Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Japan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to net-zero by 2050
- EU wields $46bn of aid to enlist farmers in climate fight
- Morrison government 'ignored' Climate Change Authority's advice on Covid recovery
- Peru and Switzerland sign 'world first' carbon offset deal under Paris Agreement
- BP market value at 26-year low as investor confidence shaken
- Planners 'must prepare' for weather extremes - Met Office
- Let's talk about the climate apocalypse
- What topics do our readers want Trump and Biden to debate?
- Climate change as an incentive for future human migration
- Comparison of open access global climate services for hydrological data
The Japanese government will soon commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050, according to Nikkei Asia. The new target, which the news outlet says will be revealed in a speech to parliament by prime minister Yoshihide Suga next week, marks a significant shift in the government’s position. It also means Japan “will finally catch up to the European Union, which set the same goal last year”. To date, the official target has been to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050 and to reach “virtually zero as early as possible in the second half of this century”, the article states, noting that this goal has been criticised as vague. It also mentions that with the country set to revise its basic energy plan in the summer of 2021, “it is likely that a major revision will be required to meet the new target”. Climate Homes News reports that last year’s climate strategy “provided little detail” on tackling the nation’s coal dependency, which experts quoted say will need to be prioritised. The article notes that Japan has come under pressure following China’s recent commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2060 and South Korea’s climate plan, released earlier this year. Reuters has also reported the story. (See Carbon Brief’s in-depth profile of Japan first published in 2018.)
Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post covers a new report from Boston Consulting Group, which concludes China will have to invest up to 100tn yuan (£11.4tn) and go “above and beyond” the demands of the Paris Agreement to hit its target for 2060. It notes that “sweeping” technological changes will be required that could ultimately cost around 2% of the nation’s cumulative GDP from 2020-2050.
Any European farmers considered to undermining EU climate targets will not be eligible to access a pot of subsidies worth billions of euros under a preliminary accord agreed by agriculture ministers, Bloomberg reports. In addition, 20% of direct payments will be kept for “climate-friendly practices”, including organic farming and soil carbon sequestration, according to the website. Reuters also reports on the development, which it says is part of the culmination of a “two-year struggle” to align the EU’s agricultural policy with its climate commitments while supporting farmers’ livelihoods. It notes that the bloc’s common agricultural policy (CAP) will take up around a third of its €1.1tn budget for 2021-2027. According to the newswire, environmental groups oppose the latest decision, stating that a 20% share for green schemes is “too low”.
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports on criticism of the on-going reforms from climate change activist Greta Thunberg, who said that focus on a specific issue being discussed – the potential renaming of veggie burgers and other foodstuffs – had distracted from the broader issue. She tweeted: “While media was reporting on ‘names of vegan hot dogs’ the EU parliament signed away €387bn [£350bn] to a new agricultural policy that basically means surrender on climate & environment. No awareness means no pressure and accountability so the outcome is no surprise. They just don’t care.” The Times focuses on the proposed law to ban vegan food producers giving their products names like “burgers” and “sausages”, which it says is due to be voted on in European Parliament this week.
Separately, the New York Times has an extensive feature examining the cattle industry in the US, and how changing their feed could have a significant effect on emissions. (See Carbon Brief’s recent interactive feature on the climate impact of meat and dairy for more information on this topic.)
The Australian government has been accused of ignoring guidance from its advisors at the Climate Change Authority on green stimulus spending in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the Guardian reports. A report submitted by the authority to the government in July said the government’s stimulus package offered a “once-in-a-lifetime” chance to address climate change and enable Australia to take advantage of its renewable resources, according to the newspaper. Responding to questions from the opposition Labor party, the authority’s chair, Wendy Craik, said she did not know if energy minister Angus Taylor had read the report and he had “not officially responded to it”. The government has instead pushed the idea of a “gas-led” recovery from the pandemic. Separately, the Guardian reports that polling in the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ sentiment index finds three-quarters of company directors want large-scale public investment in renewable energy and greening the economy.
Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reports that the “world’s largest solar farm”, a 10 gigawatt installation, is set to be built in Australia’s Northern Territory. The newspaper says the structure will provide power for one million people in Singapore via the “world’s longest undersea cable”. The Guardian also reports that Australia has seen record lows in electricity use from the national grid due to uptake of rooftop solar panels and the Covid-19 outbreak.
In Queensland, Reuters reports that the state government and HSBC have announced a “world-first investment” to protect the Great Barrier Reef from climate change and poor water quality. They are purchasing “reef credits”, a tradable unit that quantifies and values the work undertaken to safeguard the reef, according to the news wire.
Finally, another Guardian story reports that a new policy paper from the University of New South Wales is calling for a new “Pacific Access” visa category that could be used by Pacific islanders “forced from their homes by climate change and natural disasters”.
Switzerland and Peru have arrived at a carbon offsetting agreement that the nations say is the first of its kind under the hotly debated Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, according to Climate Home News. The deal will see sustainable development projects in Peru being funded, but with Switzerland counting the resulting emissions cuts against its national targets, the website reports. Negotiations at successive UN climate summits have failed to overcome “deep divisions” over the design of a global carbon market. However, a framework is in place for countries to strike bilateral deals, according to Climate Home News. (For more information, see Carbon Brief’s write-up of the most recent talks at the COP25 event in Madrid.) The CHN article notes that the Peru-Switzerland deal has been praised for avoiding “double counting”, which would otherwise mean both countries could claim credit for the same emissions reductions. (Carbon Brief has published a lengthy explainer of Article 6 and the the complex debate around the rules governing carbon markets.)
BP’s market value has dropped below 200p a share meaning the company is worth around £40.5bn, “well below the market value of the Danish offshore wind developer Orsted”, the Guardian reports. This 26-year share-price low comes as investor faith in the future of the oil industry is “shaken by the coronavirus pandemic”, the newspaper notes. It adds that the fall comes as the company plans to cut investments in fossil fuels and switch to cleaner alternatives. A comment piece from the newspaper’s financial editor Nils Pratley examines why the company’s green vision has “failed to excite shareholders”.
Meanwhile, a column by Clyde Russell in Reuters states that the world’s largest coal exporter Glencore is “setting itself up for a conflict with shareholders” with its intention to keep its coal mines but run them down over time. Investors “are likely to demand firmer action on coal than a long goodbye, even if an extended exit is more profitable,” he writes.
The UK’s Met Office is launching a tool to help planners prepare for intense rainfall and high temperatures following a year of extremes across the country, BBC News reports. The national weather service says that “wild weather” is likely to place “increasing challenges on health, infrastructure and services”, according to BBC News. The i newspaper reports that new Met Office projections suggest maximum summer heat in London could increase from 36C in 2020 to 37C and from 30C to 31C in Edinburgh by the middle of the century.
A comment piece by CNN contributor and a National Geographic “explorer” John D Sutter considers the various extreme weather events that have been linked with climate change. He notes that in a “very 2020 occurrence” the World Meteorological Organization ran out of human names for new hurricanes earlier this year. “The fires in Western mountains, the violent windstorms in Iowa cornfields, the storms in the Atlantic. All of these disastrous events once were scarce enough that we typically could keep track of them,” he writes. “How many among us – putting aside those most intimately affected – can name the myriad wildfires burning in California, Oregon and Washington?” Sutter invites people to send him questions about climate change over coming weeks. “I’ll do some reporting and answer them to the best of my ability. Let’s name this thing. Talk about it. Make sense of it.” He writes that “we don’t have to be paralysed by the magnitude of this crisis”, and says there are “workable solutions” that are not currently being explored at sufficient scale.
Ahead of the final presidential debate today between president Donald Trump and his challenger Joe Biden, the New York Times documents what its readers say they want to debate to focus on. Climate change is prominent, with one reader stating: “If we don’t address climate change now, in the long run nothing else matters.” The Independent has two articles looking at what both Trump and Biden have pledged on climate change. For more on this, Carbon Brief has compiled a detailed tracker looking at all the policy commitments the candidates have made on energy and climate, as well as comments from their vice presidential picks and advisers.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal has an editorial stating that Democrats “want to mandate electric autos” in the US after five Democrats introduced legislation on Tuesday that would require “100% of cars sold in 2035 be electric and 50% of new cars by 2025 – a Biden presidency from now”.
Climate change may become a driver of migration for hundreds of millions of people within decades, a new study suggests. The researchers analyse today’s relationships between climatic factors and population density and make projections while holding all other factors constant. These projections – which provide a useful indication of “order of magnitude and spatial pattern”, the authors say – indicate that migration would be “largely from warm tropical and subtropical countries to cooler temperate countries”. The authors add: “Areas with the highest projected population growth rates tend to be areas that are likely to be most adversely affected by climate change.”
A new paper assesses how the climate impact indicators developed for the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) compare to other openly available global data for water and climate. The study finds that “for temperature, datasets are comparable and climate impacts are thus considered robust”, while “important discrepancies arise in the precipitation indicators”. These differences are probably caused by model uncertainty, ensemble size and model selection, the researchers say.
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