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Daily Briefing

25.02.2020
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Environment Agency chief: Avoid building new homes on flood plains
Environment Agency chief: Avoid building new homes on flood plains

News.

Environment Agency chief: Avoid building new homes on flood plains

Several publications report that the UK Environment Agency’s chief Sir James Bevan will today warn against building new homes on floodplains. In a speech later today, Sir James will also say new housing should only be allowed if it is resilient to flooding, BBC News reports. The Daily Telegraph, which carries the story on its frontpage, reports that Bevan will also say that housing currently built on flood-prone land may have to be abandoned and communities relocated. Sir James will add that climate change is making flooding more of a risk, the Daily Telegraph says. The Times adds that Sir James will also warn that the UK should prepare for a “weather bomb” from climate change. The news comes as the agency issued two danger-to-life warnings over flooding of the River Severn at Shrewsbury and Ironbridge in Shropshire, the Times reports.

Meanwhile, the i reports that “farmers will be paid to plant trees and improve soil quality under a post-Brexit subsidy scheme”, under plans to be unveiled on Tuesday by the UK environment secretary George Eustice.

BBC News Read Article
Australia fires were far worse than any prediction

BBC News reports on a comment piece in Nature Climate Change which highlights that the scale of destruction caused by this season’s bushfires in Australia was larger than climate models could simulate. Dr Benjamin Sanderson, who authored the comment article, tells BBC News: “This [was] worse than anything our models simulated. The faster [the planet] warms, the more likely we are to be taken by surprise.” The Guardian reports that, according to the new comment article, 20% of Australia’s total forested area (excluded Tasmania) burnt in the 2019-2020 fire season. “The 21% figure contrasts dramatically with the proportion of forest burnt in any season on any other continent in that timeframe, which for most continents and forest types was 4-5%,” the Guardian says. The comment article is also covered by the Sydney Morning HeraldCarbon Brief published an in-depth article last month examining the media’s reaction to the 2019-2020 bushfires.

BBC News Read Article
Great Australian Bight: Equinor abandons plans to drill for oil

The Norwegian oil company Equinor is to abandon plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight Marine Park, report the Guardian and others. Equinor said the AUS$200m-dollar project to deepwater drill at the bay did not make “commercial sense”, according to the Guardian. It is the third major oil company to abandon plans to drill in the bight, following BP and Chevron, the Guardian adds. Also reporting on Equinor’s decision, the Financial Times notes that the marine park is “a pristine stretch of ocean off the coast of South Australia that is a sanctuary for whales and other protected species”. Reuters also covers the news.

Elsewhere, Bloomberg reports that the recent cancellation of a C$20bn oil sands project in Canada may be the “final nail in the coffin” for the country’s oil sands industry. The Financial Times reports that the scrapping of the Frontier oil sands project by Canadian energy and mining company Teck Resources “has highlighted Canada’s awkward attempts to combat climate change while digging up dirty fuels”. A second FT story reports that the mining investor Anglo Pacific will no longer invest in thermal coal as it “tilts its portfolio towards greener metals and materials”. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the bank JPMorgan Chase is to announce new restrictions on financing coal mining and Arctic drilling.

The Guardian Read Article
Oil and gas industry rewards US lawmakers who oppose environmental protections – study

The Guardian reports on a study finding that the oil-and-gas industry “substantially rewards US legislators with campaign donations when they oppose environmental protections”. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, documented how lawmakers’ scores from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) dipped and then were followed by campaign funding from the industry. “On average, a 10% decrease in the LCV score in an election cycle was associated with an additional $1,700 in campaign money from the corporations the following cycle,” the Guardian says. DeSmogBlog also covers the study.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that the American Petroleum Institute (API), which it describes as “Big Oil’s most powerful Washington lobby group”, is “insisting it can still represent European energy majors, even as some of its most important members such as BP tilt to a greener agenda that is at odds with some of its major policy positions”. This week, BP intends to follow up with a review of its memberships in groups such as API. “It is prepared to quit those at odds with its new climate agenda, the UK oil major said, and seek policy shifts at others,” the FT reports.

The Guardian Read Article

Comment.

Labour can win in 2024 with my plan to tackle the climate emergency

Rebecca Long-Bailey, one of the Labour MPs running to be the party’s next leader, has written an article for the Guardian laying out her climate plans if elected. She writes: “To win, Labour needs to make sure 2024 is a climate election. Too often we have fought on terms defined by the Tories.” If elected, Long-Bailey would create a “climate justice fund”, which would force fossil-fuel companies to pay for damages caused by extreme weather such as floods, the Guardian reports in a news story based on the comment piece.

Elsewhere, an editorial in the Sun says that the UK chancellor Rishi Sunak will be committing “political suicide” if he chooses to raise taxes on fuel in next month’s new government budget.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, The Guardian Read Article
In the line of fire

An editorial in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change reflects on how Australia’s bushfires “have led to widespread local and global calls for increased efforts to mitigate climate change”. The editorial is accompanied by a series of comment pieces by scientists looking into the unprecedented nature of this season’s fires, the role of climate variability in fuelling the drought-like conditions and how climate change can affect research efforts.

Editorial, Nature Climate Change Read Article
Fossil-fuel subsidies must end

Writing in Scientific American, the authors of a recent study in Nature exploring fossil-fuel subsidises argue that the funding of them must end. The scientists say: “Around the world, fossil-fuel production and consumption are supported in hundreds of ways. Indeed, the most troubling impact and legacy of fossil-fuel subsidies may be the political barriers – rather than financial ones – that fossil-fuel producers have erected against decarbonisation efforts over a period of decades.”

Geoffrey Supran, Peter Erickson, Doug Koplow, Michael Lazarus, Peter Newell, Naomi Oreskes and Harro van Asselt, Scientific American Read Article

Science.

Evidence suggests potential transformation of the Pacific Arctic ecosystem is underway

Changes in the physical and biological characteristics of the Pacific Arctic Ocean could be linked to exceptionally warm years from 2017-2019, new research finds. Using observations, the study finds that low sea ice extent and warmer sea temperatures drove changes in the biological characteristics of the Pacific Arctic over the study period. For example, species not previously found in the region began to inhabit the region during this timeframe.

Nature Climate Change Read Article

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