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Briefing date 19.05.2022
‘Failure of humanity’ as numerous climate records broken last year

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Every weekday morning, in time for your morning coffee, Carbon Brief sends out a free email known as the “Daily Briefing” to thousands of subscribers around the world. The email is a digest of the past 24 hours of media coverage related to climate change and energy, as well as our pick of the key studies published in peer-reviewed journals.

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‘Failure of humanity’ as numerous climate records broken last year
The Times Read Article

Many publications cover the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) “state of the climate” report, which, according to the Times, states: “Greenhouse gas concentrations, sea levels, ocean heat and ocean acidification all hit new records last year in what the UN [secretary general António Guterres] described as a ‘dismal litany of humanity’s failure to tackle climate disruption’.” The paper adds that the past seven years have been the warmest on record and that climate change was “compounding with the impacts of war and the pandemic”, according to the WMO. It quotes the report saying the combination of impacts was “undermin[ing] decades of progress towards improving food security globally”. The Times also quotes Guterres saying of the WMO report that it showed the need to move away from fossil fuels: “Renewables are the only path to real energy security, stable power prices and sustainable employment opportunities. If we act together, the renewable energy transformation can be the peace project of the 21st century.” The Guardian reports: “Extreme weather, which the WMO called the day-to-day face of the climate emergency, wreaked a heavy toll on human lives and led to hundreds of billions of dollars in damages, the agency said.” Reuters picks out the report’s finding that the world’s oceans are now “at most acidic level in 26,000 years”. Agence France Presse reports: “Four key climate change indicators all set new record highs in 2021, the United Nations said Wednesday, warning that the global energy system was driving humanity towards catastrophe.” NBC News, the Irish TimesITV News, the Big Issue, the IndependentForbes and MailOnline also all cover the WMO findings. Sky News quotes Reading University’s Prof Nigel Arnell reacting to the report: “How much more evidence do we need before we get serious about reducing emissions?”

ReutersAssociated Press and Bloomberg report comments from Guterres in a video address accompanying the WMO launch, in which he called for countries to speed permitting for renewable energy projects, foster technology transfer and lift intellectual property provisions for batteries and renewables, which he said should be treated as “”freely available public goods”, according to Bloomberg.

Separately, there is continued coverage of findings released yesterday by the UK’s Met Office that showed, according to the Guardian: “Record-breaking heatwaves in north-west India and Pakistan have been made 100 times more likely by the climate crisis, according to scientists.”

EU reveals its plans to stop using Russian gas
BBC News Read Article

The European Commission has published details of “how it plans to end Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels”, BBC News reports. The EU executive has published its REPowerEU strategy first announced in March, the broadcaster says, adding that it has the stated aim of reducing Russian gas imports by two thirds in 2022. The Guardian says the EU plans a “massive” increase in solar and wind power “and a short-term boost for coal” to help shift away from Russian fossil fuels. It reports: “Senior officials conceded that in the short term, the race to get off Russian gas would mean burning more coal and nuclear energy.” The paper adds: “The commission proposed that 45% of the EU’s energy mix should come from renewables by 2030, an advance on the current 40% target suggested less than a year ago. Officials also want to cut energy consumption by 13% by 2030 (compared with 2020), in comparison with the current proposal of a 9% saving.” Reuters and Associated Press also have the story.

The Financial Times leads its coverage on what it calls a “Brussels…green light” for burning more coal over the next decade. It reports: “Coal is the most carbon-intensive fuel, but the European Commission said the EU would use 5% more than previously expected over the next five to 10 years as the bloc tries to replace Russian energy imports.” It adds: “the likely increased use of coal shows the short-term consequences for the EU’s green agenda, although the commission insisted it would still hit its carbon reduction goals”. The New Statesman links the EU plan to the latest WMO findings on climate change (see above) and says the commission proposals would raise the bloc’s renewable target from 40% to 45% of the energy mix by 2030. Politico says of the €300bn EU plan: “The response aims to immediately hunt for alternative sources of fossil fuels while also boosting green energy and cutting energy use – the latter goals feeding into the bloc’s long-term ambition to become climate neutral by 2050.” Another Politico article says €2bn of the money could be spent on oil infrastructure “in an attempt to help landlocked eastern countries move away from Russian crude”. It quotes commission president Ursula von der Leyen saying: “95% of overall financing will go into speeding up and scaling up the energy transition.” The Daily Telegraph tops its coverage of the commission proposals by reporting: “Brussels has told European Union countries that they should consider telling drivers to cut their motorway speed in the battle to ditch Russian fossil fuel.”

Separately, BusinessGreen reports that Denmark, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands are aiming to boost offshore wind capacity to at least 150 gigawatts (GW) by 2050, a ten-fold increase on today’s levels. Reuters also has the story. In other news from the EU, BusinessGreen reports that the Netherlands is “set to ban fossil fuel boilers from 2026”.

Rich countries seek coal-to-clean energy deals with Indonesia and Vietnam
Climate Home News Read Article

Wealthy countries are looking to replicate an energy transition deal for South Africa with other countries, potentially including part-funding a shift from coal to renewables in Indonesia and Vietnam, Climate Home News reports, saying COP26 president Alok Sharma “hinted” at the idea in a press briefing this week. The publication says Indonesia gets more than 60% of its electricity from coal and Vietnam around half. It adds: “Just energy transition partnerships are also being discussed with several African countries including Senegal, Climate Home News understands.”

Meanwhile, CNBC reports that record-high coal and gas prices, along with the falling cost of renewables and battery storage, are making it cheaper to switch “from coal to clean energy, compared to switching from coal to gas”, citing the findings of “climate analytics firm TransitionZero”. It quotes one of the organisation’s analysts saying it is now cheaper to switch from coal plants to renewables at a cost saving. It also shows figures from the TransitionZero report, according to which it is cheaper to switch from existing coal to renewables plus storage than to switch from coal to gas, on a global weighted average basis and in key countries and regions such as China, India, Japan and the EU. This challenges the place of gas as a “bridge fuel”, CNBC says.

Australia election: How climate is making Australia more unliveable
BBC News Read Article

BBC News previews the upcoming Australian election with a feature on recent floods in the country. It reports: “In the past three years, record-breaking bushfire and flood events have killed more than 500 people and billions of animals. Droughts, cyclones and freak tides have gripped communities. Climate change is a key concern for voters in Australia’s election on Saturday. So is the cost of living – and these issues are converging like never before.” (Carbon Brief has compared the climate and energy-related manifesto pledges of the main parties in the election.)

In other coverage of the upcoming Australian election, the Associated Press says the ruling Liberals, who currently govern in coalition with the Nationals, face a “major threat” from so-called “teal independents”. These are so called, the publication says, because they are “a greener shade than the Liberal Party’s traditional blue colour. The 22 teal independents’ mission is to lure moderate voters concerned by government inaction on climate change away from Liberal candidates in seats long regarded as conservative strongholds.” A comment in the Guardian asks: “[A]re the teals ready to take on the fossil fuel lobby that’s captured the major parties?” Another Associated Press article quotes opposition Labor leader Anthony Albanese saying: “One of the ways that we increase our standing in the region, and in particular in the Pacific, is by taking climate change seriously.” Bloomberg says Labor “will face a challenge to restore the country’s tarnished reputation on climate action if it wins power this weekend”.

Elsewhere, an article from the Guardian’s stable of supported content reports under the headline: “Australia’s climate data to UN questioned as study finds land clearing in Queensland underreported.” It says: “If the national data for land clearing and forestry emissions are incorrect, as the analysis suggests, it would mean the government could claim only a much smaller emissions cut over the past 16 years. It would make it less likely Australia was on track to meet the Coalition’s target of a 26-28% cut in emissions by 2030.” Separately, the Guardian reports: “Australia’s tropical rainforest trees have being dying at double the previous rate since the 1980s, seemingly because of global heating, according to new research.” MailOnline also covers the study on what it calls “treemageddon”. Two authors of the study describe their findings in the Conversation.

China boosts coal output to offset lower gas imports, high prices
S&P Global Commodity Insights Read Article

S&P Global Commodity Insights reports that China has “ramped up coal production to offset declines in imports of coal and LNG amid surging global energy prices”. It adds that analysts “expect natural gas consumption to contract further in 2022 while coal consumption continues to rise”. The outlet notes that the trend is in line with “natural gas demand destruction in several industries that have a high share of gas usage”. It also reports that China’s domestic coal production “hit a high of 395.79m mt in March, before slipping to around 362.80 million mt in April”, according to “official data”. Meanwhile, China’s state news agency Xinhua explains how coal mines in Pizhou, a city in east China, have been “transformed into wind and solar farms”. Those renewable energy farms are “expected to help save 28,900 tonnes of standard coal and cut 72,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year”, Xinhua says.

Separately, the South China Morning Post reports that the province of Guangdong on China’s south coast recorded its “heaviest rainfall in May since 2003”. The Hong Kong-based newspaper notes that last week, 21 cities in Guangdong – or “76% of the province” – were struck by “more than 100mm of rainfall within 24 hours”. The outlet adds that “some 17 cities and counties” in the province had “extreme daily rainfall of more than 250mm”. Elsewhere, Bloomberg reports that China is due to connect “its first commercial compressed-air energy storage plant to the grid”. The plant “recently underwent four days of successful trials and is now ready for commercial operations”, Bloomberg notes, citing its operator, state-owned China Huaneng Group. [Experts have analysed China’s energy storage development scheme for Carbon Brief’s China Briefing.]

Finally, an “exclusive” by Reuters says that China is “in talks with automakers about extending costly subsidies for electric vehicles (EV) that were set to expire in 2022”. The newswire describes the move as an aim of keeping “a key market growing as the broader economy slows”, citing “three people familiar with the matter”.

UK: Hopes for a windfall tax blocked by No 10 team
The Times Read Article

There is continuing coverage in the UK of debate over the idea of a windfall tax on energy companies, with a frontpage story in the Times reporting that No 10 is “resisting pressure” behind the move. The paper reports: “Treasury officials believe that the levy is ‘politically unavoidable’ but are being blocked by the prime minister’s advisers.” It adds that chancellor Rishi Sunak is “increasingly in favour of a windfall tax because of the failure of energy companies to commit themselves to investing to shore up supplies”.

An editorial in the Daily Telegraph says a windfall tax on energy companies is a “superficially compelling proposal”, but would nevertheless be a “mistake”.

UK: Institute for Government slams 'incoherent' government net zero policymaking
BusinessGreen Read Article

The government has been accused of undermining its own net-zero agenda with decisions on coal mines, building standards and North Sea oil and gas, BusinessGreen says, picking up a report from thinktank the Institute for Government. The outlet continues reporting what it calls the “damning assessment” from the thinktank: “A raft of ‘incoherent’ government policy decisions…underscor[es] the need for far more coordination and clarity from Whitehall on how the UK intends to meet its climate goals.”

Another BusinessGreen article reports: “International trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan argues green trade has critical role to play in enhancing energy security and delivering on net-zero goals.” It says Trevelyan will use a speech today to “set out how the UK plans to boost trade in clean technologies and green services in support of both international climate goals and attempts to curb reliance on Russian fossil fuels”.

Separately, a comment for BusinessGreen by opposition Labour MP Alan Whitehead asks: “Where is the government’s promised ECO energy efficiency scheme?” He writes that the next “ECO4” iteration of the scheme is “still nowhere to be seen”. Finally, the Press Association reports that communities agreeing to host onshore windfarms “can use the funding involved to slash their energy bills, a Cabinet minister has said”. It says the idea is being pushed by the prime minister but is, according to Trevelyan, already possible “right now”.

Marsh revealed in oil pipeline project shunned by leading banks and insurers
Financial Times Read Article

Marsh McLennan, the world’s largest insurance broker, is “arranging insurance for a controversial east African oil pipeline”, the Financial Times reports, saying it puts the firm “at the centre of a project that has been shunned by major banks and prompted a backlash from its own staff”. It says the firm’s involvement was “revealed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism [TBIJ] and the FT” and is “a boost for the planned pipeline”, which it says is “fast becoming a litmus test for how willing banks and insurers are to work on environmentally contentious projects”. The TBIJ article says: “The Bureau can reveal that more than 100 Marsh McLennan employees signed a letter urging the company not to broker insurance for an oil pipeline project in east Africa that would have ‘disastrous consequences’ for the climate.”


Debt suffocates African nations’ ability to respond to climate change
Financial Times Read Article

A comment for the Financial Times by Ugandan climate justice activist Vanessa Nakate says that climate change will be “one of the issues near the top of the agenda” at next week’s World Economic Forum. Yet she says that “debt is preventing lower-income countries from protecting themselves against the worst effects of climate change”. Nakate continues: “Most of the climate finance the world’s richest countries have provided to the global south is in the form of loans that pile on more debt. Half of external debt payments by lower income countries are to banks, hedge funds and asset managers that have also profited from funding fossil fuels on a massive scale. They have profited while contributing to the climate crisis. They are now preventing the most climate-vulnerable from limiting the damage they suffer.” She concludes: “Political leaders and chief executives at Davos cannot address climate change without talking about debt. If BlackRock and other bond owners really want to show themselves as climate leaders, they should cancel the debts. Only debt justice can rebuild trust and allow the world to confront the climate emergency.”

Who will replace Patricia Espinosa as the UN climate chief?
Chloé Farand and Joe Lo, Climate Home News Read Article

UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa is due to step down in July after six years in the job, reports Climate Home News. It says that a job ad for her successor was posted on Friday and notes: “With previous executive secretaries from Europe and Latin America, there is a push for African and Asian candidates to be given a chance. Female applicants are ‘especially welcome’, the advert stipulates. UN chief António Guterres has been a vocal promoter of women’s leadership…Ultimately, the decision lies with him.” The publication lists nine “runners and riders” for the role: Rwanda’s environment minister Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya; Egypt’s environment minister Yasmine Fouad; South Africa’s minister of women, youth and persons with disabilities Maite Nkoana-Mashabane; Nigeria’s environment minister Sharon Ikeazor; Indonesia’s finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati; Spain’s minister for the ecological transition Teresa Ribera; Canada’s former environment minister Catherine McKenna; Japan’s former deputy vice minister of finance Naoko Ishii; and former chief climate negotiator for Barbados Selwin Hart.

The Guardian view on the Australian federal election: say no to spin and inaction
Editorial, The Guardian Read Article

An editorial in the Guardian opines on Australia’s upcoming federal election, which will take place on Saturday, arguing that incumbent prime minister Scott Morrison’s promise of reaching net-zero by 2050 is “a veneer” with “almost no policies to reach the target”. The opposition Labor plan is “also inadequate”, the paper says, but “at least makes a start on the economic transition that has to come”. The paper continues: “In three years a[nother] Coalition government will have subsidised new fossil fuel extraction and its 2050 target will be even less plausible than it is now. After a decade of confected, scandalous, time-wasting ‘climate wars’ for political advantage, we cannot squander three more years.” It concludes: “Australia cannot afford three more years of Scott Morrison’s self-serving spin and negligent inaction…[he] has forfeited the right to another term.”


The role of human-induced climate change in heavy rainfall events such as the one associated with Typhoon Hagibis
Climatic Change Read Article

The torrential rainfall that Typhoon Hagibis brought to Tokyo in October 2019 was made 15-150% more likely by human-caused climate change, a new study finds. The rainfall caused large-scale flooding in a large area around the metropole region of Tokyo, which led to “large-scale destruction including losses of lives, livelihoods, and economic losses of well over $10bn”, the researchers say. Their “conservative estimate” is that around $4bn of these damages are due to climate change.

Tropical tree mortality has increased with rising atmospheric water stress
Nature Read Article

Tree deaths in the Australian tropics have doubled in the past 35 years, a new study says,, “indicating a potential halving in life expectancy and carbon residence time”. Examining trees in 24 forest sites across the Australian tropics, the researchers find that the loss of trees was not made up for by gains from new growth. The researchers also find that “a long-term increase” in atmospheric water stress “was evident across the region” studied – suggesting that such stress, “driven by global warming”, could be the “primary cause of tree mortality in moist tropical forests”.

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