Today's climate and energy headlines:
- UN chief says world 'not on track' with climate change
- Presidential hopeful Biden looking for ‘middle ground’ climate policy
- UN modernises guidance for greenhouse emission estimates
- Climate change 'may curb growth in UK flying'
- Labour plan to delist companies to force action on climate change
- Global warming as important to voters as economy amid climate crisis
- The Guardian view on a green new deal: we need it now
- The Times view on the fight against air pollution: Electric shock
- Australia's climate change election: where do the parties stand on the environment?
- It is vital to reach net zero emissions but not by pursuing a 2025 deadline
- UK abandoning coal would be an act of virtue-seeking madness
- Strong intensification of the Arabian Sea oxygen minimum zone in response to Arabian Gulf warming
In widely reported comments made at the start of trip to the south Pacific, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres has said the world is not on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Agence France-Presse is among those reporting his comments at a joint press conference in Auckland, with New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, where he said: “We are seeing everywhere a clear demonstration that we are not on track to achieve the objectives defined in the Paris agreement…And the paradox is, that as things are getting worse on the ground, political moves seem to be fading.” Guterres said his generation should have done more on climate change, reports the NZ Herald. He said it was up to young people to “rescue the planet” and to be “as noisy as possible” until leaders take note, the paper adds. The UN chief commended Ardern on her country’s plans to become carbon neutral, reports Associated Press. BBC News carries a video of Guterres’s speech. Reuters, Deutsche Welle and ABC News also have the story.
In an “exclusive” story based on “two sources”, Reuters reports that Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden is hoping his climate change plans will “appeal to both environmentalists and the blue-collar voters who elected Donald Trump, according to two sources, carving out a middle-ground approach that will likely face heavy resistance from green activists”. The New York Times say Biden’s rivals “attack him from the left on climate change”. Writing in the Guardian, veteran climate campaigner Bill McKibben says Biden is “stuck in the past when it comes to climate change”. In another Guardian article, Oliver Milman asks if climate change might “submerge” Biden’s bid to become president. Politicoreports the comments of rival Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, who says Biden’s reported climate plans would “doom future generations”. The Hill also reports criticism of Biden’s proposals. Axios also covers Biden’s climate plans.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has agreed updated guidelines for governments to estimate greenhouse gas emissions, reports Reuters. The UN body yesterday signed off on a refined set of methods, which builds on the set published in 2006, by updating gaps and out-of-date science. The “2019 refinement” includes revised guidelines for tracking emissions sources across the energy, industrial processes, waste, agriculture and forestry sectors. It “provides an updated and sound scientific basis for supporting the preparation and continuous improvement of national greenhouse gas inventories”, said Kiyoto Tanabe, co-chair of the IPCC task force which prepared the report. The IPCC adopted the new report following a five-day general assembly meeting in Kyoto, notes the Japan Times.
A senior UK civil servant has said the government may need to review airport expansion plans in light of the proposed target to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, reports BBC News. The government has said the target will be “given careful consideration” in deciding whether to grant a review of the planned third runway at Heathrow, reports the Guardian. Meanwhile, a BBC News feature asks if aviation “could…ever be less polluting”. The Financial Times reports on a leaked EU report that shows taxing aviation fuel would cut emissions from the sector, but have only a “negligible” impact on employment.
A future Labour government would delist companies from the London stock exchange if they do not do enough to tackle climate change, the Financial Times reports. The story is based on an interview with shadow chancellor John McDonnell, in the Guardian, published on Friday. Separately, Axios reports that ratings agency Moody’s is developing a new system to assess the “carbon risks” faced by companies if the world takes more radical action to tackle warming. The Financial Times reports that firms are being urged to “come clean” over behind the scenes lobbying on climate change, that may be at odds with their public positions on the topic.
Climate change is now seen as a more critical issue for the UK than immigration, education and defence, reports the Daily Record. It says: “When asked to pick up to three of the most important issues facing the country, 24% of people who took part in the poll chose the environment – the same number who named the economy.” [The YouGov issues tracker on which the paper reports is covered by Carbon Brief’s latest guest post on polling around climate change. The tracker does not ask respondents about climate change specifically, instead listing the wider term “environment”.] Meanwhile, the Independent reports on separate polling which finds that “majority of [UK] voters would support radical action to slash greenhouse gases to nearly zero by 2050 at a cost of tens of billions of pounds”. It adds: “The exclusive survey by BMG Research found 59% of voters would support such action, with only 8% opposing it and 34% who had no view.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the first-term Democratic congresswoman from New York, has “spelled out what a green new deal involves”, says a Guardian editorial, namely “rejecting economic orthodoxy”. The paper says Ocasio-Cortez should be “congratulated twice over” for this. It explains that current policies are “only moving us incrementally” at a time when “the situation is becoming dangerous for human life”. The editorial concludes: “Policymakers ought not wait for economic theory to catch up to real-world events…Britain needs something like Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s green new deal. And we need it now – before it is too late.” In a comment for the Sunday Times, David Smith writes under the headline: “There’s no need to sacrifice growth to save the planet.” He pushes back on the idea that our current economic model is unsustainable, arguing: “It is, however, plainly the case that you can have economic growth and do right by the planet.”
An editorial in the Times continues the paper’s campaign for cleaner air in the UK. It says: “If Britain is serious about improving the quality of its air then the single most important step is to accelerate the switch from petrol and diesel-fuelled vehicles to electric cars…We have called for a Clean Air Act, including a ban on sales of new internal combustion engine vehicles from 2030 rather than 2040.” A comment piece for the Times by Bridget Rosewell continues this them under the headline: “Britain can become an electric vehicle country by 2030.” Rosewell, commissioner at the National Infrastructure Commission, says 2030 is the “right target and it can be achieved”.
“Australians have a clear choice at Saturday’s election,” writes the Guardian’s Adam Morton in the week that the country goes to the polls. He goes on to spell out the positions of each of the main parties on the environment and climate change. He adds that the coming vote “has been called the climate change election…[with] concern about the climate and environment…never…greater”. An “explainer” in the Sydney Morning Herald lists the ways the two main rivals in the election – Labor and the Coalition – plan to cut carbon emissions. Carbon Brief has published its own summary of all the main parties’ positions on energy and climate change, in an interactive grid. Separately, the Guardian reports on a legal case against the Australian government over what it calls “climate inaction”. The case is being taken to the UN human rights committee by a group from Torres Strait Island off the country’s northern coast, the paper says. Reuters also has the story.
Aiming for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is the right thing for the UK to do, argues the Institute of Fiscal Studies’ Paul Johnson, in a piece for the Times Red Box. Johnson, also a member of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), says much of the progress to date has gone largely unnoticed by the public, whereas the next phase “will be different”. He points to areas such as heating and transport among the more challenging sectors yet to make significant progress in cutting emissions. He continues: “This is not intended to scare you. It is certainly not intended to suggest we shouldn’t be aiming to get to net zero by 2050. We should…Some of those who argue that we should do a lot less are ignoring the clear evidence that the social, economic and environmental costs of anything like business as usual are potentially catastrophic.” But Johnson warns that reaching net-zero by 2025 is “essentially impossible, or achievable only at such vast cost to, and impact on, our living standards that trying to do it would put back the case for genuine action for a generation and more”. He concludes: “Neither those who deny the need for action nor those who pretend that we can act costlessly or can stop all emissions in less than a decade do us any favours.” Writing in the Financial Times, Jonathan Ford suggests plans for the UK to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 are “hazy”, saying the CCC advice proposing this target gives only an “inkling” of how it might be achieved. [The CCC’s 278-page advice is backed by another 300-page technical report, a technical annex on integrating renewables into the grid and numerous other underlying pieces of research, as Carbon Brief reported.] Ford also argues that there are “hidden” costs of integrating variable renewables, which windfarm owners should pay. [See Carbon Brief’s explainer on the system costs of renewables.]
“Abandoning hydrocarbons entirely without proven alternatives would be virtue-seeking folly,” writes Andy Critchlow, of S&P Global Platts, in the Daily Telegraph. He continues: “However, coal still has some useful advantages as an emergency backstop to ensure Britain’s economy has reliable supplies of affordable electricity during periods of extraordinary peak high demand.” Critchlow adds: “[T]he demonisation of fossil fuels, and especially coal, among UK policymakers is out of step with many of the country’s international competitors.” He points to Germany as an example, saying its targets to reduce coal dependence will be “hard to achieve”. [Critchlow does not say that Germany plans to phase out coal power by 2038 at the latest.]
A new study assesses the potential impact of climate change on the “world’s thickest” oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) in the Arabian Sea – an area where oxygen concentrations are too low at depth to support marine animals. The findings “show that a warming of the Gulf waters consistent with recent observations and future climate projections limits their ability to sink and ventilate the intermediate depths”, the researchers say. “This results in a strong intensification of the OMZ, and an important loss of bioavailable nitrogen.” The study concludes: “Our findings highlight the importance of semi‐enclosed seas like the Arabian Gulf for the ventilation of the ocean and hence stress the need for improving their representation in climate models.”
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