Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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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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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Four in 10 young people fear having children due to climate crisis
- New climate plans fall far short of limiting global warming to 1.5C
- No firm commitment from India on net zero, says John Kerry
- Chevron triples low-carbon investment, but avoids 2050 net-zero goals
- Xi Jinping talks about energy industry: walking the low-carbon developmental path
- US and EU vow steep methane cuts ahead of climate summit
- UN calls for reform of $540bn farming subsidies to help climate
- Record high power prices make case for faster green transition, EU says
- Deforestation laws are undermining climate efforts
- North Atlantic jet stream projections in the context of the past 1,250 years
The “biggest scientific study yet on climate anxiety and young people” has found that four in 10 people aged 16 to 25 around the world are hesitant to have children due to climate change and “fear that governments are doing too little to prevent climate catastrophe”, the Guardian reports. The piece also notes that six in 10 young people “were very or extremely worried about climate change”, “nearly half reported feeling distressed or anxious about the climate in a way that was affecting their daily lives and functioning” and “more than half felt they would have fewer opportunities than their parents” because of warming. According to the newspaper, the poll of around 10,000 young people covered Australia, Brazil, Finland, France, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, Portugal, the UK and the US and was paid for by the campaigning organisation Avaaz. It adds that the research has been released on a pre-publication basis while undergoing peer review by the scientific journal Lancet Planetary Health. The Times also covers the story, noting that 75% of the people surveyed saw the future as frightening and 56% believed humanity was “doomed”. The newspaper adds that anxiety was highest in the Philippines – where 84% of respondents were very or extremely worried – and lowest in Finland and the US, with 44% and 46% respectively. In the UK, the figure stood at 48%, it says. The Press Association notes that the study, which was conducted online through research platform Kantar, was conducted earlier this year and has been released ahead of key climate talks at COP26 in the UK. According to BBC News, the authors of the research say that the young are “confused by governments’ failure to act”, adding that environmental fears are “profoundly affecting huge numbers of young people”. A separate piece on BBC News features a 13-year-old who says she is concerned about the impact burning fossil fuels has on climate change, but her father is a senior employee at the oil company BP.
Meanwhile, an entirely separate poll that has also received widespread press coverage features in the Washington Post. This poll, based on a representative sample of nearly 20,000 people in 17 wealthy countries spanning North America, Europe and Asia, finds that “nearly three-quarters of residents of countries with some of the world’s most advanced economies worry that climate change will one day create suffering in their own lives”, it says. The piece adds that the study, conducted by the Pew Research Centre, concludes that concerns about the personal impacts of climate change have “increased significantly in most countries surveyed” since the question was last posed in 2015 – although this is not the case for the US. Bloomberg also covers the poll, noting that “as many as 80%” of citizens surveyed “are willing to make some and a lot of alterations to how they live and work” to tackle climate change. Despite this, it notes that 52% reported that they are “not too confident, or not at all confident, that countries will be able to tackle the effects of climate change”. CNN reports that “most people in the advanced world don’t think the US is doing a good job on the issue, and China is doing even worse”.
Nations have “failed to come forward with enough bold new plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions under the Paris Agreement”, according to new research conducted by the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) project and covered by New Scientist. As a result, the publication states that emissions in nine years’ time are set to be roughly double the level required to meet the goal of holding the global temperature rise to 1.5C. The piece notes that under the Paris deal, countries are meant to come forward every five years with more ambitious targets for cutting emissions, but “not enough countries have followed suit to shift the dial globally”. So far, only 90 countries plus the EU’s 27 member states, responsible for around half of global emissions, have come forward with new plans, according to the news website. Bloomberg also reports that “almost every government in the world isn’t doing enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions”, with only the Gambia of the countries analysed by CAT setting an ambitious enough goal. The Independent notes that, according to the analysis, the UK is the only developed country to have plans that are in line with the 1.5C target, although it “does not yet have the policies in place to make its ambitious targets a reality”. (In CAT’s briefing, the UK is rated as “almost sufficient”.)
The Hindu reports that US climate envoy John Kerry “personally urged the [Indian] government to increase [its] commitments to ensure global warming levels are held at 1.5C” but “the government said it does not consider the “net-zero” goal its only priority at present.” The paper reports Kerry saying “no one said no, but no one said yes” and “adding that the final decision was prime minister Narendra Modi’s prerogative and internal deliberations need to take place to make that decision”. The Financial Times reports that “Kerry has rejected calls to postpone November’s COP26 climate conference in the UK, despite fierce objections”. Kerry, speaking to the paper from New Delhi, is reported saying that COP26 “needs to be an in-person event and it needs to take place now”. The paper reports that “the US is under fire for having failed so far to pay its fair share of climate finance assistance” and while “Kerry vowed that ‘the US is going to do its part to pull together the $100bn”, he “declined to provide details on how much money or when might be forthcoming, other than to reiterate that an announcement would be made before COP26”. Indian Express, in an editorial, says Kerry’s visit “reaffirms the changing direction in climate engagements between the two countries after [US president] Joe Biden assumed office” and “signals India’s growing heft in climate diplomacy”. However, it says that “the threat of being asked to assume more climate responsibility looms”. The paper concludes: “India shouldn’t take on more commitments that could end up undercutting its legitimate developmental goals.”
Chevron has pledged to triple its clean energy investments through to 2028 to $10bn, while also adding that it was not yet ready to commit to a 2050 net-zero emissions target, Reuters reports. The oil company stated that half of the spending will go towards curbing emissions from fossil fuel projects, with $3bn going to carbon capture and offsets, $2bn for emissions reductions, $3bn for renewables and $2bn for hydrogen, according to the newswire. It adds that chief executive Michael Wirth told investors that only a minority of its shareholders “currently support a strategy used by European oil companies to invest in less-profitable solar and wind power”. The Financial Times notes that despite the increase in clean spending, on an annual basis the new money amounts to less than a tenth of the company’s planned capital investment of about $15bn a year between now and 2025. The newspaper adds that the move “comes as investors and campaigners ratchet up the pressure on oil producers to help tackle global warming”, with Chevron shareholders defying management in May and voting for a resolution demanding that the company set targets for “scope 3 emissions” from burning the fossil fuels it sells. Meanwhile, the Independent reports that Vermont has become the “latest state to sue some of the country’s top fossil fuel companies by alleging they misled the public about the impact their products have on climate change”. Among the companies targeted in the lawsuit are Exxon Mobil and Shell, according to Reuters.
Separately, Bloomberg reports that BP has appointed Anja-Isabel Dotzenrath, until recently head of RWE Renewables, to lead its low-carbon business. The Financial Times reports that Dotzenrath has “called for more dialogue with politicians to accelerate the transition to clean energy and meet carbon emissions targets”.
Elsewhere, a piece for EurActiv by Wijnand Stoefs, policy officer on carbon removals at NGO Carbon Market Watch, warns that “carbon removals must not become an expensive greenwashing tool”.
China’s president Xi Jinping inspected a chemical company in Yulin – a city in the northern province of Shaanxi – to learn about the “comprehensive utilisation of coal” on Monday morning, Xinhua News Agency reports. Xi toured the central command room and project sites of the company, which is affiliated with a state-run energy group, the state news agency says. Xi, also the general secretary of the Chinese communist party, told officials and workers that the energy industry “must continue to develop, otherwise [it] would not be able to support the country’s modernisation”, the report notes. He instructed the country to “transform and upgrade” its coal and energy development “to walk the green, low-carbon developmental path”. CCTV, the state broadcaster, has a 35-second clip of Xi addressing the company’s workers. Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reports that the company Xi visited is a “clean-coal enterprise”.
Meanwhile, Reuters says that “an alliance of 35 non-governmental organisations” urged the Bank of China to end the financing of overseas coal-fired power plants and support clean and renewable energy instead. The newswire says that the bank is “a top global investor” in cross-border coal projects. Similarly, the South China Morning Post reports that E3G, a climate thinktank, said that China should stop building more coal power plants “soon”. The publication writes: “China has shrunk its coal power projects pipeline by 74% since committing to the Paris Agreement on climate change, but it should do more to curb new construction, according to a thinktank that has called for a total ban on new projects.” [See the Carbon Brief guest post on the E3G report for more details.]
Separately, both the production and sales of “new energy” vehicles (NEVs) tripled in China from January to August this year, compared to the same period last year, according to China National Radio. The two figures stood at 1,813,000 and 1,799,000 respectively, the outlet says. It cites Xiao Yaqing, the minister of industry and information technology. Furthermore, Argus Media reports that China’s output and newly-installed volume of power batteries “hit fresh highs” in August. The outlet links the growth to “rapid developments in the country’s new energy vehicle (NEV) industry”. Elsewhere, the Straits Times, a Singaporean outlet, carries an article titled: “Chill in US-China ties is hurting global warming fight”. China Daily, a state-run newspaper, cites analysts and writes that “top-level engagement between Washington and Beijing is essential for the world’s two largest economies to resolve the impasse over bilateral relations”.
The US and the EU have agreed on a plan to cut methane emissions by around a third by the end of the decade “as part of a diplomatic push to get other nations to take aim at the powerful planet-warming gas”, Bloomberg reports. In the run up to the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, the US is asking other nations to join the “global methane pledge”, the news website says. It adds that this will be a topic of discussion during a virtual meeting of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate that US president Joe Biden is holding on Friday. A draft of the pledge, seen by Reuters, shows that it will call for global cuts of at least 30% by 2030, compared with 2020 levels, with a separate document showing a list of countries that will be targeted to sign up, including China, Russia, India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia. The Washington Post also has the story, reporting that the US Environmental Protection Agency is expected to “detail a more stringent set of proposals for overseeing methane later this month” and that congressional Democrats are “considering imposing a fee on methane emissions as part of a broad $3.5tn budget bill they aim to pass this fall”. Meanwhile, DeSmog reports on an “all-out pressure campaign” by the American Petroleum Institute, “the oil industry’s most powerful lobbying group”, to “kill an attempt by congressional Democrats to tax methane…for the first time”. Separately, Reuters reports that the US Treasury has said the US will “join western governments to co-sponsor an OECD proposal to end official export credit financing for coal power projects without abatements”.
Separately, various outlets have reported on a speech by Biden at a clean energy facility in Colorado, where the Los Angeles Times says he “urged Congress to pass legislation that he argued will create jobs and mitigate the impact of climate change”. Reuters notes that the president focused on the impact of extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change, which he told the audience had affected nearly one in three American communities in the past few months. The newswire also reports that he told attendees these events will cost the US “well over a $100bn this year”. According to the New York Times, Biden also said that “we don’t have much more than 10 years”.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Biden will address action on climate change when he meets in person with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison next week at the first-ever leaders’ summit of the “Quad” – Australia, the US, Japan and India – in Washington DC.
Finally, in the UK, Politico reports that international trade secretary Liz Truss has said recent reporting that the nation dropped demands on Australia to sign up to climate targets were “fake news”. The Independent reports that a House of Lords committee has been criticised by campaigners for inviting a “fringe” group, namely the climate sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation, to give evidence on climate policy.
A new report from the UN ahead of a major food systems summit next week calls for reform of the world’s $540bn in farming subsidies to help address climate change and promote better nutrition, according to the Financial Times. The newspaper notes that “perversely”, farming subsidies – including tariffs, price support and aid for inputs such as fertilisers – skew agricultural production towards those sectors that are some of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. It adds that the situation is “particularly acute in richer countries that consume proportionately more dairy and meat”. According to the Guardian, the report from UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concludes that almost 90% of the global subsidies given to farmers every year are “harmful”. It adds that “without reform, the level of subsidies was on track to soar to $1.8tn a year by 2030, further harming human wellbeing and worsening the planetary crisis”. The Hill notes that the situation could be improved in high-income countries by moving away from “an outsized meat and dairy industry” and in lower-income countries by repurposing support for toxic pesticides and the cultivation of single crops, according to the report.
European Commission executive vice-president Frans Timmermans has said that record high power prices in EU nations show that the bloc must wean itself off fossil fuels and speed up the transition to green energy, Reuters reports. It notes that wholesale European power prices “have doubled this year, driven by factors including soaring coal and gas prices, surging CO2 prices and lower than usual renewable energy output”. Timmermans, the top EU climate official, said that even as fossil fuel prices have soared, renewable generation costs have remained low and stable, it continues. Nevertheless, Politico reports that concerns over a popular backlash to green policies were evident during a European Parliament debate about the European Commission’s “Fit for 55” climate legislation proposals. The piece notes that the Commission insists that high prices “aren’t the fault of the EU’s Emissions Trading System, which has seen the cost of a permit to emit a tonne of CO2 more than double over the last year” and are instead attributable to “high gas prices and structural issues in Europe’s electricity market”. However, it adds that the Commission is “still wary of its net-zero Green Deal project getting the blame”
Conservative peer Lord Randall writes in the Times about the decisions made by peers and MPs on the Environment Bill, which “will shape the UK’s impact on our planet, at home and abroad, for decades to come”, particularly in the context of new findings about the scale of Amazon deforestation. “Make no mistake, this is landmark legislation. It contains some truly important reforms and targets for which the government deserves great praise – not least a commitment to halt the loss of biodiversity at home in the UK by 2030,” he writes. However, he says the bill should reflect the goal of the government’s 25-year environment plan to make the UK’s impact on the natural world sustainable “at home and overseas”. He says the bill contains a proposal to give large companies a legal obligation to carry out “due-diligence” checks to ensure there is no illegal deforestation in their supply chains of forest-risk commodities, such as beef, soya and palm oil. “This is a welcome first step. But the policy contains a serious flaw. What counts as “illegal” deforestation will be determined by the laws in the producer country.” He also adds that the “proposals as they currently stand also risk creating a perverse incentive for governments in producer countries to actively lower their standards”. Instead, Lord Randall notes that the NGO Forest Coalition has called for the new law to address all deforestation in UK supply chains, “not just that deemed illegal”. He concludes: “If the UK government decides to take a clear ‘no deforestation’ approach, others will take note. There could be no clearer demonstration that this really is a code red situation – and that half-measures will no longer suffice”.
New research shows that the observed variability in the North Atlantic jet stream over the past several decades – often associated with extreme winter weather events – may have not yet felt the impacts of human-driven warming. Using a climate model and ice core data from across Greenland, researchers reconstruct the position and intensity of the jet stream stretching back more than a millennium. They find that despite rapid warming over the past decades, changes in the jet stream are still indistinguishable from its natural variability. However, they add, under high greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, the jet stream will shift significantly outside its natural range as early as 2060.