Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Greta Thunberg: Climate change 'as urgent' as coronavirus
- EDF explores plans for new nuclear reactor in Cumbria
- Hottest Arctic temperature record likely set in Siberian town
- After BP takes a hit, investors widen climate change campaign
- Britain still failing on climate crisis, warn advisers
- India eyes private investment to open 41 new coal mines
- Climate crisis threatens future of global sport, says report
- Coronavirus could be a dress rehearsal for climate change
- The Huawei of green energy: How China's Goldwind is taking over the turbine world
- Projected future changes in tropical cyclones using the CMIP6 HighResMIP multi‐model ensemble
BBC News has an exclusive in-depth interview with teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg in which she says the world needs to learn the lessons of coronavirus and treat climate change with similar urgency. Speaking to the Justin Rowlatt, BBC News’s chief environment correspondent, Thunberg says that she does not think that a “green recovery plan” will solve the crisis alone. But she adds that she thinks the world is now passing a “social tipping point” on climate change, as well as issues such as Black Lives Matter. The BBC News report about the interview continues: “She says the only way to reduce emissions on the scale that is necessary is to make fundamental changes to our lifestyles, starting in developed countries. But she doesn’t believe any leaders have the nerve to do that. Instead, she says, they ‘simply refrain from reporting the emissions, or move them somewhere else’. She claims the UK, Sweden and other countries do this by failing to account for the emissions from ships and aircraft and by choosing not to count the emissions from goods produced in factories abroad. As a result, she says in her [new Swedish] radio programme, the whole language of debate has been degraded: “Words like green, sustainable, ‘net-zero’, ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘organic’, ‘climate-neutral’ and ‘fossil-free’ are today so misused and watered down that they have pretty much lost all their meaning. They can imply everything from deforestation to aviation, meat and car industries.” A short video of the interview has been published on the BBC website and BBC Sounds has the audio, too (although it appears to be offline at the moment).
Today’s Daily Telegraph reports that French state-owned utility EDF is “exploring plans to help develop a new nuclear reactor in Cumbria”, adding that the firm has “met with local officials keen to revive the area’s nuclear industry after Toshiba ditched plans to build a reactor in Moorside in late 2018”. The Telegraph continues: “It is believed EDF’s interest in the area would be as part of a consortium rather than as lead developer. Rolls-Royce is also interested in developing small modular reactors there…Any involvement of EDF in a Cumbria project would mark a widening of its considerable involvement in UK nuclear. It is building Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset and wants to construct a replica in Suffolk, Sizewell C, both alongside its Chinese partner China General Nuclear. It will then help CGN build its own project, Bradwell B, in Essex. Those projects were thrown into doubt earlier this month after China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, appeared to suggest that China could pull out of the project in retaliation if the Government kicks Huawei out of Britain’s 5G networks.”
Meanwhile, the Mail on Sunday reports that “Boris Johnson is facing a backbench rebellion after blocking a tidal power scheme while sanctioning Chinese involvement in the UK’s nuclear power programme”. It adds: “A group of 25 Tory MPs, led by former Ministers Paul Maynard and Iain Duncan Smith, are lobbying business secretary Alok Sharma to override officials who are preventing a proposed £1.3bn tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay from going ahead. Mr Duncan Smith said the green energy plan was the sort of ‘shovel ready’ project which could boost the economy in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic. Work could begin within months on the lagoon, which would provide enough power for 155,000 homes.”
The i newspaper and Independent cover comments made by energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng to BBC’s North West Tonight programme in which he said that “fracking is over”. He said: “We had a moratorium on fracking last year, and frankly the debate has moved on. It’s not something that we are looking to do. We have always said that we would be evidence-backed, so if there was a time when the scientific evidence changed our mind we would be open to that. But for now, fracking is over.”
Meanwhile, the Times reports that “government-backed research” by the Advanced Propulsion Centre has concluded that the “switch to electric vehicles could deliver a £24bn boost to the [UK] economy over the next five years”. And the Daily Telegraph says that “National Grid is gearing up for a battle with President Trump’s administration over vehicle emissions rules that give a boost to petrol cars over electric ones” It adds: “The FTSE 100 company is among several large utilities challenging new rules that weaken emissions standards set by the Obama administration and remove the ability of California and other states to set their own emissions rules. National Grid runs Britain’s main gas and power grids but about half of its business is in the US, where it runs networks stretching across New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.”
Several outlets report that a northeastern Siberian town is likely to have set a new record, dating back to 1885, for the highest temperature documented in the Arctic Circle. Verkhoyansk, which is about 3,000 miles east of Moscow, experienced 38C (100.4 Fahrenheit) on Saturday, reports the Washington Post, which adds: “If verified, this would be the northernmost 100-degree reading ever observed, and the highest temperature on record in the Arctic, a region that is warming at more than twice the rate of the rest of the globe. On Sunday, the same location recorded a high temperature of 95.3 degrees (35.2C), showing the Saturday reading was not an anomaly. The average June high temperature in Verkhoyansk is just 68 degrees (20C).” Vox says that “temperatures have jumped in recent months to levels rarely seen in the Russian region, and it’s a sign of a broader trend of human-caused climate change that’s transforming weather patterns in the Arctic Circle”.
Meanwhile, AFP, via the Guardian, reports that the Presena glacier in Italy has been covered again with a “vast tarpaulin” to “protect it from global warming”. And in the UK, the Sun reports that this week “Britain is set to be hotter than the Bahamas as a 700 mile-wide ‘Midsummer melt’ brings temperatures of 32C”.
In an “exclusive”, Reuters says that “investors managing £1.8tn in assets are widening a campaign pressing oil majors to better reflect climate risks in their accounting and will soon target other businesses with heavy fossil fuel exposure”. The newswire quotes Natasha Landell-Mills, head of stewardship at asset manager Sarasin & Partners, who says that investors believe their campaign is working, noting the “hugely important” news last week of BP joining other oil majors in lowering the value of its assets amid a global transition to cleaner energy. Reuters quotes a statement by the group, which is led by Sarasin & Partners: “The question all company directors and their shareholders now need urgently answered is, ‘Where else might company positions be overstated?’”
The Financial Times carries a comment piece by its UK equities reporter and Alphaville contributor Bryce Elder who says: “There is much to applaud about BP’s green ambitions. It appears, however, that while the vast majority of group earnings will continue to come from upstream oil, the attention of investors and management will be concentrated in renewables, where the company has little experience and few competitive advantages. And, as the 2000 rebranding exercise shows, dirty realities have a tendency to follow grand ambitions. Until it is made clear how BP intends to outrun its past this time, investors may want to sit this one out.” The Independent’s economics editor Ben Chu says “fossil fuel giants make historic decision to write-down assets – but trillions still to go”.
Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that “environmental and shareholder groups have criticised a new climate plan launched by Australia’s mining industry for failing to set hard targets on reducing emissions and the use of thermal coal”. In another article, the Financial Times reports that “US shale companies could be forced to write down at least $300bn of their assets in the second quarter, as operators begin to account for the oil-price collapse on their balance sheets”.
The Observer previews the annual “progress” report set to be published later this week by the UK government’s climate advisory body. The newspaper says “ministers are bracing themselves for a powerful new rebuke” from the Committee on Climate Change “over the nation’s inadequate response to the climate crisis”. The report is expected to, says the Observer, “lambast continuing failures by the government to tackle the issues of overheating homes, flash floods, loss of biodiversity and the other threats posed as our planet continues to overheat dangerously”. It adds that “the committee will highlight the fact that virtually no progress has been made over the past year to tackle the misery that will be brought by climate change…it will recommend: Enforcing strict environmental conditions to any corporate bailouts made during the pandemic crisis, in line with standards imposed in France, Germany and Canada; Making major improvements in broadband provision and cycling routes to ensure the nation avoids a surge in car use as people return to work while trying to avoid using buses and trains; Consideration of a new tax on fossil fuels; Introducing new policies on energy efficiency in buildings, planting more trees, and protecting peatland.”
Meanwhile, the Connexion reports that French climate assembly, which published its conclusions yesterday, has “rejected proposals to make the working week 28 hours, but has said it wants to see ‘ecocide’ recognised as a crime”.
Climate Home News reports that Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has launched the auction of 41 coal mining blocks to private companies “in a major shake-up to the sector which is dominated by state-controlled Coal India”. The move, which aims to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, “threatens valuable forests and indigenous land rights, while expanding a polluting and financially challenged industry”. India’s Business Standard says that Modi wants his nation to be “the world’s largest exporter of coal”. The Times of India reports the reaction of Jairam Ramesh, who chairs the parliamentary standing committee on environment and forests, who says coal mining in “very dense forest areas” would be “triple disaster” (“heavy environmental cost, loss of carbon sink and public health crisis”) from an environmental point of view. The Hindu stresses that “India has committed to ensuring that fossil fuels contribute no more than 60% of its energy production by 2030 as per the 2015 Paris Agreement”.
Meanwhile, Mongabay reports that “Asian Development Bank has granted Indonesian power developer PT Geo Dipa Energi a $300m loan to expand two geothermal plants in Java…but the plants will be supplying the Java-Bali grid that is already 40% overcapacity, thanks to a glut of cheap power from coal-fired power plants”.
A new report by the Rapid Transition Alliance has found that, according to the Guardian, the “rapidly accelerating climate crisis threatens the future of major sports events around the world”. The newspaper continues: “The study found that in the coming years nearly all sports – from cricket to American football, tennis to athletics, surfing to golf – will face serious disruption from heatwaves, fires, floods and rising sea levels. It also estimated that globally, sports’ own carbon emissions are equal to that of a medium-sized country, adding that sport administrators and stars had an important role to play in global efforts to tackle climate breakdown.” BBC News also covers the report, quoting the report’s co-author Andrew Simms: “A first step would be to bring an end to sponsorship from fossil fuel companies and products promoting fossil fuel intensive lifestyles.”
In a comment article for the Times Red Box, the Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Layla Moran says she is “championing the environment as a key pillar of my vision for Britain and have set the ambitious target of the UK becoming the second carbon negative, not neutral, country in the world”. She continues: “This means that as a nation we are removing more carbon than it emits each year. Bhutan is the first nation to do this. It won’t be easy for us to become carbon negative but we believe it’s the right goal and with the right commitment, it’s an achievable goal…My plan offers grants of up to £6,000 to encourage drivers to buy electric cars, as part of a green bailout of the UK’s automotive industry to counter the impact of Covid-19. This could, for the first time, create a market-led solution to boost the green revolution that we need to tackle the climate emergency.”
In a feature for the Sunday Telegraph, business journalist Ed Clowes looks at Goldwind, which he describes as the “Huawei of green energy”. He continues: “Goldwind is one of Xinjiang’s most famous exports. By most estimates, it is either the largest, or the second largest, maker of wind turbines in the world. The company has wind turbines on virtually every continent on earth, and dominates the domestic market in China. Still headquartered in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, Goldwind has, for three decades, embarked on an inexorable march towards global dominance that matches any of China’s more famous exports. Yet the renewables titan has so far avoided the same level of international scrutiny as the likes of Huawei or the China National Nuclear Corporation, despite having its own troubling past. Goldwind is publicly listed in both Hong Kong and Shenzen, where the vast majority of the group’s largest shareholders are companies owned and controlled by the Chinese Communist Party… To the surprise of some in Westminster and Washington, the company has yet to attract the kind of scrutiny that other Chinese companies have faced, despite the campaign of “ethnocide” under way in Xinjiang…Experts say Goldwind may have managed to avoid examination by the authorities in Europe and the US simply in part because of widespread enthusiasm for wind power.”
Tropical cyclone activity could decrease in the South Indian Ocean by 2050, while changes in other ocean basins are more uncertain, according to a new study making use of high resolution models. The research uses new state-of-the-art climate models (CMIP6) and finds there are overall improvements in their ability to simulate the frequency, intensity and distribution of tropical cyclones when compared to previous models. The research also suggests there could be a “slight increase” in tropical cyclone wind speeds by 2050, the authors say.
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