Today's climate and energy headlines:
- UK carbon emission goals in jeopardy if Hinkley delayed: minister
- Earth's hot streak continues for a record 11 months
- Justin Trudeau to lobby for quick approval of Paris climate deal
- Drax says it can phase out coal in 3 years
- Switch to low-carbon transport could 'save UK billions'
- Chinese lull hits first quarter clean energy investment
- Government forced to back down on plan to gag academics and scientists
- Can we feed the world and stop deforestation? Depends what's for dinner
- Brexit would be environmental madness
- Extensive release of methane from Arctic seabed west of Svalbard during summer 2014 does not influence the atmosphere
- Tradeoffs between fisheries harvest and the resilience of coral reefs
UK climate goals could be at risk if the Hinkley C new nuclear plant is cancelled or delayed, according to a widely-covered letter from energy and climate secretary Amber Rudd. The letter “admits” the lights would stay on even if Hinkley is delayed, says the Guardian. The Times takes a similar line, adding that the letter “suggests the real reason the government is pressing ahead…is to meet the UK’s climate change targets”. In fact, while a delay might raise UK emissions by 11 million tonnes of CO2 per year, it would not directly affect carbon budgets because of a quirk of UK emissions accounting rules, Carbon Brief discovered when it looked at the impact of a Hinkley delay in January. A last-minute delay to Hinkley could push up bills, says Greenpeace Energydesk. Business Green and Energy Live News also cover the letter. Meanwhile various outlets are reporting on the struggles at EDF, the French state-backed utility planning to build Hinkley C. Pressure is rising on the EDF board over the scheme, says the Financial Times. Francois Hollande will gather ministers to discuss the scheme today, says the Guardian. Staff shareholders at the firm are complaining that the French government is trying to force through the Hinkley deal, reports Reuters. EDF faces questions over whether it has set aside enough money to decommission older nuclear plants, says the Financial Times.
The average global temperature in March was the hottest on record for that month and continues a run of 11 straight record-hottest months since last May, reports the Association Press, covering an announcement by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This year has had the hottest year to date in records going back to 1880, says the New York Times. The March record, 1.2C above the historic average, was “nothing short of remarkable, says Climate Home. New Scientist calls warming in 2016 “unprecedented” and says this year is approaching the 1.5C limit mooted by the Paris climate deal. Mailonline says “Earth’s heatwave continues”. Climate Progress says monthly temperature reports are “sounding like a broken record”.
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau wants to help the Paris climate deal enter force as soon as possible in an effort to reverse Canada’s past reputation as a foot-dragger on climate change, reports the Guardian. A “critical mass” of countries are set to sign the “deal to end the fossil fuel era” in New York on Friday, says Climate Home. Carbon Brief explains the difference between signing, ratifying and adopting the Paris agreement.
Drax, the UK’s largest power station, says it could phase out coal by 2020 or earlier if the government offers more subsidies, reports the Financial Times. The plant, half of which already burns wood instead of coal, says it could go 100% wood-fired but would need government support. Drax received £452m in subsidies and other support in 2015, the paper says. Carbon Brief looked at the climate impacts of biomass burning last year.
Reducing global oil demand through a switch to low-carbon transport could save the UK billions through lower oil prices, according to a new study reported by the Press Association. The worldwide saving could reach £232bn a year between 2020 and 2030, the study says.
This year may struggle to surpass last year’s record levels of clean energy investment, says Business Green, reporting on new figures for quarter one from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Investment fell 22% compared to quarter four 2015 and 12% year-on-year. The slowdown was largely due to a lull in Chinese activity after a surge to take advantage of expiring clean energy tariffs.
Ministers have backed down over plans to prevent researchers receiving public funding from lobbying government, the Independent reports. The move would have had a chilling effect on scientific research, universities and research organisations said. It is not clear if the reversal will apply to research funded by grants from government departments. The Guardian and DeSmog UK also have the story.
The easiest way to feed a growing population without destroying the natural world is “drastically cutting down on meat”, writes Laura Kehoe for the Conversation, covering new research on deforestation and diets. Carbon Brief also covers the work, asking if we can feed the world, preserve forests, go organic and eat meat all at the same time. Covering a separate study from the World Resources Institute, Grist looks at how possible it is to change peoples’ diets and what the impacts would be.
Leaving the EU would cause a hiatus in spending “just when energy investment levels must increase”, writes former energy secretary Sir Ed Davey in a column for Business Green. He adds that “opportunities for cheaper, more secure energy are significantly greater if we stay in”. Davey says it was the UK that tabled proposals that eventually led to the EU energy security strategy and that UK influence at the EU “can force others to do their share” on climate change.
Methane released from the seabed in an area west of Svalbard affects seawater but has limited influence on atmospheric levels of methane, according to new research. The authors took measurements on land, from ships and aircraft to monitor the release of methane from destabilising gas hydrates in the summer of 2014, but they say more long term observations are needed to better understand the Arctic methane cycle all year round.
Where is the sweet spot for continuing to harvest fish without causing physical damage to coral reef ecosystems already experiencing the effects of climate change? A new study investigates the tradeoff in a parrotfish fishery in the Caribbean, finding that corals can remain resilient to climate change-induced disturbances if less than 10% of the fish population is harvested and only individuals over 30cm.