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TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- ‘Grotesque greed’: immoral fossil fuel profits must be taxed, says UN chief
- India’s updated climate pledge to Paris Agreement gets Union Cabinet nod
- At least 24 people dead as flash flooding hits eastern Uganda
- Excess deaths surged as heatwave hits Europe
- Driest July in memory imperils Europe’s crops
- China warns that its temperatures are rising faster than global average
- Germany's Scholz says nuclear extension 'could make sense'
- Great Barrier Reef sees record coral cover, but it is highly vulnerable
- Australia: Labor’s climate change bill passes lower house
- Former US Treasury secretaries back drugs, climate, tax bill
- UK: Rishi Sunak accused of ‘policy flip-flop’ after U-turn on onshore wind
- UK: Companies face 500% rise in energy bills
- I was on the board at BT and Barclays – the conservatives must take climate change seriously
- Posts mislead on German weather map colours, climate change
- Causality and the fate of climate litigation: The role of the social superstructure narrative
- Global and regional climate in 2021
UN secretary general António Guterres has called the record profits of oil and gas companies “immoral” and called on governments to introduce windfall taxes to support those most in need, the Guardian reports. It quotes him criticising the “grotesque greed” of fossil fuel companies and saying: “It is immoral for oil and gas companies to be making record profits from this energy crisis on the backs of the poorest people and communities, at a massive cost to the climate…I urge all governments to tax these excessive profits, and use the funds to support the most vulnerable people through these difficult times.” The Guardian carries a video of Guterres making the comments. Reuters also reports his speech, in an article noting that Exxon, Chevron, Shell and Total racked up combined profits of nearly $51bn in the most recent quarter “almost double what the group brought in for the year-ago period”. It adds: “Guterres said Russia’s war in Ukraine and the climate breakdown was stoking a global food, energy and finance crisis.” The Daily Telegraph, Al Jazeera and CNBC are among the outlets carrying the story.
Reuters reports: “The west’s energy giants are set to return a record $30bn to investors after reporting bumper profits in the second quarter of the year following a surge in energy prices.” It adds: “But the top five western oil and gas companies have shied away from investing more of their combined record profits of nearly $60bn in new production as they weigh the impact of recession and climate change on future fossil fuel demand.” Separately, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged European governments to pass on rising energy costs to consumers to encourage “energy saving” and a shift towards greener power while protecting poorer households, the Financial Times reports.
In related comment, Canadian researcher Tzeporah Berman has a piece in the Guardian titled: “Big oil is wringing humanity dry. We need a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty.”
On Wednesday, India’s union cabinet approved its “updated climate pledge”, with a press statement confirming and clarifying “three of five targets” announced by prime minister Narendra Modi at the COP26 UN climate talks in Glasgow last year have now been approved, Down to Earth reports. According to the statement on the country’s updated pledge – yet to be made public and expected to be submitted soon to the UN – “India now stands committed to reducing [the] emissions intensity of its GDP by 45% by 2030 from its 2005 levels”. The country is also aiming for a target of “50% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030”. This, the story points out is “a notable change from Modi’s COP26 declaration”, since non-fossil sources “include large hydropower and not just renewable energy sources”. According to the Centre of Science and Environment’s (CSE) Sunita Narain, quoted by Down to Earth, the new target “represents important action”, but “it is disappointing” compared to what “India had said in Glasgow”. Narain added that “to make this a truly ambitious goal, [India] must go beyond installed capacity and account for 50% of generation as well”, conditional on international finance.
The environment ministry’s statement “did not specify if India will have an overall target of achieving net-zero emissions by a certain year”, Hindustan Times reports, while claiming the updated pledge “demonstrates India’s commitment at the highest level to decoupling economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions”. While the plan does not commit to sectoral emission reductions, the government highlighted policies that are expected to support the goal, Climate Home News reports. Prof Navroz Dubash – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change coordinating lead author – tells the outlet India’s 2030 climate goal was a “substantial pledge” and “likely to be achievable”, but the Indian government’s decision to not commit a clean energy generation pledge was a “missed opportunity” to cut back on coal, which “would have been a game-changer, because it would have required active management of thermal versus renewable energy power”.
Meanwhile, The Telegraph India reports that India’s power minister RK Singh introduced the “Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill 2022” in the upper house of its parliament. The bill “provides for the creation of a carbon credits trading regime”, allowing “the central government, or any agency authorised by it” to issue carbon credit certificates. The government states that the need for the amendments arose “to promote renewable energy and develop a domestic carbon market to battle climate change”, the publication explains. Mint, which first reported on the carbon-market plan last month, added that the bill proposes to “bring large residential buildings within the ambit of energy conservation regime”, while also “prescrib[ing] minimum consumption of non-fossil energy sources as energy or feedstock by consumers”. Bloomberg reported yesterday that India’s carbon trading platform is likely to be announced by Modi at the Independence Day celebrations on 15 August.
Flash flooding has killed “at least 24 people” and displaced “more than 5,600” in eastern Uganda, reports the Guardian global development. It says two rivers “burst their banks after heavy rainfall swept through the city of Mbale over the weekend”. The publication quotes Edward Simiyu of NGO Mercy Corps Uganda saying: “We believe that this is being fuelled by climate change because we’ve had heavy rains before but not to this scale.” The Independent also has the story. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that floods in Gambia have “affect[ed] thousands” and caused “at least two deaths” after the “heaviest rainfall in decades”. It quotes Sanna Dahaba, the executive director of the National Disaster Management Agency saying: “It is the worst flooding I have ever seen in the Gambia…This is attributed to climate change, there’s no doubt about that.” Reuters reports that thousands have been ordered to evacuate their homes in Japan “after torrential rains pounded the area, flooding roads and causing rivers to burst their banks in some regions”.
Separate Reuters coverage from the US says: “As waters recede, Kentucky begins recovery from devastating floods.” It says severe floods in the state killed “at least 37 people”. NPR carries a feature titled: “How climate change drives inland floods.” It says: “Climate change means more flood risk across the US. That includes places far from the ocean and sometimes far from rivers and streams, but where rain storms can still cause dangerous flash floods.”
There were “thousands” of additional deaths during last month’s “brutal” heatwaves in European countries, reports Politico, citing its own analysis of “preliminary data” published by several national statistics offices. It says there were more than 3,000 excess deaths in the week of 18 July in Germany, excluding those attributed to Covid-19. The publication adds: “There’s no question extreme heat is deadly, but counting the victims is difficult. Excess mortality doesn’t represent an exact heatwave death toll, an experts warn that it takes detailed analysis – over months or years – to determine how many people died.” This is illustrated by reports that there were more than 5,000 excess deaths over two weeks in Spain and nearly 900 in Portugal, whereas official figures for those countries on heat-related deaths were 1,682 and more than 1,000, respectively, the outlet reports. It says there were more than 500 excess deaths in the Netherlands and more than 1,0000 in the UK during their hottest weeks in July. In the UK, the i newspaper looks at a different metric – the increase in excess deaths during the week of the heatwave, relative to the previous week. It says this amounted to an extra 567 deaths in England and Wales and adds: “While officials have not confirmed that the spike in deaths was a result of the extreme heat, an analysis of heatwave deaths is to be published in September.” The paper says there were 1,566 heat-related deaths during the week of the UK’s previous record, when 38C was set in 2019, citing the Office for National Statistics.
Meanwhile, the Independent reports that France is “contend[ing] with its third heatwave of the year”. The Times says state owned utility firm EDF is reducing output at some of its French nuclear plants “because the heatwave has meant rising river temperatures limit its ability to use water to cool the plants”. It adds: “The company told the Times that it was lowering production for a few hours at a time and that no nuclear plants would be shut. But the reductions were putting further pressure on power prices, which are already at record levels in France.” MailOnline and the Independent report on new animated maps released by Nasa, illustrating the extreme heat that put 150 million Americans under heat warnings during July. Reuters reports: “Giant sequoias survived a California wildfire. Next time, they may not be so lucky.”
Finally, Reuters reports that temperatures during India’s monsoon season have risen this century and more frequent heatwaves are expected, citing a government statement. It adds that heat-related deaths have fallen in recent years. The newswire says: “India suffered its hottest March in more than a century this year and temperatures were unusually high in April and May too, mainly blamed on climate change. The government says heatwaves are common mainly between April and June.” In related comment, a piece in the Financial Times is titled: “Ever more erratic monsoons take their toll in India”.
“Fears are growing that extreme drought driven by climate change in [Europe’s] breadbasket nations will dent stable crop yields and deepen the cost-of-living crisis,” reports EurActiv with AFP. It says the European Commission has “urged EU member states to re-use treated urban wastewater as irrigation…after France and parts of England saw their driest July on record”. Reuters reports that the Dutch government has “declare[d] water shortage due to drought”. It adds that the conditions are hampering water traffic on the country’s rivers: “At the moment, barges on the lower Rhine – an important route for transporting coal from Rotterdam inland to German steelmakers and power producers – are operating at less than half capacity.” Another Reuters article says the cost of shipping goods on the Rhine is rising and vessels are operating at only 25% capacity, with water levels on the river in Germany falling “again”. Bloomberg says Uniper, the owner of a “key coal-fired plant in Germany”, has “warned of ‘irregular operation’” due to difficulties getting fuel deliveries up the Rhine. Further Reuters coverage reports that a drought is “tak[ing a] toll on Tuscany’s famed olive oil and wine production”. Separate Reuters reporting says: “Spanish farmers fear olive oil output could plunge a third”.
In the UK, Reuters reports that a water company in the south-east of the country has announced “a temporary ban on the use of sprinklers and hosepipes”. The Times reports on its frontpage: “Millions more households could face hosepipe bans after the driest July in decades as forecasters warn of another heatwave.” Accompanying analysis by science correspondent Rhys Blakely says: “Weather records continue to tumble as the south of England experienced its driest July since 1836…We understand the causes: high pressure dominated for much of the month, pushing rain towards the northwest as temperatures rose. Climate change from human activity has also dramatically increased the chances of extreme heat.” A frontpage story in the Daily Telegraph has the print headline: “Water plant that could prevent hose ban ‘secretly mothballed’.” An accompanying Daily Telegraph editorial, which does not mention climate change, says: “Reduced rainfall happens every now and again but the impact is exacerbated by population growth in the very areas that get the least…As a whole, the country receives plenty of rain but mostly in places where it is not needed.” An editorial in the Daily Express (not online) also does not mention climate change but says: “The time has come…for a few welcome showers to rescue our gardens and replenish our reservoirs. Even the most ardent sun lovers must admit that the unprecedented temperatures have not always been pleasant.”
In the Americas, the Washington Post reports that a drought affecting half of Mexico is leading to water rationing and theft. It says: “In northern Mexico, reservoirs that typically supply water to the region’s 5 million people are low or dry. Experts say a confluence of factors are to blame, including population growth, increasing demand for water, poor infrastructure and soaring temperatures. Over the long term, climate change as a result of human activity will probably drive up the frequency and severity of such changes in weather, including heat waves and droughts.” The New York Times also covers what it calls “Mexico’s cruel drought”, reporting: “While tying a single drought to human-caused climate change requires analysis, scientists have no doubt that global warming can alter rainfall patterns around the world and is increasing the likelihood of droughts.” The Hill says that the two largest reservoirs in the US are at “dangerously low levels” due to climate change, according to the UN Environment Programme.
Temperatures over China’s land surface have risen “much more quickly than the global average over the past 70 years and will remain ‘significantly higher’ in the future as the challenges of climate change mount”, Reuters reports, citing the vice-director of China’s National Climate Center, speaking at the launch of its annual climate assessment. It continues: “He warned that changing weather patterns in China will affect the balance of water resources, make ecosystems more vulnerable and reduce crop yields.”
In other news from China, renewables generated 1,250 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity in the first half of the year, China Energy News reports, citing the National Energy Administration (NEA), China’s top energy regulator. The state-run industry newspaper notes that in the first half of this year, China added 54.75GW (gigawatts) of new renewable capacity, accounting for 80% of the country’s capacity growth overall, citing Wang Dapeng, deputy director of the Department of New and Renewable Energy of the NEA on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, China’s State Grid, a Chinese state-owned electric utility corporation, “plans to invest more than 150bn yuan ($22bn)” in the second half of 2022 in “ultra high voltage” (UHV) power transmission lines, reports Reuters, citing state news agency Xinhua on Wednesday, which quotes the company’s chairman Xin Bao’an. Construction of “eight new UHV projects” is planned to connect “China’s far western regions, where solar, wind and hydropower plants are mainly located, to its big cities”, the newswire adds. The new projects “are expected to drive demand for raw materials including copper and aluminium, and help China rev up its economic growth”, Reuters says. Separately, Xinhua carries an interview with Francesco La Camera, the director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), who, according to the state news agency, is “optimistic about China’s economic outlook” and “thinks that the energy transition will further boost China’s economic growth”. According to him, China is the world’s largest renewable energy market and equipment manufacturer, providing 40% of the world’s renewable energy-related jobs, the article notes.
Finally, Bloomberg says that China’s announcement of military drills around Taiwan as US House speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island is “having ripple effects across global supply chains, prompting detours and causing delays of energy shipments”. The outlet adds that “gas suppliers are re-routing or reducing speed on some liquefied natural gas vessels currently en route to North Asia”, according to people “familiar with the matter”.
Extending the life of Germany’s three remaining nuclear reactors beyond the end of the year “could make sense”, German chancellor Olaf Scholz said yesterday at a news conference, Associated Press reports, adding that he did not commit to the idea. Before making a decision, the German government is awaiting the results of a new “stress test” on the security of the country’s electricity supply, which is expected in the coming weeks, notes the article. Deutsche Welle explains that Social Democrat Scholz and Germany’s energy minister, Robert Habeck, from the Green Party, “had previously ruled out any postponement of the nuclear phase out”. However, “the third member of Scholz’s coalition, the neoliberal Free Democrats, has voiced support for the extension, as has the opposition conservative CDU-CSU bloc”, adds DW. During her visit to Canada, German foreign minister and Green Party member Annalena Baerbock said nuclear power’s life extension is “not an option”, reports Die Zeit. The Financial Times, Politico and the Daily Telegraph all have the story.
Meanwhile, various outlets report Scholz’s comments at the same news conference, where according to Bloomberg he “blame[d] Russia” for the delay in the delivery of a turbine to the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. The publication says Scholz visited the turbine in the office of its manufacturer, Siemens Energy, in Germany’s Ruhr region. Al Jazeera also has a story adding that “European governments accused Russia of throttling gas supplies on spurious pretexts in revenge for western sanctions after the invasion of Ukraine in February”. The outlet adds that Moscow denies doing so. Süddeutsche Zeitung quotes Scholz emphasising: “The turbine is there, it can be delivered, but someone needs to say I want to have it, then it will be there very quickly”. Russian gas firm Gazprom, in turn, says western sanctions are making the delivery of the turbine “impossible”, reports the Financial Times. It adds that the company said on Thursday that Canadian, UK and EU sanctions “and the discrepancy between the situation at hand and Siemens’ contractual obligations” meant the turbine could not be delivered. Reuters also has the story.
Separately, Reuters reports that the German government will have to amend its planned gas levy “envisaged as a tool to collect funds from all gas consumers to support ailing gas importers that are struggling with soaring prices due to falling Russian gas export flows”. Finally, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that German industry accuses the federal government of lacking speed in dealing with the energy crisis. It quotes the president of the federation of German industries (BDI), Siegfried Russwurm, saying: “That’s not the speed that Germany needs in crisis management. Germany is in the middle of the biggest energy crisis in the history of the Federal Republic. Business and private consumers must do their part to save gas to prevent production stops.”
Coral has recovered from storms and bleaching to “record levels across much of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef”, BBC News reports, citing a survey by the Australian Institute of Marine Science. The broadcaster says: “The reef’s northern and central parts have the highest amount of coral cover since monitoring began 36 years ago. But coral cover in the southern part of the reef has decreased.” It adds: “The new coral is particularly vulnerable – meaning the progress could be quickly undone by climate change and other threats, officials say.” The outlet notes that the reef has experienced four mass bleaching events in the last six years, having previously only ever recorded two such events prior to 2016. Reuters also says the reef “remains vulnerable to increasingly frequent mass bleaching”. It adds: “The recovery comes after the fourth mass bleaching in seven years and the first during a La Niña event, which typically brings cooler temperatures. While extensive, the institute said, the bleaching in 2020 and 2022 was not as damaging as in 2016 and 2017.” The Guardian reports: “Marine scientists monitoring the Great Barrier Reef say they have recorded the highest levels of coral cover in 36 years in the north and central areas, but warned any recovery could be quickly overturned by global heating.”
The Australian Labor government’s “landmark climate change legislation” – including a legally binding target to cut emissions to 43% below 2005 levels by 2030 – has passed the national parliament’s lower house, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. It says the bill will face a vote in the Senate next month, where it is expected to gain the support needed to pass. The paper reports: “Prime minister Anthony Albanese celebrated the bill’s passage through the lower house, saying it would lead to the growth of the renewable energy sector and the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs.” The Guardian reports the passage of the bill through the lower house in a story that quotes Albanese calling the former ruling coalition “stuck in time” for opposing the legislation. It quotes him saying: “This so-called party of private enterprise has today thumbed its nose at the business community of Australia who are crying out for certainty going forward. It’s extraordinary that they chose to do that.” The New York Times covers the story and says: “Experts said the pledge to reduce emissions by at least 43% from 2005 levels by 2030 was both a leap forward and a first step.”
A comment by Guardian Australia political editor Katharine Murphy is titled: “After more than a decade of darkness in Australia’s parliament, today was a good day for the climate.” In his Guardian “temperature check” column, Graham Readfearn writes under the headline: “[Former Australian prime minister] John Howard’s climate doubts reveal more about conservative identity politics than anything else.”
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that an Australian pension fund has “sold all its holdings in oil and gas companies, worth A$191m ($133m), in a drive to achieve a portfolio with net-zero carbon emissions by 2030”.
Five former US Treasury secretaries, including four Democrats and one Republican, have voiced their support for the proposed “inflation reduction act”, Reuters reports. The Hill says coal industry associations in West Virginia and several other states have “blasted” the deal. It quotes a joint statement saying: “This legislation is so egregious, it leaves those of us that call Senator [Joe] Manchin [of West Virginia] a friend, shocked and disheartened.” The New York Times reports that Democrats, having banked the support of Manchin, have turned their attentions to Arizona Democrat Krysten Sinema, who it says has “emerged as the final holdout”. In his weekly column, Atlantic staff writer Robinson Meyer says the planned bill would “change the course of the 2020s”.
Separately, Reuters reports that the US electricity system is to add 29 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity in the second half of the year, citing the US Energy Information Administration. It says that “nearly half” of this growth will come from solar (14GW), with another 6GW from wind. The newswire adds: “[C]oal-fired power plants will account for 76% of the 15GW of power generation capacity that will be taken offline in 2022.”
Former chancellor Rishi Sunak, one of two contenders to lead the Conservative Party and become the UK’s next prime minister, has “been accused of a major U-turn on onshore wind after announcing he would scrap a ban on new turbines”, the Daily Telegraph reports. It continues: “The former chancellor said on Wednesday night he supported building new wind farms if they had the consent of local communities, and suggested residents could be financially incentivised to support them.” The Daily Telegraph also carries a comment from Zoisa North-Bond, chief executive of energy firm Octopus Energy Generation, in which she says: “This is a fossil fuel crisis – so to fix it, we need to quickly bring more home-grown cheap green energy onto the grid and into people’s homes…The reality is that renewables are already the cheapest form of energy. So we need more wind and solar farms where communities want them.” North-Bond adds: “Today, onshore wind is extremely popular amongst the vast majority of the British public… Our own polling shows nine in 10 people support onshore wind even in their own postcode area if it means cheaper energy.”
The Daily Telegraph reports: “Liz Truss helicopter flights ‘make mockery’ of climate change pledges.” DeSmog reports: “MPs with a history of casting doubt on climate science and opposing green policies are poised for cabinet positions under Tory leadership favourite Liz Truss, prompting fears over the UK’s climate ambitions.” And an article for BusinessGreen asks: “Are Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak on a climate collision course with the public?”
Businesses in the UK “are facing crippling increases in their energy bills of as much as 500%”, the Times reports, citing analysts Cornwall Insights. It says business bills “are rising even faster than for households”, according to the firm, which added that it “does not expect wholesale [energy] prices to return to 2020-21 levels before 2030”. The Daily Telegraph reports that inflation is to remain high for longer than expected, according to the Bank of England. It quotes an expert from the Resolution Foundation thinktank saying: “The outlook for inflation is highly uncertain, largely driven by unpredictable gas prices, but changes over recent months suggest that the Bank of England is likely to forecast a higher and later peak for inflation.” The Daily Express carries the news – including the same quote – on its frontpage. Meanwhile, Press Association reports that energy regulator Ofgem is to update the household energy price cap every three months from January, rather than twice as year. It quotes the regulator saying households face a “very challenging winter ahead”. Reuters, Bloomberg and Sky News also have the story.
The Financial Times reports: “Support surges for campaigners urging non-payment of energy bills.” A Daily Telegraph feature trailed on its frontpage is titled: “What happens if Britain refuses to pay its rising energy bills?” The piece recalls riots over the poll tax and says: “sky-high prices in a cost of living crisis may tip us over the edge”. A comment for the Times by columnist Iain Martin is titled: “Energy crisis could become a poll tax moment.” It adds: “Tory leadership candidates seem blissfully unaware of the unrest that may await them in the autumn as bills soar.” An editorial in the Sun says: “Blackouts this winter would be a disaster on an unprecedented scale…The government must secure enough energy to withstand more Russian action and a Europe-wide scramble for Norwegian gas this winter…especially if it’s a harsh one without much wind. What is it doing to ensure it?”
In a comment for the Independent, Ian Cheshire, former chair of Barclays UK and other major business posts, says he is “pleased to see that both candidates remaining in the race for the Conservative leadership have publicly committed to the UK’s net-zero by 2050 target”. Cheshire continues: “Yet targets alone are not enough. A UK government fully committed to climate leadership could create the policy environment and investments to unleash the incredible potential of British business.” He concludes: “I therefore urge those who aspire to lead our government and country to be courageous, to understand the very real threat of the climate crisis to human society – evidenced by the unprecedented heatwaves we saw recently – and to act in the public interest.”
Popular social media posts comparing German TV weather maps from 2017 and 2022 are misleadingly claiming that the latest version uses “more vivid colours to exaggerate heat and the effects of climate change”, a factcheck from Agence-France Presse reports. It says: “This is misleading; the channel said it adopted a more accessible format that uses colour, not just numbers, to reflect daily temperatures.” It says social media posts making this misleading claim were posted and circulated widely in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, Croatian, Finnish and Slovak. It notes: “Even if specific extreme weather events cannot be attributed to climate change, experts and scientists say a systematic change in the climate has been observed.” (Carbon Brief editor Leo Hickman posted a factcheck of such posts on Twitter in July.)
A new paper looks at climate litigation and how it has become a “strategic tool to push for climate justice, including compensation for losses caused by climate change”. The authors note that all decided cases seeking compensation for a climate-related impact have, thus far, been unsuccessful. They argue that “without a general understanding of the urgency of climate change and the scientifically proven fact that climate change impacts the present, and that it is possible to attribute individual losses to human-caused climate change, the fate and future of climate litigation focusing on losses and damages will continue to encounter major obstacles in courts”.
In an annual review, Met Office scientists assess a series of “key indicators” of global and regional climate in 2021. The paper says that “concentrations of greenhouse gases reached record levels in 2021, and energy continued to accumulate in the climate system with the ocean heat content reaching a new record high”. Global average surface temperature for 2021 was between the fifth and seventh warmest on record, the authors note, in part because of the cooling influence of La Niña events at the start and end of the year.