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Week in Review: Top Climate News for April 17-21

by Earth.Org Americas Asia Europe Apr 21st 20234 mins
Week in Review: Top Climate News for April 17-21

This weekly round-up brings you key climate news from the past seven days, including the final agreement reached by G7 ministers in Sapporo, Japan, details about the EU’s newly approved and extremely ambitious climate agenda, and Germany’s plan to ban gas and oil heating systems by next year.

1. G7 Ministers Set Big Targets for Wind and Solar Expansion, Fail to Provide Coal Exit Timeline

G7 environment ministers on Sunday agreed to accelerate the transition to renewable energy, committing to a rapid expansion of solar and wind energy, but failing to provide a concrete timeline for fossil fuel phaseout, which climate experts insist is needed to limit global warming.

In the official communiqué agreed upon at the end of the two-day summit in Sapporo, Japan, the Group of Seven ministers from the world’s largest economies pledged to expand renewable energy globally while cutting costs, and committed to an offshore wind capacity increase of 150 gigawatts and an increase of solar to more than 1 terawatt by 2030.

On coal, the ministers reaffirmed their commitment to “fully or predominantly” decarbonise the power sector by 2035, calling on other countries to phase out new unabated coal-fired power generation projects “as soon as possible” but stopping short of endorsing a 2030 deadline that Canada and other countries had campaigned for.

They also endorsed gas investments, as long as they are “implemented in a manner consistent with our climate objectives and without creating lock-in effects,” citing the benefits of such investments in addressing shortfalls provoked by the energy crisis. Energy-poor Japan said it plans to keep liquified natural gas (LNG) as a transition fuel for at least a decade.

Read more here.

2. Environmental Groups Sue EU Over Green Label for Gas and Nuclear

Greenpeace and other campaign groups are taking the European Commission to the European Court of Justice on Tuesday over the bloc’s decision to label nuclear energy and natural gas as climate-friendly investments.

The Taxonomy Delegated Act, which entered into force on January 1, was approved last July after the European Parliament voted to designate natural gas and nuclear as environmentally sustainable energy sources. 278 MEPs voted against the Commission’s proposal – falling short of the absolute majority of 353 MEPs needed to veto it.

It is not the first time that the EU has faced a legal challenge over the controversial decision.

In October, Austria submitted a lawsuit to the Court of the European Union, asking for an overturn of the contentious taxonomy. The country’s minister for climate action Leonore Gewessler described the decision as “irresponsible” and “unreasonable” and said it was “misleading” to consumers and investors to label gas – a fossil fuel responsible for climate change for its greenhouse gas emissions – as “green”.

Read more here.

3. EU Approves Overhaul of Bloc’s Biggest Climate Policies to Reach 2030 Targets

The European Parliament on Tuesday approved three sweeping pieces of legislation to make EU climate policies more ambitious, including new rules for high-carbon goods imports and a reform of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), despite resistance from the French Green Party and other MEPs who warned it would spark public opposition to rising energy costs.

The deals approved on Tuesday are part of the “Fit for 55 in 2030 package”, the bloc’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by the end of the decade compared to 1990 levels, in line with the European Climate Law.

Read more here.

4. Germany to Ban New Oil and Gas Heating Systems From 2024

After 30 hours of negotiations, Germany’s ruling coalition on Tuesday approved a controversial bill to ban new oil and gas heating systems from 2024, which instead will have to be operated with 65% renewable energy. The bill, which was heavily criticised by opposition parties who claimed it would impose “incalculable costs” on low- and middle-income homeowners, includes exceptions, transition periods, and subsidies for low-income households.

Specifically, households with oil and gas heating systems installed and running properly can continue to operate them and even repair them if defective. However, if a system has been operating for 30 years or more, owners are obliged to replace it.

The new measure will speed up the transition to heat pumps, solar panels, and hydrogen boilers powered by renewable energy. It is seen as a crucial step in cutting dependence on natural gas imports and achieving carbon neutrality by 2045.

Read more here.

5. April Heatwave Breaks Records Across Asia, Claiming Lives and Prompting School Closure

At least one-third of the world’s population is currently experiencing severe heat that has broken records across much of Asia, killing at least a dozen people in the Indian subcontinent and prompting school closures in some states.

The deadly heatwave, which climatologist and weather historian Maximiliano Herrera described as the “worst April heatwave in Asia’s history”, spans more than 12 countries across the continent and has already broken records, with several Southeast Asian countries posting their highest-ever recorded temperatures this week.

While many Asian nations are used to heatwaves this time of the year, scientists have no doubt that global warming has made them more frequent, intense, and longer in recent years. According to the World Weather Attribution, last year’s record-breaking temperatures were made at least 30 times more likely by human-induced climate change.

Read more here.

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