Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Green recovery can spur innovation, create jobs, and boost economy, argue senior MPs
- Greens surge in French local elections as Anne Hidalgo holds Paris
- Fracking trailblazer Chesapeake Energy becomes the biggest oil and gas bankruptcy of the pandemic
- We must build back greener after Covid-19
- A warning from inside the Arctic Circle
- Estimating Arctic temperature impacts from select European residential heating appliances and mitigation strategies
An influential group of MPs in the UK have sent a letter to the chancellor Rishi Sunak urging him, reports BusinessGreen, to use the forthcoming Covid-19 recovery package to boost low-carbon industries. The chairs of the business, energy and industrial strategy committee and the environmental audit committee have warned Sunak that infrastructure and investment decisions made in the coming months will be “critical” to building the UK’s resilience to climate change. BusinessGreen adds: “The committee chairs Darren Jones and Philip Dunne argued that a net-zero-aligned economy recovery could establish the UK as a climate leader ahead of its presidency of the G7 and COP26 climate conference in 2021, while stimulating the economy, generating jobs, and improving public health and wellbeing.” BusinessGreen also carries a comment piece by Philip Dunne in which he says: “The decisions made during this parliament on infrastructure and investment will be critical in determining whether we lead the world in forging an innovative net-zero economy. That is why my committee has today announced a new inquiry focused on greening the economic recovery.” The Financial Times says the MPs are urging the prime minister “to fulfil his manifesto promise to spend £9bn on a huge household insulation programme as his chief adviser tries to shift the spending on to other priorities”. The FT adds: “The policy has been snarled up in a Whitehall turf war after Downing Street chief adviser Dominic Cummings sought to water down the policy. Mr Cummings has privately argued that the cash should be spent on building homes instead — with insulation a priority for later on.” The Guardian also covers the MPs’ letter.
Meanwhile, BBC News covers a new report by the Green Alliance thinktank, which says an extra £14bn is needed each year to help the UK meet its climate commitments. BBC News adds: “Green Alliance says the cash is needed for clean transport, nature restoration, and low-carbon buildings. Over the past three years, it says that £9bn has been spent on projects that actually increase CO2, like roads. It comes as large UK firms make a promise to ‘kick-start a new approach’ and ‘put the environment first’. The Green Alliance thinktank insists though that the funding issue must be solved in the prime minister’s economic recovery speech expected on Tuesday.” The Times notes that Green Alliance recommends that “billions of pounds allocated for roads should be redirected to upgrading broadband coverage across the country and other measures to promote a greener economy”. The Financial Times’ Whitehall correspondent Sebastian Payne tweeted over the weekend comments made in a speech by senior cabinet minister Michael Gove, who argued: “Why shouldn’t some of the policymakers intimately involved in reshaping our approach to energy and the decarbonisation of our economy be in Teesside, Humberside and Aberdeen?” (The full speech says: “We need a just transition to a lower carbon world.”)
In other UK news, both the Times and the Daily Telegraph report that the government has agreed up to $1bn (£810m) in financing for a gas pipeline in Mozambique, despite concerns over its environmental impact. The Telegraph says: “The loan guarantee is one of the biggest single fossil fuel investments made by the export credit agency UK Export Finance.” Climate Home News reports that the government has promised to uphold its commitment to climate finance, despite planning to merge the international development and foreign affairs ministries: “A spokesperson told Climate Home News the government remains committed to a pledge made last year to double its contribution to international climate finance to £11.6bn between 2021 and 2026.”
The Guardian carries the views of climate scientist Prof Kevin Anderson who has criticised the Committee on Climate Change – which published its annual progress report last week, as covered by Carbon Brief – for its “framing” of the need for net-zero emissions: “The constructive, meticulous criticism of the government, which is failing abysmally by any measure, is fine. The problem is the framing the CCC has for net-zero is already far removed from what is needed to meet our Paris commitments.” The Independent reports that Keir Starmer’s Labour party “could drop the ambitious 2030 climate crisis target it adopted under Jeremy Corbyn”. The online newspaper added: “A spokesperson for Keir Starmer said that he had supported the plans included in Labour’s last manifesto, but that the party had lost the election. The Green New Deal policy adopted under the previous leadership included the aim of a path to net-zero carbon by the year 2030, based largely on massive public investment in green technology. The suggestion that the commitment could be dropped has prompted an outcry from MPs on the left of the party and concern among activists.”
Finally, the Times reports on its front page today that “internet shoppers could be hit by a compulsory delivery charge as part of a campaign to cut congestion and toxic emissions”. The newspapers adds that “the government is considering a range of measures to reduce the damaging impact of the e-commerce boom, which has led to a rise in delivery vans on British roads”. The Financial Times has a feature on how “in the Welsh and Scottish mountains, a small number of hydro power stations, some of them more than half a century old, have become a first line of defence in the battle to keep electricity flowing around Britain during the coronavirus crisis”. And the Guardian reports on how “hydrogen fuel bubbles up the agenda as investments rocket”.
Many outlets cover recent election results across Europe. The Guardian says that “France was swept by a green wave on Sunday as ecology candidates won a number of major victories in the country’s local elections”. It adds: “In Paris, the current mayor and favourite, Anne Hidalgo – who has been engaged in a bitter three-way battle – emerged with a large majority, polling just under half the votes cast in the capital. Hidalgo, a Socialist, who is supported by EELV [Europe Écologie Les Verts – a green centre-left party] and the Communists, made tackling climate change and pollution the key element of her election programme.” Reuters says that “France president Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party received a drubbing on Sunday in municipal elections, as the Greens celebrated victories in several big cities after a surge in support”.
In Ireland, there has been continuing coverage of the news that a new government has been agreed. Politico says “Greens [have] clear[ed the] way for Micheál Martin to become Irish prime minister”. It adds: “Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will get six Cabinet posts each, the Greens three as part of a program for government that took four months to negotiate following February’s election. It includes some, but hardly all, of the Greens’ demands to accelerate the achievement of carbon-cutting goals and promotion of cycling over cars.” BBC News says that Green Party leader Eamon Ryan is now the “minister for transport, energy and climate action”. Meanwhile, the Guardian covers the Polish presidential election where “incumbent Andrzej Duda won the most votes…but fell short of the 50% he would need to win without a second round of voting, according to results recorded so far…The results suggest Duda and [liberal Rafal] Trzaskowski will go head to head in a second round a fortnight from now, on 12 July, in a vote that will determine Poland’s political future.” And a feature in the Observer warns about how “farmers associations and environmental groups in Germany are increasingly warning of a new strategy pursued with increasing transparency by the country’s new right: to use the enduring popularity of organic lifestyles and a burgeoning green movement as a step into the mainstream”.
Many publications in the US cover the news that fracking giant Chesapeake Energy has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. CNN says “Chesapeake was once the nation’s No. 2 natural gas producer, thanks to early bets on fracking… But more recently, bankruptcy rumours had swirled around Chesapeake as the company grappled with depressed energy prices, a poorly timed push into oil and a mountain of debt”. CNN adds: “The coronavirus crisis exacerbated those challenges. Despite a recent recovery to $40 a barrel, the price of oil has fallen sharply this year because of excess supply and a sharp drop in demand caused by worldwide stay-at-home orders.” The Financial Times says the news will “send shockwaves through a sector enduring its worst crash in decades”. It continues: “Analysts said the company’s Chapter 11 filing was likely to open the floodgates for others in a shale patch that was already weakening this year even before the worst oil price crash in decades hit the sector.” It quotes Andrew Gillick, a director at consultancy RS Energy Group: “The sector is not dead, and the US will benefit for years to come from the low-cost resource that Chesapeake helped find. But the excitement around shale has officially died today with the Chesapeake filing.” The Guardian looks at the history of the high-profile fracking company. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that “shale fracking crews, mired in a glut of idled equipment, are putting some of their pumps back to work as oil prices rebound”.
Writing in the FT, former Downing Street advisor Camilla Cavendish says: “Until now, environmentalism has tended to wane when economies turn down. But as the world endures its second hottest spring on record it seems the pandemic may be wreaking lasting changes in public attitudes.” She continues: “The pandemic has upended assumptions and accelerated timescales. Environmentalists had expected the next round of UN climate talks, which were scheduled for November, to mark the next stage of progress; but the moment has already arrived. The recovery from Covid-19 offers a unique opportunity, precisely because the economic havoc wreaked by the virus has turned western states into all-powerful Leviathans. Like it or not, Treasury secretaries of nation states will control the commanding heights of their economies for a while to come. Some have already linked their bailouts to green goals…The world is witnessing the unusual situation of companies urging faster action from governments in shaping the market.”
Meanwhile, in the Independent, Green party MP Caroline Lucas says “as many have acknowledged, this is a pivotal moment where we can address two global crises – coronavirus and the climate emergency, which may have disappeared from the front pages but has not gone away”. She adds: “If we are to transform our society and our economy in the way that’s needed to protect and restore nature and our climate while improving people’s lives and life chances, people need to know they are being heard and that they have a stake in the future of this country. More than that, addressing the challenges we face needs all of us. That is why the Reset inquiry from the parliamentary group on the Green New Deal that I co-chair with the Labour MP Clive Lewis, isn’t just about producing proposals on how to re-emerge from coronavirus in a way that’s fairer, greener and more sustainable. It is about a whole new approach to change that treats citizens as partners in the process.” In his Daily Mail column, broadcaster John Humphrys ponders whether the lockdown has “finally driven away petrolhead fever”. He continues: “Vast numbers of us have discovered that we don’t need a car to go to work for the very obvious reason that we can perfectly well work from home…This is something that’s not going to go away. That’s why I have been feeling largely optimistic during these months of lockdown. Is it possible that we may – just may – be approaching the end of our love affair with the motor car? At the very least, there is a sense that the days of cars being status symbols are ending…There’s the Greta Thunberg factor, too. One of the many great things about the next generation is that so many really do care about the environment. One poll after another shows that top of their list of big worries is global warming. And cars spew an awful lot of greenhouse gases into the skies…There is only one solution to the car crisis. Use them less. And that’s why these past months of lockdown have been so instructive.” Finally, in his own Daily Mail column, climate sceptic Dominic Lawson tries to argue that because a new study shows that “Adélie penguins are loving the climate” this means that “we be forgiven for driving cars now”.
An editorial in the Financial Times argues that Siberia’s heatwave highlights the need for radical action on climate: “What happens in Siberia matters to the rest of the world; the temperatures, together with above-average heat elsewhere, ensured that May 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest May on record. There is an additional, alarming, effect from the Siberian heatwave: the thawing of the permafrost releases large amounts of CO2 and methane into the atmosphere, promising to accelerate global warming…Policymakers should not ignore the warnings, or the opportunity. Decisions made today will determine not just the future of Siberia but that of the rest of the planet.” The New Yorker carries a feature by Carolyn Kormann in which she also uses the extreme Arctic heat to look at Vladimir Putin’s policies which will have “dire global implications”. She says: “The Kremlin continues to incentivise increased oil and gas development in eastern Siberia and the Arctic, which will lead to more greenhouse-gas emissions, which will continue speeding up the permafrost thaw.” (Carbon Brief has an explainer on the weather patterns affecting Siberia and a Twitter thread on the record-breaking temperatures.)
Soot emissions from wood-burning stoves in Europe have a small but detectable impact on Arctic warming, a new study finds. Wood-burning stoves are a “key source of black carbon and other short‐lived climate forcer emissions in Arctic and other high latitude regions”, the authors say. They add: “If each country converted its appliance fleet to the technologically advanced pellet stoves and boilers, the combined black carbon, organic carbon, and sulphate emissions from heating appliances could be reduced by 94% and the Arctic temperature response reduced by 85%.”
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