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Daily Briefing

08.05.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING US pressure blocks declaration on climate change at Arctic talks
US pressure blocks declaration on climate change at Arctic talks

News.

US pressure blocks declaration on climate change at Arctic talks

There is widespread media coverage of the successful efforts by the US to exclude any mention of climate change in the Arctic Council’s joint statement issued yesterday at its meeting in Finland. The New York Times says: “It was the first time since its formation in 1996 that the council had been unable to issue a joint declaration spelling out its priorities. As an international organisation made up of eight Arctic countries and representatives of indigenous groups in the region, its stated mission is cooperation on Arctic issues, particularly the protection of the region’s fragile environment. According to diplomats involved in the negotiations, at issue was the United States’ insistence not to mention the latest science on climate change or the Paris Agreement aimed at averting its worst effects. The omission is especially notable because scientists have warned that the Arctic is heating up far faster than the world average because of rising greenhouse gas emissions.” The Financial Times says the US has “sparked fury and bewilderment” after it blocked any mention of climate change. The newspaper adds: “Polar experts decried the lack of a joint declaration on Tuesday as the foreign ministers of the eight Arctic countries only agreed to a short and vague statement, with no mention of climate change.” Timo Soini, the Finnish foreign minister and host of the meeting, issued what the FT calls an “unprecedented” chair statement that pointedly noted that “a majority of us regarded climate change as a fundamental challenge facing the Arctic”. BBC News notes that “on Monday, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo addressed the forum…with a speech welcoming the melting of Arctic sea ice, rather than expressing alarm about it”. Reuters says the move by the US risks “jeopardising cooperation in the polar region at the sharp edge of global warming”.

Meanwhile, in other US-related news, the Guardian reports that new polling shows that the “US is a hotbed of climate science denial when compared with other countries, with international polling finding a significant number of Americans do not believe human-driven climate change is occurring”. It adds: “A total of 13% of Americans polled in a 23-country survey conducted by the YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project agreed with the statement that the climate is changing “but human activity is not responsible at all”. A further 5% said the climate was not changing. Only Saudi Arabia (16%) and Indonesia (18%) had a higher proportion of people doubtful of manmade climate change.” The Hill reports that the new US interior secretary David Bernhardt has said that, while he believes in climate change, Congress has not directed him to respond to it. InsideClimateNews reports that Washington state has committed that “100% of the state’s electricity [will] come from clean energy sources by 2045”. The Guardian has a news feature about how, “of the nearly two dozen Democrats running for president, only two campaigns have so far laid out deadlines for transforming American life to slash the pollution that is warming the planet’s climate”. On the same theme, Politico has a comment piece by veteran climate campaigner Bill McKibben which asks: “Climate change suddenly matters in the 2020 race. Are the candidates ready?”

The New York Times Read Article
UK must help world's poorest countries tackle climate change

Several UK newspapers report the views of international development select committee of MPs who say in a new report that the UK government must, according to the Daily Telegraph, “help the poorest countries tackle climate change or UK aid will be rendered useless”. The report says that climate change is “the single biggest threat to stability and wellbeing in some of the world’s most vulnerable nations”. The report attacks the “incoherent” policy on climate change across UK government. “It said that between 2010 and 2016 the UK provided £4.8bn to fossil fuel projects around the world, while spending £4.9bn on climate change mitigation over a similar period,” reports the Telegraph. The Times also carries the story saying that the MPs have “lambasted” the “incoherent” aid policy. It adds: “The committee also found that other wings of the UK overseas development sector, including groups such as the Prosperity Fund, which supports economic growth, were backing carbon-intensive projects.” BusinessGreen also covers the story. In 2017, Carbon Brief secured for the first time, via a long-running freedom of information request, project-level data about the UK’s climate aid spending.

The Daily Telegraph Read Article
Germany, Poland snub EU appeal for greater climate ambition

EurActiv reports that it has secured a “leaked non-paper” which shows that the governments of France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Portugal and Luxembourg have appealed for a boost in EU climate action ahead of a summit on the future of Europe taking place tomorrow in Romania. It adds: “The eight countries calls on the European Union to step up the fight against climate change and sign up to a European Commission plan to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions ‘by 2050 at the latest’. Germany, Italy and Poland were notably absent from the list of signatories of the leaked document, obtained by EurActiv, echoing divisions at a recent EU summit. The ‘non-paper’ also calls on the EU to raise its greenhouse gas reduction target for 2030, ahead of a special United Nations climate summit in New York in September.” Unearthed has also secured a copy of the two-page leaked non-paper, which says that “at least 25% of spending in the EU budget under negotiation [should] go to projects aimed at tackling climate change, and [there should be] a ban on financing policies detrimental to this objective”.

EurActiv Read Article
China to offer subsidies to phase out highly polluting diesel trucks

In an effort to crack down on vehicle emissions, China has said it will, according to Reuters, encourage local governments to provide subsidies and formulate targets to speed up the elimination of highly polluting diesel trucks from the country’s roads. Separately, Reuters reports that “China is to provide subsidies of up to 60% for some ‘green’ investment projects in the Yangtze River Economic Belt, the latest measure to underpin growth while spearheading an anti-pollution drive”.

Reuters Read Article
Australians overwhelmingly agree climate emergency is nation's No 1 threat

With Australia’s general election only days away, the Guardian reports that “new polling from a respected foreign policy thinktank underscores the point that 2019 is the climate change election, with a majority of Australians saying global warming is a critical threat”. It adds: “The poll undertaken for Lowy says 64% of adults rank climate change number one on a list of 12 threats to Australia’s national interests, up six points from last year’s survey and a jump of 18 points since 2014. The 2019 result is the first time climate has topped the list of threats since Lowy began the research in 2006.” In a separate article, the Guardian notes that climate change has taken “centre stage” in the Australian election: “On the campaign trail, through warming cities, blackened bush and scorched outback, the two contenders for prime minister are trumpeting starkly different messages about what, if anything, should be done to address the crisis.” The New York Times has a feature headlined: “Australia’s politics may be changing with its climate.” See Carbon Brief’s interactive grid of the main political parties’ climate-and-energy pledges. Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that “Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, has slapped down the [Australian] Liberal MP John Alexander for suggesting Australia should prioritise helping people in the Pacific move to higher ground to avoid sea-level rise over reducing its use of coal.”

The Guardian Read Article
Cost of fighting climate change makes economic sense because improving air quality will save money and lives in long term, say scientists

MailOnline reports that researchers from Princeton University and the University of Vermont say that investing in climate change “makes returns today and in the future, particularly for countries like China an India where death rates from pollution are highest”. It adds: “Researchers used a new computer model that looks at greenhouse emissions to show the benefits of cutting them are not just for future generations. Dramatic and rapid cuts to emissions would improve air quality and start saving lives around the world from the moment they’re implemented, experts say. Populations in countries like China and India – which face the most number of deaths from pollution – will see the greatest health benefits, they add…The study used a new modelling framework which built on the RICE (Regional Integrated Climate-Economy) climate model for analysing CO2 policy but also incorporates the costs and benefits of reducing air pollutant emissions. The original climate model was developed by Yale economist William Nordhaus, who recently received the Nobel Prize in economics.” The study is published in Nature Communications.

MailOnline Read Article
Scotland drops aviation tax cut plans after declaring climate emergency

The Guardian reports that the Scottish government has dropped controversial plans to cut its taxes on aviation after Nicola Sturgeon declared last week the world faces a climate emergency. Roseanna Cunningham, the Scottish environment secretary, says cutting air passenger duty would be incompatible with its new pledge to cut Scotland’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2045, the paper adds. The Financial Times says the move is a “policy U-turn for the Scottish National Party”, adding: “The SNP promised in its 2016 manifesto to halve and then abolish the air passenger duty, saying the levy made it harder to secure and maintain international routes from Scottish airports, and so held back the tourism industry. But the policy had been criticised for promoting air travel, a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as for mainly benefiting relatively affluent people and increasing pressure on other areas of government spending.”

The Guardian Read Article

Comment.

The Guardian view on extinction: time to rebel

Responding to the new UN global assessment report on the risk of species extinction, an editorial in the Guardian says: “The biomass of wild animals has fallen by 82%…In contrast, our own population soars, and so does its consumption. Climate change is one of the major causes of this catastrophe, bleaching corals and damaging habitats. Any sensible strategy must consider them together, as an environmental emergency…Through ignorance, greed, laziness and simple lack of attention we are wiping out the very creatures upon whom we ourselves depend.” Meanwhile, the Times carries an editorial arguing that “newborns should be left a cleaner and more equitable world for their adulthood”. It continues: “Enlightenment thinkers supposed the future would be better than the present. That assumption is no longer secure. The growth of world population to nine billion by 2050 will spread the fruits of commerce and science more thinly. Climate change risks environmental degradation…For policymakers it is tempting to postpone ameliorating these issues as the costs will fall on those who are not yet of voting age. Yet adults have an obligation to those who will come of age in the 2040s to bequeath justice across generations.”

Editorial, The Guardian Read Article

Science.

Effects of 21st century climate, land use, and disturbances on ecosystem carbon balance in California

Future climate change could cause the carbon stock held by California’s ecosystem to decline, research finds. The study uses modelling to explore how climate change, land use and disturbances could affect California’s carbon balance by 2100. The research shows that carbon stocks could fall by around 9%, but limiting global warming to below 2C could stem much of the losses. “Moving from a high to a low radiative forcing scenario reduced net ecosystem carbon loss by 21% and when combined with reductions in land‐use change (i.e. moving from a high to a low land use scenario), net carbon losses were reduced by 55% on average,” the authors say.

Global Change Biology Read Article

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