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Briefing date 01.12.2023
COP28: Poor countries win 30-year fight for climate cash

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Climate and energy news.

COP28: Poor countries win 30-year fight for climate cash
BBC News Read Article

On the first day of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, countries have agreed on the details for a new fund for paying vulnerable nations for the loss and damage they have experienced because of climate change, many publications report. BBC News describes the deal as a “surprise that has lit up COP28”, adding: “Such deals are normally sealed last minute after days of negotiations.” The Financial Times reports that five countries and the EU have pledged more than $420m to seed the fund. This includes $145m from the EU, $100m from COP host UAE and also from Germany, $50m from the UK, $17.5m from the US and $10m from Japan, the FT says. It adds: “Negotiators hope there will be further pledges from other individual European countries before the summit ends.” A fund for loss and damage was first agreed in the final hours of COP27 in Egypt last year and fraught meetings to work out the details of how it should operate were held in the months leading up to COP28, the FT says. [Read Carbon Brief’s explainer on how the details of the loss and damage fund were negotiated.] Bloomberg describes the deal as an “early win” for COP28. The Daily Mail leads its coverage with the question: “Will Brits be on the hook for climate compensation?” The New York Times, Associated Press and Climate Home News also cover the development.

Elsewhere, the FT reports that the UAE is preparing to launch a $30bn climate-related investment fund with BlackRock, TPG and Brookfield. It explains: “Lunate Capital, a new Abu Dhabi-based asset manager set up with $50bn in assets, will oversee the fund with at least $5bn earmarked for investment in global south countries, three people involved in discussions said.” The FT also speaks to Germany’s foreign minister Annalena Baerbock, who has said her nation will stand by all its international climate finance commitments despite a domestic budget crisis.

King expected to call in opening speech for COP28 to be ‘critical turning point’
The Press Association Read Article

King Charles is expected to say he hopes COP28 will be a “critical turning point towards genuine transformational action” as he opens today’s World Climate Action summit, a two-day “high-level” event that will see world leaders put forward their views on how to tackle climate change, the Press Association reports. PA says: “He is also expected to argue that, despite some progress, repeated warning signs of climate change are being ignored, bringing devastating consequences for lives and livelihoods across the Commonwealth and the globe. It is believed he will call for meaningful action achieved by all bodies working together and outline five key questions which he hopes the summit will address.” He will also tell leaders that the “Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth”, according to the Daily Mail. It is his first major speech on climate change since becoming king in September 2022, Reuters adds.

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak will also speak at the summit, a second Press Association story says. He will push for an “era of action”, while simultaneously highlighting the UK’s “pragmatic” approach in reaching net-zero after rollbacking ambitious domestic policies, PA says. As he prepared to fly to the summit, he told journalists he is “not in hock to ideological zealots” pressing for more urgent action on climate change, the Guardian reports. A second Guardian story notes charities and NGOs have criticised him for sending the “wrong signal” ahead of the summit. Sunak also singled out China as a country that should do more to tackle climate change, the Times and Daily Mail report. Politico calls Sunak’s foray at COP a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” appearance, noting he is tabled to stay for just 11 hours before returning to the UK. The Independent is among publications noting that Sunak, the king and new foreign secretary Lord Cameron will take separate private jets to the summit. The FT reports that Labour leader Keir Starmer will also attend COP28 today, where he will “stress” the party’s green credentials and accuse the Conservatives of “watering down” climate action. He will attend various engagements alongside shadow net-zero secretary Ed Miliband and shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, the FT adds. The Sun reports that Conservatives have warned that Labour’s climate plans could come with “tax rises or spending cuts”.

COP28: Global deal to phase out fossil fuels is in trouble
Politico Read Article

Politico reports that a global deal on ending fossil fuel use was “mired in division” on the first day of COP, with “major polluters and the oil-rich host country signalling they weren’t on board”. It explains: “Deciding how to describe the shift away from coal, oil and gas, the primary drivers of climate change, is one of the top political issues at this year’s talks known as COP28. The debate largely fixates on whether to phase those fuels ‘out’ versus ‘down,’ whether the word choice makes a practical difference, and whether nations should set deadlines for ditching their polluting energy sources. Some take the argument a step further: Does a phase out mean eliminating all fossil fuels, or just those whose planet-warming pollution isn’t being captured before it hits the atmosphere?” Politico says the EU and an alliance of developing countries say the success of COP28 depends on a deal to “phase out” fossil fuels. But, according to the publication, the UAE has shown signs it may not support this goal. It says: “Al-Jaber refused to join the EU in calling for a ‘phase out’ of fossil fuels during a bilateral meeting in Brussels this month, according to a European Commission official who was granted anonymity as they were not authorised to speak publicly.” [At COP28’s opening press conference attended by Carbon Brief’s Daisy Dunne, Al Jaber indicated he would be willing to include “fossil fuels” in a final COP deal if it was the wish of all parties.] 

Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that a group of mayors from the world’s major cities have supported the call to phase out fossil fuels. The Independent reports on the debate between “phasing out” or “phasing down” fossil fuels.

UAE’s COP28 has ‘biggest carbon footprint’ of any climate summit
The Daily Telegraph Read Article

The Daily Telegraph reports that COP28 will likely have the “biggest carbon footprint in the history of the annual climate summit because the UAE has invited record numbers of people”. It says: “At least 400,000 people are expected to travel to Dubai for the two-week event, organisers claimed, the biggest attendance on record.” It quotes Richard Black of the thinktank Ember as saying: “Given the number of people expected here, yes this probably will have the highest carbon footprint of any COP to date.” He adds that the size of that footprint “is absolutely dwarfed by the emission cuts that a deal can produce”, according to the newspaper.

Elsewhere, the New York Times reports that one of the conference’s biggest challenges will be “disinformation” from certain countries and fossil fuel representatives with badges to the conference. Desmog reports that the road to success at COP28 is “paved with Big Oil loophole language”.

In addition, the FT reports that the UAE has promised to allow a “peaceful assembly” and “expression of views” at the summit, despite “international advocacy groups’ concerns about the Gulf monarchy’s restrictive laws leading to detentions outside the venue”. It comes as the Guardian reports that a UK academic tortured in the UAE in 2018 has warned journalists and campaigners attending COP to take every precaution to protect their digital and physical security.

World heading for hot 2024 after records ‘shattered’ in 2023, says WMO
Financial Times Read Article

This year has “shattered” climate records and is set to be the hottest since measurements began, with “greenhouse gas and sea levels reaching all-time highs and Antarctic sea ice at record lows, a pattern set to continue in 2024”, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization covered by the FT. The WMO described this year’s climate extremes as a “deafening cacophony of broken records”, the FT says. The report says that the world will hit temperatures 1.4C above pre-industrial levels this year, Reuters adds. Speaking at the report’s launch at COP28, UN chief António Guterres said the world was “living through climate collapse in real time”, according to the Guardian.

Thawing US-China ties lead way in climate steps
China Daily Read Article

The state-run China Daily reports that experts say that “a cooling of tensions” in US-China relations could strengthen the fight on climate change and “bolster” COP28. Bloomberg carries a commentary by Minxin Pei, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, who writes that “even on climate…[the US and China] can still work together by targeting very specific and narrow issues”. A “world view” article in Nature by Fan Dai, director of the California–China Climate Institute, says that during California governor Gavin Newsom’s trip to Beijing, president Xi “emphasised three words: ‘cherish’, to acknowledge Newsom’s rational voice and good intentions; ‘inclusive’ to recognize the importance of…US-China exchanges; and ‘potential’, to affirm the power of climate cooperation in shaping future relations”. The China pavilion in Dubai will “host more than 100 events” on the sidelines of COP28, according to the Chinese ministry of ecology and environment (MEE), reports another China Daily article. Chinese financial outlet Yicai reports that a sideline event at the pavilion introduced Beijing’s actions and achievements in addressing climate change and pollution reduction. The state news agency Xinhua quotes Xia Yingxian, director of the climate change department of the MEE, as saying that COP28 should “send a strong signal to promote cooperation among all parties in addressing climate change”. 

In other news, Yicai reports that China’s total installed renewable energy capacity has surpassed 1.4 terawatts (TW), and accounting for nearly 50% of power generation nationwide. It is expected that by the end of the year, the installed capacity for renewable energy generation nationwide will exceed 1.45TW, with wind and solar power capacity surpassing 1TW. Energy outlet BJX News says that the National Energy Administration (NEA) is “steadfast in targeting the dual carbon goals, implementing a variety of measures to promote the high-quality advancement of renewable energy”. Chinese industry outlet reports that the ministry of natural resources (MNR) has issued a policy which asks that “solar arrays’ land should not encroach upon arable land…if other agricultural land must be utilised, it should be done reasonably and with effective control, emphasising the conservation and intensive use of land, while minimising potential impacts on ecology and agricultural production as much as possible”. Utility Drive reports that despite considerable efforts by governments around the world to enhance energy efficiency, China and some other areas have seen a “slowdown in energy intensity improvement”, contributing to “a lack of global progress”.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times says that the number of new coal-fired power plants added in China since 2021 has “surged”. It reports that “western capitals [efforts] to block Chinese companies from cleantech investment [could] weaken the west’s case in encouraging China to strengthen its climate commitments” at COP28. In Shanxi province, “a spate of new coal-fired power construction” is under construction, reports Reuters. Asia Financial says that China’s “obsession with energy security” and its “insistence on building new coal power plants” casts doubts on its climate pledges. 

Finally, the Spectator magazine has a frontpage feature on “how China cornered the green market” for carbon capture and storage. And the Economist has an editorial titled: “Will China save the planet or destroy it?”

Germany: Court obliges the government to take immediate action on climate protection
Der Spiegel Read Article

A German court has deemed several aspects of the German government’s climate protection policy “unlawful” and states the ruling coalition must present an “immediate programme” to reduce emissions in the transportation and construction sectors, reports Der Spiegel. The newspaper notes that the lawsuits were filed by German environmental organisations BUND and Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), stating that the German government had violated the requirements of the current law for those sectors in both 2021 and 2022. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung explains that the case revolves around the Climate Protection Act, which currently dictates annual targets for reducing greenhouse gases in each sector and, according to the law, “if these targets are missed in specific sectors, the respective ministry must counteract with an immediate programme”. The Daily Star, a UK tabloid, calls the court’s ruling as “an embarrassing slap down” for the government. Deutsche Welle quotes Stefanie Langkamp, a spokeswoman for the Climate Alliance Germany network, saying: “It is internationally embarrassing and damaging that a court judgement is needed because the German government is not complying with its own climate laws.”

Elsewhere, the climate-sceptic German tabloid Bild critiques the German government for “sending hundreds of employees on a climate world tour” at COP28, quoting the deputy chairman of the oppositional CDU/CSU parliamentary group, Steffen Bilger, as saying: “At home, due to unconstitutional budget tricks, there’s a lack of money for climate protection – and yet the federal government is going on a grand trip. The delegation size of more than 250 participants from federal ministries and authorities is neither justifiable to taxpayers nor does the federal government live up to its self-imposed climate protection standards. The flights will generate many hundreds of tonnes of CO2.”

Climate and energy comment.

At the UN climate talks, the US is just another petrostate
Kate Aronoff, The New Republic Read Article

Writing for the New Republic, journalist Kate Aronoff says that, as the world’s largest oil and gas producer, the US is garnering criticism for urging other countries to step up to a pledge to end new fossil fuel production. She says: “The US has no plan to proactively phase out so-called ‘unabated’ fossil fuel production, despite the pledge it’s made to that effect. There are also no assurances that emissions from ever-expanding fossil fuel production can in fact be abated, a term that refers to capturing and storing carbon emissions, at any meaningful scale.” It comes as US senator Bernie Sanders writes in the Guardian that, in the US, “a handful of oligarchs control the economic and political life of our nation for their own greedy ends”. Elsewhere in the Washington Post, columnist Eduardo Porter is critical of the US pledging more climate finance, saying: “Climate diplomats in Dubai must have an urgent conversation about how developing economies around the world can finance themselves to meet the climate challenge mostly on their own.” In the FT, columnist Gillian Tett argues that “COP must lift the omerta on fossil fuel subsidies”. In the Independent, senior climate correspondent Louise Boyle says that “even in the face of a mountain of findings”, progress on tackling climate change is still too slow.

I advised David Cameron in the days of ‘cut the green crap’. Here’s what both Tories and Labour could learn
Tara Singh, The Guardian Read Article

In the Guardian, Tara Singh, the government’s special adviser on energy and environment from 2013 to 2015, says that former prime minister David Cameron’s approach to climate change was more “nuanced than many give him credit for” and that Sunak and Starmer could “learn something from his successes and failures”. She says: “When faced with the pressure of high energy prices, the left and right take different tacks. Labour tends to blame ‘vested interests’, while the Conservatives have blamed green levies – except under Theresa May, who blamed “broken markets” and ended up adopting the price cap proposals of ‘Red Ed’ Miliband. Interestingly, despite the Conservatives now wearing Labour’s clothes on windfall taxes and price caps, they have still not escaped media pressure on prices. If Labour comes to office as expected, and prices stay high, my prediction is that Ed Miliband and Keir Starmer will face many of the same political challenges as Sunak does now.”

It comes as a Sun editorial offers “huge credit” to Sunak for calling out China on climate change. The Sun says: “That no matter how ruinously quickly we dash towards net-zero, it won’t make the slightest difference to climate change unless China and other major polluters cut their own emissions.” Taking a similar tone, the Daily Telegraph describes COP28 as a “climate jamboree”, saying: “Only if China, America and India significantly reduce their emissions is there any chance of reaching UN goals.” Separately, the Daily Telegraph has a piece titled, “Net-zero fanaticism now means overlooking Assad’s grotesque war crimes”, in relation to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad eligibility to attend COP28 as a country leader. [Assad is not attending the conference.] Elsewhere in UK editorials, the Daily Mirror says it’s “now or never” for action at COP28. It says: “As more regions become uninhabitable more people will be forced to leave their homes, causing an increase in migration. This is not the time for Rishi Sunak to water down net-zero pledges. It’s the moment to show leadership in the fight to save the planet.” And an Independent editorial also urges action, saying: “The sheer scale of what needs to be done is daunting – but the world is not yet lost.”

New climate research.

Extreme heat and drought typical of an end-of-century climate could occur over Europe soon and repeatedly
Communications Earth & Environment Read Article

A new study finds that periods of extreme drought and heat could “soon and repeatedly” happen over much of Europe. Using climate models and a moderate warming scenario, researchers project the likelihood that Europe will experience “end-of-century” heat and drought events – that is, events that would typically occur in 2100 in a “much warmer world” – over the coming decades. They find that “end-of-century heat and drought levels virtually impossible 20 years ago reach 1-in-10 likelihoods as early as the 2030s”. Between 2050-74, they add, continent-wide “megadroughts” spanning five year periods “become plausible”.

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