Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Greta Thunberg hits out at governments for avoiding ambitious climate action
- European Green Deal will change economy to solve climate crisis, says EU
- Saudi Aramco becomes most valuable listed company in history
- Oil, gas & gold: the investors funding the election campaigns
- Attributing ocean acidification to major carbon producers
Coverage of the COP25 climate talks in Madrid continues with many reporting on a speech to delegates by 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg, where she criticised governments for avoiding taking action to cut greenhouse gas emissions. According to Press Association, she said: “Our leaders are not behaving as if we are in an emergency.“ Sky News reports that Thunberg also accused world leaders and business chiefs of using “clever accounting and creative PR” to make it look like they are taking firm action in the fight against climate change. According to Sky News, she added: “The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening when in fact almost nothing is being done.” An analysis of Thunberg’s speech by BBC News science editor David Shukman describes her words as “grounded in research”. Shukman adds: “Her talk came over as measured, grounded in the latest research, and avoided the flash of hurt and anger she displayed in New York in September. Looking around the hall, it was striking how many of the national delegations had not turned up for this morning session at the conference.” Many publications also report that Thunberg has been named Time’s Person of the Year. In a comment piece, Time magazine editor Edward Felsenthal explains the decision to make Thunberg the youngest ever recipient of the award. He says: “For sounding the alarm about humanity’s predatory relationship with the only home we have, for bringing to a fragmented world a voice that transcends backgrounds and borders, for showing us all what it might look like when a new generation leads, Greta Thunberg is TIME’s 2019 Person of the Year.” The magazine also carries a second article explaining the story behind its cover featuring Thunberg. The news of her appointment appears in many titles including the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph and Reuters.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports on comments by UN chief António Guterres, who warned that without tougher climate action we are “all doomed”. In an interview with the newswire, he said: “We need to have the big emitters understanding that their role is essential, because if the big emitters fail, everything will fail.” Reuters reports him adding: “If we just go on as we are, we are doomed.” Reuters adds that major polluting countries such as China, India and the US – which is leaving the Paris Agreement – are not expected to make big new announcements at the summit. Climate Home News reports that, in the final days of the talks, the world is still waiting for “a concrete sign of countries’ readiness to boost climate action”. On Wednesday, COP25 president Carolina Schmidt announced that 73 small and developing countries had signalled their intention to enhance their climate plans, Climate Home News says. “Meanwhile China, India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia have made no indications of their willingness to enhance their ambition. Australia is on the record saying it will not change its goal,” the article says. (The Guardian reports on new analysis finding that Australia’s plan to use an “accounting loophole” to meet half its climate pledge has “no legal basis”.) EurActiv also reports on the silence from major economies at the conference.
The Financial Times reports that the talks are still at risk of stalling over the question of how to govern international carbon trading under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. This is the only remaining part of the Paris “rule book” that has not yet been finalised and “observers say there is a strong risk of no deal being reached – again – on the issue” after two weeks of talks, the FT says. Noting the disconnect between the talks and public clamour for action, it quotes Jennifer Morgan, executive director at Greenpeace International, saying: “It is concerning,…I have never seen the divide [so large] between what is happening inside these walls and what is happening on the outside.” Carbon Brief recently published an in-depth article on how Article 6 could “make or break” the Paris Agreement.
Elsewhere, the Japan Times reports that Japan’s environment minister Shinjiro Koizumi – who gave a rare Japanese press conference at COP25 yesterday – has defended the country’s continued use of coal, saying: “Of course I am aware of global criticism, including on our coal-related policies. A growing number of people in Japan, including myself, believe further climate actions must be taken.” Reuters reports that Koizumi also warned that “he had yet to win wider government buy-in for his hopes of weaning the country off fossil fuels”.
BBC News reports that campaigners and NGOs were removed from the talks after staging a staging a sit-in, blocking access to one of the negotiating halls. Protesters tell BBC News that they were forcibly removed from the conference centre and say they were “pushed, bullied and touched without consent”. DeSmog UK also covers the protests. [A joint statement released by observer organisations and the UN climate body UNFCCC this morning says that protestors will be allowed to reenter the talks for the duration of COP25, on condition there is no repeat of the disruption.]
BuzzFeed News has obtained a draft proposal which they say the US is circulating regarding the question of climate liability. According to BuzzFeed News, the proposal suggests ways to limit the power of the “Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage” – a way of addressing the loss and damage caused by climate change, particularly in developing nations.
Many publications report on the new “European Green Deal” announced by the European Commission yesterday. The deal, set out by Ursula von der Leyen, the new commission president, encompasses nearly every aspect of the European economy with a plan for transformative change to bring about tougher climate action in EU states, the Guardian reports. If enacted, it “would represent the biggest overhaul of policy since the foundation of the modern EU”, the Guardian adds. Reuters reports that the proposal, if agreed by member states, would commit the EU to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Von der Leyen described the new plan as “Europe’s man on the moon moment”, Reuters adds. The FT reports that the deal encompasses 50 policies to be rolled out over three years that would “revamp rules and regulations to meet ambitious climate goals”. As well setting a net-zero goal, the commission also wants to ramp up medium-term targets, cutting emissions by 50-55% in 2030, up from a current target of 40%, the FT says. Climate Home News summarises the key points from the new deal. Writing in the FT, professor of economics Marina Mazzucato says the deal could be “the most important in a generation”.
In a separate story, Reuters also reports that three eastern European countries have voiced opposition to the new proposal ahead of a meeting of EU heads of state today and tomorrow, where the net-zero target could be adopted. Poland, Hungary and Czechia have raised objections to the plans, Reuters says. The three countries blocked a previous EU attempt to introduce legal obligations to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century compared to 1990 levels, it adds. Meanwhile, the New York Times says the new plan could “sweeten the deal” for countries heavily reliant on coal. This is because, if approved, the proposal would pay nations that rely heavily on fossil fuels to change their ways, the NYT says. A separate story in the Guardian warns that the “EU’s soaring climate rhetoric is not always matched by action”. It says: “Progress has been made in stops and starts. The failure up to now of the 28 member states to commit to a goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, let alone anything more ambitious, highlights the danger of history repeating itself.”
Oil major Saudi Aramco has become the most valuable listed company in history, the Guardian reports, after “investor appetite for the world’s biggest fossil fuel producer pushed its market value to $1.9tn (£1.4tn) on its first day of trade”. It says the firm, listed on the Riyadh stock exchange, has “defied Aramco’s critics” after “more than 5 million investors…put aside concerns over the company’s close ties to a state associated with human rights abuses, and an uncertain future for the global oil industry”. The New York Times says despite the stock market surge, “questions loom” over the listing, with “many major investment funds from outside the region…largely on the sidelines”. It quotes an analyst with Bernstein saying: “Clearly this has turned out to be a political project rather than a purely financial project,” adding that “the valuation is out of sync” with other oil firms. Bloomberg says Aramco’s “true value is still an unsolved mystery”, pointing to Saudi Arabia’s decision to restrict the international offering of shares as not “bod[ing] well”. Forbes explains: “After lacklustre involvement from investors abroad, the IPO had to rely heavily on domestic and regional support.” A comment for the Guardian by Nils Pratley argues that the firm “looks plainly overvalued” and adds: “International investors doubting its true value are unlikely to be wowed by a stage-managed price inflation.”
As polls open today for the UK general election, Unearthed has published new analysis that it says shows “hundreds of thousands of pounds from wealthy investors in the global fossil fuels industry” going towards the Conservative Party campaign. It adds that the Liberal Democrats have taken a “significant donation from a subsidiary of a hedge fund that has a major stake in the energy firm being blamed for California’s deadly wildfires and another stake in a French oil services firm”. The analysis looked at donations of more than £50,000 during the first three weeks of the election campaign, Unearthed says, adding that Labour, the SNP and the Greens have not received any such large sums from companies or investment firms, though it notes that Labour is “heavily reliant on backing from trade unions”. In a comment for the Times Red Box, John Kampfner asks “whatever happened to the climate crisis” as an issue in the UK election, following the “abiding image” of a melting block of ice replacing Conservative prime minister Boris Johnson in a television debate on the subject. He says the issues has “figured only intermittently, even though opinion polls suggest that the environment has shot up the list of voters’ priorities”.
A new study attributes the acidification of the world’s oceans to emissions from the “88 largest industrial carbon producers”. Using an “energy balance carbon-cycle model”, the researchers estimate that the producers contributed around 55% and 51% to the decline in surface ocean pH over 1880-2015 and 1965-2015, respectively. The authors conclude: “Such analysis can inform societal consideration of carbon producer responsibility for current and near-term risks of further loss and damage to human communities dependent on marine ecosystems and fisheries vulnerable to ocean acidification.”
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