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Daily Briefing

21.09.2020
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING World’s richest 1% cause double CO2 emissions of poorest 50%, says Oxfam
World’s richest 1% cause double CO2 emissions of poorest 50%, says Oxfam

News.

World's richest 1% cause double CO2 emissions of poorest 50%, says Oxfam

There are a range of stories marking the opening of New York Climate Week. The Guardian is among the outlets covering a new report by Oxfam which shows, says the newspaper, that “the wealthiest 1% of the world’s population were responsible for the emission of more than twice as much CO2 as the poorer half of the world from 1990 to 2015”. It adds: “CO2 emissions rose by 60% over the 25-year period, but the increase in emissions from the richest 1% was three times greater than the increase in emissions from the poorest half. The report…warned that rampant overconsumption and the rich world’s addiction to high-carbon transport are exhausting the world’s ‘carbon budget’.” BusinessGreen quotes Danny Sriskandarajah, chief executive of Oxfam in the UK: “Extreme carbon inequality is a direct consequence of the decades-long pursuit by governments and businesses of grossly unequal and carbon intensive economic growth whatever the cost.” Reuters says the report shows that the 1% are “prone to frequent flying” and have “a passion for SUVs and big spending”, adding that the “richest 10% of people would have to slash their emissions to about 10 times lower than now to keep the world on track for the [1.5C] goal – and do it by 2030”.

Another Reuters story reports that “some of the world’s biggest companies [have] backed growing calls for governments to do more to reverse the accelerating destruction of the natural world and support broader efforts to fight climate change”. It adds: “More than 560 companies with combined revenues of $4tn including Walmart, Citigroup and Microsoft signed up to a statement calling for action over the next decade”. Meanwhile, BBC News says that Prince Charles has recorded a video for the New York’s Climate Week in which he warns that the climate crisis will “dwarf” the impact of coronavirus. Prince Charles says: “Without swift and immediate action, at an unprecedented pace and scale, we will miss the window of opportunity to ‘reset’ for… a more sustainable and inclusive future. [The environmental] crisis has been with us for far too many years – decried, denigrated and denied. It is now rapidly becoming a comprehensive catastrophe that will dwarf the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.” The Daily Telegraph covers the message on its frontpage. The i newspaper says the message was recorded at Balmoral.

Meanwhile, BBC News covers a new poll, carried out by Globescan and released to coincide with Climate Week, which provides “fresh evidence that people the world over remain very concerned about climate change, despite the pandemic and subsequent economic impact”. It adds: “Big majorities in poorer countries strongly agreed with tackling climate change with the same vigour as Covid-19. However in richer nations, the support for rapid action was far more muted…Across the 27 countries surveyed, around 90% of people saw climate change as a very serious or somewhat serious problem. This finding has strengthened over the past few years. There have been big increases in this sense of urgency among people polled in Canada, France, India, Kenya, Nigeria and the US.”

Separately, the Guardian reports that schoolchildren around the world are being urged to go on strike this Friday to protest against a lack of action on the climate crisis. It adds: “The protests will focus on Mapa, a new term for ‘most affected people and areas’, which the organisers prefer to older phrases such as ‘the global south’. Protesters are asked to make the Mapa signal, which is two closed fists pressed together with thumbs up, symbolising strength, solidarity and hope.”

The Guardian Read Article
UK plans to bring forward ban on fossil fuel vehicles to 2030

The Guardian reports that “the UK is poised to bring forward its ban on new fossil fuel vehicles from 2040 to 2030 to help speed up the rollout of electric vehicles across British roads”. It adds: “Boris Johnson is expected to accelerate the shift to electric vehicles this autumn with the announcement, one of a string of new clean energy policies to help trigger a green economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The government had hoped to set out the plans as early as this week, according to sources in the energy and transport industries, but the announcement will be delayed until later this year as it focuses on tackling the rising number of coronavirus cases…The decision to end the sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 would put the UK ahead of France, which has a 2040 ban in the pipeline, and in line with…Ireland and the Netherlands…The plan, which is backed by the government’s official advisers at the Committee on Climate Change, is likely to emerge alongside the national plans to become a carbon-neutral economy by the middle of the century.”

Meanwhile, the Times reports on its frontpage that “sales of green cars have jumped above diesels for the first time [in the UK], bolstering claims that traditional fossil-fuel vehicles are in terminal decline”. It adds: “Official figures show that 33,000 pure electric and hybrid cars were registered between April and June, compared with 29,900 diesels. A fifth of cars registered were ‘alternative fuel’ vehicles capable of being driven in zero-emissions mode.” In other news from the UK, the Observer reports that ministers “have been accused of deliberately stalling plans to ban the environmentally damaging process of burning peat bogs”. It adds: “In January, government advisers on the Committee on Climate Change said it should ban peat burning this year, but a new strategy is not expected for months, until well after autumn burning has taken place.”

Elsewhere, the Daily Telegraph covers the news that “Shell is making deep cuts in its fracking business as it tries to free up cash to cope with the pandemic and invest in renewable energy”. It adds: “The international oil giant will cut about 40% of overheads including staff in the US-focused shale oil and gas division by early 2021.” Reuters says “reducing costs is vital for Shell’s plans to move into the power sector and renewables where margins are relatively low. Competition is also likely to intensify with utilities and rival oil firms including BP and Total all battling for market share as economies around the world go green”.

The Guardian Read Article

Comment.

The Observer view on Boris Johnson's environmentalism

The Observer is critical of Boris Johnson’s stance on climate change ahead of an anticipated speech on the environment by the UK prime minister in the coming weeks. An editorial says: “Johnson has uttered not a single word of defence against this invective [from Donald Trump against climate action] despite the fact it is intended to undermine the summit Britain will be hosting. Johnson has a duty to do all he can to ensure COP26 succeeds. His silence is an ominous warning that he does not accept such responsibility and is more interested in appeasing Trump.” It continues: “In the past, Britain has played a key role in the battle against climate change but our influence has waned and we look increasingly isolated and ineffective as an international player. This point was underlined last week when the EU and China concluded a leaders’ conference at which they agreed to establish a high-level environment and climate dialogue to pursue ambitious joint commitments to help combat global warming. Thanks to Brexit – which was so energetically pursued by Johnson – the UK was not involved in those talks.”

Meanwhile, an editorial in the Guardian argues: “Britain is lagging far behind its neighbours in developing the green industries of the future, at a time when the jobs stimulus they could provide has never been more needed. Without a new sense of urgency, and some genuinely creative thinking from the government, this risks becoming both a moral abdication and an economic folly.” In the Independent, columnist John Rentoul says “the Conservatives could steal a march on Labour on green policy” with “the government and opposition locked into a competition to outdo each other in promising a zero-carbon future”. In the Evening Standard, Julian Glover argues that “Britain shouldn’t be smug about our climate targets – they won’t help much”. He continues: “Here in Britain, we tend to be smug when we hear about Chinese mines and Trump’s talk. Hasn’t Britain abandoned coal? Haven’t we committed to net-zero emissions by 2050? Aren’t our companies piling in to do the same? Aren’t we making lots of power from wind turbines? Hasn’t Covid crashed carbon emissions anyway? Say what you like about Boris Johnson but at least his government says it recognises the problem. He’s about to make a big speech promising a hydrogen-fuelled future. Next year Britain is hosting major UN climate talks and the prime minister will want a success. All these things are true but unfortunately they have turned out to be almost no help at all in stopping the world frying.”

Elsewhere, an editorial in the business section of the Observer comments on BP’s promises to address climate change: “In the minds of investors, there is no question that clean energy is a lucrative market, which can offer them exponential growth in the decades ahead as economies swap polluting fossil fuels for technologies that can meet our energy demands without the threat of soaring carbon emissions. But whether a company steeped in decades of crude and gas production will be able to harness this green growth remains to be seen.” In the Daily Mail, Alex Brummer says that “Boris Johnson’s government is all over the place on industrial policy”. He adds: “The retreat of Hitachi from a new nuclear plant at Wylfa in Anglesey, and continuing prevarication over EDF’s plans for a super-reactor at Sizewell in Suffolk, is a nightmare for the supply chain and Britain’s energy security.” Two separate climate-sceptic columnists – published, in turn, by the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph – attack smart meters.

Finally, the Mail on Sunday has published another extract of Sir David Attenborough’s new book, “A Life On Our Planet”. The newspaper tries to sum up his advice: “Eat less meat, ditch oil, leave more fish in the ocean and have fewer babies: Sir David Attenborough sets out how mankind can pull off a miracle and save our planet.”

Editorial, The Observer Read Article
How the oil industry made us doubt climate change

BBC News has published a long feature about how, “as climate change becomes a focus of the US election, energy companies stand accused of trying to downplay their contribution to global warming”. It examines the evidence that some companies “deliberately tried to undermine the science supporting global warming” over the past 40 years and used the same playbook at the tobacco industry when it sought to dismiss the harms of smoking. The article quotes David Michaels, author of The Triumph of Doubt: “By cynically manipulating and distorting scientific evidence, the manufacturers of doubt have seeded in much of the public a cynicism about science, making it far more difficult to convince people that science provides useful – in some cases, vitally important – information. There is no question that this distrust of science and scientists is making it more difficult to stem the coronavirus pandemic.”

Meanwhile, the Observer carries a lengthy feature about climate “tipping points” (a topic that Carbon Brief covered in depth earlier this year with a week-long special series of articles). It says: “Everyone who studies tipping point cascades agrees on two key points. The first is that it is crucial not to become disheartened by the magnitude of the risks; it is still possible to avoid knocking over the dominoes. Second, we should not wait for precise knowledge of exactly where the tipping points lie – which has proved difficult to determine, and might not come until it’s too late.”

Phoebe Keane, BBC News Read Article
After fire and floods, glimmers of hope

An editorial in the New York Times says that with hurricanes and wildfires impacting the US “two unfolding climate-fuelled disasters [are] occurring at once”. After criticising Donald Trump for his climate denial, the editorial concludes: “For years, experts warned of the dangers of a pandemic. The pandemic never materialised, until it did. For years, scientists have warned of a climate catastrophe that will forever change life on planet Earth. The odds of that not happening will be greatly improved if, this time, Americans and their leaders pay attention to the science and act on the lessons they’ve learned.”

Meanwhile, in the Washington Post, Natalie Hanson writes: “Living in California today is a calculated risk. It requires balancing the delight of living among some of the country’s greatest natural wonders against the trauma of watching that natural beauty hunted by hungry flames. But there is only so long that even the most determined can withstand the constant terror. While many of us have had our dreams fulfilled by this state, few of us can keep up with this sad new normal for years to come.” The New York Times also carries a feature by Christopher Flavelle on “how California became ground zero for climate disasters”. And Associated Press’s veteran science reporter Seth Borenstein writes: “America’s worsening climate change problem is as polarised as its politics. Some parts of the country have been burning this month while others were underwater in devastating extreme weather disasters.”

In the Guardian, David Kabua, the president of the Marshall Islands, says: “Put bluntly, we need the funding [to adapt to climate change], not just promises of it. Our future relies on the $100bn of climate finance per year that the developing world is entitled to, and that the developed world agreed to mobilise. But international cooperation is being tested. Multilateralism is needed more than ever, but is in retreat. The necessary postponement of the world’s m

Editorial, The New York Times Read Article
A new European Bauhaus for a green transition

An editorial in the The Financial Times welcomes the European Commission’s call for “smart design” to play a role in the climate transition and, in particular, the call by its president, Ursula von der Leyen, for a “new European Bauhaus”. The editorial continues: “It is tempting to dismiss this as a mere rhetorical gloss on the hard work of making the economy carbon-neutral, which will require real upfront costs for businesses and households and profound behavioural change. But that is precisely why a new Bauhaus might just be an inspired idea. The Bauhaus school – and the broader movement it embodied – did not just include some the era’s greatest painters, architects, designers and furniture makers, people such as Klee and Kandinsky, Gropius and Mies van der Rohe. Its practitioners also worked in the crucible of a social and economic transformation as great as the transition we face today: the tumultuous arrival of industrial mass production and consumerism.”

Meanwhile, in the Daily Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard says the “EU climate plan sets [the] stage for an explosive rise in carbon prices”. He adds: “Commodity traders are betting that Europe’s carbon futures will soon catapult higher as Brussels drains the glut of carbon allowances on the market. Prices are likely to smash the all-time record of €30 a tonne within months, profoundly reshaping the EU’s energy architecture. The killer detail in the European Commission’s 140-page climate impact report for 2030 released last week is a ‘one-off’ rebasing of its cap-and-trade Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to dry up excess permits, followed by a faster pace of tightening from next year onwards…The game is not yet over for fossils in Europe, but the epitaph is already being scratched on the wall.”

Editorial, Financial Times Read Article

Science.

Impact of climate change on storage conditions for major agricultural commodities across the contiguous United States

Rising temperatures could threaten the storage of major agricultural crops post-harvest in the US, a study finds, with apples, potatoes and peanuts particularly affected. After crops are produced, they are kept in cold storage to ensure their longevity, the researchers say. However, rising temperatures could thwart cold storage practices. The authors say: “Increases in [warmer days] and decreases in winter length will have direct implications on future food supply and storage costs.”

Climatic Change Read Article
A scoping review of drought impacts on health and society in North America

A review of 74 scientific studies details the impacts of drought on healthy and society in the US. The research finds that “while studies were heterogeneous in terms of objectives and methods, they illustrated the full breadth of drought impacts”. The authors add: “Unlike most natural hazards, droughts can develop anywhere, evolve rapidly within a month or slowly over a season, and span months to decades without a clear beginning or end.”

Climatic Change Read Article

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