Sunday, June 16, 2024

DeBriefed 28 March 2024: Amazon fund; China faces trade storm; How lifestyle changes could slash EU emissions

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

Nature in the balance

AMAZON RECOVERY: Brazil and France have launched a €1bn “green” investment plan for the Amazon at a meeting in Belem, the city that will host the UN climate summit COP30 in 2025, Le Monde reported. The four-year plan aims to create a carbon market that will help prevent deforestation in the Brazilian and Guyanase Amazon, Le Monde said. It also includes support for Indigenous communities, Deutsche Welle reported.

‘HUGE DEADLOCK’: Meanwhile, the EU’s flagship nature restoration law is on the “verge of collapse”, according to the Guardian. The law was due to be passed by EU member states this week, but the vote was shelved after Hungary withdrew its support at the last minute, reported the Associated Press. Carbon Brief has an in-depth explainer on the EU’s restoration law.

NATURE’S RIGHT: Aruba could become the second country in the world, after Ecuador, to enshrine the rights of nature in its constitution, Inside Climate News reported. The country’s nature minister has put forward a draft amendment to the constitution, which is due to be reviewed by the country’s advisory council in April, said the outlet.

China under pressure

CHINA-US DISPUTE: The US Treasury secretary Janet Yellen has “warned China not to flood the world with cheap clean-energy exports, saying they would distort global markets and harm workers”, the Financial Times reported. Speaking from a solar manufacturer in Georgia ahead of a two-day trip to China, Yellen said she would make “overcapacity” a “key issue” in her discussions with Beijing, according to the FT.

‘DISCRIMINATORY’ SUBSIDIES: It comes after China lodged a complaint against “discriminatory” subsidies from the US for electric vehicles at the World Trade Organisation, reported the South China Morning Post. The complaint relates to terms within the US Inflation Reduction Act that require EVs to undergo final assembly in the US to qualify for subsidy, the newspaper said. The Associated Press suggested that the case would “likely go nowhere”, even if the WTO rules in favour of China.

XI’S PLAN: In a frontpage long-read, the Financial Times dug deeper into slowing economic growth in China and whether president Xi Jinping’s plan centred on growing China’s clean manufacturing industries can succeed. With weakening domestic demand, this strategy relies increasingly on exporting more of these goods abroad and, as a professor told the newspaper, “the rest of the world is unlikely to [accommodate] that”.

  • ‘HISTORIC MILESTONE’: India has produced more than 1bn tonnes of coal and lignite in the current financial year that ends in a few days, according to Hindu BusinessLine, with the country’s coal minister calling it a “historic milestone in India’s quest for energy security”.
  • ‘MAJOR CHANGES’: Bassirou Diomaye Faye is set to be Senegal’s new president, after a campaign where he vowed to improve control over the country’s natural resources and prevent “economic enslavement”, France24 reported. JeuneAfrique noted that, as part of this, he has promised to renegotiate oil and gas contracts.
  • MAC AND CHEESE: The US energy agency has announced $6bn in funding for 33 industrial projects, including new heat pumps at mac-and-cheese factories, the New York Times reported. 
  • ‘DIRE SITUATION’: UNICEF has estimated that 45 million children in south and eastern Africa are experiencing severe food insecurity, which has been exacerbated by climate change, according to AllAfrica.
  • BOOZE IN TROUBLE: BBC News reported on attempts to rescue the UK pint from the threat of climate change, with hop yields down by 20% last year. Meanwhile, the Daily Mail covered a study that suggests winemaking in southern Europe could be reduced by 90% due to climate change. 
  • NEW CHIEF: Singapore has a new inaugural climate action ambassador, who will represent the country at international climate discussions, reported EcoBusiness. 

The percentage of European voters that think tackling climate change is a priority, according to a new Euronews poll of 25,916 people across 18 countries.

  • A study in Nature Communications Earth and Environment found that global inflation could increase 0.3-1.2 percentage points per year by 2035 solely due to climate change impacts, with even greater inflationary impacts on food prices.
  • Poorer and more densely populated neighbourhoods in New Delhi, India are more likely to face the “compounded effects” of extreme heat and dengue fever than those in richer and less densely-populated neighbourhoods, according to a new study in  PLOS Climate. 
  • Australian soils could flip from being a net absorber of carbon dioxide to being a net emitter as the climate continues to warm, said a new study published in NPJ Climate and Atmospheric Science.

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

A large percentage of the world’s new oil and gas developments since 2022 are from companies that have set net-zero emissions targets, such as TotalEnergies and ExxonMobil, according to Carbon Brief analysis of a new report from Global Energy Monitor. Carbon Brief has estimated that both TotalEnergies and ExxonMobil could generate roughly 1,000m tonnes of CO2 each with their expansion plans, which is equivalent to Japan’s annual total.

How lifestyle changes could help the EU reach net-zero

This week, Carbon Brief explores an underreported pathway to net-zero in the EU that highlights the potential additional benefits enabled by lifestyle changes.

Last month, the EU set a new intermediary target to reduce emissions by at least 90% by 2040, relative to 1990 levels.

Buried within the impact assessment released with the announcement, there was a unique scenario called “LIFE” that offers an alternative pathway to reach the EU’s new target largely through lifestyle changes.

What is LIFE?

The LIFE (short for “lifestyle”) scenario is unique among the modelled scenarios because it does not consider a different level of ambition, but, rather, a different way of reaching the emissions reductions target of the most ambitious scenario (known as S3). 

(LIFE is similar to the “1.5LIFE” scenario that the EU considered when setting out its vision for a climate-neutral economy in 2018.)

Both LIFE and S3 achieve the EU target of at least a 90% emissions reduction by 2040. In contrast to S3, which achieves this by assuming high levels of deployment for novel technologies such as carbon capture and e-fuels, LIFE “assumes more sustainable lifestyles and a move towards a more circular and shared economy”.

Comparing S3 with LIFE offers a comparison for two paths to net-zero: one more reliant on technology and one more reliant on lifestyle changes.

What would LIFE mean for EU lifestyles?

The LIFE scenario targets modest reductions in the most-emitting and inefficient forms of transport and food, while encouraging “circularity”. 

Compared to S3 in 2040, car driving is reduced by 5%, flying is reduced by 10% and meat production is reduced by 25%, (caused by diet change rather than more exports). People are assumed to travel more by train, use more video conferencing and eat more plant-based foods.

People are expected to heat their homes more efficiently through smart meters and be more mindful consumers of products, reusing and repairing them where possible. 

The assessment notes that these changes are in line with “possible expected individuals changes in daily life and willingness for action in changing consumption patterns”. 

What are the benefits of LIFE?

There are multiple proposed benefits to the LIFE pathway in terms of cost, ease of transition, health and biodiversity, in comparison to S3.

The total investment needs for LIFE are, on average, 8% lower, representing average annual savings of €129bn, or €2.58tn total, across 2031-2050.

Enabled by lower electricity demand overall, the total renewable capacity required in 2040 is reduced by around 240GW (11%), or around half of 2020 capacity.

Health benefits from better air quality are further improved, claim the modellers, and there are significant health benefits from lower levels of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and obesity due to healthier diets.

Under the pathway, some 11m hectares of farmland are instead used for forests, natural vegetation and rewetted soils, leading to less fertiliser use and improved biodiversity. As a result, there are 104m tonnes more emissions savings from the land sector, including agriculture, by 2040.

This, say the modellers, reduces the need for industrial carbon capture and carbon removal by 19% and 64%, respectively, reducing the risk of scaling these nascent technologies.

NO BLOOMS AHEAD: The South China Morning Post considered the threats faced by cherry blossoms due to climate change in Japan.

E-BIKE EMISSIONS?: Youtuber Simon Clark explored the environmental impact of electric bikes compared to other forms of transport.

NATURE’S END: Euractiv’s podcast broke down why the EU’s restoration law is facing opposition from several EU member states.

  • Green Alliance, head of climate policy | Salary: £46,962-£55,348. Location: London
  •, research scientist, data fusion (climate trace) | Salary: $160,000- $195,000. Location: Remote (US-based)
  • Science Based Targets Initiative, transport analyst | Salary: Unknown. Location: Remote
  • Green Climate Fund, accredited entities officer | Salary: $96,200. Location: Incheon, South Korea
  • Friends of the Earth International, programme communications coordinator | Salary: €4,314-4,778 per month. Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands (or remote)

This is an online version of Carbon Brief’s weekly DeBriefed email newsletter. Subscribe for free here.

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

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