Today's climate and energy headlines:
- UK government lifts block on new onshore windfarm subsidies
- UK carbon emissions fall 28% in a decade, analysis shows
- Half of the world's beaches could disappear by the end of the century, study finds
- UN predicts above-average temperatures even without El Niño
- The Guardian view on an energy U-turn: the winds of change
- The Committee on Climate Change is upping the ante on the Government’s response to climate change
- Working with farmers is the key to protecting our environment
- Sandy coastlines under threat of erosion
- CO2 mineralisation and utilisation by alkaline solid wastes for potential carbon reduction
Most UK publications report the news that the UK government has lifted an effective ban on subsidies for onshore windfarms. The Guardian reports that the government will allowing onshore windfarms to compete for subsidies alongside solar power developments and floating offshore wind projects, in a new auction scheme announced on Monday. Ministers previously blocked projects four years ago “after complaints from local campaigners that they were a blot on the landscape”, BBC News says. Onshore wind is “the cheapest form of new power in the UK”, BBC News reports, and “in the long term, it should lead to to cheaper energy for consumers”. It adds: “But the government still wants local people to have a strong say in the decision where they are built. That means relatively few are expected in congested England. In Scotland, though, Scottish Power is delighted. It has 1,000MW in the pipeline for wind and solar.” The Times says it means that “dozens of onshore wind and solar farms could be built around Britain”. The Financial Times reports that, under the new government plan, projects will be eligible to apply for a new “contracts for difference (CFDs)” auction in 2021, which means wind farms could be up and running by the mid-2020s. Bloomberg says that the move is “a sign ministers are looking for more ways to meet a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050”. “Ending our contribution to climate change means making the UK a world leader in renewable energy,” said Alok Sharma, the cabinet minister in charge of business and energy, in a statement, according to Bloomberg. The i newspaper describes the decision as a “major u-turn”. A second article in the i explains how the decision could affect aspects “from the net-zero emissions target to your energy bills”. The news is also covered by Press Association, the Independent and the Daily Telegraph.
Several outlets report on Carbon Brief’s new analysis which shows that the UK’s CO2 emissions have fallen by 28% over the past decade, even as the economy has grown by a fifth. Press Association reports that over the period emissions from coal have fallen by 80%, those from gas have fallen 20% and CO2 from oil is down 6%. BusinessGreen notes that the UK’s CO2 emissions fell by almost 3% last year – “topping off a decade of deep decarbonisation which has left CO2 at its lowest level since the English Football League was founded in 1888”. EurActiv reports that the main drivers of CO2 decline have been energy-efficiency improvements and “a shift to cleaner fuels, primarily renewable sources of electricity”. Utility Weekly reports that, despite the declines, the UK still needs to more than double its emission reductions to meet its 2030 target. NS Energy also covers the analysis.
Many publications around the world report on a new study finding that uncurbed climate change could cause half of the world’s sandy beaches to vanish by the end of the century. CNN reports that, according to the Nature Climate Change study, the amount of beach lost will vary by location, with many densely populated areas close to the US East Coast, South Asia and Central Europe facing the highest levels of beach retreat. The threat to beaches comes from sea level rise and coastal erosion, MailOnline reports. The study also adds that a moderate cut in greenhouse gas emissions [the RCP4.5 pathway] could prevent 40% of losses, compared to a scenario where climate change is not curbed, MailOnline adds. The Guardian’s coverage includes interactive maps showing the potential scale of beach loss around the Aegean Sea and off the coast of southern England. The Sydney Morning Herald notes that Australia’s sandy beaches could be particularly affected. It reports that even under the “moderate” greenhouse gas emissions scenario, 40% of the country’s sandy beaches would be threatened by erosion, according to the study. The study is also covered by the Conversation, the Sun, Associated Press and iNews.
The Press Association reports that many parts of the world are likely to experience above-average temperatures over the next few months, even in the absence of an El Niño effect, according to the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation. The El Niño southern oscillation is a naturally occurring phenomenon in the Pacific which can have a warming influence on global temperatures, PA explains. The Independent also has the story.
Elsewhere, BBC News reports that climate concerns are growing in the UK amid news that last month was the wettest February in the UK since records began in 1862, according to the Met Office. “The UK received an average of 209.1mm of rainfall, 237% above the average for the month between 1981 and 2010,” BBC News says, adding: “Elsewhere, a survey suggested that almost a quarter of people felt that climate change was the ‘most pressing issue facing the UK’.” New Scientist also covers the survey, conducted by Cardiff University and Climate Outreach, which also shows that the number of UK citizens that are “worried about climate change” has doubled in three years.
An editorial in the Guardian says the UK government’s decision to lift a ban on subsidies for onshore windfarms is “hugely welcome”. It says: “Wind provides the cheapest energy, with the first subsidy-free contracts for offshore projects awarded last year. Onshore wind is even cheaper. It is also popular, scoring above other infrastructure (including roads and railway stations) in opinion polls despite the efforts of climate denialists to portray it as a public nuisance.” However, “ministers must not be allowed to sit on their laurels”, the editorial cautions. “Wind and solar will not solve all our energy problems and research and development into battery storage, carbon capture and renewable power projects of all kinds are urgently needed. Systematic retrofitting of the UK’s aged housing stock, to increase energy efficiency, has been shamefully neglected.” Elsewhere, an editorial in the Daily Telegraph says the government should have been “more open” about the return of onshore windfarm subsidies. It says: “This decision marks a reversal of a commitment made to rural areas, without it being spelled out, during the general election campaign…Voters are entitled to think the party should have been more open about the implications of its energy policy.”
An editorial in the Daily Mirror, meanwhile, argues that the UK has “much to learn” from the Netherlands on how to protect families from the impacts of flooding. It says: “Living greener is essential in the face of the climate change emergency. But the wet weather is not going to end immediately. Squeezing public spending imposes high costs on those washed out of homes.” The editorial is in response to a feature by the paper’s environment editor Nada Farhoud who explains how the Netherlands have “turned the tide” on the impacts of flooding.
Writing for House magazine, Lord Deben, a Conservative peer and chair of the Committee on Climate Change (the government’s climate watchdog), says that the CCC is “upping the ante” on ministers’ response to climate change: “This year, we are adopting a department-by-department approach, focusing on the actions individual ministries have taken towards meeting net zero, as well as assessing coordination across Whitehall. We aim to pinpoint the successes and highlight those areas that are still lagging behind…Then, in September, we publish our advice to government on the level of the 6th carbon budget – setting a limit on emissions for the period 2033-2037. This will be the first time we have advised on the pathway to delivering net zero, in both the near and longer-term.”
Writing for the Times Red Box, Anthony Browne, the Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire, says the government’s new Agriculture Bill presents an opportunity to “move to a system that is better for nature, for farmers and for taxpayers”. He says: “I can see that farming and the environment are intrinsically linked, and that farmers are the solution to many of our environmental problems. We must be clear that we need farmers. As architects of some of our most cherished landscapes, and guardians of our iconic wildlife, it is right that government is proposing to support more farmers to do even more for nature, as well as producing the food we need.”
Half of the world’s sand beaches could disappear by the end of the century due to coastal erosion and sea level rise, if little is done to tackle global emissions, a new analysis finds. In comparison, if moderate efforts are made to halt greenhouse gases, the losses could be 40% lower, the study adds. “A substantial proportion of the threatened sandy shorelines are in densely populated areas, underlining the need for the design and implementation of effective adaptive measures,” the authors say.
Up to 12.5% of the global greenhouse gases released each year by humans could be offset by maximising “CO2 mineralisation and utilisation” using alkaline wastes from industry, a study finds. Such materials, which include blast furnace and steel slag, red mud, cement kiln dust, concrete in building products and demolition waste, could be used to enhance “weathering” – a natural process whereby chemical reactions cause CO2 to become locked up on land and washed into the ocean.
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