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ECB sets up climate change centre

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The European Central Bank (ECB) has decided to set up a climate change centre to bring together the work on climate issues in different parts of the bank. This decision reflects the growing importance of climate change for the economy and the ECB’s policy, as well as the need for a more structured approach to strategic planning and co-ordination.The new unit, which will consist of around ten staff working with existing teams across the bank, will report to ECB President Christine Lagarde (pictured), who oversees the ECB’s work on climate change and sustainable finance.“Climate change affects all of our policy areas,” said Lagarde. “The climate change centre provides the structure we need to tackle the issue with the urgency and determination that it deserves.”The climate change centre will shape and steer the ECB’s climate agenda internally and externally, building on the expertise of all teams already working on climate-related topics. Its activities will be organised in workstreams, ranging from monetary policy to prudential functions, and supported by staff that have data and climate change expertise. The climate change centre will start its work in early 2021.

The new structure will be reviewed after three years, as the aim is to ultimately incorporate climate considerations into the routine business of the ECB.

  • The five work streams of the climate change centre focus on: 1) financial stability and prudential policy; 2) macroeconomic analysis and monetary policy; 3) financial market operations and risk; 4) EU policy and financial regulation; and 5) corporate sustainability.

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Major climate conference comes to Glasgow in November

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Leaders from 196 countries are meeting in Glasgow in November for a major climate conference. They are being asked to agree action to limit climate change and its effects, like rising sea levels and extreme weather. More than 120 politicians and heads of state are expected for the three-day world leaders' summit at the start of the conference. The event, known as COP26, has four main objections, or “goals”, including one that goes under the heading, 'work together to deliver' writes journalist and former MEP Nikolay Barekov.

The idea behind the fourth COP26 goals is that the world can only rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working together.

So, at COP26 leaders are encouraged to finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational) and also accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.

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Businesses are also keen to see action taken in Glasgow. They want clarity that governments are moving strongly towards achieving net-zero emissions globally across their economies.

Before looking at what four EU countries are doing to meet the fourth COP26 goal, it  is perhaps worth rewinding briefly to December 2015 when world leaders gathered in Paris to map out a vision for a zero-carbon future. The result was the Paris Agreement, an historic breakthrough in the collective response to climate change. The Agreement set long-term goals to guide all nations: limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and make efforts to hold warming to 1.5 degrees C; strengthen resilience and enhance abilities to adapt to climate impacts and direct financial investment into low emissions and climate-resilient development.

To meet these long-term goals, negotiators set out a timetable in which each country is expected to submit updated national plans every five years for limiting emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. These plans are known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs.

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Countries gave themselves three years to agree on the implementation guidelines — colloquially called the Paris Rulebook — to execute the Agreement.

This website has looked closely at what four EU member states – Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Turkey – have, and are, doing to tackle climate change and, specifically, on meeting the objectives of Goal No 4.

According to a spokesman for the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Water, Bulgaria is “over-achieved” when it comes to some climate targets at national level for 2016:

Take, for example, the share of biofuels which, according to latest estimates, accounts for some 7.3% of total energy consumption in the country’s transport sector. Bulgaria has, it is claimed, also exceeded national targets for the share of renewable energy sources in its gross final energy consumption.

Like most countries, it is being impacted by global warming and forecasts suggest that monthly temperatures are expected to increase by 2.2°C in the 2050s, and 4.4°C by the 2090s.

While some progress has been made in certain areas, much more still has to be done, according to a major 2021 study on  Bulgaria by the World Bank.

Among a long list of recommendations by the  Bank to Bulgaria is one that specifically targets Goal No 4. It urges Sophia to “increase participation of the public, scientific institutions, women and local communities in planning and management, accounting for approaches and methods of gender equity, and increase urban resilience.”

In nearby Romania, there is also a firm commitment to fighting climate change and pursuing low carbon development.

The EU's binding climate and energy legislation for 2030 requires Romania and the other 26 member states to adopt national energy and climate plans (NECPs) for the 2021-2030 period. Last October 2020, the European Commission published an assessment for each NECP.

Romania's final NECP said that more than half (51%) of Romanians expect national governments to tackle climate change.

Romania generates 3% of the EU-27's total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and reduced emissions faster than the EU average between 2005 and 2019, says the commission.

With several energy-intensive industries present in Romania, the country's carbon intensity is much higher than the EU average, but also “decreasing rapidly.”

Energy industry emissions in the country fell by 46% between 2005 and 2019, reducing the sector's share of total emissions by eight percentage points. But emissions from the transport sector increased by 40% over the same period, doubling that sector's share of total emissions.

Romania still relies to a great extent on fossil fuels but renewables, along with nuclear energy and gas are seen as essential to the transition process. Under EU effort-sharing legislation, Romania was allowed to increase emissions until 2020 and must reduce these emissions by 2% relative to 2005 by 2030. Romania achieved a 24.3% share of renewable energy sources in 2019 and the country's 2030 target of a 30.7% share is focused mainly on wind, hydro, solar and fuels from biomass.

A source at Romania’s embassy to the EU said that energy efficiency measures centre on heating supply and building envelopes along with industrial modernisation.

One of the EU nations most directly impacted by climate change is Greece which has this summer seen several devastating forest fires which have ruined lives and hit its vital tourist trade.

 Like most EU countries, Greece supports a carbon neutrality objective for 2050. Greece's climate mitigation targets are largely shaped by EU targets and legislation. Under EU effort sharing, Greece is expected to reduce non-EU ETS (emission trading system) emissions by 4% by 2020 and by 16% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

Partly in response to wildfires that burned more than 1,000 square kilometers (385 square miles) of forest on the island of  Evia and in southern Greece fires, the Greek government has recently created a new ministry to address the impact of climate change and named former European Union commissioner Christos Stylianides as minister.

Stylianides, 63, served as commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management between 2014 and 2019 and will head firefighting, disaster relief and policies to adapt to rising temperatures resulting from climate change. He said: “Disaster prevention and preparedness is the most effective weapon we have.”

Greece and Romania are the most active among European Union member states in Southeast Europe on climate change issues, while Bulgaria is still trying to catch up with much of the EU, according to a report on the implementation of the European Green Deal published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). In its recommendations on how countries can add value to the impact of the European Green Deal, the ECFR says that Greece, if it wants to establish itself as a green champion, should team up with the “less ambitious” Romania and Bulgaria, which share some of its climate-related challenges. This, the report says, could push Romania and Bulgaria to adopt best green transition practices and join Greece in climate initiatives.

Another of the four countries we’ve put under the spotlight –Turkey – has also been badly hit by the consequences of global warming, with a series of devastating floods and fires this summer. Extreme weather incidents have been on the rise since 1990, according to the Turkish State Meteorological Service (TSMS). In 2019,Turkey had 935 extreme weather incidents, the highest in recent memory,” she noted.

Partly as a direct response, the Turkish government has now introduced new measures to curb the impact of climate change, including the Fight Against Climate Change Declaration.

Again, this directly targets Goal No. 4 of the upcoming COP26 conference in  Scotland as the declaration is the result of discussions with - and contributions from - scientists and nongovernmental organizations to Turkish government efforts to address the issue.

The declaration involves an action plan for an adaptation strategy to global phenomenon, support for environmentally friendly production practices and investments, and the recycling of waste, among other steps.

On renewable energy Ankara also plans to increase electricity generation from those sources in the coming years and to set up a Climate Change Research Centre. This is designed to shape policies on the issue and conduct studies, along with a climate change platform where studies and data on climate change will be shared – again all in line with COP26’s Goal No 4.

Conversely, Turkey is yet to sign the 2016 Paris Agreement but First lady Emine Erdoğan has been a champion of environmental causes.

Erdoğan said the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has dealt a blow to the fight against climate change and that several key steps now need to be taken on the issue, from switching to renewable energy sources to cutting dependency on fossil fuels and redesigning cities.

In a nod to COP26’s fourth goal, she has also underlined that the role of individuals is more important.

Looking ahead to COP26, European commission president Ursula von der Leyen says that “when it comes to climate change and the nature crisis, Europe can do a lot”.

Speaking on 15 September in a state of the union address to MEPs, she said: “And it will support others. I am proud to announce today that the EU will double its external funding for biodiversity, in particular for the most vulnerable countries. But Europe cannot do it alone. 

“The COP26 in Glasgow will be a moment of truth for the global community. Major economies – from the US to Japan – have set ambitions for climate neutrality in 2050 or shortly after. These need now to be backed up by concrete plans in time for Glasgow. Because current commitments for 2030 will not keep global warming to 1.5°C within reach.Every country has a responsibility. The goals that President Xi has set for China are encouraging. But we call for that same leadership on setting out how China will get there. The world would be relieved if they showed they could peak emissions by mid-decade - and move away from coal at home and abroad.”

She added: “But while every country has a responsibility, major economies do have a special duty to the least developed and most vulnerable countries. Climate finance is essential for them - both for mitigation and adaptation.In Mexico and in Paris, the world committed to provide $100 billion dollars a year until 2025. We deliver on our commitment. Team Europe contributes $25bn dollars per year. But others still leave a gaping hole towards reaching the global target.”

The president went on, “Closing that gap will increase the chance of success at Glasgow. My message today is that Europe is ready to do more. We will now propose an additional €4bn for climate finance until 2027. But we expect the United States and our partners to step up too. Closing the climate finance gap together – the US and the EU – would be a strong signal for global climate leadership. It is time to deliver.”

So, with all eyes firmly fixed on Glasgow, the question for some is whether Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Turkey will help trail a blaze for the rest of Europe in tackling what many still regard as the biggest threat to mankind.

Nikolay Barekov is a political journalist and TV presenter, former CEO of TV7 Bulgaria and a former MEP for Bulgaria and former deputy chairman of the ECR group in the European Parliament.

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Copernicus: A summer of wildfires saw devastation and record emissions around the Northern Hemisphere

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The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service has been closely monitoring a summer of extreme wildfires across the Northern Hemisphere, including intense hotspots around the Mediterranean basin and in North America and Siberia. The intense fires led to new records in the CAMS dataset with the months of July and August seeing their highest global carbon emissions respectively.

Scientists from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) have been closely monitoring a summer of severe wildfires which have impacted many different countries across the Northern Hemisphere and caused record carbon emissions in July and August. CAMS, which is implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the European Commission with funding from the EU, reports that not only large parts of the Northern Hemisphere were affected during this year’s boreal fire season, but the number of fires, their persistence and intensity were remarkable.

As the boreal fire season draws to a close, CAMS scientists reveal that:

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  • Dry conditions and heatwaves in the Mediterranean contributed to a wildfire hotspot with many intense and fast developing fires across the region, which created large amounts of smoke pollution.
  • July was a record month globally in the GFAS dataset with 1258.8 megatonnes of CO2 released. More than half of the carbon dioxide was attributed to fires in North America and Siberia.
  • According to GFAS data, August was a record month for fires as well, releasing an estimated 1384.6 megatonnes of CO2 globally into the atmosphere.
  • Arctic wildfires released 66 megatonnes of CO2 between June and August 2021.
  • Estimated CO2 emissions from wildfires in Russia as a whole from June to August amounted to 970 megatonnes, with the Sakha Republic and Chukotka accounting for 806 megatonnes.

Scientists at CAMS use satellite observations of active fires in near-real-time to estimate emissions and predict the impact of resulting air pollution. These observations provide a measure of the heat output of fires known as fire radiative power (FRP), which is related to the emission. CAMS estimates daily global fire emissions with its Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS) using the FRP observations from the NASA MODIS satellite instruments. The estimated emissions of different atmospheric pollutants are used as a surface boundary condition in the CAMS forecast system, based on the ECMWF weather forecast system, which models the transport and chemistry of atmospheric pollutants, to predict how global air quality will be affected up to five days ahead.

The boreal fire season typically lasts from May to October with peak activity taking place between July and August. In this summer of wildfires, the most affected regions were:

Mediterranean

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Many nations in eastern and central Mediterranean suffered the effects of intense wildfires throughout July and August with smoke plumes clearly visible in satellite imagery and CAMS analyses and forecasts crossing the eastern Mediterranean basin. As southeast Europe experienced prolonged heatwave conditions, CAMS data showed daily fire intensity for Turkey reaching the highest levels in the GFAS dataset dating back to 2003. Following the fires in Turkey, other countries in the region went on to be affected by devastating wildfires including Greece, Italy, Albania, North Macedonia, Algeria, and Tunisia.

Fires also hit the Iberian Peninsula in August, affecting vast parts of Spain and Portugal, especially a large area near Navalacruz in the Avila province, just west of Madrid. Extensive wildfires were also registered east of Algiers in northern Algeria, CAMS GFAS forecasts showing high surface concentrations of the polluting fine particulate matter PM2.5.

Siberia

While the Sakha Republic in northeastern Siberia typically experiences some degree of wildfire activity every summer, 2021 has been unusual, not just in size but also the persistence of high-intensity blazes since the beginning of June. A new emissions record was set on 3rd August for the region and emissions were also more than double the previous June to August total. In addition, the daily intensity of the fires reached above average levels since June and only began to subside in early September. Other areas affected in Siberia have been the Chukotka Autonomous Oblast (including parts of the Arctic Circle) and the Irkutsk Oblast. The increased activity observed by CAMS scientists corresponds with increased temperatures and decreased soil moisture in the region.

North America

Large scale wildfires have been burning in western regions of North America throughout July and August affecting several Canadian provinces as well as the Pacific Northwest and California. The so-called Dixie Fire which raged across northern California is now one of the biggest ever recorded in the state’s history. Resulting pollution from the persistent and intense fire activity affected the air quality for thousands of people in the region. CAMS global forecasts also showed a mixture of smoke from the long-running wildfires burning in Siberia and North America travelling across the Atlantic. A clear plume of smoke was seen moving across the north Atlantic and reaching western parts of the British Isles in late August before crossing the rest of Europe. This happened as Saharan dust was travelling in the opposite direction across the Atlantic including a section over southerly areas of the Mediterranean resulting in reduced air quality. 

Mark Parrington, Senior Scientist and wildfire expert at the ECMWF Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, said: “Throughout the summer we have been monitoring wildfire activity across the Northern Hemisphere. What stood out as unusual were the number of fires, the size of the areas in which they were burning, their intensity and also their persistence. For example, the wildfires in Sakha Republic in northeastern Siberia have been burning since June and only started receding in late August although we have been observing some continuing fires in early September. It’s a similar story in North America, parts of Canada, the Pacific Northwest and California, which have been experiencing large wildfires since the end of June and beginning of July and are still ongoing.”

“It is concerning that drier and hotter regional conditions - brought about by global warming - increase the flammability and fire risk of vegetation. This has led to very intense and fast-developing fires. While the local weather conditions play a role in the actual fire behaviour, climate change is helping provide the ideal environments for wildfires. More fires around the world are anticipated in the coming weeks, too, as the fire season in the Amazon and South America continues to develop,” he added.

More information on wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere during summer 2021.

The CAMS Global Fire Monitoring page can be accessed here.

Find out more about fire monitoring in the CAMS Wildfire Q&As.

Copernicus is a component of the European Union’s space programme, with funding by the EU, and is its flagship Earth observation programme, which operates through six thematic services: Atmosphere, Marine, Land, Climate Change, Security and Emergency. It delivers freely accessible operational data and services providing users with reliable and up-to-date information related to our planet and its environment. The programme is coordinated and managed by the European Commission and implemented in partnership with the Member States, the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), EU Agencies and Mercator Océan, amongst others.

ECMWF operates two services from the EU’s Copernicus Earth observation programme: the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) and the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). They also contribute to the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS), which is implemented by the EU Joint Research Council (JRC). The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) is an independent intergovernmental organisation supported by 34 states. It is both a research institute and a 24/7 operational service, producing and disseminating numerical weather predictions to its member states. This data is fully available to the national meteorological services in the member states. The supercomputer facility (and associated data archive) at ECMWF is one of the largest of its type in Europe and member states can use 25% of its capacity for their own purposes.

ECMWF is expanding its location across its member states for some activities. In addition to an HQ in the UK and Computing Centre in Italy, new offices with a focus on activities conducted in partnership with the EU, such as Copernicus, will be located in Bonn, Germany from Summer 2021.


The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service website.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service website. 

More information on Copernicus.

The ECMWF website.

Twitter:
@CopernicusECMWF
@CopernicusEU
@ECMWF

#EUSpace

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Executive Vice President Timmermans holds High-Level Climate Change Dialogue with Turkey

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Executive Vice President Timmermans received Turkish Environment and Urbanisation Minister Murat Kurum in Brussels for a high-level dialogue on climate change. Both the EU and Turkey experienced extreme impacts of climate change during the summer, in the form of wildfires and floods. Turkey has also seen the largest ever outbreak of ‘sea snot' in the Marmara Sea – overgrowth of microscopic algae caused by water pollution and climate change. In the wake of these climate change-induced events, Turkey and the EU discussed areas where they could advance their climate cooperation, in the pursuit of achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. Executive Vice-President Timmermans and Minister Kurum exchanged views on urgent actions required to close the gap between what is needed and what is being done in terms of cutting emissions down to net-zero by mid-century, and thereby keep the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement within reach. They discussed carbon pricing policies as an area of common interest, considering the forthcoming establishment of an Emissions Trading System in Turkey and the revision of the EU Emissions Trading System. Adaptation to climate change also featured high on the agenda along with nature-based solutions to counter climate change and biodiversity loss. You can watch their common press remarks here. More information on the High-Level Dialogue here.

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