Shrinking, yet propped up: Coal power is facing increasingly tough conditions in India, with its pipeline having shrunk by 37GW in 2018 alone | Image credit: IBTimes

Global carbon emissions hit record high in 2018: IEA

Carbon emissions (CO2) from the global energy sector touched a record high in 2018, mainly in Asia, because of the increase in energy demand and the use of coal – that’s the damning report of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Reuters reported. CO2 emissions from energy rose by 1.7% to 33.1 billion tonnes compared to 2017.

The IEA report said, “The US emissions grew by 3.1% in 2018, China’s rose by 2.5% and India’s by 4.5%. China, the United States, and India together accounted for nearly 70% of the rise in energy demand. Europe’s emissions fell by 1.3% and Japan’s fell for the fifth consecutive year:.  According to IEA’s research “CO2 emitted from coal use caused warming of over 0.3°C of the 1° rise in global average temperature since pre-industrial times.” Global energy demand grew by 2.3% last year, because of a strong global economy and higher heating and cooling demand in some parts of the world, the IEA said.

Earth Hour: Landmarks plunge into darkness, UN chief calls for urgent climate action

The world marked Earth Hour on March 30 by  switching off lights at the world’s most famous landmarks, to create awareness about the deadly impacts of climate change. UN Secretary-General António Guterres used the occasion to once again remind countries about the urgent need for climate action. He said,“We can see the worsening impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss, ocean pollution, soil degradation and water scarcity.” He called for urgent action adding: “I am convening a Climate Action Summit in September. And I am telling global leaders to bring concrete plans.”

Trump “circumvents” court, allows Keystone XL oil pipeline work

US President Donald Trump bypassed court orders and issued a permit for a “controversial” oil pipeline. Last October, the work on Keystone XL site came to a halt after a federal judge grounded the project over violations made in the government’s environmental review, Oil Price reported, adding that “The 8,30,000 bpd pipeline will run from the Albertan oil sands through Montana and South Dakota, ending in Nebraska, where it would connect to the existing pipeline network that goes on to the Gulf Coast.” Experts say, if allowed, the project would ruin land, drinking water and communities from Montana and Nebraska to the Gulf Coast, aside from precipitation and deadly impacts of climate change.

Meanwhile, in a major presidential setback, a judge in Alaska blocked Trump’s reversal of the Obama era’s ban on offshore drilling in Atlantic Ocean. US district court judge Sharon Gleason said Trump exceeded his authority when he reversed the ban through an executive order. The judge said presidents have the power to remove the lands from development, but they cannot revoke those removals, reported the Guardian.

Australia won’t set targets to cut vehicular emissions at all?

Is Australia completely giving up on setting carbon emission standards for its vehicles? The Guardian reported that the Australian transport ministry said the government had not made a decision on “how or when” standards to cut carbon pollution from vehicles might be implemented. Latest data shows Australia’s vehicular emissions are projected to be 82% higher in 2030 than they were in 1990.

Australia had released a graph in 2015 indicating it expected to achieve cuts of about 100 million tonnes between 2020 and 2030 through vehicle emissions standards. “The government’s latest climate proposal contains no mention of this, and projects only about 10 million tonnes of abatement through an electric vehicle strategy, with no reference to vehicle emissions standards,” The Guardian reported.

US senate rejects Green New Deal resolution

US senate Republicans have rejected the Green New Deal, which sought a legislation to create a state-backed fund for clean energy like wind and solar power, infrastructure and social programmes. The plan was voted down over Republicans’ allegations that it would devastate the American middle class by killing jobs and raising electricity bills across the country.

The result comes despite Democrats’ urgent pleas to take climate change more seriously, and with the US’ emissions having risen by 3.1% last year.

Democrats introduce climate change legislation

Two days after the senate rejected the Green New Deal, US senators introduced legislation to cap carbon emissions and tackle climate change. The Healthy Climate and Family Act proposes to cut CO2 emissions in the next 20 years by imposing fines on companies that violate the pollution regulations and donate all the proceeds to American families in the form of dividends, the Hill reported. The legislation has a target of capping CO2 emissions 50% below the 2005 levels by 2030 and then 80% below 2005 by 2040.

EU leaders push for net-zero emissions without setting target date

Campaigners are angry over the EU draft policy that pushes for net zero emissions without actually setting a target date. The leaders pushed the resolution following massive protests by thousands of students who took to the streets across Europe to protest against their governments’ inaction over global warming. However, the leaders only emphasized on submitting an ambitious long-term strategy by 2020 for climate neutrality.

The EU executive, last year, had set a goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. The European Parliament overwhelmingly backed the mid-century target in a non-binding resolution last week, Reuters reported.

Europe to set aside 35% of research budget for clean tech

The European Union has decided to allocate 35% of the bloc’s research funding for climate-friendly technologies, despite ongoing doubts about the overall size of the EU’s future budget after Brexit. The proposed Horizon Europe programme expects the funding to grow dramatically under the Commission plan, with a proposed budget of €100 billion during 2021-2027 – this despite the Brexit scenario – up from €78 billion in the current seven-year period, which included the UK as a full member, reported Euractiv.

Climate change could spur financial crisis: US federal bank researcher

Losses from natural disasters that are made worse by higher temperatures and rising sea levels could lead to a financial crisis – this was the conclusion reached by a researcher working for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. In his paper published last week, Glenn Rudebusch, the San Francisco Fed’s executive vice president for research, warned that such disasters could lead to ‘elevated credit spreads, greater precautionary saving, and, in the extreme, a financial crisis.’

He also pointed out to more direct effects in the form of macroeconomic shocks due to infrastructure damage, agricultural losses and commodity price spikes in the event of droughts, floods and hurricanes. Rudebusch wrote banks need to take into account damage caused by climate events when considering the economic outlook in the long term. A possible solution put forth in the paper is levying carbon tax, a plan that has been dismissed by US president Donald Trump in the past.

Italy, Britain bid for 2020 climate talks even as domestic uncertainty looms for both

Days after Santiago, Chile, was officially announced as the venue for this year’s United Nation’s (UN) climate summit (COP 25), comes news that Britain and Italy have put forth their bid to host next year’s summit (COP 26). But how both countries will be able to cope with hosting pressures is a big question mark especially because of the domestic uncertainty that looms large over them, Climate Change News reported.

Italy, for example, faces early general elections next year, with public opinion polls indicating a resounding win for the right-wing League party, which currently shares power with the populist 5-star movement. The issue here is that while the 5-star movement, which currently runs the country’s environment ministry, has pushed for tougher climate change measures, the League has mostly stayed out of environmental policy matters.

The UK, which has been strongly pushing for an opportunity to host, is grappling with Brexit and a possible early election next year. Between the two, experts pointed out Britain would be a better choice given “the diplomatic network to pull off the significant outreach that will be required of the Cop26 presidency”, said Jennifer Tollmann, a policy advisor also at E3G. A host is likely to be announced in June this year at the UN meeting in Bonn.

Britain’s Labour party pushes for UK to get its own Green New Deal    

US Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise Movement’s push to decarbonise the US economy by adopting a Green New Deal has inspired politicians across the pond, mainly the UK’s Labour Party.

Members of the political party launched a grassroots campaign called Labour for a Green New Deal, which urges the government to take radical action to tackle climate change, The Guardian reported.

This not only includes decarbonising the UK economy within a decade, but also region-specific green job guarantee, mass investment in public infrastructure, expansion of public ownership and democratic control of industry.

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