With COP26 dead and buried, little enthusiasm for Egypt’s big COP27 party

Source: RugliG / Getty Images

By David Callaway, Callaway Climate Insights

Given the setbacks the global climate battle has suffered in the six months since the United Nations COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get anywhere near excited about Egypt’s big COP27 event this November.

Yet even as global politicians vote against sound climate policies, chase new oil and gas deals, and step back from policies such as Europe’s Green Deal, the beginnings of the campaign to draw the climate elite to Sharm El-Sheikh is taking place.

Expect that campaign to at some point promote that delegates attending will be only a three-hour flight from nearby Qatar and this year’s World Cup soccer tournament, which starts three days after COP27 ends. Because that’s going to be one of the only ways to draw attention to a climate event that will likely cap one of the worst years for greenhouse gas emissions and climate disasters in history. Next to 2021.

In fact, more leaders are looking to G20 talks in Indonesia that same month for more substantive progress, which would focus almost exclusively on finding ways to reduce coal consumption there and in so many other Asian countries that depend on it for economic growth.

If it seems like a long time since Scotland that’s because, like everything else in the climate fight this year, the clocks have been turned back a decade.

More insights below . . . .

Zeus: Europe forfeits climate leadership mantle in surprise EU vote

. . . . The European Commission’s surprise vote Wednesday rejecting most of the primary planks of its two-year climate mitigation strategy is a stark reminder of the shift in government priorities back toward fossil fuels since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, writes David Callaway. The voting effectively removes the mantle of leadership from Europe among geographic regions combating global warming and puts its targets of cutting emissions by more than half by 2030 in jeopardy.

Read the full Zeus column

Thursday’s subscriber insights: Can you say agrivoltaics?

. . . . Turns out wind and solar projects might not be the eyesores some complain they are. A new study reports that wind turbine projects in rural America lead “to economically meaningful increases in county GDP per-capita, income per-capita, median household income, and median home values.” Also, separate projects combining agriculture and solar are turning up surprising economic benefits. And the sheep are enjoying them, too. Read more. . . .

. . . . Wednesday was World Oceans Day, and at least one major U.S. company decided to up its sustainable game toward ocean priorities in coming months. Salesforce.com (CRM), which has already supported carbon removal plans and removal of so-called blue carbon by the oceans, said it would now focus more on marine ecosystems, plastic pollution and helping coastal communities. The ocean often draws the short straw in climate mitigation plans, so good to see a major corporation focus on it. . . .

. . . . It’s more toxic than CO₂ (though shorter-lived). And, unlike CO₂, which is an inevitable product of burning fossil fuels, methane emissions are totally avoidable. Two examples, from the U.S. and Australia, show how fossil fuels companies are gaming the system. Read more here. . . .

. . . . One of the keys to ramping up renewable energy is storage in huge batteries. But now several projects have been delayed or scrapped as transport bottlenecks, soaring minerals prices, and competition from the electric vehicle industry crimp supply. What does this mean? Read more here. . . .

. . . . There is the “I’ll never leave my home” crowd who stay put during hurricane evacuation alerts. And the “False warnings too many times” folks. Now, meet the “gas-is-too-expensive-to-evacuate” cadre, a group found in an AAA survey in Florida. Oh well. Read about them here. . . .

Editor’s picks: Bees are fish – in California

California court: Bees are legally fish

Bees are now legally considered fish in California under the state’s endangered species law, an appeals court in Sacramento ruled Tuesday. According to a report from (!) The Sacramento Bee, the state’s 1970 legislation explicitly protected fish, which were defined as invertebrates. Tuesday’s ruling said the court interpreted the law to include bees because the act has previously protected snails and other invertebrates that live on land. “Accordingly, a terrestrial invertebrate, like each of the four bumble bee species, may be listed as an endangered or threatened species under the Act,” the appellate court decision said. Read more from The… Bee. 

Plastic packaging may be biodegradable

German scientists say PET-eating enzymes may be the key to making plastic packaging biodegradable. Deutsche Welle reports that Leipzig researchers have found an enzyme that rapidly breaks down PET, the most widely produced plastic in the world. Christian Sonnendecker and his research team, while searching a compost heap at a cemetery in Leipzig, found enzymes they’d not seen before and one of them, identified as PHL7, disintegrated an entire piece of plastic in less than a day. According to the report, “PHL7 appears to ‘eat’ PET plastic times faster than LCC, a standard enzyme used in PET plastic-eating experiments today.” Sonnendecker’s work shows that “we haven’t even remotely scratched the surface” in terms of the potential of naturally occurring enzymes “with respect to PET,” he said.

Latest findings: New research, studies and projects

Fighting fires could cut carbon emissions — affordably

A more aggressive battle to prevent Alaskan and Canadian wildfires could keep carbon out of the atmosphere at an affordable price. The authors of a new study peg the cost of keeping one ton of CO₂ from an Alaskan wildfire out of the air at $12 — less than the cost of abating the same amount of CO₂ with a switch from fossil fuels to wind or solar power. The amount of carbon emitted by forest fires in the far north is significant, they report. The study researchers estimate that by 2050, forest fires in Alaska and Canada alone could release approximately 12 gigatons of CO₂ each year, roughly totaling the annual emissions of 2.6 billion cars. “We also wanted to understand if fire management presented an economically feasible way to intervene and reduce those emissions,” said Carly Phillips, a researcher in residence at the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions who led the new study. To understand the economics, the researchers focused on Alaska, where data was most available. They found that while many factors that determine a blaze’s ultimate extent are out of control — maximum temperature, moisture, the cause of the fire — the amount of effort that goes into containing a fire does explain 22% of the variability in the fire’s final size. In other words, when people commit resources to fighting fires, they do typically succeed in limiting the conflagration. (Phillips, C., et al., Escalating Carbon Emissions from North American Boreal Forest Wildfires and the Climate Mitigation Potential of Fire ManagementScience Advances, doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abl7161.)

Words to live by . . . .

“All life came from the sea. When I swim over a coral reef, it feels like I am coming home. … Take a deep breath and join me underwater for a moment, surrounded by beautiful coral and fish. And then ask yourself the most important question of all: What changes can I make today to help save our planet?” — Lewis Pugh, endurance swimmer and UN Patron of the Oceans, via Twitter.

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