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Daily Briefing

10.11.2021
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING COP26 suffering from ‘credibility gap’ as 2030 climate targets put world on course for 2.4C of warming
COP26 suffering from ‘credibility gap’ as 2030 climate targets put world on course for 2.4C of warming

News.

COP26 suffering from ‘credibility gap’ as 2030 climate targets put world on course for 2.4C of warming
The i Newspaper Read Article

The 2030 climate pledges submitted by countries suggest the planet will warm by at least 2.4C by the end of the century, “well above what scientists say is safe for the planet,” according to a new study reported by, among many others, the i newspaper. Research group Climate Action Tracker (CAT) analysed commitments made up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow and found that, under these targets, emissions are set to be double what they would need to be to limit warming to the stretch Paris Agreement target of 1.5C, the newspaper adds. It notes that, according to the analysis, the summit itself is suffering from a “massive credibility, action and commitment gap”. According to the Press Association, long-term net-zero pledges could curb temperature rises by the end of the century to 1.8C if they were met – “but it is a big ‘if’, as the quality of many of the pledges are questionable and countries do not have short term plans to put them on track to deliver the goal”. It adds that current climate policies, rather than pledges, put the world on track for 2.7C of warming, far above the 1.5C target “to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change”. Currently, more than 140 governments have committed to reaching net-zero, covering 90% of global emissions, but CAT’s analysis of 40 nations concluded that only a handful have plans to back this up, BBC News reports. The Guardian states that as current pledges “are so inadequate”, developing countries at COP26 are pushing for countries to be made to revise them as soon as possible – “next year, according to many”. The Financial Times notes that the work by CAT came out at the same time as a new emissions gap report from the UN that also confirmed the disconnect between countries’ plans and Paris Agreement targets.

The Independent‘s coverage of the CAT report adds that UK prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to return to Glasgow on Wednesday “as time runs out to reach a meaningful agreement that keeps hopes of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels within reach”. The Press Association also covers Johnson’s return to COP26, which No 10 says is to “encourage ambitious action in the final days of the negotiations”. It adds that COP26 president Alok Sharma has stated that negotiators were making progress, but there is still “a mountain to climb” before the conference draws to a close. Another Press Association story quotes Johnson saying nations should “pull out all the stops”. The prime minister – known for his strained metaphors and references to Greek mythology – will return to oversee the complex, high technical negotiations for just one day, according to the Guardian.

The Scotsman also covers Johnson’s visit, noting that it follows the overnight emergence of a “cover decision” text that aims to “address the gap” between climate pledges and targets. Reuters notes that the first draft of this text will be negotiated over the coming days before a final deal is struck at the end of COP26. The Independent reports that the new text encourages countries to “revisit and strengthen” their emissions cutting targets for 2030 in their climate plans by the end of 2022, to meet the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C. (See snap analysis from Carbon Brief’s Simon Evans here.)

Reuters reports that as the summit approaches its conclusion, negotiators discussing rules to govern global carbon markets at COP26 are “stuck at the same impasses as the previous two climate summits”. Another Reuters story notes that the EU has pledged €100m to the UN adaptation fund for developing countries, as discussions around funding for climate adaptation continue in the negotiating halls of COP26. Meanwhile, Politico reports that calls for “loss and damage” support for climate-vulnerable nations are getting louder at the summit. According to Climate Home News, Paris Agreement architect Laurence Tubiana, companies and observers are “making a last-minute call for a crackdown on climate misinformation to be included in the outcome of climate talks”. A New York Times article focuses on calls from some African leaders for a slower transition to renewables for their countries, noting that they “can’t be expected to remake their systems as quickly as wealthy [nations]”. The Washington Post has a piece focusing on the island nation of Tuvalu and questions around whether it can “remain a country if all its people are forced to flee”.

The i newspaper has an article that covers “everything that has actually been achieved at the Glasgow climate change summit”. Separately, DeSmog looks at COP26 host city Glasgow’s “toxic” history, noting that it “remains home to major polluting companies, and historically played a significant role in triggering both industrialism and colonial expansion”.

Six major carmakers agree to phase out fossil-fuel vehicles by 2040, UK says
Reuters Read Article

The UK government says that six major carmakers will commit today to phasing out the production of fossil-fuel vehicles around the world by 2040, Reuters reports. Volvo, Ford, General Motors and Mercedes-Benz are among those set to sign the pledge at the COP26 in Glasgow, as the climate talks enter their transport-themed day, the newswire adds. However, the New York Times notes that the pledge, which also includes 31 governments including the UK, Canada, India and the Netherlands, has some shortcomings. It states: “Some of the world’s biggest car manufacturers, including Toyota, Volkswagen and the Nissan-Renault alliance, did not join the pledge, which is not legally binding. And the governments of the US, China and Japan, three of the largest car markets, also abstained.” Nevertheless, its coverage notes that experts still welcomed the news “as yet another sign that the days of the internal combustion engine could soon be numbered”. The Financial Times also focuses on the absence of four of the world’s five largest automakers, but mentions that hundreds of city and regional authorities have signed up to the pledge, as have Uber and LeasePlan, the world’s largest car leasing company.

In more transport news, Reuters reports that the US is setting a goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from the US aviation sector by 2050. The piece notes that a coalition of countries led by the UK are also expected to announce an “International Aviation Climate Ambition Declaration” at the climate talks in Glasgow. This commitment will push the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to take on an “ambitious long-term aspirational goal” and support sustainable aviation fuel development, the piece continues. Another Reuters piece looks at how major US airlines are working on sustainable aviation fuels with Amazon. BusinessGreen notes that the so-called Sustainable Aviation Buyers Alliance (SABA) is a group of firms that “plans to compensate for their corporate aviation emissions through investments in sustainable aviation fuels”. The Washington Post has a piece on “what to know” as COP26 enters its transport-themed day.

In the UK, the Daily Mail reports that the sale of diesel-fuelled lorries will be banned by 2040, with only specialist vehicles such as military or emergency services vehicles exempt. This follows a consultation laid out in the government’s transport decarbonisation strategy earlier this year (see Carbon Brief’s coverage), and the newspaper notes that it will mean sales of new non-zero emission heavy goods vehicles weighing 26 tonnes and under will be banned from 2035, while heavier vehicles will be banned from sale five years later. Industry representatives at the Road Haulage Association tell the i newspaper the move is “impossibly fast”.

In more UK policy news, BusinessGreen reports that the UK’s long-awaited Environment Bill has finally become law, adding that green groups have warned that “gaping holes” in environmental protections remain.

‘World designed by men has destroyed many things,’ COP26 warned
The Guardian Read Article

A focus on gender equality at COP26 on Tuesday saw Indigenous women and politicians including Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon and speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi demand increased investment to tackle the uneven impact climate change has on women and girls, the Guardian reports. The newspaper features comments from Angelica Ponce, executive director of the Plurinational Authority for Mother Earth in Bolivia, who told attendees “the world as designed by men has destroyed many things”. She added that women “want to be in the corridors of power and take part in decisions at international level to end this struggle of climate justice,” the piece continues. The Daily Record reports on comments from Sturgeon, who chaired a panel debate at the conference’s main plenary hall and told the audience that “there is no doubt we must ensure that climate change is a feminist issue”. BBC News has a piece on how the Scottish first minister “carved out a role at COP26” after Boris Johnson told Scottish Conservatives in 2019 that he did not want her “anywhere near it”.

Pelosi told the conference that dealing with climate change is a matter of “justice and equality,” stating that “80% of the people displaced in climate change globally are women,“ according to the Press Association. The New York Times reports on the arrival of Pelosi and nearly two dozen House Democrats, who arrived claiming that “America is back” in the effort to address climate change, following “four years of global disengagement under the Trump administration”. The newspaper adds that this intervention came “even as their party remains divided over a $1.85tn budget bill upon which their climate agenda depends”. The Financial Times reports that the US delegation attempted “to inject positive tone” into the conference, quoting Pelosi who said Washington was “poised” to pass “the most ambitious and consequential climate and clean energy legislation of all time”. As a side note, the Hill mentions that the $1.2tn bipartisan infrastructure bill is “getting a lukewarm reception from climate advocates” in the US. By contrast, the Press Association reports on comments by congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who said “we have not recovered our moral authority” following Trump’s presidency, adding that “we have to actually deliver the action in order to get the respect and authority internationally”. Ocasio-Cortez also told a side event that the US was now bringing a “more just” approach to addressing climate change, Reuters reports.

Separately, the i newspaper reports on an interview with the chief executive of the Met Office, and first woman to hold the role, Penelope Endersby, who states that being a female scientist has been a boon for her career, with people “falling over themselves” to offer opportunities.

COP26: China says it does not want climate solutions held up by disagreement over global warming goal
South China Morning Post Read Article

China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua has said that China does not want differences over specific climate targets to hold up action on bigger issues at COP26, the South China Morning Post reports, citing state broadcaster CCTV. The publication writes: “Xie said a major hurdle at the talks had been the suggestion by some countries to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.” Xie projected the ministerial negotiations in the second week of COP26 to be “arduous”, reports CCTV (via China News Service). CGTN – CCTV’s English arm – also carries the story. Covering Obama’s speeches at COP26, Shanghai-based Jiemian News said that the former US president called on young people to “stay angry” in the fight against climate change. It also said that Obama criticised Donald Trump’s “active hostility toward climate science”. (The news site does not mention Obama’s criticism against Chinese president Xi’s absence at COP26.)

Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post has launched a four-part series, which “looks at how China has sought to change development gear over the last decade to combat pollution and see a more sustainable future”. Its inaugural report focuses on the country’s battle against air pollution during its “airpocalypse” years. In a separate article, the South China Morning Post covers a paper released by the Lancet Public Health, which assesses the health risks posed by climate change. The outlet says: “From more intense floods in central China to rising threats from heatwaves and disease-carrying mosquitoes in the south – the impact of climate change on health is increasing across China, a sweeping new report has found.” Sixth Tone – a Shanghai-based news website – picks up the same paper. Reuters reports that China’s central bank said on Monday that it would provide financial institutions with low-cost loans to help firms cut carbon emissions to help the country achieve carbon neutrality. The Guardian reports that intense rainfall and extreme weather have become “a norm” in northern China. One expert tells the publication: “This year, in particular, extreme weather in the north of China’s Yangtze River has been common.”

Elsewhere in China’s state media, Xinhua reports that the country’s energy consumption growth slowed in the third quarter, citing the state energy regulator, the National Energy Administration. The state news agency says: “The year-on-year growth of energy consumption in the third quarter dropped 14.3 percentage points from the first quarter and 4.7 percentage points from the second quarter, partly due to remarkable energy use drops in the energy-intensive industries.” Furthermore, China’s “energy crunch” is projected to alleviate following multiple measures to boost supply and rein in price hikes, Xinhua reports. The state-run newswire quotes statements from the National Development and Reform Commission, the economic planner. State-run newspaper Global Times runs an interview with “a spokesperson from the Chinese embassy in the UK”, who says that “China has been actively promoting green transition in the economy”. The publication also carries an opinion piece titled “China focuses on climate change, but not Washington’s will”.

Finally, Reuters has a piece about new research from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air that finds Asia’s pipeline of proposed coal power plants is expected to shrink from 65 gigawatts (GW) to 22GW following China’s pledge to put an end to overseas coal financing.

UK: Climate change far more deadly than Covid, Vallance tells COP26
The Times Read Article

Various UK publications pick up on comments made by the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, who said in an interview with the BBC at COP26 that Covid was a two- to four-year problem, while climate change was a 50- to 100-year problem, according to the Times. The Daily Mirror also has the story, noting that he said global warming could kill more people than the pandemic and pose a threat that could last one hundred years. New Scientist reports that Vallance said people in the UK are not doing enough to change their behaviour to tackle climate change. The science magazine notes that these comments “contrast with the approach taken by the UK government,” which has focused primarily on technological solutions to address global warming. In its coverage, the i newspaper says that Vallance drew links between the response to climate change and the combination of technological and behavioural measures that have been used to tackle Covid-19.

Speaking at COP26, former UK prime minister Gordon Brown said governments needed to push for resilient and low-carbon healthcare systems, and compared the current climate finance system for developing countries to “a charity fundraiser or a begging bowl going around the table,” according to the Press Association. Meanwhile, Reuters reports on a panel event at the conference in which experts warned of escalating climate-linked health threats such as disease, heatstroke and air pollution.

The Daily Telegraph has another story about someone catching a plane to COP26, this time focusing on councillor Phelim MacCafferty, leader of Brighton and Hove City Council’s Green group. On the other hand, another Daily Telegraph story features comments from transport secretary Grant Shapps saying that flying is not the “ultimate evil” and travel should be “guilt-free”.

Finally, in more COP26 news, the Press Association reports that just 0.1% of the coronavirus tests taken to enter the COP26 climate summit have resulted in positive results, according to Scotland’s deputy first minister John Swinney speaking in Scottish parliament.

Rolls-Royce secures funding for new generation of mini nuclear reactors
The Independent Read Article

Engineering group Rolls-Royce has been given a £210m government grant and £195m from private firms to build a new generation of mini nuclear reactors, the Independent reports. According to the paper, advocates of the technology hope that it will be cheaper and faster than existing nuclear plants. The Times reports that each reactor would be capable of producing 470MW of energy – enough to power a million homes – and would cost only one-tenth of the money being spent building the Hinkley Point nuclear station in Somerset. BBC News notes that the new Rolls-Royce Small Modular Reactor business could create up to 40,000 jobs by 2050. The i newspaper adds: “​​Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the cash would help Britain move towards net-zero carbon emissions and reduce the country’s exposure to global gas price spikes.” Elsewhere, Reuters covers an announcement from French president Emmanual Macron, who says that France will build new nuclear reactors to “help the country lessen its dependence on foreign countries for its energy supplies, meet global warming targets and keep prices under control”.

Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that the Australian government “will invest $500m into a new $1bn fund to help commercialise low emissions technology, including carbon capture and storage (CCS) and soil carbon”. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Australia will establish a $740m fund to invest in companies that develop low-emissions technology. The newswire continues: “Under the plan, the federal government will commit A$500 million to the fund, matched by private investors, which will be used to support nascent companies in developing technologies including carbon capture and storage.” And journalist Kalinga Seneviratne has penned an opinion piece in the South China Morning Post, entitled, “How Australia’s weak climate change plan is driven by domestic political concerns”, where he writes that Scott Morrison has “come under heavy criticism for proposals that appear focused on keeping fossil fuel firms and domestic voters happy”.

Comment.

The climate summit has me very energised, and very afraid
Thomas Friedman, The New York Times Read Article

A piece by New York Times opinion columnist Thomas Friedman explores the “profoundly mixed emotions” the writer was left with after visiting the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last week. He says that he has been to most COP climate summits since Bali in 2007, and “this one had a very different feel”. Friedman praises the “energy of all the youth on the streets,” but writes: “There was one question that hovered over every promise coming out of this summit: When you see how hard it’s been for governments to get their citizens to just put on a mask in stores, or to get vaccinated, to protect themselves, their neighbours and their grandparents from being harmed or killed by Covid-19, how in the world are we going to get big majorities to work together globally and make the lifestyle sacrifices needed to dampen the increasingly destructive effects of global warming — for which there are treatments but no vaccine? That’s magical thinking, and it demands a realistic response.” What follows is his “reporter’s notebook,” laying out some of his major insights from the summit that led to his “conflicting emotions”.

While Friedman is full of praise for protesters at the summit, Times columnist Kenny Farquharson writes that “too many climate protesters want COP26 to fail. “I include Thunberg in this critique but she is only the most high profile of a wider cadre of activists for whom protest, not progress, seems to be the point,” he writes.

Writing for the New Yorker, veteran environmentalist, author and founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org Bill McKibben writes that “trust is hard to find” in Glasgow and that “young activists are right to doubt the pledges of governments, financial firms and the fossil-fuel industry”.

Science.

On the impossibility of extreme event thresholds in the absence of global warming
Environmental Research Letters Read Article

The hottest possible events in our current climate may have been “virtually impossible” without human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new study. The authors analyse daily data from a “large ensemble” of simulations from one model in the sixth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6), both with and without human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. They find that, in the absence of these emissions, the maximum daily, seasonal and annual-scale thresholds of the model are never reached in large parts of the world. The study adds that when including global warming, “all years in the recent period are hotter than the hottest early-period year over most of the globe”.

THE BRIEF

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Get a Daily or Weekly round-up of all the important articles and papers selected by Carbon Brief by email. By entering your email address you agree for your data to be handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy.