Today's climate and energy headlines:
- The world’s rich need to cut their carbon footprint by a factor of 30 to slow climate change, UN warns
- Climate leaders protest lack of women at high levels in UN summit
- Australia says it can beat carbon goals by 2030 without credits
- Brazil sets 'indicative' goal of carbon neutrality by 2060
- New York state pension fund sets 2040 goal of net-zero carbon emissions
- They’re among the world’s oldest living things. The climate crisis is killing them
- How rich of privileged politicos to make the poor pay for their eco-zealotry
- Quantification of an efficiency–sovereignty trade-off in climate policy
There is widespread coverage of the latest “emissions gap” report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), with the Washington Post leading on the angle that the “world’s wealthy will need to reduce their carbon footprints by a factor of 30 to help put the planet on a path to curb the ever-worsening impacts of climate change”. It continues: “Currently, the emissions attributable to the richest 1% of the global population account for more than double those of the poorest 50%. Shifting that balance, researchers found, will require swift and substantial lifestyle changes.” BBC News also chooses that line to lead its own coverage of the UNEP report, saying: “Their emissions gap report finds that the richest will need to rapidly cut their CO2 footprints to avoid dangerous warming this century. The study finds that the global Covid-19 shutdown will have little long term impact on the climate. But a strong, green recovery could limit the rise in temperatures to 2C. The study…underlines the chasm between the level of emissions consistent with keeping temperatures down and what’s happening in the real world. It predicts that while carbon production will have tumbled by around 7% this year because of the pandemic, this would only reduce warming by 0.01C by 2050.” The Guardian quotes UNEP executive director Inger Andersen: “We are going in the wrong direction. We had lockdown. Some people think that gave us a bonanza. But it doesn’t. Just because you stop running the tap for a moment or two, that doesn’t change the fact that the bathtub is still full.” The New York Times, Independent, Axios and Reuters are among the other outlets covering the report. Carbon Brief has also summarised the report.
Meanwhile, the Guardian has an “exclusive” interview with UN secretary general António Guterres in which, according to the paper, he says that “rich countries will miss a key promise they made to the poor world on the climate crisis by failing to provide the money necessary for them to cope with its effects, damaging the prospects for global action”.
Separately, BusinessGreen covers BloombergNEF’s latest annual ClimateScope report which shows that “clean energy investment in developing countries has been disrupted by the pandemic, after reaching record levels in 2019”. It adds: “The latest edition of the influential analyst’s annual ClimateScope survey reveals that total foreign direct clean energy investment in developing countries hit $32bn mark last year as solar plants and wind farms became increasingly cost competitive when compared to fossil fuel generation projects…However, BloombergNEF warns that clean energy investors’ appetite for projects in emerging markets has been dented by the pandemic.” Bloomberg also covers the story.
Finally, BusinessGreen also reports on a “major new study” from consultancy Systemiq, which says that “zero emission technologies can ‘outcompete’ older carbon-intensive industries across multiple sectors worldwide within a decade, as investors, businesses, governments and consumers demand a shift towards cleaner, greener solutions throughout the 2020s”. It continues: “The report, titled The Paris Effect, details how clean and green solutions are on course to become competitive with dirtier counterparts in sectors accounting for over 70% of global emissions by 2030, which could deliver a global green economy capable of generating 35m jobs and a healthier society. The projections mark a significant shift from five years ago when there were was almost no green competition to fossil fuels at all.” The Independent also covers the report, while the BBC News has coverage in a wider feature headlined: “Climate change: Have countries kept their promises?”.
The Financial Times says that a “broad group of female climate leaders have called on the UN climate summit leadership to urgently address a lack of women in the team set to steer next year’s international talks in the UK”. It adds: “More than 400 influential women are seeking changes to the male-dominated leadership for the UN climate talks hosted by the UK in Glasgow, in an open letter addressed to prime minister Boris Johnson and Alok Sharma, the business secretary. The heavyweight signatories – including Paris agreement co-author Laurence Tubiana and the former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson – said it was crucial for successful negotiations and decision-making that women were included at the top levels at the summit, known as COP26.” The FT explains that “although 45% of the senior management in the COP26 unit are women, according to the government, many are in supporting and communications positions, rather than negotiating roles”. It continues: “Six of the eight most senior members are men – including the chief executive, the UK’s lead climate negotiator, the UK’s COP26 envoy and the COP president, after Mr Sharma himself replaced former president Claire O’Neill, previously UK energy minister, abruptly in February.” The Sun also covers the story in its print edition.
Meanwhile, Sky News reports the views of the UK’s former climate secretary, Amber Rudd, who says the COP26 presidency is so critical that it must become a full-time role. She tells the broadcaster: “My own view is that whoever is the president of the COP – and Alok [Sharma] absolutely could do a great job at this – should be doing nothing else. This is not a side hustle, it’s the most important event taking place next year. We can’t afford to make this a part-time job.” The Independent reports the views of former US vice-president Al Gore who has told an online conference that COP26 must mark “a new era, with humanity finally going serious…this existential threat to our existence”.
Reuters says that “people around the world will have a chance to deliberate about responses to climate change under plans to convene a ‘Global Citizens’ Assembly’ to inform [COP26]”. The newswire adds: “The project globalassembly.org
In other UK-focused news, the i newspaper says that “38 regional leaders from Edinburgh to Cornwall are pledging to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 – five years earlier than the target set by the UK government”. And the Daily Telegraph reports that “Boris Johnson has denied the government lacks credibility on climate change over its backing for fossil fuel projects overseas, as it emerged it has previously supported an airport in Uganda’s burgeoning oil hub with a £240m loan”.
Australia’s energy minister Angus Taylor has said that the country could beat its target for cutting carbon emissions under the Paris Agreement by 2030 without counting credits from overachieving on its targets in previous climate pacts, reports Reuters. The newswire adds: “The latest projection marked a sharp shift for one of the world’s biggest emitters per capita and came ahead of the UN’s Climate Ambition Summit on Saturday, the fifth anniversary of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Australia’s policy of using old carbon credits to count toward future emissions targets was a major sticking point at the UN climate summit a year ago when big emitters were pushed to take more aggressive action to curb global warming…Australia’s emissions are now projected to be 29% below 2005 levels by 2030 compared with its Paris accord target of cutting carbon emissions by 26% to 28%.” The Guardian says: “Scott Morrison wanted to unveil the shift at a global leaders’ climate ambition summit this weekend, and telegraphed that he would make a contribution, but it remains uncertain whether Australia will be granted a speaking slot. More than 70 countries had confirmed speaking berths on Wednesday. While the ultimate landing point remains unclear, the nations organising the summit say significant commitments will be required, and close observers of climate talks have said they believe it is unlikely Morrison will be asked to speak.” Another Guardian article reports that “the EU has urged Australia and other countries to step up their commitment to ‘actual emissions reductions’ and warned that an attempt to rely on surpluses achieved during the Kyoto protocol period could set a negative precedent”. Meanwhile, the New York Times has a news feature headlined: “It’s Australia’s first big blaze of the fire season. How bad will the summer get?”
Separately, the Guardian covers a new Oxfam report which says “New Zealand is not living up to its climate change promises when it comes to helping fund poorer countries adapt to a warming world”.
Brazil has announced it will aim for carbon neutrality by 2060, which, says Climate Home News, is “sparking anger among campaigners who say the pledge is meaningless and a deliberate distraction from president Jair Bolsonaro’s destruction of the Amazon rainforest”. CHN adds: “Brazil announced the ‘indicative’ goal in an updated submission to the UN on Wednesday, but did not match it with increased ambition in the coming decade. The targets of reducing emissions 37% by 2025 and 43% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, remain unchanged.” Bloomberg says: “Brazil will set a new goal to zero out carbon dioxide emissions by 2060 – or sooner, if it can raise $10bn a year from other countries.”
Reuters reports that the “New York state pension fund [has] committed to help curb climate change by transitioning its investments to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, making it the first US pension fund to set the goal by that date”. The newswire adds: “New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the move will put the fund, the third largest in the country, in a strong position for the future of a green economy mapped out in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate…The New York state Common Retirement Fund, which has an estimated valuation of about $226bn, is wrapping up its evaluation of nine oil sands companies, mainly in Canada and Russia, and will develop minimum standards for investments in shale oil and gas.” Axios says “the proposal, from America’s third-largest public pension fund, is one of the more significant moves in the divestment battle that’s been building over the last several years”. The New York Times covers the story and also carries a comment piece by veteran climate campaigner and author Bill McKibben who says: “It’s a huge win, obviously, for the activists who have fought for eight years to get Albany to divest from fossil fuel companies and for the global divestment campaign. Endowments and portfolios worth more than than $14 trillion have joined the fight…But it also represents something else: capitulations that taken together suggest that the once-dominant fossil fuel industry has reached a low in financial and political power.”
The New York Times has a long illustrated feature on how “California’s redwoods, sequoias and Joshua trees, [which] define the American West and nature’s resilience through the ages” have suffered this year from their “deadliest test” – wildfires fanned by climate change. The article says: “The wildfires that burned more than four million acres in California this year were both historic and prophetic, foreshadowing a future of more heat, more fires and more destruction. Among the victims, this year and in the years to come, are many of California’s oldest and most majestic trees, already in limited supply. In vastly different parts of the state, in unrelated ecosystems separated by hundreds of miles, scientists are drawing the same conclusion: If the past few years of wildfires were a statement about climate change, 2020 was the exclamation point.”
In a separate comment piece in the New York Times, ocean explorer Fabien Cousteau writes: “Many of us have experienced the magic and beauty of the ocean. Yet its vital connection to our daily lives – the ways in which it supplies the oxygen we breathe and nourishes the crops we eat – remains far less understood…Like my grandfather, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, I believe that we protect what we love, and love what we understand. We have the ability to dictate the magnitude of the coronavirus and climate crises if we can simply absorb the lessons of science, including the hard truth that devastation awaits if we act too late. We must learn that to be on nature’s side is to be on humanity’s side.”
And writing in the Guardian, Maria Fernanda Espinosa – an Ecuadorian politician and diplomat and a former president of the UN general assembly – explains why the “climate crisis should be at the heart of the global Covid recovery”.
The Daily Mail’s Stephen Glover rages against the Climate Change Committee’s latest report which advises the UK government to cut the nation’s emissions 78% by 2035 (as reported yesterday in detail by Carbon Brief). The columnist says: “Most people, I believe, are prepared to take climate change seriously, though they need to be reminded that the UK accounts for less than 1% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and that this country’s painful sacrifices won’t make much impact globally. What they do not appreciate is being instructed to spend large sums in an uncertain cause by rich people working for a shadowy and unaccountable quango which is guilty of rank hypocrisy.” Writing in the Daily Telegraph, climate sceptic columnist Ross Clark adopts a similar tone, saying: “It is easy to set targets, quite another to come up with practical measures to implement them at reasonable cost and without damaging side effects. The CCC is very enthusiastic for the former, while doing little to prove that it has achieved the latter.” City AM carries a comment piece by Anthony Catachanas, chief executive of Victory Hill Capital Group – a specialist investment firm that focuses on global energy infrastructure. He writes: “Grandiose plans for a green revolution are great, but first let’s fix our ageing electricity network.”
New research looks at alternatives to using a uniform carbon price – a fixed charge per tonne of CO2 emissions – as a way of achieving the mitigation goal of the Paris Agreement. The authors show that “a strategy of international financial transfers guided by moderate deviations from uniform carbon pricing could achieve the goal without straining either the economies or sovereignty of nations”. An accompanying News & Views article says the study indicates “that small deviations from a globally uniform carbon price can achieve the 2C goal with slightly higher mitigation costs, but much lower transfers”. Reducing financial transfers to poorer countries is “politically beneficial”, the authors say, “because they sometimes perceive a heavy reliance on international financial transfer as undermining their national sovereignty”.
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