Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Javid reneges on green pledges in guidance to regulators
- New Zealand passes law aiming for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050
- In boost to climate policy, EU makes first move to end fossil fuel funding
- London-wide police ban on Extinction Rebellion protest ruled illegal
- US retreat on climate policy is unwelcome step
- Prices are down and capacity is up as solar and wind take hold
- California’s methane super-emitters
- A substantial rise in the area and population affected by dryness in South Asia under 1.5C, 2.0C and 2.5C warmer worlds
- Recycling lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles
There is continued coverage of the UK general election campaign, which kicked off yesterday. The Financial Times reports that outgoing Conservative chancellor Sajid Javid has “reneged on a government commitment to include climate change targets in official guidance the UK’s financial regulators”. It adds: “The chancellor failed to mention key green pledges in the official letters sent earlier this week to the Bank of England and Financial Conduct Authority…The failure to address the environment goes against a pledge made in the government’s Green Finance strategy in July.” The FT says this strategy had stated the regulators would be instructed to “have regard” to the Paris Agreement in carrying out their work. It adds: “The letters were sent in the closing hours before parliament was dissolved ahead of general election, in which the environment is expected to rank as a much bigger issue than in previous campaigns.” The Guardian reports that the ruling Conservatives have been “criticised for picking climate change sceptic Craig Morley as [a] candidate”. The paper quotes a statement on Morley’s website that says he thinks “dangerous climate change theory relies on shaky evidence” and that the risks have been exaggerated as a “socialist Trojan horse”. The piece says that Morley’s views are “at odds with his party”.
The Guardian also reports that “the climate emergency took centre stage” as the Green Party launched its election campaign yesterday in Bristol. It adds that the issue is “likely to dominate the party’s manifesto, due out within a few days”. The party hopes to make this the “climate election”, reports Press Association, with co-leader Sian Berry saying she wants the poll to “go down in history as the turning point for climate justice”. A BBC News “reality check” asks how the Greens would fund a pledge to invest £100bn in climate action. It says: “The Greens believe a large public investment, worth £1tn over 10 years, is essential to fight climate change and make Britain fossil fuel free by 2030.” The piece says the investment would raise public borrowing to “more than 6% of national income and the highest level since 2012-2013” and put corporation tax back to the level it was in 2013. Another Guardian piece reports that a majority of the UK public “and almost half of Conservative voters” back a 2030 net-zero goal, according to a survey from pollsters YouGov.
A BBC News video covers opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s speech yesterday in which he promised a “green industrial revolution” to tackle “the greatest issues facing our age and our generation – the climate emergency”. Press Association covers Liberal Democrat plans to invest £15bn over the next parliament to insulate homes to tackle climate change and fuel poverty. It explains: “Plans to upgrade the energy efficiency of 26m homes by 2030 with measures such as insulation, double-glazing and new heating systems would save the average household £550 a year on bills, the Lib Dems claim.” The party would also aim to double UK output from solar and wind by 2030, the newswire says, “bringing the amount of electricity generated by renewables up to 80% of the mix”.
Finally, a comment for the Independent by Joshua Curiel, a writer and environmental activist, says that “Brexit and climate change have energised young people”. Curiel argues that a “surge” in voter registration among under-25s is “a sign that young people are finally going to make their voices heard in the general election”.
New Zealand has adopted a legally-binding target to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 after the measure received cross-party support, Reuters says. It adds: “The bill accords different treatment to methane emissions from animals versus other greenhouse gases, but still targets a cut of 10% in biological methane by 2030, and up to 47% by 2050.” Reuters reports prime minister Jacinda Ardern saying “I hope it means the next generation will see that we…were on the right side of history.” The newswire also notes that the opposition National Party has pledged to make changes to the law if it wins power in an election next year. The law commits future governments to having plans to meet the net-zero target, reports the Guardian, as well as establishing a climate commission.
EU member states have agreed preliminary text calling on the European Investment Bank to stop funding fossil fuel projects, Reuters reports. It cites a “document, seen by Reuters, [that] was agreed on Tuesday by mid-ranking representatives of the EU’s 28 national governments, but still needs the green light from more senior diplomats.” A second Reuters article reports that the European Commission is “considering stress tests and measures to force financial firms to raise their buffers against climate-change risks”, citing comments from “EU financial services chief [Valdis Dombrovskis]”. The commissioner is not among “five people to watch as the EU goes climate neutral”, as featured by Politico. Its five are Frans Timmermans, European Green Deal commission vice president, Werner Hoyer, president of the European Investment Bank, Dan Jørgensen, Denmark’s climate and energy minister, Pascal Canfin, chair of the European Parliament’s environment committee and Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Separately, Reuters reports that over 20 Polish companies have backed the EU proposal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 “at a time when the country’s pro-coal government is reluctant to support the ambitious plan”.
The UK’s High Court has ruled that a London-wide police ban on Extinction Rebellion protests during October was illegal, the Financial Times reports. The ruling follows a legal challenge brought by politicians and campaigners including Green MP Caroline Lucas, the paper says. It adds that charges are now likely to be dropped against hundreds of protestors who were arrested after defying the ban. BBC News reports: “Activists say the police could now face claims for false imprisonment from ‘potentially hundreds’ of protesters.” Reuters and Climate Home News also cover the judgement. A comment for the Guardian reflects on the ruling, saying: “Extinction Rebellion has won in the courts. Now we must win this climate election.”
US president Donald Trump’s decision to start the formal process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement is “out of step with the broadening international consensus on the need for bold action to reduce carbon emissions”, says an editorial in the Financial Times. The move “will make it more difficult to convince the remaining waverers”, it adds, since “climate change is a problem for which consensus between world leaders will be key”. The editorial describes Trump’s views on the Paris accord as “another example of the president’s simple mindset of a zero-sum world of winners and losers”. It adds that while the US could rejoin Paris “almost as soon as it has left” under the next president, “other governments and businesses cannot wait until then to make real changes”. The editorial concludes: “Without the US showing bold global leadership, however, those tasks will be harder than ever to achieve.” An editorial for USA Today notes that the US will be “the only country to leave the accord”. Its piece lays out a series of rhetorical statements about climate change punctuated by the repeated refrain “But Trump knows better.” For example: “Most Americans get it. Eight in 10 agree that humans are to blame for global warming. And nearly four in 10 view it as a crisis. But Trump knows better.” A comment piece for the New York Times explains “why Walmart and other companies are sticking with the Paris climate deal”, despite Trump’s decision. An editorial in the South China Morning Post says the US “should shoulder climate responsibility”. It adds: “[T]he world would be a safer place if it remained with other nations to fight global warming.” And finally, an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle calls Trump’s decision “shameful”.
A series of Financial Times features make up a “special report” on energy efficiency. One says that the price of electricity from wind and solar has reached parity with average wholesale prices in California, China and parts of Europe, with renewables expected to become cheaper in Germany, France and the UK “by the end of this year”. It says: “Improvements in the cost-efficiency of green energy supplies is having a profound effect in reshaping the mix of power supplies in many economies.” Other pieces cover the rising efficiency of white goods, “virtual batteries” in supermarkets that can help balance the grid and risks to the competitiveness of gas due to advances in renewable energy. Another FT feature asks if “economics may be the death knell” for the internal combustion engine, even though efficiency improvements for the technology are possible. A final feature in the special report describes the work of “father-and-son scientists” working to develop batteries that are faster to recharge. Meanwhile, in the lead op-ed in today’s Sun, Quentin Willson argues “we are still not ready for mass electrification” of transport due to a lack of charging points. He says plans to ban diesel cars in Bristol are a “wrong turn”.
Point sources of methane emissions in California are dominated by landfills (41%), followed by dairies (26%) and the oil and gas sector (26%), a new study says. Using an “airborne imaging spectrometer”, the researchers surveyed more than 272,000 infrastructure elements in California over several months from 2016 to 2018. The researchers estimate net methane point-source emissions in the state 0.62m tonnes per year, equivalent to 34-46% of the state’s recorded methane emissions for 2016. Methane “super-emitter” activity occurs in every sector surveyed, the study says, with “10% of point sources contributing roughly 60% of point-source emissions”.
The population of South Asia affected by “dryness” is projected to increase by hundreds of millions people as the world warms, a new study says. Observed data and climate model simulations suggest that “dryness has significantly increased over the Gangetic Plain and parts of Pakistan during 1951–2016”, the study says. In addition, warming of 1.5C, 2C and 2.5C above pre-industrial levels could further increase dryness for more than half of South Asia, the researchers say, increasing the population affected by 790 million, 890 million and 1.96 billion people, respectively.
A new study tackles the “serious waste-management challenge” of how to recycle electrical vehicle batteries. Spent batteries “present an opportunity”, the authors say, noting that “recycled lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles could provide a valuable secondary source of materials”. Here, the authors “outline and evaluate the current range of approaches to electric-vehicle lithium-ion battery recycling and re-use, and highlight areas for future progress”.
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