Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Labour leak reveals plan to nationalise energy network
- Climate change targets for Scotland ‘most ambitious in world’
- Merkel vows to make Germany CO2 neutral by 2050
- China still most attractive renewables market despite subsidy cuts: EY
- German far right targets Greta Thunberg in anti-climate push
- Hard choices
- A critical step to reduce climate change
- Has the politics of climate change finally reached a tipping point?
- Change of vegetation cover in the US–Mexico border region: illegal activities or climatic variability?
- The Met Office unified model global atmosphere 7.0/7.1 and JULES global land 7.0 configurations
- Climate change mitigation potential of carbon capture and utilisation in the chemical industry
The Times reports that the UK’s power and gas networks “would be nationalised under a Labour government and replaced with a complex system of national, regional and municipal energy agencies”. It adds: “Streets, villages and housing estates could be handed responsibility for operating and maintaining the electricity cables and meter that supply their homes, a leaked document showed.” Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s shadow energy minister, tweeted a link to the document (pdf) last night after the Daily Telegraph broke the story. Jillian Ambrose, the paper’s energy editor, writes in her article: “Jeremy Corbyn has drawn up plans to take control of Britain’s energy networks in a multi-billion pound power-grab modelled on the nationalisation of Northern Rock. A leaked Labour party document has revealed plans for a swift and sweeping renationalisation of the country’s £62bn energy networks at a price decided by parliament. The blueprint, seen by the Telegraph, lays bare for the first time Mr Corbyn’s plan to bring all energy network companies under public ownership ‘immediately’ following a Labour election win.”
A number of Scottish outlets cover the remarks of Committee on Climate Change representatives, including chief executive Chris Stark, who appeared before MSPs at Holyrood yesterday. Targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland are the “most ambitious in the world”, said the CCC, which has recommended a net-zero target for 2045 in Scotland. However, the CCC told MSPs it is a “critical moment” for targets to be set in order to combat climate change. The Press Association, via the Belfast Telegraph, separately reports the ministerial statement from Scotland’s environment minister Roseanna Cunningham who told MSPs that Scotland’s response to the global climate emergency must be “hardwired into our national psyche”. She added: “We must take this journey together, seize the economic opportunities available to us and redefine what world leadership means, not just as a government but as a country. Scotland has declared a global climate emergency and now Scotland must act as one to safeguard our planet for future generations.” Meanwhile, the Scottish edition of the Times reports that Extinction Rebellion has likened the SNP’s climate change strategy to “rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic”. Reuters has a report on how “Glasgow aims to become the first city in Britain to be carbon-neutral”. The city council wants to “beat a 2045 overall target set out by the Scottish government on Tuesday”. But as Scotland’s politicians spent the day discussing climate change, the Times reports that a new report by the campaign groups Friends of the Earth, Platform and Oil Change shows that plans to increase North Sea oil drilling will exceed carbon emission targets almost four-fold.
Separately, over in Ireland, the Times reports that the government’s climate action plan will turn the country on “its head”, according to a senior civil servant. Mark Griffin, secretary-general of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, said the plan, expected later this month, would outline the changes needed and economic opportunities of moving to a low-carbon economy. “The reality is that as a country we will have to change how we work, how we travel, how we socialise, how we heat our homes, and how we carry our economic activity,” he said. “So, in other words, turn the country entirely on its head over ten years. It has to be done.”
Reuters reports that German chancellor Angela Merkel “vowed” yesterday to draw up a roadmap to make the country “CO2 neutral” by 2050, urging a climate cabinet she chairs to find the best way to reach that goal. It reports her saying: “It’s about climate neutrality. This means that we should not ensure there are absolutely no CO2 emissions but that if there are still CO2 emissions, we must find alternative mechanisms to store this CO2 or offset it.” Reuters also reports that E.ON chief executive Johannes Teyssen has proposed a CO2 tax of €35 a tonne for Germany that, according to the news wire, “would widen the burden-sharing for climate protection to big emitters such as transport and heat provision”. Reuters adds: “Teyssen said such a tax, currently being discussed by the government, should not burden consumers and instead suggested revenues from the tax be paid indirectly back to them…The CO2 tax topic is salient as Germany is battling to meet climate targets, with its car sector emitting more CO2 rather than less than in 1990.” Meanwhile, EurActiv reports that the Dutch government has said it will introduce a €7 levy per air passenger in 2021 if the EU does not manage to set up a pan-European tax.
Reuters reports that the latest annual global ranking of the top 40 renewable energy markets by UK accountancy firm Ernst & Young (EY) shows that “China is the most attractive market for investment in renewable energy for the fourth year in a row and growth there is set to continue despite the country’s efforts to trim subsidies”. China was in first place, followed by the US which was number two for the second year running. EY’s report says: “China’s renewable energy market is undergoing a transition as the government seeks to rein in the costs of the subsidies paid to the sector. With continuing concerns about pollution, falling technology costs and revived interest from international players, however, growth in the world’s largest clean energy market is set to continue.“
Unearthed has published a joint investigation with the counter-extremism organisation the Institute of Strategic Dialogue into how Germany’s far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party has been targeting Swedish teenage climate protestor Greta Thunberg online. The investigation has detected a “surge in AfD social media posts on climate”. Unearthed says: “Where the party mentioned climate change on its social media channels fewer than 300 times in 2017-18, that figure has more than tripled over the past year, with a particular focus on Greta.” The investigation also notes: “At the invitation of Karsten Hilse, the AfD’s environmental spokesperson, a clutch of controversial scientists and speakers are expected to launch an attack on mainstream climate science at an event in the heart of the German parliament.” Speakers include former UKIP climate spokesperson Lord Monckton. The Guardian also reports on Unearthed’s scoop: “Germany’s rightwing populists are embracing climate change denial as the latest topic with which to boost their electoral support, teaming up with scientists who claim hysteria is driving the global warming debate and ridiculing the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg as ‘mentally challenged’ and a fraud.”
Separately, two Labour MEP candidates, Eloise Todd and Laura Parker, write in the Independent that “facing up to climate change means facing down the far right in Europe”.
An editorial in the Scottish Sun notes that the statement on the “global climate emergency” from Scotland’s environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham “never even mentioned the H word”. It adds: “There was nothing in it about the Scottish government’s wavering support for a third runway at Heathrow and not a single mention of North Sea oil…Yesterday’s ministerial statement came hours after leaders of the Climate Change Committee came to confront Holyrood with some hard home truths. While the Scottish government has excellent targets on tackling climate change, it doesn’t, so far, have the policies to match…It’s time to start telling the truth and embracing the difficult choices.” Meanwhile, the Scotsman carries a comment piece by Dr Richard Dixon from Friends of the Earth Scotland which begins: “Last week’s decision to scrap the plans to first halve and then do away with air departure tax was a great move in the right direction and exactly the kind of thing a country which has declared a ‘climate emergency’ should do.”
Microsoft’s Bill Gates uses his blog to pose the question: “So, what will it take to reach the goal of zero carbon electricity generation?” He then answers his own question: “We must solve two challenges. The first challenge will come as no surprise. We need to do more to harness the power of the sun and wind. And thanks to falling prices for solar panels, wind turbines, and other technologies, deploying renewable energy systems is more affordable than ever before. The second challenge is probably less obvious and more difficult. We need big breakthroughs in technologies that will allow us to supply the power grid with clean energy even during windless days, cloudy weather, and nighttime.” He concludes by listing and describing three “key solutions”: improved energy storage systems; carbon capture and storage and nuclear; and high-voltage, long-distance transmission lines.
The Guardian’s former environment editor John Vidal writes that people are increasingly seeing “the environmental crisis as a national priority” and that this is an opportunity for bold action from government: “The risks of doing nothing far outweigh the possible pitfalls of really addressing climate change and biodiversity collapse. Of course there will be objections from diehard capitalists and liberals alike. But, to echo Margaret Thatcher as she pushed through the deregulation that has done so much to fuel the crisis: there really is no alternative.”
A new study explores the impact of border crossings and variations in climate on the US southwest border region — an area “that is almost 2000 miles long and with rich natural resources but mostly a sensitive semi-arid/arid ecosystem”. Using large-scale remote sensing vegetation data and socio-economic data, the researchers find that “both illegal and legal activities have statistically significant impacts on the border region vegetation cover between 2008–2017”. For example, increases in illegal border crossings and border patrol staffing by one standard deviation within three kilometres of the border leads to a decline in vegetation cover by 4% and 19%, respectively, the model suggests. “Employment density…in the border county economies and growing season monthly mean temperature are also statistically significant in driving the change of vegetation cover,” the study finds.
A new paper describes the latest versions of the global atmosphere component of the UK Met Office “unified” climate model and the global land component of the Joint UK Land Environment Simulator (JULES) land surface model. The “incremental developments and targeted improvements” help tackle several issues in the model simulations, such as “excessive precipitation biases over India”, the researchers say. The updated configurations also include two new parameterisations, the paper explains – “namely the UK Chemistry and Aerosol (UKCA) GLOMAP-mode (Global Model of Aerosol Processes) aerosol scheme and the JULES multi-layer snow scheme”. These were required ahead of the Sixth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6), the authors note.
Implementing carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) techniques has the “technical potential” to take the chemical industry carbon neutral, a new study suggests, decoupling chemical production from fossil fuel resources. The researchers developed an “engineering-level model of the global chemical industry” that represents 75% of current greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from chemical production. Applying large-scale CCU could reduce annual GHG emissions by up to 3.5bn tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2030, the study finds. However, exploiting this potential “requires more than 18.1 PWh [petawatt hours] of low-carbon electricity, corresponding to 55% of the projected global electricity production in 2030”, the authors note.
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