Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Corbyn to tell MPs: Do your duty, and declare a UK climate emergency
- Climate change not environment priority, says Trump official
- Too many sheep in Wales to aim for net zero emissions, Climate Change Committee says
- Signs of faster melting in world's largest ice shelf
- British Steel gets £100m government loan to pay carbon bill
- Once green, now they see red: Tories get angry
- Britain’s shale resignation
- From apples to popcorn, climate change is altering the foods America grows
- What will it take for the media to focus on climate change in the 2020 elections?
- Disappearing World Heritage glaciers as a keystone of nature conservation in a changing climate
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will today urge MPs to take on their “historic duty” over climate change and back a Labour motion for the UK to declare a national environmental and climate-change emergency, reports the Guardian. Corbyn will open an opposition-day debate saying: “We have no time to waste. We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control unless we take rapid and dramatic action now.“ He will directly reference the school strikers and the Extinction Rebellion (XR) protests of recent weeks, according to the Guardian. The motion calls on the government to set a new target to reach net-zero emissions before 2050, boost renewables, low-carbon technology and green jobs, and bring in urgent measures to restore nature and cut waste, says the Press Association. Corbyn will also argue the emergency can provide opportunities, notes the Independent, calling for a “green industrial revolution” which would see huge investment in new technologies and green industries.
Meanwhile, BBC News reports that XR says a meeting with environment secretary Michael Gove was “very disappointing” because he refused to declare a climate emergency. Gove said that while he believed the level of carbon emissions was “grave”, there were questions around the timescale to reduce them and whether declaring a climate emergency was necessary. Clare Farrell, one of the XR members who met Gove, said: “It was less shit than I thought it would be, but only mildly”, reports the Guardian. Gove did say that the government was “open to a higher level ambition” to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, notes the Daily Telegraph. Reuters also covers the story and BBC News has a video clip of Gove explaining that he “shares the high ideals” of XR, but has questions over the timescale for action. The Times Red Box carries a comment piece from Farrell, who writes that “encouraging soundbites without meaningful action are the kind of prevarication that have characterised the past 30 years of political approaches to the problem of climate change”. Speaking to Reuters, XR co-founder Gail Bradbrook said the next phase of protests could be to provoke a mass refusal to repay debt that would upend the financial system.
Elsewhere, a poll commissioned by Greenpeace finds that two-thirds of respondents in the UK recognise there is a climate emergency, reports another Guardian piece. And Reuters reports that Greenpeace activists have ended their occupation of a drilling rig in Norway that is due to be used to explore for oil and gas in the Arctic.
Clean drinking water is a higher priority for the Trump administration than climate change, according to Andrew Wheeler, the top US environment regulator, in an interview with the Financial Times. Wheeler said “we need to be decreasing our CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions”, but “we are not going to focus on that to the detriment of other environmental indicators”, such as water resources and affordable electricity. He added: “Is there climate change? Yes. Does CO2 contribute to climate change? Yes. Does man contribute to CO2? Yes. What’s going to happen 50 years from now? There’s a lot of divergent views on the models, and the inputs to the models and how we calculate them.” Wheeler also noted that “for all intents and purposes, we have left the Paris climate accord…it’s not a treaty that benefits us”.
In related news, the Hill reports that environmental groups in the US are teaming together to create a “Beat Trump Presidential Climate Unity Fund,” kicking off a fundraising effort to boost the eventual Democratic presidential nominee. “Given that President Trump is the most anti-environmental president we’ve ever had by far, we are absolutely committed to ensuring that [the] eventual nominee on the Democratic side, that she or he has the resources to win, to beat Trump, and to move forward on the climate action we desperately need,” Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president for government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters, tells BuzzFeed News.
In related news, the Hill also reports that the House of Representatives is tomorrow expected to pass its first major climate-focused bill in almost 10 years. The measure would bind the Trump administration to the carbon-cutting goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
In another preview of the forthcoming report from the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on net-zero emissions, the Independent says the CCC will recommend the country reaches net zero by 2050, but will say Wales should not have to meet the full target due to its sheep farming industry. The report, due to be published tomorrow, will suggest Scotland can reach net-zero emissions by 2045, but says by 2050, Wales should target reductions of 95%. There are more than 10m sheep in Wales, accounting for almost a third of all sheep in the UK. Elsewhere, the Times follows up on a BBC News report yesterday that the CCC will recommend banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars earlier than the existing target of 2040. The paper notes that “Dominic Raab, a probable leadership contender who champions the free market, would not reverse whatever is decided by government about the new target”. It also says that new YouGov polling for the paper shows that the proportion of voters naming the environment as a political priority is at its highest level since 2010.
Part of the world’s largest ice shelf is melting 10 times faster than the rest, reports BBC News. A new study of Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf, published in Nature Geoscience, reveals that one area is melting due to warm ocean water getting into a cavity under the shelf. The rapidly melting zone is at the front of the Ross Ice Shelf, where it juts out into a naturally ice-free part of the Southern Ocean, notes YaleEnvironment360. As it is free of sea ice, the ocean can soak up more heat from the sun. Using radar mapping to measure the rate of melting and direct observations of the ocean, the researchers found that the vulnerable region of the ice shelf is melting at about an order of magnitude faster than the rest of the ice shelf, says E&E News via Scientific American. The Hill also has the story.
British Steel has secured a £100m loan from the UK government to pay for EU carbon permits, a source close to the company tells BBC News. The money means the private equity-owned firm will avoid a fine after previously selling off its permits under the EU’s emissions trading scheme for cash. Sky News says that British Steel will repay the money on commercial terms. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is expected to make a formal announcement today.
Rather than the tagline of “vote blue and go green” from a decade ago, the Conservative party today is “vote blue if you see red”, says an editorial in the Evening Standard. “The Conservative Party is now becoming the angry party,” it says, citing the “venom they heaped on the 16-year-old environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg” (adding that “a clique of pale, male and stale Tory commentators rounded on a young woman who is less than half their ages”) and that the “anger has been even greater with the Extinction Rebellion movement”. The editorial suggests that “instead of confronting the environment movement, [the Conservative party] should once again be championing it”. And writing in the Guardian, Labour MP Clive Lewis says “the government must be forced to explain why, if current [oil and gas] production takes us past our climate targets, it is giving corporate tax breaks worth billions for the sole purpose of new drilling”.
Elsewhere, an editorial in the Sun criticises former Labour leader Ed Miliband for saying climate change is an emergency while also flying to “America, Italy, Spain and Iceland in the last year”. In an interview yesterday with BBC Radio 4 Today programme’s John Humphrys, Miliband had said that tackling climate change required the UK to be on a “war footing”. Humphrys has also drawn criticism for his “unnecessarily hectoring interview”, says the New Statesman. The New European has a video of Humphrys’s “dinosaur” characteristics.
An editorial in the Wall Street Journal “thanks” the government’s now-former “shale tsar” Natascha Engel “for resigning to blow the whistle on London’s failure to exploit” shale resources. “Some Conservatives understand the benefits of shale gas, but others pander to their rural not-in-my-backyard vote,” it says, while “Labour is torn between union activists who recognise the job gains from fracking…and urban greens who care more about virtue signalling than the CO2 reductions from switching to natural gas from coal”. The piece concludes: “Britain can’t afford this shale stasis. Especially if Brexit threatens economic disruption for a time, the country will need an abundant, cheap, job-stimulating domestic energy source.” Elsewhere, diplomatic editor for the Times, Roger Boyes, argues that “it would be foolhardy to brush aside the possibilities offered under our soil or to kill off new cutting-edge technologies with overregulation”. He says: “We are in thrall to activists who believe uncritically in the science of climate change but not in the solid science of fracking. Intensify the research on renewables, but not at the expense of leaving us exposed to a dangerous energy shortfall.” There is also a series of letters in the Times about fracking in the UK and climate change.
The New York Times has a collection of articles on climate change and food and drink. In this piece, southern-based food culture correspondent Kim Severson says there are “hundreds of thousands of farmers, plant breeders and others in agriculture who are scrambling to keep up with climate change”. She picks out “11 everyday foods, from all over the country, that are facing big changes”, such as watermelons in Florida, chickpeas in Montana and organic apples in Washington. Other articles in the collection look into how “your love of wine contribute[s] to climate change”, the “five cuisines that are easier on the planet”, how to “reinvent the tomato” for a warming world, and whether kelp is the “climate-friendly vegetable you ought to eat”. The collection also includes “recipes for climate-friendly cooking”, a quiz on how diets contribute to climate change, plus a Q&A about food and climate change.
“America elected Donald Trump at the end of the hottest year ever recorded, without debate moderators asking him a single question about global warming.” So begins a feature by Guardian US environment reporter Emily Holden on how “in the run-up to 2020, as newsroom leaders grapple with their mistakes in the 2016 election…the failure to press candidates on climate change is emerging as an area of self-examination”. Holden “spoke to experts in the field for their advice on how news outlets should cover climate in ways that make voters listen during the 2020 race”. Their recommendations include “bring[ing] up climate, even when the candidates don’t”, “cover[ing] climate as a local news story” and “choos[ing] words carefully”.
Up to 60% of the ice held by World Heritage glaciers could disappear by the end of the century if little is done to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, a study finds. In addition, almost half of the 46 glaciers found in World Heritage sites could disappear completely by the end of the century, the researchers add. “We suggest that World Heritage glaciers should be considered as analogs to endangered [species], whose conservation would secure wider environmental and social benefits at global scale,” the authors say.
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