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Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING UK accused of trying to ‘fiddle’ climate change targets
UK accused of trying to ‘fiddle’ climate change targets


UK accused of trying to ‘fiddle’ climate change targets

UK cabinet ministers have agreed to carry forward past “overperformance” in CO2 reductions in a move that could allow greenhouse gas emissions to rise in future, the Financial Times writes. In February, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) urged the government not to take advantage of this “flexibility” allowed under the Climate Change Act saying it was mainly due to the recession and so would “not be consistent with the Paris Agreement”, the paper adds. The news comes as the UK prepares to adopt what the paper describes as “one of the most ambitious long-term carbon targets in the world”, of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 – and as the government hopes to win the right to host next year’s COP26 UN climate summit. Mike Childs, of the the environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth, is quoted by the FT saying: “It is basically saying, ‘let’s slow down on this transition’. And that will make it more difficult for us to make our end goal, the net-zero goal…It is not illegal, but it is definitely fiddling with the carbon budget.“ Last month, CCC chief executive Chris Stark told Carbon Brief: “If they try to do that it’ll be a sign [govt are] not taking [the net-zero goal] seriously”.

Financial Times Read Article
Fossil fuel ban ‘would save 30,000 lives a year in UK’

Nearly 30,000 early deaths could be prevented every year in the UK by ceasing to burn fossil fuels, according to a new report from the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC), picked up by the Times. EASAC – which represents 27 national science academies across Europe – assessed 300 peer-reviewed papers for its report on the impact of climate change on health in Europe. Switching to a “zero-carbon economy” would prevent 3.6 million premature deaths a year globally from heart and lung cancer, respiratory infections and other illnesses, they found. They also concluded that a rise in average temperatures would cause more deaths from heatwaves and and increase the range of mosquitoes that transmit dengue fever and ticks that cause Lyme disease in Europe, the Guardian reports. Climate change could also increase the incidence of food poisoning as salmonella bacteria thrives in warmer conditions, the report suggests. Prof Sir Andrew Haines, a co-chair of the report, tells the paper: “There are impacts occurring now [and], over the coming century, climate change has to be ranked as one of the most serious threats to health.” The Guardian also highlights the report’s findings that extreme weather can affect people’s mental health in the long term. “Mental health effects include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, substance abuse and depression”, the report says.

The Times Read Article
Companies see climate change hitting their bottom lines in the next 5 years

Some of the world’s biggest companies estimate that they face roughly $1tn in climate-related risks, with most of that looming in just the next five years, according to a new report from the non-profit CDP, covered in the New York Times. “Companies are increasingly disclosing the specific financial impacts they could face as the planet warms, such as extreme weather that could disrupt their supply chains or stricter climate regulations that could hurt the value of coal, oil and gas investments,” the New York Times explains, yet “many companies are still lagging in accounting for all of the plausible financial risks from global warming”. Over 7,000 companies submitted such reports to CDP last year, but the numbers are “just the tip of the iceberg”, says Bruno Sarda, the North America president for CDP. Reuters and BusinessGreen also carry the story.

The New York Times Read Article
Finland to be carbon neutral by 2035. One of the fastest targets ever set

Finland is aiming to go carbon neutral by 2035, “setting one of the world’s earliest timelines for reaching that mark”, Climate Home News reports. The goal is part of a part of a package with increased welfare spending announced yesterday by incoming prime minister Antti Rinne, following “more than a month of negotiations” by five political parties. While neighbouring Norway “has an even earlier 2030 carbon-neutral target”, Climate Home News writes, “Finland does not intend to rely on buying credits for carbon cutting projects in other countries”.

Climate Home News Read Article


If Germany wants to achieve climate neutrality, it needs nuclear power

To reach carbon neutrality by 2050 German chancellor Angela Merkel should “reverse the blunder her own government made in March 2011: decreeing the end of nuclear power in Germany by 2022”, argues Charles Lane, opinion writer for the Washington Post. “Merkel’s grand plan for a post-nuclear future dominated by wind and solar energy, has achieved relatively little, in terms of reduced carbon emissions”, Lane writes. The “essence of the problem”, he says, is that Germany reduced nuclear’s share of its electricity production from 25% to 12% and “because renewables such as wind and solar could not yet feasibly offset the lost nuclear power, Germany had to replace it, in the short run, with…coal.” Lane concludes: “For all its risks, nuclear remains a crucial source of low-carbon-emission baseload electric power…Germany could achieve its carbon goals a lot sooner by keeping nuclear.”

Charles Lane, The Washington Post Read Article
You can't save the climate by going vegan. Corporate polluters must be held accountable.

“Personal actions, from going vegan to avoiding flying, are being touted as the primary solution to the [climate change] crisis”, begins an opinion piece by climate scientist Michael E Mann and historian Jonathan Brockopp. However, “this new obsession with personal action, though promoted by many with the best of intentions, plays into the hands of polluting interests by distracting us from the systemic changes that are needed”, they argue. “We need corporate action, not virtue signalling”, they say: “Massive changes to our national energy grid, a moratorium on new fossil-fuel infrastructure and a carbon fee and dividend…are just some examples of visionary policies that could make a difference.”

Michael E Mann and Jonathan Brockopp, USA Today Read Article
If seeing the world helps ruin it, should we stay home?

“To a lot of people who like to travel, these are morally bewildering times”, says New York Times journalist Andy Newman. “Going someplace far away, we now know, is the biggest single action a private citizen can take to worsen climate change.” Newman adds: “It is hard to think about climate change in relation to our own behaviour.” But “there are ways to quantify your impact on the planet”, he says, highlighting a 2016 paper which found that “your share of the emissions on a cross-country flight one-way from New York to Los Angeles — shrinks the summer sea ice cover by 3m²”. The piece goes on to investigate ways “to assuage traveller’s guilt” such as carbon offsets, which some climate experts have called “a cop-out”.

Andy Newman, The New York Times Read Article


Mangroves shelter coastal economic activity from cyclones

Mangrove forests help protect the economy of coastal communities from the impacts of tropical cyclones, a new study says. For 2000 to 2012, the researchers tracked the impact of cyclones on economic activity in coastal regions inhabited by nearly 2,000 tropical and subtropical communities across 23 major mangrove-holding countries. The results show that communities with average mangrove extent lose 5.4-6.7 months’ worth of economic activity after a direct cyclone hit; whereas, communities with more extensive mangroves see a loss equivalent to 2.6–5.5 months. The study concludes: “These results suggest that mangrove restoration efforts for protective benefits may be more cost effective, and mangrove deforestation more damaging, than previously thought.”

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Read Article


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