This week, we find out that we’re living in the hottest decade ever. The EU becomes the first continent to declare a climate emergency. And UK businesses are leading the way in sustainability…
1. Carbon emissions from fossil fuels hit a record high in 2019.
According to the Global Carbon Project, emissions from fossil fuels specifically broke records this year. This news isn’t new – in fact, last week we just talked about the UN Emissions Gap Report. But there is a glimmer of hope. Industrial emissions are on track to rise 0.6% this year, which is considerably slower than 1.5% in 2017 and 2.1% in 2018. Additionally, emissions from coal unexpectedly declined by 0.9% in 2019! That drop, however, was more than offset by a robust increase in use of oil and natural gas. Which are, if you don’t know, not too clean either.
But if we’re getting serious about climate change, the rise needs to turn into a drop, and a fast one too.
2. This decade of “exceptional” heat is likely to be the hottest on record, says WMO.
The World Meteorological Organization releases an annual publication called the “State of the Global Climate”, and the preliminary findings aren’t looking so good. Temperatures between 2010 and 2019 were 1.1°C above the average for the pre-industrial period (each of the past four decades has been 0.1 – 0.2°C warmer than the decade before). This, of course, is uncomfortably close to the 1.5°C warming that we’re supposed to be keeping to. Unsurprisingly, 2019 is on course to be the second or third warmest year (ever) since we started keeping records.
Welcome to the hottest decade.
3. The EU declares a climate emergency
Heeding the repeated warnings from scientists to take the climate crisis seriously, the European parliament has voted to declare a global “climate and environmental emergency”. There was a comfortable majority, with 429 votes in favour, 225 votes against, and 19 abstentions. MEPs across the political spectrum, however, warned against making symbolic gestures, a reminder that actions speak louder than words. “Ramping up the rhetoric does not get us away from the serious discussions that now need to take place,” said the Czech environment spokesman, Alexandr Vondra.
This is only the beginning.
4. Climate change is going to be factored into all New Zealand government decisions from now on.
Last month, the government passed a historic zero-carbon bill. Now, climate change is going to be a standard part of the cabinet’s decision-making. Minister James Shaw said in a statement: “Decisions we take now and in the future about everything from the places we live, to how we get around, to public health, to how we relate to one another will be impacted one way or another by climate change.” While this is a great move that’s being praised by many, there is still some wariness. Opposition climate change spokesperson Scott Simpson added importantly: “It shouldn’t just be another level of bureaucracy for decisions to go through.”
What do you think about a climate change lens on every government decision?
5. UK businesses are leading the way on sustainability?
HSBC just conducted a global survey on over 9,000 companies, finding that 75% of British businesses feel that they have a role to play in delivering the UN SDGs. In Spain, the Netherlands, and France, it’s 58%, 55% in Sweden and 53% in Ireland. According to the survey, firms are choosing to be more sustainable (mostly) to improve operational efficiency, meet regulatory standards and to gain a reputational advantage. And key sources of pressure are competitors, the government, regulators and employees—in this order.
It’s not a surprise that the Brits are leading in this aspect, but the motivations are rather questionable…
Image credits: Ricardo Graca/EPA via The Guardian