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:
- Global carbon emissions rebound to near pre-pandemic levels
- More than 40 countries agree to phase out coal-fired power
- Twenty countries pledge end to finance for overseas fossil fuel projects
- COP26 vows could keep global warming below 2C
- Hundreds of protesters march through Glasgow in COP26 demonstration
- COP26 is haunted by the shadow of Copenhagen
- Is it climate change? Coverage by online news sites of the 2019 European summer heatwaves in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK
There is widespread coverage of the launch of the 2021 “global carbon budget”, which found, reports Reuters, that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions “have rebounded to near pre-pandemic levels”. It says the Global Carbon Project estimates emissions will rise by 4.9% this year after a 5.4% drop in 2020. BBC News says the findings show “the window is closing on our ability to limit temperature rise to the critical threshold of 1.5C”. The Independent leads its story by quoting one of the study authors saying the rise in 2021 is “bigger than expected”. It also quotes another of the authors saying: “The key message that I would like to send is to resist the temptation to be discouraged by these findings…The commitments that are being put in place in Glasgow are really important and, of course, planning for the immediate implementation after that.” The New York Times says a “sharp” rebound in emissions means they are “now just slightly below their previous record highs”. It quotes one of the authors saying: “Essentially, we halted the global economy and then brought it back to life with mostly the same fossil-fuel-powered cars, trucks, factories and power plants that we had before.” It adds: “The analysis did include some slightly good news: When emissions from land use and deforestation are included, it appears that global carbon dioxide emissions have stayed more or less flat over the past decade, after a rapid increase during the early 2000s, suggesting that nations are slowly making progress in bending the emissions curve.” [See Carbon Brief’s coverage of the findings for more on this.]
Associated Press via NBC News reports: “China’s pollution increase was mostly responsible for worldwide figures returning to 2019 levels, a study co-author said.” It adds: “Emissions in China were 7% higher in 2021 when compared to 2019, the study said. By comparison, India’s emissions were only 3% higher. In contrast, the United States, the European Union and the rest of the world polluted less this year than in 2019.” The Guardian reports: “Global carbon emissions are shooting back to the record level seen before the coronavirus pandemic levels, new analysis has shown. Scientists said the finding is a ‘reality check’ for the world’s nations gathered at the COP26 climate summit.” Bloomberg, New Scientist and Inside Climate News also have the story. According to the i newspaper, the uncertainty in the projections means that emissions “could reach a record high this year”. For the Times, the headline is: “Coal-reliant Chinese emit third of the world’s carbon.” It says the Global Carbon Project findings show that China’s share of global emissions has risen to a record level of 31%.
A number of publications report on several coal power initiatives launching at COP26, including a pledge by 40 countries to phase out use of the fuel to generate electricity. The Guardian says major coal-using economies including Poland, Ukraine and Vietnam have joined a pledge to phase out coal power, with major economies doing so in the “2030s” and others in the “2040s”. It says that some of the world’s most coal-dependent economies, including Australia, China, India and the US, are “missing from the deal”. It adds: “Expert assessments have found that for the world to stay within 1.5C, developed economies should phase out coal before 2030, rather than in the 2030s as in the deal announced on Wednesday night.” [The IEA pathway to 1.5C published earlier this year had developed countries phasing out coal power by 2030 and the world by 2040.]
According to the Financial Times, the UK “said the new initiative would help to shut down 40GW [gigawatts] of coal power plants” in 20 countries. The Press Association, via the Belfast Telegraph, says the UK-led “coal-to-clean” transition statement commits signatories “to ending all investment in new coal power generation domestically and internationally and rapidly scaling up deployment of clean power generation”. It continues: “The statement also sees them commit to phasing out coal power in economies in the 2030s for major economies and the 2040s for the rest of the world and to ensure the shift away from coal power is fair and benefits workers and communities.” The newswire adds: “More than 40 countries have signed up to the statement, including 18 committing to phase out and not build or invest in new coal power for the first time, such as Poland, Vietnam and Chile, the UK government said. Separately, 28 new members have signed up to the UK-led ‘powering past coal alliance’, to phase out the use of the most polluting fossil fuel, including Chile, Singapore and Durban.” BBC News reports under the headline: “190 nations and organisations pledge to quit coal.” It quotes UK business and energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng saying this means “the end of coal is in sight”, but adds: “Some of the world’s biggest coal-dependent countries, including Australia, India, China and the US, did not sign up to the pledge.” [Neither the article nor the UK government press release include a full list of the countries and organisations involved.] Bloomberg says HSBC, NatWest and Lloyds are among lenders joining the Powering Past Coal Alliance. The New York Times reports: “A coalition of 18 countries, plus dozens of banks and other institutions, will pledge to phase out coal-fired power plants domestically and to end funding for international coal projects, according to the British government.” It adds: “The new campaign, which is expected to be announced by British officials on Thursday in Glasgow, declares that the end of coal ‘is in sight’ because of the new coalition. The full list of 18 countries was not available, but, according to the British government, it includes developed and developing countries like Poland, Vietnam, Egypt, Chile and Morocco. It was unclear whether the United States was part of the agreement. A spokeswoman for John Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy, did not respond to a request for comment.” Reuters, BusinessGreen, the Independent and the Daily Telegraph also have the story. Separately, Reuters reports that the Asian Development Bank “launched a plan on Wednesday to speed the closure of coal-fired power plants in Indonesia and the Philippines”. In related news, the New York Times reports: “A group of philanthropic foundations and international development banks on Wednesday announced a $10.5bn fund to help emerging economies with growing energy needs make the switch from fossil fuels to renewable sources. The group, known as the Global Energy Alliance, aims to draw in more donors in the coming weeks.”
Meanwhile, Reuters reports: “China flagged on Wednesday it is targeting a 1.8% reduction in average coal use for electricity generation at power plants over the next five years, in a bid to lower greenhouse gas emissions.” Sky News Asia correspondent Tom Cheshire reports from China’s northern provinces under the headline: “The future of our climate hangs on China’s hesitation to reduce coal usage.” A feature for CNN is titled: “Humanity needs to ditch coal to save itself. It also needs to keep the lights on.” For the Independent, former Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has a comment under the headline: “The west has to work with China to ‘end coal’ – purely hectoring will achieve little.” China Dialogue has a feature titled: “Will recent power shortages slow China’s progress to carbon neutrality?” It says: “The leadership has made power stability a top priority, but signalled that China’s climate targets won’t be affected.”
More than 20 countries and financial institutions will end finance for overseas fossil-fuel development, the Guardian reports, adding that they will “divert the spending to green energy instead from next year”. It says: “The Guardian understands the countries involved include the US, UK, Denmark and some developing countries that would receive such finance, including Costa Rica. The European Investment Bank is one of the financial institutions involved…However, China and Japan, two big funders of fossil fuel development around the world, have shunned the initiative.” The Times says: “The agreement has not been signed by China, Japan or Russia, which could limit its effectiveness.” Bloomberg says the initiative “has key holdouts”. Meanwhile, a Financial Times “big read” says “oil price soars even as the world turns against fossil fuel”. BBC News reports that Shell “has insisted it can transition to net-zero by 2050, but it will need the cash from its oil and gas business to pay for it”.
In related news from COP26, BusinessGreen reports on the launch at COP26 yesterday of the “Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ)”, which says its members – some 450 firms in 45 countries – have committed $130tn towards the net-zero transition. It says former Bank of England governor and GFANZ chair Mark Carney also launched “fresh standards and tools designed to help deploy that capital”. The Financial Times reports: “Mark Carney’s eye-catching claim in Glasgow that $130tn of private sector assets was committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions came with high-profile endorsements from BlackRock’s Larry Fink and Jane Fraser of Citigroup…Yet financiers, academics and environmentalists have asked whether the maths of the initiative led by the former Bank of England governor, now a UN special envoy on climate and finance, really stack up.” It cites criticisms including that some of the assets in the total may be counted twice, that most of the $130tn is not available to be invested and that companies are able to sign up to the alliance “while continuing to finance fossil fuel companies, including new gas, oil and coal exploration projects”. Bloomberg also says the Carney plan has been criticised. The New York Times also reports on the commitment by firms holding $130tn in assets, noting that the GFANZ pledge is “largely voluntary”. It reports: “The companies agreed to undergo a review every five years to measure how well they are hitting these targets. They also said they would report the emissions they finance ever year. But critics said the pledges fell short because they don’t commit investors to stop placing money in fossil fuels.”
In a comment for the Daily Telegraph, international business editor Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes: “Critics are certainly right on one level: the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero does not quite do what it seems to say on the tin. Those trillions are merely the asset base of the 450 banks, fund managers and wealth funds that have signed up to good behaviour, not the sums about to flow…Yet the correct message to take away from finance day at COP26 is that vast sums of capital are indeed there for the taking. Global plutocrats are crawling over each other to get into the lucrative business of decarbonisation before rivals beat them to it, and to get out of fossils before they begin to lose serious sums and face the long-tail ‘asbestos’ risk of perennial litigation.”
Separately, the Times reports that the majority of the FTSE 100 list of the largest listed businesses have signed up to the “Race to Zero” campaign, pledging to reach net-zero by 2050. It says 60 of the 100 firms have now signed up to the initiative, according to the UK government. Another Times article reports the comments of UK COP president Alok Sharma describing business executives and bankers as “the new Swampys”. It says Sharma, speaking at the launch of yesterday’s “finance day” at the summit, “has been accused of ‘appropriating’ the eco-warrior movement”. The Press Association also has the story. The Guardian reports that activists “fear [the] little-known [Energy Charter] treaty could slow fossil fuel phase-out”. Reuters reports that Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey “will announce in the coming days more about how it will align its corporate bond holdings with its goal for companies to fight climate change”.
Pledges at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow “could keep world temperature rises to below 2C”, reports the Times on its frontpage, citing “the first analysis of the commitments” by researchers at the University of Melbourne. It says the latest climate pledges on methane, deforestation and India’s net-zero goal, if fully implemented along with existing targets, could limit warming to 1.9C. The Independent says it is the first time climate pledges have put the world on track to stay below 2C. It quotes study author Prof Malte Meinshausen saying: “Assuming these pledges are actually fulfilled, our best estimate is that we are at peak warming of 1.9C this century. The huge, huge ‘if’ here is if countries’ [climate pledges] are met, if they are implemented with actual domestic policies. The other caveat is that, in order to get closer to 1.5C, there is no way other than to substantially increase emission reductions this decade. The 2050 targets are good and bring us so far, but to get to 1.5C, we really need stronger 2030 targets.” The i newspaper says the findings “will be seen as a major win for COP26 organisers”. The Daily Mail also has the story.
In related news, Bloomberg reports that India’s CO2 emissions are expected to peak between 2040 and 20245 before starting to fall, according to environment secretary Rameshwar Prasad Gupta.
Hundreds of climate activists marched through Glasgow yesterday as part of an Extinction Rebellion demonstration around the COP26 climate summit, reports the Press Association. The New York Times says that the protestors marched to “call out ‘greenwashing’ by big companies”. The i newspaper reports: “More than 58,000 people are expected to attend two major climate change protests in Glasgow over the next few days, demanding that COP26 results in real action not just words.” The Financial Times has a “lunch with the FT” feature on climate activist Vanessa Nakate.
Bloomberg reports that climate activist Greta Thunberg used yesterday’s COP26 finance day “to make her presence felt”. It says: “Thunberg and other activists from Greenpeace and the Indigenous Environmental Network interrupted a panel on carbon offsets to protest about ‘greenwashing’ and the dangers of relying on the credits to compensate for emissions.” Climate Home News reports the story under the headline: “Thunberg vs Carney: battle over net-zero and carbon offsets flares at COP26.” Separately, another Climate Home News story reports that Scotland has pledged £1m to address “loss and damage”, under the headline: “Scotland breaks loss and damage ‘taboo’, raising hopes others will follow.”
Meanwhile, analysis in the Times runs under the headline: “COP26: The leaders have gone, now the real work starts.” It continues: “A common misconception is that this process is about countries making further commitments to reduce their carbon emissions. It isn’t. Most countries have already submitted those plans – called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – and now leaders have left Glasgow these are unlikely to change. What the next two weeks are about is trying to reach agreement on three main areas: Transparency and verification, creating a mechanism for speeding up carbon reductions over the next 30 years and trying establishing a global carbon market to underpin offsetting.” The New York Times Climate Fwd email reports: “Leaders reached agreements to reduce methane gas emissions and protect the world’s forests. Now, the really hard part begins.” Politico says the negotiations are “all about confronting the carbon cheats”. It explains: “Attention now turns to negotiations on finalising the Paris Agreement, with three key issues yet to be settled: deadlines, transparency and carbon markets.” The publication adds: “Tough rules on these three outstanding issues could stop countries from cheating their way out of reducing emissions. Weak rules, in turn, risk weaker climate action.” Associated Press via ABC News says “now the real negotiations begin”. [The talks began on Sunday.]
In other news from COP26, the Financial Times says that China has “hit back at US criticism of Xi Jinping’s absence from the COP26 climate summit and said that the Chinese president was not allowed to join the main stage by video link”. Similarly, the Hill reports that Kremlin spokesperson Dimitri Peskov has “dismissed criticism from President Biden about President Vladimir Putin’s absence from the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow”.
The i newspaper has an interview with former Australian president Malcolm Turnbull, reporting: “Australia is alienating its allies and risking economic damage by clinging to fossil fuels in a world transitioning to green energy…Turnbull has warned.” DeSmog reports that Brazil’s COP26 delegation “includes the chief executive of Minerva Foods, and the chair of Marfrig, two of the world’s largest beef companies”, which is says are “linked to deforestation”. The i newspaper reports that Brazilian ecologists have called the country’s pledge to end deforestation by 2030 “lip service”. Another DeSmog article reports on the “11 climate science deniers” attending COP26 include Marc Morano, Myron Ebell and Harry Wilkinson.
A frontpage splash for the Daily Mirror is headlined: “PM’s flying shame.” It reports, in a “COP26 exclusive”: “Boris Johnson flew back from Glasgow by private jet to go for dinner at a men-only private members club…The Mirror understands he jetted 400 miles to a private engagement at the elite club attended by Conservative peer and self-confessed climate change sceptic Lord [Charles] Moore.” The Press Association also has the story.
The Daily Telegraph and MailOnline report the comments of BBC director general Tim Davie, speaking at COP26, where he said the science of climate change is “no longer politically controversial”. The Telegraph says: “Asked whether making climate change central to BBC programming would be seen as ‘political’, Mr Davie told a panel of TV bosses at the COP26 summit in Glasgow: ‘I don’t think it’s politically controversial now. The overwhelming consensus is that we as humanity are causing global warming.’”
In the Financial Times, associate editor and business columnist Pilita Clark writes that “struggles for progress in Glasgow evoke bitter memories” of the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. She writes: “Glasgow has a different agenda and global climate action has shifted dramatically in the intervening 12 years. Yet there are enough parallels between the two meetings to offer a sobering reminder of how much depends on the outcome of the Glasgow summit, due to end next Friday.” Clark continues: “Still, there are some reasons for optimism. Ahead of the Glasgow summit, it was estimated that the world was on track for more than two degrees centigrade of warming. Unofficial snap analysis suggests if all this week’s promises are met, it could be as low as 1.9C.” She adds: “Let’s hope this good news lasts. Critics may deride these vast climate COPs as elaborate time-wasting exercises, but they spur countries to act in a way few would do on their own. That, in turn, helps to speed green investment and innovation.” Her piece concludes: “It is tempting to think the world has changed so much that businesses will fill any gaps that governments leave at COP26. Tempting but wrong. The world needs a resounding signal that governments are determined to tackle the greatest threat to future generations, now more than ever.”
For the Guardian, economics editor Larry Elliot writes under the headline: “COP26 will be derailed unless the rich world meets its obligation to the poor.”
A new paper analyses how media covered the links between climate change and extreme heat during the western European summer heatwave of 2019. Assessing 267 articles taken from 20 of the most-visited online news websites in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, the researchers find “strong variations” on how much attention was paid to climate change. UK media paid the most attention, the study says, with “politically left-leaning titles more than right-leaning ones”. In general, the researchers find “accurate, science-based descriptions”, a “strong presence” of attribution studies in the coverage and “more quotes from climate scientists than politicians and NGOs, with a minimal presence of climate change sceptics”.