Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Turkey appeals for help to fight wildfires as heatwave continues
- Reforestation hopes threaten global food security, Oxfam warns
- Multiple regions in China curb power use amid summer peak demand
- US: Wildfire fighters advance against biggest US blaze amid dire warnings
- US: Climate in the infrastructure bill: $73bn for the electric grid but less for electric vehicles and lead pipes
- Geologists identify two methane-emitting strips hundreds of miles long in Siberia
- Exclusive: ADB, Citi, HSBC, Prudential hatch plan for Asian coal-fired closures – source
- UK: I’ll stick with diesel, says No 10 climate spokeswoman
- Business can be a force for change on climate
- Methane release from carbonate rock formations in the Siberian permafrost area during and after the 2020 heat wave
- A sustainable development pathway for climate action within the UN 2030 Agenda
Turkey has appealed for international help to fight the wildfires that have been burning for six days along its coastline, the Guardian reports. “Nearly 95,000 hectares have been devastated by the flames so far this year, compared with an average of 13,516 at the same point in the years from 2008 to 2020”, according to the newspaper. The Washington Post adds that the Turkish president initially “preached a mantra of Turkish self-sufficiency”, but was criticised when he revealed that he has no firefighting planes at his disposal. According to the newspaper, Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan have already sent aircrafts and Spain and Croatia have also pledged to send planes. CBC News also notes that criticism facing the Turkish government over its handling of the fire. Reuters covers the developments under the headline, “Wildfires blaze on in drought-hit Turkey as criticism grows”, noting that the heatwave currently exacerbating the fires comes after months of “exceptionally dry weather in Turkey’s southwest”. EurActiv adds that, according to official data, this is Turkey’s worst fire in at least a decade. It notes that the death toll in southern Turkey has risen to eight people and 864 people have received medical treatment and the Independent adds that more than 10,000 people have been evacuated. On Monday, Turkish authorities said more than 130 blazes had been contained, the Guardian reports.
Politico notes that Europe is facing “one of its worst heatwaves in decades”. It adds: “Temperatures in Greece were forecast to approach Europe’s all-time record of 48 degrees and wildfires raged in Turkey, Greece, Italy and Finland.” Reuters also reports that Greece is facing its “worst heatwave in decades”, adding that citizens are being encouraged to conserve electricity as the heat has “pushed the power system to its limits”. Elsewhere, the Times reports that Scotland is set to increase its wildfire defences in the wake of the fires across southern Europe. And the Los Angeles Times says that Iran – which is currently facing a water shortage – is “sinking” as its water table drops.
Oxfam has warned that reliance on reforestation to offset carbon emissions could threaten global food security, the Guardian reports. According to the newspaper, Oxfam has published a new report entitled, “Tightening the net: Net-zero climate targets implications for land and food equity”, which finds that reaching net-zero by 2050 using tree-planting alone would require an area five times the size of India. It adds that “over-reliance” on tree planting to reach net-zero could increase food prices by 80% by 2050. The newspaper continues: “The report also found that two of the most commonly used offsetting measures, reforestation and the planting of new forests, were among the worst at putting food security at risk. Far better, according to the analysis, were nature-based solutions that focused on forest management, agroforestry – the practice of combining crop cultivation or pasture with growing trees – as well as pasture management and soil management in croplands. These would allow people to use the land for food while sequestering carbon.”
The Daily Telegraph reports that net-zero targets from four of the biggest oil and gas producers – Shell, Eni, Total and BP – would need to reforest an area of land twice the size of the UK to offset their emissions. Meanwhile, the new oilfield proposed in the North Sea – which would produce up to 255m barrels of crude oil in its lifetime – would need an area the size of England, according to the i newspaper. The Times also focuses on the proposed Cambo oil field in its coverage of the Oxfam report. It says the plan “flies in the face of COP26” and notes that it would need an area of reforested land 1.5 times the size of Scotland to offset its emissions. The Evening Standard and the Scotsman both carry a story entitled “Scottish ministers have duty to speak out against Cambo oilfield, says Oxfam”.
The Global Times, a state-run newspaper, reports that “a number of” provinces and regions in China have told local industrial companies to use electricity in an “orderly” way. The order came amid a “gap” in energy supply and peak electricity demand in summer, the report says. It notes that some companies are having to “cut production” to follow government regulations, but “on the whole, the country’s economic recovery will not be greatly affected by the restrictions on power usage, experts said”.
Meanwhile, the death toll of the recent flooding that battered central China’s Henan province has jumped to more than 300 people, three times the previously announced toll, reports Associated Press. The newswire cites an official press conference held in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan and the worst-hit area, on Monday. China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, reports that the disaster has so far left 302 people dead, 50 more missing and nearly 1.5 million displaced. The New York Times carries a video of the flooding and the Guardian adds that 50 people are still missing. Xinhua, China’s state news agency, reports that the central government has set up a team to investigate the local government’s handling of the flooding. Xinhua says the probe is set to penalise any acts of dereliction of duty found during the dealing of the flooding. Reuters also has the story.
Separately, CCTV reports that China has completed its first “self-operated deep-water oil field group”. The Liuhua oil field group is situated 437 metres under the surface of the sea off the coast of Guangdong province, CCTV says. It is expected to produce more than 3.5m tonnes of oil annually “during its peak year”, it adds. Elsewhere, the Financial Times reports that Chinese steel prices “tumbled” on Monday following “signals that Beijing was easing the pace of plans to cut carbon emissions in the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases”. And the Financial Times reports that China’s green energy themed exchange traded funds have “outperformed other thematic and broad-based ETF strategies in the first half of 2021, amid signs of a shift in the economy towards greener energy and more environmentally friendly consumer products”.
Firefighters have made progress in tackling the Bootleg fire in Oregon and officials have announced that the fire is 84% contained, the Guardian reports. However, the outlet adds that hot dry conditions mean that “dangers of flare-ups and new ignitions remain”. It continues: “Nine large fires have collectively burned more than 1.8m acres in 12 states, the National Interagency Fire Center reported on Monday morning, including 23 in Montana, some of which have displayed extreme fire behaviour”. The fire has been burning since sparked by lightning on 6 July and “firefighters initially believed they would not be able to rein it in until heavier rains came in the autumn”, it adds. The New York Times follows one couple whose home was “all but erased” by the fire. And the Financial Times reports that forests in the US that were bought by companies including BP and Microsoft to offset their carbon emissions were lost in the fire. Meanwhile, Associated Press reports that firefighters have “gotten more control over a wildfire in Hawaii that forced thousands of people to evacuate over the weekend”.
The New York Times carries a piece outlining the US weather this year so far and looking ahead to August. It discusses fires and heatwaves seen across the US, highlights the flash floods and notes that the Western drought is “getting worse”. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that more hot weather is predicted in coming weeks – and US natural gas futures have risen in response, as demand for cooling is likely to increase. And the Guardian carries a piece entitled: “Climate crisis has cost Colorado billions – now it wants oil firms to pick up the bill.” It notes that ExxonMobil and Suncor face lawsuits, but adds that “big oil’s apologists say the US consumer is to blame for emissions”.
There is continuing coverage of the new infrastructure bill passed in the US over the weekend. The New York Times unpacks the key climate measures in the bill – including the $73bn to modernise the nation’s electricity grid so it can carry more renewable energy and the billions of dollars to develop “an array of climate resilience measures”. However, the newspaper also highlights the compromises made by Democrats, noting that the bill “contains only a fraction of the money [Biden] requested for major environmental initiatives like building a network of electric vehicle charging stations and replacing the nation’s lead pipes”. It continues: “[The bill contains] another $7.5bn for clean buses and ferries, but that is not nearly enough to electrify about 50,000 transit buses within five years, as Mr Biden has vowed to do.” It also highlights that the bill includes more than $30m for carbon capture and storage and $6bn to support “struggling nuclear reactors”. A separate New York Times piece says that the bill is the most substantial government expenditure on the public works system since 2009. And a further New York Times piece calls the bill “a substantial investment in resilience”. The Hill reports that the deal would also require a study on the jobs lost from cancelling the Keystone pipeline. Meanwhile, a separate piece in the Hill outlines “five key energy components” of the bill, including tackling energy use in buildings, but notes that few provisions have been given to renewable energy such as solar power. Meanwhile, Politico reports that $15bn is included in the bill to remove lead form the nation’s drinking water, but adds that this is much less than the $60bn that the water industry says it would need. It adds that lead exposure is particularly high in low-income ares and communities of colour. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that, if passed, the legislation would “clear the way” for Democrats to develop a $3.5tn human infrastructure bill without the involvement of Republicans.
In other US news, the Hill reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the the new members of its scientific advisory board, after previously firing the board members appointed during the Trump administration. The board is “the most diverse since the committee was established”, the outlet adds. Elsewhere, Reuters reports that two small solar manufacturers are seeking an extension to tariffs on solar panel imports imposed by the Trump administration. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that US power companies have stopped building big nuclear reactors due to overrun costs and construction delays – but that several US utilities and power consortia “have entered into partnerships with manufacturers to build small modular reactors, or SMRs, attracted to their potential to produce carbon-free, 24-hour-a-day power”. And Inside Climate News carries a piece on the “conflicts over climate-friendly standards for buildings”.
A new study has found that the 2020 heatwave in Siberia caused a new source of permafrost methane emissions, the Washington Post reports. According to the study, the heatwave “unleashed methane emissions from prehistoric limestone in two regions stretching 375 miles”, the newspaper notes. It adds: “Scientists have long been worried about what many call ‘the methane bomb’ — the potentially catastrophic release of methane from thawing wetlands in Siberia’s permafrost.” However, the paper explains that the methane bomb generally refers to thawing wetlands which release microbial methane from decaying soil and organic matter. Meanwhile, the new study focusses on thawing limestone, which releases hydrocarbons and gas hydrates from reservoirs both below and within the permafrost, according to the paper. This makes it “‘much more dangerous’ than past studies have suggested”, the outlet adds.
The Guardian adds that most scientists think the risk of a methane bomb is “minimal in the coming years”, but adds: “If the climate crisis worsens and temperatures continue to rise, large methane releases remain possibility in the long term and must be better understood, the scientists said.” The i newspaper covers the study under the subheading, “Fears over new ‘tipping point’ for global warming as scientists discover ice trapped in limestone bedrock could melt, sparking plumes of greenhouse gases”.
Some of the world’s biggest financial institutions, including HSBC and BlackRock Real Assets, are working on plans to speed up the closure of Asia’s coal-fired power plants, according to a Reuters exclusive. The outlet reports that the proposal is driven by the Asian Development Bank and “offers a potentially workable model and early talks with Asian governments and multilateral banks are promising”, according to people with knowledge of the initiative. BBC News adds that under the proposal, “public-private partnerships will buy coal-fired plants and shut them far sooner than their usual operating lifespan”. It continues: “A key feature of the initiative is that it aims to raise the money for the purchases at well below the normal cost by giving lower than usual returns to investors”. The outlet adds that, according to Ahmed M Saeed, ADB’s Vice President for East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific: “By purchasing a coal-fired power plant with, say, 50 years of operational life ahead of it and shutting it down within 15 years we can cut up to 35 years of carbon emission.” The plan is to launch a pilot programme in a developing South East Asian country such as Indonesia, the Philippines or Vietnam, in time for COP26 in November, it notes. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports: “Banks pull back funds for new coal plants, a move that could accelerate world’s transition toward cleaner fuels—but China and India plans loom”. And Argus Media reports that Beijing is taking measure to increase its coal production. It adds: “Authorities in Inner Mongolia, China’s biggest coal-producing region, have approved land use rights for 38 open-cast mines in Ordos county, which had suspended operations because of limited access to land.”
Allegra Stratton, the No 10 climate spokesperson, has “been accused of perpetuating myths about electric cars” after defending her decision to drive her third-hand diesel vehicle rather than an electric vehicle, the Times report. Stratton said she needs a vehicle to visit relatives without having to stop to recharge the battery, the outlet notes. However, it adds that the AA says an average electric vehicle can drive 200 miles without recharging. According to the newspaper, Edmund King, the president of the AA, said: “Unfortunately too many views on EVs are myth, based on hype and unwarranted range anxiety. Even on a rare journey of over 200 miles, the driver should stop to take a break anyway for road safety reasons, so why not combine it with a rapid charge that takes just 20 minutes to go from a quarter charge to over 80%?” The Daily Mirror reports that Stratton said she “does not ‘fancy’ switching to an electric ‘quite yet’. And the Guardian add: “It is not the first outspoken comment by Stratton to raise eyebrows in Westminster. Over the weekend, she said the UK’s goal of tackling the climate crisis by reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 was ‘too far away’”. MailOnline also carries the story.
Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reports on its frontpage that the carbon emissions from building the HS2 rail link will be roughly equal to the reduction of removing vehicles from the roads. This is according to a new report, the newspaper adds, and means that “the accelerating shift to electric vehicles means HS2 will deliver almost no environmental benefits”. Elsewhere, the Financial Times reports that a fire at one of Tesla’s largest battery installation has “drawn fresh attention to the risks of batteries used to store renewable energy for electricity grids”. The Daily Telegraph carries a piece unpacking the pros and cons of electric vehicles, under the subheading “shocking explosions and electric battery fires threaten driver safety and the industry’s reputation”. And BusinessGreen reports that the UK’s largest fleet operators, including BT, BP, Royal Mail and Tesco, have pledged to buy 70,000 UK-made electric vans if the government enhances charging infrastructure and support for EVs.
In other UK news, an exclusive in the Sun reports that the “Big Four boiler firms” have joined together to promise that hydrogen boilers will not be more expensive than gas ones. The paper notes that thanks to this promise, consumers will save a total of £2.3bn if they upgrade to a hydrogen model in future. Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that “Thousands of households could lose their energy supplier this winter as small companies face the financial shock of record highs on the UK gas market and a key deadline to hand over renewable energy subsidies at the end of the month”. And the Financial Times discusses the use of “floating wind farms” in the UK.
The Financial Times carries a piece from John Browne, the former CEO of BP and chair of BeyondNetZero. He says that 25 years ago, he was the first “Big Oil CEO” to accept the role of oil and gas companies in climate change – and was “accused by my peers of having ‘left the church’”. He notes that climate change awareness and concern has since risen, but that the world is “sorely lacking when it comes to delivery”. He adds that it is “urgent that we close this gap between ambition and reality” and says that although we already have the “products and services” needed to cut emissions by 80%, many are “prohibitively expensive”. He continues: “Stronger public policy in the form of a carbon tax could help to level the playing field. But only business can take an idea from the laboratory or the engineer’s workshop and transform it into a commercially viable climate solution. This is exactly what happened to renewable power generation over the past decade…We now need to apply the same feat to the whole range of solutions that will take us to net zero — from hydrogen to heat pumps and from energy efficiency algorithms to electric vehicle charging software”. He explains that he established BeyondNetZero to “provide the capital that entrepreneurs and rapidly growing companies need to scale up as they seek to deliver the next generation of climate solutions” and to avoid “greenwashing”.
Atmospheric methane concentrations in the Taymyr Peninsula and surroundings in north Siberia “increased considerably” during and after the 2020 heatwave, a new “brief report” paper suggests. The researchers find that two areas of increased methane concentration “coincide with two stripes of Paleozoic carbonates exposed at the southern and northern borders of the Yenisey-Khatanga Basin”. They note that “soils are thin to nonexistent and wetlands are scarce” in the area, meaning “the maxima are thus unlikely to be caused by microbial methane from soils or wetlands”. The study suggests that “gas hydrates in fractures and pockets of the carbonate rocks in the permafrost zone became unstable due to warming from the surface”.
New research says that ambitious climate policies are “crucial elements for progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, but “they are insufficient to reach the targets” alone. The authors argue that “an additional sustainable development package, including international climate finance, progressive redistribution of carbon pricing revenues, sufficient and healthy nutrition and improved access to modern energy, enables a more comprehensive sustainable development pathway”. These interventions “substantially boost progress towards many aspects of the UN Agenda 2030 and simultaneously facilitate reaching ambitious climate targets”, the study says.
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