Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Government tables 'groundbreaking' environment bill
- Extinction Rebellion protesters face arrest as police change tactics
- Cuadrilla says it is not planning to abandon fracking in Lancashire
- Rise of renewables may see off oil firms decades earlier than they think
- Japan typhoon: Why Typhoon Hagibis proved so deadly
- Denouncing climate activists will not save the planet
- Acknowledging uncertainty impacts public acceptance of climate scientists’ predictions
The UK government will today formally table its long-awaited environment bill in Parliament, promising that the “landmark” legislation will reshape environmental regulation and enforcement in the UK after Brexit, reports BusinessGreen. It continues: “Currently most of the UK’s environmental rules are enforced by Brussels, but today’s legislation would see the creation of a new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) established to ensure the UK complies with environmental standards.” Theresa Villiers, the environment secretary, says the bill “leads a green transformation that will help our country to thrive”. She continues: “It positions the UK as a world leader on improving air quality, environmental biodiversity, a more circular economy, and managing our precious water resources in a changing climate.” The government confirmed today the OEP will be based in Bristol with a staff headcount of up to 120, BusinessGreen adds. The bill also aims to “improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution [and] restore wildlife”, says BBC News. The bill was announced in yesterday’s Queen Speech, which sets out the government’s priorities for a new parliamentary session. BusinessGreen has another piece which reports on how, in the foreword to a briefing paper on the speech, prime minister Boris Johnson says: “The huge star of our legislative programme is a momentous new environment bill – a lodestar by which we will guide our country towards a cleaner, and greener future.” The speech said the government “will prioritise tackling climate change and ensuring that all girls have access to 12 years of quality education”, reports the Guardian. Campaigners warn that, although policies look encouraging, the “devil will be in the detail”, reports the Independent, while another BBC News article notes that as the Conservative government has no majority, “many of the bills [in the speech] may not become law”. A Guardian editorial says the “commitment to new environmental legislation is welcome”, but criticises the lack of detail on climate change: “On social care, tenants’ rights, schools funding and the climate emergency in particular, there can be no excuses for a ruling party that does not offer substantial proposals. Brexit or not, such critical issues must not be allowed to drift on, unaddressed, any longer.”
Elsewhere, BBC News reports on a new publication from the cross-party thinktank Policy Connect that says more than 20,000 homes a week must switch to low-carbon heating between 2025 and 2050 to meet UK climate goals. The report says various innovations need to be pursued, BBC News says, including “smart systems and controls; more use of the ‘internet of things’; hydrogen boilers; biogas; electric heat and direct infrared heat among others”.
Police have ordered climate protesters to stop their action immediately or face arrest, in an effort to put an end to more than a week’s disruption in London, reports the Press Association. It continues: “Activists with Extinction Rebellion (XR) have been told to leave Trafalgar Square, where many have congregated lawfully since Monday last week, as police seek to expunge the protesters from the capital.” The Metropolitan police issued a revised section 14 order on yesterday evening that said “any assembly linked to the Extinction Rebellion ‘Autumn Uprising’…must now cease their protests within London” by 9pm, says the Guardian. It adds: “Almost immediately, officers moved into Trafalgar Square and demanded that protesters remove their tents…Until Monday night, Trafalgar Square had been specified by the Met as the only legitimate protest site and officers had been telling protesters to go to the square if they wanted to continue protesting.” XR said it would “let Trafalgar Square go” but added that the “International Rebellion continues”, reports BBC News. The Daily Telegraph and Reuters also have the story, while the Times reports that XR is planning to end its two-week protest a day early to “make way” for the People’s Vote anti-Brexit march. Chay Harwood, 23, from XR’s Bristol chapter, said: “We want to remain neutral on Brexit and at the same time not stick our noses in it.”
During the day yesterday, XR had targeted London’s financial district, reports Reuters, blocking the streets around Bank in the heart of the City of London and “vowing a day of disruption for major institutions which they said were financing an environmental catastrophe”. “The City of London is a preeminent nexus of power in the global system that is killing our world,” said XR spokesperson Carolina Rosa. Buses ground to a standstill as protesters glued themselves to the roads and demonstrators protested outside the office of fund manager BlackRock to demand it stop investing in fossil fuels, reports the Financial Times. BlackRock, along with the second largest asset manager Vanguard, have “routinely opposed motions at fossil fuel companies that would have forced directors to take more action on climate change”, notes the Guardian. BlackRock declined to comment, says Reuters. Protesters were seen handing out leaflets which say “We’re sorry” and explaining why they are protesting, says the Daily Telegraph. XR is planning to block roads outside MI5 this morning on the eighth day of direct action, notes the Independent. Reuters reports that protestors, including one of the founders of XR, have targeted Britain’s transport ministry this morning to protest against a proposed high-speed rail project “HS2”.
Elsewhere, Reuters reports that Greenpeace activists boarded two Royal Dutch Shell oil platforms in the North Sea yesterday in protest against plans to leave parts of the giant structures in place after production shuts down. And the Hill reports that American actor Jane Fonda says she is prepared “to get arrested every Friday” amid the climate change protests in Washington DC that led to her being detained last week.
Cuadrilla has said it is not abandoning its fracking ambitions in Lancashire and still plans to apply for an extension to its shale gas campaign, reports the Guardian. The company hopes to apply to Lancashire county council to extend drilling at its Preston New Road site beyond a 30 November cut-off point, the Guardian says, adding: “Work had been suspended in August after the location recorded its largest ever tremor and Cuadrilla hopes to lodge its appeal once a review of the quake is completed.”
Elsewhere, the Press Association reports that the Eden Project has secured £16.8m of funding for a geothermal heat and power project, with drilling due to start on the site next summer. Eden Project co-founder Sir Tim Smit said the geothermal project was the biggest leap forward for Eden since it opened in a former clay quarry near St Austell in 2001, adds the Guardian. BusinessGreen also has the story.
“The world’s rising reliance on fossil fuels may come to an end decades earlier than the most polluting companies predict,” writes Guardian energy correspondent Jillian Ambrose. Quoting Carbon Brief analysis, published yesterday, which shows that the third quarter of 2019 was the first quarter where renewables outpaced fossil fuels since the 1880s, Ambrose says the renewables are emerging “faster than predicted and at costs that pose a direct threat to coal-fired electricity and combustion-engine vehicles”. The pace of progress “has raised hope that the global groundswell of climate protest could spark fresh political will to accelerate the energy transition in time to keep global temperatures from rising to levels that could trigger a climate catastrophe”, says Ambrose. In a separate piece, Guardian journalists offer eight ideas to “rein in the fossil fuel industry”, including “ending fossil fuel subsidies” and “roll[ing] out large scale carbon capture and storage”. A Sun editorial describes Carbon Brief’s findings as a “staggering transformation” and a “historic turnaround”. It adds: “Britain is setting the pace for carbon reduction in the developed world. And our footprint would be even lower — but for the eco-warrior celebs still flying dozens of times a year.”
Elsewhere, there is continuing news coverage of Carbon Brief’s findings. “In the July-September stretch, 39% of UK power generation came from fossil fuels,” says Axios, while “renewables edged ahead at 40%”. BusinessGreen adds: “Much of the success is down to a dramatic expansion in wind and solar power across the UK, alongside a rapid decline of coal power on the grid.” The analysis was also picked up by the Sun, the Hill, AFP, BBC Newsround, Gizmodo, Iran Daily, the US business magazine Fast Company and Belgium’s Metro.
An analysis piece by the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang editor Andrew Freedman takes a closer look at the “extraordinarily devastating” typhoon that hit Japan over the weekend. “One reason the storm caused such severe impacts is that the inner core of the typhoon, with its heaviest rains and highest winds, remained intact as it swept across Tokyo and dumped heavy rains across northeastern Japan as well,” explains Freedman. He continues: “Climate studies suggest that the Japanese archipelago could see more frequent and stronger typhoons in the future, due in large part to warming seas as a result of human-caused global warming.” In addition, “there is evidence showing that tropical cyclones in the Northwest Pacific Ocean Basin are reaching their maximum intensities farther north than they used to, a trend some scientists attribute in part to climate change”. This could “send more intense storms into areas that typically see weaker storms, such as Honshu and other parts of northern and northeastern Japan”, Freedman adds. Typhoon Hagibis “offers a glimpse of sport’s stormy future”, says the Economist: “Instances of rain – not to mention typhoons, flooding or heat – stopping play are likely to become more common as climate change makes some weather events more severe.” Reuters reports that the death toll from the typhoon has reached 66 “as rescuers slogged through mud and debris in an increasingly grim search for the missing, and as thousands of homes remained without power or water”.
Writing in the FT, Camilla Cavendish – former head of the Downing Street policy unit – discusses the “widespread carping” about Extinction Rebellion (XR) protestors. She says: “We humans are brilliant at distracting ourselves from uncomfortable truths. While a majority of the public now agree that climate change is an urgent issue, there is still resentment of the messengers.” For example, the criticism that “activists haven’t made sacrifices in their own lives” is “somewhat unfair”, Cavendish says, “given that more than 1,000 have been arrested in London this week, at least 100 in Amsterdam and 30 in Sydney”. She continues: “It’s the rest of us bystanders who are the real hypocrites — we project sympathy but continue to freeride on the planet. I can’t count the number of commuters, drivers and friends who have told me this week that they agree about the climate, and feel that “someone should do something”, but haven’t made a single change in their own habits.” Matthew Lesh, head of research at the free-market thinktank the Adam Smith Institute, disagrees in his piece in the Daily Telegraph. He writes: “Not only have Extinction Rebellion been allowed to shut down our streets and waste police resources, they’ve received an overwhelmingly sympathetic hearing from the luvvie media establishment.” He criticises their “dangerous ideas” as “totally nonsensical and unsupported by scientific evidence”. He concludes: “Climate change is a serious problem…But broadly speaking, the market system is perfectly capable of responding to these issues — without the need for apocalyptic predictions or the immiserating solutions demanded by Extinction Rebellion.”
Giving both the best and the worst-case scenarios in climate change projections – known as the “fully bounded uncertainty” – can increase “trust in scientists and message acceptance” by the public, a new study says. Using a representative national sample of Americans and projections of global sea level rise, the researchers find that giving the fully bounded uncertainty, rather than just the worst-case, “may enhance confidence in scientists and their assertions”. However, the study also finds that “these effects were eliminated when fully bounded uncertainty was accompanied by an acknowledgement that the full effects of sea-level rise cannot be quantified because of unpredictable storm surges”. An accompanying News & Views article says the study “provides a blueprint for future work on the effectiveness of communication about climate impacts, one that can lead to useful practical guidelines”.
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