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Daily Briefing

03.12.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING UN chief warns ‘life itself’ is threatened by big emitters
UN chief warns ‘life itself’ is threatened by big emitters

News.

UN chief warns ‘life itself’ is threatened by big emitters

Various stories mark the first day of COP25 in Madrid. The FT notes how the UN secretary general António Guterres warned 100 world leaders who had gathered at the COP’s opening session that “life itself” will be imperilled if the world’s biggest carbon emitters, such as the US and China, do not make bigger efforts to combat climate change. The FT adds: “While Mr Guterres called on those present to step up their plans — notably by reducing carbon emissions in 2030 to little more than half of their 2010 level — he emphasised that such efforts would count for little without the countries that produce the most emissions, whose leaders largely stayed away.” BBC News focuses instead the comments by President Hilda Heine of the Marshall Islands who said his island nation is on the frontline of climate change and is in a “fight to the death” after freak five metre waves inundated the capital last week. And the Spanish newspaper El País reports comments from Pedro Sánchez, the country’s acting prime minister: “Today, luckily only a handful of fanatics deny the evidence…No one can escape this challenge by themselves. There is no wall that can protect any country, regardless of how powerful it is.” The Guardian and Independent join other outlets in reporting how Nancy Pelosi, the US speaker of the House, “struck a defiant stance” yesterday, declaring: “Congress’s commitment to action on the climate crisis is iron-clad. This is a matter of public health, of clean air, of clean water, of our children, of the survival of our economies, of the prosperity of the world, of national security, justice and equality. We now must deliver deeper cuts in emissions.” Reuters says that top corporate executives from firms such as Apple, Tesla, Unilever and Royal Dutch Shell, and labour leaders, have issued a public plea for the US to stay in the Paris Agreement, arguing the battle against climate change would protect the nation’s economy and create jobs and businesses. Separately, Reuters reports how sources have told it that “Brazil’s climate negotiators [are] in [the] dark on Bolsonaro’s aims” at COP25. It adds: “Brazil’s technical negotiators…are disconnected from political leaders and unclear on their goals, two people familiar with the matter said. That means the negotiators could reach a deal that would be disavowed by government leaders. ‘Really what Brazil will do at the conference is anybody’s guess,’ one of the sources told Reuters. Adding to the confusion, Bolsonaro loyalist and environment minister Ricardo Salles has turned up in Madrid a week early to attend the full, two-week conference rather than just the second stage with fellow ministers from other nations.”

Meanwhile, Politico reports that “gloom hangs over” the COP25 climate summit because of “lacklustre progress”. Climate Home News looks at the fraught negotiations over “loss and damage”: “The 2013 international framework to address loss and damage – known as the Warsaw International Mechanism (Wim) – is up for review. How this mechanism should be governed and financed is a major aspect of the COP25 talks in Madrid this fortnight.” Climate Home News also carries an opinion piece by Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University Bangladesh, who argues that “in a climate emergency, there must be compensation for victims”. EurActiv has a feature about how the “green finance sector [is] expected to discuss [the] issue of climate justice at COP25”. And CNN reports on a new report by Oxfam released for the start of COP25 which concludes that “climate-fuelled disasters have forced about 20 million people a year to leave their homes in the past decade – equivalent to one every two seconds”.

Financial Times Read Article
EU leaders to push for climate neutrality by 2050 – document

Reuters reports that “European Union leaders meeting in Brussels next week will push to agree to put the bloc on net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, their draft joint statement showed on Monday, heralding a bitter fight looming at their gathering”. It continues: “The Dec. 12-13 summit of the bloc’s national leaders will aim to endorse ‘the objective of achieving a climate-neutral EU by 2050’, according to the document seen by Reuters. Previous attempts, however, were blocked by Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, who rely on highly polluting coal. They have previously said they oppose climate neutrality by 2050 for fear cutting greenhouse emissions will stifle their economies. To convince the reluctant camp, the draft summit conclusions refer to ‘just and socially balanced transition’, the European Investment Bank’s announcement to unlock one trillion euros worth of green investment until 2030, the need to ensure energy security and competitiveness vis-à-vis foreign powers not pursuing such climate goals.” EurActiv has published a lengthy feature headlined: “Behind-the-curtain of the EU’s 2050 climate plan, part II.” EurActiv has also published a copy (pdf) of the leaked EU draft.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that Christine Lagarde, the European Central Bank’s new president, is “pushing to include climate change considerations” in a review of the central bank. The FT adds: “An explicit focus on climate change policy would be a huge move. Because the central bank is by far the biggest influence on financial conditions in the market, it can make a significant difference to the investment decisions that determine how Europe’s climate transition goes.”

Separately, the Daily Telegraph reports that “six die in severe floods in southern France as prime minister blames climate change”.

Reuters Read Article
China to slash coal-fired power capacity at big utilities by merging assets – document

Reuters reports that it has seen a document, supported by other sources, which shows that China plans to “slash coal-fired power capacity at its five biggest utilities by as much as a third in two years by merging their assets”. The newswire adds: “The move to shed older and less-efficient capacity is being driven by pressure to cut heavy debt levels at the utilities. China, is, however, building more coal-fired power plants and approving dozens of new mines to bolster a slowing economy. The five utilities, which are controlled by the central government, accounted for around 44% of China’s total coal-fired power capacity at the end of 2018…It was not clear when the document was published but it said the merging and elimination of outdated capacity would start from 2019 and be achieved within three years.”

Meanwhile, Associated Press carries a feature on the “many contradictions in China’s energy development”. It quotes Kevin Tu, a Beijing-based fellow with the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University: “It’s the largest coal market and the largest clean energy market in the world.” AP explains that this “apparent paradox is possible because of the sheer scale of China’s energy demands”. Germany’s Deutsche Welle has published a video on why “concern is growing that [China’s] slowing economy is leading to a resurgence in coal production”.

Other media outlets focus on how other countries view coal. The Daily Telegraph visits Siberia for a feature headlined: “Why Siberia is so reluctant to beat its addiction to coal.” Reuters reports that “Indonesia is reviewing rules that require coal miners to sell a portion of their coal to local buyers”. Forbes says that “plans to phase out the use of coal in the Netherlands may be in jeopardy as a result of threatened legal action by the coal plants that would be affected”. And the Guardian has an article about how coal power is becoming “uninsurable” as firms refuse cover: “US insurers join retreat from European insurers meaning coal projects cannot be built or operated.”

Reuters Read Article

Comment.

The Guardian view on the climate election: reasons to be hopeful and fearful

The Guardian looks back to last week’s climate debate on Channel 4 which saw the UK’s party leaders – minus Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage who refused to take part – spend an hour discussing climate change: “Perhaps inevitably, the urgency and power of the overall theme of climate emergency faltered, during the Channel 4 debate as in other contexts, when it came to the technical details of rival schemes to retrofit homes and tackle aviation pollution. But seeing the party leaders answer these questions directly, rather than leaving them to more junior colleagues, was important…As the polls gently narrow, the extent to which climate science has been absorbed into Labour’s programme is a reason to hope for any result other than a victory for Mr Johnson. His refusal to debate a defining and existential issue of our time is yet more evidence that he is unfit to hold the office of prime minister.”

Meanwhile, an editorial in the Daily Telegraph looks at the UK parties’ “arms race of increasingly fanciful [climate] targets”: “Even the Tory [net-zero by 2050] ambition is almost certainly unrealistic and would require economic retrenchment for no obvious global gain while other countries fail to reduce their emissions. Moreover, while Britain has weakened the domestic link between economic growth and fossil fuels, we are the biggest importer of C02 emissions in the G7 group as a result of buying manufactured goods abroad. The next government should encourage investment in green infrastructure, such as more power points for electric cars. We need practical, market-driven measures rather than endless posturing and [COP] summiteering.”

Editorial, The Guardian Read Article
We’re losing our climate battle. We have no one but ourselves to blame.

“We are losing the battle to save our planet, and we have no one to blame but ourselves,” begins the Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson. He continues: “History will condemn a host of villains, starting with President Trump. The United States, as the globe’s leading economic power, is uniquely positioned to lead the world toward climate solutions. Instead, Trump is deliberately worsening the problem by pulling out of the Paris climate accord and actively encouraging the increased burning of fossil fuels, including coal. Decades from now, we may well see this as the Trump administration’s worst legacy…We of the boomer cohort will long have returned to dust before climate change begins to feel like an everyday five-alarm crisis…Our benighted leaders fail to give us meaningful action on climate change because we fail to demand it. We can’t look to the Madrid conference to save the planet. We must look within.”

In the Financial Times, science writer Anjana Ahuja writes about climate change tipping points: “Once the climate dominoes start falling, the risks become twofold: not only is there a slowdown in mopping up ongoing emissions but the planet could also begin burping out the carbon already locked away.”

Separately, the Financial Times has produced a video entitled, “Climate change explained: do green energy policies harm developing economies?” which features FT writers Gillian Tett, Martin Wolf and Pilita Clark discussing how developing countries have overtaken developed countries as the biggest investors in green energy technologies.

Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post Read Article

Science.

The impact of high ambient temperatures on delivery timing and gestational lengths

High temperatures can lead to shorter pregnancies and earlier deliveries, a new study suggests. Analysing US birth rate data for 1969-88, the researchers find that “extreme heat causes an increase in deliveries on the day of exposure and on the following day and show that the additional births were accelerated by up to two weeks”. They estimate that “an average of 25,000 infants per year were born earlier as a result of heat exposure, with a total loss of more than 150,000 gestational days annually”. Future climate under the RCP8.5 very high emissions scenario would see “an additional losses of 250,000 days of gestation per year by the end of the century”, the study finds.

Nature Climate Change Read Article
Integrated scenarios to support analysis of the food–energy–water nexus

A new study uses integrated assessment models (IAMs) to develop future scenarios of the food-energy-water nexus. The scenarios show that “if no new policies are adopted, food production and energy generation could further increase by around 60%, and water consumption by around 20% over the period 2015–50, leading to further degradation of resources and increasing environmental pressure”. The researchers also assess different response strategies – including climate policies, higher agricultural yields, dietary change and reduction of food waste – to “reveal how they may contribute to reversing these trends, and possibly even lead to a reduction of land use in the future”.

Nature Sustainability Read Article
Different uncertainty distribution between high and low latitudes in modelling warming impacts on wheat

A new paper in the journal Nature Food analyses the levels of uncertainty in projections of how global warming will affect wheat yields in different parts of the world. Using “geospatial datasets and a widely employed simulation procedure”, the researchers “created a wheat model ensemble of 1,440 global simulations of 20 climate scenarios, 3 crop models, 4 parameterisation strategies and 3 management inputs of sowing date”. The model simulations show the projected impacts are most robust for low latitude regions, with larger uncertainties for mid- and high-latitude regions. Uncertainties could be reduced through “crop model improvements and better-quality spatial input data more closely representing the wide range of growing conditions around the world”, the study notes.

Nature Food Read Article

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