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Daily Briefing

11.12.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Major emitters accused of blocking progress at UN talks
Major emitters accused of blocking progress at UN talks

News.

Major emitters accused of blocking progress at UN talks

Belize’s Carlos Fuller, the chief negotiator for the Association of Small Island Developing States (AOSIS), tells BBC News that Brazil, Saudi Arabia, India and China are “part of the problem” holding up progress at the COP25 climate talks in Madrid. According to the BBC News article, Fuller points to “attempts by Brazil, China, India and Saudi Arabia to have the actions that were due to be completed before 2020 by richer nations, re-examined as part of the overall deal here in Madrid”. It continues: “Mr Fuller said this ‘game of chicken’ approach to the negotiations was a threat to the overall success of the talks.” In the Hindu, Indian environment minister Prakash Javadekar is quoted saying: “It is time for reflection and assessment as we near the end of the pre-2020 period…Has the developed world delivered on its promises? Unfortunately, annexed [developed] countries have not met their Kyoto Protocol targets…I propose that we have three more years to fulfil the pre-2020 commitments till the global stocktake takes places [in 2023] for bridging emission gaps.”

BBC News also quotes Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace, saying: “There’s an effort right now to block the words ‘climate urgency’ in text from Brazil and Saudi Arabia, saying we haven’t used these words before in the UN, so we can’t use them now.” The South China Morning Post reports that China’s new climate lead, Zhao Yingmin, has “take[n] a swipe at [the] US” in his debut appearance at COP25. The paper reports: “Asked whether the US withdrawal was good or bad news for China, Zhao told reporters: ‘Addressing climate change is a joint global effort [and] no one should be absent.’” In a section referring to ongoing negotiations over international carbon trading under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, the paper says: “A source close to Zhao singled out Brazil, saying that the current government that was being blamed for encouraging deforestation in the Amazon ‘has a lot of ideas contradicting most countries, even China’.” [This appears to be a reference to Brazil’s position on “double counting”. See Carbon Brief’s in-depth Q&A on Article 6 for background.] A piece from EurActiv, based on an interview with Green MEP Bas Eickhout, says Brazil, Australia and Saudi Arabia are “still blocking” attempts to reach agreement on international carbon trading under Article 6. Reuters reports that the COP25 talks are seeking to “break deadlock” on the Article 6 rules. A second EurActiv article reports that the EU is under pressure to do more at the negotiations.

In other developments from COP25, Xinhua carries an interview with Li Gao, head of the department of climate change within China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment and deputy head of the country’s COP25 delegation. It reports: “[Li] told Xinhua that financing and support by developed countries to developing ones are always outstanding and crucial issues in climate talks…Li said that China had called for more attention to be paid to climate adaptation, instead of focusing only on climate change mitigation.” According to Climate Home News: “The US government is pushing to ensure it can never be held accountable for the damage caused by climate change in vulnerable countries. In 2015, countries agreed that references to ‘loss and damage’ in the Paris Agreement would not provide the basis for any liability and compensation. A US proposal being circulated at COP25 talks in Madrid, which CHN understands hasn’t yet been formally submitted to the UN, would extend the liability waiver to mentions of loss and damage in decision texts under the UNFCCC convention, the supreme decision-making body at UN Climate Change.” Separately, BBC News covers a report launched in Madrid which says: “[P]lans are in place for a huge expansion of oil drilling in the upper Amazon. The analysis says that Ecuador and Peru are set to sanction oil extraction across an area of forest the size of Italy.” The piece adds: “[Ecuador] is also under pressure from China to supply oil because of financial debts.” Meanwhile, Reuters reports that far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has called climate activist Greta Thunberg a “brat” after she “criticised mounting violence against indigenous people in which two Amazon tribesmen were shot dead three days ago”. The Independent says Thunberg responded by changing her Twitter bio to “brat” in Portuguese (“Pirralha”). Separately, the Washington Post reports on the attendance at COP25 by Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire and US presidential hopeful, who it says spoke in Madrid to “tout his carbon-cutting agenda”. According to Reuters, Bloomberg said that the US would need to repair relations with China in order to revive international efforts to tackle climate change. The Independent also covers Bloomberg’s attendance.

BBC News Read Article
Greenland's ice sheet melting seven times faster than in 1990s

The Greenland ice sheet is melting “much faster than previously thought” reports the Guardian, covering a new study into melting in the region that it says: “threaten[s] hundreds of millions of people with inundation”. It adds: “Ice is being lost from Greenland seven times faster than it was in the 1990s.” The findings come from an international team of polar scientists that has reviewed all satellite observations of Greenland over the past 26 years, says BBC News. It adds: “They say Greenland’s contribution to sea-level rise is currently tracking what had been regarded as a pessimistic projection of the future.” According to the Evening Standard, the study means that 400 million people could be at risk of coastal flooding by the end of the century as a result of Greenalnd melt, some 40 million more than expected in a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Daily Telegraph also notes this increase. The Washington Post and the Hill also have the story. Writing in the Conversation, two of the Greenland study authors say that the continent has lost 3.8tn tonnes of ice since 1992, enough to raise global sea levels by around 11mm. In September, Carbon Brief published a summary of the latest developments for Greenland’s ice sheet in 2019, written by one of the authors of today’s new research. Separately, the GuardianNew York Times and InsideClimate News cover a US “report card” on the state of the Arctic, which, according to the Guardian, saw its second lowest sea ice cover on record in 2019.

The Guardian Read Article
Need fair, balanced way to achieve 2050 climate target: EU's Michel

Several publications preview the “European Green Deal”, expected to be launched by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen today. Reuters reports the comments of European Council president Charles Michel in a letter to EU leaders, where he wrote: “We must also recognise that [climate neutrality by 2050] will require efforts from all member states. We will put in place a framework and the necessary resources to chart a fair and balanced path towards our objective.” Politico reports that von der Leyen “should gear up for a fight” over the “Green Deal”. It says: “The Green Deal is expected to include a climate law committing the bloc to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and a plan to up the bloc’s mid-term climate targets for 2030; a carbon border mechanism to make importers pay more for polluting products; a financing mechanism of up to €100bn to pay for the transition; and initiatives spanning agriculture, transport, energy, chemicals, construction and more.” The publication adds: “Von der Leyen’s announcement will take place a day before EU leaders gather for a European Council summit to discuss the 2050 climate-neutrality goal. In a preview of the political battles ahead, three countries – Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary – still have to agree on that broad target, advancing demands for more financial support from Brussels.” Meanwhile, Reuters has an explainer on what an EU carbon border adjustment would involve. Citing an EU document it reports: “The plan could initially be tested on industries including steel, cement and aluminium.” Politico reports the comments of Frans Timmermans, the commission’s head of European Green Deal, who says of the proposed carbon border adjustment: “If you take the same, or comparable, measures there will be no need to correct anything at the border. If you don’t, then of course, at some point, we will have to protect our industries.” A Financial Times “big read” asks whether the plan is designed to “protect…the planet or European industry”. It adds: “Critics argue that co-opting environmental measures into trade policy has more to do with protectionism.” Separately, another Financial Times piece reports that German politicians have “warned Brussels against” a European Commission plan to loosen budget rules to allow for greater green investment. It explains: “The European Commission will on Wednesday kick off a drive for higher environmentally friendly investment when it unveils its Green New Deal.” Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Germany “will allow operators of coal power stations to keep their existing carbon emissions certificates after the units have been shut down, part of a compromise designed to reduce the cost to generators of a climate change package”.

Writing in the Guardian, von der Leyen says: “The European Green Deal is Europe’s new growth strategy. It will cut emissions while also creating jobs and improving our quality of life. It is the green thread that will run through all our policies – from transport to taxation, food to farming, industry to infrastructure.”

Reuters Read Article
Hazardous Sydney smoke turns up heat in Australia's climate politics

Reuters reports on the “devastating bushfires” that have blanketed Sydney in “hazardous smoke”. It says this has “heightened public anger and raised political pressure on the government to do more to tackle climate change”. In a story published on its front page under the headline “this is not normal”, the Sydney Morning Herald reports comments on the fires from New South Wales environment minister Matt Kean. According to the paper: “Kean says ‘no one can deny’ that climate change is to blame for the smoke haze choking Sydney as bushfires burn across [the state].” The Guardian also reports Kean’s comments, including that “doing nothing is not a solution”. A second Guardian article reports on a speech by Australia’s energy minister Angus Taylor at the COP25 climate talks in Madrid, where he “sidestep[ped]” the debate over his government’s plans to use old carbon “units” carried over from the Kyoto Protocol to meet commitments under the Paris Agreement. The paper says: “One of Taylor’s key tasks this week in Madrid is to fight off a challenge from about 100 countries that want to ban the use of the carryover credits. The issue remains unresolved after another day’s talks.” The Sydney Morning Herald reports that former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has criticised plans to use Kyoto credits to meet half the country’s Paris goal. Separately, another Guardian piece reports that Australia has been ranked “worst of 57 countries on climate change policy”, according to the “2020 Climate Change Performance Index” prepared by a group of thinktanks and NGOs. It quotes the report saying: “Experts note that the new [Australian] government is an increasingly regressive force in negotiations.” In a comment for Bloomberg, columnist David Fickling says the political “silence has been deafening” over the Australian bushfires. He adds: “The reason is coal. Australia’s largest export last calendar year has a crucial role in the climate change that’s already making spring in southeastern Australia warmer and drier, which in turn increases the odds of the extreme weather that causes severe bushfires. The relationship between climate change and fire season is one that many politicians are unwilling to highlight.”

Reuters Read Article
ExxonMobil wins climate change fraud court fight with New York

Oil major ExxonMobil has won a court battle with the state of New York over its climate change disclosures to investors, the Financial Times reports. It says the ruling “could damage similar legal challenges filed by other states”. The paper explains: “The fraud claims centred on Exxon’s use of a proxy cost of carbon, which was presented by the company as a way to incorporate expected future curbs on emissions into its business planning. New York had alleged the company’s internal estimates for the future cost of greenhouse gases were different from its public statements.” The New York Times says the prosecution had argued that “the company had engaged in fraud through its statements about how it accounted for the costs of climate change regulation”. It continues: “After some four years of investigation and millions of pages of documents produced by the company, the judge said, attorney general Letitia James and her staff ‘failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence’.”. The Washington PostInsideClimate NewsAxiosReuters, Associated Press via the GuardianBuzzFeed News and the Hill all report the story.

Financial Times Read Article

Comment.

Failure to get tough on emissions rules undermines Paris climate pact

In a piece for Politico, Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama writes that countries must not be allowed to “double count” efforts to cut CO2 “so that both countries get credit for the same emission reductions”. He adds: “Such creative accounting practices would be a poison pill for the Paris Agreement, letting countries off the hook from taking meaningful climate action.” Bainimarama’s comments refer to rules being negotiated at COP25 for international carbon trading, under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

Frank Bainimarama, Politico Read Article

Science.

Approval of political leaders can slant evaluation of political issues: evidence from public concern for climate change in the USA

Those who approve of US President Donald Trump are more likely to hold climate sceptic views, a new study finds. The analysis combines national survey data with climate extremes data to examine how politics and climate extremes altogether shape American public concern for climate change. The findings suggest that “one’s concern for climate change is partially explained by their political identification and partially explained by their levels of approval of Trump”, the authors say.

Climatic Change Read Article

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