Climate Weekly: Commonwealth storms and sunshine

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Windsor Castle, UK, where Commonwealth leaders held closed-door meetings on Friday (Pic: Flickr/Richard Hodgson)


The sun came out in London this week for leaders meeting from across the Commonwealth, raising temperatures to a balmy 30C.

It is the largest gathering of heads of government in 2018, covering a diverse range of climate change perspectives, with a majority from vulnerable small islands or the worlds poorest countries. A report by Christian Aid noted huge inequalities in emissions – and their impacts – between members of the loose coalition.

Vanuatu’s plans to host the summit were dashed by Cyclone Pam in 2015, one of its worst weather disasters in history. At a side event, foreign minister Ralph Regenvanu called for a “climate damages tax” on fossil fuel producers, backed by UK Labour and Green politicians.

“Climate change is wreaking havoc with Vanuatu’s aspirations for sustainable development,” said Regenvanu. “We just cannot afford what is happening to our country.”

Disaster capitalism

Also reeling from a category five storm, Hurricane Irma, Barbudan demonstrators demanded accountability of relief funds they said their government had yet to deliver.

The tiny island’s tradition of communal land ownership is under threat, with Robert De Niro among foreign investors hoping to secure a slice of tropical paradise.

Unorthodox opinion of the week

In the US, it is notoriously difficult to advance any kind of “conservative” climate action, with the Republican party deeply in denial.

Surprising, then, to see a broadly libertarian think-tank backing one of the most aggressive strategies around: lawsuits against big oil.

This is essential reading from the Niskanen Center on how climate litigation fits into a proud conservative tradition of upholding personal property rights. It certainly sparked debate on co-founder Jerry Taylor’s Twitter feed.

Stretching for 1.5C

UK climate minister Claire Perry announced a few million pounds worth of initiatives and gave the clearest sign yet of plans to develop a net zero emissions target in line with the Paris Agreement.

The independent Committee on Climate Change will be directed to assess the implications of the 1.5C stretch target for domestic policy, she said.

In the real economy the sunshine, coupled with a healthy breeze, allowed Britain to set another record for coal-free power generation.

Africa plays hardball

As the EU and China face off over the rulebook of the Paris Agreement, typically weaker blocs like the Africa Group see an opportunity to extract concessions.

Karl Mathiesen reports on their aggressive strategy to win greater transparency on climate finance in exchange for backing the EU position on emissions monitoring.

Some readers questioned whether the headline “Africa holds EU climate agenda ransom” was fair. Here is Karl’s response. Join the conversation.

Best of the rest

  • Yet more depressing news on coral reefs: 30% of the Great Barrier Reef’s corals died in the 2016 ocean heatwave, a study has found
  • One of the European Commission’s priority energy security projects, the Midcat gas pipeline between France and Spain, makes no economic sense according to an internal report covered by Reuters
  • The EU’s highest court has ruled Poland’s logging of the Unesco-protected Białowieża forest illegal
  • Industry-friendly US environment chief Scott Pruitt is facing multiple investigations over abuse of public funds and ethics violations

Read more on: Climate politics