Today's climate and energy headlines:
- India won’t raise climate ambition under pressure: Prakash Javadekar
- COP26: Delaying key climate meeting preferable to 'messing it up'
- India’s monsoon rains to get 5% heavier for every 1C of global warming, study finds
- China ‘must shut 600 coal-fired plants’ to hit climate target
- China's Development and Reform Commission to build 'low-carbon green cities'
- Brazil seeks $1bn cash upfront for preservation of Amazon
- Biden’s climate plan is a risky bet for the planet
- Oil companies are now a more complex foe for environmentalists
- Robust increase of Indian monsoon rainfall and its variability under future warming in CMIP6 models
- Accelerating permafrost collapse on the Eastern Tibetan Plateau
Several Indian publications report the comments of environment minister Prakash Javadekar, speaking at an event in New Delhi, where according to the Hindustan Times he said his country “will walk the talk, raise our ambition but not at the behest of [under] pressure from other countries”. The paper adds that an environment ministry spokesperson “later issued a clarification” saying that India would “over achieve” its existing Paris climate pledge but that Javadekar had not promised to make a new, more ambitious commitment. The Times of India also reports Javadekar’s comments, noting: “Referring to the clamour for higher ambition and ‘net-zero’ goal by 2050, the minister asked the rich nations to first follow the ambition which they had promised.” It adds: “he also appealed to developed countries to provide finance and extend technological support to developing countries”. Press Trust of India via Business Standard reports Javadekar saying India “is not responsible for climate change that is happening”. It notes that the minister’s remarks follow the visit of US climate envoy John Kerry to India last week. Another Times of India piece on the meeting runs under the headline: “Developed nations can’t tell us not to use coal: Javadekar.”
Meanwhile, debate over India’s climate ambition is the topic of a comment for the Hindustan Times by Arunabha Ghosh, chief executive of thinktank the Council on Energy, Environment and Water. Ghosh writes: “Should India commit to eliminating greenhouse gas emissions by a certain date in future (net-zero)? This is an important but a partial question. The question we should be asking is: How can India’s climate policy help transform the economy to be more resilient and competitive in a climate changed world? It is not the pressure of international negotiations but the imperative of economic transformation that matters more for India…Every major economic sector now faces a choice: Pursue brown growth and short-term competitiveness, or low-carbon growth, green jobs and long-term resilience?”
There is continued speculation and reporting on the fate of the delayed COP26 climate summit, due to be held a year late in Glasgow this November, with BBC News covering the comments of former UN climate chief Yvo de Boer saying: “My overall senses that delay is better than messing it up, overplaying your hand and having a failed meeting.” The broadcaster says that a meeting of regional representatives later this week will decide the format for an “intersessional” meeting, due to have been held in Bonn in June, reporting that the “likelihood” is it will be run virtually instead. It adds: “the UK has now raised the possibility of an additional meeting, taking place in person, before Glasgow”, because of the need to make progress ahead of COP26, in technical negotiations over transparency and carbon market rules. The Times reports comments from COP26 president Alok Sharma in parliament, saying that the UK government is “working very hard” to ensure the summit takes place in person. City AM also has the story. A Sun “exclusive” in yesterday’s paper says: “[British prime minister] Boris Johnson is now battling alone on the world stage to save the COP26 climate conference this year as other countries demand it be delayed.” The paper quotes a “diplomatic source” telling the Sun: “Britain is increasingly isolated on this front. No one in Europe thinks it’s going to happen and the US are increasingly sceptical it can happen without a delay.” BusinessGreen reports on the “state of play” for the November meeting, noting that COP26 president Alok Sharma this week set out “arguably the clearest glimpse yet of the UK negotiating team’s priorities and agenda for delivering a successful summit”, in a letter to all parties to the UN climate regime. The article relates the priorities listed in Sharma’s letter, including settling rules on transparency and on carbon markets under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, raising the ambition of national climate pledges for 2030 to keep 1.5C within reach, delivering the pledge of $100bn in climate finance by 2020, starting talks on a climate finance goal for 2025 and making progress in areas such as adaptation and loss and damage.
Separately, Climate Homes News reports that “climate watchers” have “paid tribute to Nicaraguan envoy Paul Oquist, who died on Monday”. It adds: “The outspoken diplomat, who famously described the Paris Agreement as a ‘path to failure’, will be remembered as a complex figure who fought for justice.”
The Independent picks up new research published in Earth System Dynamics, which it says finds that: “Summer monsoon rainfall in India could increase by 5% for every 1C increase in global temperatures…putting millions at greater risk of flooding and crop failure.” The paper adds: “The research finds that global warming could turn summer rains to become both more intense and more erratic from year to year by the end of the century.” Thomson Reuters Foundation also reports the findings: “Indian monsoons are likely to become stronger and more erratic if global warming continues unchecked, threatening farming and incomes across the region, researchers said on Wednesday.” It quotes one of the study authors saying: “A more chaotic monsoon season poses a threat to the agriculture and economy in the region and should be a wake-up call for policy makers to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.”
The Guardian covers a report by analysis firm TransitionZero, which it says argues that China “must shut down nearly 600 of its coal-fired power plants in the next 10 years, replacing them with renewable electricity generation, to meet its goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2060” [China’s target is carbon neutrality by 2060]. The paper adds that replacing coal with renewables “would achieve a net saving of $1.6tn…since wind and solar power are now much cheaper than coal, according to the analysis”. Reuters also covers the TransitionZero report, noting: “China needs to halve carbon dioxide emissions from its coal-fired power plants by the end of the decade if it is to remain on course to become carbon neutral by 2060, according to [the] research.” A comment in the Independent by associate editor Sean O’Grady runs under the headline: “The world cannot ignore China if we are to make environmental progress.”
Meanwhile, Argus Media reports that China’s national emissions trading system (ETS) “could help power sector emissions to peak before 2030 and reduce coal’s share of the generation mix to 50% or less by 2035 if it adopts more stringent benchmarks than it currently has”, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). S&P Global also covers the IEA report, saying it finds China’s ETS “will be instrumental in meeting the country’s 2060 carbon neutrality goals by using market-based mechanisms”. Bloomberg reports that the price of allowances on the ETS could “quickly crash to zero when trading begins later this year” because the market is oversupplied, according to the TransitionZero report. It adds: “A lax baseline for power plant efficiency will create a surplus of permits, meaning that even generators who pollute too much will be able to buy them cheaply and won’t have incentive to cut emissions, TransitionZero co-founder Matt Gray said.” Separately, China Dialogue has a feature looking at how: “In a pandemic year, China and the rest of Asia push ahead on carbon markets.”
China’s Development and Reform Commission has included building “low-carbon green cities” as one of its “key missions” for urbanisation in 2021, reports state-affiliated China Urban Energy Weekly. In a formal notice, the authority pledges to “control cities’ greenhouse gas emissions”, promote “safe and efficient” use of “clean” energy and “further advance” the low-carbon transformation of various sectors, including industry, construction and transport. Meanwhile, Science and Technology Daily says adopting “new energy” technologies is the “inevitable route” for peaking carbon emissions and reaching carbon neutrality. The state-run newspaper cites findings in a new report from the Institutes of Science and Development at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
According to a round-up by China Energy News, various Chinese provinces and cities are fast-tracking their plans to build charging facilities for new energy vehicles. Elsewhere, Chinese financial news outlet yicai.com reports that relevant authorities are evaluating a draft action plan to peak and reduce carbon emissions from the steel and iron sectors. The proposal will be published and executed upon approval, the report says. It adds that the plan’s implementation will bring “profound impacts” to the process, technique, cost and structure of steel and iron manufacturers.
The Financial Times reports that the Brazilian government says it has already done enough to warrant billion-dollar financial aid from rich countries, citing comments to the paper by environment minister Ricardo Salles. It quotes him saying: “We already have a lot of results that could justify the receiving of something, if not everything, but something upfront.” It adds: “The request startled foreign diplomats, who maintain that Brazil must show results in reducing surging levels of deforestation before it receives any financial support. This message was conveyed to the Brazilian government in a meeting last week between several western ambassadors and Carlos França, Brazil’s new foreign minister.”
An editorial in the Washington Post reflects on the climate provisions in President Biden’s $2tn infrastructure plan and his draft budget. It argues: “With the focus on spending to rebuild and bolster the nation, rather than on climate mandates, this approach may be more politically effective. But what is most politically effective may not be most effective for the environment.” It continues: “Though White House officials don’t dwell on this point, the centerpiece of the president’s plan is a mandate: an energy-efficiency and clean-electricity standard…But the Biden plan contains no economywide spur to private companies and consumers to make greener choices…The best answer is to price greenhouse emissions, which is most efficiently done through a carbon tax.” It concludes: “The Biden plan’s clean electricity standard is a decent second-best approach to ensure the electricity sector slashes emissions, but that industry is just one part of the emissions picture. If this Congress refuses to put a price on carbon, future Congresses likely will have a lot more work to do, and less time and fiscal capacity with which to do it.”
In related news, E&E News via Scientific American reports on fresh carbon price lobbying efforts under the headline: “Big businesses say they want a price on carbon.” The piece notes: “The advocacy push comes as Congress prepares to consider President Biden’s infrastructure plan, widely seen as a possible conduit for climate policy.” It says the push is being organised by the Climate Leadership Coalition, which is proposing a carbon price “in exchange for the elimination and simplification of some greenhouse gas regulations”. The article adds: “It’s a plan that has drawn some scrutiny from environmental groups, which are sceptical of the regulatory trade-off and of any climate advocacy from the major oil companies that helped bring climate denialism into American politics.”
Separately, Rolling Stone columnist Jeff Goodell uses his regular slot to argue: “With Joe Biden in office, a serious plan to combat climate change is finally in our sights – but the clock is ticking, and there is no more room for error.” A comment in Scientific American argues that Biden “must now lead the US to go big on climate action”, by using his Earth Day climate summit to announce a goal of cutting emissions to at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030. The LA Times reports that Biden will use the summit to “reassure a sceptical world that the US is back”.
In a comment piece for the Financial Times, the paper’s senior energy correspondent Anjli Raval argues that the shift in some oil company attitudes towards climate action is complicating matters for environmentalists. She writes: “It is clear that oil companies are a much more sophisticated foe for environmentalists than in years past when you were either pro-climate action or against. But this now means scrutiny of fossil-fuel producers also has to be more nuanced, particularly as the energy system and how the world transitions towards cleaner fuels are complex, and getting more so.” She adds: “A net-zero promise was an easy first step. The catch-all phrase showed a commitment to change while it was ambiguous enough to allow companies and countries to fudge what this means in practice. But now investors, activists and the public need to ask how net-zero is defined and whether their plans will meaningfully reduce absolute emissions. While an energy major may have goals for 2050, what are its targets for 2025, 2030 and 2035, and how will it achieve them?”
Meanwhile, an article in the Guardian reports that lucrative executive pay and share options creates incentives “for oil company executives to resist climate action”, according to a new study that the paper says “casts doubt on recent net-zero commitments by BP and Shell”.
India’s summer monsoon rains are projected to get 5% heavier for every 1C of global warming, according to new research. The paper analyses mean monsoon rainfall and year-to-year variability in 32 models from the 6th Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6). The authors find that rainfall will intensify as the climate warms, and its variability will increase. These findings “largely confirm the findings from CMIP5 models”, the authors note, but show “reduced uncertainties” and “a stronger increase in monsoon rainfall”. CMIP5 models project a lower rainfall intensification of 3% per degree of warming, according to the study.
Between 1969 and 2017, the area of collapsed permafrost across the Eastern Tibetan Plateau increased by a factor of 40, with 70% of the collapsed area forming since 2004, a new study finds. The paper uses combined data from unmanned aerial vehicles and in situ measurements to determine the rate of extent of permafrost collapse across the Tibetan Plateau. “These widespread perturbations to the Tibetan Plateau permafrost could trigger changes in local ecosystem state and amplify large-scale permafrost climate feedbacks”, the authors warn.
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