Today's climate and energy headlines:
- 'Dangerous' and 'record-breaking' heat wave affects 50 million Americans
- China's electric car leaders predict new energy vehicles will dominate the local market by 2030
- South Korea proposes cutting emissions 40% by 2030
- Voters want Australia to set a net-zero 2050 emissions target, but no carbon tax
- Pacific islands make lonely case for carbon price on shipping
- If 'totemic' climate finance pledge is missed, developing nations should skip COP26
- We are at a defining moment on the path to net-zero
- Investors should prepare for impact of green stress tests on banks
- Review on the cooling potential of green roofs in different climates
- Local impacts of climate change on winter wheat in Great Britain
The western US is suffering from “dangerous and record-breaking heat” affecting 50 million Americans, reports the Hill. With “heat advisories” in place for California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah, the Hill adds: “The rising temperatures increase the risk of drought and fire the states have experienced in the past.” Reuters says the heatwave “has set temperature records, prompted health warnings and strained power grids”. It reports: “The unusually severe late-spring heat wave was the result of a high-pressure ridge that built over southwestern deserts, weather service meteorologists say, and could not be blamed directly on global warming.” The newswire then quotes one expert saying: “But studies show that as the climate changes and it gets warmer, we will see more of these anomalous events over time.” Elsewhere, the New York Times has a feature titled: “Climate change batters the West before summer even begins.” It says: “Global warming has been fuelling disasters in the region for years. Now, an early heat wave and severe drought are threatening lives and leaving water in perilously short supply.” David Wallace-Wells writes his New York Magazine column under the headline: “California’s last fire season was a historic disaster. This one might be worse.” The Guardian reports: “Sweltering Texans urged to reduce cooking and cleaning to ease grid strain.” It says the event “raises fears that Texas – and other US states – are not prepared to deal with the extreme weather events that come with the global climate crisis.”
In other US news, the Washington Post says a bipartisan infrastructure proposal is “gain[ing] steam”. The Boston Globe reports that Democratic senator Sheldon Whitehouse “sees two paths forward on climate change”, adding that he is “looking for action in [the] bipartisan infrastructure package and budget reconciliation process”. Reuters reports that the Biden administration is “reviewing a federal court’s decision that it must resume auctioning oil and gas leases on federal acreage, but did not say when those auctions might restart”. The Hill reports that a Democratic senator has “pressed” the administration over its review of its oil and gas programme. Another Reuters article says lawmakers are lobbying against moves to exempt oil refiners from biofuel mandates. For the Atlantic, Robinson Meyer writes that the US has been cutting emissions over the past decade despite a lack of federal climate policy thanks to what he calls the “green vortex”. He explains: “The idea that drives the green vortex is: practice makes improvement…Over the past half decade, learning by doing has driven down the cost of semiconductors, solar panels and electric vehicles.” Separately, the Financial Times magazine has a feature under the heading: “Seven states, 3,000 miles: a trip across the US energy divide.” It says: “Biden promised to green the country’s energy on a massive scale. Some Americans will be left behind.”
Elsewhere, a Financial Times editorial reflects on the recent US-EU deal over aviation subsidies, saying the pair no longer have the “luxury of being at loggerheads” over such matters when “[f]ar greater threats loom where a united front is necessary, be it the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, a disruptive Russia or an increasingly assertive China”. The Washington Post has analysis of recent discussions between President Biden and Russia’s President Putin over the Arctic. It says: “As with so many other things the two leaders discussed, it’s unlikely that there was any ultimate resolution reached. But that this was a topic of some discussion, much less extended discussion (as per Putin), reflects the increased urgency of determining the geopolitics of the region. An urgency that stems entirely from the warming caused by climate change.”
“New energy” vehicles will dominate China’s auto market within 10 years, reports CNBC, citing executives from Chinese electric car companies. BYD’s founder, Wang Chuanfu, predicts that “new energy” vehicles will account for 70% of all new cars sold in China by 2030, the report says. Nio’s founder, William Li, expects a higher penetration rate of 90%, it adds. Shanghai Security News – an affiliation of state newswire Xinhua – also features Wang’s comment, calling it a “bold prediction”. [In China, “new energy” vehicles primarily include pure electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles and fuel cell vehicles.]
Meanwhile, China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) has rejected claims of a “leak” in the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant – after Beijing’s foreign spokesperson criticised the same allegations – reports China’s state news agency China News Service. The MEE is quoted saying that the two reactors in the plant “had maintained safe operation at all times” and “no abnormalities had been detected in the surrounding environment”. Citing experts, Bloomberg writes that the problems at the Taishan plant “aren’t cause for any concern”, but “some of the politics behind the situation just might be”.
China Environmental News reports that the province of Sichuan has released a new instruction on achieving emission peaking and “carbon neutrality”. The document ordered all enterprises affiliated with the provincial government to take the lead in pursuing the goals, the outlet says. It also directed state-controlled funds to “gather towards green, low-carbon sectors”, the report adds. Separately, the province of Guangdong plans to offer subsidies to offshore wind power projects to boost lower-carbon investment and reduce emissions, Reuters reports.
The leader of South Korea’s ruling party has proposed a 40% emissions reduction target for 2030, relative to 2017 levels, reports Climate Home News. It says the proposal, due to be finalised later this year, would raise the country’s current 2030 target of a 24% reduction. [The 40% goal would be equivalent to a 32% reduction on 2010 levels but an increase of 63% relative to 1990.] The website says South Korea would need to “pivot quickly” away from coal to meet the proposed 40% target but adds that campaigners said it was “not ambitious enough”. [Carbon Brief’s country profile has more background on South Korea.]
Most Australians want the country to set a net-zero by 2050 emissions target, according to polling reported in an “exclusive” for the Sydney Morning Herald. Some 55% of respondents backed the target, with 33% undecided and only 12% against, the paper says. A “slim majority” of those that voted for the current government also support net-zero, it adds, though again only 12% were opposed to the idea. However, the paper reports that a majority in the survey would prefer to see the target met “using renewable energy and other technologies rather than putting a cost on emissions”. An analysis piece for the Sydney Morning Herald reflects on the polling and asks if Australia: “Should we pay a carbon tax to our own government or to someone else’s?” The piece argues that the recent G7 communiqué contained a “bubble-wrapped” reference to the idea of carbon border taxes and concludes: “It might come as a surprise to these voters if Australian industry is suddenly clobbered with border taxes because it has no effective carbon tax. But it won’t come as any surprise to anyone who has been watching the growing global consensus that carbon must be priced.” Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that Australian resources minister Keith Pitt has “fired a warning shot at [prime minister] Scott Morrison, declaring he cannot adopt a policy of net-zero emissions by 2050 without the backing of the Nationals”. [Morrison’s government is a coalition between the Liberal and National parties.] The paper continues: “Morrison is facing pressure from metropolitan Liberals to make the mid-century commitment, as well as sustained pressure from his global peers to do more to reduce emissions sooner…But a number of National party figures have been signalling for months they are not on board with Morrison’s climate change shift.”
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Dutch fund manager Robeco is to start “pressuring Australia to phase out its reliance on coal and other natural resources”. It quotes a report from the firm saying: “Aside from green and social bond investing, relatively few efforts have been directed towards helping sovereign debt investors actively contribute to advancing particular sustainable development objectives – this is surprising.” The piece adds: “Robeco was among firms with $7tn in combined assets that engaged Brazil’s government last year in a bid to reduce deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. The investor group is also targeting Indonesia over forestry.”
In other reporting from Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that the country’s oil and gas companies “are facing forceful questioning from investors about the merits of pursuing multibillion-dollar expansion plans and the danger of demand falling faster and steeper than previously expected”. The piece runs under the headline: “‘A good bet?’: Gas firms grilled on growth as world decarbonises.” A comment by Reuters columnist Clyde Russell says Australia’s liquified natural gas (LNG) industry has gone through a “180-degree change in attitude” over carbon pricing. He writes: “[The] sector is changing from an industry that was vociferously opposed to any form of carbon taxes or trading to one that views a price on emissions as vital to its future.” Russell adds: “Morrison has said that his government favours technology over taxes when it comes to addressing climate change. The irony is that the LNG industry has what it thinks is a viable, technological solution to carbon emissions, but it needs a price on carbon in order for the plans to be economically sustainable.” The Guardian reports that the an opposition Labor party frontbencher has “defend[ed] gas as ‘critical’ to Australia’s needs”. It adds that she “will tell industry Labor’s support is predicated on gas being a transitional fuel during the shift to net-zero emissions”. Another Guardian article reports that Indian firm Adani has been “blasted” for proposals to use Australian coal to make plastic. Reuters reports that power plants “can kickstart Australia’s hydrogen economy”, according to General Electric, a firm that makes power plant turbines. Finally, a comment in City AM by Ted Christie-Miller, researcher at right-leaning UK thinktank Onward, runs under the headline: “A UK-Australia trade deal must address Canberra’s reluctance to tackle climate change.”
Two Pacific island nations have called for a carbon price of $100 per tonne of carbon dioxide on shipping fuel, at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) environment committee meeting, reports Climate Home News, adding that the idea “found only tepid support”. It continues: “Major emerging economies mainly opposed the measure and the principle of a carbon tax, while European countries backed carbon pricing in some form but did not endorse the specific proposal. The US was neutral on the topic.” The website adds: “The world’s biggest container shipping company Maersk has called for a $150 levy on shipping fuel to shift the industry towards green alternatives.”
Climate-vulnerable nations should boycott the COP26 climate summit in November if developed nations fail to fulfil their pledge of providing $100bn per year in climate finance by 2020, says a comment for Reuters by Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development. He continues: “The year 2020 has come and gone, but this money has likely not been delivered. We still do not know how much has been provided because no one keeps agreed, reliable and up-to-date figures…Alok Sharma, the British official who will preside over the COP26 climate talks this November in Glasgow, has called the $100bn a ‘totemic’ figure that developed countries must provide to retain any semblance of credibility in the UN process.” Huq says the issue must be resolved before COP26 and “if possible” by the G20 meeting. He concludes: “If the money is not delivered before November, then there is little point in climate-vulnerable nations showing up in Glasgow to do business with governments that break their promises.” Agence-France Presse via France 24 reports UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa telling the newswire that the negotiations that are wrapping up today did not discuss finance. It quotes her saying: “not all of the issues were addressed simply because there is not enough time. Finance was not addressed at the session”. The outlet adds: “Espinosa said realising the [$100bn] commitment on finance would be a ‘central element for a successful outcome at COP26’.”
The UK has made “incredible progress…over the past few months and years to lead the charge and take action against climate change”, writes the UK’s business and energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, in a comment for BusinesssGreen. He adds: “We are at a defining moment and the decisions we all make today, however small, could have a lasting impact on the future of our planet and all of our lives. At every step on the path to net-zero, we are determined to both decarbonise our economy in the most cost-effective way, while creating new sunrise industries and revitalising our industrial heartlands that will support new green jobs for generations to come. From new jobs, protecting our planet and helping to cut our energy bills, tackling climate change is a win-win for all of us.” In another BusinessGreen comment, Green MP Caroline Lucas writes: “The Treasury is failing to grasp the severity of the ecological crisis.”
(The print edition of the Times includes a special supplement on “the future of energy technology”, but very few articles are online yet.)
“The world’s central banks are going green,” says a Financial Times comment by Huw van Steenis, senior adviser to the chief executive of UBS and previously senior adviser to former Bank of England governor Mark Carney. He continues: “At a recent ‘Green Swan’ conference for regulators, the world’s top central bankers agreed they had a clear role to play in tackling climate change. But which measures are the most important? And how much would their actions shift the cost of capital for high and low carbon companies? I suspect that climate stress tests may prove the most powerful tool to nudge the financial system.” Van Steenis concludes: “Climate stress tests will influence the cost of capital and investors will want to get ahead of them.” A second Financial Times comment by Stephen Paduano, executive director of the LSE Economic Diplomacy Commission, writes: “Recent months have shown that supply chains carry not only the world’s goods, but also its inflation anxieties, geopolitical divisions, climate challenges and health risks.” He argues in favour of stress-testing global supply chains, noting: “It was welcome, therefore, that the final communiqué of last weekend’s G7 summit should contain an acknowledgment of the threats faced by global supply chains and a proposal for establishing a common framework for stress-testing them.” A third Financial Times article by contributor Sarah Murray says climate change and other environmental issues are “rising up the corporate agenda…changing the way attorneys do their jobs”.
A new review paper analyses research on the cooling potential of green roofs in mitigating urban heat and enhancing human comfort. The study review 89 studies that cover the “three main climate types” of hot–humid, temperate, and dry and were conducted between 2000 and 2020. All studies “confirm the cooling effect of green roofs and its contribution to reduced heat island intensity regardless of the background climatic condition”, the study finds, adding that green roofs in dry climates have “the highest (3C) median cooling effect”.
Great Britain could see about a 10% increase in yields of winter wheat by 2050 as a result of “the combined effect of CO2 fertilisation and a shift in phenology”, new research suggests. The modelling study indicates that “crops escape increases in the climate impacts of drought and heat stresses on grain yield by developing before these stresses can occur”. It adds: “In the future, yield losses from water stress over a growing season will remain about the same across Great Britain with losses reaching around 20% of potential yield, while losses from drought around flowering will decrease and account for about 9% of water limited yield.”
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