Sunday, June 23, 2024

DeBriefed 12 April 2024: ‘Historic’ European court victory; Climate migration explained; K-pop and climate change

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Welcome to Carbon Brief’s DeBriefed. 
An essential guide to the week’s key developments relating to climate change.

‘Historic’ court victory

FIRST-EVER RULING: The European Court of Human Rights this week ruled that insufficient action to tackle climate change is a violation of human rights, DeSmog reported. In a “historic” judgement, the court ruled that Switzerland’s inadequate action on cutting emissions breached the rights to respect for family and private life of some of its most vulnerable citizens, DeSmog said. The case was brought by a group of 2,000 older Swiss women, BBC News reported.

PORTUGUESE CASE: The same court also dismissed a climate case brought by six Portuguese young people, finding the group had not exhausted legal action through the national courts, the Financial Times reported. Gerry Liston, the lawyer for the Portuguese youths, said that, despite the judges dismissing the case, the court’s ruling on the Swiss women’s action was “a massive win for all generations”, added the outlet. 

INDIAN COURT: Also this week, India’s Supreme Court expanded the “right to life” to include “protection against adverse effects of climate change”, adding that “climate change threatens ‘constitutional guarantees of equality and health’, impacting factors such as air pollution, disease, and food security”, the Independent reported. An editorial in the Indian Express described the decision as a “call to action”, adding that the significance of the ruling “cannot be overstated”. 

Heat goes on

ROASTING MARCH: March 2024 was the “tenth straight month to be the hottest on record”, reported the Associated Press. March temperatures averaged at 14.14C – 1.68C warmer than in the late 1800s, when the fossil fuel era began, according to AP. It added that “climate scientists attribute most of the record heat to human-caused climate change from carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane emissions produced by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas”.

HEAT-TRAPPING GASES: Atmospheric levels of the three most important heat-trapping gases – CO2, methane and nitrous oxide – reached record highs again last year, the Guardian reported. The global concentration of CO2 rose to an average of 419 parts per million (ppm) in 2023, while methane rose to an average of 1,922 parts per billion (ppb) and nitrous oxide climbed slightly to 336ppb, the outlet said.

‘RAISE VOICES’: Amid the records, UN climate chief Simon Stiell urged “ordinary people everywhere” to “raise their voices” over climate change in a speech in London, the Financial Times reported. Stiell warned that humanity has just two years left to “save the world”, adding “we still have a chance… but we need these stronger [national climate] plans, now”, reported the Associated Press. 

  • EU INVESTIGATION: The EU launched an investigation to examine “whether Chinese companies participating in wind parks across Europe may have benefited from state support from Beijing”, said the Financial Times.
  • BIGGEST ICEBERG: BBC News tracked the world’s biggest iceberg – more than twice the size of Greater London – which has “begun to drift at pace once more” after a “few weeks loitering on the fringes of Antarctica”.
  • BIGGEST ECONOMIES: G20 countries and “the multilateral development banks they fund” put £112bn into overseas fossil fuel development over 2020-2022, the Guardian reported. Despite pledging in 2022 to halt such financing, oil and gas funding “has continued at a strong pace”, the outlet added.
  • UK POLITICS: Politico reported that the UK’s rightwing populist party Reform, the brainchild of Brexiteer Nigel Farage, has plans to make scrapping climate policies a central part of its campaigning in the next general election.
  • SEVERE FLOODING: Russia and Kazakhstan have ordered more than 100,000 people to evacuate after melting snow swelled rivers beyond bursting point, leading to the worst flooding in the area for at least 70 years, reported Reuters.
  • CHINA COAL: China accounted for 95% of the world’s new coal power construction activity in 2023, according to the latest annual report from Global Energy Monitor covered by Carbon Brief.

The total length of “ghost roads” uncovered by researchers studying deforestation in the Asian Pacific, according to Carbon Brief. 

  • A new study in Nature Climate Change warned that meteorites holding potential clues to life’s origins or the prospect of alien existence are fast disappearing from Antarctica because of climate change. 
  • Geoengineering methods that change the planet’s radiative forcing – aiming to reduce the amount of energy that reaches the surface of the Earth – could increase the incidence of fires in the Arctic, when combined with very high greenhouse gas emissions, new research in Communications Earth & Environment suggested. 
  • A new study in npj Climate Action found that “Roman Catholics are less likely to believe in man-made climate change as compared to evangelical Christians”. However, the more positive a respondent’s view of Pope Francis, the more likely they are “to acknowledge the effect of human activity on global warming”, it said.

(For more, see Carbon Brief’s in-depth daily summaries of the top climate news stories on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.)

Carbon Brief has just published a two-part miniseries on the complex topic of climate migration. Carbon Brief’s explainer looked into the main drivers of why people move. Using data from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), Carbon Brief analysis showed that most climate-linked internal displacement is due to floods and storms (see above). The series also includes a special report on climate-driven migration in rural Thailand. Carbon Brief’s science journalist Ayesha Tandon also produced a video on her investigation into climate-driven migration in Thailand.

K-pop fans campaign for climate change

Dayeon Lee is a Tokyo-based South Korean student.

This week, Carbon Brief speaks to K-pop fans about their efforts to tackle climate change. 

Dayeon Lee is a Tokyo-based South Korean student, and before discovering and joining climate campaigns, she was a “guilty” K-pop fan.

“K-pop” is a term for popular music from South Korea. K-pop has witnessed an explosion in popularity since the term first appeared internationally in the 2000s.

“I think people have the stereotype of K-pop fans, thinking we are just a group of crazy girls being obsessed with boys, but we are more than that, we are also a group of young people who care about the planet,” Lee told Carbon Brief. 

“Korean entertainment companies produce a lot of album covers and we as fans buy hundreds of albums to support our idols. The companies don’t care about the environmental cost and waste, but we bear the guilt.”

Looking to make a change, Lee joined the campaign group Kpop4planet in 2021. The group, which is managed by K-pop fans, launched the campaign “No K-pop on a Dead Planet”, urging the industry to “make K-pop sustainable” and produce more eco-friendly albums. 

“We had K-pop fans returning hundreds of albums to the major entertainment companies in South Korea to make sure they are aware of the issue. Although they didn’t officially respond to us, they started to introduce digital albums with purchasing code fans can scan,” said Lee.

The online campaign has in total attracted more than 100,000 people to join and they hope to inspire more.

There are an estimated 178m active K-pop fans worldwide. Kpop4planet’s campaigns cover a wide range of environmental issues, from reducing the high cost of fashion worn by K-pop singers, to protecting a beach featuring in K-pop songs and zero-emissions concerts. 

“Since K-pop stars are involved with so many industries…that need to become more sustainable, we want to motivate and gather the power and influence of K-pop fans and the youth… to change the companies that are heavily polluting the environment by using fossil fuels,” said Lee. 

Lee told Carbon Brief that K-pop entertainment agencies have already listened to their concerns, with some of them, such as South Korean record label JYP, committing to use 100% renewable electricity to power its operation.

‘Drop coal’

Recently, Kpop4planet decided to target the Korean motor company, Hyundai, which had signed a deal with an Indonesian company to source aluminium from a coal-powered smelter in North Kalimantan, Indonesia. 

“Hyundai has a good image in Indonesia because they use the image of Korean band BTS as ‘their face’,” said Lee, adding that Kpop4planet hopes to leverage their K-pop fan stance to convince the company to “drop coal”. 

Another campaigner Nural Sarifah, based in Indonesia, told Carbon Brief that the group has undertaken a “series of activities” to campaign against Hyundai’s decision, including delivering a signed petition “with a touch of K-pop dance” outside the Hyundai Motor Studio in Jakarta.  

On 2 April, Reuters reported that Hyundai and its Indonesian supplier had “ended an aluminium supply agreement after calls by a climate campaigner backed by K-pop fans not to procure supplies of the metal produced using coal power”.

Hyundai announced in a statement that it had “decided to explore other opportunities independently” in Indonesia, according to the news agency. Lee told Carbon Brief:

“This move is a victory for thousands of K-pop fans who took action. We are glad that Hyundai is now exploring options to acquire transparent and sustainable sourcing materials in Indonesia.”

Lee added that their campaign will not stop there:

“Ultimately, we would like to use our collective power to [make] change. We want to secure the future that K-pop fans and the youth will inherit.”

CHINESE SOLAR: The Financial Times published a Lex opinion piece saying “Chinese solar companies are paying a high price for victory” in a battle with European solar firms.

HAWAII’S CRISIS: CBS News released a documentary on YouTube about the water-related crisis on the Hawaiian islands.  

GREEN FUNERAL: The Anti-dread Climate Podcast explored the carbon costs of traditional burial and looked for more climate-friendly alternatives.  

DeBriefed is edited by Daisy Dunne. Please send any tips or feedback to [email protected].
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