Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Net-zero goal ‘will be ally of recovery’
- Glencore’s Glasenberg dismisses coal divestment as pointless
- Sahel region is 'canary in the coalmine' on climate, says UN official
- Climate change, national security among topics for final Trump-Biden debate
- Without insects we could all be dead in 50 years – we need to save them
- Net-zero targets offer the UK fresh trade opportunities
- Welcome to the endgame of climate change politics
- Reply to comment on 'Assessing ExxonMobil's climate change communications (1977–2014)'
- Warming winters threaten peripheral Arctic charr populations of Europe
The Times covers new research published by the London School of Economics (LSE) showing that “achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 will create as many as 80,000 jobs and help to achieve Boris Johnson’s national renewal mission”. The newspaper adds that the LSE report says that “investment in green infrastructure and technologies will prevent long-term scarring of the labour market in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis”. The report also “highlights six labour-intensive areas where government investment would create the maximum number of jobs while also helping to achieve the UK’s commitment of carbon neutrality, including renewable energy infrastructure, electric vehicle production and home energy efficiency retrofits”. The Times adds: “Natural capital projects such as tree planting, carbon capture technology and green travel infrastructure are also cited as areas that have the potential to generate significant employment in the short and medium-term.” Separately, BusinessGreen reports that the We Mean Business coalition has published new analysis which “recommends policymakers reject traditional stimulus programmes that focus on VAT reductions and boosting household spending in favour of targeted support for green technologies and solutions”. [See Carbon Brief’s interactive tracker following how governments around the world are introducing “green recovery” measures.]
Meanwhile, the Press Association says that the Woodland Trust is pledging to plant 50m trees across the UK by 2025 to help tackle climate change. The newswire adds: “The Woodland Trust is also urging millions of people to join its ‘big climate fightback’ by planting trees this November to build support to sustain the biggest mass planting campaign the country has seen, in the next few years.…As part of the push, the Woodland Trust is sending more than 600,000 free trees to community groups and schools over the next few weeks.”
BusinessGreen reports new research by Oxford Brookes that has found that “an offshore wind farm in Aberdeen bay owned by Vattenfall could generate more than £5m a year for the regional economy over its 20-year operating life, generating many more jobs than the developer originally anticipated”. The research is also covered by Scotland’s Herald.
The Times says it “has learnt that Honda has stopped selling new diesel cars, with the last vehicles expected to be out of dealerships within a few weeks”. It adds: “The Japanese company is the biggest manufacturer to date to ditch diesel in Britain after bringing forward plans to switch to 100% green technology in the next two years. Honda will phase out pure petrol cars by the end of 2022, rather than 2025 as previously announced, in favour of hybrid and battery-powered models.”
Finally, in other UK news, the Guardian reports that “an influential group of investors is urging UK regulators to make climate risk reporting mandatory for nearly 500 FTSE-listed firms”. It adds: “The Investment Association (IA), which represents 250 members with £8.5tn in assets, has thrown its weight behind calls for compulsory environmental disclosures, amid concerns that listed companies are not being transparent about how climate risks are influencing the way they invest and spend.”
The Financial Times quotes Ivan Glasenberg, CEO of Glencore – one of the world’s largest producers of coal – who told the Financial Times Commodities Mining Summit last Friday that there is no environmental benefit from investors pressing miners to sell or spin off coal mines. The FT says: “Glasenberg said the company was better off running down its mines and using them as a source of cash to expand production of raw materials such as nickel, copper and cobalt that will be needed as the world shifts to cleaner forms of energy.” The newspaper adds: “Big mining companies are coming under increasing pressure from investors and banks to divest their coal mines and align their businesses with the goals of the Paris climate deal. The world’s largest mining company BHP has pledged to withdraw from thermal coal, while Rio Tinto sold its last coal mine in 2018. Australian miner South32 is in the process of selling its coal mines in South Africa. Mr Glasenberg said Chinese companies would be the most likely buyers of coal mines and would be able to operate them under less environmental scrutiny, increasing the total amount of CO2 emitted.” Sky News also reports Glasenberg’s comments, adding: “Ironically, Mr Glasenberg’s comments come at a time when the price of thermal coal – the type of coal burned to generate electricity – is rising strongly.” Reuters picks up on other comments made by Glasenberg at the FT summit in which he said that Glencore is “talking with carmakers and battery makers about nickel – a key component in electric vehicle batteries which Tesla CEO Elon Musk has asked miners to produce more of”.
Meanwhile, in other divestment news, the Guardian reports that the former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has called on UK universities to follow the example of Cambridge and end their multimillion-pound investments in fossil fuels: “Williams, the master of Magdalene college, Cambridge, said all universities had a duty to their students to create a ‘safer world’, and investing tens of millions of pounds in fossil fuel corporations was incompatible with this.”
The South China Morning Post has a feature examining how “China faces coal shortage as import restrictions, tighter environmental checks begin to bite”.
The Guardian quotes Mark Lowcock, the UN’s top humanitarian official, who warns that Africa’s Sahel region is at the centre of accelerating climate change and “a canary in the coalmine of our warming planet”. The newspaper adds: “Lowcock, the UN’s undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, said the Sahel was facing tragedy after an ‘alarming deterioration’ in recent years that had led to tens of millions of people being displaced, rising extremist violence, massive violations of human rights and growing political instability. Some of the record 13.4 million people who need humanitarian assistance across the border areas of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger have been forced to leave their homes by unprecedented flooding across west and central Africa, underlining the threat that erratic weather caused by climate change poses to lives and livelihoods in the region. Though extreme weather events are occurring elsewhere in the world, communities in the Sahel are much less resilient to changes resulting from climate change. Rapid population growth and traditional lifestyles reinforce the problem, Lowcock told the Guardian.”
Meanwhile, in other UN news, Bloomberg reports that “nearly 200 countries are nearing a legally binding agreement to reduce pollution from the world’s cargo ships, a step forward after two years of talks on how the industry should clean up its emissions”. It adds: “A series of virtual meetings will start on Monday hosted by the United Nations shipping agency over a new rating system that will measure the carbon intensity of 60,000 large ships that haul everything from containers to crude oil. After an historic agreement in 2018 by the International Maritime Organization [see Carbon Brief’s coverage], its members are negotiating ways to get to their goal of cutting the industry’s emissions in half by the middle of the century. All of them agree a ratings system is needed for the carbon intensity of ships, but they remain divided about how it should be calculated and how it should be enforced, according to people familiar with the talks and documents seen by Bloomberg.”
With the US election just over two weeks away, there is continuing media coverage of what the outcome could mean for national and international climate and energy policies. The Hill reports that the second and final presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden will focus on topics including climate change: “NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker will moderate the debate in Nashville, Tenn. The selected six topics for the event are: fighting Covid-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership. The two candidates will meet on stage next Thursday for just the second time, but it will mark the last debate before election day.”
BBC News has a feature on “why the US election could decide battle against climate change”. It speculates on what would happen if Trump was re-elected: “As well as confirming America’s departure from the Paris deal, a win for Trump will likely see further efforts to step up fossil fuel production. This could have serious consequences for global temperatures. ‘The 1.5C temperature target is very difficult to achieve right now, although it is theoretically possible,’ says Michael Gerrard…’If Trump is re-elected, I think it goes into the realm of physical impossibility.’” [Carbon Brief covered a study earlier this year which looked at what four more years of Trump would likely mean for cutting global emissions. And Carbon Brief is also tracking the various pledges being made by Trump and Biden related to climate change and energy.]
Reuters reports that “the two largest US energy firms, Chevron Corp and Exxon Mobil Corp, have increased their share of campaign donations to Democrats this year, according to latest filings, amid a looming battle over fracking”. Bloomberg looks at how Joe Biden is tentatively approaching the topic of fracking during his campaign appearances: “The former vice president’s efforts to walk a tightrope on gas reflect the fossil fuel’s precarious place in the economy. For now, it’s an essential part of American life. Biden has been careful not to make an enemy of the industry, especially in the key battleground state of Pennsylvania, home to the largest US shale-gas field. His policies may even, in the short-term, support the gas market.”
Finally, the Independent covers remarks made by Donald Trump at a rally in Georgia over the weekend in which “attacked New York Democrat Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for having a ‘great line of bullsh*t’, but knowing nothing about the environment”. Trump added that the green new deal proposed by Ocasio-Cortez “would cost $100tn and would force new buildings to have ‘tiny windows’”. The Independent explains that “windows are not mentioned in the Green New Deal, the 14-page bill aimed at simultaneously tackling the climate crisis and providing jobs”.
Writing in his weekly column in the Sun as part of the newspaper’s “Green Team” campaign, broadcaster and motoring journalist Jeremy Clarkson – who has dismissed climate change for years – admits that following a year of extreme weather “suddenly, we could all see for ourselves the weather is changing. But what exactly are we supposed to do about it?”. He then explains how he intends to react to his belated epiphany: “The past six months have been like standing under a big green waterfall. And it’s why I’ve decided I’m going to focus on just one thing. The most important thing. The biggest threat, by far, to our long-term future on Earth. The alarming decline in insect numbers…If we lose our insects, however, we are in for a very bumpy ride. And then a light smattering of oblivion…Put simply, without insects flowering plants can’t reproduce. So they die out, along with all the birds and mammals that also rely on them for food. It gets worse. At present, intensive farming and climate change mean America is losing three tonnes of topsoil per acre EVERY YEAR.”
In the Observer, freelance science reporter Gaia Vince explains “why there is hope that the world’s coral reefs can be saved”. She continues: “While we still have reefs, we still have hope. Some will do better than others – some already are – and scientists are trying to work out why in a bid to build resilience elsewhere. As with climate change, human activity is implicated. For instance, studies show that reefs are more likely to recover from a heating event if they are protected from other stresses, such as overfishing, pollution from agriculture and boat damage. With the future of the world’s ecological and human systems now so deeply interconnected, a new movement in reef conservation is putting social systems at its heart and explicitly building resilience into human and ecological systems in tandem. In other words, protecting nature means protecting people.”
Meanwhile, in Nature, a variety of scientists have co-authored a comment piece argued that the Antarctic peninsula needs to be protected before “it’s too late”. They say: “This delicate and iconic ecosystem is in peril. The western Antarctic Peninsula (the northernmost part of the continent) is one of the fastest-warming places on Earth…Most of the region’s glaciers are receding. And sea ice is dwindling — spring 2016 saw it retreat to the smallest extent since satellite records began in the 1970s. If carbon emissions keep climbing, in 50 years’ time, the area covered by sea ice will have halved and the volume of ice shelves will have shrunk by one quarter…The first step is to protect the rich seas around the Antarctic Peninsula. A proposal to make them a marine protected area (MPA) is being discussed over the next two weeks by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), a group of governments that collectively manage the Southern Ocean’s resources. We urge them to act now.”
Writing in the Times Red Box section, Michael Liebreich, co-founder of BloombergNEF and adviser to the UK’s Board of Trade, says: “A world moving towards net-zero emissions is a world of opportunity for the UK. We are among the leaders in practically every relevant industrial sector: clean energy, electric vehicles, architecture and design, professional services – as well as the underlying hard sciences. The City of London already handles more sustainable finance than any other financial centre in the world.” He suggests three priorities for the UK: “First, we need global free trade in environmental goods and services…Second, as we squeeze emissions out of the economy, we will increase costs in some sectors. We cannot have UK farmers and manufacturers exposed to competition based in countries that are not reducing their own emissions. We need a mechanism to level the playing field…Third, we should be leading efforts to reform the WTO. We should double down on aid for trade, helping countries in the developing world — particularly Commonwealth countries — to meet the environmental standards that will allow them to sell globally and escape the aid trap.” Liebreich has also published via the BloombergNEF website part two of his look at hydrogen. This time he focuses on the “demand side”.
Writing in Foreign Policy magazine, Adam Tooze, a history professor and director of the European Institute at Columbia University in New York, looks at how the US, EU and China are all currently approaching climate change: “If now is the moment at which the US is truly to pivot away from fossil fuels this must involve not just a new energy order at home. The US needs to work with China and the EU to help anchor a global framework that keeps a large part of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves in the ground…Eventually, the balance of demand and supply will shift and, if minimum carbon pricing works, price wars will offer no escape. Between 2040 and 2060, the century of the oil-fuelled global economy will come to an end.” He concludes: “This will be a revolutionary transformation, and the US must carefully calibrate its intervention. There are of course plenty of reasons to welcome the disempowering of both Russia and Saudi Arabia. Visions of regime change will be tempting. But we should be clear about the risks…Such a confrontational approach may appeal to those who want to see not so much a green new deal as a green revolution. But if the timeline is as pressing as the science suggests, then the absolute priority is decarbonisation. To that end we need to devise off ramps and ways of converting existing assets and wealth into claims on a new, low-carbon world. The most urgent priority is to generalise the interest in the project of climate stabilisation. That, at least, is something the West now has in common with Beijing.”
Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post carries a feature on how “from China to Greta Thunberg, the coronavirus is held up as a climate wake-up call”. Writing in the Guardian, prominent US climate scientist Prof Michael Mann argues that “for Australia’s sake, I hope Trump’s climate science denialism loses”. Mann also has a similar article in Newsweek. Finally, an editorial in the Wall Street Journal looks at the “cost of Bidenomics” and relies the conclusions of a conservative thinktank to claim that “Mr Biden’s energy plans would cut total factor productivity by 1-2% across the entire economy”.
Scientists Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes have replied to a criticism of their 2017 study assessing ExxonMobil’s climate communications by ExxonMobil vice president Vijay Swarup. The scientists say: “Thanks in part to his feedback, we can now conclude with even greater confidence that Exxon, Mobil, and ExxonMobil Corp have all, variously, misled the public. We introduce new evidence that by the early 1980s, more than a decade before Mobil launched a vast advertising campaign to attack climate science and its implications, they were already explicitly aware of the potential for their products to cause dangerous global warming.”
Warming winters threaten the survival of Arctic charr, a cold water fish that lays its eggs in cool, deep lakes, a study says. The research estimates that increases in lake water temperature in Europe could kill off the animal’s eggs. The authors say: “We suggest that the perpetuating winter warming trends shown here will imperil the future status of these lakes as charr refugia and generally do not augur well for the fate of coldwater-adapted lake fish in a warming climate.”
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