Today's climate and energy headlines:
- World must triple efforts or face catastrophic climate change, says UN
- EU's climate chief calls for bloc to go for net-zero emissions by 2050
- Brazil reneges on hosting UN climate talks under Bolsonaro presidency
- France plans to triple wind power capacity by 2030
- Britain commits £20m to carbon-capture push
- Weak El Niño weather conditions likely to form by February, UN says
- IGas begins drilling shale well in effort to start UK fracking
- Trump slams Fed chair, questions climate change and threatens to cancel Putin meeting in wide-ranging interview with The Post
- As a warming world wreaks havoc, Trump wages war on climate science
- Stratospheric connection to the abrupt end of the 2016/2017 Iberian drought
- Water as destiny – The long-term impacts of drought in sub-Saharan Africa
Countries are failing to pledge sufficient action to avoid the worst effects of climate change, according to a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report covered by the Guardian and many others. The Guardian adds that even current pledges will not be met without urgent new policy measures such as an end to direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies, according to the report. UNEP says current pledges fall far short of what would be needed to meet global climate goals, reports the Wall Street Journal, adding: “Current commitments put the world on a path to catastrophic climate change, [the] new assessment concludes.” BuzzFeed News also leads with the “catastrophic” 3C of warming, which the UNEP report says would be expected unless current pledges are ramped up. According to CNN, the UNEP emissions gap report finds current pledges “fall woefully short” of global goals. UNEP says cuts to greenhouse gas emissions must triple compared to current plans over the next 12 years in order to limit warming to well-below 2C above pre-industrial temperatures – or increase fivefold for 1.5C – according to the Press Association. The ninth annual UNEP gap report finds global emissions in 2030 could be 13-15bn tonnes of CO2 equivalent larger than the level needed to stay well-below 2C, reports Reuters, calling this difference “wider than ever”. The Washington Post also reports that the emissions gap may be larger than previously thought, adding: “Seven major countries, including the US, are well behind achieving the pledges they made in Paris just three years ago, the report finds, with little time left to adopt much more ambitious policy measures to curb their emissions.” Australia is another of the countries off track, says another Guardian article. The report notes that global CO2 emissions rose again in 2017 – the first increase in four years, according to the BBC News headline. Its story adds: “To meet the goals of the Paris climate pact, the study says it’s crucial that global emissions peak by 2020. But the analysis says that this is now not likely even by 2030.” For Bloomberg, this year’s UNEP gap report comes with a “new twist: For the first time, political ideology is singled out for obstructing changes that would slow global warming.” The report “lays new blame with behaviours and cultures that lead some nations, including the US, to fall short on pollution goals”, Bloomberg adds. Carbon Brief has all the details from the UNEP report.
The EU’s climate chief Miguel Arias Cañete says the bloc should lead by example and aim for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, reports Reuters. The call comes ahead of the publication, later today, of a draft EU long-term climate strategy. This will include eight scenarios of which two will chart a course to climate neutrality, Reuters says. Cañete tells Reuters: “It’s worth becoming the first major economy to fully decarbonise, to fully reach net-zero emissions…It is absolutely possible. For sure, it will require lots of investment. It will require lots of effort, but it is doable.“ The draft EU strategy will tout positive economic impacts of going to net-zero worth up to 2% of GDP, reports EurActiv, despite the significant investments required. The publication has a leaked version of today’s communication, which says: “The EU economy is expected to more than double by 2050 compared to 1990 even as it fully decarbonises.” The Financial Times runs with the headline: “Cutting carbon emissions to zero will cost billions, says EU”.
In a profile interview published by Climate Home News, Cañete says: “We will leave the European Union with a vision for the future.” The commissioner will step down in 2019 along with his colleagues, after EU elections next May. Climate Home News also publishes a comment from climate scientists Oliver Geden, Glen Peters and Vivian Scott, arguing that the EU should target CO2 removal as part of its net-zero emissions strategy.
Brazil has reneged on a pledge to host the COP25 international climate talks next year, two months after making the offer – “and one month after far-right climate sceptic [President Jair Bolsonaro] won election”, reports the Guardian. The foreign ministry announced the reversal in a letter to UN climate chief Patrícia Espinosa, according to the O Globo website, the Guardian adds.
Separately, news has emerged that Poland has named one of the EU’s largest coal producers among several firms from the sector chosen to partner with the UN’s COP24 climate summit opening this weekend, reports Agence-France Presse. The state-owned JWS along with coal-based energy firms PGE and Tauron have been chosen to partner the talks, it adds. DeSmog UK also has the story, noting the coal firms are the first official sponsors to be announced. Meanwhile Greenpeace protestors have scaled Europe’s largest coal plant, the Bełchatów site in Poland, reports the Independent. The activists climbed the plant’s chimney to protest Poland’s coal policies ahead of the COP24 meeting, reports Reuters. A feature for the Associated Press is headlined: “Ahead of climate talks, Poles are divided over coal mining.” A feature for Reuters previews the COP24 talks, saying: “Divisions within Europe and tension between the US and China pose major challenges to the next round of United Nations talks on climate change.” Reuters also has a handy “field guide to UN climate jargon”.
A new French energy plan would triple the country’s wind power capacity and increase solar installations five-fold, reports Reuters, taking renewables’ total share of the electricity mix to 40% by 2030. The plan involves reducing reliance on nuclear, reports the Associated Press, but at a slower rate than previously envisaged. Nuclear’s share of electricity would fall to 50% by 2035 instead of the 2025 date proposed by Francois Hollande, it explains. The French government has told state-owned nuclear firm to become more efficient in light of the plans, reports the Financial Times. A second FT piece notes that President Macron has pledged to consult on fuel tax rises after nationwide protest. Climate scientist Corinne le Quéré has been announced as chair of a climate council, reports Le Monde.
The UK government has committed £20m to a plan to secure an operational large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) site by the middle of the 2020s, reports the Financial Times. It has “won back” support from some of the world’s largest energy firms for a pilot project, the paper adds. Six major oil and gas companies including BP and Shell are considering the development of the UK’s first commercial CCS scheme around an industrial zone in Teesside in northeast England, reports Reuters. The government scrapped a £1bn competition to support CCS in 2015, notes the Guardian’s coverage, which quotes a CCS expert calling today’s expected announcement at a conference in Edinburgh a “sensible reboot”. The relaunch will take place at a joint conference with the International Energy Agency (IEA), with climate minister Claire Perry and IEA chief Fatih Birol penning a joint comment for the Financial Times. They write: “There is international consensus that carbon capture usage and storage – or CCUS – is needed if we are to meet those ambitions [agreed at Paris in 2015], as we look at how we may achieve net-zero emissions in the second half of the century.” They want todays’ summit in Edinburgh to “signal the start of a new era for CCUS”. BusinessGreen and Reuters also cover the news.
There is a 75-80% chance of the El Niño weather pattern forming by February 2019, according to widely covered findings from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The forecast is in line with US government agency findings, reports Reuters. It adds: “An El Niño – a warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific that typically happens every few years – last occurred in 2015-2016 and caused weather-related crop damage, fires and flash floods.” The Guardian notes how El Niño can combine with human-caused warming: “The last El Niño event ended in 2016 and helped make that year the hottest ever recorded by adding to the heating caused by humanity’s carbon emissions.” However, the WMO expects any developing El Niño to be weaker than the 2015/16 event, which was associated with “catastrophic” coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, according to the Independent. In widely quoted comments, Maxx Dilley, director of the WMO’s climate prediction and adaptation branch says of a potentially weaker El Niño: “It can still significantly affect rainfall and temperature patterns in many regions, with important consequences to agricultural and food security sectors, and for management of water resources and public health, and it may combine with long-term climate change to boost 2019 global temperatures.” The chances of a strong El Niño are currently thought to be low, reports BBC News.
The UK’s largest onshore oil and gas producer, IGas, has started drilling the country’s third shale gas well at a site in the north of England, reports the Financial Times. The Tinker Lane site in Nottinghamshire will be the first since Cuadrilla completed the first two in Lancashire earlier this year, it adds, noting that IGas does not yet have permission to start hydraulic fracturing of the well. Two anti-fracking activists were arrested at the site, reports the Guardian.
President Trump has once again dismissed the evidence that climate change is real and human-caused in a lengthy interview with the Washington Post. He tells the paper: “One of the problems that a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence but we’re not necessarily such believers. You look at our air and our water, and it’s right now at a record clean.” In the interview he also says: “There is movement in the atmosphere. There’s no question. As to whether or not it’s man-made and whether or not the effects that you’re talking about are there, I don’t see it – not nearly like it is.” The paper published an annotated transcript of the interview. Trump’s comments have been reported by USA Today and others.
John Podesta, the former White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton, writes in the Guardian that “the politicisation of climate science in the US has reached regrettable new lows”. He says he is in Brussels this week to speak to EU parliamentarians about what they can do in response: “If the Trump administration fails to fund the satellites, climate models, Arctic flights and other scientific investments needed to produce and interpret vital climate and energy data, other champions, including European agencies and governments, will need to step up to fill in any data, monitoring and research gaps that could set back our understanding of climate change and its impacts.”
The sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) event in March 2018 that caused the “Beast from the East” wintry weather in the UK may have also brought an end to severe drought in southwestern Europe, a new study suggests. Although SSWs are not rare, the authors note, the 2018 event “was remarkable in terms of its intensity and persistence”. The study identifies a “significant role” of the event in the “extraordinary rainy and windy conditions” over the Iberian Peninsula, the researchers say, which “ended the most severe drought since 1970 at continental scale”.
Women living in sub-Saharan Africa who were exposed to drought conditions during their early childhood are likely to be significantly less wealthy as adults, a new study suggests. The researchers examine the long-term impacts of drought exposure on women born in 19 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, across four decades. In addition to lower levels of wealth, women who experience droughts in infancy also receive fewer years of formal education and are more likely to have children with low birth weight, the results show.
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