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Week in Review: Top Climate News for October 16-20

Week in Review: Top Climate News for October 16-20

This weekly round-up brings you key climate news from the past seven days, including the recently agreed negotiating position of the European Union at COP28, the implications of record-low water levels in the Amazon River, and a controversial referendum on Indigenous rights in Australia.

1. Amazon River Levels Hit Historic Low Amid Rapidly Worsening Brazil Drought

The Amazon River saw its lowest level since records began in 1902 on Monday amid a prolonged drought that has left countless Indigenous communities stranded without fuel, food, and drinking water in recent weeks.

Authorities in the Brazilian state of Amazonas reported a new low record near the port of Manaus, where the Rio Negro and the Amazon River – the largest river by volume and the second-longest in the world, meet. On Monday, water levels at the port fell to 13.59 metres (44.6ft), four metres below last year’s level and the lowest in more than a century, breaking the previous all-time low record set in 2010. 

“We have never seen anything like this. It is the worst drought in history,” said Amazonas governor Wilson Lima.

Read more here.

2. Australia Overwhelmingly Rejects Plan to Give Greater Rights to Indigenous People in Divisive Referendum

A plan to enshrine an Indigenous voice to parliament in Australia’s 122-year-old constitution and address centuries of abuse and neglect has been overwhelmingly rejected in a referendum on Saturday.

Conceived by Indigenous leaders to address growing disparities in their communities, the so-called ‘Voice to Parliament’ proposal to create an advocacy committee to offer advice to parliament on policies that directly affect Indigenous Australians was rejected by more than 60% of voters and across all six states.

Albanese’s Labor Party, the left-wing Greens Party, some independent lawmakers as well as several religious, ethno-religious, and welfare groups all supported the referendum, which has sparked reflections on Australia’s colonial legacy.

Read more here.

3. EU Member States Approve ‘Ambitious’ COP28 Negotiating Position Despite Failing to Agree on New Emissions Reduction Target

EU environment ministers on Monday approved the bloc’s negotiating position at the upcoming COP28 summit in Dubai, agreeing to push for a “fully or predominantly decarbonised global power system” in the next decade with “no room for new coal power.”

The 27 member countries also agreed to push for a phase-out of unabated fossil fuels and an end to fossil fuel subsidies, all prerequisites for a net-zero future. The word “unabated” is highly controversial among environmentalists, as many believe it leaves room for continues fossil fuel production and usage through carbon capture and storage technology. In a statement, the Council said it recognises that cost-effective emissions reduction measures are readily available, though carbon capture technologies are still limited and “should not be used to delay climate action.”

Read more here.

4. Antarctica Lost 7.5tn Tonnes of Ice Since 1997, Study Finds

More than 40% of Antarctica’s ice shelves have been steadily shrinking since 1997, with almost half of them showing no sign of recovery, a new study has found.

The alarming discovery by researchers at the University of Leeds is a red flag, signalling a critical turning point in the ongoing battle against global warming. The findings depict that a place, once considered impervious to change, is now revealing the stark reality of our climate crisis. 

The team of scientists behind the study embarked on a daring mission to explore the dynamics of Antarctica’s ice shelves. What they uncovered is nothing short of alarming: from 1997 to 2021, the continent lost a staggering 7.5 trillion metric tonnes of ice. While the eastern part of Antarctica experienced a gain of 59 trillion tonnes, the western region suffered a catastrophic loss of 67 trillion tonnes. 

Read more here.

5. Current World Electricity Grids Too Weak to Sustain Energy Transition, IEA Warns

Reaching national climate targets and putting the world on track to net zero emissions by 2050 will require huge efforts in improving global electricity grids which, in their current state, are not deemed suitable to support the energy transition, a new study has suggested.

In a first-of-its-kind, country-by-country analysis on the state of the world’s electricity grids published Tuesday, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said major investments were needed to upgrade what is considered the “backbone of today’s electricity systems.” According to the Agency, approximately 80 million kilometres (50 million miles) of electricity grids worldwide need to be added or refurbished by 2040, the rough equivalent of doubling the entire existing global power infrastructure.

The report also encourages countries to double annual investments in electricity grids – which the IEA says have been stagnant for over a decade – to more than US$600 billion each year by 2030. According to the study, delays in grid reform would lead to a “substantial” increase in carbon dioxide emissions, slowing down the energy transition and effectively putting the Paris Agreement goal out of reach. 

Read more here.

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