Today's climate and energy headlines:
- EU leaders strike deal on tougher 2030 climate target
- Rebound in carbon emissions expected in 2021 after fall caused by Covid
- UN defends excluding Morrison from climate summit, Canberra livid with Johnson over snub
- Asset managers with portfolios worth $9tr target net zero portfolios by 2050
- Morrison must heed global pressure and do more on climate change
- Greta Thunberg: 'We are speeding in the wrong direction' on climate crisis
- Weaker cooling by aerosols due to dust–pollution interactions
EU countries have arrived at a deal to set a more ambitious climate target of cutting emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, after “haggling through the night” at a summit in Brussels, Reuters reports. The article notes that the new target aims to put the EU on track to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and offers a chance to assert its climate leadership on the global stage. Earlier, EurActiv had reported that as EU leaders were closing in on a deal they had “turned to a potential compromise” that would see “finer points of the deal” concerning the costs of emissions cuts delayed until 2021. A separate Reuters piece reports that the decision was delayed as Poland “pressed for specific conditions” to be attached to the goal. “While a majority of countries support the new target, states splintered down familiar lines over how it should be delivered, with poorer central and eastern European states seeking further guarantees of EU support,” it says. Bloomberg also has the story.
Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that the carbon price on the EU emissions trading system closed at a record level on Thursday, marking an important moment for efforts to tackle climate change. Big polluters, such as heavy industry, are given a set number of allowances each year that they can sell if they cut their own emissions, or buy if they emit more than expected, the piece explains. The price of the scheme, where credits for releasing a tonne of carbon emissions are traded, closed at €30.88 (£28.20) a tonne, amidst expectations that the EU would shortly set tougher targets for cutting emissions resulting in higher carbon costs, the newspaper reports. It notes that, in expectation of the move by the EU to tighten the number of allowances, the carbon price isn projected to boost further over time, “potentially rising above €50 a tonne or more”, according to analysts. Bloomberg describes the price of carbon as a “vote of confidence from the market that the EU is serious about its aim to cut greenhouse gases significantly in the coming decades and a signal to industry about the costs of continuing to pollute”. It says it will encourage thousands of power plants and industrial sites to switch from high-polluting fuels like coal to alternative sources including fossil gas and renewables.
There is widespread coverage of the new Global Carbon Project report documenting levels of CO2 emissions. After emissions dropped by a record amount this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, they are set to rebound next year “as restrictions are lifted further and governments strive to return their economies to growth”, the Guardian reports. It notes that China’s emissions may even be level or slightly increase this year, as the country both entered and left lockdown sooner than other countries. The newspaper states that, overall, “the most comprehensive analysis of the world’s carbon output” found a 7% global fall in CO2, cutting 2.4bn tonnes of fossil fuel emissions and leaving around 34bn tonnes being released in 2020. BBC News reports that France and the UK saw the biggest falls, of 15% and 13% respectively, “mainly due to severe shutdowns in response to a second wave of infections”. It compares the 2.4bn figure to the global economic recession in 2009, when emissions fell by “just half a billion tonnes”, while the ending of the second world war “saw emissions fall by under 1bn tonnes”. The Press Association says that the scientists behind the research have warned that in order to continue delivering annual emissions cuts “greener measures are needed as economies recover”, such as boosting cycling, walking and electric cars in the UK. Its coverage mentions that transport made up the biggest share of falling emissions due to a decline in car and plane usage. Bloomberg’s coverage takes a slightly different perspective, noting that the emissions growth rate was slowing even before the pandemic hit the global economy, although “not fast enough to hold back the rate of climate change”. It states that before this year’s dramatic drop, CO2 emissions from fossil fuels increased just 0.1% in 2019 from the previous year. Associated Press adds that this is “much smaller than annual jumps of around 3% a decade or two ago”. It quotes report author Prof Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia who says scientists are wondering if 2019 could be the peak of carbon pollution. Carbon Brief also have in-depth coverage of the report, including interactive charts.
The UN has defended its decision to “block” Australian prime minister Scott Morrison from speaking at a climate summit hosted in collaboration with the UK and France this weekend, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. According to the newspaper, while Morrison told parliament on Thursday that he was “not bothered by the snub”, the government is “privately furious and much of its anger is directed towards British prime minister Boris Johnson”. It quotes a UN official who, according to the newspaper, “appeared to take a swipe at Australia for not doing more to help its Pacific neighbours”, while saying the nation had not met the threshold of climate ambition to speak. The Guardian reports that Pacific island leaders want to see more ambitious plans from Australia, such as a net-zero target by the middle of the century, at a virtual event later this week. The news comes as the Guardian reports that Australia’s record spring heat this year would have only had a one-in-500,000 chance of happening without climate change. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that as a wet year in Australia comes to a close, wildfires breaking out in the country have “scientists looking to climate change”.
Climate Home News reports that along with Morrison, Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro and South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa did not meet the ambition benchmark to showcase their climate plans at the summit. It notes that while the list of participants was still being finalised, around 30 leaders are expected to make net-zero pledges and about 50 are tipped to present enhanced 2030 climate contributions to the Paris Agreement. Among those speaking will be China’s Xi Jinping, India’s Narendra Modi and Canada’s Justin Trudeau, the website reports. Ahead of the online meeting, Reuters has a piece quoting experts and activists reflecting on the successes of the Paris Agreement while calling for more action to “fix the future”. Another Climate Home News article reports on a meeting of least developed countries, the Thimphu ambition summit, at which they have called on richer nations for financial aid to help them adapt to climate change and recover from disasters. A further Reuters article quotes Laurent Fabius, “the Frenchman who brought down the gavel to seal the Paris Accord on climate change five years ago”, who says the world should be tackling “climate change like we battle Covid-19”.
The Financial Times says that “leading environmental groups have poured scorn on Brazil’s commitment to become carbon neutral by 2060 — or sooner if it receives $10bn in annual funding from developed nations”. It adds that Jair Bolsonaro’s “latest comments about Brazil’s carbon neutrality goals were greeted by disbelief from environmentalists”.
Reuters states, according to a new report, that in light of its recent commitment to become “carbon neutral” by 2060, China should phase out all conventional coal-fired power plants without carbon capture and storage (CCS) by 2040-2045. The piece notes that while China has promised to show more ambition when submitting its updated climate pledges before the end of the year, it is still planning an additional estimated 250 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity.
Meanwhile, BusinessGreen reports that ahead of the COP26 climate summit next year people from around the world will be invited to take part in a “supersized” citizens’ assembly to debate climate issues. The Guardian has the findings of a new study by the C40 cities network which finds that 54 of the world’s major cities are rolling out plans that will cut emissions in line with the 1.5C goal of the Paris Agreement.
A group of 30 investors managing more than $9tr (£6.8tn) of assets have agreed to set interim targets to cut emissions across their portfolios to net zero by 2050, BusinessGreen reports. The Net Zero Asset Manager initiative commits firms to setting 2030 goals in line with ultimately decarbonising their portfolios by the middle of the century and aligning with global efforts to limit the average temperature rise to 1.5C, as set out in the Paris Agreement. The Guardian says that Legal and General Investment Management, the UK’s largest investor, and UBS Asset Management are among the signatories to the new pledge. It adds that investors have “significant power to force companies to decarbonise” due to their role as shareholders in many of the world’s largest polluters. The targets will include so-called “scope 3” emissions from companies’ products, such as CO2 from burning fossil fuels, the newspaper notes. Reuters quotes the director of pressure group Reclaim Finance who criticises the lack of a commitment to exclude coal or to halt the expansion of oil and gas. Meanwhile, the Economist has a piece on “making sense of banks’ climate targets”.
Separately, BusinessGreen reports that Amazon has claimed the title of “world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable electricity”, striking deals with 26 new wind and solar projects. Bloomberg says that “as green energy scales up, deals like these will be increasingly important”, noting that “until now, the industry has mostly relied on generous government subsidies”.
An editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald says that the “snub” Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has received at the UN Climate Ambition Summit “points to a major challenge that he must deal with next year”. Despite having steered his country successfully through Covid-19 in 2020, if the pandemic recedes due to a vaccine rollout this “will bring to the fore the issue of climate change which, just like the virus, poses a threat to our way of life”, the editorial states. While Morrison had “made some movement in the right direction” earlier this week by saying he would not use Kyoto credits to meet his climate targets, the article notes that he had failed to set a suitably ambitious new goal, especially compared to the efforts of other nations. “If Australia wants to win international respect it should promise more ambitious reductions, like many other countries in Europe and Asia. For a start, Australia should commit to reaching the upper range of the 26 to 28 per cent emissions reduction it promised at Paris and commit to net zero by 2050,” the editorial says. It notes a few factors including “dramatic technological advances” have combined to make ambitious climate targets easier. “Mr Morrison has said he is not concerned about the snub by the UN but this is just a foretaste of sustained diplomatic pressure he can expect if he does not step up,” the article says, noting statements by incoming US president Joe Biden as well as European leaders. “This is not just about one diplomatic snub. Climate change poses a huge global threat and Australia, as a good global citizen and in its own interests, must do its part.”
The Guardian has an “exclusive” interview with climate activist Greta Thunberg ahead of the UN event this weekend marking five years since the Paris Agreement that will see them set out more ambitious climate plans. “We are still speeding in the wrong direction,” Thunberg says, noting that the five years following the Paris Agreement have been the five hottest years ever recorded. “Distant hypothetical targets are being set, and big speeches are being given…Yet, when it comes to the immediate action we need, we are still in a state of complete denial, as we waste our time, creating new loopholes with empty words and creative accounting.”
The interactions between dust and air pollution modify atmospheric aerosol composition and the amount that remains in the atmosphere. Since the aerosol particles can aid in cloud formation, this affects the climate not only directly reflecting sunlight back to space, but also indirectly through cloud adjustments. This study shows that dust–pollution–cloud interactions reduce the reflection of solar radiation. The associated climate warming outweighs the cooling that the dust–pollution interactions exert through direct radiative effects. In total, this results in a net warming by dust–pollution interactions which moderates the cooling from aerosols by around 0.2 ± 0.1 watts per meter squared.
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