Today's climate and energy headlines:
- IEA sets out $3tn energy sector recovery plan to spur growth, cut emissions
- Climate crisis: alarm at record-breaking heatwave in Siberia
- Poland rejects EU using emissions scheme to fund recovery
- Global energy demand growth was slowing before coronavirus says BP
- Record coal-free power run comes to an end
- What coronavirus can teach us about climate change
- Keeping pace with climate change in global terrestrial protected areas
- Emergent constraint on Arctic Ocean acidification in the twenty-first century
- An overview of the extratropical storm tracks in CMIP6 historical simulations
There is widespread coverage of a new special report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) that sets out a “sustainable recovery plan” to quickly create jobs, boost economic growth and cut emissions. The plan would “require a $1tn annual investment over the next three years”, Reuters reports, covering 30 energy policy measures across electricity, transport, buildings, fuels and emerging low-carbon technologies. Reuters continues: “The IEA said [the plan] could boost global economic growth by an average of 1.1 percentage points a year over 2021 to 2023. It could also save or create around 9 million jobs a year and reduce global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions by 4.5bn tonnes by the end of the plan.” The Press Association says the plan would stop emissions from rebounding as the world recovers from the coronavirus pandemic and instead lock in a structural decline. The Guardian coverage of the report runs under the headline: “World has six months to avert climate crisis, says energy expert.” It quotes IEA chief Fatih Birol telling the paper: “This year is the last time we have, if we are not to see a carbon rebound…The next three years will determine the course of the next 30 years and beyond…If we do not [take action] we will surely see a rebound in emissions. If emissions rebound, it is very difficult to see how they will be brought down in future.” Bloomberg and S&P Global also have the story. Carbon Brief has a detailed rundown of the plan’s key points.
In related news, the New York Times reports that global greenhouse gas emissions are “now rebounding sharply” as countries relax their coronavirus lockdowns. The story is based on updates to a study estimating global daily emissions, covered by Carbon Brief in May. The New York Times quotes study lead author Prof Corinne Le Quéré saying: “We still have the same cars, the same power plants, the same industries that we had before the pandemic. Without big structural changes, emissions are likely to come back.”
In other stimulus news, Reuters reports that in Germany, the government’s stimulus package “could trigger €320bn (£287bn) of investments in power generation, grids, electric charging and hydrogen by 2030”. A second Reuters story reports that the German government is “considering stabilising electricity production by offering combined subsidies for renewable electricity and gas-fired power stations”. DeSmog UK covers a proposed climate plan just agreed by the coalition partners in Ireland’s government, which it describes as “the strongest commitments to climate and environmental action in over a decade”. The outlet adds that the plan must now be ratified by the memberships of the three coalition members. In the UK, meanwhile, the Guardian reports that one of the opposition parties, the Liberal Democrats, has “unveiled proposals to invest £150bn in green projects over three years as a way to transform the economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic”. And, according to BusinessGreen coverage of analysis from the Grantham Research Institute, there is “limited evidence” that central banks are taking climate goals into account in their coronavirus response plans.
The Guardian reports on the “prolonged” heatwave in Siberia, which it links to “wildfires, a huge oil spill and a plague of tree-eating moths”. The paper adds that the Siberian heat “is helping push the world towards its hottest year on record in 2020”. Meanwhile, several papers cover new research on the Weddell Sea in Antarctica, where according to the New York Times some 350,000 square miles of sea ice was lost in 2016-17 and has hardly returned. The paper explains: “With less ice in the Weddell in the winter of 2016-17, a feedback mechanism came into play. Ice reflects most of the sun’s rays, while the darker ocean absorbs more of them. As a result the ocean warms, which in turn causes more sea ice to melt, leading to more open water and still more ocean warming and melting ice. It’s the same phenomenon that occurs in the Arctic, and has led to steep declines in sea ice extent there over the last four decades.” MailOnline and the Independent also cover the research on the Weddell Sea
Any plans to use funds from the EU’s Emissions Trading System to fund the post-coronavirus recovery would be “absolutely unacceptable” to Poland, the Financial Times reports, based on an interview with the country’s development minister. It adds that EU leaders are set to discuss proposals for a €750bn recovery package at a summit on Friday. EurActiv reports that the European Commission is to “come out with a big push for hydrogen early next month”, adding that a “significant part” of the commission’s recovery proposals would support the energy carrier. Another EurActiv article covers a leaked copy of the commission’s draft hydrogen strategy, which it says “aims to promote so-called ‘green’ hydrogen produced from renewable electricity over the ‘grey’ sort obtained from natural gas steam reforming”. In a feature for a Politico series on “the world in 2050”, Karl Mathiesen writes that Europe’s plans to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century “will require a radical overhaul of nearly every aspect of the modern economy”.
Separately, Reuters reports that European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, has reiterated that the bloc will not seal a trade deal with the UK without “level playing field” guarantees of fair competition on matters including environmental regulation and state aid rules.
In other EU news, opposition is building to the bloc’s appointment of investment firm BlackRock as adviser on how to integrate sustainability into banking regulation, the Financial Times reports. S&P Global covers the ongoing debate around BlackRock’s policy on fossil-fuel investments, five months after it said it would be divesting from certain coal companies.
Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports a “warning over gas companies’ ‘influence’ on EU subsidies”. It says a new study from NGO Global Witness claims a group of European gas firms hold “remarkable power” over energy infrastructure project prioritisation decisions in the bloc. In the US, Mother Jones reports on a gas industry-backed “influencer campaign” where Instagram users are being paid to promote the joys of cooking with gas.
The pace of rising energy demand was already declining before the coronavirus pandemic, Bloomberg reports, based on new figures from oil giant BP. It says the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, published yesterday, shows that “the bulk” of demand growth was met by renewables and that coal use fell to its lowest level in 16 years. According to BusinessGreen, the new data “confirms [the] net-zero shift was gathering pace before [the] pandemic struck”. The Daily Telegraph also covers the BP’s new data. (Carbon Brief will be publishing in-depth analysis of the BP figures later today.)
Britain’s record-breaking run without coal-fired power has come to an end after more than two months, Press Association reports, after a coal power unit ran tests following essential maintenance. The newswire cites Carbon Brief analysis showing that renewables made up the largest share of Britain’s electricity during the near-68 day period without coal, at 36%, with another 33% from gas. The Times also reports the end of the record spell, adding that the coal unit being tested at the Drax plant in Yorkshire “was not required by National Grid to keep the lights on”. BusinessGreen and the i newspaper also have the story.
In a feature for the Financial Times magazine, environment and clean energy correspondent Leslie Hook discusses the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on global CO2 emissions through the eyes of scientists who have spent the past six months aboard the Polarstern research vessel in the Arctic. “The world greeting them is familiar, yet changed. Smiles have been replaced by masks; people avoid each other when walking down the street. And while the researchers were at sea, the topic they were studying – climate change and emissions – underwent the biggest shift in our lifetimes.” Hook notes that despite these shifts, the world has seen the hottest May of modern times. She continues: “So if lockdown wasn’t enough to heal the planet, should we give up hope? It may seem bleak to think that even after all the aircraft stopped flying and normal life ground to a halt, the warming of the atmosphere still continued.” Hook concludes on a more optimistic note, however: “But there is some good news. The pandemic has had a big impact on something that is foundational to addressing climate change – our values…Lockdown has been an extended period of reflection, and made many prioritise collective safety over individual freedom.” (Carbon Brief’s Daisy Dunne spent more than a month last autumn with the Polarstern polar scientists.)
While protected areas are essential for biodiversity conservation, their static boundaries “may undermine their potential for protecting species under climate change”, new research warns. The authors assessed how climatic conditions within global land-based protected areas may change over time. The findings show that, by 2070, “protection is expected to decline in cold and warm climates and increase in cool and hot climates over a wide range of precipitation”. The authors add that “most countries are expected to fail to protect >90% of their available climate at current levels”.
The Arctic Ocean might be more susceptible to ocean acidification over the coming century than previously thought, a new study suggests. As the projected acidification across the Arctic Ocean “differs strongly” across climate models, the researchers aim to narrow this down by using an emergent relationship “between the simulated present-day density of Arctic Ocean surface waters, used as a proxy for Arctic deep-water formation, and projections of the anthropogenic carbon inventory and coincident acidification”. The results “indicate greater regional anthropogenic carbon storage and ocean acidification than previously projected”, the authors say, which is “likely to exacerbate the impact of climate change on vulnerable Arctic marine ecosystems”.
A new study evaluates the representation of winter and summer extratropical storms tracks in both hemispheres for the available models in phase 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6). Running simulations of historical storms for 1979-2014, the researchers find that “CMIP6 models exhibit an overall improvement compared to the previous generation of CMIP5 models”, although the most common biases still persist. In the northern hemisphere, “most improvements can be attributed to increased horizontal resolution” in the models, the researchers say, “whereas in the southern hemisphere the impact of resolution is less apparent and any improvements are likely a result of improved model physics”.
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