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Daily Briefing

02.08.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING The last coal-fired power station in Wales at Aberthaw is to close
The last coal-fired power station in Wales at Aberthaw is to close

News.

The last coal-fired power station in Wales at Aberthaw is to close

RWE has announced the Aberthaw station, near Barry, will close in 2020 after the power giant announced it was facing “challenging market conditions”, Wales Online reports. According to the news site, the 1,560 megawatt facility, which opened in 1971, directly employs around 170 people. Sky News notes that the closure comes ahead of the government’s 2025 deadline for coal-generated power to be phased out in the UK, as part of wider efforts to cut CO2 emissions. It also reports that, following the recent announcement of the power plant closure at Fiddler’s Ferry in Warrington by the same date, the UK will soon be left with just four coal-fired power stations left in commission. BBC News has a comment from Haf Elgar, director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, who says “the writing’s on the wall for the coal industry”. The Guardian also has the story.

Elsewhere, the Financial Times and Reuters report on a court ruling that has undermined plans to construct Poland’s last coal power plant. They say that after a challenge by environmental lawyers ClientEarth, the court decided the decision by state-controlled energy group Enea to participate in the construction was invalid, – and that the firm’s shares rose on news of the ruling. Climate Home News notes that the plant was deemed to have posed “very high financial risks” to investors. Reuters also reports that Poland, which still generates most of its electricity from coal, was hoping that subsidies for small renewable energy producers would be enough to help it meet its EU green goals.

Wales Online Read Article
Global land use and exploitation threatens attempts to fight climate change – report

Sky News covers a “leaked” version of a major report on climate change and land use that is set to be released next week, and which is currently being discussed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Geneva. The news outlet says it has seen a final draft of the report, which warns that humans are exploiting 72% of the planet’s ice-free surface to support the growing population, undermining efforts to tackle global warming. Meat consumption, intensive agriculture, biofuels and carbon sinks are among the issues covered by the report, it says. The IPCC has a policy of not commenting on leaked versions of its reports, which it says “do not necessarily represent the IPCC’s final assessment of the state of knowledge”. In recent week’s the IPCC responded to similar coverage of leaked drafts, saying “the text can change between the drafts and the final version”. Meanwhile AFP has a piece looking ahead to the report, and outlining the key areas that it is likely to address.

Sky News Read Article
Climate change: July 'marginally' warmest month on record

The BBC reports “preliminary” analysis of global temperatures data by the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service showing that July may been been the warmest month on record. It says the first 29 days of a month in which many countries had heatwaves suggest it was “on a par” or slightly higher than a record previously set in July 2016. Politico has a piece looking at the recent heatwaves in Europe, and considering how the continent will adapt in the future to rising temperatures. Elsewhere the Guardian reports that Australia has recorded its third hottest July on record.

BBC News Read Article
Just 10% of fossil fuel subsidy cash 'could pay for green transition'

Just 10-30% of the $370bn support for fossil fuels around the world would pay for a “global transition to clean energy”, according to an International Institute for Sustainable Development report covered by the Guardian. It notes that shifting this money would “decisively tip the balance in favour of green energy”, making it the cheapest electricity available, and quotes Richard Bridle of the IISD who says if such a move was enacted renewables would become “an absolute no-brainer”. Business Green also covers the report, including past comments from UN secretary general António Guterres that fossil fuel subsidies amounted to using taxpayers’ money “to boost hurricanes, to spread droughts, to melt glaciers, to bleach corals… to destroy the world”. [See Carbon Brief’s 2017 explainer on the various ways fossil fuels can be supported, including through direct and implied subsidies.]

The Guardian Read Article
Climate change laws must be extended to protect the whole environment, think tank says

The Independent reports on a call from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) for an overarching new set of laws to protect the UK’s natural systems and “prevent environmental breakdown”. A new “Sustainable Economy Act” could set legal targets to protect wildlife, soil and air quality, in the same manner as greenhouse gas limits set by the climate change act, according to the leftwing think tank. The Guardian notes that such measures would be far more ambitious than the government’s current plans for a new environment act, not least because they call for advisors similar to the expert Committee on Climate Change to keep track of progress.

The Independent Read Article

Comment.

How climate change could trigger the next global financial crisis

The Atlantic features an extensive interview with Adam Tooze, a history professor at Columbia University who has previous written a book about the 2008 financial crash. He outlines how he thinks climate change has the potential to cause a similar financial crash in the years to come unless action is taken now. “Imagine that we stay on our current path, and we’re headed toward 3 or 4 degrees’ [Celsius] temperature change. And then imagine some of the nonlinearities kick in, which the climate scientists tell us about, and we face a Fukushima-style event. What happens next? You then get nervous democratic politicians – and not necessarily those who are known for their populism, but just nervous democratic politicians – suddenly deciding that we have to stop doing one or another part of our carbon-based economy,” he says, noting this would cause “big shocks” and “major losses”. “The scale of the challenge requires a boldness of action for which there is no precedent,” he warns. The interview follows a piece the historian wrote in late July for Foreign Policy discussing this topic.

Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic Read Article
Sucking carbon out of the air is no magic fix for the climate emergency

An article in the Guardian by Prof Simon Lewis, professor of global change science at University College London, outlines the issues associated with relying too heavily on negative emissions technologies to tackle climate change. He notes that while some sectors will prove “impossible” to totally decarbonise by 2050, it is dangerous to place too much faith in such early-stage technologies. “Negative emissions are treated as a ‘get out of jail free’ card – a licence to keep emitting and clean up the mess later with new technologies. Politicians and their advisers love them, because they can announce a target such as 1.5C while planning to exceed it, with temperatures hopefully clawed back later in the century through negative emissions,” he writes. He also notes that these technologies are “manna from heaven for the enemies of a rapid transition away from fossil fuels”, naming the oil giant Shell as an example. He concludes that while they may be essential, these methods are not a “magic bullet”. “We should recognise the dual role they also play in encouraging a delay to the action we need to take: rapidly ending the use of fossil fuels,” he writes. In July, Carbon Brief covered recent research on the promise and pitfalls of relying on such technology.

Simon Lewis, The Guardian Read Article
How much warmer is your city?

The BBC News website has published an interactive tool showing how temperatures in 1,000 major cities across the world have changed already, and will continue to do so in the coming years. The piece credits Carbon Brief’s Zeke Hausfather for help with the methodology and data analysis, which was developed for a very similar interactive published in 2018.

BBC visual and data journalism team, BBC News Read Article

Science.

Amplification of risks to water supply at 1.5C and 2C in drying climates: a case study for Melbourne, Australia

The risk of severe water supply shortage in Melbourne, Australia “increases substantially as global warming increases from 1.5C to 2.0C”, a new study says. The researchers combine hydrological and climate model simulations to assess future water supplies in the city under the Paris Agreement limits. The findings “demonstrate that reductions in precipitation, rising temperature and growth in water demand combine to substantially amplify the risk of severe water supply shortage under near-term global warming”, the researchers say. “Risks are further exacerbated by increases in water demand but substantially ameliorated by supply augmentation from desalination,” they add.

Environmental Research Letters Read Article

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