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Daily Briefing |

TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES

Briefing date 07.09.2021
Green groups call to postpone COP26 over unequal access

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News.

Green groups call to postpone COP26 over unequal access
Politico Read Article

In breaking news this morning, Politico reports that “a global coalition of more than 1,500 green groups [have called] for the UN COP26 climate talks to be postponed due to fears that delegates from the world’s most vulnerable countries face exclusion”. It continues: “The groups, which include Climate Action Network International (CAN-I) and Greenpeace, said it was ‘impossible’ to hold the talks in a way that allowed everyone to participate safely, citing unequal access to vaccines, difficulty obtaining connecting flights to Europe and a lack of financial support for delegates who must quarantine ahead of the talks.” Politico quotes Tasneem Essop, executive director of CAN-I: “Our concern is that those countries most deeply affected by the climate crisis and those countries suffering from the lack of support by rich nations in providing vaccines will be left out and be conspicuous by their absence at COP26.” The article also quotes an unnamed a Latin American government official: “We barely managed to get money for the flights, and to book two weeks in a pricey city like Glasgow, to on top have to pay an extra £1,000 we don’t have will make it hard if not impossible for many of our delegation to attend.” The outlets explains: “With the standard rate for a 10-day hotel quarantine in the UK coming to £2,285, the cost of attendance is fast stretching government budgets – let alone those of civil society or indigenous groups.”

However, Politico also reports that the NGOs’ statement has “yielded an immediate result”, adding: “The British government announced on Tuesday morning it would fund in full hotel stays for delegates, observers and media from red zone countries who need to quarantine. The UK has already promised to give AstraZeneca vaccines to all delegates who cannot receive them in their home country. That program will begin this week.” Separately, Reuters reports that “at a dialogue in Rotterdam convened by the Global Center on Adaptation, more than 50 ministers and heads of climate organisations and development banks called for November’s COP26 climate talks to treat adaptation as ‘urgent’”.

UK fires up coal power plant as gas prices soar
BBC News Read Article

There is widespread coverage from the UK which, reports BBC News, has “fired up an old coal power plant to meet its electricity needs”. The broadcaster continues: “Warm, still autumn weather has meant wind farms have not generated as much power as normal, while soaring prices have made it too costly to rely on gas.” It reports that National Grid, which manages the electricity network on the island of Great Britain, has confirmed that coal was providing 3% of electricity yesterday, adding: “Last year, coal contributed 1.6% of the country’s electricity mix. That was down from 25% five years ago.” The Times reports the news under the headline: “National Grid turns to coal after wind fails.” It says that French utility firm EDF temporarily started up two coal units at its West Burton A power plant. [The plant is one of three remaining coal-fired power stations in the UK, along with Ratcliffe in Nottinghamshire and Kilroot in Northern Ireland.] The Times notes that part of the shortfall was due to low wind speeds, adding that wind power – which usually generates roughly 24% of the UK’s electricity – generated less than 2% yesterday. “It has been suggested that high use of air conditioning on a hot morning may have led to a surge in demand”, according to the paper. Sky news reports that the West Burton A coal plant is due to be decommissioned this time next year. The Daily Telegraph reports that wholesale power costs “surged to more than four times their normal level, forcing officials to fire up [the] coal-based plant[] to handle demand”. It continues: “It is feared the high prices will continue into winter as the weather gets colder, raising fears over household bills and putting a string of energy suppliers at risk of going bust.” [None of the coverage mentions that five of the UK’s remaining 14 nuclear reactors – also run by EDF – are currently offline.]

The Daily Telegraph has published an editorial under the heading: “What happens when the wind doesn’t blow? We need to mitigate against the downsides of renewable energy”. It says “there is some irony in the inadequacies of green power forcing a return of coal”. The outlet states that part of the concern is price, and concludes: The UK is progressively shutting down coal-fired plants, and future nuclear capacity is probably not going to be ready in time. At present, the country is reliant on gas to meet the shortfall, but global gas prices have risen sharply in recent months which again is likely to put pressure on household bills. In advance of the climate conference this year in Glasgow, all of the attention has been on the environmental benefits of the shift to renewable energy. But what is the plan for mitigating against the downsides?”

The Financial Times reports that the low wind generation and a “rally in natural gas to record heights” across Europe pushed electricity costs up to their highest levels on record on Monday. “Prices are rallying even though it’s still summer, when demand is usually low, setting the stage for a difficult winter”, Bloomberg reports. The outlet adds that Europe is facing a “gas crunch”, after winter this year left storage sites low. And a separate Bloomberg piece reports that Britain “is set for more sky-high power prices after surging to a record as supplies plunged, an early signal of what might come this winter”.

UK: Cumbria coal mine – local Tory MP drops support for controversial project ahead of COP26
The Independent Read Article

The Independent carries an”exclusive” stating that “on the eve of a public inquiry into a controversial new coal mine planned in Cumbria, an MP who was among other local Conservative MPs supporting the project is now calling on the government to drop it”. According to the newspaper, Dr Neil Hudson – MP for Penrith and the Border, a few miles east of the proposed site – has suggested that the government instead invest in Cumbria’s renewable energy sector. It adds: “In his submission, seen by the Independent, Dr Hudson urges the government to cancel the project and says the UK’s hosting of the COP26 climate summit in November, was ‘a real opportunity to set an example to the world if we do this’.” A public enquiry into the proposed deep coal mine will begin today, the newspaper notes, adding: “If given the green light, the new mine will extract up to 2.78m tonnes of coking coal a year until 2049. The coal will be used for the steel industry, with around 85% of it exported to other countries.”

BBC News reports that the “planning inspectorate” on the proposed deep coal mine will consider the application from West Cumbria Mining. It adds: “Supporters say it will bring jobs and reduce the need to import coal for the steel industry. Opponents claim it undermines the UK’s environmental and climate change promises.” The Guardian reports that as the public enquiry begins, there is “dwindling support” for what would be the UK’s first deep coal mine in 30 years. According to the newspaper, the inquiry is set to last for four weeks and two demonstrations are planned to coincide with its launch. It continues: “Those arguing against the scheme at the inquiry say the issue will cast a shadow over proceedings at the annual climate summit in two months’ time…Cumbria county council, which last October approved the mining proposals for a third time before reconsidering its decision in February, has now withdrawn support for the project altogether.” Meanwhile, New Scientist asks: “Will plans for new UK coal mine scupper net-zero ambitions at COP26?”

In other UK news, the Times reports that the government has refused to review its decision to approve a third runway at Heathrow airport. According to the newspaper, the decision “gives Heathrow the green light to proceed with the planning process for a new runway northwest of the airport”. It adds: “Boris Johnson is a longstanding opponent of a third runway and it was thought that any review of the policy would have scuppered the plans… Heathrow’s new runway is intended to boost its overall capacity by 50%, allowing it to handle up to 280,000 extra flights a year. It originally planned to open it by the middle of this decade but the time frame was blown off course by the court challenge, coupled with the pandemic.” Elsewhere, the Independent reports that a new “open-access” train operator called Lumo will begin offering cheap services between London Edinburgh starting from the end of October. Meanwhile, BusinessGreen reports that the UK’s first solar-powered “park and ride” will open this week in Leeds. And the Scotsman reports that environmentalists are accusing the Glasgow city council of “ ‘banking on the failure’ of international climate talks due to be held in the city, over its continued pension fund investments in fossil fuels.” Elsewhere, that Guardian carries a piece entitled: “Europe’s coal legacy – in pictures.”

Climate change: British envoy looks forward to China’s ‘enhanced’ 2030 emissions goal
South China Morning Post Read Article

The conversations between Alok Sharma, president-designate for COP26, and China’s climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, could be more “constructive” than Beijing’s exchange with John Kerry, US president Biden’s climate envoy, the South China Morning Post reports, citing experts. “Talking to Britain would be better compared to talking to the US,” Wang Yiwei, a professor in European studies with Renmin University, told the Hong Kong-based publication. He is also quoted saying: “China and Britain need to cooperate on climate change as well as on biodiversity. COP26 and COP15 [in Kunming next year] are related.” Meanwhile, Politico says: “While the US and Britain ramp up efforts to wrestle with China on climate change, the EU’s top climate envoy is largely missing in action.” An “EU official” told the outlet that one of the reasons for the lack of communication between Frans Timmermans, the EU’s executive vice president and climate commissioner, and Xie was that “Brussels is off in August”.

Separately, there are more reports about the talks between John Kerry with Chinese officials last week. The Washington Post says that Kerry told it “in a telephone interview from an airport in South Korea” that Chinese officials were finalising a “comprehensive” plan for curbing emissions in the country. But the publication reported that “Beijing pushed for the US to lift sanctions on solar panel makers in exchange for greater cooperation on climate change”, citing Kerry. However, CGTN, the English arm of China’s state broadcaster, runs a report with the headline: “China, US agree climate change cooperation is a window of opportunity to address bilateral tensions.“ The official news channel says that the two countries “say they’re ready to put those complex differences aside for the planet’s future”.

In other news, two components of the Eping hydropower station in the county of Zhuxi in China’s Hubei province was “washed away” by floodwaters while another part “collapsed and subsided” due to “heavy rainfall and flood discharge”, reports CCTV, the state broadcaster. The official channel said that 5,456 people from 1,555 households had been displaced during the “dangerous situation”. The Paper, a news website affiliated to state-run Shanghai United Media Group, reports that the deputy head of Hubei Province had instructed rescuers to increase their rescue efforts and speed last Wednesday. He Kebin, a professor at Tsinghua University, has said that “low-carbon energy transition will play a decisive role in the long-term improvement of China’s air quality”, reports the Science and Technology Daily in China. But Prof He added that China is facing “great challenges” to achieve carbon neutrality. National Business Daily has an interview with Qi Kang, a “main designer” of Shanghai’s carbon market. Elsewhere, Reuters reports that China’s coal prices have hit a record highs, on “tight supply worries”.

Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post runs another report featuring the “many energy-saving campaigns” China has run since President Xi made his climate pledges last September. And the South China Morning Post also runs a piece entitled ,“China’s climate goals are an opportunity for Hong Kong to develop as a regional carbon trading hub, says finance official”, noting that regulators in Hong Kong are due to finish a report in December on how to “develop the city as a carbon trading hub”.

US probing nearly 350 reports of oil spills in wake of Hurricane Ida
Reuters Read Article

The US Coastguard is conducting flyovers to investigate nearly 350 reported oil spills around the Gulf of Mexico, in the wake of Hurricane Ida, Reuters reports. According to the newswire, the hurricane “wreaked havoc on offshore oil production platforms and onshore oil and gas processing plants”. The New York Times notes that the spill was first reported on Friday and that divers have since discovered three damaged pipelines near a “substantial oil spill” in the region. It continues: “Late on Sunday, Talos Energy, the oil and gas producer that had been tasked with the cleanup, said that it did not own the three damaged pipelines. The coast guard had previously said the spill was thought to be coming from an old pipeline used by Talos, the former holder of offshore leases in the area. The Houston-based company had been conducting an intense cleanup involving a lift boat and other vessels.” It adds that according to Talos, the rate of oil reaching the surface of the water has “slowed dramatically” in the past 48 hours. Reuters reports that 88% of offshore oil production in the region is still closed. In a further piece, the newswire notes that “Gulf of Mexico offshore wells account for 17% of U.S. crude oil production and 5% of dry natural gas production”. And a further Reuters piece notes that electricity has now been restored to more than have of Entergy Corp customers who faced an outage after Hurricane Ida.

Meanwhile, DeSmog has published a piece showing images of the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. And Forbes reports that, even as the East coast of the US recovers from Hurricane Ida, “another powerful storm is moving across the Atlantic and towards the US as a Category 3 hurricane”. However, the outlet notes that, according to the National Hurricanes Centre, “a direct hit on the US is unlikely”.

Comment.

Small island nations won’t tolerate empty promises on climate change
Gaston Browne, Financial Times Read Article

The Financial Times carries an opinion piece by Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda and chair of the Alliance of Small Island States. Browne states that small island developing states (SIDS) “know too well the costs of the climate crisis in both lives and livelihoods”, adding that rising sea levels are “stoking hurricanes to greater degrees of destructive power, and changing the weather systems that bring us fresh water and fertile soil”. He says that COP26 “must be the summit where nations that grew prosperous burning fossil fuels make good on their commitments”, highlighting the $100bn per year promised by developed nations in 2009. “Countries at the biggest risk from climate change have the clearest motive to transition away from fossil fuels”, but “it costs significantly more for SIDS to cut our emissions than for wealthier nations”, he notes. As part of the solution to this problem, he says, “International financial institutions must make fair the long-term framework on public debt, de-risking investment in SIDS… The World Bank plans to align its activities with the Paris Agreement, but its financing — and that of other multilateral lenders — must flow according to mitigation and adaptation needs.” He concludes: “Small island states are looking to the world’s richest nations to deliver the transformative COP we all need. Considering the stakes, they should not expect us to be anything other than implacable in pursuing our demands.”

News Corp’s climate change shift is welcome
Editorial, The Sydney Morning Herald Read Article

Sydney Morning Herald has published an editorial praising News Corp Australia’s decision to “end its long-standing editorial hostility towards carbon-reduction policies and advocate for the world’s leading economies to hit net zero emissions by 2050”. The paper calls the change (reported over the weekend) “welcome”, but adds that the paper still “lags far behind a broader shift in the business community and among voters.” The outlet notes that “for more than a decade, News Corp has cast doubt over the science behind global warming and has attacked federal government efforts to reduce emissions” It continues: “From next month, the owner of newspapers the [Australian] Daily Telegraph and the Australian, and 24-hour news channel Sky News Australia, will promote the benefits of a carbon-neutral economy…the company will run a two-week campaign advocating for a carbon net zero target to be reached by 2050, which commentators now regard as a minimalist position…The decision to stop wasting time challenging the science makes pragmatic business sense for Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire in the face of growing international condemnation and pressure from advertisers over its editorial stance on climate change.”

Meanwhile, there is continuing news coverage of News Corp Australia’s editorial decision. A lengthy piece in the New York Times opens: “After years of casting doubt on climate change and attacking politicians who favoured corrective action, Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets in his native Australia are planning an editorial campaign next month advocating a carbon-neutral future”. However, the newspaper says that some critics have “warned that the effort could be little more than window dressing that leaves decades of damage intact”. And the i newspaper reports that the decision shows that Murdoch “has bowed to political and commercial pressure ”, calling the decision a “surprise about-turn”.

In other Australian news, Reuters covers a speech from the country’s resource minister, stating that coal will “be a major contributor to Australia’s economy well beyond 2030 given growth in global demand”. It continues: “Australia’s heavy reliance on coal-fired power makes it one of the world’s largest carbon emitters per capita, but its conservative government has steadfastly backed fossil fuel industries, saying tougher action on emissions would cost jobs.” Meanwhile, a separate Reuters piece states that Australia’s IMF investors have committed to ending its exposure to thermal coal by 2030, due to “climate change risks”. Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that “the New South Wales government has set a target of zero extinctions of native wildlife in the state’s national parks estate, the first time an Australian government has set the goal.” The Sydney Morning Herald also covers the story.

Boris Johnson's attempt to sideline Nicola Sturgeon from COP26 summit in Glasgow shows he's not serious about global warming
Angus Robertson, The Scotsman Read Article

Angus Robertson, a SNP member of the Scottish Parliament, has penned an opinion piece in the Scotsman criticising Boris Johnson for his “attempt to sideline” Nicola Sturgeon from COP26. According to Robertson, leaked UK government messages published in the Independent over the weekend “make clear the scale of the efforts that are being pursued to sideline the first minister at an event being held in her very own country”. He continues: “If ever there was a time for grown-up politics it is now. By concentrating on petty political considerations, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is actually undermining the COP26 environmental summit by turning it into a political football. Now is the time for all decision-makers to work together and be seen to work together. Future generations will not look back kindly at politicians who put party interest ahead of public good.”

Meanwhile Scotland’s policy chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses, Andrew McRae, has penned an opinion piece in the Scottish Times, stating: “When the first minister outlines her government’s programme today she must make sure the proposals are squarely aimed at simultaneously tackling both global crises [of covid and climate change].”

Science.

Coral adaptation to climate change: Meta‐analysis reveals high heritability across multiple traits
Global Change Biology Read Article

New research suggests that corals “may have a greater potential to adapt to climate change than has been assumed in recent evolutionary models”. In a meta-analysis, the researchers consider 95 estimates of “heritability” within 19 species of reef-building corals. They find that metrics related to survival and immune responses tend to have “high heritability” and are thus likely to be passed on to subsequent generations. However, the authors note that “explicit tests of the heritability of thermal tolerance itself – such as coral thermal reaction norm shape – are lacking”.

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