This week, oil executives run an ad to push back against growing calls to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable. The UN says that global climate action is “way off track”. And tropical forests may become carbon sources? Read on for the top environmental stories of the week.
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1. Oil executives claim halting fossil fuel production would be “criminal”.
No, we’re not kidding. They actually said this. In fact, they (the industry trade group Western Energy Alliance) ran a full-page ad ahead of Super Tuesday. In the form of an open letter to 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, they call out Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden, who have all said they believe that the industry should face accountability. The letter, signed by 54 oil and gas company executives, said that “it would be criminal not to produce the life-sustaining energy that enables a healthy, safe and modern lifestyle”.
2. UN Secretary-General: “We are currently way off track to meeting either the 1.5°C or 2°C targets that the Paris agreement calls for.”
António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, said this at the launch of the UN’s assessment of the global climate in 2019. The report concludes it was a record-breaking year for heat, and that there was rising hunger, displacement and loss of life because of extreme heatwaves and floods around the world. Guterres added that we need more “ambition on [emissions cuts], adaptation and finance in time for the climate conference COP26 in Glasgow, UK, in November. That is the only way to ensure a safer, more prosperous and sustainable future for all people on a healthy planet.”
This isn’t the first time the UN has sounded the climate emergency warning.
3. Are tropical forests losing their ability to absorb carbon?
Tropical forests are carbon sinks, which means they absorb carbon from the atmosphere and store it. Or at least, that’s what they’re supposed to do. But new research is finding that tropical forests are taking up less carbon dioxide from the air, bringing closer the prospect of accelerating climate breakdown. Why? This is because trees are dying and drying out from drought and higher temperatures. And because of the loss of forest area from logging, burning and other forms of exploitation. Couple that with ever-increasing emissions from business-as-usual, it’s no wonder trees can’t keep up.
Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK: “That forests are now seemingly losing the ability to absorb pollution is alarming. What more of a wake-up call do we need?”
4. Climate finance is not reaching the most vulnerable.
A new analysis of climate finance by the charity WaterAid finds that people in some of the world’s poorest countries are receiving as little as $1 each a year to help them cope with the impacts of the climate crisis; even though rich countries have promised to assist. In fact, they’ve pledged more than a decade ago to provide $100bn a year to the poor by 2020, but it’s not happening. Half of all countries receive less than $5 per person per year in climate finance.
5. Airlines are burning thousands of gallons of fuel flying empty “ghost” planes so that they can keep their flight slots during the coronavirus outbreak.
You probably already know that lots of flights are getting cancelled because of the outbreak. And you probably can guess that the aviation industry isn’t doing too good. But apparently, it turns out that flights are still going (without passengers) because of European rules saying operators can lose their flight slots if they keep their planes on the ground. If they don’t run 80% of their allocated slots, they might lose their slots to a competitor.
As some have rightly pointed out: ah yes, the fabled efficiency of capitalism.
> A new report found that carbon emissions from the global electricity system fell by 2% last year. This is the most significant drop in almost 30 years. Why? Because countries are beginning to bid goodbye to coal-fired power plants.
> Plant-based Impossible burgers are now as cheap as beef. Beef is cheap due to unethical production methods, not to mention the subsidies the meat industry receives. But Impossible Foods just announced an average 15% reduction in the price of products sold to US distributors. This means plant-based burgers are getting cheaper in the US. And you can bet a global revolution is coming.
Image credits: typographyimages (pixabay.com) via Needpix.com