DeBriefed 17 November 2023: Countries fail 1.5C test; US and China agree on renewables; Why runners care about climate change


Welcome to Carbon Brief’s DeBriefed. 
An essential guide to the week’s key developments relating to climate change.

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Behind on 1.5C 

UN REPORT: A new UN report examining the progress countries have made to slash their emissions under the Paris Agreement, published last Tuesday, said that global pollution is set to fall just 2% below 2019 levels by 2030, Reuters reported. Under countries’ current “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs), “emissions can be expected to rise 9% above 2010 levels by the end of this decade”, Reuters noted. This falls short of what is needed to stay below 1.5C, it added. 

‘BIG IF’: The Financial Times wrote that the expected emissions reduction is “slightly better” than the 11% by 2030 rise above 2010 levels laid out in last year’s assessment. Nevertheless, it quoted UN secretary-general António Guterres saying NDCs were “strikingly misaligned with the science”. The New York Times emphasised that even the relatively modest reductions in emissions outlined in the report will only happen “if every country does what it has promised to rein in global warming, and that’s a big if”.

WRI REPORT: The World Resources Institute’s “state of climate action 2023” report found that “​​countries are falling behind on almost every policy required to cut greenhouse gas emissions”. The Guardian reported that, of the 42 indicators assessed, electric vehicle sales is the only one that is progressing on track. To limit global warming to 1.5C coal must be phased out seven times faster than the current rate, it added.

US and China cooperate

JOINT STATEMENT: Many publications this week covered a new joint statement from China and the US, which saw the world’s two biggest emitters promise “to jointly tackle global warming by ramping up wind, solar and other renewable energy with the goal of displacing fossil fuels”, according to the New York Times. BBC News reported that, according to the statement, the two nations have agreed to “step up co-operation on methane”, but added “the document is silent on the use of coal and the future of fossil energy”. See Carbon Brief’s China Briefing for more details.

‘CAUTIOUS’ OPTIMISM: Politico said that “while much of the early reaction to the deal is cautiously positive, experts noted there were some notable goals and targets that were not in the agreement”. Carbon Brief’s Dr Simon Evans broke down the key points from the US-China joint climate statement on Twitter

COP28 nears

POWER PLEDGES: More than 60 countries have backed a pledge to triple renewable energy sources by 2030 led by the US and the EU ahead of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai later this month, Bloomberg reported. The US is also spearheading a commitment to triple the amount of installed nuclear power capacity globally by 2050 at the summit, according to a second Bloomberg story.

LOSS AND DAMAGE: On Monday, the EU said it would make a “substantial” financial contribution to a new fund for “loss and damage” from climate change, Reuters said. The decision to establish the fund was made at COP27 and the details of how it will operate are due to be decided at COP28. Politico noted there is a growing gap between the EU and US on their approach to providing loss-and-damage funding.

EYES ON THE HOST: Time magazine this week published a sit down interview with the oil-and-gas chief who is president-designate of COP28, Sultan Al Jaber. He told the publication that the “phasedown” of fossil fuels was “inevitable”, but added that he believes the world is not ready to ditch oil and gas entirely, saying: “We need to get real. We cannot unplug the world from the current energy system before we build a new energy system.” It comes as Politico reported on how the United Arab Emirates has backtracked on planned restrictions on journalists at the summit after an investigation by the publication.

  • SOMALIA FLOODS: Somalia is currently experiencing its worst floods in a century as flash waters have killed at least 32 people, BBC News reported. A quarter of Somalia’s population is facing “crisis-level” hunger as a result of floods and drought, Reuters said.
  • EU TARGETS METHANE: The EU has agreed a deal to curb methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry, reported the Guardian. The “first-of-its-kind law” applies to imports as well as domestic production. 
  • GRAVE DISRESPECT: In Climate Home News, two religious leaders claimed that the energy company Total is unearthing graves in order to build its East African Crude Oil Pipeline.
  • CLIMATE REFUGEES: Libya’s deadly floods in September have created a new generation of climate refugees, Al Jazeera reported. Refugees sheltering in government schools describe their situation as “humiliating”.
  • UK AID CUTS: The UK’s decision to cut foreign aid in 2020 could have left communities in Malawi more vulnerable to the impacts of Cyclone Freddy earlier this year, reported Climate Home News.

The financial hole in Germany’s climate funds now that the nation’s plan to divert unused debt, unlocked during the Covid-19 pandemic, has been ruled unconstitutional by the country’s top court, according to Politico.

Latest climate research

  • Restoring forests globally could capture an additional 226bn tonnes of carbon – an amount equivalent to one-third of all human-caused emissions since the beginning of the industrial era – according to new Nature research, which added this restoration “cannot be a substitute for emissions reductions”.
  • Courts are playing “an increasingly influential” role in the global response to climate change and should be recognised as “Anthropocene institutions” within an “Earth system law paradigm”, a Global Policy paper suggested.
  • Five species of small lowland herbivore declined by an average of 28% in the 20 months after Cyclone Idai in Mozambique in 2019, according to new research in Nature.

(For more, see Carbon Brief’s in-depth daily summaries of the top climate news stories on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.)


Loss of labour due to heat stress wiped out the equivalent of 4% of Africa’s GDP in 2022,  according to a new report from the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change covered by Carbon Brief. Meanwhile, Europe and North America only saw labour losses equivalent to 0.1% and 0.2% of their GDP, respectively, according to the findings. The chart shows effective income losses in 2022 due to heat stress in agriculture (blue) and other sectors (red), as a percentage of GDP, by continent.

Why do runners care about climate change?

This week, Carbon Brief speaks to Damian Hall, an ultramarathon runner who has broken records and represented GB, while also campaigning for action on climate change.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Carbon Brief: What came first for you: running or climate activism?

Damian Hall: The best answer is that running came first. But looking back, you can see some of the values that family passed on. My parents voted for the Green Party for many decades. All my sister wanted for her birthday was to protect a bit of the Amazon rainforest. I was in Tasmania a long time ago and felt politicised seeing the rainforests unprotected. So there were seeds of it before running.

But you always think someone else is going to sort it out. It was only after the Extinction Rebellion protests in London that I really woke up. So I’ve only been a productive activist since 2019.

CB: Do you think more runners compared to other athletes care about climate change and if so why?

DH: It’s hard to analyse how many runners care, although there are studies. I hadn’t thought running was part of the problem. I thought: “Running’s quite an innocent activity, isn’t it? You need a pair of shoes and off you go, how much harm can that be doing?” Then in 2018, fellow ultra runners Dan and Charlotte Lawson launched ReRun clothing to sound the alarm about waste in the industry, including all those free race t-shirts. Another friend, Jim Mann, started Trees Not Tees. Dan and I formed a WhatsApp group of runners vocal about the climate emergency and found that the runners who are out on the hills, out in nature – the trail, fell and ultra-distance runners – seemed more galvanised.

Ultimately, I was encouraged to write a book about it, which came out about a year ago – ‘We Can’t Run Away From This’. I looked into the sportswear industry which has lots of greenwashing. A topical example is Adidas – their new super shoe was meant to be single use, for one marathon and a little bit of warmup time. So wasteful. An event I covered in my book was the Paris Marathon – that had an equivalent footprint of [the lifetime CO2 emissions of] 34 people. 

CB: Do you think running, particularly trail, is inherently linked to caring about the environment?

DH: Ultimately, some runners care more than others. I feel like trail, fell and ultra runners are maybe ahead of others. 

A great example is Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), the biggest trail race there is. Chamonix Valley has the biggest glacier in France, Mur de Place, which is shrinking before our eyes. In the late 80s, you would get a cable car up, then after five steps, you’d be at the bottom of the glacier. Now when you get off that cable car, you have to go up 50 steps to get to the bottom of the same glacier. In that same valley you have UTMB, who now have a high carbon car manufacturing sponsor. You couldn’t encapsulate the dilemma of running any better than what’s happening in that valley. You’ve got both problems: what’s actually happening and the cause of it.

FRONTLINE PALESTINE: In a Drilled podcast, Abeer Butmeh, coordinator of the Palestinian NGOs Network, spoke about battling for short- and long-term survival in the middle of a war and climate crisis.

SPOTIFY OFFSETS: An investigation by Follow the Money and the Guardian alleged that a Swiss climate consultancy generated carbon credits in a region “where the risk of state-enforced labour is probably the highest in the world” and sold them to Spotify and fossil fuel giant BP.

SCIENCE HATERS: The Climate Question podcast asked why climate scientists are facing a growing barrage of abuse.

  • 19 November: Argentina presidential election, final round
  • 22 November: G20 leaders’ summit ministers meeting
  • 23 November: International Energy Agency (IEA) launch for the “oil and gas industry in net-zero transitions” report

DeBriefed is edited by Daisy Dunne. Please send any tips or feedback to [email protected]

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