Today's climate and energy headlines:
There is widespread coverage in the UK of prime minister Boris Johnson’s “vision” for addressing climate change ahead of the upcoming UN climate talks in Glasgow later this year, which he set out in an event held at the Science Museum in London yesterday. Speaking of the UK’s role in raising global climate ambition at COP26, Johnson promised “we will crack it”, the Guardian reports. “I hope that we can as a planet and as a community of nations get to net zero within decades,” Johnson said, according to the Guardian. “We’re going to do it by 2050, we’re setting the pace, I hope everybody will come with us,“ he added. Johnson was preceded by Sir David Attenborough, who called the government’s climate promises “a huge encouragement”, a second Guardian story says. Refusing to answers questions from journalists, Johnson did not comment on the recent public sacking of COP26’s former president Claire O’Neill and also did not announce who would be her replacement, Climate Home News notes. The Times reports on it its frontpage today that former prime minister David Cameron has turned down the role of COP26 president, while the Financial Times reports that former Conservative party leader William Hague has also declined to take the post. “O’Neill is now likely to be replaced by an existing minister such as Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove or business secretary Andrea Leadsom,” the FT says. BBC News also reports on Cameron’s rejection of the role, adding that “Cameron thought the job should go to a government minister”.
Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that the UK and Scottish governments are locked in a “bitter row” over the venue for COP26. “UK government sources have accused Scottish ministers of refusing to hand over a building the Scottish government wants to use as its base for the COP 26 climate talks in November,” the Guardian says. The FT reports that Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to Johnson to demand a larger role in the planning of COP26. Sturgeon said that her environment secretary should attend UK government cabinet meetings to “demonstrate our joint commitment” to the success of the COP26 summit, the FT says. There is also further coverage of the fallout from O’Neill’s sacking. The Times reports that O’Neill has accused Johnson of not “get[ting]” the issue of climate change. Press Association reports on a letter O’Neill sent to Johnson, in which she writes: “You promised to ‘lead from the front’ and asked me what was needed: ‘Money, people, just tell us!’ Sadly these promises are not close to being met.” The Guardian analyses O’Neill’s letter in detail. In an analysis piece, the Times reports that “even friends” of O’Neill believed she “had to go”. The Independent and Climate Home News also report on the ongoing controversy surrounding Johnson’s role in boosting climate action. Bloomberg explores what Johnson “really thinks about climate change”.
As part of his vision, Johnson has pledged to consult on “ending” the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars by 2035 – a move which has been met with pushback from the motor industry, the FT reports on its frontpage. “Ministers had previously set a target to phase out new “traditional” petrol and diesel sales by 2040, which excluded some hybrid cars that use both engines and batteries,” the FT explains. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has described the new policy as a “date without a plan”, the FT reports. The Daily Telegraph also carries the fallout from the revised target on its frontpage, which it describes as a “kick in the face” for hybrid car owners. “Tens of thousands of motorists who were incentivised by the government to buy hybrid cars believing they were an environmentally friendly option now fear their resale value will slump as the ban approaches,” the Daily Telegraph says. City AM also covers the story on its front page. Press Association explores what the new ban will involve. The Times reports that “grants for electric cars could be scrapped in the next two months”.
Claims made by Ryanair about its carbon emissions have been banned by the UK’s advertising watchdog, reports BBC News. It continues: “Europe’s biggest airline by passenger numbers had billed itself as the region’s ‘lowest emissions airline’ and a ‘low’ CO2 emissions airline. But the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled Ryanair’s claims in press, TV and radio adverts could not be backed up.” The Guardian reports that “one of the charts Ryanair presented to the ASA to back up its claims was dated 2011, which the watchdog said was ‘of little value as substantiation for a comparison made in 2019’“. The ASA also noted that some well-known airlines did not appear on the chart, so it was not clear whether they had been measured, adds the Guardian. The ruling means the ads must not appear again in their current forms, says Politico, and the ASA told Ryanair to ensure it has “adequate evidence” to substantiate environmental claims in the future. Ryanair “struck an unabashed tone” in response, says Reuters. A spokesperson said: “Ryanair is delighted with its latest environmental advertising campaign, which communicates a hugely important message for our customers…The single most important thing any consumer can do to halve their carbon footprint is switch to Ryanair.” Reuters adds that, in absolute terms, Ryanair’s 9.9m tonnes of CO2 output placed the company “among Europe’s top 10 emitters in 2018, a group dominated by coal-fired power stations, according to EU data”.
A new report suggests an EU “sustainability charge” on meat to cover its environmental damage could raise billions to help farmers and consumers produce and eat better food, says the Guardian. The report, produced by environmental research group CE Delft for the “Tapp Coalition” of health, environment and animal welfare organisations, analysed the costs of greenhouse gas emissions, other air and water pollution, and losses of wildlife associated with livestock production. It estimates that covering these costs would increase the price of beef, pork and chicken by 40p, 31p and 14p per 100g, respectively. This levy would “increase the cost of a 227g supermarket steak in the UK by about 25%”, the Guardian says, adding that “the report suggests such charges could reduce consumption of beef in the EU by 67%, pork by 57% and chicken by 30% by 2030”.
An editorial in the Financial Times comments on the “derailment” of the UK’s first opportunity to show climate leadership in the run up to COP26: “The UK’s hosting of the UN climate talks in November was meant to be a golden opportunity for Boris Johnson’s government to demonstrate that the UK was able to lead the world in its new life outside the EU…Instead, the official launch of Britain’s presidency has become mired in wrangling over personalities and accusations of an absence of proper planning.” Commenting on the sacking of former COP26 president Claire O’Neill, the FT adds: “It is hard to feel outraged about Ms O’Neill having lost her job. She was no longer a minister when appointed last July, and leadership of the talks typically goes to a front-line member of the host government.” An editorial in the Times says that Johnson must “lead by example” in the run up to COP26. It says: “[Johnson] has a mixed record on the environment. As mayor of London he championed cycling but scrapped the westward extension of the congestion charge zone. As an MP he voted against environmental concerns more often than not. And as prime minister he has spoken often of environmental protection while bailing out an airline.” An editorial in the Daily Telegraph says that Johnson must “be frank” above “the sacrifices” involved in its plan to raise climate ambition. “It has announced that it is bringing forward the target for banning the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 to 2035, a move that has far-reaching consequences for manufacturers as well as owners.” Elsewhere, an opinion article by the Daily Telegraph’s leader writer Philip Johnson says there is a “£28bn black hole” in Johnson’s plans to bring forward a ban on petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles. An editorial in the Sun says Johnson “can only lead the world on climate change with the public on his side and our economy in the front of his mind”. An editorial in the Evening Standard says “electric cars are coming – but can we plug them in?” The article adds: “Already, one big thing has been achieved since 2005: Britain has cut the carbon out of a lot of electricity production. But if those new cars are to run on green power, more needs to be done. That means sticking with plans for new nuclear plants…It also means getting a grip of the erratic way car charging points are being built. Transport for London is planning to have just 300 rapid charge points in place by the end of the year.” Meanwhile, in the Daily Mail, John Naish claims that Johnson’s cars pledge is “doomed to fail” because “old bangers can be greener”. The Times’s political sketch writer Quentin Letts probes Johnson’s ongoing climate controversies. Elsewhere in the Times, Labour MP Kerry McCarthy writes that Labour needs to quickly up its plan to tackle climate change. She says: “For Labour’s new leader, the question is: what can we do? Achieving ‘net zero’ by the 2030s would’ve been difficult enough for us in government; from Opposition it seems nigh-on impossible.”
A new essay warns of “unrealistic expectations” for the mitigation potential of soil carbon management in grazing systems. While soil carbon management can help offset emissions from grazing, any sequestration is time-limited and reversible, the authors note. They point out that “some peer-reviewed sequestration estimates are of a similar order of magnitude to other food systems mitigation options over a 10–20 years period, such as reducing food loss and waste by 15% or aligning diets with current health related dietary-recommendations”. These comparisons should be taken with caution, they argue, “since mitigation estimates are associated with large uncertainties and will ultimately depend on the economic cost-benefit relation, feasibility of implementation and time frame considered”.
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