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Daily Briefing

12.01.2018
Today's climate and energy headlines
Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

12.01.2018 | 9:45am
DAILY BRIEFING Theresa May defends green plan as critics say it is too slow
Theresa May defends green plan as critics say it is too slow

News.

Theresa May defends green plan as critics say it is too slow and vague

Prime minister Theresa May has said her government is serious about improving the environment after pressure groups gave a lukewarm response to the new 25 Year Plan for Nature, the Guardian reports. The proposals, announced yesterday, were praised for their ambition but groups warned it lacked proposals needed for immediate action. The plan covers areas including tackling plastics, climate change, land use, poor air quality an access to green spaces, and outlines a plan to create a 120-mile northern forest between Liverpool to Hull. It includes plans to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042 and encourage supermarkets to introduce “plastic-free” aisles. However, the plan was criticised in particular for it’s lack of focus on climate change. John Sauven, Greenpeace UK’s executive director, told the Guardian the British environment “needs a 25-month emergency plan more than it needs a 25-year vision” and that May needs to put some “joined-up thinking at the heart of her strategy”. He said: “You can’t claim to care about climate change and our countryside and then back fracking, or care about the next generation and then let air pollution harm our kids’ health.” May also reiterated yesterday in her speech at the launch of the plan that her commitment to delivering a ‘green Brexit’, reports BusinessGreen. The launch was the first major domestic speech on the environment by a sitting Prime Minister in over a decade. On climate change she said: “We can be proud of our success in facing up to the reality of climate change,” she said. “But as the plan we are publishing today demonstrates, we are not complacent about the action needed to sustain that success in the future.” The speech contained no new climate or air quality measures, however the published plan said the government would continue to tackle emissions from land use and would “make sure that all policies, programmes and investment decisions take into account the possible extent of climate change this century”. May promised to put the natural world “centre stage” in her Government’s agenda, reports MailOnline, and declared: “Conservatism and conservation are natural allies.” BusinessGreenhas also rounded up the reaction to the green economy to the new plan and summarised. the main points of the plan.

The Guardian Read Article
Warming set to breach Paris accord's toughest limit by mid century: draft

There is “very high risk” that global temperatures will exceed 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, according to a leaked draft of an upcoming special report on 1.5C from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The risk means warming is on track to breach the toughest limit set in the Paris climate agreement by the middle of this century unless governments make unprecedented economic shifts from fossil fuels, Reuters reports the draft as saying. According to the draft, average surface temperatures are currently about 1C above pre-industrial levels and on track to reach 1.5C by the 2040s. The draft also said renewables such as solar and wind power would need to become the dominant form of primary energy by 2050 to achieve the goal, while coal would be phased out rapidly in most 1.5C pathways. Limiting warming to 1.5C by 2100 would also involve removal of CO2 from the atmosphere, the draft says. The report is only at its second draft stage and had only been released to reviewers. Jonathan Lynn, the IPCC’s head of communications and media relations, said the text was a work in progress not intended for publication. “The text can change substantially” before its final publication in October, he said.

Reuters Read Article
Government indecision leaves £1.3bn Swansea tidal lagoon project in limbo

Plans for a £1.3bn tidal power lagoon in Swansea could still be backed by ministers despite government indecision on whether to support it, the author of an independent review on the project has told the Guardian. The government has not indicated whether it wants to move ahead with the project, and ministers were recently reported to have gone cold on it, despite the enthusiastic support from Charles Hendry, a Conservative politician and former energy minister, in his review.

The Guardian Read Article
World's largest ever thermal solar plant to be built in South Australia | The Independent

The government of South Australia has given planning approval to a major solar thermal plant, reports the Independent. The plant would be the largest of its kind ever built, according to its developers, SolarReserve, with construction set to begin this year.

The Independent Read Article
Senators from 12 states seek offshore drilling exemptions like Florida's

Twenty-two Democratic US senators from 12 states on Thursday joined local representatives in seeking exemptions from US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s newly proposed offshore drilling plan, Reuters reports. The move comes after Zinke’s surprise move on Tuesday to shield Florida from his proposal to open up over 90 percent of federal waters to oil and gas leasing.

Reuters Read Article

Comment.

New York City just declared war on the oil industry

“New York City vaulted to leadership in the battle” against climate change, writes author and campaigner Bill McKibben for the Guardian. Commenting on yesterday’s news that New York City is divesting its massive pension fund from fossil fuels, McKibben says “its decision signals the start of a real rout”. “For one thing, of course, it’s the centre of world finance…Its money managers have a well-deserved reputation for excellence,” he writes, “so when city comptroller Scott Stringer said divestment was necessary to protect the retirement savings of city workers, he implied the obvious: the go-along investors thinking that Exxon is still a blue-chip aren’t doing their homework”. “New York’s action on Wednesday means, finally, that these companies are being called to account,” McKibben concludes. “Let’s hope it’s not too late.” Meanwhile, a Guardian news piece looks at how New York’s decision could spark a global shift towards divestment.

The Guardian Read Article
Welcome but flawed: May's green speech promises plenty, but can it deliver?

The new 25 year environment plan is a “good and hugely welcome plan”, yet there is something crucial missing, writes James Murray in BusinessGreen, both in terms of what is needed to genuinely tackle the UK’s many environmental challenges and what is needed if the government is serious about appealing to green-minded younger voters. “Most importantly, there was a clear philosophical underpinning to the speech that May spelt out at length. She may lack the authority to publicly reprimand her climate sceptic, Trumpian Tory Tea Party colleagues, but make no mistake, this speech was a clear rebuke to their thinking and values. … [But] for all the encouraging rhetoric and welcome policy moves offered today, the speech was notable for its singular failure to wrestle with the glaring flaws in the government’s current green strategy and the big imponderables that we will have to resolve if we are to avert a full blown environmental crisis.” Meanwhile, a Times editorial notes that while May’s insistence that “conservatism and conservation are natural allies” should be true, saying it does not make it so. It says: “Preserving Britain’s green and pleasant land, not to mention its coastal waters and the oceans beyond, is the task of individuals, charities and companies as well as government. Behaviour must change.” Meanwhile an Financial Times editorial notes the document, which was promised for early 2016, is two years late. “The goals — from clean air and water to better flood defences — are uncontroversial but the ordering of priorities is bizarre, with climate change in seventh place out of 10,” it says, adding that the plan includes no suggestion of legislation many environmental groups think necessary to make such a long-term plan credible. A Guardian editorial meanwhile notes that while May “spoke encouragingly of a transition to renewable energy as part of global efforts to combat climate change….she added nothing significant to the policy portfolio on that front.” Separately, Damian Carrington asks in the Guardian whether May’s plan can ever be reality, and notes areas where is falls short, “most worryingly on adapting the UK to the impacts of climate change”.

BusinessGreen Read Article

Science.

Dominant Role of Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation in the Recent Decadal Changes in Western North Pacific Tropical Cyclone Activity

The western North Pacific is the most active ocean basin for tropical cyclone activity, with very significant societal and economic impacts. Over 1997–2014, the number of western North Pacific cycloness abruptly decreased by around 18%. By examining the relative roles of sea surface temperature changes and anthropogenic forcing in this decrease, researchers found that the change was largely driven by an intensification of the vertical wind shear which is mainly tied to sea surface temperature warming in the North Atlantic. The study suggests a crucial role of the North Atlantic in causing the observed decadal change in western North Pacific cyclone frequency.

Geophysical Research Letters Read Article
Fire frequency drives decadal changes in soil carbon and nitrogen and ecosystem productivity

Fire frequency is changing globally and is projected to affect the global carbon cycle and the climate. However, the effects of altered fire regimes on the carbon cycle are largely unknown. A new study looks at data from 48 sites in savanna grasslands, broadleaf forests and needleleaf forests spanning up to 65 years, during which time the frequency of fires was altered at each site. They find that frequently burned plots experienced a decline in surface soil carbon and nitrogen , having 36 percent less carbon and 38 percent less nitrogen after 64 years than plots that were protected from fire. Long-term losses of soil nitrogen that result from more frequent burning may in turn decrease the carbon that is sequestered by net primary productivity by about 20 per cent of the total carbon that is emitted from burning biomass over the same period.

Nature Read Article

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