Weekly wrap: Rex Tillerson debuts at the G20

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Rex Tillerson (Pic: World Economic Forum/Michael Wuertenberg)


Climate advocates are pinning great hope on the G20 to hold the US to its commitments under Donald Trump’s not-so-green-leaning administration.

There is strength in numbers, argue Gwynne Taraska and Andrew Light. While it might be hard for, say, Theresa May to bring up climate change in a bilateral focused on a post-Brexit trade deal, the G20 can keep it on the agenda.

The EU and China should join forces, write Maeve McLynn and Li Shuo, to fill the political vacuum left by Barack Obama’s exit. Remember that guy?

“You can’t fight climate change with barbed wire,” German host Sigmar Gabriel said in a briefing note for this week’s G20 foreign ministers summit, in a not-so-subtle dig at Trump’s Mexico border wall plan.

But as secretary of state Rex Tillerson makes his diplomatic debut, how much play is climate change getting? Send all tips and gossip to [email protected].

Faint praise

Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, is fiercely opposed by Democrats and climate campaigners.

An Oklahoma judge has ordered the avowed climate sceptic to release emails expected to show strong ties to the fossil fuel industry.

Even Republican former EPA chief Mike Leavitt could only muster the weakest of endorsements: “A president deserves to have the people he appoints and then live with the consequence.”

Still, party loyalty runs strong. Pruitt is set to be rubber-stamped by the senate on Friday.

If, as threatened, he scraps the US clean power plan, coal is likely to regain top spot in the power generation mix in 2019. That detail was spotted by Utility Dive in the Energy Information Administration’s annual outlook.

India coal exit?

As the US backtracks, it looks more plausible than ever that India could shift decisively to renewables by mid-century.

Coal already running or under construction will meet be enough to meet demand up to 2026, projects Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute. By that point, analysts say it is reasonable to expect solar and wind power to be competing on cost.

That is the high renewable scenario – and the World Coal Association swiftly dismissed it as unrealistic. But forecasters have persistently underestimated clean energy.

Balkan beats

The business case for a coal plant can turn on the little things: an air pollution rule here, a public subsidy there.

Campaigners in Bosnia notched up a first, minor, victory in their battle against a fleet of Chinese-backed power stations as the Energy Community regulator ordered tougher environmental standards. Several court cases are ongoing.

Premature babies

If melting ice caps seem too distant to motivate action on dirty coal plants or cars, how about babies born too soon?

Some 2.7 million premature births a year can be attributed to air pollution, according to research from the Stockholm Environment Institute. Pregnant women in China, India, the Middle East and western Africa are most exposed.

Quick hits
Australia: Labor will not back 2030 renewable energy target
UK: Carbon cuts are a Brexit bargaining chip – envoy
EU: Market shrugs as lawmakers pass carbon trading reforms
Norway: Bid to climate-proof skiing with eco snow machines

Read more on: Climate politics