Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Demands grow for 'green industrial revolution'
- Coronavirus crisis could cause $25tn fossil fuel industry collapse
- Exclusive: Flush with corruption cash, Brazilian states step up deforestation fight
- Andrew Bolt’s column mocking Greta Thunberg breached standards, press watchdog finds
- Black environmentalists talk about climate and anti-racism
- External forcing explains recent decadal variability of the ocean carbon sink
- A historical perspective on Australian temperature extremes
Greenpeace is the latest in a “growing list of organisations demanding that the UK government puts protecting the environment at the heart of any post-Covid-19 economic stimulus package”, BBC News reports. It says the move “follows a comparable call from some of Britain’s most powerful business leaders earlier this week”, adding that Greenpeace has produced a detailed “manifesto” of potential measures including “clean transport and smart power”. In the article, BBC News chief environment correspondent Justin Rowlatt notes: “Many people may be surprised how similar the recommendations of these two very different interest groups are. Both Greenpeace and the chief executives are asking the government to prioritise investments in low carbon technologies and calling for the decarbonisation of the British economy to be speeded up…Both are demanding that financial support for ailing businesses must come with a requirement for them to commit to take action to reduce their impact on the environment.” The Guardian covers the news under the headline: “Boris Johnson under pressure to ensure green recovery in [the] UK.” BusinessGreen also covers the Greenpeace news and a blog by BusinessGreen editor James Murray adds: “Over the past week the [UK] government’s most senior figures have all gone out of their way to signal that climate action will be right at the heart of their imminent economic recovery plan.” Writing in the Guardian, Carys Roberts, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, also makes the case for a “green recovery”. Based on the thinktank’s recent Environmental Justice Commission report, she writes: “Growth often doesn’t benefit the people who need it – a green economy could create 1m jobs.” The i newspaper reports that there is “huge demand from the public for more and bigger cycle lanes” as the coronavirus lockdown is eased. In related news from Germany, Politico reports that the coalition government led by Angela Merkel has agreed a €130bn economic rescue package including a boost to electric car subsidies and “billions [for] national transport infrastructure”, including charging stations, railways and other public transport. The website says: “The big losers are Germany’s major auto producers, as the government decided against subsidising the purchase of diesel and petrol cars despite a pledge to firmly support electric mobility.” Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the average CO2 emissions of new cars sold in Europe in 2018 increased for the second consecutive year. Citing data published by the European Union’s environment agency on Wednesday, the newswire says the results “[put] carmakers on a collision course with the bloc’s climate goals”. And Reuters also reports that Germany has set a new target for 20 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2030, an increase from the 15GW goal set just last year. It will also target 40GW by 2040.
Meanwhile the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports on an event held yesterday, at which International Monetary Fund head Kristalina Georgieva reportedly said that post-pandemic stimulus spending should be invested in low-carbon job creation and reducing climate change risks. According to the publication, other speakers at the “Great Reset” online event organised by the World Economic Forum included BP chief executive Bernard Looney, who reportedly said that “green conditions” should be attached to any corporate bailouts. Reuters reports on the comments of Prince Charles, also speaking at the event: “We have a unique but rapidly shrinking window of opportunity to learn lessons and reset ourselves on a more sustainable path…We have a golden opportunity to seize something good from this crisis. Its unprecedented shockwaves may well make people more receptive to big visions of change.” The Guardian coverage of the story runs under the headline: “Pandemic is chance to reset global economy, says Prince Charles.” The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror and MailOnline also report the comments made by Prince Charles. The Independent reports the comments of conservationist Jane Goodall at an event on factory farming saying “‘humanity is finished’ if we fail to learn from coronavirus”.
In related news, the Australian reports that a thinktank backed by former ministers from the country’s ruling Liberal Party is calling for renewables investment to be a key part of the government’s post-Covid-19 recovery plan. Writing for Climate Home News, New Zealand climate minister James Shaw writes under the headline: “We have a moral responsibility to build a better post-Covid future for our children.” He explains: “Twelve years ago, we also pumped billions of dollars into the economy to get it going again after the global financial crisis…But, that stimulus, like every other economic recovery programme in history, helped further lock us into the same highly polluting pathway we were on before the financial crisis hit. This time around it must be different.”
The value of the world’s fossil fuel reserves could fall by two-thirds, the Guardian reports, picking up the findings of a new study by thinktank Carbon Tracker. The paper explains: “The report predicts a 2% decline in demand for fossil fuels every year could cause the future profits of oil, gas and coal companies to collapse from an estimated $39tn to just $14tn.” BusinessGreen also covers the report, quoting lead author Kingsmill Bond saying: “We are witnessing the decline and fall of the fossil fuel system…Technological innovation and policy support is driving peak fossil fuel demand in sector after sector and country after country, and the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated this.” The i newspaper also has the story. Separately, the Financial Times reports on the “rise and fall” of Chesapeake Energy, the US shale oil and gas firm. The paper says Chesapeake was “once worth $35bn” but “is now flirting with bankruptcy in [the] face of coronavirus”, adding that its shares “have plunged 90% since January”.
In related news, a feature for Bloomberg Green analyses the past and present professional affiliations of “more than 600 directors and executives” at 20 leading US and European banks, finding: “At least 73 have at one time or another held a position with one or more of the biggest corporate emitters of greenhouse gases.” It adds: “The same 20 banks have helped arrange almost $1.4tn of debt financing for fossil fuel producers since the signing of the Paris climate agreement in 2015.” DeSmog UK reports that the UK “doubled its support for fossil fuels since signing [the] Paris Agreement”. Meanwhile, the Economist daily chart asks: “Why are investors not pricing in climate-change risk?” In two charts it shows that while “climatic disasters have a modest effect on share prices…there is no relationship between [corporate] climate risk and equity valuations”.
Separately, the Financial Times reports that French oil giant Total has bought a 51% stake in a £3bn North Sea offshore wind project, a move it describes as the firm’s “first significant move” into the sector. The FT adds: “The move is the latest sign of traditional oil majors pursuing large-scale renewable energy projects as they seek to persuade investors and environmental activists they are serious about cutting their emissions footprint.” The Times and Reuters also report the news while BBC News reports that the turbine blades for the scheme, set to be Scotland’s largest offshore wind development, will be made on the Isle of Wight. Another Reuters article reports that Italian oil giant Eni is “planning to create a division to focus on new energy solutions…as it steps up preparations for a decarbonised future, two sources said”. A third Reuters piece reports that Spanish utility firm Iberdrola is to “invest up to €4bn in French renewable energy”. Finally, a comment for Bloomberg by columnist Liam Denning argues that oil majors’ renewable investment plans should be spun off into new companies, attracting investors that would be unlikely to put money into the fossil fuel firms themselves.
An “exclusive” report from Reuters says that Brazilian states are “bolstering the fight against destruction of the Amazon rainforest with millions of dollars from an oil company’s corruption settlement”. The newswire estimates that state environmental agencies will receive at least $27m from the Petrobras settlement, adding that this “allows them to partially compensate for weakening environmental protections under president Jair Bolsonaro”. The story cites “officials in all nine Amazon states” saying the money will going towards patrol officers, jeeps, surveillance and “other outlays to protect the rainforest”. Meanwhile another Reuters piece reports that Brazilian meat firms JBS, Marfrig and Minerva “purchased thousands of cattle linked to deforestation of the Amazon rainforest since 2018, advocacy group Greenpeace Brasil alleged”. The Hill continues coverage of a report from the World Resources Institute, which it says found that Brazil “led [the] globe in 2019 forest loss”.
The Australian Press Council has ruled that News Corporation columnist Andrew Bolt breached standards in a 2019 attack on climate activist Greta Thunberg, the Guardian reports. The paper describes Bolt’s August 2019 article as a “character assassination” and adds that he responded to the ruling by “immediately doubl[ing] down and repeat[ing] the slurs” in a new column for the Herald Sun.
In the New York Times “Climate Fwd” newsletter, the paper’s international climate reporter Somini Sengupta talks to “leading black climate activists about the connections between racism and climate change”. She explains: “A clear theme emerged from those discussions…Racism, in short, makes it impossible to live sustainably.” Sengupta speaks to Prof Robert D. Bullard of Texas Southern University: “The rich, he went on, have a bigger carbon footprint than the poor, but it is the poor who are more likely to be people of colour in this country and who are often most vulnerable to the impact of climate change.” In a comment for the Washington Post, Ayana Elizabeth Johnson writes under the headline: “I’m a black climate expert. Racism derails our efforts to save the planet.” She explains: “As a marine biologist and policy nerd, building community around climate solutions is my life’s work. But I’m also a black person in the United States of America. I work on one existential crisis, but these days I can’t concentrate because of another…Look, I would love to ignore racism and focus all my attention on climate. But I can’t. Because I am human. And I’m black. And ignoring racism won’t make it go away.”
A new study attempts to solve the “unexplained slow‐down of the ocean carbon sink in the 1990s and a subsequent recovery”. Using a simple globally‐averaged model, the researchers show that two processes external to the ocean can explain the slowing sink: “First, a reduced rate of accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere after 1989 reduced the atmosphere–ocean gradient that drives the ocean sink. Second, the eruption of Mt Pinatubo led to changes in ocean temperature that modified the timing of the sink from 1991 to 2001.” The findings imply that “that as future fossil fuel emission cuts drive reduced growth of atmospheric CO2, the ocean sink will immediately slow down”, the authors say.
New research presents “the longest historical analysis of daily Australian temperature extremes and their societal impacts compiled to date”. Using a newly consolidated early instrumental dataset and a range of historical sources for the South Australia region of Adelaide, the researchers investigate changes in daily temperature extremes back to 1838. The study finds “an overall decrease in cold extremes and an increase in heatwaves in the region over the 1838–2019 period”. In particular, “this is the first study to provide long-term evidence for a reduction of low-elevation snow events and cold outbreaks in Australia”, the authors note.
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