeing?”. The Hill carries another quote from the Barbadian prime minister Mia Mottley: “Failure to provide the critical finance and that of loss and damage is measured in lives and livelihoods in our communities. This is immoral and it is unjust.” And the Press Association adds that she said the world “stands at a fork in the road”. The Guardian also carries a list of quotes. BBC News adds that Samoan climate activist Brianna Frueanv spoke about the threat of climate change to Pacific islanders, saying that “we’re not drowning, we’re fighting”. Meanwhile, BBC News reports that an indigenous climate activist from the Brazilian Amazon has said global leaders have “closed their eyes” to climate change. It adds: “She pleaded with leaders to put indigenous people at the centre of the decisions made as they are in ‘the front line of the climate emergency’, adding her friend had been murdered for protecting the forest”. Reuters notes that the group brought 40 envoys to COP26 – their biggest ever international delegation.
Finally, the New York Times carries videos of many of the speeches, including those of Biden, Guterres, the Queen and Attenborough. The New York Times says the opening day was “heavy on dire warnings and light on substantive proposals”. Similarly, Yale Environment 360 has said that the conference opened with “dire warnings and muted expectations”.
The leaders of more than 100 countries have committed to “halt and reverse” deforestation globally by 2030, in what the Times calls “the first big breakthrough at COP”. The paper says that the countries involved in the pledge are home to 85% of the world forests. The Declaration on Forests is backed by £14bn of public and private money, which will mainly help to protect the Amazon, and tropical forests in Indonesia and the Congo Basin, it adds. BBC News notes that a £1.1bn fund will be established to protect the world’s second largest tropical rainforest – in the Congo Basin and the Guardian adds that at least £1.25bn will be given directly to indigenous people and local communities. The Financial Times notes that the pledge will officially be made later today, at which time 30 financial institutions will also promise to end deforestation from their portfolios. However, New Scientist highlights that the 2030 goal is “identical to one made seven years ago by a smaller group of countries”, which failed their goal of halving deforestation by 2020 “by a wide margin”. Boris Johnson is set to unveil the agreement at an event this morning, where he is expected to say “these great teeming ecosystems – these cathedrals of nature – are the lungs of our planet”, the New York Times reports. However, the Independent says that campaigners are critical, adding that the head of Greenpeace said that Bolsonaro is happy to sign the deal because it “buys him another decade”. Similarly, the Guardian says that “Amazon forest defenders” are urging COP26 delegates not to trust Bolsonaro’s “greenwashing” promises, warning that Brazil “may make empty promises at COP26 to gain access to conservation money”.
Elsewhere, outlets including the Conversation and i newspaper have pieces on the importance of tackling deforestation. Meanwhile, Reuters covers yesterday’s announcement from Brazil’s environment minister, who said the country will end illegal deforestation by 2028 and cut its emissions by 50% by 2030.
In his speech, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi announced that “India will reach carbon neutrality by 2070, as part of a five-point action plan” reports the Hindustan Times, which calls it “the boldest pledge on Monday at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow where he also urged developed countries to deliver on their promise of climate financing”. It reports that net-zero is “a target that is particularly hard for developing nations that need to balance commitment to economic growth” and that “India has the lowest per-capita emissions of the world’s major economies.” It quotes a former senior negotiator who said that the country “was under immense pressure to commit to a net-zero target from US and other developed nations”, plus senior government officials who say India “has a long fight in the next two weeks over climate finance and it will be critical in determining whether India puts this in NDCs”.
“Far more significant were the more immediate goals that he announced,” reports the New York Times, adding: “India would aim to build 500 gigawatts of renewable energy and ensure that half of its energy mix comes from sources other than fossil fuels by 2030”, which “means coal, which provides the bulk of India’s electricity, would remain a large part of its energy mix in the coming decade.” It notes that “India is among the few big economies that have not submitted an updated nationally determined contribution, as the Paris Agreement stipulates.”
The Independent says that, according to experts, India’s net-zero goal is “arguably much more ambitious than that of China or the European Union – despite coming a decade or two later”. It adds that although India’s target is 10 years later than China’s, the country’s share of historic emissions is also much lower. Similarly, BBC News highlights that India is the world’s fourth largest emitter, but has “much lower” per-capita emissions than other major world economies. It adds: “While the 2070 net-zero target may have disappointed activists and experts in Glasgow, Mr Modi seems to have impressed people back home…The BBC’s Vikas Pandey reports that the prime minister appears to have found the middle ground for his base – he is seen as being serious about climate change but without compromising India’s economic potential.” The Guardian notes that India was one of the last economies to make a net-zero pledge, saying that the announcement “marked one of the most significant moments of the summit’s opening day”. However, Al Jazeera says: “A COP official welcomed the 2030 pledge but expressed surprise at the 2070 goal, which is beyond China’s net-zero target of 2060. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was hope India might bring 2070 forward.”
The Financial Times says the announcement was “a big turnround for the world’s third-largest polluter”. Meanwhile, the i newspaper reports that “Boris Johnson welcomed Modi’s ‘ambitious’ new [2030 renewable energy] commitments” and that they had earlier had bilateral talks, “with Downing Street viewing India’s climate announcement as a key moment”. It says: “But Mr Modi demanded richer countries make $1trn available in climate finance and only pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2070, way short of the 2050 goal that climate scientists say is required to limit temperature rises to 1.5C.”
Bloomberg’s David Fickling comments that “in just over a decade, India has gone from a position of accepting no limits on the world’s greenhouse emissions, to setting a constraint on even its own carbon footprint.” He writes that “if investment dollars flow from rich countries into India’s booming low-emissions sector, industries that seem as hard to decarbonise now as the power sector seemed in 2015 will be the next to move”, while pointing that to hit a 500GW non-fossil fuel capacity target by 2030 “India’s renewable installers will need to quadruple their rate of deployments” “equivalent to building the U.K.’s entire renewable fleet every year for the best past of a decade.” The Press Association quotes Lord Stern, who says “this demonstrates real leadership, based on a track record of action and ambitious targets, that can deliver on both economic development and climate change, from a country whose emissions per capita are about one-third of the global average”.
The Guardian previews an action plan called the “global methane pledge”, which Joe Biden is set to unveil later today. According to the paper, the plan aims to limit global methane emissions by 30% compared to 2020 levels by the end of the decade. Ninety countries have joined the alliance, including two-thirds of the global economy and half of the top 30 major emitters, it adds. However, it notes that while Brazil has joined the pledge, China, India and Russia have not. The newspaper continues: “The pledge was first announced in September but Biden’s officials have been working hard to increase the number of signatories and the momentum behind the pledge. The detailed US proposals may prove to be one of the lasting successes of COP26 in Glasgow where Biden will announce his action plan.” The Financial Times calls Biden’s proposal for cutting methane emissions “sweeping”. It says that proposed rules from the EPA to limit methane emissions from oil and gas production “go beyond any previous regulation of methane in the US, forcing operators of new and existing infrastructure to monitor and fix leaks of the potent greenhouse gas”, and will “give President Joe Biden an environmental victory to tout in Glasgow”. The Wall Street Journal says that, for the first times, the EPA said it would control methane emissions at existing wells worldwide, putting roughly 1m new and existing wells under the regulation. “The federal government previously had rules that aimed to prevent methane leaks from oil and gas wells built since 2015, but they were rescinded by the Trump administration,” the New York Times adds. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that measures will also be taken by the agricultural department to encourage farmers to “harness and sell” methane, while pipeline regulators will “expand their oversight of natural gas lines”. The Hill says that the proposed EPA rule will “cut methane emissions from impacted pollution sources by about 75%”.
In other US news, Reuters reports that “President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda suffered a major setback on Monday when Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said he would not commit to supporting a $1.75 trillion framework on social spending and climate change unveiled last week”. Meanwhile, the New York Times carries a piece entitled, “Even as Biden pushes clean energy, he seeks more oil production”. It notes that only days before the Glasgow summit, Biden was urging the world’s largest oil producers to increased their production. And the Hill reports that White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy “emphasised the value of state and local climate action” in remarks at COP26 yesterday.
The Guardian reports that China’s president Xi Jinping has called on developed countries to “provide support to help developing countries do better” in dealing with the climate crisis in a written statement to COP26. The newspaper notes that Xi failed to make any new significant pledges. The South China Morning Post says that Xi urged countries to “focus on ‘concrete actions’, set ‘realistic targets and visions’, and harness innovations in science and technology to ‘accelerate the green transition’”. The Hong Kong-based publication writes that Xi announced that “his government would be rolling out specific implementation plans in sectors including energy, industry, construction and transport”. Bloomberg says that Xi, “who isn’t attending the summit, brought no new goals despite diplomatic pressure in the run-up to COP”. CCTV, China’s state broadcaster, published Xi’s written statement at the Glasgow summit. According to the official channel, Xi proposed to “maintain multilateral recognition”, “focus on practical action” and “accelerate green transformation”.
Meanwhile, a report by Xinhua lists the key topics at COP26. The state news agency says that the Glasgow climate summit is expected to focus on discussing how the targets set by the Paris Agreement would be achieved, if developed countries could fulfil their promises and whether countries’ climate goals could be realised. Xinhua’s report is reposted by several other state-run outlets, including China News Service and Science Net. The Paper reports that “the most difficult climate conference” opened in a storm, in reference to the winds and rain that had halted trains to Glasgow from London. Chai Qimin – director for strategy and planning at National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, a state-affiliated institute – told the Paper that, although the scale of this COP is smaller than before due to Covid-19, its importance “cannot be underestimated”. He said that the Paris Agreement would need “important mechanism and arrangement” to let it “grow teeth”, the outlet reports. The Paper also carries a piece on “several questions you need to know about the Glasgow climate summit”. The Beijing News says that climate change is “on a cliff edge”, while reporting on the importance of the climate talks.
Separately, CCTV reports that Wang Wenbin, a spokesman of the Chinese foreign ministry, says that China would use “the shortest time” to achieve carbon neutrality. Wang told a press conference yesterday that, to achieve carbon neutrality from the emissions peak, the time the European Union, the US and Japan would use is, respectively, 71 years, 43 years and 37 years, but China has only given it 30 years, the article says. Prof Lin Boqiang, dean of China Institute for Energy Policy Studies at Xiamen University in China, told Shanghai-based Jiemian News that China’s energy structure faced an “overall change” in order to achieve the goal in its emissions-peaking action plan that non-fossil fuel would form more than 80& of its energy consumption. Furthermore, ITV News runs a piece titled, “Climate change: Is COP26 doomed to fail without China’s Xi Jinping?” written by its Asia correspondent, Debi Edward. Finally, the Diplomat runs an interview with Li Shuo, senior climate and energy policy officer at Greenpeace East Asia, on the China-US climate diplomacy.
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has penned an opinion piece in the Financial Times. He writes that in the push to net-zero, South Africa’s trading partners are likely to restrict imports of goods produced using carbon-intensive energy – limiting South Africa’s exports. He continues: “These trends mean we need to act with urgency and ambition to cut greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a low-carbon economy…But the only way for a transition to be successful is if there is broad commitment to a transition that is just – a journey to net-zero that leaves no one behind. The needs of workers and communities in industries and geographies that will be hurt by such a transition must be carefully considered.” He says that South Africa is “is developing plans to enable a just move to net-zero”, and that decarbonising the electricity sector will be the first step. He adds that to signal their ambition, the country recently updated its nationally determined contribution (NDC) to target-net zero by 2050. However, he adds that their success will depend on the support they get, in the form of “grants, loans at concessional rates and private investment from international and local pools of finance”. He adds: “This, to be clear, is not about charity. This is about fairness and mutual benefit. Countries with developed economies carry the greatest responsibility for climate change because they have historically been the biggest polluters. Developing economies are the worst affected.”
Writing in the Guardian, Zac Goldsmith – the UK’s international environment minister – says that, “put simply, there is no credible response to the climate crisis – or to so many of the biggest challenges we face – that does not involve protecting and restoring nature on a massive scale”. He adds: “That shouldn’t need saying, but modern industrial society is only just beginning to comprehend, let alone internalise, what indigenous peoples have always known: our lives and economies, our cultures and identities, are indivisibly connected with the natural world. Globally, nature-based solutions such as forests, mangroves and peatlands could provide about a third of the most effective and cost-effective solutions to the climate crisis that we need now – as well as helping communities adapt to the changes that are now inevitable. But currently, they attract just 3% of total global climate finance. That makes no sense at all…But combined, the commitments to protect the world’s forests made at COP26 in Glasgow today go far, far beyond anything we have seen before, and represent the turning point we urgently need for our forests, and by extension for our shared future.”
In the Wall Street Journal, Fred Krupp, who is president of the Environmental Defense Fund, celebrates that “this week, at the climate summit in Glasgow, dozens of nations are joining and effort led by the US and the European Union to cut methane pollution 30% by 2030”. He continues: “We need to focus on the most cost-effective methods for reducing climate pollution even as we take on the challenge of moving from a mostly fossil-fuel-powered world to a clean global economy. Another bargain is to limit the burning of tropical forests, which accounts for 15% of global CO2 emissions.”
Meanwhile, several commentators dwell on whether COPs are worth the effort. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard says they are worth it: “Greta Thunberg is wrong to deride the COP process as 30 years of ‘blah, blah, blah’, achieving nothing beyond self-congratulation…On the contrary, it has been a steady ratchet effect for the better, with more going on behind diplomatic scenes than meets the eye. Even failures like Copenhagen in 2009 set in place structures that kept forcing the pace.” In the Guardian, Mujtaba Rahman, who is the managing director for Europe at Eurasia Group, a political risk research and consulting firm, says that “COP26 might prove a stepping stone, but the word ‘Glasgow’ is unlikely to be remembered as the triumph for global Britain Johnson hoped for in the heady days of 2019”. Phoebe Weston, also in the Guardian, watched the first full day at COP26 and observes that “now most countries have experienced the climate crisis as wildfires, floods or heatwaves, leaders know they must deliver”. In the Times, William Hague, a former leader of the UK Conservative party, says “nations that cling to coal and destroy rainforests should expect to become pariahs as tensions turn into blame games”. And in the the Guardian, Ed Miliband, a former leader of the UK Labour party, says: “The world is not due to return to the issue of country-by-country pledges until the next COP26 happens in 2025. If we follow this course, we will forfeit 1.5C. We will need to come back much sooner to close the gap.”
Separately, in the Washington Post, columnist Catherine Rampell says that “America’s inaction on climate is getting embarrassing”. And in the New York Times, Peter Coy argues that “stopping climate change doesn’t need to be altruistic”.
The Guardian carries three comment pieces focusing on Australia’s new pledge to reach net-zero by 2050. Greg Combet, who was Australia’s minister for climate change between 2010 and 2013, says he has “seen the challenges of advocating credible climate policy in the face of fear, hate and hysteria”. He argues that “future generations deserve far better”, adding: “It’s all staring us in the face. Decarbonisation of the global economy presents immense economic opportunities for Australia. We have the resources and capabilities to grasp them. But it requires political leadership. The failure to lead on climate action risks an indelible stain on the reputation of the Liberal and National parties. Scott Morrison faces a derisory legacy preserved on social media, after gleefully waving a lump of coal around in parliament. It’s easy to discern that electoral politics is shifting in favour of climate action.”
Meanwhile, Frank Jotzo, who is a professor at the Australian National University and head of energy at its Institute for Climate Energy & Disaster Solutions, says in the Guardian: “It suits politicians to release high-level documents prepared with help from consultancy firms before the analysis that is prepared by government departments. But it amounts to a failure of proper process in an open democracy. It enables obfuscation and monopolises information…Putting in place a genuine process for a long-term emissions strategy is a chance for the next federal government, whichever party wins.” And Guardian columnist Greg Jericho writes that “the Morrison government’s emissions projections are a farce based on technological pipe dreams”.
Major breadbasket regions will face “distinct anthropogenic climatic risks” sooner than previously anticipated, a new study says. Using “ensembles of latest-generation crop and climate models”, the researchers find “markedly more pessimistic yield responses for maize, soybean and rice” than previous assessments. Lower maize productivity, for example, can be explained by warmer climate projections and improved crop model sensitivities, the authors say. In contrast, wheat shows stronger gains, “linked to higher CO2 concentrations and expanded high-latitude gains”.
A new paper analyses sectoral climate policy in G20 countries over 2000-19. The researchers compile a “dataset of climate change mitigation-relevant policies and identified 50 key policy options that constitute a comprehensive sectoral climate policy package”. Approximately half of these policy options “are not widely adopted”, the authors find, adding: “Adoption is particularly low for policies that aim to: phase out coal and oil and mandate energy reductions in electricity and heat supply; reduce industrial process emissions and incentivise fuel switch in industry; design urban planning strategies for retrofits; and support the use of renewable energy for cooking and heating/cooling purposes in buildings.” The paper also notes that “policy adoption gaps leave at least one-tenth of the G20’s emissions completely uncovered”.