Today's climate and energy headlines:
- UN summit highlights $700bn funding gap to restore nature
- Revealed: BP and Shell back anti-climate lobby groups despite pledges
- China’s top climate scientists map out path to 2060 goal
- Air France leads tax pushback in climate vs recovery fight
- Britain's oil and gas rigs most polluting in North Sea, says report
- Bangladesh PM says we must prioritise a green Covid recovery
- Joe Biden for president
- The PM has a glorious chance to restore our green and pleasant land
- Electrification of light-duty vehicle fleet alone will not meet mitigation targets
- Increasing ocean stratification over the past half-century
- Divergent forest sensitivity to repeated extreme droughts
The UN has warned that countries will need to find $700bn to reverse human destruction of the natural world, Climate Home News reports. “That was the message of UN agencies during a pledging conference for governments, businesses and philanthropic organisations to bolster financial commitments for the protection and restoration of nature on Monday,” CHN says. In 2019, these actors spent between $124 and $143bn per year on activities that benefit nature worldwide, CHN says. But “to halt the destruction of plants and animals and restore nature, the world needs to mobilise an additional $600 to $824bn a year”, CHN adds. BBC News reports that Sir David Attenborough also addressed the virtual UN conference to call on world leaders to do more to protect nature. “If ever we needed a strong signal from world leaders, for people like you, that we are going to solve this, then this is now,” he told the delegates, according to BBC News. At the same talks, Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama said the world is already experiencing “environmental Armageddon”, the Independent reports. This was meant to be the year the world “took back the planet”, he added, according to the Independent. Meanwhile, Australia, the US and China are still refusing to sign up to take tougher measures to protect biodiversity, the Guardian reports.
Meanwhile, the i newspaper reports that conservationists have been critical of UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s recent pledge at the UN to leave aside 30% of the UK’s land for nature. “The key is for the UK government to be honest about what actually is needed,” RSPB’s global conservation director Martin Harper told the i newspaper. “Because it’s not just about drawing lines around a map and saying it’s protected. It’s about the quality of wildlife in those sites.” A second i newspaper story notes that the UK’s big butterfly count for this year has returned the lowest numbers in 10 years. In addition, Unearthed reports that western banks have provided billions to firms driving tuna to collapse.
Unearthed reports that oil majors Shell and BP are still active members of at least eight trade organisations lobbying against climate change action in the US and Australia – despite carrying out a public review of their membership of such groups a few months ago. Unearthed reports: “Reviews of leaked and publicly available documents show those groups are part of the sprawling network of state and regional trade associations that have, in at least one case, boasted about quashing the very carbon-reduction policies the oil giants publicly claim to support.” In response to Unearthed’s reporting, the companies said they either hoped to reform the trade groups, including the eight identified, of which they are still part, or planned to review their membership going forward. “But both BP and Shell refused to disclose full lists of trade associations where they have ongoing involvement,” Unearthed says.
Elsewhere, the Times reports that Shell is poised to cut thousands of jobs as it “nears the conclusion of a global restructuring review designed to position it for the green energy transition”. Shell could set out the scale of the job losses as soon as tomorrow, when it is expected to issue a trading update ahead of third-quarter results next month, the Times says. It adds: “Shell is Europe’s biggest oil company, with profits of $15bn last year, but is trying to reposition itself to meet a goal of ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050. It aims to build a world-leading electricity business, building renewables and supplying customers.”
Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that BP and other big corporate buyers have “breathed fresh life into the carbon offset market over the past year”. The FT says: “Many in the sector feared the coronavirus crisis would deal a fresh blow to the offsetting industry, in part by reducing emissions from industries like aviation that were set to become big buyers. In fact broader corporate demand for voluntary carbon offsets has increased this year.”
Bloomberg reports that one of China’s top climate research institutes has created a road map to aid the government with its goal of reaching “carbon neutrality” by 2060. The plan, from Tsinghua University’s Institute of Energy, Environment and Economy, entails a more gradual transition away from coal over the next decade and a half, with a rapid acceleration after 2035, Bloomberg says. China’s emissions will peak sometime between 2025 and 2030 and total energy demand will start to decline around 2035, the institute’s director, Zhang Xiliang, said in a Sunday webinar, Bloomberg reports. “We are trying to set the most cost-effective model to push every sector to realise the goal,” he said, according to Bloomberg.
Last week, Carbon Brief published analysis by Cambridge Econometrics showing that going carbon neutral by 2060 “will make China richer”.
Reuters reports that the airline Air France-KLM is battling against new green taxes – “in a test of growing policy tensions between righting Europe’s crippled airlines and delivering on climate goals”. The Franco-Dutch group, sustained by 10.4bn euros ($12.2bn) in state-backed loans, faces higher taxes in both home markets as well as EU plans to raise airlines’ carbon costs, Reuters says. “The struggle unfolding around Air France-KLM is part of a larger reckoning for carbon-intensive industries as efforts to tackle global warming spawn more taxes and regulation,” Reuters reports.
The Guardian reports that the UK’s oil and gas rigs are the most polluting in the North Sea oil basin, according to industry data. The gas wasted through production is “enough to heat a million homes every year”, the Guardian says. The Guardian adds that oil rigs in the UK continental shelf (UKCS) released 13.1m tonnes of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere last year, according to data from Rystad Energy, significantly more than those from the Norwegian and Danish regions of the North Sea, which produced 10.4m tonnes and 1.4m tonnes of CO2 respectively in the same year.
Bangladesh’s prime minister Sheikh Hasina writes in the Financial Times that the world must prioritise a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. She writes: “I want to warn countries that feel they are immune to the climate crisis, to bankers and financiers who feel they can escape it: you cannot…Bangladesh is not alone in feeling the wrath of nature. This year fires have raged in the Amazon, Australia, California and Siberia. Cyclones and hurricanes have battered the US, Caribbean and much of Asia. The UK, host of the COP26 climate summit next year, suffered floods.”
An editorial in the Washington Post endorses Joe Biden for the US presidency, citing his pledge to take action on climate change as a reason why he should be favoured over current president Donald Trump. The editorial says: “On climate change, where Trump denigrates scientists and dismisses warnings about a grave threat to humanity, just as he did with Covid-19, Biden understands that no issue is more fundamental to the long-term prosperity of the nation or the world. He would make it a priority of his administration.”
Elsewhere, an editorial in the South China Morning Post says that China must “show the world” and deliver on its pledge to reach “carbon neutrality” by 2060. It says: “The significance of what China has promised for an economy of its size should not be played down simply because 2060 sounds far away. It is important news when the other two big polluters, the United States and India, are not committed to any goals. Ultimately, it could have a big impact.”
In the Daily Telegraph, former Conservative leader and peer William Hague writes that he believes that the tide is turning and that the world is on the brink of taking more stringent action to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. He says: “Dare we hope that the next decade will be any different from the appalling story of the last half-century? I think we can. Slowly, the truth is sinking in and a tipping point in opinion and action is being reached.” Prime minister Boris Johnson and environment minister Zac Goldsmith should seize the opportunity to take more action, he adds: “They should make use of the huge public appetite to help, by leading a massive effort to make gardens, parks and farms more open to nature.”
Elsewhere in the Daily Telegraph, Goldsmith writes that the UK will “use its financial and diplomatic power to help save the planet”. He says: “As co-hosts of the next Climate COP, the UK is in pole-position to galvanise global action. On emissions, the market is thankfully racing ahead of the politics, with investment in renewable energy now exceeding investment in fossil fuels.”
In addition, Sir Ian Boyd, a professor of biology at the University of St Andrews and former government science adviser, also writes in the Daily Telegraph arguing the world “is on a collision course with the hard limits of nature”. He says: “If the world has not been jolted by Covid-19 then it is hard to know what else would create the conditions for introspection about what we value.”
Switching to electric vehicles (EVs) is “not a silver bullet” for climate change mitigation within the US transport sector, a new study says. Using EVs to put the US transport on a path consistent with less than 2C of global warming would require “more than 350m on-road EVs (90% of the fleet), half of national electricity demand and excessive amounts of critical materials to be deployed in 2050”, the study finds. The results indicate that there is “a need for a wide range of policies that include measures to reduce vehicle ownership and usage”, the researchers conclude.
The “stratification” of the global oceans – where defined layers of seawater form, acting as a barrier to mixing – has increased by around 5% since 1960, a new study suggests. Using newly available ocean temperature and salinity observations, the researchers quantify changes in ocean stratification down to depths of 2,000 metres. The results show that most of the increase in stratification has occurred in the upper 200 metres of the ocean and has “resulted largely (>90%) from temperature changes, although salinity changes play an important role locally”, the researchers say.
New research assesses the impact of repeated droughts on the health of forest ecosystems and their ability to store carbon. Specifically, the authors “combine cross-biome datasets of tree growth, tree mortality and ecosystem water content to quantify the effects of multiple droughts at a range of scales from individual trees to the globe from 1900 to 2018”. The findings show that “subsequent droughts generally have a more deleterious impact than initial droughts”, the researchers say. The impacts differ “enormously” across ecosystems, the study notes, with “gymnosperms and conifer-dominated ecosystems more often exhibiting increased vulnerability to multiple droughts”.