This weekly round-up brings you key climate news from the past seven days, including new rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions from US power plants, the devastating consequences of Asia’s historic heatwave, and Italy’s first climate lawsuit.
1. New EPA Rules to Limit GHG Emissions From Power Plants Would Avoid Up to 617mn Tonnes of CO2 by 2042
The Biden administration on Thursday unveiled a proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions from coal and gas-fired plants, marking the first time the US government has directly regulated carbon dioxide emissions from existing plants.
The proposal, more than 18 months in the making, would impose a set of emissions limits on both existing and new plants that vary according to the type of plant, how it is used, and when it is scheduled to shut down. In order to meet the new standards, power companies would need to install carbon capture and sequestration technologies, shift to low-emission hydrogen as a fuel, or to renewable sources such as wind and solar.
It comes less than a year after the US Supreme Court curbed the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate carbon emissions from existing coal- and gas-fired power plants under the landmark Clean Air Act anti-pollution law, arguing the Agency had overstepped its authority. The West Virginia v. EPA case was brought by coal companies and Republican-led states who claimed the Agency did not have the authority to regulate carbon emissions.
2. Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand Set New All-Time National Heat Records As Prolonged Asian Heatwave Concerns Scientists
A historic heatwave is sweeping across Asia, bringing record-high temperatures and threatening vulnerable populations.
On Monday, temperatures surpassed 44.1C (111.38F) in Vietnam’s Hoi Xuan for the first time in history, breaking the previous national record of 43.4C (110.3F) set in 2019. Similar records were broken in Laos’ city of Luang Prabang, which hit a historic high of 43.5C (110.3F) on Saturday, and in Thailand’s capital Bangkok, which on Sunday recorded its highest temperature ever – 41C (105.8F). Meanwhile, Cambodia, set a new national May record, with 41.6C (106.9F) readings in the Kratie province and the southern district of Ponhea Kraek.
Meanwhile, western Mediterranean regions including Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and Algeria have also been battling with record-shattering temperatures last week, which would have been “almost impossible” without climate change, according to scientists. A heatwave of this magnitude should only have about a 1-in-400 chance of occurring each year, according to World Weather Attribution.
Read more here.
3. Italian Oil Firm ENI Sued For ‘Lobbying and Greenwashing’ For More Fossil Fuels Despite Knowing the Risks
Italian energy firm ENI is facing the country’s first climate lawsuit, with environmental groups Greenpeace Italy and ReCommon and 12 Italian citizens accusing it of knowingly contributing to climate change.
ENI, Italy’s largest multinational company and one of seven “supermajor” oil firms in the world, is accused of using “lobbying and greenwashing” to push for more fossil fuels despite knowing about the risks of its products since 1970, when the firm commissioned a study that warned of the “catastrophic” risks that rising carbon dioxide could pose to the climate.
The lawsuit comes as climate impacts across Italy bring the country’s economy to its knees. Northern Italy has been battling a year-long drought in the northern Po River region that has depleted water supplies, dried up croplands, and disrupted hydroelectric power generation. After last year’s historic heatwave, an exceptionally warm and dry winter has raised concerns among scientists and environmental groups about a new, nationwide emergency.
Read more here.
4. Three-Day Chemical Plant Fire in Texas Poses Minimal Health Risk, Shell Says
The three-day fire at Shell’s Deer Park chemical plant in Texas, which began shortly before 3 p.m. on Friday and prompted the evacuation of all employees, poses minimal health risks, state officials and Shell reassured.
The blaze, reignited over the weekend after being previously extinguished, igniting toxic fuels that sent black plumes of smoke over the Houston area. The smoke was visible for miles and even from space, according to Houston meteorologists.
Nine contractors were sent to the hospital over the weekend with minor injuries due to exposure to chemicals burned in the fire but have since been resealed.
The blaze originated in a section of the plant where several chemicals used to make plastics and other products like detergent and rubber are produced, leading to the ignition of cracked heavy and light gasoil as well as gasoline, all fuels associated with respiratory issues, cancer, foetal abnormalities, and toxic to aquatic animals.
Read more here.
5. More Than 29,000 People Displaced in Alberta Wildfires
Nearly 30,000 residents throughout western Canada have been ordered to evacuate their homes in response to “unprecedented” wildfires that broke out in the province of Alberta last week.
On Saturday, the local government declared a provincial state of emergency as more than 100 wildfires spread across around 121,909 hectares (301,243 acres). On Monday, 107 active wildfires were recorded, 29 of which were classified as out of control. Hundreds of firefighters from British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario have traveled to the affected areas to assist with operations.
Improved weather conditions on Sunday facilitated evacuation operations, according to officials from the Alberta Emergency Management Agency and Alberta Wildfire. Christie Tucker, information unit manager with Alberta Wildfire, said in a press conference in Edmonton that Sunday’s scattered showers in the southern part of the province allowed firefighters to get closer to some wildfires previously deemed out of control.
Read more here.