World bankrolling its own demise
COMES AT A COST
: The world’s governments are spending at least $1.8tn (£1.3tn) every year on subsidies that exacerbate biodiversity loss and global warming, the Guardian
reported. This money, equivalent to 2% of global GDP, is being spent on support for activities such as cattle ranching, pesticide use and fossil-fuel production, according to the report from The B Team
, a global non-profit co-founded by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson. It is the first estimate of its kind in more than 10 years, according to the report authors.
BREAKING THE CYCLE
: A separate Guardian
analysis examined why the world is still “financing its own extinction” despite a growing awareness of the threats posed by climate change and biodiversity loss. The newspaper noted that abolishing harmful subsidies will be key to tackling the twin crises but that “recent protests in France, Kazakhstan and Nigeria over the threatened loss of subsidies are warnings to leaders on how subsidy reform can go wrong”. It added that some countries, including Costa Rica, are leading the way by launching successful initiatives to pay landowners for ecosystem services
GENEVA CALLING: The report comes less than a month before a key round of UN biodiversity talks are due to take place in Geneva, Switzerland. Removing harmful subsidies is a staple target of a draft international agreement for restoring biodiversity, which will be negotiated in Geneva before being formally adopted by countries at COP15 in Kunming, China later this year. The current draft calls for countries to reduce harmful subsidies by at least $500bn per year by 2030, but the B Team has called for this target to be strengthened to eliminate all destructive financing by the same date.
Catastrophic fires on rise
: Catastrophic wildfire events that devastate human land and ecosystems could become 30% more common by 2050 and 50% more common by 2100 under a medium emissions scenario (“RCP6.0
”), CNN reported
. The findings come from a new report
on “extraordinary landscape fires” from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) involving more than 50 researchers from around the world. The projected increase could come as a result of global warming and land-use change, according to the report.
UNEQUAL IMPACTS: The increase in wildfires is likely to be concentrated in certain areas, the report said. It notes that the Arctic is “very likely” to experience significant increases in burning by the end of the century. If greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) continue at their current rate, tropical forests in Indonesia and the southern Amazon are also likely to see an increase in burning. The report added that areas that already see high levels of burning are also likely to undergo changes. “This includes tropical savannahs and tropical and temperate grasslands, which are predicted to be altered by increased burning in some areas and decreased burning in others,” the report said.
MANAGING RISKS: The report states that “eliminating the risk of wildfires is not possible, but much can be done to reduce risks”, with UNEP calling for a “radical change” to how governments manage wildfires. Much more focus should be given to “prevention and preparedness”, the report authors said. Inger Andersen, UNEP executive director, added: “Those emergency service workers and firefighters on the frontlines who are risking their lives to fight forest wildfires need to be supported. We have to minimise the risk of extreme wildfires by being better prepared: invest more in fire risk reduction, work with local communities, and strengthen global commitment to fight climate change.”
Ethanol worse than petrol
A new study
published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) found that corn-based ethanol “is likely at least 24% more carbon-intensive than gasoline”, Reuters
reported. This is attributed to land-use emissions associated with growing corn, along with processing and combustion emissions.
The findings of the study, part-funded by the US Department of Energy, contradict previous research commissioned by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) that “showed ethanol and other biofuels are relatively green”, the story said. “Corn ethanol is not a climate-friendly fuel,” lead author Dr Tyler Lark
told Reuters. Ethanol trade lobby president Geoff Cooper called the study “completely fictional and erroneous”, arguing the authors used "worst-case assumptions [and] cherry-picked data”.
CORN RUSH COSTS: Biofuels in the US account for nearly half of all global biofuel production. They are governed by the US Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), whose environmental outcomes have not been sufficiently assessed, the study authors said. They assessed the land and water footprint of the RFS in its first eight years, observing that it disproportionately increased corn prices, which led to more land being converted towards growing corn (by 8.7% or 2.8m hectares) and between 3 to 8% more nitrogen fertiliser being used every year. They found that land-use change emissions attributable to the policy were “underestimated” and “are enough to fully negate or even reverse any GHG advantages of the fuel relative to gasoline”. The authors conclude that the land-use emissions of renewable fuels must be better understood before “projecting” their climate performance.