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Daily Briefing

21.07.2021
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Deadly floods hit central China, killing 12 and forcing thousands to flee homes
Deadly floods hit central China, killing 12 and forcing thousands to flee homes

News.

Deadly floods hit central China, killing 12 and forcing thousands to flee homes
The Guardian Read Article

At least 12 people have been killed by floods in Zhengzhou, the capital of the central Chinese province of Henan, the Guardian reports, after “more than 457mm (18in) fell in the 24 hours to 5pm on Tuesday…The total equates to more than 60% of the city’s annual average rainfall and included more than 200mm in one hour.” The paper adds: “Floods are common in China’s rainy season, but their impact has worsened over the decades, due in part to China’s rapid urbanisation and the global climate crisis.” Reuters says the province has seen its “heaviest rain in 1,000 years”. It adds: “From the evening of Saturday until late Tuesday, 617.1mm of rain had drenched Zhengzhou – almost on par with the city’s annual average of 640.8mm.” BBC News says more than 100,000 people have been evacuated in the region. It adds: “Many factors contribute to flooding, but a warming atmosphere caused by climate change makes extreme rainfall more likely.” Associated Press reports: “China’s military has blasted a dam to release floodwaters threatening one of its most heavily populated provinces.” A Bloomberg report on the flooding says: “Environmental nonprofit Greenpeace warned that the weather events in China fit the global pattern of extreme weather brought on by climate change. In the last few weeks, the US and Canada have experienced unprecedented heatwaves, Europe and India have suffered major floods, wildfires have spread across Siberia and drought has gripped parts of Africa and Brazil.” Another Bloomberg piece looks at how the media has been reporting recent extreme weather disasters under the headline: “How to talk about climate change as catastrophes pile up.

A related comment in the Financial Times reflects on recent flooding across northern Europe and is titled: “We can no longer say floods are an act of God.” It adds: “For whatever failings there have been on an infrastructure level in London, New York and Germany, one law of physics still holds: the warmer the air, the more moisture it can hold. The more moisture, the more rain.”

US envoy Kerry says Biden committed to meeting climate finance goal
Thomson Reuters Foundation Read Article

There is widespread coverage of a speech given in London by US climate envoy John Kerry, in which, reports Reuters, he said president Joe Biden has “complete, total commitment to helping to make that ($100bn in climate finance for developing countries) happen”. The newswire adds: “Kerry did not put new US money on the table on Tuesday.” The Guardian has a video clip of the Kerry speech. Other coverage, including in the Financial Times, picks up Kerry’s comments about the need for China to cut its emissions. The paper reports: “Limiting global warming to 1.5C will be a ‘pipe dream’ if China waited as late as 2030 for the peak of its emissions, [Kerry] said in an interview after a major policy speech in London on Tuesday.” It adds: “Co-operation between the US and China on climate was ‘the only way to break free from the world’s current mutual suicide pact’, he told his audience at the city’s Kew Gardens.” Bloomberg and the Daily Telegraph lead their coverage with Kerry’s “mutual suicide pact” comments. BBC News carries the story under the headline: “Climate change: US pushes China to make faster carbon cuts.” It adds: “[Kerry] castigated the efforts of some countries which are still building new coal-fired power stations. He was scornful of nations that are illegally cutting down the rainforest…Observers say that the envoy was likely referring to Brazil and Indonesia.” An analysis article by the Guardian‘s diplomatic editor Patrick Wintour is titled: “US seeks cooperation with China on climate but not at any price.” Press Association via Belfast Telegraph reports Kerry saying: “We don’t have the luxury of waiting until Covid is vanquished to take up the climate challenge.” It adds: “He said the struggle to tackle the global climate crisis ‘is about protecting and preserving the fragile world we share, it’s about understanding that it costs more not to respond to the climate crisis than to it does to respond. And it is without exaggeration about survival.’” BusinessGreen also has the story. The Independent picks up another part of Kerry’s speech, reporting: “There is ‘no need’ for any new fossil fuel investments if the world is to meet its climate goals, John Kerry has said.” It continues: “His words come as the UK government is facing criticism over plans for a major new oil and gas project in the North Sea. If approved, the Cambo project would produce oil and gas until 2050 – the date at which the UK has set a legal target to reach net-zero emissions.” Elsewhere, the Scotsman carries a comment by Green Party member of the Scottish parliament Ariane Burgess saying: “Cambo oil field decision will reveal if Boris Johnson is serious about tackling global warming or not.”

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the US, Japan and South Korea have “committed in talks to deepening trilateral cooperation on the climate crisis, pandemic response, economic resilience and recovery, the US State Department said in a statement”. And Forbes reports the comments of US senate banking committee chair Sherrod Brown saying: “Every time business grinds to a halt because an American factory wasn’t built to withstand extreme heat, or because a road is blocked by landslides, or because a power grid is shut down – that’s another opportunity for China and other foreign competitors to get ahead.”

Rich nations 'must consign coal power to history' – UK COP26 president
Reuters Read Article

The COP26 climate summit later this year needs to “consign coal power to history, the British president of the upcoming United Nations’ conference said on Wednesday”, Reuters reports. It quotes Alok Sharma, COP26 president saying: “I’ve been very clear that I want COP26 to be the COP where we consign coal power to history”. It continues: “The Group of Seven (G7) nations have pledged to scale up technologies and policies that accelerate the transition away from unabated coal capacity, including ending new government support for coal power by the end of this year, but many countries still finance and plan to build new coal plants.” It adds: “‘I think the G7 has shown the way forward,’ Sharma said, adding that island nations he has visited this year such as in the Caribbean, want the biggest emitters of the G20 to follow suit.” An article by Reuters columnist John Kemp says: “Coal has become the default choice for the poor, and is set to remain so even as wealthier states shift to new technology. If OECD countries want to cut global coal combustion faster, they must provide more technical and financial help to non-OECD counterparts to overcome barriers and adopt new technology.” Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that Australian coal mining firm New Hope could be investigated by market regulators in the country after being “accused of misleading investors over [the] future of coal”.

Separately, the Guardian reports that G20 nations have provided more than $3.3tn in fossil fuel subsidies since the Paris Agreement was sealed in 2015, according to a report by BloombergNEF and Bloomberg Philanthropies. It continues: “This backing for coal, oil and gas is ‘​​reckless’ in the face of the escalating climate emergency, according to the report’s authors, and urgent action is needed to phase out the support.” The paper notes that while G20 subsidies overall fell by 2% per year since 2015 to $636bn in 2019, the most recent data available, “Australia increased its fossil fuel subsidies by 48% over the period, Canada’s support rose by 40% and that from the US by 37%”. It adds: “The G20 agreed in 2009 to phase out ‘inefficient’ fossil fuel subsidies but did not define inefficient and little progress had been made.”

‘Everything is on fire’: Siberia hit by unprecedented burning
The Guardian Read Article

The Guardian reports on the “worst wildfire season in memory” in Siberia, where burning has continued for a month: “The extraordinary forest fires, which have already burned through 1.5m hectares (3.7m acres) of land in north-east Siberia have released choking smog across Russia’s Yakutia region, where officials have described this summer’s weather as the driest in the past 150 years. And that follows five years of hot summers, which have, according to villagers, turned the surrounding forests and fields into a tinderbox.” The paper adds: “Locals have blamed various factors for the fires, from the climate crisis to poor government preparedness, to a ban on purging dry grass, budget cuts to forestry services, alleged arsons, and, in particular, the hot summers.” A separate piece in the Guardian reports on the “airpocalypse” in the Siberian city of Yakutsk, caused by the fires. The Guardian also has a video report from the region.

Separately, there is continued coverage and reaction to the wildfires in the US, with Scientific American saying they are “taking us into uncharted territory”. The New York Times has a video of the governor of the state of Oregon in which, the paper reports, she “told residents that the devastating wildfires burning across the state are the result of a ‘climate crisis’”. Reuters reports that wildfires in the western US and Canada are “caus[ing] harmful air pollution as far away as New York City”.

UK's deadly heatwave a 'natural disaster' that could spark hundreds of deaths
The Daily Mirror Read Article

An “exclusive” in the Daily Mirror says the UK is “in the middle of a ‘natural disaster’ that could spark hundreds of deaths due to the extreme heat, experts have warned”. It adds: “London School of Economics climate scientist Bob Ward warned of further deaths this year as heatwaves become more frequent amid global warming.” An accompanying editorial in the Daily Mirror says: “While many are enjoying the warm weather, global heating and the climate emergency are dangerous…From fatal flooding on the Continent to lethal temperatures in the US and Canada, we’re seeing the consequences of abusing the planet.” The Guardian says the heatwave alert in England has been extended to Friday. Elsewhere, the Reuters reports that British homes and businesses are “unprepared for climate change”, according to insurer Aviva. The i newspaper also has the story. Press Association via Yahoo News says “parts of the UK have been struck by heavy showers and thunderstorms on the country’s hottest day of the year so far”. It adds: “Heatwaves are becoming more frequent and extreme because of climate change driven by human activity, with scientific analysis finding events such as 2019’s record heat in the UK and Europe and the devastating heatwave in Canada and the US in recent weeks were made much more likely and more severe by global warming.”

After fatal floods, German authorities face criticism for lack of preparation
Climate Home News Read Article

After nearly 200 people were killed in “catastrophic floods” in Germany, the country’s government is “facing mounting criticism that it was unprepared”, reports Climate Home News. It adds: “Climate scientists told Climate Home News that there was clearly a disconnect between the weather forecasts and the warnings communicated to residents in Germany. ” Reuters also says the German government is facing “accusations that its preparedness systems were woefully lacking, despite severe weather warnings from meteorologists”. Another Reuters article reports the comments of chancellor Angela Merkel: “The cost of rebuilding infrastructure following floods in western Germany last week will be much higher than that after previous floods, German chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday.” Separately, a comment in the Times by Roger Boyes says: “Germany’s Greens are choking on the verge of power.” He argues the Greens’ response to the floods has been “limp” and asks: “Why then are the Greens so wary about jumping on the current weather disruption?”

Australia: Coalition believes it has numbers to stop Great Barrier Reef being listed as ‘in danger’
The Guardian Read Article

A Guardian “exclusive” reports that Australia has “secured support” from at least nine of the 21 members of the World Heritage Committee that will decide whether to list the Great Barrier Reef as “in danger”. Citing “a diplomatic email seen by Guardian Australia”, the paper says: “Australia’s Paris-based ambassador to Unesco, Megan Anderson, said in the email she believed the government had won enough support to delay the decision on the ‘in danger’ listing until at least 2023…A decision on the reef is expected on Friday.” It continues: “In the email, Anderson said Bahrain, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Ethiopia, Hungary, Mali, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, had indicated ‘they would like to co-author/co-sponsor’ an amendment supporting Australia’s position. In a document tabled to the committee early Wednesday those countries, as well as Russia and Spain, are listed as backing Australia.” Meanwhile, the Guardian reports on “resistance in the ranks” to moves by Australian prime minister towards setting a net-zero target: “Scott Morrison’s attempt to nudge his government in the direction of a net-zero commitment by 2050 is expected to face resistance at this weekend’s annual convention of the Liberal National party in Brisbane.”

Shell confirms plan to appeal landmark Dutch climate ruling
Reuters Read Article

Oil major Shell has confirmed that it will appeal against a landmark Dutch court ruling ordering it to accelerate emissions cuts, Reuters reports. It quotes chief executive Ben van Beurden saying: “We agree urgent action is needed and we will accelerate our transition to net zero, but we will appeal because a court judgment, against a single company, is not effective. What is needed are clear, ambitious policies that will drive fundamental change across the whole energy system.” The Times notes: “Campaigners are pursuing similar cases against other oil companies, including Total in France.” The Financial Times says Shell argued it “has been unfairly singled out and that tackling climate change requires ‘co-ordination’”. The paper carries the response of one of the NGOs that brought the case against Shell: “Donald Pols, Milieudefensie director, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that Shell would be better off investing ‘its money and energy in preventing dangerous climate change’ rather than appealing the order.” The Guardian adds: “Roger Cox, a lawyer for Milieudefensie, said: ‘The judges have passed a well-considered judgment on Shell in the verdict. We are confident that this judgment will be reaffirmed on appeal. The science is clear on the consequences of and solutions to dangerous climate change.’” The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg also have the story.

BHP is said to mull oil exist in retreat from fossil fuels
Bloomberg Read Article

Mining and commodities giant BHP is “considering getting out of oil and gas”, Bloomberg reports, citing “people familiar with the matter”. The website adds that the move “would accelerate its retreat from fossil fuels”. The Times picks up the story and reports that BHP’s oil division “could be worth more than $14bn”. It adds: “An exit from oil by the Anglo-Australian group would mark a strategic shift for BHP, which has long defended retaining the business despite scepticism from investors.” The paper says BHP chief executive Mike Henry last year said the firm would not be getting out of the oil and gas industry but adds: “A potential change of heart may have been driven by rising investor pressure over climate change and by BHP struggling to achieve a good price for the polluting thermal coal assets that it is attempting to offload in Australia.” Separately, the Daily Telegraph reports that the world’s biggest asset manager, Blackrock, “has ramped up its actions against executives failing to tackle climate issues”.

Comment.

Climate change is no longer other worldly and inaction is no longer an option
Editorial, USA Today Read Article

An editorial in USA Today argues that President Biden’s infrastructure bill is “a good start to protect America” from the impacts of climate change. It says: “Not long ago, climate change for many Americans was like a distant bell. News of starving polar bears or melting glaciers was tragic and disturbing, but other worldly. Not any more. Hundreds died in unprecedented triple-digit heat in Oregon, Washington and western Canada late last month when a “heat dome” of enormous proportions settled over the region for days.“ It says Biden’s plans “are drastic legislative steps” adding: “But drastic times call for them.” A comment for the Guardian by investigative reporter Alex Kotch is titled: “The Democrat blocking progressive change is beholden to big oil. Surprised?”

Separately, the Atlantic reports on the “death” of plans for a US carbon tax: “The American carbon tax, an alluringly simple policy once hailed by environmentalists, scholars, and politicians as a cure-all for climate change that, for all its elegance in economic models, could not overcome its enduring unpopularity with the American public, died last month at its home in Washington, DC It was 47.” In other US climate policy coverage, Inside Climate News asks if “Democrats’ climate legislation [will] hinge on carbon capture”. It adds: “The bipartisan infrastructure bill may include billions in support for the technology. Progressive groups are not happy about it.” The Hill reports that a group of 80 Democrat lawmakers have “laid out their vision for a climate jobs program called the Civilian Climate Corps”. And Politico reports on the progress of climate legislation asking: “Could the voting rights fight hinder climate and energy policies?”.

How Boris Johnson's government plans to harness international free trade in the fight against global warming
Alister Jack, The Scotsman Read Article

In a comment for the Scotsman, Alister Jack, secretary of state for Scotland, writes: “There can be no doubt that climate change is one of the most pressing emergencies to face us.” He adds: “Natural disasters are increasing in frequency and intensity. Already these catastrophic events have caused $3tn worth of damage worldwide this century.” Jack continues: “Today the UK government’s Board of Trade (BoT) publishes a new report detailing how free and fair trade can help protect the environment for the generations to come. The ‘Green Trade’ paper outlines a powerful vision for how trade can help create many thousand high-value green jobs at home while working with countries across the globe to secure a sustainable future.”

Science.

Causal analysis of the temperature impact on deep-sea biodiversity
Biology Letters Read Article

A new study finds that temperature is the main driver of levels of deep-sea biodiversity – or species “richness” – over time periods of 10,000–100,000 years. The paper notes that past literature has identified seafloor particulate organic carbon and temperature as the main drivers of deep sea richness over these timescales – and use long-term datasets derived from sediment core samples and “convergent cross mapping” to model the influences of these two factors. The authors find that temperature, but not seafloor particulate organic carbon, affects deep-sea species richness. The study “suggests that human-induced future climate change may, under some conditions, affect deep-sea ecosystems through deep-water circulation changes rather than surface productivity changes”.

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