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Briefing date 06.10.2023
UN climate fund fails to secure funding pledge from US

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Climate and energy news.

UN climate fund fails to secure funding pledge from US
Financial Times Read Article

The US did not pledge money to the world’s biggest multilateral climate fund at its second fundraising conference, the Financial Times reports, highlighting wealthy nations’ failure “to support poorer nations suffering from the impact of global warming”. The UN’s Green Climate Fund, the world’s biggest fund dedicated to providing developing countries with finance to tackle climate, raised a total of $9.3bn from 25 countries by the close of its one-day pledging conference held in Bonn, Germany, on Thursday, according to the FT. Sultan Al Jaber, president-designate of the UN climate summit COP28 and an oil chief in UAE, said the GCF’s “current level of replenishment” was “neither ambitious nor adequate to meet the challenge the world faces”, the FT reports. Climate Home News notes that the money raised is less than at the last replenishment round four years ago. It explains: “Japan and Norway were the only major donors to announce new contributions…They offered less money – in US dollar terms – than in the previous fundraising round in 2019. Other potential big contributors like Sweden, Italy and Switzerland, flagged their intention to make pledges in the coming weeks, saying they were not yet ready to do so for internal budgetary reasons. Germany, the UK and France made pledges ahead of the conference.” Erika Lennon, who monitors the GCF for the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), tells Climate Home News: “It is just unacceptable. The climate crisis has only gotten worse and it is ridiculous countries are not meeting that urgency with the level of finance needed”. Reuters notes that Japan’s pledge totalled $1bn. Deutsche Welle adds that the German economic development minister Svenja Schulze, who hosted the Bonn conference, said that, besides the other industrialised nations, she “increasingly see[s] the responsibility of countries who are not part of the classical donors: for example, Gulf states that got rich due to fossil energy, or emerging nations such as China who by now are responsible for a large share of carbon emission” to raise funds.

UK: Sunak made a mistake with net-zero changes, says Mark Carney
The Daily Telegraph Read Article

The Daily Telegraph reports on remarks from former Bank of England governor Mark Carney saying that UK prime minister Rishi Sunak made a “mistake” by watering down climate targets and that delaying net-zero deadlines and approving new oil and gas drilling would harm investment into the UK. Speaking at an event held by the Policy Institute at King’s College London, Carney said “big businesses were already prioritising investment in countries that have clear climate commitments at the expense of Britain”, reports the Daily Telegraph. According to the newspaper, he said: “What I find when speaking to companies is that their first question is: ‘Am I getting clean power?’ If you start throwing that into doubt it becomes a much more difficult discussion.” The Guardian also covers his remarks. It comes as the Institute for Public Policy Research warns that the UK is in “reverse gear” for green growth, the Press Association reports. CityAM speaks to the head of a top investment fund who warns that Sunak’s climate rollbacks are “putting the future of the UK’s economy at risk for the benefit of ‘short-term political gain’”. The Daily Telegraph reports that banks are sticking to pledges aimed at improving home energy efficiency, despite Sunak recently scrapping such measures as part of his climate rollbacks. Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that the North Sea regulator has said that the UK oil-and-gas sector must do more to meet its 2030 emissions targets.

‘Gobsmackingly bananas’: scientists stunned by planet’s record September heat
The Guardian Read Article

There is continuing coverage of the news that last month was the hottest September on record by a wide margin, something that was described as “gobsmackingly bananas” by Carbon Brief’s climate science contributor and climate scientist Dr Zeke Hausfather. The chart illustrating the striking September heat record covers the Guardian’s front page. BBC News also has the story. And the i newspaper reports that the world could be heading for its hottest October on record.

EU Parliament gives formal approval to new EU climate chief
Reuters Read Article

The European Parliament gave its formal approval yesterday to appoint Wopke Hoesktra as the EU’s new climate chief, Reuters reports. It explains: “Hoekstra, a former Dutch foreign minister, was widely expected to pass the Parliament vote, and did so by a large margin – 279 votes in favour, 173 against and 33 abstentions. He had already won backing from the EU Parliament’s environment committee earlier this week. EU countries must also approve his appointment before he can start the role, a formality that is expected to wave him through.” Elsewhere, EurActiv reports that Hoesktra made written commitments on Wednesday to defend a 90% cut in net greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, “a move that financial analysts say will send EU carbon prices above the €400 mark”.

Extreme weather displaced 43m children in past six years, Unicef reports
The Guardian Read Article

At least 43 million child displacements were linked to extreme weather events over the past six years, the equivalent of 20,000 children being forced to abandon their homes and school every single day, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by the UN children’s arm Unicef. Floods and storms accounted for 95% of recorded child displacement between 2016 and 2021, with the rest being caused by wildfires and droughts, according to the Guardian. The analysis is also covered by the Press Association and the Associated Press.

Germany extends emergency coal capacity for another winter
EurActiv Read Article

Faced with “another winter of scarce gas supplies, the German government is keeping its lignite coal power plants on standby for one more season”, reports EurActiv. It adds: “The emergency measure decided last year [due to supply disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine] will be extended for the coming winter, keeping some 1.9 GWs of lignite capacity at the ready – adding to Germany’s existing 45 GW of coal power plants…as the power plants in question would run on lignite, the biggest climate polluter, their climate impact is going to be significant…The government has announced that it will endeavour to assess the extra carbon emissions caused by keeping coal power plants on standby, which are estimated to range between 2.5 and 5.6 tonnes of CO2.” Manager Magazin reports that the head of the German Federal Network Agency, Klaus Müller, has warned of “remaining risks”, despite the improved energy supply this winter and called for energy conservation. 

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that the German Green party is facing criticism, especially from voters in Bavaria, for being “forest-destroyers” by supporting wind farms and “warmongers” for backing Ukraine. Hubert Aiwanger, leader of the rightwing Free Voters, is quoted saying that “the Greens have only themselves to blame for the animosity” due to pushing through “a highly unpopular law” to phase out gas boilers and replace them with heat pumps. Svenja Schulze said hostility to the Greens has also been fuelled by a “targeted campaign of disinformation”, adds the newspaper. The FT adds that Markus Söder, Bavaria’s prime minister and leader of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), “has made Green-bashing the leitmotif of his campaign”. Die Zeit adds that the opposition has also been using the nuclear phase out against the ruling government by “continuing to paint doomsday scenarios for the country’s power supply”.

China: Wang Yi calls for speedy ‘green transformation’ around Trans-Himalaya region

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi yesterday “called for joint efforts to accelerate green transformation to facilitate the sustainable economic development of the [trans-Himalayan] region”, speaking at an international forum on trans-Himalayan regional cooperation hosted in China’s Tibet autonomous region, reports the state broadcaster CGTN. The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post also covers the news, adding that Wang “pledged that China would train professionals” in the region on biodiversity and desertification prevention and control, as well as ensuring that China, through its belt and road initiative (BRI), would “promote key projects such as…power grids”. The outlet also points out that “India was notably absent” from the forum.

The state-run industry newspaper China Energy News quotes Ren Jingdong, the deputy director of the National Energy Administration (NEA), saying that China is “actively enhancing exploration, development and storage of oil and gas”. He also says that China is “vigorously integrating new energy technologies, such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS)”. Shipping news outlet Marine Insights reports that China is increasingly importing Russian oil and investing in Russian energy projects, such as the Yamal LNG terminal.

Separately, Nature magazine covers a study which finds that, in the three decades since 1985, the extent of settlements in China located in areas assessed to be the “highest flood-hazard category” more than tripled. It comes as state news agency Xinhua reports that the Chinese ministry of water resources last weekend activated a “level IV emergency” response for flood prevention, alongside forecasts of “heavy rainfall” across parts of Guangdong and Fujian province. Another Xinhua article notes that the China meteorological administration continues to issue a “yellow warning” for Typhoon Koinu, which experts say could impact travellers returning home at the end of the national holiday.

The Communist party-affiliated newspaper People’s Daily interviews Børge Brende, president of the World Economic Forum, who says that “over the past 10 years, China has led wind and solar energy globally…[and is] playing an increasingly important role in combating climate change and preserving biodiversity”. Foreign Affairs, a US international relations journal, carries a proposal by Bill Cassidy, a Republican senator for Louisiana, to create a “foreign pollution fee”, by which the US could “rally fellow states to confront China peacefully but firmly”. In Foreign Policy, Brian Deese, a fellow at MIT and former director of the US National Economic Council, plus a key climate official who served in the Obama and Biden adminstrations, and Jason Bordoff, a columnist and a dean at the Columbia Climate School, have a piece titled: “How to break China’s hold on batteries and critical minerals.” Finally, New Scientist explores “why China’s clean energy tech will determine our climate future”.

Climate and energy comment.

The Guardian view on the hottest September: the climate must be prioritised
Editorial, The Guardian Read Article

In response to Earth facing its hottest September on record by a wide margin, an editorial in the Guardian writes on the urgent need for progress at the COP28 climate summit, amid a year of few new climate pledges from governments and accusations of greenwashing and fossil-fuel influence surrounding the summit’s UAE host. It says: “Even now, as scientists admit that they are stunned by the latest data, there is no guarantee that greenhouse gases will stop rising by 2025, as experts believe they must if there is to be any chance of limiting temperature rises to 1.5C.” In Metro, former Green Party MP Caroline Lucas notes that, during his speech at the Conservative Party conference, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak seemed “scornful of how the country has been run lately, when he himself is the man in charge”. She says: “Take net-zero – and his supposedly ‘pragmatic, proportionate and realistic approach’ to reaching it. In just 12 short months, Rishi Sunak’s government has approved a new coal mine for the first time in over 30 years, to international outcry. He’s given the go-ahead for the largest undeveloped oil field in the North Sea, and signed off over 100 other separate oil and gas licences, too. And, in just the past few weeks, he’s backtracked on a whole host of climate measures, which would deliver warmer homes, cheaper energy bills and lower carbon emissions for millions across the country. Yet in the latest sign that Sunak has no clue or care about this issue, he claimed to have ‘solved a problem’, as if the climate emergency is about to float away into the ether.”

On the other end of the spectrum, an editorial in the Sun criticises “moaning ex-prime ministers” who have criticised Sunak for shelving the northern leg of the high speed rail project HS2, saying they should have prioritised investing in nuclear power instead. In the Daily Mail, columnist Jan Moir writes over a whole page how she disagrees with Just Stop Oil protestors interrupting a performance of Les Miserables in London. (The Guardian has video of the protest). In the Daily Telegraph, “independent energy consultant” Kathryn Porter is critical of hydrogen and “such green energy unicorns”. [Porter is a climate sceptic with links to the gas sector, according to DeSmog.] Also in the Daily Telegraph, deputy comment editor Annabel Denham has a piece describing electric vehicles as “silent killers”. 

Germany: How the far right turned heat pumps into electoral rocket fuel
Karl Mathieson, Politico Read Article

Politico has published a lengthy feature on the cover of its print magazine which opens: “When they write the book on the downfall of liberal democracy, will it begin with the heat pumps?” It continues: “The heat pump, a banal piece of green home technology, was at the centre of Germany’s major political controversy of the summer – one that has helped propel the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) to the brink of a series of electoral breakthroughs, prompting many in a country scarred by the legacy of Nazism to fret about the future of democracy.”

New climate research.

Seagrass meadows as ocean acidification refugia for sea urchin larvae
Science of the Total Environment Read Article

Seagrass meadows could provide a buffer for calcifying organisms against the effects of ocean acidification, according to a new study. Researchers conduct a series of experiments, comparing the growth of sea urchins in aquaria both with and without seagrass under acidified ocean conditions. They find that the presence of the seagrasses increased the water pH by around 0.15, and sea urchins in those tanks were, on average, one-third larger than urchins grown without seagrass. The authors conclude that seagrass could provide “a tool against climate-driven loss of biodiversity”.

Mapping methane reduction potential of tidal wetland restoration in the US
Communications Earth & Environment Read Article

A new study finds that restoring coastal wetlands in the US could reduce emissions by more than 900,000 tonnes of CO2-equivalents per year. A team of researchers use wetland maps, emissions datasets and surveys of wetland managers to assess the potential for reducing methane emissions by restoring saltwater or brackish wetlands to their natural states. They find that coastal impoundments – wetlands that have been “artificially freshened” due to restricted tidal activity – “are under-mapped at the national level by a factor of one-half”. They identify nearly 1,800 areas where this impoundment could be reversed. 

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