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Daily Briefing

20.12.2018
Today's climate and energy headlines
Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

20.12.2018 | 9:28am
DAILY BRIEFING Met Office forecasts hottest ever year in 2019 with climate change causing the increase
Met Office forecasts hottest ever year in 2019 with climate change causing the increase

News.

Met Office forecasts hottest ever year in 2019 with climate change causing the increase

Average global temperatures for 2019 will be 1.1C above pre-industrial levels, putting it among the five hottest years ever, according to Met Office estimates quoted in the Daily Mail. “The Met Office said the highs are the result of climate change caused by greenhouse gases,” the Daily Mail adds. The scientists said the rise is due to climate change combined with modest warming from the El Nino weather phenomenon in the Pacific, which pushes up temperatures further, says the Independent. The forecast would bring the temperature close to the record-breaking hot year of 2016, when temperatures were 1.15C above the 1850-1900 period, says the Sun. The prediction is “the latest in the warming trend the world has seen in recent years”, says the Daily Express, which also quotes Professor Adam Scaife, head of long-range prediction at the Met Office: “Our forecasts suggest that, by the end of 2019, 19 of the 20 warmest years on record will have occurred since the year 2000.” The Met Office press release notes the forecast is based on the key drivers of the global climate, but it does not include unpredictable events, such as a large volcanic eruption, which would cause a temporary cooling.

Daily Mail Read Article
New environmental watchdog to get legal teeth after Brexit

The government has outlined plans for a new green watchdog to protect the environment after Brexit, reports BBC News. The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) will be an independent statutory body to safeguard environmental standards, ministers say, the BBC adds. The draft Environment Bill sees the new watchdog having similar legal power to the EU courts, a “crucial decision” after a long internal battle within government, says the BBC. It also sets down the polluter pays principle, which establishes who is responsible if the environment is harmed, says the BBC. However, climate change will not be included in the environment bill, “to the disappointment of environmentalists,” it adds. The bill makes it a legal requirement for the government to have a long-term environment plan and report on progress to parliament each year, says the Guardian. But campaign groups have questioned the independence of the body “since the chairperson and budget will be decided by the environment secretary”, it adds. BusinessGreen says many green groups have warned the bill “still does not give the watchdog enough ‘teeth’ to ensure standards don’t slip”. “Experts expressed disappointment…the body won’t, for example, be able to levy fines, or wield more ‘creative’ enforcement measures such as compelling senior staff members to attend hearings, or putting non-compliant bodies into Ofsted-style ‘special measures’,” adds BusinessGreen. Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth’s chief executive, said the draft plan “falls far short of the blueprint for a greener post-Brexit Britain”, writes the Independent.

BBC News Read Article
EU coal subsidy phase-out 'completely inconsistent with Paris deal'

An EU deal to slowly phase out coal subsidies is “completely inconsistent” with its Paris climate agreement commitments, according to analysts, the Guardian writes. Negotiations on the deal ended early on Wednesday, setting benchmark CO2 emissions standards for all European power plants by 2025, the Guardian adds, but Poland secured a loophole allowing countries another year to negotiate new “capacity mechanisms” exempted from the deadline. The deal “could allow subsidies to keep unprofitable coal plants running until 2035,” says the Guardian. “Continued support for coal as just agreed by the EU is completely inconsistent with meeting the Paris agreement goals and in particular with limiting warming to 1.5C [above pre-industrial levels],” Bill Hare, the director of the Climate Analytics thinktank and a former Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lead author, tells the Guardian. But Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU’s Commissioner for climate action and energy, says capacity mechanisms “will not be used as a backdoor subsidy of high-polluting fossil fuels as that would go against our climate objectives”, BusinessGreen reports.

The news comes as investors overseeing more than $11tn in assets today called on power companies to commit to ending coal use by 2030, in a letter to the Financial Times. The investors, led by the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change and members of the Climate Action 100+ organisation, urge European utilities to set timelines for eliminating coal-fired power generation. “We require power companies – including power generators, grid operators and distributors – to plan for their future in a net-zero carbon economy,” the letter says. Meanwhile, a story in the Washington Post looks at how tiny villages in Greece’s lignite belt have been “destroyed by [coal] mining as the ground becomes too unsteady to hold homes upright”.

The Guardian Read Article

Comment.

We’re back to the 1930s politics of anger and, yes, appeasement

“More than any other decade, the 1930s act as a reference point for just how bad things can get,” writes Larry Elliot, the Guardian’s economics editor, in a Guardian piece looking at how the “echoes of [this] horrific decade are getting louder”. He adds: “One seeming difference between the 2010s and the 1930s is the absence of an ideological clash…[But] in fact, there is a challenge to free-market capitalism and it is coming from environmentalism. On the one hand, there is an ideology that prioritises growth; on the other a belief system that sees the obsession with growth as an existential threat to the planet.” Brexit is not even the most important issue facing Britain, he adds, saying that governments are aware of the risk posed by climate change: “They know that they need to change the way their economies are run in order to hit targets for capping carbon emissions. They understand that time is not on their side. Yet at the UN summit in Poland they came up with an agreement they knew was inadequate to meet the challenge…Ultimately, policymakers have a choice. They can put their economies on an environmental war footing or they can continue to bottle it. In the 30s, they acted in time, but only just. For today’s appeasers, the moment of truth is nigh.”

Meanwhile, writing in BusinessGreen, WWF-UK’s Gareth Redmond-King says COP24 in Poland hammered home the fact that time is running out – and asks whether it is time for a “climate damages tax”. And an article in the Conversation looks at civil society voices at the UN climate talks. Another article in Wired looks at whether businesses are moving faster than politicians on climate. “Maersk’s announcement seems reflective of such a trend…While delegates were debating, Denmark-based shipping company Maersk, which is the largest in the industry, announced its own plans to cut its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050.” And an article in Earther discusses the “unbearable maleness of the UN climate talks”.

Larry Elliott, The Guardian Read Article
What would Jesus do? Talking with evangelicals about climate change

In her latest column about the American South and climate change, Megan Mayhew Bergman writes about her impressions of visiting Christians in the US who have been resistant to ideas of environmental stewardship. “I spoke with people of faith in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, and it became clear that the primary barrier to climate action is the fact that it’s been yoked with the liberal agenda,” she writes.

Megan Mayhew Bergman, The Guardian Read Article
As seas warm, Galápagos Islands face a giant evolutionary test

“As climate change warms the world’s oceans, [the Galapagos] islands are a crucible,” says a feature in the New York Times accompanied by video and photos. The story looks at the impacts of climate change on many of the islands’ creatures, including flightless cormorants, sea lions and marine iguanas.

Nicholas Casey & Josh Haner, The New York Times Read Article

Science.

Climate change resilience of a globally important sea turtle nesting population

A new study of a globally important population of green sea turtles in West Africa suggests the colony will “resist climate change until 2100” despite rising temperatures causing the population to decline. Simulating the population and nesting patterns of the turtle into the future, the findings suggest that warmer temperatures will see an increase in the proportion of females to 76–93% by 2100. Though this “feminisation” process will boost population levels initially, the authors say, “as incubation temperatures approach lethal levels, however, the population will cease growing and start to decline”.

Global Change Biology Read Article
Mapping global human dependence on marine ecosystems

More than 775 million people globally live in areas that are highly dependent on “marine ecosystem services”, new research suggests. The study maps out nutritional, economic, and coastal protection benefits around that world, and the susceptibility of people to a loss of those benefits. Dependence is “highest for Pacific and Indian Ocean island nations and several West African countries”, the researchers conclude.

Conservation Letters Read Article

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