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The EU’s Clean Energy Mega-Plan: This Week’s 11 Biggest Climate Stories

At a press conference last week, the European Commission unveiled a new package of clean energy measures. Photo: European Commission
At a press conference last week, the European Commission unveiled a new package of clean energy measures. Photo: European Commission

Things are moving quickly as our planet makes the transition to a new, clean economy. You want to stay in the loop – but you’re busy, that’s why we keep an eye on the headlines for you!

Welcome to the 6 December 2016 edition of the Daily Planet’s weekly State Of The Planet with some of the biggest stories about climate change this week. Don’t hesitate to send your tips and comments to @peter_koekoek or

1. You can watch the extraordinary acceleration of urbanisation in one short video.

Some 75 per cent of the world’s population is expected to live in cities by 2030. The rapid acceleration of this trend becomes especially apparent when it is visualised, the Daily Planet reports.

2. The EU has announced a ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’ mega-plan that could create 900,000 jobs.

The European Commission has put forward a ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’ package of energy laws and regulations to help Europe implement the Paris climate accord, the Daily Planet reports. Up to €177 billion in public and private investment could be mobilised every year from 2021 to support the measures, according to the Commission. The new proposals could generate up to 1 per cent increase in GDP over the next decade and create 900,000 new jobs.

Not everyone thinks the EU executive’s proposals go far enough, and renewable energy producers and environmental organisations are calling on the European Parliament and EU member states to further strengthen rather than weaken the proposals as they make their way through the European Union’s legislature, the Guardian reports.

3. Europe and China are leading a stunning growth spurt in the green bonds market.

Green bonds, seen as a key instrument to help fund the EU’s new clean energy plans, have been subject to extraordinary global growth, the Daily Planet reports. A new European Commission study released last week says the issuance of green bonds globally has risen from $2.6 billion during 2012 to $74.3 billion in 2016 so far. European and Chinese issuers make up the largest share of the climate-aligned bonds market globally according to the EU study. Within the European Union, France and the UK are the biggest issuers followed by Germany and the Netherlands.

4. An epic Game of Thrones parody is taking on plastic bottle pollution.

A new sustainability-themed advertisement parodies one of the most iconic scenes from the hit HBO series Game of Thrones and is going viral, the Daily Planet reports.

5. With fact-checking in the spotlight, so is the media’s reporting on climate change.

This year’s political developments in Europe and the US have sparked a global debate about fake news on social media, but also about the accuracy of reporting by legitimate news organisations. Although climate change has suffered from disinformation for years, coverage has actually improved. But the recent debate has thrust the issue back into the spotlight.

Last week, for example, Republicans in the US House of Representatives tweeted an article by a right-wing US website that alleged: “Global Temperatures Plunge. Icy Silence from Climate Alarmists,” the Guardian reports. The story linked to a British tabloid which claimed that global land temperatures were plummeting and that humans were not responsible for years of steadily increasing heat.

But climate scientists and science writers soon debunked the stories, Christian Science Monitor reports: “Researchers, science writers, and bloggers have slammed the media report since it first appeared in the British Tabloid The Daily Mail on Sunday.”

It’s not just the science of climate change that is being debated. On 29 November, the New York Times published an article headlined “Despite Climate Change Vow, China Pushes to Dig More Coal.” But Greenpeace responded with a fact check, saying China is actually mining less coal, not more.

6. ‘European venture capitalists are going to make flying cars a reality.’

So said a headline by TechCrunch yesterday. The website reports that European venture firm Atomico has invested €10 million in the electrical vertical take-off and landing plane company Lilium Aviation, a German start-up supported by Climate-KIC. The funding is intended to help develop the company into a manufacturer of a commuter alternative to helicopters and traditional planes, according to TechCrunch.

7. Christiana Figueres is back: The former UN climate chief will help lead a coalition of 7000 mayors.

Her remarkable, optimistic leadership style has been credited with helping deliver the historic Paris climate accord. Now, Christiana Figueres helps lead the global coalition of mayors who want to see it implemented, the Daily Planet reports. Last week, the Costa Rican diplomat was announced as the vice chair of the new Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.

The Financial Times also published a story on the coalition, addressing the need for making climate action a nonpolitical issue. The article concludes with Michael Bloomberg quoting Fiorello La Guardia, one of his predecessors as mayor of New York City: “There’s no Republican or Democratic way to pick up the garbage.”

8. In the US, TV finally gets on board with public transit – and that’s really important.

The way public transport is portrayed in popular culture can have a huge effect on how people perceive it. “TV and popular culture acts kind of like a force multiplier. We have visions in our heads of how we want to live. … We want to get there and it’s something to strive to,” Alex Marshall, who has written about public transportation in popular culture, told NPR.

Until recently, characters on major US shows would never be seen taking the bus or metro. “Even on iconic shows set in New York City, characters didn’t take advantage of their mass transit options. The stars of Sex and the City rode in taxis and cars. Same with Seinfeld,” an NPR article explains. But now, things have changed, and TV characters can routinely be seeing taking public transport.

9. Germany is making climate change a G20 priority, and Merkel says she will confront Trump.

The G20 summit in Hamburg next summer will be one of the first international engagements for the next US president, Donald Trump. Merkel said this week she would challenge the billionaire on his beliefs when they meet, according to Climate Home. The German government has made “securing the world against the challenges posed by climate change” one of the central pillars of its G20 presidency, Climate Home reports.

10. Google Earth’s latest update has unveiled decades of climate change.

According to a news release from Google, its latest Google Earth update uses “four additional years of imagery, petabytes of new data, and a sharper view of the Earth from 1984 to 2016,” Popular Science reports, pointing out this means it’s easier for users to not only see the effects of climate change, but also the effects of rapid human population growth.

11. Out-of-season US wildfires spark dramatic video footage of escaping residents.

Tennessee suffered its largest fire in the last hundred years last week. Dramatic videos shot by feeling residents, reminiscent of the footage that came out of Canada’s Fort McMurray earlier this year, showed flames lining the edge of the roads, the New York Times reports.

“Wildfires, once a seasonal phenomenon, have become a consistent threat, partly because climate change has resulted in drier winters and warmer springs, which combine to pull moisture off the ground and into the air,” the New York Times article explains.

Looking for something to fix?

One of these stories may just inspire your next project:

  • Coral across Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has suffered its most devastating die-off on record. Bleaching caused by warmer water has killed around 67 per cent of the coral in a previously pristine part of the reef, CNN reports.
  • 80,000 Arctic reindeer have starved to death. As climate change continues to impact the Arctic, its effects on species are starting to produce some gruesome numbers the Weather Network reports.

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