Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Poor nations to demand climate justice, finance at UN summit
- Nigeria floods: 'Overwhelming' disaster leaves more than 600 people dead
- UK: Just Stop Oil activists throw soup at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers
- China: Xi vows to prioritise environment, protect nature and promote green lifestyles
- UK joins calls for World Bank reform to focus funding on climate crisis
- UK: Tory rebels vow to bury fracking as they urge Liz Truss to make policy U-turn
- EU: Brussels to propose temporary gas price ceiling to curb extreme prices
- Throwing tomato soup on Van Gogh: Why climate protests are getting weirder
- Raid on green energy companies is another windfall tax without the name
- Being Greta Thunberg, the world’s most extraordinary teenager
- A globally relevant stock of soil nitrogen in the Yedoma permafrost domain
The chair of an “influential negotiating bloc” at UN climate talks has called for funds for global-south countries suffering from climate change to be “high up on the agenda” at COP27 taking place in Egypt in November, Associated Press reports. Madeleine Diouf Sarr, who chairs the Least Developed Countries group, tells AP that the group would like to see “an agreement to establish a dedicated financial facility” that pays nations that are already facing “loss and damage” because of climate change. Sarr tells AP: “We have delayed climate action for too long. We can no longer afford to have a COP that is ‘all talk.’ The climate crisis has pushed our adaptation limits, resulted in inevitable loss and damage, and delayed our much-needed development.” (For more on loss and damage, see Carbon Brief’s recent week-long special series, including an in-depth Q&A exploring the question: “should developed nations pay for ‘loss and damage’ from climate change?”; an interactive timeline on the struggle over loss and damage at the UN climate talks; a feature exploring “non-economic” loss and damage; an article on its importance to COP27 featuring voices from John Kerry to Vanessa Nakate; and an online webinar on the topic.)
Elsewhere, the New York Times reports that 20 of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries “are considering halting their repayment of $685bn in collective debt” to rich countries. According to the newspaper, Mohamad Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives, warned that “poor nations were locked in a Sisyphean trap: they must borrow money to ward off rising seas and storms – only to see disasters made worse by climate change destroy the improvements they make. But the debt remains, and often countries are left to borrow once again.”
In addition, EuroNews carries an interview with Mohamed Nasr, Egypt’s chief climate negotiator, who says that the country can act as a “bridge” between global south and north at the UN talks.
More than 600 people have died and 1.3m more have been affected in Nigeria’s worst floods in a decade, BBC News reports. According to BBC News, the disaster has affected 27 of Nigeria’s 36 states, destroyed 200,000 homes and “large swathes of farmland”. It says: “Flooding is expected to continue until the end of November. Nigeria is used to seasonal flooding, but this year has been significantly worse than usual. The government has said unusually heavy rains and climate change are to blame. Experts also say poor planning and infrastructure have exacerbated the damage.” The Washington Post adds: “Satellite imagery from Landsat 9 showed major swelling of the Niger and Benue rivers in southern Nigeria, where, according to the US space agency NASA, floodwaters ‘inundated numerous communities’. Where the rivers converged, the imagery revealed floodwaters overwhelming Lokoja, the capital of Kogi state.” Le Monde notes that the death toll includes 76 people who were killed when a boat carrying floodwater victims capsized. Reuters also has the story.
Separately, BBC News continues its series of reports on Somalia’s drought by its African correspondent Andrew Harding.
There is widespread coverage of a climate change demonstration which saw protesters throw soup at one of Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings, on display at the National Gallery in London. The Guardian explains: “There were gasps, roars and a shout of ‘Oh my gosh!’ in room 43 of the gallery as two young supporters of the climate protest group threw the liquid over the painting, which is protected by glass, just after 11am. They removed jackets to reveal Just Stop Oil T-shirts before gluing themselves to the wall beneath the artwork, which is one of the gallery’s most important treasures.” “What is worth more, art or life?” said one of the activists, Phoebe Plummer, 21, from London, according to the Guardian. She was accompanied by 20-year-old Anna Holland, from Newcastle, who added: “Is it worth more than food? More than justice? Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet and people?” National Gallery staff have confirmed the painting was not damaged due to its protective glass, the newspaper adds. BBC News adds that the women are due to appear in court on 13 December and deny causing criminal damage. The New York Times notes that European climate activists have been targeting priceless art for some time: “In Britain, activists have attached themselves to about half-a-dozen masterpieces including John Constable’s The Hay Wain. In Germany, protesters have stuck themselves to works including Rubens’s Massacre of the Innocents, which hangs in the Alte Pinakothek, in Munich. In Italy, works in the Uffizi, in Florence, and at the Vatican museums have been targeted.”
Elsewhere, BBC News reports that UK home secretary Suella Braverman “has unveiled plans for a major crackdown on disruptive protests carried out by environmental groups such as Extinction Rebellion”. BBC News explains: “The new legislation – which will be put to MPs next week – will also see jail sentences of up to six months or unlimited fines for protesters accused of ‘locking-on’ to people, objects or buildings – a favoured tactic of climate demonstrators. Home Office officials said the proposed legislation would create a new criminal offence of interfering with infrastructure, such as oil refineries, airports and railways, carrying sentences of up to 12 months in prison.”
It comes as the Met Police released a statement saying it was using its “full powers” against climate protests ongoing in London, according to BBC News. On Saturday, protesters from Animal Rebellion poured milk on the floor in Harrods and Waitrose [both upmarket UK food stores] to call for a “plant-based future”, the Independent reports. Just Stop Oil activists also sprayed orange paint across an Aston Martin car showroom, the Daily Telegraph reports.
In a speech opening the twice-a-decade ruling Communist Party Congress, China’s leader Xi Jinping said yesterday the government will “give priority to environmental protection and promoting green lifestyles”, reports Reuters. The newswire adds that he said the “conservation of nature was an essential part of building a modern socialist country”. Xi told more than 2,300 delegates in Beijing: “Ecological and environmental protection has undergone a historical, transformational and comprehensive change – our motherland’s skies are bluer, the mountains are greener and the water is clearer.” He added that China’s carbon peak and neutrality targets would be implemented steadily and in accordance with the country’s energy resources. China will also support low-carbon industries, pursue an “energy revolution” and build a new energy system while continuing to promote the “clean and efficient use of coal”, he said, according to Reuters.
BBC News says Xi “does have a good story to tell in terms of climate change and other environmental initiatives”. It continues: “The congress opened in Beijing under a clear blue sky. There was a time when this was unusual in the capital. Now it’s the other way around; the bad pollution days are the ones that stand out…But coal fired power won’t be phased out until the new sources of power are in place. ‘We’re building the new before discarding the old,’ he said.”
Following Xi’s speech yesterday, Reuters reports today that “China will greatly increase domestic energy supply capacity and its reserve capacity for key commodities, government officials said on Monday, reiterating a policy of ensuring supplies and stabilising prices of raw materials”. The newswire adds: “The world’s top energy consumer will enhance a “diversified domestic supply base” centred on coal while speeding development of domestic oil and gas resources, said Ren Jingdong, deputy head of the National Energy Administration…Ren added that the country would further strengthen its reserve system for coal and petroleum, accelerating building work, especially for storage hubs and terminals to receive natural gas. China aims for production capacity of indigenous resources to exceed 4.6 billion tonnes of standard coal by 2025, versus its 4.41 billion target for 2022. Thanks to record domestic production, China boasts ample coal stocks ahead of winter, when demand for heating surges.”
Commodities are “entering a crucial period as earnings season gathers pace”, Bloomberg writes, adding that this comes as Europe “firms up its energy-crisis response”. Reuters has a comment piece by Robyn Mak and Una Galani, who write: “The world is facing a difficult 2023 as growth slows in most developed economies. The extent of the deceleration depends in large part on how decisively President Xi Jinping props up the Chinese economy after next week’s key Party Congress.” EnergyMonitor carries a feature by Nick Ferris headlined: “What has happened to China’s global coal financing?” It says: “Following China’s pledge to end global coal financing there has been a collapse in overall energy financing but no surge in support for renewables.”
A separate article by Bloomberg says that, in spite of China’s “intensifying crackdown on political dissent”, residents still have “plenty of leeway to air their environmental concerns and criticise polluters on social media”, according to a new study released this month by researchers from the University of Chicago and several other institutions. The study shows that “public appeals” for action made on the social network Weibo “reduced pollution violations at industrial plants by more than 60%”, the outlet adds.
Meanwhile, the state-run newspaper China Energy News focuses on the global electric vehicle outlook for 2022, which was recently released by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The outlet says that the outlook points out that the “incremental” global electric vehicle sales in 2021 comes “mainly from the Chinese market, which account for half of the incremental volume”. The state-run newspaper China Daily says that China has “become a world leader in clean technology by fighting environmental pollution, sharing experience”. Additionally, the newspaper is producing a “series of data graphics pages” that “highlight the nation’s major achievements during the past decade”. The 20th in the series chronicles the “ongoing transformation” of China’s energy industry and its “transition” to a green future through a focus on renewables.
Elsewhere, the state broadcaster CGTN reports that the Europe-China Climate Collaboration Forum 2022 was “successfully held” via Zoom last Wednesday. Finally, Forbes quotes former NATO Ambassador and Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson who has “decried the double standard” that Russia and China “cooperate” to “extract” liquified natural gas from the Arctic while” bona fide Arctic nations”, such as the US, Canada, Denmark, Norway, are “expected to uphold climate goals and eschew fossil fuels”.
The UK, the US and Germany are among countries calling for sweeping reforms to the World Bank, to focus on climate change funding, the Guardian reports. The newspaper says: “The intervention from Alok Sharma, the current president of the UN climate talks, heaps further pressure on beleaguered World Bank chief, David Malpass. He has faced calls to resign over an apparently climate-dismissing stance, and the Bank’s perceived failures to deliver climate finance.” Sharma told an audience in Washington DC on Friday: “The world is recognising that we cannot tackle the defining challenge of this century with institutions defined by the last. We have to incentivise every aspect of the international system to recognise the systemic risk of climate change, and to make managing it effectively its central task.” (Business Green this morning carries a transcript of one of Sharma’s last major addresses as COP26 president.) The Financial Times reports on the “bleak” series of World Bank and IMF annual meetings held in Washington last week, which saw Malpass “insisting several times” that he does believe in climate change, after facing pressure for refusing to do so last month. Politico reports that Malpass’s “climate gaffe” last month is unlikely to lead to his resignation, but could spark renewed focus on the World Bank’s focus on fossil fuels over climate finance.
The Daily Telegraph reports that “Tory rebels have vowed that fracking will ‘die a death’ as they plan to make the policy the party’s next U-turn”. It continues: “The Whips’ office is understood to be nervous about the number of Conservative backbenchers planning to abstain or even vote with Labour on Wednesday in an opposition day debate on fracking. ‘Party discipline has broken down,’ one Tory MP who is opposed to fracking said, adding that rebels believed they could ‘100 %’ force a U-turn on the issue. ‘I actually think the government will completely back down on this. We would probably abstain en masse on Wednesday. They are not in a position to fight’.” (See Carbon Brief‘s factcheck on why UK fracking would not tackle the energy crisis.) It comes as the Financial Times reports that soaring gas prices has put smaller sites in the North Sea “back on the exploration map”.
Elsewhere, the Daily Telegraph also reports that officials at the industry regulator Ofgem and the business department are considering scrapping the UK’s energy price cap. It says: “The cap – which has been superseded for the next two years by a price guarantee that limits the average household’s bill to £2,500 – has been heavily criticised by energy providers, which claim it compels them to swallow losses if prices rise sharply higher. Civil servants have now hinted that the cap will not come back when emergency help ends in October 2024. Tearing it up could mean a return to rules before [prime minister Theresa] May’s intervention, when customer prices could be changed daily to reflect increases or decreases in the underlying cost of electricity and gas.” The Guardian says that “the business secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has been accused of launching a ‘power grab’ as new legislation proposes to hand sweeping control over the energy industry to the government”.
In other UK news, the Press Association reports that Labour leader Keir Starmer has promised to turn the UK into a “green growth superpower” by investing in technologies such as offshore wind and “clean” hydrogen power, if elected. The Yorkshire Post interviews Ed Miliband, shadow climate secretary, who says the party would speed up action on climate change if in office.
Elsewhere, the Daily Mail publishes an “investigation” claiming 250,000 smart metres made by a firm linked to the Chinese government have been installed in UK homes, something it describes as a “threat to power supplies”.
The EU “is planning to propose an emergency mechanism to curb the price of gas when it reaches extreme levels”, the FT reports. It says: “According to a draft European Commission proposal, the EU should be able to set a maximum ‘dynamic price’ at which gas transactions can take place on the Dutch Title Transfer Facility, a benchmark for gas traded in the bloc. The aim was to empower the EU to intervene in cases of extreme natural gas prices while not hurting the security of supply or encouraging consumption, the draft said, adding that any emergency ceiling should only last three months.” The draft “emerged as member states prepare for a summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday aimed at finding joint solutions for curbing the energy crisis”, with member states at “loggerheads” on proposed measures, especially on the issue of capping gas prices, the FT says. Reuters also reports on the draft proposal. It comes as an editorial in the Financial Times urges EU states to work together to solve the energy crisis, saying: “A piecemeal approach by different countries is not a good idea.”
Elsewhere, Politico reports that the energy crisis could mean a “very dark winter” for Europe’s forests, as “many EU governments are relaxing logging rules and encouraging people to burn wood to keep their houses warm”. In addition, Reuters reports on how a forecasted cold snap in Europe this winter could require deeper gas-use cuts. And the Sunday Telegraph reports that Ukraine is “in talks with US drillers to pump gas from its vast untapped reserves to Europe”.
Many publications carry critiques of the soup-throwing incident at the National Gallery. The Washington Post’s Shannon Osaka describes it as a “bizarre moment”, saying: “The climate art stunt was still a strange form of protest, one that seemed more likely to alienate people. Online, many people reacted in disgust and anger; some joked that the protesters were targeting Sunflowers merely because it was an ‘oil painting’. But it aligns with a growing number of climate protests in recent years that have disrupted normal life in increasingly unexpected ways…Dana Fisher, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland who studies protest movements, says that such developments are a form of ‘tactical innovation,’ in which protesters try new strategies to get increased media attention. The media gets accustomed to particular types of activism; a march or a sit-in that once commanded attention soon gets written off as old news. Climate protesters, Fisher explained, started by gluing themselves to artworks, which initially made a small news splash. Now that attention for that has cooled down, they have moved on to at least the appearance of defacing artworks, in an attempt to attract more eyes.” Elsewhere, the Independent reports that the protest sparked “mixed reactions from the climate community”. Senior climate correspondent Louise Boyle speaks to Prof Amy Woodson-Boulton, at Loyola Marymount University in LA, who describes recent climate art protests as “important acts of civil resistance that force the public to consider why we are allowing the wealthiest governments, often controlled by corporate interests, to ignore the science that we need to end our dependence on fossil fuels, we need to protect the most vulnerable, and we need to address the fact that those least responsible for climate change are already feeling its worst effect”. The Independent also carries an op-ed by Prof Paul Springer, director of the school of communication at Falmouth University, who describes the act as a good “PR stunt”. In New Statesman, environment correspondent India Bourke says: “Van Gogh would have loved his soup-covered Sunflowers – and so should we.”
Taking a different tone, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat claims that the action is “contradictory” because the activists demanded both an end to fossil fuels and also called for action on the energy crisis. (See Carbon Brief‘s factcheck for why investing in renewables and energy-saving measures over more fossil-fuel production in the UK could help to tackle the energy crisis.) In the Times, columnist Libby Purves says the activists “miss the big picture”, adding: “These are diverse campaigns, but linked by a self-righteous nihilistic rage that looks increasingly like a mental disorder.” In the Mail on Sunday, UK home secretary Suella Braverman says the protests are “wrong” and says she expects “police to do a better job of cracking down on these thugs and vandals”.
Kate Andrews, economics editor at the Spectator, writes for the Daily Telegraph criticising a government policy to bring a “cost-plus revenue limit” for renewable energy companies in the UK. She says: “It is a staggering level of state intervention. And it’s becoming a trend: ministers will also be setting price controls for energy in the years to come. Pure socialist policy, but one that Truss – for all her free-market talk – has embraced. It’s not just that money and jobs may now flow elsewhere – investment in the UK’s net-zero target and stride towards more energy independence is being put under strain, too. Energy bosses are already voicing their discontent over the policy, with the chief executive of Scottish Power, Keith Anderson, rightfully questioning the idea of renewable companies making “extraordinary profits”. This is, based on the government’s plans for fossil fuel transition, exactly who they want making the money. Arguing these profits are now a problem sends mixed signals, to put it mildly, about the kind of investment the UK is trying to attract.” Conversely, Adam Bell, former head of energy strategy at the UK’s business department, writes for Wind Power Monthly explaining why the cost-plus revenue limit isn’t the same as a windfall tax.
Elsewhere, European Climate Foundation UK director Joss Garman examines “how bad” UK prime minister Liz Truss’s “bin fire of green tape” really is. The article covers Truss’s plans to “effectively ban solar energy”, the fracking push, the decision to halt the UK’s new energy bill and “vast cuts” to public spending. (The European Climate Foundation funds Carbon Brief.)
Greta Thunberg speaks to Times journalist Caitlin Moran at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, covering topics including what she does with her earnings, her social life and her dreams for the future.
New research estimates that the Yedoma domain – a region predominantly covering areas in Siberia and Alaska, which holds around one quarter of all permafrost carbon – contains 41.2bn tonnes of nitrogen. This is almost a 50% increase on previous estimates, the paper finds. The authors compiled a dataset of more than 2,000 samples in the Yedoma domain to assess the nitrogen stock in the region. They conclude that around 90% of nitrogen is stored in permafrost, and three quarters of this is stored more than three metres deep. The paper adds that “if partially mobilised by thaw, this large nitrogen pool could have continental-scale consequences for soil and aquatic biogeochemistry and global-scale consequences for the permafrost feedback”.