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Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING White House leaning toward exiting Paris climate pact, Alarm sounded over delays to develop UK mini nuclear reactors, & more
White House leaning toward exiting Paris climate pact, Alarm sounded over delays to develop UK mini nuclear reactors, & more


White House leaning toward exiting Paris climate pact

White House officials are leaning towards taking the US out of the Paris climate accord, reports the Hill, citing “people familiar with the deliberations”. President Trump could announce the move as soon as next week, the Hill adds. The decision could hinge on the interpretation of a single phrase, the New York Times reports, pointing to part of Article 4.11 of the Paris Agreement, which says a nation “may at any time adjust its existing nationally determined contribution with a view to enhancing its level of ambition”. The question is whether this allows weaker ambition, the NYT says, or whether it only allows ever-increasing improvement. Carbon Brief recently asked leading legal expert Prof Michael Gerrard about the Article 4 question, and he said the language was clearly not mandatory on ever-increasing ambition. The Washington Post also reports that opponents of staying in the Paris deal have “gained the upper hand”, citing “participants in the discussions and those briefed on the deliberations”. It notes the Trump has yet to make a final decision. Trump’s top lawyer in the White House is raising concerns about staying in the Paris deal, reports Politico. The concern is that sticking with the Paris deal could “somehow interfere with Trump’s plan to roll back…domestic climate regulations – even though State Department lawyers strongly argue that’s not the case.” Bloomberg explains the 213-year-old “Charming Betsy” legal principle, which could cause the US to pull out from Paris. Under this doctrine, federal policies should be interpreted, when possible, so they don’t conflict with international laws, Bloomberg says. Argument centres on whether staying in Paris would oblige the US to maintain carbon-cutting rules, it adds. German environment minister Barbara Hendricks hopes to persuade Trump to stick with the Paris deal, reports Reuters. In related news, Christian Science Monitor reports on the fossil fuel companies arguing in favour of sticking with the Paris deal, while CNBC reports on comments from former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, who “hope[s] [Trump] changes his mind and he listens to his daughter” on the Paris deal.

The Hill Read Article
Alarm sounded over delays to develop UK mini nuclear reactors

Delays to a competition to develop small nuclear power plants have hurt the nuclear sector and risk international companies walking away from the UK, says the Guardian, reporting the conclusions of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee. The competition is part of a £250m research programme for small modular reactors, announced in 2015, but the government has yet to publish results of its first phase. The Times and the Telegraph also cover the Lords report, with the Times noting that the more than 30 companies entering the first phase last year were expecting to see next steps set out by government last autumn.

The Guardian Read Article
Antarctic iceberg crack develops fork

A crack expected to spawn a giant iceberg and potentially lead to the collapse of the Larsen C ice shelf has forked, reports the BBC. “Quite what this means for the future evolution of the crack and the putative 5,000-sq-km berg remains to be seen,” the report says. About a quarter of the Wales-sized ice shelf is expected to calve, once an 180km-long fissure extends to the far edge of Larsen C. The 10km-long fork does not increase the length of the crack but does extend closer towards the sea edge. The Washington Post, Climate Central and Mail Online also cover the news.

BBC News Read Article
Newly rediscovered TV documentary warned the world about global warming in 1981

A 36-year-old documentary which made clear climate change was becoming a serious problem has been rediscovered, says the Independent. Clips from the Warming Warning programme have been republished following a request from Carbon Brief, the paper says, adding that the film was made a quarter century before Al Gore’s landmark film An Inconvenient Truth.

The Independent Read Article
India admits it will miss coal emissions targets

India’s coal-fired power stations are likely to be miss pollution targets on sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and particulates, the Financial Times reports, quoting a thinktank head saying: “None of the plants have done anything to improve”. The standards, set out by the Indian government in 2015, do not include CO2 emissions. Separately, BusinessGreen reports on ambitious Indian plans to promote electric vehicles, which could include a target for all cars to be electric by 2030.

Financial Times Read Article


There Are Lots of Climate Uncertainties. Let’s Acknowledge and Plan for Them With Honesty

Writing at ProPublica, Andy Revkin responds to an article by New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, which cited Revkin’s previous work. “His prime conclusion amounted to a defense of forestalling action on climate change while awaiting more certitude,” Revkin writes, adding that Stephens’ column is “not a terribly fair statement of reality”. He encourages Stephens to join him at a summit on how to address climate change under deep uncertainty. Separately, Ethan Siegel writes in Forbes on the science behind climate change, explaining: “every scrupulous, competent scientist that investigates it has come to the same conclusion: it’s real, it’s warming, and it’s our CO2 that’s doing it. You are free to deny climate change if you want, but there’s no scientific leg to stand on if you do.”

Andrew Revkin, ProPublica Read Article
Saudi Aramco IPO – an upside for the climate?

“There is a potentially compelling, if counter-intuitive, climate ‘upside'” to the planned stock market listing of up to 5% of Saudi Aramco, writes Ben Caldecott for the Economist Intelligence Unit perspectives series. Part of the money raised by the sale is likely to be invested in renewables, he says, with the potential to help wean Saudi Arabia off oil and reduce the carbon output from the world’s tenth largest emitter. The move could also increase transparency and good governance in Saudi Aramco and the wider Saudi economy, Caldecott argues, if listing takes place on a “high standard” stock exchange, like London’s. Finally, the listing could help squeeze the most polluting oil reserves out of production, by pushing finance towards Aramco’s low-cost and lower-carbon supplies. The planned IPO will take place in 2018, the Telegraph reports.

Ben Caldecott, The Economist Intelligence Unit Read Article


Increased ice flow in Western Palmer Land linked to ocean melting

The flow of glaciers in Western Palmer Land, on the southwestern corner of the Antarctic Peninsula, sped up by 13% between 1992 and 2015, a new study suggests. Researchers analysed measurements from five satellites to track changes in the speed of ice in more than 30 glaciers. The speedup is greatest where glaciers are grounded way below sea level, the researchers say, which is consistent with a decline in the buttressing effect from thinning ice shelves. Read Article
Higher yields and lower methane emissions with new rice cultivars

Growing high-yielding varieties of rice could help reduce methane emissions from rice paddies, a new study says. In a series of experiments with 33 rice varieties, researchers show that a biomass increase of 10% resulted in an average 10% decrease in methane emissions in soils with high carbon content. In the case of China, a 10% increase in biomass could translate into a 7% annual reduction in paddy methane emissions, the researchers note.

Global Change Biology Read Article


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