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Daily Briefing

07.08.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING UK risks losing out to Europe in home battery boom, report warns
UK risks losing out to Europe in home battery boom, report warns

News.

UK risks losing out to Europe in home battery boom, report warns

A new report warns that the UK could be left behind in Europe’s “home battery boom” because of an increase in value-added tax (VAT) on solar-battery systems, says the Guardian. The report, written by the energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, predicts that Europe’s home battery capacity could climb fivefold in the next five years as more households plug their rooftop solar panels into battery packs. However, while this boom has already taken hold in Germany and is expected to accelerate across Italy and Spain, the report warns that the UK is likely to lag behind due to “unfavourable” policy frameworks and a VAT increase from 5% to 20% for solar-battery packs this October, says the Guardian.

In other battery news, the Financial Times reports that mining giant Glencore will halt production at the world’s largest cobalt mine from the end of this year, following a dramatic fall in prices for the key battery metal. According to a letter seen by the paper, the mining company plans to close the Mutanda mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which is also a significant producer of copper, because it is “no longer economically viable”. The price of cobalt has fallen more than 40% this year because of a surge of supply from the DRC, the world’s largest producer, the FT notes. Glencore’s earnings have fallen by 32% following “lower prices for copper and cobalt and a poor performance from its African mines”, says another FT article. (Carbon Brief has previously published an explainer on six key metals for a low-carbon future – which includes cobalt.)

The Guardian Read Article
Heat headache for 2020 planners as Tokyo swelters a year before Games

Soaring temperatures in Japan have killed at least 57 people and hospitalised more than 1,800 since late July, report Reuters, “highlighting the health threat to athletes and fans that Olympics organisers must tackle before next year’s Tokyo games”. Temperatures have been stuck above 31C (88F) in and around Tokyo since July 24 – the date the Summer Games will open next year, Reuters says. “Weather conditions were often organisers’ challenges in past Olympic and Paralympic Games. We also understand that top-tier competitions can sometimes be observed in cities with even tougher weather patterns than in Tokyo,” said a Tokyo 2020 spokesperson. Tokyo organisers are evaluating heat-fighting measures from mist sprays and ice packs to shaded rest areas and tents at security checkpoints, Reuters notes.

Reuters Read Article
'Fight for our lives': Fiji calls world leaders 'selfish' as it lays out climate crisis blueprint

Fiji will introduce some of the world’s most ambitious climate change legislation, and has labelled the international failure to accept a recent scientific report on 1.5C as “grossly irresponsible and selfish”, reports the Guardian. In a speech to the Fijian parliament yesterday morning, Fiji’s attorney general and minister for economy and climate change, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, announced the upcoming climate change act and called global warming “a fight for our lives and our livelihoods”. The act will include a framework for Fiji to reduce its emissions to net-zero by 2050, the introduction of a carbon credit scheme and the establishment of procedures for the relocation of communities at risk, the Guardian says. It reports Sayed-Khaiyum saying that Fiji had “suffered a significant setback” at the climate talks in Bonn in May “when the nations of the world – under pressure from certain fossil fuel producers – set aside the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] scientific report endorsing the call for global warming to be capped at 1.5C above that of the pre-industrial age”. He is also quoted saying this was “a blow to our hopes”. (See Carbon Brief’sin-depth summary of the Bonn meeting for more.)

The Guardian Read Article
India, world's No. 2 coal buyer, plans to cut imports by a third

“India’s coal ministry is preparing a plan to cut imports of the fuel by at least a third over the next five years,” reports Bloomberg, “counting on an increase in domestic production and a jump in renewable output”. According to “people familiar with” a new five-year plan – which is still being finalised – coal imports are are expected to fall below 150m tonnes by the year ending March 2024, down from 235m tonnes in the last fiscal year, Bloomberg says. To meet the import reduction goal, state miner Coal India Ltd “will aim to raise its annual output to 880m tonnes by fiscal year 2024”, notes Bloomberg, while a “record addition of green power capacity is also seen weighing on demand”.

Bloomberg Read Article
Alaska’s waters are now ice-free, scientists warn

Alaska’s waters are now completely free from ice, “with the nearest ice shelf more than 240km away”, the Independent reports. It notes Rick Thoman, a climate specialist at the Alaska Centre for Climate Assessment and Policy, tweeting that “Alaska waters now completely clear of sea ice as last ice in the Beaufort Sea offshore Prudhoe Bay melted away”. “The closest ice to Alaska is now about 150 miles (240km) northeast of Kaktovik,“ Thoman added. On average, September sea ice in the Arctic has declined by more than 13% per decade over the past 40 years since satellite records began, the Independent notes. “This is a decline of around 85,000 square km per year – equivalent to losing an area of sea ice each year greater than the size of Scotland,” Ed Blockley, a Met Office expert on Arctic sea ice tells the paper.

The Independent Read Article

Comment.

How the world’s dirtiest industries have learned to pollute our politics

While the “Earth’s systems are breaking down at astonishing speed”, governments of many nations “intervene not to protect humanity from the existential threat of fossil fuels, but to protect the fossil fuel industry from the existential threat of public protest”, writes Guardian columnist George Monbiot. He points to examples such as legislators in 18 US states putting forward bills criminalising protests against pipelines and that “in several nations, led by the Philippines, governments have incited the murder of environmental protesters”. Because “the dirtiest industries attract the least public support, they have the greatest incentive to spend money on politics, to get the results they want and we don’t”, Monbiot argues. “They fund political parties, lobby groups and thinktanks, fake grassroots organisations and dark ads on social media. As a result, politics comes to be dominated by the dirtiest industries.” “We are told to fear the ‘extremists’ who protest against ecocide and challenge dirty industry and the dirty governments it buys,” he concludes: “But the extremists we should fear are those who hold office.” Elsewhere, the Daily Telegraph’s assistant comment editor, Madeline Grant, writes a piece headlined “Eco-zealots and hardline Remainers are driven by their feelings, not facts”.

George Monbiot, The Guardian Read Article
Mapping the strain on our water

“The United States has enough water to satisfy the demand, but newly released data from the World Resources Institute (WRI) shows some areas are out of balance,” write Washington Post graphics reporter and intern Bonnie Berkowitz and Adrian Blanco, respectively. The pair have produced a series of maps and charts from the WRI’s “Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas” – for the US and 189 countries around the world. The findings show that the naturally arid southwestern states “are in the most precarious positions when it comes to water”, they write, while “California uses the most water of any state”. However, “the US water picture is far less grim than that of other places”, the writers say, with “seventeen countries ranked in the ‘extremely high stress’ category, and they are home to about a quarter of the world’s population”. These include India, Israel and Lebanon – and the most water-stressed nation of Qatar, they say. The Guardian also maps the WRI data, which shows a “handful of US states – including New Mexico and California – are facing significant strains on their water supplies that will only intensify with global heating”.

Bonnie Berkowitz and Adrian Blanco, The Washington Post Read Article

Science.

Future hot and dry years worsen Nile Basin water scarcity despite projected precipitation increases

The number of hot and dry years could triple in the Nile Basin, a key agricultural region for countries including, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan, even if global warming is limited to 2C above pre-industrial levels, a study finds. The authors add: “Regional water scarcity will continue to be a chronic issue for the Upper Nile from population growth alone; but runoff deficits during future hot and dry years will amplify this effect, leaving an additional 5-15% of the future population facing water scarcity. Climate change, along with the region’s complex water politics, dependence on subsistence agriculture, and history of geopolitical instability, places the region at risk of severe food and water shortages as hot and dry years become more frequent.”

Earth's Future Read Article
Projected near term changes in the East Asian summer monsoon and its uncertainty

Climate change is likely to “enhance” the East Asian summer monsoon by the mid-century, the research finds. The study’s projections suggest that monsoon rainfall could increase by 5-10% in northern China by 2050 when compared to present day levels. In south-eastern China, however, daily rainfall levels could decrease, the research says.

Environmental Research Letters Read Article

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