Today's climate and energy headlines:
- MPs call for UK companies to disclose climate risks
- Pope to address oil majors in Vatican climate conference
- Trump orders Energy Department to help ailing coal, nuclear plants
- Former Tory and Labour leaders urge PM to enshrine emissions target in law
- G7 to miss targets on fuel subsidies
- London could run out of water in decades thanks to climate change and population rise
- Could the world's best performing commodity take the heat out of climate change?
- Hope in the Era of Trump’s Climate Foolishness
- Climate Own Goals
- Solar dimming above temperate forests and its impact on local climate
- Enhanced response of global wetland methane emissions to the 2015-2016 El Niño-Southern Oscillation event
A committee of MPs has said the UK government should bring in rules within the next four years that require pension funds and UK-listed companies, including banks, to disclose climate-related risks. The Environmental Audit Committee says the government should immediately clarify existing rules around corporate risk disclosure to include material climate risks, according to the FT. “We want to see mandatory climate risk reporting and a clarification in law that pension trustees have a duty to consider long-term sustainability, not just short-term returns,” said Mary Creagh MP, chair of the committee. Institutional investors are sometimes confused about the extent of pension trustees’ duty to consider environmental risks, says the Independent, adding that “recommendations come amid growing international momentum encouraging financial reporting on sustainability”. BusinessGreen says the UK government has backed the voluntary guidelines set out last year by the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD), which aim to help companies assess and disclose their climate risk. In response to the report, a government spokesperson said business has a part to play in tackling climate change. “We’ll consider the findings of this report alongside our review of the Green Finance Taskforce’s proposals.”
The Vatican will host executives of the world’s top oil companies for a conference this week on climate change and the transition away from fossil fuels, a Vatican source has confirmed. Pope Francis, who wrote a major document on protection of the environment from global warming in 2015 (covered by Carbon Brief at the time), is expected to address the group on the last day of the June 8-9 conference. The conference, organised by the University of Notre Dame in the US, is expected to be attended by the heads or senior executives of companies, including Exxon Mobil, Eni, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell. The story was first broken by Axios on Friday. The Financial Times says: “According to a list of attendees seen by the FT, nearly 40 top investors and oil industry executives — including Darren Woods, ExxonMobil boss, and Larry Fink, BlackRock chief — will meet church leaders next week in an unusual gathering that underscores the growing pressure on energy groups to address climate change.” ABC News and Bloomberg are among the many other outlets covering the news.
Donald Trump has directed his energy secretary Rick Perry to take emergency steps to keep at-risk coal and nuclear plants running, the White House has announced. Reuters says that, under the directive, Perry would require grid operators to buy electricity from ailing nuclear and coal-fired power plants to keep them from being closed. “Unfortunately, impending retirements of fuel-secure power facilities are leading to a rapid depletion of a critical part of our nation’s energy mix, and impacting the resilience of our power grid,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement. The Financial Timessays Trump’s plan is “to intervene in US electricity markets to support unprofitable generators”, adding: “Many power industry groups criticised the move, arguing that interference in the market was unnecessary and would raise prices for electricity consumers.” A leak of the proposal was first reported by Bloomberg. Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist, writes that Trump is “abusing powers granted to defend national security on behalf of destructive policies that have nothing to do with security. In this case, it’s planning to force clean energy to subsidise dirty energy.” He adds: “Why? Probably the main reason is sheer corruption: coal moguls are key Trump backers, and he’s trying to reward them. But there’s also, I suspect, the sheer meanspiritedness that characterises modern conservatism: ‘Liberals want clean energy? Hah! We’ll show them!'” Meanwhile, Reutersreports that the White House is expected today to announce changes in its biofuels policies, including a plan to count ethanol exports toward federal biofuels usage quotas.
A cross-party coalition of MPs and peers is calling on the UK prime minister to enshrine a “net-zero” greenhouse gas emissions target in law. The call follows the announcement that the government will consult on bringing the UK’s emissions reduction target in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change. The Press Association explains that “net zero means reducing carbon emissions close to zero and then balancing out any remainder by, for example, planting trees or restoring peatlands which soak up carbon from the atmosphere”. The group, led by Conservative MP Simon Clarke, also includes former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, chairwoman of the environmental audit committee Mary Creagh MP, Lib Dem Baroness Featherstone, Green MP Caroline Lucas, former Conservative party leader Lord Howard and scientist Lord Krebs.
Some of the world’s richest countries are still spending billions of pounds each year subsidising fossil fuels despite pledging since 2009 to turn off the tap completely by 2025. The G7 nations – Canada, US, France, Germany, UK, Japan and Italy – collectively spend more than £70bn annually supporting oil, gas and coal, according to a new report written jointly by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Oil change International (OCI), the Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the Natural Resources Defence Council. Reuters also carries the story. The G7’s annual summit takes place in Quebec next week. Meanwhile, Deutsche Welle reports that “investors with $26tn in assets urge G7 leaders to act on climate change”. To coincide with last year’s summit in Italy, Carbon Brief published a detailed explainer on the challenge of defining fossil fuel subsidies.
Millions of extra litres of drinking water must be sourced to stop parts of London running dry over the coming decades, Thames Water has warned. It adds that without changing our lifestyles “there would be shortages, low pressure and more instances of people having no water”. The Evening Standard says: “Climate change is predicted to bring shorter, heavier bursts of rain, which run off from the ground and are not as reliable for filling up rivers. Climate change is also expected to cause more droughts.”
In a news feature for the Sunday Telegraph, the paper’s energy reporter looks at how the the “value of Europe’s flagship carbon market has tripled in the last year alone”. John Roome, a senior director at the World Bank, tells Ambrose: “Governments at all levels are starting to see the effectiveness of carbon pricing in their efforts to cut harmful carbon pollution while also raising revenues for climate and other policies, including environmental action. As countries take stock of their Paris Agreement commitments and set a path towards increased ambition, carbon pricing mechanisms with robust pricing levels are proving to be essential elements of the toolkit.” Ambrose says carbon pricing has “won support across the board, from clean energy developers and Big Oil, to Left-leaning environmentalists and pro-market economists”.
There is widespread commentary to mark the first anniversary of Trump’s speech confirming he wants to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement. An editorial in the New York Times celebrates the efforts across the US by mayors, states and businesses “to fill the Trump vacuum”, adding that “until that changes, these voices…deserve praise and support”. The Guardian and Reutersreport the views of Christiana Figueres, who headed the UNFCCC in the run up to the Paris Agreement. She says: “To derive a conclusion that is completely contradictory to the path of history and to the interest of the US economy is actually quite sad…How is [withdrawing from Paris] going to strengthen the US economy? How is it going to open up new opportunities for the US when the rest of the world is becoming increasingly decarbonised?” USA Today carries a joint op-ed by US governors Jerry Brown, Andrew Cuomo and Jay Inslee. They say: “Trump’s retreat has catalysed leaders in America and around the world to stand shoulder to shoulder and press forward with climate solutions…We will work in lockstep with the nations of the world and continue our work to uphold the Paris Agreement.” The Hill carries an op-ed by George David Banks, who was until recently Trump’s energy and environment advisor: “I place the odds of greater than 60-40 that President Trump, the dealmaker, scores a Paris political victory shortly before the 2020 election, thanks in large part to the flexibility that his predecessor gave him.” Writing in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph, Charles Moore (an undeclared trustee of climate sceptic lobbyist Global Warming Policy Foundation) celebrates that the “iconoclastic president has broken the spell of climate change mania”. However, Bob Ward, writing on the Grantham Institutewebsite, says Moore’s article is “riddled with inaccurate and misleading claims”. Meanwhile, BBC News says the “worst is yet to come”: “In recent months, China appears to have decided that it is unhappy with one of the key elements of the Paris agreement, the provision that all countries, rich or poor, must undertake actions to cut emissions…As part of the US withdrawal, President Trump has immediately stopped the payment of the extra $2bn that had been promised. Poorer countries especially are fuming about this imminent shortfall, and are also hugely irritated by what they see as some smugness among the better-off nations, whom they feel aren’t going far enough or fast enough to cut carbon.” Quartz says: “Can we imagine the US rejoining? So far, Trump’s Republicans have not paid a political price for their climate-denying stance. But there’s a growing divide between Republican voters, who largely believe in the scientific consensus that climate change is being driven by human activity, and the party’s fossil-fuel funders, who deny the consensus view.” Zac Colman in E&E Newssays “Far-right critics of mainstream climate science want Trump and Pruitt to ditch the regulations entirely, but they’re not confident it can be done.” He quotes a long-timeUS climate sceptic and Trump supporter Myron Ebell: “It seems to me they’re being very slow and clumsy on a whole lot of these withdrawals of regulations.”
The Irish edition of the Times carries an editorial criticising the Irish government for “ducking its responsibilities” to meet its emissions targets. This follows the news last week that the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the country will miss its goals by a large margin, with Ireland on course to achieve only a 1% reduction on its 2005 emission levels by 2020 instead of the agreed 20%. The Times writes: “Aside from the irreparable damage to the environment, failure on this front comes with an economic cost: the country faces up to €600m in fines or costs relating to the purchase of ‘credits’ from EU states that surpass 2020 targets.” It says the government should follow the advice of the “citizens’ assembly”, which include a “polluter pays” carbon tax on greenhouse gas emissions from farmers.
Forests could play a role in limiting the amount of sunlight reaching Earth’s surface, a new study suggests. A study undertaken in the Eastern Alps in Europe, where forests have constantly expanded in the last four decades, finds that the presence of forest was associated with lower amounts of solar radiation. “These results suggest that local climate is influenced by land cover change through afforestation both via albedo and radiation feedbacks but also by means of indirect biophysical and species-dependent mechanisms,” the researchers say.
Methane emissions from wetlands reached record highs at the beginning of the 2015-2016 El Niño event, research shows. “Our study highlights the role of wetlands…in driving the variability and trends of atmospheric CH4 [methane] concentrations as well as the need to account for uncertainty in climate forcings in addressing the interannual variability and decadal-scale trends of wetland CH4 fluxes,” the researchers say.
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