tv Dateline London BBC News October 26, 2020 3:30am-4:01am GMT
supporters of rewriting chile's constitution have won a resounding victory in sunday's referendum. with almost all ballots counted, 78% of people voted in favour of a new charter. the country's president — sebastian pinera — acknowledged the result and praised chileans for a peaceful and orderly vote. coronavirus measures are hardening across europe as countries struggle with rising infections. spain's prime minister has announced a national emergency and imposed a night—time curfew. all bars and restaurants in italy will close from 6pm on monday. and france has seen a record number of cases. the belarusian president, alexander lu kashenko, has defied an ultimatum set by the opposition which called on him to step down orface a general strike. on sunday, riot police fired stun grenades at demonstrators in the capital, minsk, as long—term anti—government demonstrations continued.
now on bbc news — it's time for dateline london. hello and welcome to the programme that brings together some of the uk's leading commentators, bbc specialists, and the foreign correspondents whose stories are published back home — dateline london. we're devoting this week's programme to climate change and the human, political efforts to tackle it. joining me this week, isabel hilton, who established china dialogue, an independent organisation trying to increase awareness of environmental threats and opportunities. henry chu is london editor for the los angeles times. la a city which has experienced its own climate challenge in recent months. with me in the studio, at a suitable distance, the bbc‘s chief environment
correspondent, justin rowlatt. hello, justin, thank you. and thank you all for being with us on dateline. whether or not you accept that changes to the climate have been driven by the industry of man or not, you can't be indifferent to the consequences. if crop yields become less predictable, everybody‘s food gets more expensive. if the temperature range grows but the change in heat and cold is more erratic than it once was, everyone‘s life is affected. yes, if the arctic ice melts it could open up new, faster sea routes, an opportunity for trade, but as ice turns to water so sea levels and coastal communities may have to move or disappear. for half—an—hour, let's forget covid—19, brexit, and all. trying to mitigate the impact of climate change is the biggest challenge us or any of our political leaders will ever face. so how are they doing? let me start with you, isabel, and the question of china. president xijinping made a fairly dramatic commitment, carbon neutrality by 2060 and it seemed to catch many
observers by surprise. how big a deal with this announcement and how big a risk for china? well, it is quite a big deal. in the end, that was the way china was going to have to go but they hadn't actually come out and said it. i think the choice of the un general assembly, when he was in the same session with donald trump, was no doubt one of the factors that made him decide to make that announcement there because obviously, the contrast very much favoured china. that said, there were two targets. there was one which was pretty much what was on the table in paris five years ago, which was to peak china's emissions by 2030 or earlier. that is a very loose target. almost all experts agree that china could peak by 2022, so they have given themselves an eight—year margin.
carbon neutrality by 2060 is the longer term and more challenging target because that is the transformative target. that is saying, we are going to transform our energy systems, our industrial systems, pretty much every aspect of life needs to decarbonise. and that, like any long—term target, is ambitious but what counts is the trajectory. how you are going to get there and now the planning is ongoing about how china is going to get there, so people will be scrutinising things like the upcoming 14th five—year plan for clues as to how that is really going to happen. so, it was a surprise but i have to say that it has been really consistent with the direction that china has taken in climate policy for the past ten years because china, for the last ten years, has understood a number of things. one, china is highly vulnerable. two, the industrial model
of high emissions was wearing out, so china needed to move up the value chain, so the identified low carbon technologies as the opportunity. that was going to be the markets that they could dominate. that gave them a direct interest in the global process, in a carbon constrained world because they are the suppliers. thirdly, working on their own emissions reduction scenario, so there has been very logical and very consistent effort for the past ten years, despite the fact that china remains the world's biggest carbon emitter and will be for some time, i'm pretty sure. in terms of that transition, justin, the language president xijinping used, carbon neutrality, not climate neutrality. so things like methane not covered. but at the moment, 60% of its electricity comes from coal. it is in autocracy. even allowing for the fact that it can pull levers democracies struggle with, it is a phenomenal process to even set a deadline,
let alone achieve it. it is. what's interesting about this announcement was that it was unconditional. it didn't come during an international discussion about setting ta rgets. it came on its own, it was a surprise to most world leaders and i think that tells us something really interesting about why china has decided to do this now. as isabel said, it clearly analysed the impact of climate change on china. it's also, for a long time, has been recognised that low carbon technologies are a huge potential future market, but i think it's also seeing that the economics of challenging climate change are beginning to change and we may be at the point, a pivot point, it is all quite speculative. we may be at the pivot point where renewable energy is cheaper than any other source of energy, so we saw the international energy agency say this week that the best solar power systems are the cheapest system anywhere in history.
equally, bp, when it analysed the future of energy, said that under all scenarios, even if we have business as usual, it predicts a massive increase in renewable power. in fact, it expects renewable power to be the fastest growing power in the history of humanity. so some strong indicators that renewables are getting cheaper and may be the cheapest source of fuel. at that point, think about it. that's what you would invest in, so suddenly all the energy of investment goes into renewable energy and other forms of energy fall away and that is what i think china is seeing may be happening in the next couple of years, at which point they are very well placed to seize a huge potential. interesting, bp once called itself british petroleum, but would not be wise to focus on that these days. henry, bringing you in as
an american journalist that... worked for a paper in a city that suffered extremes this year alone. isabel was talking about the technological investment that china has already made and the stats on this are quite dramatic. some figures suggesting that 72% of all solar modules are made in china, nearly 70% production of lithium batteries, 45% of all wind turbines, never mind all the minerals that it has, the contracts that control much of their refining. all of that put together, that is a political challenge for whoever is president in the us in the coming years. if they control the mechanisms needed to supply these new forms of energy, they have a lot of political clout that once was with the oil producing nations. that's right. despite the fact that we have a denier in chief in office still in the white house, i would say that the us is still up there when it comes
to doing research on renewable energy sources and the technology available. the us is still fairly world beating when it comes to that kind of technology production. in terms of china's own investment in that, i think there is no doubt, is both isabel and justin were saying, that its investment is consonant with its own economic development goals, it wants to be the world—beater when it comes to this industry of renewable energy sources, not just for its own development internally, but in terms of its exports and how it has its economic footprint around the world. but we should also not let china off the hook entirely in the sense that its economic development is demanding more coal fire plants, it is ordering many of those still in the near future. this long—term goal is a good one. but if we look immediately as to what's ahead, it's still relying on some of these very polluting energy sources that we know are part of the problem, so i would be a little bit more moderate in my praise of china at the moment.
in terms of its authoritarian system and how it is going about this, you know, authoritarian systems look attractive when they pursue the goals that we want them to pursue and we believe are laudable. they can easily change on a dime and are prone to corruption and cover—ups that more open and democratic systems are not, so we still need to keep our eye on the ball and on china as it pursues this ambitious goal. isabel, do you want to pick up on what henry says and could you perhaps remind us of the vulnerabilities that you were talking about as well and therefore perhaps the other things that must be on president xi's mind, not just the economic and political opportunities, but also the cost if china doesn't do this. absolutely. i agree with henry that we're still seeing far too coal, not only in china where it would seem that there is going to still be coal
in the next five year plan, despite the targets, but we're also seeing china build coal outside china and that is really serious. china shouldn't be doing that. part of the belt and road energy investment, part of it is in fossil fuels, a lot of it is in coal. encouragingly, some host countries are beginning to reject those coal fired power stations but there is no moral case for building coal in third countries. as far as the autocracy question goes, some of the most ambitious climate targets are in democracies. the european union's targets are more ambitious than china's. granted, the european union is at a different stage of development but nevertheless, it's not the case that you need to be an autocracy to understand about climate change and to initiate an energy revolution. you can do it through all sorts of mechanisms and levers and what's required is political will. china was quite slow to get the political will together
on this, partly because this is slightly odd, but as a signatory of the kyoto protocol, as a developing country, china was not obliged to take action on climate change, because the kyoto protocol essentially said, rich countries caused this and they have a greater capacity and greater means to address it. so the first obligation is to them and that was one of the united states's objections to the kyoto protocol, so china wasn't obliged to take drastic action but nevertheless, when china became the world's biggest emitter, they began to think, oh no, this is trouble. this is trouble diplomatically, it's not a good look when poor countries are going to suffer and china likes to position itself as a champion of the poor, but if you look at china, china has extreme environmental stress. north china is chronically short of water. south china is chronically
prone to floods. all the major developments are in delta cities, which are completely vulnerable to sea rise, so if you think of shanghai, if you think of all that sophisticated development, the pearl river delta which is going to be china's high—tech hope, that is a low—lying delta conglomerate, so china gets that. china knows that its promise of a prosperous future is very much at risk because it is so vulnerable to climate change. it saw what happened when manhattan got flooded by super storm sandy. it saw what happened when hurricane katrina struck florida. they get it, so those vulnerabilities are what they are trying to hedge against by being proactive, both in their industrial policy and, by the way, it is china's ability to manufacture its scale and that decision to invest in renewables which made these
solar panels cheap. justin talked quite rightly about the fact that renewables are now cheaper than fossil fuels. that is because china chose to invest heavily and has manufactured them with china's characteristic efficiency and brought the price down by 80%. that is transformative. henry, let's talk about the united states. you mentioned what is happening at the moment of the climate denier in the white house as you put it. the debate came up on thursday as the two men clashed for their final televised presidential debate, what would be different ifjoe biden were to become the next us president? well, the list goes on and on but certainly certainly, at least he accepts the science of climate change is caused by humans and has a plan to tackle it beyond what trump has put forward, which is essentially
a tree planting initiative, which is nice, but really is no cigar when it comes to trying to stopping climate change. joe biden has put forward a $2 trillion plan to be spent over the next four years that would try to put the us on the path to and ambitious target as well as being net emission zero by 2050. that is fairly ambitious target, as i said, and whether it is reachable or not is another story, but at least there is a vision there to put the us on this track. we can't forget that he was vice president to barack 0bama, who put in a lot of rules to help reduce emissions, to cut down on methane from the oil and gas sectors, all of which have been rolled back by this administration. the trump administration has reversed 100 different environmental rules that were put in mostly during the 0bama era and is trying to do more even in these last few days, if they should lose the election and be evicted from the white house. biden's deal doesn't go so far
as many progressives would like. there is the green new deal that has been put forward by younger democrats that he has not embraced, including the fact that he has not put a ban on fracking, which although it has made the us more energy self—sufficient, has come with its own cost. so he is not off the hook entirely when it comes to having green credentials. but what he is proposing goes much further than the current administration and if trump were to be re—elected, which is still entirely possible of course, even though biden is ahead in the national polls, we would see further rollbacks of environmental regulations, further transparency reductions in terms of what the federal government can do, and therefore a further hastening of the very disasters that many of the forecast is put before us. but the emphasis that henry was making there on the federal, on what donald trump could do, but presumably, the last four years, there have been a lot of activities at state and city level.
yes but there's a limit as to what that can achieve. i think we should emphasise the difference that a biden victory would make. just think about what that means. so, we have europe with an already ambitious carbon cutting agenda, china saying it is signing up as well and obviously we had that ambiguity over the next decade about how quickly it is going to do it but as isabel said, they have the potential to be much more ambitious here and they are holding back the promise of what they will do in the 20205. if biden is then elected and does pursue this very aggressive carbon cutting agenda that he has got, hold on a second, what have we got there? we have america, china and europe all pursuing aggressive carbon cutting agendas. that is 50% of world emissions, that's more than half of world gdp, on the side of cutting carbon. both europe and america under biden have said that they would introduce carbon tariffs to penalise high emitting countries if they tried to sell high carbon goods in their markets, so you have quite a good mechanism therefore encouraging other
nations to come on board. so again, i'm an environment correspondent, it's very odd for us to be optimistic. you spend all your time explaining why campaigners think it is not enough. normally you would, but here we have the three largest economies in eyes saying they will potentially get behind this agenda and that is a significant moment for the world, so i think there is an opportunity for a nugget of optimism here because that would make a huge difference to the narrative of cutting carbon globally. isabel, it's worth reminding ourselves that if oil is no longer king and the debate and the battle between the countries who have it and those who need it, no longer is in the way it once did. that could change global politics quite significantly. it's a complete game changer geostrategically. you know... can ijust pick up
onjoe biden and fracking? he may well think that the market will take care of that, one of the complete anomalies of the trump position is that he is thrown money at trying to keep coal alive. coal is dying and it is dying because the market no longer supports it. fracking, there is a saying about fracking. .. there is a saying that when they are making $50, they are hurting and less they are dying. so, when the oil price is at $30 a barrel, it all depends on the oil price. fracking will simply become more of a ponzi scheme then it is right now. at the moment, it is borrowing to keep going and it is really not making money, so it may welljust die off. the question of the geostrategic interest is a really interesting one because if you have your wind farm, you have your energy supply at a predictable price, no more oil shocks, nobody can cut off your vital energy supply. it's a degree
of energy security. that's extremely appealing if you think rationally about it. most of the countries that are the most vigorous delayers or obstructors in this whole process are oil producing states because they reason that they have the most to lose, particularly russia, but a lot of those states could become renewable superpowers. they could sell renewable energy perfectly happily and they could power their own economies with renewable energy, so they are not going to be total losers. if they embrace the future, which some of them are doing, and some of them are simply resisting, but in geostrategic sense, if you think of the money and the lives that have been lost in trying to dominate the middle east, that will completely change. that's an interesting point, henry, isn't it? because in a sense, this is democratising the whole energy field because suddenly,
if it is renewable, every country has energy, every country has the potential at least to generate its own energy. it might need to supplement it from elsewhere. notwithstanding natural gas, which presumably will remain politicised but that could shift who has power in the world. it wasjimmy carter who said that nobody can ever embargo the sun or disrupt its delivery to us and that's true. once you are reliant on sun or wind power, that is a supply that you don't have to worry about being cut off by unruly neighbours or your enemies. in terms of there being a geopolitical shift, i agree that we could even be seeing a peace dividend, because there is no doubt that the pursuit of oil and access to oil has distorted foreign policy to the point of war in the 20th century. we have seen a lot of lives lost, as isabel said, and even now, when you think of flashpoints in the middle east, for example the strait of hormuz through which so much of the oil passes that is exported, once there is no longer that dependence on that
sector, some of those actual flashpoints then are reduced significantly in terms of their capacity to be the place where conflict erupts. so we could be seeing something happening there, but i think we also need to be a little bit savvy about what happens to these oil producing countries, particularly in north africa where if there are the shocks to their system, where they are no longer pulling on the revenues they were expecting and relying on, there could be further destabilisation in some of these places. in russia even, where if they are exposed to these kind of shocks and unprepared, we have to remember that, even in the 1980s, the drop in oil prices actually was a contributing factor to the collapse of the soviet union. so these states that are heavily reliant do need to prepare, so that we can actually reap this peace dividend that i mentioned earlier.
peace dividend in some places, i guess those other precious resources in some places, the shortage of water in north china for example, one thinks of the nile in north africa and we are seeing the seeds of conflict over that precious resource. that vital question for life of a reliable supply of water. but in terms of how politicians make the case to the public, something has changed, hasn't it? we had a lot of, what you might say, bromides offered, don't worry, technology will sort it. don't worry, you don't need to suffer to be part of this new climate friendly shift. now we're seeing a situation where we might be reaching a place where consumers can get all the benefits and not make the sacrifices that politically they might not be prepared to vote for. it's early days but it does seem to be a pivot point in the renewable energy, in many parts of the world it may be the cheapest source of energy, and which point, investment flows naturally towards it.
in britain we are at that point. there was an announcement by borisjohnson who said that he wanted to be the saudi arabia of wind. now, we can discuss whether getting danes to erect german wind turbines is really the equivalent. but the point was interesting because he announced a $200 million investment, not a huge amount of money, and he said by 2030, we would have enough wind turbines off the coast of britain to generate more than half the current power that we use in britain. how on earth did he think £160 million? building a new nuclear power station it costs billions of pounds which will only supply 7% of uk energy. what's happening there is that it is now almost, people don't need any subsidy to build new wind turbines. soon, they may even pay us for access to the continental shelf, so you see a huge shift, and if that continues around
the world and we continue to invest, as isabel said, we have seen an 80% reduction in solar and wind technologies. we know that manufacturing process and the history of china's manufacturing, has shown that it drives down costs significantly. the evidence is very strong that that has happened in renewables and there is no suggestion that that learning curve, as you might describe it, is flattening out, so we could expect it to continue to fall. so it gets more and more competitive, more and more of the worlds of finance is drawn into it and you could see a really accelerating investment in this technology, to the point where it might outcompete existing, shale gas, coal. you might find that the ledger is all in favour of renewables and against fossil fuels that doesn't require government intervention whatsoever. this is a perverse programme because usually, people like to end programmes on a positive note after a doom—laden discussion. we are slightly the other way around. we have had a very positive
discussion and it is good to be able to talk about the range of policy options, the ideas, the political leadership, public interest that seems to be coming together in this area. let me ask you each finally and briefly, isabel first of all, what worries you most about this moment that we have reached about tackling climate change and how we are prepared to deal with it? i think — i think we look at this problem upside down. we look at the cost of action rather than the cost of doing nothing on the fallacy that if we change nothing, nothing changes. if we do nothing, as the stern review pointed out back in 2005, we are heading for a catastrophe. secondly, i worry that we are not going to look after the losers. there will be losers. coal miners in shanxi and kentucky are losers. for this to be a fair transition and one that is positive, we do need to look after them and finally, there is the last mile
problem in climate change. the energy transition is under way. but there is, in any scenario... sorry, isabel we are very tight for time. henry, briefly. i look at the number of people who have already been displaced because of climate change around the world and this is only going to increase even if we are hitting targets. when you see governments already turning inward and becoming protectionist, becoming antiforeigner, i am afraid that this could become worse. we are at evens at the moment as to whether this will be the hottest year ever in recorded history. that is a very worrying sign of just how serious climate changes. justin, isabel and henry, thank you so much. and thank you for watching. that's it for this week. geeta guru—murthy in the dateline chair at the same time next week. goodbye.
hello, it was a very wet weekend, persistent rain on saturday gave way to subterranean showers on sunday, it stays unsettled through this week as well, it will be windy, there will be heavy rain at times, but after a rather cool started will turn a little bit milder later in the week. as far as monday goes, quite a few showers around once again, some happy with some hail and thunder mixed in. the showers will tend to migrate eastward through the days are western parts of the uk may dry out a little bit by the afternoon. winds easing across scotland, it stays quite blustery elsewhere, temperatures ranging from 10 degrees in the north and western isles to 11; degrees
in the south—west of england, and then as we had through monday night, the showers will continue to fade, the area of low pressure responsible to drift out into the north sea, there is a brief dry interlude with clear skies, the odd fog patch, rather cool started tuesday but that amount of rain sweeps in from the west so wet weather for most on tuesday, when the strength and once again, and it stays unsettled for the rest of the week.
welcome to bbc news — i'm aaron safir. our top stories: chile decides on a new future in a resounding vote — the people choose to re—write the country's constitution. fighting the latest surge — spain and italy introduce new emergency measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus. translation: the freedom of movement of people is prohibited from 11pm to 6am throughout the country. it will only be possible to circulate in this timezone for the justified reasons established in the regulation. a special forces unit detains a group of stowaways who threatened the crew of a tanker off the uk's south coast. police in belarus fire stun grenades at protesters calling for the resignation of president