Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- US and China agree to displace fossil fuels by ramping up renewables
- Global emissions set to fall only 2% by 2030 – UN report
- Climate impacts in the US are ‘far-reaching and worsening’, federal report finds
- Climate change report: Heat-related deaths on track to rise 370% by mid-century
- US, UK to push pledge to triple nuclear power by 2050 at COP28
- Negotiators strike deal on first ever EU law to tackle methane leakage
- China’s installed residential solar capacity is almost five times that of Three Gorges power station
- Flood protection plans for English homes cut by 40%
- Dutch government shelves plans to cut flights at Amsterdam airport
- Glencore/Teck: passing the buck to make a buck
- Learning skillful medium-range global weather forecasting
- How does extreme weather impact the climate change discourse? Insights from the Twitter discussion on hurricanes
Climate and energy news.
China and the US have released a statement agreeing “to jointly tackle global warming by ramping up wind, solar and other renewable energy with the goal of displacing fossil fuels”, the New York Times reports. In the statement, China and the US say they will “pursue efforts to triple renewable energy capacity globally by 2030” and “anticipate post-peaking meaningful absolute power sector emission reduction, in this critical decade of the 2020s”, the newspaper says. It adds: “As part of the deal, China agreed to set reduction targets for all greenhouse gas emissions.” [This is not quite accurate: In the statement, the pair agree to include methane reduction “actions/targets” in their next climate pledges under the Paris Agreement, covering the period to 2035.] Chinese state broadcaster CGTN reports that the statement comes after the US and Chinese climate envoys John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua “met in Beijing from 16-19 July and at Sunnylands, California, from 4-7 November”. The two countries “recommitted to the 2015 Paris climate accord goal of holding global warming to ‘well below’ 2C, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5C”, the Guardian says, with the statement coming “hours before a key meeting in San Francisco between [presidents] Joe Biden and…Xi Jinping”. The statements on power sector emissions cuts imply “a reduction in emissions from China’s coal plants very soon”, Bloomberg quotes Joanna Lewis, an expert in international policy at Georgetown University, as saying. [Recent analysis for Carbon Brief says that China’s “carbon dioxide emissions are set to fall in 2024 and could be facing structural decline”.] The two countries will establish working groups that “would focus on energy transition, methane, circular economy and resource efficiency, low-carbon and sustainable provinces/states and cities and deforestation”, Le Monde reports, adding that “bilateral dialogues on energy policies and strategies” will also “restart”. Chinese energy outlet BJX News notes that “the two countries aim to promote at least five large-scale carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) cooperation projects in industry and energy…by 2030 in each country”. Politico says that “while much of the early reaction to the deal is cautiously positive, experts noted there were some notable goals and targets that were not in the agreement”. Finally, in a commentary in Time, Jake Werner, acting director of Quincy Institute’s east Asia program, on US-China relations, argues that in key areas for US-China cooperation, such as climate change, “China is sometimes exacerbating tensions[,] but it is also pursuing promising reforms”. [Carbon Brief’s Simon Evans breaks down the key points from the US-China joint climate statement on Twitter.]
If current national climate plans are fully implemented, emissions can be expected to rise 9% above 2010 levels by the end of this decade, according to a new UN report examining the progress countries have made under the Paris Agreement, Reuters reports. This means emissions would fall 2% below 2019 levels by 2030, with emissions set to peak this decade, it adds. The plans, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), are “still far short” of the 43% reduction against 2019 levels that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says would be required to stay within the 1.5C target set out in the Paris Agreement, the article continues. The Financial Times notes that the estimated change in emissions is “slightly better” than the 11% rise above 2010 levels laid out in last year’s assessment. Nevertheless, it quotes UN secretary-general António Guterres saying NDCs were “strikingly misaligned with the science”. It adds that he also said developed countries should aim to hit net-zero emissions in 2040 and emerging economies should get as close to that as possible by 2050. In its coverage, the New York Times emphasises that even the relatively modest reductions in emissions outlined in the report will only happen “if every country does what it has promised to rein in global warming, and that’s a big if”. The Times of India notes that the new NDC synthesis report comes as nations prepare to gather at the COP28 summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where they will discuss the “global stocktake”. The stocktake is “intended to inform the next round of climate action plans…to be put forward by 2025, paving the way for accelerated action”, it explains.
The US government has released its fifth national climate assessment, which has been picked up widely by the national and international press. The federal report concludes that “climate change has claimed lives and upended livelihoods in every region of the US”, the Washington Post notes. The report is the result of nearly four years of work by around 900 expert authors and is the first to be released since the Trump administration “quietly published” its assessment on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the newspaper explains. It adds that the report “outlines how dramatically extreme weather disasters have increased in frequency and intensity”, costing the country about $150bn each year. Reuters notes that the report shows how climate change is “increasingly imposing costs on Americans”, through the rising price of weather-related insurance, certain foods and medical costs as more people struggle with climate impacts such as extreme heat. According to CNN, the assessment notes that while US emissions are falling, it is not on track to meet its national target or to meet the international, Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C. For the first time, the assessment places a “heavy emphasis on the concept of environmental justice”, according to Inside Climate News. It says the document concludes that “societal factors, including historic racism, have shaped the climate reality experienced by many low-income families and communities of colour today”. This year’s assessment also uses far stronger language in general and “unequivocally” blames the burning of coal, oil and gas for climate change, Associated Press reports. In its coverage, the New York Times emphasises that the assessment contains “good news, too”. Specifically, it notes that “cost-effective tools and technologies to significantly reduce America’s contribution to global warming already exist”.
Responding to the reports, the Hill says the Biden administration announced it would roll out billions of dollars “aimed at making the country more resilient to the impacts of climate change”, stressing that “solutions are possible”. The article says these investments include $6bn set aside from the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure law for extreme-weather impacts. The administration also announced $3.9bn from the energy department to make the electricity grid more resilient and £2bn from the Environmental Protection Agency to support low-carbon projects and climate resilience in communities, the article adds. The Guardian says the administration is “attempting to quell growing unease among those concerned about climate change about the president’s ongoing approval of oil and gas projects that further extend the lifespan of the fossil-fuel era”. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that a federal appeals court has ordered the Biden administration to sell drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico within 37 days after environmentalists failed in a bid to obtain safeguards for an endangered whale species.
The annual Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change report concludes that climate change is on track to cause a 370% surge in heat-related deaths by mid-century “if government inaction on global warming continues”, according to Axios. The report also concludes that every health hazard it monitors is predicted to worsen if temperatures rise to 2C by the end of the century, the article continues. The Associated Press says the assessment is based on an international team of doctors, scientists and economists examining 47 measurements “to diagnose a sick Earth, emphasising harms they attribute directly to the fossil fuel industry”. It notes that global heat deaths for people over 65 were 85% higher in the last 10 years, when compared to the period between 1991 and 2000. The New York Times adds that, in 2021, an estimated 127 million more people “experienced moderate or severe food insecurity linked to heatwaves and droughts, compared with 1981-2010”.
Meanwhile, in Brazil, BBC News reports that “red alert” health warnings have been issued for almost 3,000 towns and cities as they experience an “unprecedented” heatwave.
The US will lead an effort at the COP28 climate summit to set a target for tripling the amount of installed nuclear power capacity globally by 2050, according to a document seen by Bloomberg. The nation will likely be joined by the UK, France, Sweden, Finland and South Korea in the pledge, and there will also be an accompanying commitment from the nuclear industry, the news website adds. It notes that the move marks a “major turnaround for the controversial technology at the climate negotiations”. In more COP28 news, Politico reports on a “yawning gap” that is emerging between the US and the EU over the loss-and-damage fund, which is meant to raise money to help the victims of climate disasters. EU climate commissioner Wopke Hoekstra has said the EU is “ready to announce a substantial financial contribution”, a move that “[flies] in the face of the more cautious US approach” and will raise the pressure on other developed countries to commit funding, the article says. It adds that “cracks in the EU-US alliance will make negotiating against the likes of China and Saudi Arabia trickier” at COP28.
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that Adnoc, the state oil company of COP28 host the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has plans for “net zero-busting” expansion of oil-and-gas production that are bigger than any other company in the world. The article notes that Adnoc’s chief executive, Sultan Al Jaber, is also COP28 president, and quotes a researcher behind this analysis who calls the situation “ridiculous”. The Wall Street Journal says the UAE is also aiming to position itself as “a leader in establishing global carbon markets” as the summit approaches. In particular, it notes that Blue Carbon, a private company owned by a member of the ruling family of Dubai, has signed preliminary agreements with five African nations – Liberia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya. Energy Monitor reports that, ahead of COP28, developing countries are calling for fairer clean-technology supply chains.
The EU has struck an “informal agreement” on its first ever law to cut methane emissions in the energy sector, “following late-night negotiations in Brussels that will oblige importers of fossil fuels to match minimum standards from 2030”, EurActiv reports. The article notes that EU lawmakers were “keen to have something to show” at COP28, as both the US and China have already announced their own plans to tackle methane. Reuters explains that methane-emission limits on Europe’s oil-and-gas imports from 2030 will “pressure international suppliers to clamp down on leaks of the potent greenhouse gas”. In particular, it says the limits will impact major suppliers to the bloc such as the US, Algeria and Russia.
China’s installed capacity of distributed solar power on households’ roofs stood at 105 gigawatts (GW) as of the end of September 2023, “nearly equivalent to that of five Three Gorges hydropower stations”, reports Chinese finance outlet Yicai. [The entire solar capacity of the US is 113GW.] Some 60% of the installations are in the provinces of Shandong, Henan and Hebei, it says. The outlet adds that residential solar nevertheless “faces problems in some provinces, with limited power distribution and low efficiency”. Energy news outlet BJX News also covers the news, saying that “more than 5m households” in rural areas have installed solar panels, with 33GW of distributed solar capacity added in the first nine months of 2023. Another Yicai article reports that China has constructed the world’s “largest” offshore solar power station, which is expected to generate nearly 1.8 terawatt-hours per year, equivalent to cutting consumption of nearly 0.6m tonnes of standard coal, which will reduce carbon emissions “by more than 1.4m tonnes”. Chinese business outlet Jiemian carries an interview with Martin Green, a professor at the University of New South Wales who the outlet calls the “father of solar energy”. Green is quoted saying that China is a “leader in the global solar energy sector, and has notably contributed to reducing solar cell prices”.
Meanwhile, Reuters says that electric vehicle (EV) sales are experiencing “continued strength” worldwide, with China experiencing record-breaking monthly sales in October “despite the end of subsidies” for EV purchases. Another Reuters article reports that European, US and Japanese automakers are increasingly pushing to develop EV motors with “little to no rare earth content”, with suppliers seeking alternatives in an area “dominated by China”. Tokyo-based Nikkei Asia says that anti-immigration sentiment has caused the Hungarian government to curtail plans to allow large numbers of workers into the country to work for Chinese battery and EV makers.
In other news, the US treasury secretary Janet Yellen conveyed to vice premier He Lifeng that “heavy financial support” backed by Beijing to specific industries could pose a threat to other nations, according to Bloomberg. Xinhua covers a side event at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco, to discuss “decarbonisation strategies and how the APEC region can achieve an inclusive, equitable and resilient clean energy transition”. Elsewhere, WION, an Indian English-language outlet, reports that China’s development banks “did not provide any new energy sector loans for the second consecutive year in 2022”, according to a report by Boston University. The China Global South Project has published a commentary by Cecilia Springer, a co-author of the report, who attributes the lack of funding to “ongoing domestic economic woes” in China and “heightened debt distress in borrowing nations”.
The number of properties in England that will have their flood defences improved by 2027 has been cut by 40%, according to a new report by the National Audit Office (NAO), the Guardian reports. In addition, it says 500 of 2,000 new flood defence projects have been abandoned. The article notes that this comes as “climate experts say storms are becoming more frequent and severe due to climate breakdown”. The Daily Telegraph says this will leave more than 200,000 homes at increased risk of flooding, noting that the situation has come about because the Environment Agency “has run out of money to fix defences”.
The Dutch government has “shelved” a plan to cut the number of flights at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport in order to reduce noise and pollution, “bowing to pressure from airlines, the EU and the US government”, according to the Financial Times. The proposal, at one of Europe’s busiest airports, was “one of the most high-profile efforts to limit flying on environmental grounds”, the newspaper explains. “Airlines had lobbied furiously against the proposals to reduce the number of flights at the airport per year by 8% to 460,000 a year,” it adds. Dutch infrastructure minister Mark Harbers said the move came after a warning from the US government, and added that he expected the US to take “countermeasures”, the piece continues. Separately, Reuters reports that International Air Transport Association (IATA) head Willie Walsh told an IATA conference in Amsterdam that, were the policy to go ahead, the US would probably limit slots for Dutch airline KLM at its national airports. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that US efforts to decarbonise air travel using ethanol-based “sustainable aviation fuel” could be slowed because of opposition to proposed pipelines that would curb emissions from ethanol plants by carrying away carbon dioxide (CO2) for storage.
Finally, in Denmark, the Washington Post reports that the government has announced a new proposal for a “green tax” on all flights in order to raise money for all domestic flights to run on “sustainable” fuels by 2030.
Climate and energy comment.
The Financial Times Lex column considers the announcement by mining company Glencore that it will break itself up by striking a deal to buy the majority of Teck Resources’ coal business for $6.9bn. It says: “Plenty of shareholders in Glencore and Teck of Canada want out of filthy coal. Profits from the commodity have waned with the energy crisis triggered by the Ukraine war. The price of power-generating thermal coal, Glencore’s strong suit, has fallen nearly two-thirds in the past year. That adds impetus to get out.” In an analysis for the Times, energy editor Emily Gosden writes that “as concern over climate change has risen up the agenda and constrained the choices of some investors, big diversified mining companies have taken different approaches to their increasingly divisive coal businesses”. Separately, Alistair Osborne, chief business commentator at the Times, says that according to Glencore chief executive Gary Nagle the move “will turn the group into not only a coal-free zone but what he called ‘the go-to metals transition company in the world’”. Osborne adds that “its key minerals – copper, zinc, nickel and cobalt – are key to the net-zero shift, while it also has a growing recycling wing”.
New climate research.
A new paper introduces “GraphCast”, a machine learning-based method of medium-range weather forecasting that is trained directly from reanalysis data. GraphCast is a “key advance in accurate and efficient weather forecasting”, the creators say – it can predict “hundreds of weather variables, over 10 days at 0.25 degrees resolution globally, in under one minute”. GraphCast “significantly outperforms the most accurate operational deterministic systems on 90% of 1,380 verification targets”, the paper says, and its forecasts “support better severe event prediction, including tropical cyclones tracking, atmospheric rivers and extreme temperatures”.
New research into social media activity shows how hurricanes have a “key impact” on the public awareness of climate change. Analysing 65m Twitter posts and 240 thousand news media articles related to 18 major hurricanes over 2010-22, the researchers find that climate change is “the most prominent non hurricane-specific topic discussed by the news media in relation to hurricanes”. Twitter accounts in regions affected by hurricanes “discuss climate change at a significantly higher rate than accounts in unaffected areas”, the study finds, “with references to climate change increasing by, on average, 80% after impact, and up to 200% for the largest hurricanes”.