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Heatwaves spark record energy demand: environment roundup

  • This weekly round-up brings you some of the key environment stories from the past seven days.
  • Top stories: The Artic is heating seven times faster than the global average; heatwaves spark record energy demand across the globe; Australia ups action on climate change.

1. News in brief: Top environment and climate change stories to read this week

The Arctic is heating up seven times faster than the global average – at between 2.7C and 4C a decade – according to a new study reported in The Guardian, which found the islands in the North Barents Sea to be the fastest warming place on the planet.

More than 9 million people have been marooned across Bangladesh and northeastern India, and at least 54 people have died, after heavy monsoon rains. “The flooding is the worst in 122 years in the Sylhet region,” said Atiqul Haque, Director General of Bangladesh’s Department of Disaster Management.

Severe storms and summer rains in China have triggered flooding in cities and mudslides in rural areas. Single-storey houses were swept away in at least two counties in Guizhou province in southwestern China on 18 June, according to videos circulating on Chinese social media. The rainfall in some areas has been the heaviest in 60 years.

US President Joe Biden has called on China and other major economies to redouble their efforts to combat climate change and improve energy security, warning that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had sharpened the need for urgent action. At a virtual gathering of the Major Economies Forum, on 17 June, Biden urged countries to accelerate moves to cut methane emissions, adopt ambitious targets for zero-emission vehicles and work to clean up global shipping.

Climate change poses an urgent threat demanding decisive action. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate impacts, from droughts to floods to rising seas. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report continues to rank these environmental threats at the top of the list.

To limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, it is essential that businesses, policy-makers, and civil society advance comprehensive near- and long-term climate actions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The World Economic Forum’s Climate Initiative supports the scaling and acceleration of global climate action through public and private-sector collaboration. The Initiative works across several workstreams to develop and implement inclusive and ambitious solutions.

This includes the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a global network of business leaders from various industries developing cost-effective solutions to transitioning to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. CEOs use their position and influence with policy-makers and corporate partners to accelerate the transition and realize the economic benefits of delivering a safer climate.

Contact us to get involved.

Firefighters battled to bring raging wildfires under control in Spain on 18 June as an unseasonable heatwave pushed temperatures close to record highs. Dry and windy conditions have caused wildfires in several areas, with Zamora, near the border with Portugal, among the worst hit.

Energy executives at a Reuters conference on 15 June urged shorter-term solutions such as efficiency and conservation during the current fuel supply crunch, saying companies must scramble to meet climate targets set for 2030.

Germany’s cabinet has approved plans to require its 16 states to allocate a minimum amount of land to onshore wind farms, according to a ministry statement, as Berlin strives to meet its renewable energy targets. The legislation aims for 2% of land in Germany to be set aside for wind farms by 2032, up from 0.8% now, with an interim target of 1.4% in 2026.

2. Heatwaves spark record-breaking energy demand around the globe

Heatwaves from Texas to China have sent power demand to record levels, as homes and businesses crank up air conditioning to try to stay cool.

Energy demand has hit an all-time high in Texas, with temperatures forecast to break through 100 Fahrenheit this week. Power use soared to a preliminary 75,124 megawatts on 16 June, according Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which said it has enough resources available to meet demand.

One megawatt can power around 1,000 US homes on a typical day, but only about 200 homes on a hot summer day in Texas.

Heatwave characteristics in the United States by decade

Heatwaves are increasing in frequency in the United States.

Image: United States Environmental Protection Agency

Meanwhile, power consumption also surged in large Chinese provinces north of the Yangtze river amid warmer-than-normal weather, with regions like Henan, China’s third-most populous province, challenged by record electricity demand.

The maximum power demand load in Henan, which has a population of nearly 100 million people, set a new record of 65.34 million kilowatts on 19 June, state television reported.

And in parts of Europe, particularly France and Spain, an early summer heatwave has put pressure on energy systems as demand for air-conditioning risks driving prices higher and adding to the challenge of building up stocks to protect against any further cuts to Russian gas supplies.

3. Australia ups action on climate change

Australia’s new Labour government raised its 2030 target for cutting carbon emissions, bringing the country more in line with other developed economies’ Paris climate accord commitments.

It pledged to the United Nations that it would cut carbon emissions by 43% from 2005 levels by 2030, up from the previous conservative government’s target of between 26% and 28%. The country is one of the world’s highest per capita carbon emitters.

It comes as Western Australia announced plans to switch off its coal-fired generators by 2030 and invest A$3.8 billion ($2.63 billion) in renewables, citing an “overwhelming uptake” in rooftop solar as driving the move.

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