Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Rich countries urged to come up with detailed plans to cut emissions
- Brutal heatwave to descend on US West, prompting fire warnings
- China nuclear plant: US assessing reported leak at facility in Taishan, Guangdong
- UK government pledges a 'nature-positive future'
- Shell considers ending its Permian era
- The G7 failed us on the two biggest issues facing the planet: vaccine equality and climate change
- Shifting Republican views on climate change through targeted advertising
- A massive rock and ice avalanche caused the 2021 disaster at Chamoli, Indian Himalaya
There is continuing coverage of the weekend’s G7 summit in Cornwall. The Guardian reports that the meeting “achieved much less than campaigners had hoped”. Laurence Tubiana, the chief executive of the European Climate Foundation (which funds Carbon Brief) and key architect of the Paris Agreement, tells the newspaper that “COP26 will be the moment of truth”, adding “leaders will need to use the next four months before they meet again at the COP26 summit in Glasgow to crack on with fleshing out the details of this global Marshall plan for green recovery and getting everyone everywhere vaccinated”. Climate Home News reports that the summit offered “peanuts” to the developing world”, noting that G7 countries failed to reach their goal of $100bn per year to help developing countries address climate change by 2020. It adds that Canada and Germany set out new pledges, but that these are not enough to reach the target. It continues: “Experts warn that without that money on the table, [COP26] will flop.” Meanwhile, Forbes outlines the “Build Back better World Partnership” announced by the White House during the summit – a $40tn fund for infrastructure in low- and middle-income countries that aims to be “climate-friendly”. BusinessGreen reports that, according to Greenpeace executive director Jennifer Morgan, “the G7 have failed to set us up for a successful COP26”. It adds that Gordon Brown called the summit “an unforgivable moral failure”. The New York Times reports that the meeting was a “shaky start” to Johnson’s “Global Britain”,and Bloomberg reports that, even with the US back in the Paris climate accord, the G7 meeting “falls short”. Meanwhile, EurActiv summaries the agreements – and lack thereof – made by the G7 leaders on climate.
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that Australia has not committed to a net-zero target, leaving it “isolated from [its] closest allies”. The Sydney Morning Herald adds that prime minister Scott Morrison “told reporters on Monday morning there was no pressure from G7 leaders over the government’s climate policy and reiterated Australia was investing in new technologies to transition to a new, clean-energy economy”. Meanwhile, a separate Guardian piece reports that Morrison told fossil fuel executives: “I want you to know we are backing you in to stay on top as one of the world’s leading exporters of LNG, and with a plan here in Australia that sees gas as key, the key to securing reliable, affordable energy in a transitioning energy market, moving to a new energy economy.” And a further Guardian piece reports that Queensland expects coal power revenue to “disappear amid influx of renewables”.
Weather forecasters are predicting “dangerously hot conditions” in the western US from Tuesday until Saturday, Reuters reports. The newswire notes that forecasters are warning of “health and fire dangers”, noting that the heatwave has already hit pasts of the southwestern US. The Washington Post‘s Capital Weather Gang notes that some regions “could reach 120F” (49C), adding: “The record-setting temperatures predicted are made more likely in a world beset by human-induced climate change”. MailOnline presents satellite images that show how far reservoirs in the US have depleted due to the “mega-drought”. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that power prices in the western US have “soared to their highest levels since February” as air conditioning is turned on and a separate Reuters piece notes that Texas’ grid operator has warned residents to cut their electricity consumption “as much as possible”. Meanwhile, a further Reuters piece outlines a proposal to spend $8bn in Texas on new power plants. The piece notes that the winter storm in February “knocked out power for millions across Texas”, and that this heatwave is already threatening energy security, although it is only early into the summer.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Nato has decided “to tackle climate change for [the] first time”, having “agreed on a climate action plan to help mitigate climate change”. According to the newswire, Nato will “increase its awareness, adaptation, mitigation, and outreach efforts regarding climate change”. It adds that Nato will also “incorporate climate change considerations into its full spectrum of work, ranging from defence planning and capability development to civil preparedness and exercises”. President Biden “wants the organisation to be the premier international organisation to focus on climate change and security,” according to the Hill.
In other US news, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the US Supreme Court has taken a step towards allowing San Francisco and Oakland to sue major oil companies for their contribution to climate change in state court. And the Hill reports that a Minnesota appeals court has given Enbridge Energy the go-ahead on the to build a “controversial new section” of an oil pipeline passing through the state. Meanwhile, Forbes reports that the Biden administration is accepting comments from the general public on its recent “social cost of greenhouse gases”. This is a “sharp reversal of its prior policy”, according to the outlet, as the previous plan did not allow for public comments. Reuters reports that the US nuclear power regulator has “approved production of uranium fuel that is far more enriched than fuel for conventional nuclear power plants”, for use in “next-generation reactors”. And a separate Reuters piece reports that US solar installations are “on track for record-breaking growth over the next three years”.
In an “exclusive”, CNN says that the US “has spent the past week” assessing a report of a “leak” at a Chinese nuclear power plant, citing US officials and documents. The news network states that a French company co-owning the facility had warned the US government of an “imminent radiological threat” at the Taishan plant in China’s Guangdong Province, but the Biden administration believes the facility is not yet at a “crisis level”. The plant’s Chinese operator has rejected the allegations, adding its two reactors were “operating normally”, writes The Washington Post. The French company said it had called for a meeting with its Chinese partner, according to Reuters. The Independent and the Guardian also have the story.
Meanwhile, in other China news, Caixin reports that regional authorities, fossil fuel manufacturers and automakers are striving to develop hydrogen energy to help Beijing hit its climate goals. An expert tells the Chinese financial publication that China aims to “widely use” hydrogen energy in sectors where emissions reduction is difficult. Separately, NPR reports how miners in Datong – dubbed China’s “coal capital” – “continue to pump out coal” despite the “carbon-neutrality” pledge made by President Xi last year. The outlet says that “some provinces are even planning to increase coal-fired power generation”.
Elsewhere, Energy of China features what it calls China’s first “carbon-neutral petrol station”. The magazine says that the station – situated in Changzhou in eastern China’s Jiangsu Province – has 250 solar panels that can generate power on both sides to offset its electricity consumption. And South China Morning Post reports that China could more than double its carbon capture capacity by 2025 if all announced projects secure funding. The website cites an executive from a London-based research firm. Finally, NPR reports that although China committed to going carbon-neutral by 2060, the country still uses coal for half of its energy needs.
The UK government will propose an amendment to the country’s Environment Bill, which will “require major national infrastructure projects to provide a net gain for nature”, BBC News reports. According to the Guardian, the move is part of the formal response to the Dasgupta review published in February this year, which found that “the planet is being put at ‘extreme risk’ by the failure of economics to account for the environment, concluding human development had come at a ‘devastating cost’ to life-sustaining ecosystems”. BusinessGreen adds that the amendment to the bill is currently”working its way through Parliament”.
The Press Association, via the Belfast Telegraph, reports that COP26 president-designate Alok Sharma has urged businesses to commit to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, under the “Race To Zero” campaign. BusinessGreen and the Daily Express also cover the story. Meanwhile, the Times reports that Eon – the UK’s biggest energy provider – has warned that the UK won’t hit its 2050 carbon targets unless the government clarifies its policies. BusinessGreen notes that Eon has released a white paper this morning, outlining ten short-term actions that the government could take to reduce carbon emissions. These include “developing a detailed net-zero road map through to 2050, accelerating the roll out of low carbon district heating networks, implementing stronger building standards to ensure all properties are built to zero carbon standards, and setting a date for banning the sale of fossil fuel boilers,” according to the outlet. In other UK news, the Financial Times reports that the UK and Norway have completed construction on a subsea electricity cable. It continues: “On windy days when the UK has excess power from offshore wind, the cable will allow it to export power to Norway. On calmer days the UK can import electricity from Norwegian hydropower.”
In UK comment, the Daily Express carries a piece from its environment editor, John Ingham, entitled: “Green Britain: Is the tide turning for renewable energy?” And City AM carries a comment piece by culture secretary Oliver Dowden announcing a new “tech zero taskforce”. Dowden says that humans have “long innovated their way out of adversity” and that “we need the smartest thinkers and most audacious entrepreneurs” to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. He continues: “The taskforce will see leading firms from across the UK join forces to accelerate plans to reduce emissions, boost green investment in the UK and help millions of customers they serve make greener choices.” He adds “We’re pushing an unashamedly pro-tech agenda for the coming years, so that we can continue to attract top talent, help our brilliant tech firms grow, and use digital innovation to fuel a new era of growth”. He concludes by urging people to “get signing”, as the taskforce has set a target of reaching 1,000 members by COP26.
Reported by Reuters over the weekend, there is continuing coverage of the story that Royal Dutch Shell is said to be reviewing its interests in the Permian Basin. The Times – which says the basin, located mainly in Texas, “has been deemed the world’s most important oil and gas site” – reports that the company “could sell its operations”. However, it notes that there is “no guarantee that a deal for its assets in the region will materialise”. Sky News adds that Shell currently owns 260,000 acres across the Permian and that selling the assets could raise up to $10bn.
In a comment piece for the Daily Telegraph, chief city commentator Ben Marlow, calls Shell’s retreat “another victory for Extinction Rebellion”. He notes that Shell’s decision has come a fortnight after the “landmark” court ruling that obliges the company to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The Permian basin “was the epicentre of a 21st century boom that turned global oil markets on their head”, Marlow says, adding that the withdrawal would be “among the biggest the company has made in recent years”. However, he notes that there is also danger of “huge wealth destruction as perfectly good assets are jettisoned regardless of what that means for owners”. He concludes that the situation “may suit the likes of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg who don’t believe in capitalism, but by curbing profits, wider society is being harmed, too. A more balanced and honest debate is needed.” And a Lex column in the Financial Times on Shell’s states that “selling off one of its [Shell’s] core upstream areas, unless for a very high price, does not make sense at present”.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has penned an opinion piece in the i newspaper discussing this weekend’s G7 summit. She says: “If the G7 is to remain relevant… it had to show leadership on the key challenges facing our world”. However, she states that the meeting “fell short” on both vaccine equality and climate change at the summit this weekend, adding that “the closer you looked” at plans to limit warming and end coal-fired power, “the weaker the pledge appeared to be”. She also notes that the fine print of the final communique includes “a fingers-crossed gamble” on negative emission technologies. “This is not climate leadership”, she says. Lucas continues: “There was no specific agreement to end investment in new oil and gas fields. And countries in the global south…are still waiting for richer nations to deliver on a pledge made more than 10 years ago of $100bn a year in climate finance.” There is a “real risk” of COP26 failing due to a “breakdown in trust”, she adds, concluding that the “sticking point” of helping countries in the global south to adapt to climate change, and providing compensation for climate-induced losses “must be resolved in Glasgow if COP26 is to be a success”.
Meanwhile, the Daily Express carries a comment piece from business and energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng entitled: “Britain bangs the drum for greener global future.” Kwarteng writes that the G7 summit made it clear that “building back greener is our best chance to build a brighter future for all”. He adds that the UK is a “world leader” in this area, highlighting progress in the UK’s renewable energy sectors. He says that G7 countries “have a moral responsibility to support other smaller and developing nations in going green”, adding that “The UK has already led by example” in providing climate finance to poorer nations. He continues: “G7 leaders have kicked off a new initiative, investing high quality, private finance into vital infrastructure around the world, from railways in Africa to wind farms in Asia. This programme will ensure developing countries have access to better and faster finance, while encouraging the global shift to renewable energy and sustainable technology.”
And Emma Howard Boyd – the chair of the Environment Agency – has written a comment piece in the Financial Times entitled: “Aid to the developing world is the key to fighting climate change.” Boyd says the G7 meeting “saw progress that will send clear market signals” – for example, the agreement to end coal financing by 2022. She adds that President Biden’s Build Back Better World initiative is “a good idea but so far there is little in the way of detail”. However, she notes that industrialised countries have “not once got close” to the $100bn per year in climate aid promised to developing nations in 2009. Boyd concludes: “To show they mean business, the G7 must deliver both the finance and green investment plan by the UN General Assembly, an important step on the road to COP26.”
Targeted advertising campaigns could be way of shifting Republican views on climate change, a new study suggests. The paper reports the effects of a one-month advertising campaign that “deployed videos about the reality and risks of climate change to people in two competitive congressional districts” in Missouri and Georgia in the US. The findings show that the campaign “increased Republicans’ understanding of the existence, causes and harms of climate change by several percentage points”. An accompanying News & Views article says the results are “very promising for the development of similar and larger-scale messaging campaigns using trusted Republicans as messengers”.
New research confirms that the sudden flood that hit the district of Chamoli in the Indian province of Uttarakhand in the Himalayas in February was caused by a rock and ice avalanche. Analysis of satellite imagery, seismic records, numerical model results, and eyewitness videos reveals that the event was triggered by the collapse of 27m cubic metres of rock and ice “from the steep north face of Ronti Peak”. The avalanche transformed into “an extraordinarily large and mobile debris flow that transported boulders >20 m in diameter, and scoured the valley walls up to 220 metres above the valley floor”, the researchers say. The event caused “widespread devastation”, the authors note, severely damaging two hydropower projects and leaving more than 200 people dead or missing. See Carbon Brief’s factcheck, published at the time, about the causes of the disaster.
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