Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Labour votes to slash greenhouse gas emissions to ‘net zero’ by 2030
- Greta Thunberg: What climate summit achieved after outburst
- Aviation emissions to take centre stage in Montreal as protests loom
- Hinkley Point C nuclear plant to run £2.9bn over budget
- UN report to warn of climate change impacts on oceans
- The Guardian view on the climate youth movement: we have been warned
- After failure in New York, we must reshape the politics of climate change
- A round Earth for climate models
- Effect of gasoline prices on car fuel efficiency: Evidence from Lebanon
Labour has committed to “the most stringent environmental policy of any G20 economy” after a vote at the party’s annual conference to cut emissions to “net-zero” by 2030, as well as nationalising the “big six” energy companies, according to the Financial Times. The paper reports that delegates “fought off an attempt by trade unions” to block the move owing to concerns about the impact on the British economy. The Independent notes the net-zero target, pushed by campaigners for a “Green New Deal”, is more ambitious than the one set out by the Conservatives who are aiming for 2050, and the Liberal Democrats, who are aiming for 2045. The Guardian has comments by a Labour party spokesperson, who say the transition would be achieved by “massive investment in infrastructure and skills, public ownership of key utilities and supporting climate transition in the global south”. BusinessGreen also covers the story, including comments from companies expressing scepticism about the plan. A spokesperson from the Confederation of British Industry is reported as saying “business is completely behind the transition to a net-zero economy by 2050, but there is no credible pathway to achieving it by 2030”.
Coverage continues of the UN climate summit in New York and the responses that it has triggered. BBC News’s environment analyst Roger Harrabin notes that more than 60 nations announced they were working on or exploring plans to reduce their emissions to “virtually zero”, while a similar number said they would “definitely boost their climate change ambitions by next year”. However, the piece also mentions the general feeling summarised by climate activist Greta Thunberg in a widely reported speech at the conference that inadequate action was being taken. Vox concludes the summit was a “disappointment”, noting the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters – China, the US and India – offered either “nothing or very little”. The Economist agrees that despite a “torrent of new announcements” there is much that “remains to be done”. In the aftermath of the event, National Geographic has produced an article with Climate Action Tracker looking at which countries are “dragging their heels and who is making the best efforts”. After Australian prime minister Scott Morrison failed to attend the summit, despite being in the US at the time, the Guardian has a story outlining the view apparently held by some analysts and former diplomats that he is running a “denialist government”.
Coverage also continues of Thunberg herself. Reuters reports that she seemed to respond to Donald Trump’s “mocking” remarks on Twitter by changing her social media biography to reflect his comments, referring to herself as: “A very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future”. The Daily Telegraph covers comments from French president Emmanuel Macron, warning that Thunberg’s “radical” stance risked “depressing a generation”. His statement came after the Swedish teenager, together with 15 other young activists, filed a complaint at the UN against five countries, including France, for taking insufficient action against climate change. Australia’s Morrison echoed Macron’s sentiments, according to the Guardian, stating the climate change debate is subjecting Australian children to “needless anxiety”. The Daily Mail’s columnist Sarah Vine writes in an at-times-mocking column about her “fear” that Thunberg “needs loving help from the grown-ups in her life”. Piers Morgan also voices his concerns about Thunberg in a MailOnline column, while also criticising Trump for his mockery.
The Washington Post notes that, while government efforts “stalled” at the summit, there had been 20 multinational corporations pledging to switch to 100% renewable electricity. As world leaders met in New York on Tuesday for the UN’s General Assembly following the summit, the Wall Street Journal reports that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gave a “defiant” speech in which he defended his nation’s right to develop the Amazon, after recent unfavourable media coverage of extensive fires in the region.
Meanwhile, EurActiv reports that a public debate among EU energy ministers had seen three European nations – France, Bulgaria and Greece – pledge to “bump up” their share of wind, solar and other renewables by 2030.
A global deal to curb aviation emissions was set to take “centre stage” as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) opened its triennial assembly in Montreal, reports Reuters. The UN aviation agency’s meeting is taking place “under the shadow” of protests which are set to be led by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg in the Canadian city on Friday, according to the news outlet. It comes after the organisation launched its major climate plan, the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (Corsia), at its last meeting. The industry is now facing more scrutiny and pressure from the public to take further action, according to Reuters, which has also produced an explainer about how Corsia will work. In yet another piece, the newswire reports that ahead of the assembly, China had joined Russia in arguing that the new proposal would unfairly penalise emerging and developing nations because it raises costs. Carbon Brief has produced its own earlier piece explaining how Corsia will work, as well as concerns about how effective it will be.
Meanwhile, a freedom of information request by the Guardian has revealed previously unpublished statistics showing that 1% of residents are responsible for nearly a fifth of all English flights abroad.
There is widespread coverage of breaking news that French utility EDF has, in a statement, said that the Hinkley C new nuclear plant in Somerset could run up to £2.9bn over budget. BBC News says the firm blames “challenging ground conditions” for the cost overrun and a potential delay of 15 months to the project’s planned completion in 2025. Reuters and the Daily Telegraph also have the story, with the Telegraph piece noting that the overrun would have no impact on consumer bills given the fixed price for the electricity the plant is to generate. It adds that EDF shares fell 5% this morning on the news. The piece adds: “The announcement could lead to fresh scrutiny of the value of the infrastructure project. EDF is to receive £92 per megawatt hour produced at Hinkley Point, far in excess of the cost of other forms of energy. Last week, the cost of offshore wind energy had fell as low as £39.65 at auction.”
Ahead of its imminent publication, the Press Association previews the latest special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which focuses on global oceans and the cryosphere. It says the lengthy report will “warn that climate change is having a significant impact on the oceans, with millions in coastal communities facing flooding and sea level rise”, as well as outlining “huge increases in flooding damage, melting ice caps and glaciers and more ocean heatwaves that bleach and kill coral”. BBC News also has a story looking at what the report will likely contain, noting that those involved had reviewed “hundreds of published papers” on how climate change impacts the seas. It reports that the scientists behind the report had spent the past few days trying to agree on a short summary of their findings with government representatives at a meeting in Monaco.
Once the summary and the lengthy underlying chapters of the report have been released later today, Carbon Brief will publish its own extensive summary of the report’s key points.
Following the global climate strike last Friday and Greta Thunberg’s powerful speech at the UN, the Guardian’s editorial looks at how the growing movement of young people is building on older ideas of climate justice. “The upsurge in youth climate activism over the past 12 months has dramatically altered the terms of the global climate argument…Driven to desperation by the repeated failures of national and international institutions, and increasingly anxious about the heating and ecologically degraded world they are set to inherit, young people are throwing down the gauntlet to political leaders and warning them about the consequences if they refuse to pick it up.” The editorial notes that British climate activists can take heart that their voices are being listened to, alluding to the “massive political shift” of the Labour party’s new 2030 net-zero target. It concludes that with a less clear picture developing in other nations such as Brazil and the US, the future is hard to predict. “Alarming predictions about the future have sharpened divisions between old and young. A new faultline in politics is emerging.”
Meanwhile, in an opinion piece for the New York Times titled, “It’s the environment, stupid”, columnist Thomas L. Friedman says mitigating climate change and saving the environment could actually be the issues that win the upcoming US election. “Democrats need to run against Trump on the Earth Race: to make America the leader in all policies and technologies that help men and women everywhere live sustainably here on Earth,” he writes.
Writing in Climate Home News, chief executive of non-profit environmental group E3G Nick Mabey says that while the New York climate summit “finally took the temperature” of global climate politics, “it wasn’t hot enough”. Despite progress since the Paris Agreement was finalised in 2015, he notes that greenhouse gas emissions are still rising even as scientific warnings become more stark. “Despite the UN secretary general going far beyond the usual diplomatic niceties – only allowing leaders announcing real commitments a platform – the response from major polluters was virtually non-existent. If solutions are cheaper, public opinion is mobilised and impacts much clearer, why is political action not following?” He notes that despite conversation around the role companies play in driving carbon pollution, most fossil fuels are still owned by countries, and there is still a need for action by states. “There is no silver bullet for changing the politics of climate change. Action is needed in negotiating halls, legislatures, boardrooms, courts and on the streets if we are to successfully respond at the unprecedented pace needed,” he says. As co-hosts of next year’s UN climate COP in Glasgow, Mabey says the UK and Italy must aim to create a “whole of society” summit in 2020. “This will require creativity, leadership and a willingness to take political and diplomatic risks. But these are nothing compared to the risks we are taking with our security and prosperity by doing nothing,” he concludes.
Almost all 3D climate models treat the atmosphere as flat, a new study says, yet correcting this “mostly forgotten assumption” would “alter a model’s skill in simulating current climate”. “Correcting from flat to spherical atmospheres leads to regionally differential solar heating at rates comparable to the climate forcing by greenhouse gases and aerosols,” the authors say. They also note that “spherical atmospheres change how we evaluate the aerosol direct radiative forcing”.
A new study of car sales in Lebanon provides “evidence against the hypothesis that rising gasoline prices shift consumers’ demand toward the most fuel-efficient cars”. Using a dataset of monthly imported cars from 2000 to 2016, the researchers modelled different consumer choices between fuel-efficient cars, midsize cars, and fuel-inefficient cars. Tests to examine whether gasoline prices influence the sale of fuel-efficient cars reveal “no evidence in support of the fuel efficiency hypothesis”, the study says.
Expert analysis directly to your inbox.