Today's climate and energy headlines:
- UK climate advisers push for 2032 ban on polluting cars
- China expands coal plant capacity to boost post-virus economy
- Minnesota sues Exxon, Koch and API for being 'deceptive' on climate change
- Australia: Major energy companies call on Coalition to set target of net zero emissions by 2050
- We must not miss this glorious chance to address the climate and biodiversity crises
- How CO2 boosters' op-ed slipped by Facebook fact-checkers
- Context for interpreting equilibrium climate sensitivity and transient climate response from the CMIP6 Earth system models
- Foraging behaviour links sea ice to breeding success in Antarctic penguins
- More frequent summer heat waves in southwestern China linked to the recent declining of Arctic sea ice
There is widespread coverage of the latest annual progress report from the UK’s official climate advisers, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). The Financial Times leads its coverage with the committee’s new recommendation on bringing forward the ban on petrol and diesel cars to 2032, three years earlier than set out in the government’s ongoing consultation on the decision. The paper adds that the CCC also suggests higher taxes on fossil fuels while prices are low, with the potential to raise up to £15bn a year via carbon pricing. BusinessGreen and others cover the report’s call for the government to “go for it” with a post-coronavirus “green recovery blitz”, including building upgrades, tree planting, fossil fuel taxes and skills training. Reuters and the Thomson Reuters Foundation both lead their coverage with the CCC’s call for a green recovery. The Independent leads on CCC chair Lord Deben saying a green recovery is the “only option” to return to economic prosperity after coronavirus. ReNews runs a similar angle. Press Association via Energy Voice picks up the CCC advice on retraining and redeploying oil and gas workers to work in low-carbon industries.
The Times focuses its coverage on the 2032 car ban recommendation, while BBC News picks out the idea of higher car taxes for polluting vehicles, as well as the CCC suggestion that the balance of tax incentives ought to be rebalanced to discourage gas heating. The Daily Telegraph leads its coverage with the CCC finding that nearly two million homes, built since the Climate Change Act was passed, are “not fit for purpose” and will require expensive retrofits. The paper adds that the UK is not making adequate preparations to deal with inevitable climate impacts, according to the committee. The Daily Mail runs its print coverage under the headline: “End of gas boilers?” with a subheading that repeats the CCC call – already made last year – for a ban on gas boilers in new homes by 2025. For the Guardian, which has placed the story on its print-edition frontpage, the CCC warns that the UK “risks a surge in carbon emissions as lockdown eases”. It also picks up the CCC comments on the “central role” of the government’s new cabinet committee on climate change, chaired by the prime minister, but which needs to “meet more regularly”. According to the Guardian it has met only once in March. [CCC chief executive Chris Stark tells Carbon Brief he does not know how many times it has met.] The Guardian also has a point-by-point list of measures proposed in the CCC’s report. City AM says the CCC describes the Covid-19 crisis as a “defining moment” for climate change.
Climate Home News reports that the UK’s timeline for developing its first post-Brexit “nationally determined contribution” (NDC) to the Paris Agreement has “slipped”, meaning it “may struggle to meet a UN deadline to submit a tougher climate plan”. The website says the CCC advice on the UK’s sixth carbon budget for 2033-2037, the first to be aligned with the net-zero by 2050 target, is not now due until December, “leaving little time for a new climate plan [NDC] to be finalised before the end of the year”.
The House magazine carries an interview with CCC’s chair, which runs under the headline: “Committee on Climate Change chair Lord Deben on why it would be ‘stupid’ not to use the coronavirus recovery to go for net-zero.” In the interview, Deben asks: “What would be sensible in putting money into old industries which are also polluting ones?” The Conservative peer points to home retrofits as a key investment that can create jobs quickly to boost recovery, while also helping tackle emissions. A second BusinessGreen article picks out the CCC call for the draft Agriculture and Environment Bills to be aligned with UK climate goals. Carbon Brief has a detailed summary of the CCC’s progress report.
Meanwhile, Daily Telegraph chief city commentator Ben Marlow calls for the government to “sav[e] the steel sector” with a bailout for Tata Steel that comes with strings attached. He adds: “The chancellor must insist on protection for employees and push for promises on carbon emissions reductions too.” The Financial Times also carries the story about Tata Steel on its print-edition frontpage. Separately, Reuters reports that restoring natural habitats is “key for [the] UK to meet CO2 targets”, according to the Wildlife Trusts. And the Independent covers a new report by the Institute for Public Policy Research which, the papers says, highlights how the UK government s is “woefully unaware of and ill-prepared for” the imminent existential threats posed by “climate breakdown and the destruction of nature”.
In other UK news, the Times covers a new report from the nuclear industry: “The next generation of nuclear power stations will not produce electricity as cheaply as offshore wind farms, the industry has admitted.” BusinessGreen also covers the report from the Nuclear Industry Association, which according to the website “warns net-zero targets [are] at risk without new reactors”. Separately, Reuters reports that Drax power station in Yorkshire is to expand its trial of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage.
Approvals for new coal-fired power stations in China are being made by local governments at their fastest rate since 2015, the Financial Times reports. It says this is “a sign that pressure to stimulate the economy is undermining a transition towards cleaner energy sources”. The figures, from Global Energy Monitor and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, show 40 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity was approved in the year to mid-June, the paper says, a figure it compares to the “entire existing fleet of South Africa. Reuters also covers the findings, saying that China has a total of 250GW of new coal under development, including projects in early stages of development and those under construction.
Meanwhile, Reuters and Clean Energy Wire report that the German cabinet has approved €4.3bn in compensation payments to utility firms expected to close brown coal (lignite) plants under the country’s phaseout plans. Reuters notes that the money must still be approved by the lower house of parliament and under EU state aid rules. Clean Energy Wire says the draft contract stipulates the money would be used “to restore the landscape after mining has finished”. It adds: “Environmentalists noted with relief that the contract in its current form would not prevent an earlier exit from coal should market conditions turn coal plants uneconomical.”
The state of Minnesota has sued the American Petroleum Institute (API), Exxon and Kock Industries for what it calls a decades-long campaign to deceive the public about climate change, Reuters reports. It continues: “The lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal challenges by states, cities, and citizen groups targeting fossil fuel companies over their role in global warming. It is also the first naming the API, the nation’s main oil and gas industry lobby group, as a defendant.” The suit is based on alleged breaches of Minnesota laws banning “consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices and false advertising”, the newswire says. The Hill and DeSmog also have the story.
A group of major energy companies is calling on the Australian government to set a net-zero by 2050 target, the Guardian reports. The Australian Energy Council’s support for the Paris Agreement “will increase pressure on federal government to back [the] pledge”, the paper says. It notes that the group includes the owners of “all coal-fired power plants in the national grid”. Another Guardian article reports on the Labor opposition’s attempts to reach bipartisan consensus on energy policy, while a comment for the Guardian says the move “is cause for hope, as long as it doesn’t lead to bipartisan inaction”. Another Guardian piece reports that “Up to 11,000 renewable energy jobs could be lost under Morrison government policies.” Reuters reports that mining giant BHP has put its Australian thermal coal mine up for sale, according to “three sources”.
In a comment for the Guardian, veteran environment campaigner Jonathon Porritt writes: “If the government plots a green recovery from coronavirus, the benefits are endless. If it doesn’t, we’re screwed.” He says the way governments spend trillions of dollars of post-coronavirus stimulus money presents a “binary” and simple choice. He adds: “Nothing is ever quite as “shovel-ready” as advocates would have us believe, but local transport solutions, housing retrofits and nature-climate solutions could all be brought forward, at speed and at scale, in ways that would be hugely popular with citizens across the country. ” An “exclusive” for the i newspaper quotes Porritt – who has a new book out about climate change – saying time is running out on climate change and that direct action and mass civil disobedience are needed.
A news feature for E&E News reports how a change in Facebook’s factchecking rules has created “a new loophole” for “groups that attack climate science”. A decision to mark a misleading post published by the Washington Examiner as “false”, in accordance with Facebook standards, was later overturned after the piece was marked as “opinion”, E&E News explains. The “CO2 Coalition” that authored the original post was “temporarily blocked from running ads after the factcheck”, E&E News says. “After the ‘false’ label was removed from its climate models piece, the coalition is now again allowed to buy ads.”
A new study explores the values of equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS, a hypothetical value of global warming at equilibrium for a doubling of CO2) and transient climate response (TCR, the surface temperature warming around the time of CO2 doubling when CO2 has increased by 1% per year) for the Earth system models in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6). ECS in CMIP6 ranges from 1.8C to 5.6C, which is “the largest of any generation of models dating to the 1990s”, the authors say. TCR, meanwhile, ranges between 1.3C and 3.0C, which “is only slightly larger than for the CMIP3 and CMIP5 models”. The study explains that “cloud feedbacks and cloud-aerosol interactions are the most likely contributors to the high values and increased range of ECS in CMIP6”. For more about CMIP6 models, see Carbon Brief’s explainer.
Adélie penguins in Antarctica saw increases in “adult body mass, chick growth rates, and breeding success” in years with low levels of sea ice cover, a new study says. By electronically tagging 175 penguins in four seasons with contrasting sea-ice conditions, the researchers show that “ice-free environments enhance, not deteriorate, foraging efficiencies and breeding success”. The authors explain: “In an ice-free season, penguins traveled by swimming rather than walking, leading to larger foraging areas, shorter trip durations, and lower energy expenditure than three ice-covered seasons.”
The increasing frequency of summer heatwave in southwestern China (SWC) is “significantly correlated” with sea-ice losses in the Barents Sea, Kara Sea and the Arctic pole, a new study suggests. The reduction in Arctic sea ice causes an increase in “heat-flux exchanges” between the air and sea, the researchers explain, and low-pressure anomalies over the polar region. This “subsequently triggers southeastward Rossby wave trains propagating from northern Europe to East Asia that induce anomalous anticyclone over SWC”, the authors add. Combined with other knock-on impacts, these changes lead to “above-normal air temperatures” and “prominently drier soil” in SWC, the study says. Carbon Brief has previously published a Q&A on the potential links between a changing Arctic and mid-latitude weather extremes.
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