Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Labour pledges to deliver ‘substantial majority’ of emissions cuts by 2030
- Democrats unveil first bill toward goal of net-zero emissions by 2050
- The Guardian view on the Labour manifesto: bold pledges for anxious times
- Pall of smoke a grim reminder of climate change risks
- Global CO2 emissions from cement production, 1928-2018
There is widespread coverage across the UK media of the launch of the Labour party’s manifesto for the upcoming general election on 12 December. The Press Association says the party is promising to deliver the “substantial majority” of the emissions cuts needed to tackle climate change by 2030. This is less stringent than the goal voted for by party members at their conference in September. The newswire adds: “The party’s manifesto has a strong focus on the environment, amid widespread concern over the issue, with a majority of people in a recent poll saying climate change would influence their vote in the next general election. Labour is promising a ‘green industrial revolution’ to deliver a million jobs, and says its ‘green new deal’ aims to achieve the substantial majority of greenhouse gas reductions by 2030 in a way that is fair to workers and communities. The manifesto also contains ambitions to put the UK on track for a ‘net-zero’ energy system within the 2030s and for British food production to reach net zero carbon by 2040 – which is in line with the farming sector’s plans.” In a separate article, the Press Association highlights how the Labour manifesto “would hit oil and gas companies with a windfall tax of about £11bn in order to finance plans to tackle the climate crisis by creating a greener economy”, adding that “if Labour wins the vote, the party plans to create one million green jobs”. The Financial Times says the “oil levy would be used to pay for a ‘just transition fund’ providing an £11bn support package to help retrain 37,000 workers in the industry to ‘make the transition to a clean economy’”. The FT notes that the party “has watered down a commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030”, but that the “proposals were nevertheless well received by green groups”. The Daily Mirror describes the manifesto’s green pledges as “radical” and carries a quote from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s speech in Birmingham at the manifesto launch, where he said: “We will introduce a windfall tax on oil companies, so that the companies that knowingly damaged our climate will help cover the costs.” The Guardian says that at the “upbeat launch event…the Labour leader said he welcomed the hostility of the billionaires, bad bosses and dodgy landlords who would lose out from his policies”. The paper adds: “Experts were taken aback by the scale of Labour’s spending plans, which dwarfed the substantial increase in the size of the state envisaged in the party’s 2017 manifesto…One of the most eye-catching tax rises is an £11bn windfall levy on oil and gas companies.” BusinessGreen says that Labour is pledging that “by 2030, almost 90% of electricity and 50% of heat will be sourced from renewables and low-carbon sources…That will include energy from the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, a project ruled out by the Conservative government last year on cost grounds.”
Away from the launch of the Labour manifesto, several outlets are noting that climate change and the environment are key campaigning themes across most of the parties. Bloomberg says the UK is seeing the “greenest election pledges ever” from the “key parties”, adding that the “hardening consensus about climate change is putting the UK on track for what may be the most radical energy policies in the developed world”. It continues: “The result is a marked contrast with the political environment in the US or even other European nations, where business lobbies and conservative groups stress the costs of a quick transition away from fossil fuels.” Another indication of the prominence of climate change during this election is that Channel 4 has agreed to host the first-ever “election leaders’ debate focusing on the climate crisis”. However, the Guardian reports that Boris Johnson is “set to snub” the TV debate: “Channel 4 News said it was awaiting confirmation from Boris Johnson as to whether he would take part and could place an empty chair in the place of the PM if he declines to attend.” Separately, writing in the Guardian, environment correspondent Fiona Harvey says that the “climate emergency has risen to the top of the UK’s election agenda in a way that would have been ‘unthinkable’ even five years ago, leading environmentalists have said, predicting that it augurs a permanent change in British politics”. She adds: “Public anxiety had been fuelled by people seeing extreme weather around the world, and the rise of climate activism in movements such as Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strikes reflected that.” Harvey quotes Tom Burke from E3G: “The politicians are following the public on this, not the other way round.”
Meanwhile, in other election-related news, BusinessGreen reports that “a political row is brewing over who should chair next year’s crucial UN climate summit in Glasgow, with Labour and the Lib Dems both likely to replace current COP26 president Claire Perry O’Neill if the Conservative party fails to return to government”. And the Guardian reports that the Brexit Party’s Nigel Farage is today expected to announce that he is “hoping to enlist the climate science denier Donald Trump to help lead a global campaign to plant billions of trees to capture CO2”. The paper adds that “the party’s focus on the environment with the support of the US may be part of an attempt to broaden its appeal to voters beyond those looking to vote for a hard form of Brexit”. Most parties are making some kind of tree-planting pledge as part of their offer to the UK electorate.
The Hill reports that Democrats in the US have unveiled the first major piece of legislation in their effort to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The bill would push government agencies to reach the goal, says the Hill, adding: “Dubbed the 100 Percent Clean Economy Act, [it] directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to oversee the effort which would be undertaken across the government. It tasks each federal agency with using its authority to reach the net-zero goal, using ‘a substantial change from business-as-usual policies’…The bill is the first in what might be several pieces of legislation dedicated to Democrats’ goal of reaching a green economy by 2050 — a vision they outlined in July and promised to deliver by the end of the year.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that a group of Extinction Rebellion climate protestors who had been on a hunger strike outside of House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office decided yesterday to “barge in” where nine of them were promptly arrested. The paper adds: “The group protested peacefully until Thursday, when they realised that Congress would adjourn for the Thanksgiving holiday, and that Pelosi would fly to San Francisco that evening without agreeing to a video recorded meeting.”
A number of the UK national newspapers have published editorials reacting to the Labour party’s manifesto and they all take a predictable line which match their own political leanings. The Guardian says the manifesto will “strike a chord with millions who want categorical change in Britain”, adding: “It will ring out, too, for those who want inequality reversed, taxes increased to renew public services and the climate crisis placed at the centre of public policy.” However, the editorial contains an air of caution: “Labour’s approach speaks to and connects with the deep injustices and unfairnesses of modern Britain. But a manifesto must be more than a utopian wishlist. Planting lots of trees is magnificent. But money does not grow on them.” In contrast, the Financial Times’ editorial says the Labour manifesto “adds up to a recipe for decline” and is “nothing more than a blueprint for socialism in one country”. It adds: “A responsible centre-left programme to restore fairness and opportunity, to rebuild public services, and preserve private sector incentives, was there for the taking. Mr Corbyn has missed an open goal.” The Sun’s editorial goes much further in its objection: “[It] is a cynical dossier of lies, distortions and ruinous fantasies insulting the country’s intelligence…The oil windfall tax alone would send pump prices soaring and put thousands on the dole. National ruin would be rapid.” An editorial in the Daily Mail, which devotes several pages to attacking the Labour manifesto, says: “An estimated £190bn would be needed to renationalise key industries, £250bn for a Green Transformation Fund and £150bn for a Social Transformation Fund. The extra borrowing required would increase our already crippling national debt by almost a quarter, sending repayment charges through the roof…Given half a chance Mr Corbyn would turn this great country of ours into a poverty-stricken banana republic, with ordinary families – and future generations – paying a truly monstrous price.”
Elsewhere on the UK newspaper’s comment pages, Polly Toynbee writes in the Guardian that the Labour manifesto recognises that voters under the age of 40 “know climate breakdown will engulf their children and grandchildren without immediate radical action, and it has shot high up in public concerns”. She adds” “This manifesto makes practical sense of green necessity, turning housing need and decarbonisation into an industrial strategy with a million good jobs.” Also in the Guardian, Stephen Buranyi writes that politicians are suddenly having to formulate meaningful climate policies rather than agree far-off targets: “[This] indicate[s] that the climate crisis may be about to descend from the lofty realm of consensus into the arena of real politics. That can only happen when the public is given – or demands – a proper democratic choice.”
“The pall of smoke obscuring Sydney is a grim reminder that the impact of climate change is pervasive and all-too real,” says an editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald. It continues: “The burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and increased agricultural production did not cause the bushfires or the protracted drought affecting Australia. But they have caused global warming which has, in turn, exacerbated the scale and intensity of these calamities. Even people who have ignored the issue are getting an inkling that climate change is not just a political debate but something that will affect their daily lives. The hazy skies are a warning that it will change the great Australian summer.”
The global production of cement released 1.5bn tonnes of CO2 in 2018, which is equivalent to about 4 % of the emissions from fossil fuels, a study finds. Cement production is largest driver of greenhouse gas emissions following fossil fuel burning and land-use change, according to the study. More than 70% of emissions from cement production over the past 90 years have occurred since 1990, the research adds. Carbon Brief previously published an explainer on cement’s contribution to climate change.
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