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Daily Briefing

03.02.2020
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Johnson urged to name ‘big hitter’ to head COP26 climate summit
Johnson urged to name ‘big hitter’ to head COP26 climate summit

News.

Johnson urged to name ‘big hitter’ to head COP26 climate summit
The Observer Read Article

There is extensive coverage in the UK press about the shock announcement made on Friday that Claire O’Neill has been “sacked” as the president of the UN’s COP26 climate summit due to be held in Glasgow this November. The Observer reports on the response in which there has been a “clear message from politicians, senior scientists and climate experts” that “Britain needs to find a new high-level leader of its team preparing for this year’s crunch climate talks in Glasgow as a matter of extreme urgency”. The newspaper has a round-up of the rumours about who might be chosen to replace O’Neill, a former climate minister under Theresa May: “Among those who have been touted to take over the task of preparing for the climate conference include Michael Gove, Zac Goldsmith and Andrea Leadsom. Former Conservative leaders William Hague and Michael Howard have also been suggested as possible candidates.” It quotes an unnamed “senior source”: “It is going to have to be a very senior, experienced politician or diplomat if we are to have a hope of saving these talks. We have fallen badly behind in our preparations for the conference, which is essentially our last real hope of halting dangerous global warming, and we need a big hitter to get us back on track.” Today’s Guardian has continuing coverage of the concern among “developing countries and climate campaigners” that the “UK lacks a clear strategy for hosting vital UN talks on the climate crisis, amid fears of a conflict of interest in government between seeking post-Brexit trade deals and a global climate settlement”. It adds: “Boris Johnson will lead prominent British figures from climate science, business and economics to launch the UK’s strategy for the conference, known as COP26, on Tuesday. The talks, to take place in Glasgow this November, are widely seen as the last realistic chance for countries to pledge the stiff cuts needed in greenhouse gases to stave off climate breakdown. But the strategy was plunged into confusion on Friday night as the intended leader of the talks, former energy minister Claire O’Neill, was abruptly sacked. Her sudden removal, by the prime minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings, has left a vacuum that the government said would be filled by a minister.” The Press Association’s Emily Beament previews the COP26 talks: “The run-up to the talks will require a major diplomatic effort from the UK to secure ambitious climate action from countries – at a time when Britain is also negotiating trade agreements with the EU and other nations. The UK government’s first move as the year gears up saw the removal of former clean growth minister Claire O’Neill as president of the talks – saying it will be a ministerial role going forward. Experts have warned that the new holder of the job will need to be skilled in diplomacy.” ReutersBBC News and Climate Home News were among the outlets covering the breaking news on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times says that O’Neill “may sue No10”, adding: “O’Neill has told friends that Boris Johnson and his most senior aides gave three different reasons for her dismissal from her role at the conference…She is considering legal action if she does not receive a proper explanation…She took on the job after leaving parliament at the election but was informed that her services were no longer required in a telephone conversation with Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s most senior aide, on Friday. A minister will replace her. Perry O’Neill is then understood to have talked to the prime minister and to Sir Edward Lister, another senior figure in No 10, with whom she had been discussing plans for the conference…A friend said: ‘Claire is not a diplomat but there are untruths circulating about her. She was completely exonerated. She is consulting an employment lawyer.’ Allies said she became frustrated that the COP26 unit had failed to produce a proper plan for the summit and that the estimated costs had nearly doubled from £250m to £450m because of poor estimates by other departments. Johnson decided that Glasgow should host the conference – in order to stress the value of the union – ‘against the express advice of officials’, who wanted it in London.” The Press Association’s political editor David Hughes reports that O’Neill tweeted that she was “very sad” about her removal from the role. Separately, Green Alliance has published a new climate policy tracker in which it says, according to BusinessGreen, that the UK is “not on track to meeting its legal net-zero emissions target and must rapidly bring forward new green policies or risk undermining its diplomatic influence and credibility at the crucial COP26”.

Boris Johnson speeds up plans to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars
The Sun Read Article

In an “exclusive”, the Sun reports that the UK prime minister Boris Johnson is “speeding up plans” to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars. It adds: “Electric vehicles may be the only option for drivers — five years earlier than the current target of 2040. Discussions among officials in Whitehall are working towards bringing the ban forward to 2035. The decision could form part of a major intervention from the PM on climate change this week.” Johnson is scheduled to make an announcement alongside Sir David Attenborough tomorrow morning at an event in London. The Daily Telegraph also has the story.

Meanwhile, the Press Association reports comments made this weekend by Labour party leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey who called on people to reject “tribalism” in order to work together to combat climate change. She said in the speech in Bristol: “Our progress in tackling the climate crisis can’t be left to the whims of Boris Johnson. To win the next election, Labour must become the natural home of all those who want to combat the climate crisis and take on the big polluters. That means there can be no watering down of the necessary and popular 2030 target. This is not just a political choice, Labour has a duty to campaign alongside others for reducing emissions by 2030 while in opposition. This means upping our game in Parliament, going community to community to build support for the green industrial revolution and actively supporting the climate strikers, Extinction Rebellion, anti-fracking campaigners and other movements across the world.“

The Financial Times reports that ”Britain’s energy regulator [Ofgem] has called for radical changes to the country’s energy network in a new plan aimed at helping to decarbonise the grid to meet the government’s target of net zero emissions by 2050″. In a nine-point “Decarbonisation Action Plan” published today, Ofgem calls for, says the FT, “new measures to support the growth of renewables and the roll out of up to 10m electric vehicles, and proposed the establishment of a new regulatory fund to ‘unlock’ investment in innovative solutions to tackle climate change”. The FT has also published a comment piece by Ofgem’s chief executive Jonathan Brearley in which he cautions: “Public support of climate goals will evaporate if we as an industry are seen to be profligate or neglect their needs.”

Finally, the Guardian has a feature seeking to answer the question: “Will HS2 really help cut the UK’s carbon footprint?” Patrick Barkham concludes: “Ultimately, HS2’s future emissions will depend on wider – and more joined-up – transport and energy policies. It would use less carbon if there was a decarbonisation of electricity supply (rather than another dash for gas), and coherent national policies to reduce car use and air travel.”

Scottish budget will be centred on climate fight as summers get hotter
The Times Read Article

The Times reports that Derek Mackay, Scotlands’s finance minister, has said that “tackling the climate emergency” will be at the heart of this week’s Scottish budget which is due to be published on Thursday. Mackay said yesterday: “We have already put in place the most ambitious climate legislation and targets of any country, including decarbonising Scotland’s railways by 2035 and making the Highlands and Islands the world’s first net-zero aviation region by 2040. This budget will set out how our spending plans and investments will help us achieve these ambitions.” The Times joins BBC News in also reporting the findings of a new study published in Environmental Research Letters which says that dry, hot summers with temperatures of about 30C are set to become the norm in Scotland. BBC News adds: “The report by researchers from Edinburgh and Oxford universities and Met Office staff analyses UK climate projections. They suggest there is a substantial increase in the likelihood of temperatures reaching 2018’s levels between now and 2050. And they say the country should start planning now to deal with more frequent higher temperatures brought about as a result of climate change.”

New BP boss Bernard Looney is warned bonuses ‘need tougher climate change link’
The Sunday Times Read Article

Several outlets focus on the change in leadership at oil and gas giant BP. The Sunday Times says that “BP faces calls to strengthen its link between bonuses and performance on tackling climate change as new boss Bernard Looney prepares to take the helm”. The newspaper adds: “The 49-year-old Irishman replaces Bob Dudley on Wednesday — the day after the energy giant is forecast to report a 25% drop in full-year profits to $9.5bn (£7.2bn) as the lower oil price takes its toll. The following week, Looney is expected to set out his ambitions for BP, which employs 73,000 people in 78 countries. These are likely to include more exacting targets to tackle climate change.” A frontpage story in the Mail on Sunday’s finance pages says: “Oil giant BP faces mounting pressure to sell its $15 billion (£11 billion) stake in Russian energy giant Rosneft as it embarks on a major strategy overhaul to prop up its dividend payouts and tackle climate change concerns.” It adds: “The new boss – who last month launched an official Instagram account emphasising BP’s role in the ‘energy transition’ – is expected to announce one of the biggest shake-ups in the company’s 111-year history. The details have been drawn up in secret, but are believed to centre on the transition towards a low-carbon future. The FTSE 100 giant is battling rising concern about climate change from investors such as the Church of England, which last week blacklisted BP from its £2.8 billion pension fund. Sources said selling its 19.75 per cent stake in Rosneft was one of the most practical ways BP could keep paying dividends while turning more climate-friendly.” City AM also carries the story.

Separately, the Financial Times covers a report by the Transition Pathway Initiative. The initiative is backed by asset managers including Aberdeen Standard Investments and Legal & General, and evaluates how prepared companies are for the transition to a low-carbon economy and efforts to combat climate change. The FT says: “Weak carbon emissions targets mean less than a fifth of the world’s largest listed industrial companies are on track to help limit global warming to 2C, according to new research from a group of investors with over $18tn of assets under management. Only 14 out of 72 companies from the paper, cement, steel and aluminium sectors have emissions reduction plans that align with the 2C target set out in the Paris climate agreement.”

'We've warned you for decades': Team of nearly 300 scientists fed up with inaction on climate change pen furious letter to Scott Morrison amid bushfire crisis
Daily Mail Australia Read Article

Several outlets in Australia report on an open letter sent to Australian prime minister Scott Morrison signed by, according to the Daily Mail Australia, 274 climate experts “begging him to take action against climate change”. It adds: “The letter…demands the government reconsider its position on global warming as the nation struggles through the worst bushfire season on record. So far, 33 people have died in the horror infernos and millions of hectares of land has been destroyed.” ‘The letter says: “Scientists have been warning policy makers for decades that climate change would worsen Australia’s fire risk, and yet those warnings have been ignored…Science tells us these extreme events will only grow worse in the future without genuine concerted action to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases.” The Mail adds: “Australian National University climate scientist Professor Nerilie Abram said the letter is the product of despair as scientists witnessed the deadly fire season unfold. They believe there is ‘no strong, resilient Australia without deep cuts to greenhouse emissions’ and hope the letter might silence climate deniers.” The Guardian also covers the story.

Meanwhile, writing in the Australian, climate scientist Pep Canadell says that “many of the underlying trends associated with climate change that have taken us to this point will continue to increase into the future”. He adds: “Only addressing the causes of human-induced climate change will stabilise the climate and prevent further impacts on our economy and natural endowment.”

Comment.

Pricing carbon the only real catalyst for sustainable energy solutions
Editorial, The Sydney Morning Herald Read Article

An editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald argues that “there is no single solution to resolve the profound and conflicting pressures posed by climate change and the nation’s energy needs”. It continues: “There are many potential solutions, but they require investment, collaboration and genuine government support…The federal government and the states need to develop more collaborative and resolute strategies to cut emissions and to ensure energy supplies across the nation. But actively promoting gas and coal exploration and production for energy requirements is the antithesis of what Australian governments should be doing to reduce carbon emissions. Among the potential solutions is a pretty obvious one – that is for the nation to again consider imposing a pricing mechanism on carbon emissions, to create an investment signal and penalise those who pollute.”

Meanwhile, an editorial in the Financial Times makes the case for expanding sleeper train services: “For business travellers, these services have an appeal beyond [environmental] concerns. With a sleeper, they can attend late-night meetings, hop into a berth and arrive refreshed in a new city — a welcome break from early morning flights, long security queues and tedious baggage carousels. Sleeper trains also have advantages over daytime trains, offering a chance to rest without forking out for a hotel…The return of the sleeper is not necessarily a smooth ride. For intercontinental journeys, complex combinations of trains are unlikely to convince travellers to ditch the convenience of aircraft. Loyalty schemes and cut-price sales are strong incentives to keep flying within Europe, particularly if train tickets are costly. The solution to this problem could lie in pricing aircraft emissions more fairly, rather than throwing subsidies at operators.”

Science.

The environmental footprint of transport by car using renewable energy
Earth's Future Read Article

A new study compares the “environmental footprint” of various cars run using renewable energy instead of fossil fuels. It finds that solar-powered cars have the smallest environmental footprint, while biofuel-powered cars have the largest footprint. The footprint measure includes the impact of the car on carbon, land and water resources, the authors say.

The impact of environmental changes on the yield and nutritional quality of fruits, nuts and seeds: a systematic review
Environmental Research Letters Read Article

Rising temperatures will likely have a negative impact on yields of fruits, nuts and seeds, if new adaptation measures are not implemented, according to a new review of scientific research. The review of scientific studies looks at the impact of “environmental changes” – including changes to CO2 levels, temperatures, water availability and ozone – on on fruits, nuts and seeds. “With global intake already well-below World Health Organisation recommendations, declining fruits, nuts and seeds yields may adversely affect population health,” the authors adds.

THE BRIEF

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Expert analysis directly to your inbox.

Get a Daily or Weekly round-up of all the important articles and papers selected by Carbon Brief by email. By entering your email address you agree for your data to be handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy.