Jamie Wilson, foreign news editor, and Simon Jeffery, deputy foreign editor
The climate crisis is a story that reaches every corner of the world and on the international news desk our team of correspondents report on it from around the globe.
For many readers, it is something they experience to varying degrees of intensity at first hand – a hotter summer, an earlier spring, floods in autumn – but by linking up those experiences, we are able to show how interconnected this crisis is.
In the past few months we have covered stories ranging from the record-breaking European heatwave, where temperatures of over 45C were recorded in France for the first time, a heatwave and drought in India, where thousands abandoned their homes, and the unprecedented Arctic wildfiresthat could be seen from space.Advertisement
Such events are not just “weather”, however, and we follow their impact: the buckling European road and rail infrastructure not suitable for the new climate era, the desperate search for water in Chennai and the Greenland residents traumatised by the climate emergency as life becomes more precarious and social problems such as alcoholism intensify.
In Italy, the Planpincieux glacier in the Mont Blanc massif is changing so rapidly that avalanches and debris falls have led to deaths and evacuations, leaving residents in the town ofCourmayeur fearing how much longer it will hold.
Our reporters have also travelled to where governments and individuals are making it worse. Latin American correspondent Tom Philips took a 2,000km journey through the Amazon to see the new age of wrecking ushered in by Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, where the environmental agency is being dismantled and gold seekers and soy farmers anticipate an economic boom from deforestation.
There are also those attempting to make it better. On 1 September 2018 we published an interview from Stockholm with a 15-year-old who just two weeks earlier, after Sweden’s hottest ever summer, had gone on strike from school in protest at the lack of action by politicians on the climate crisis. Now much better known, thanks in part to articles like this, Greta Thunberg’s solo protest has since become a global movement.
Climate can also lie at the root of other stories. Failed harvests and rising food prices can often be the final straw that triggers political upheaval, in recent years notably the Arab spring, but we are now seeing in real time how the climate emergency is affecting migration patterns. As Donald Trump attempted to close the US border to Central American migrants, in some cases separating children from their parents, we spoke to those in Guatemala who after a decade of intense droughts and late rains have seen crops fail and wages fall one too many times. “I have to find a way to travel north, or else my children will suffer even more,” subsistence farmer Esteban Gutiérrez told reporter Nina Lakhani.
Julia Finch, business editor
Business and economics are right at the centre of the climate emergency. Companies are among the biggest polluters in the world – and are key to meeting the Paris agreement’s target of limiting global warming to 1.5C.
From giant fossil fuel companies to agricultural and food businesses, retailers, airlines and car manufacturers – all must make big changes, for the sake of the planet, the global economy and their own future sustainability, providing goods and services and employment.
These are huge questions, and Guardian readers know there are no easy answers. So we will nurture the debate on what a sustainable economy looks like.
Our economics writers are questioning whether traditional capitalism, which aims for perpetual growth, can ever deal with the huge challenges of climate emergency, or whether a new slow-capitalism or green growth – which does not pursue profit at all costs – must come.
We are reporting on the changes being made by corporate executives – and alerting readers to those who fall short.
Writing in the Guardian earlier this year, the governors of the Bank of England and Bank of France – Mark Carney and François Villeroy de Galhau – underlined the importance of change. “If some companies and industries fail to adjust to this new world, they will fail to exist,” they said.
Without action, the climate emergency poses the risk of huge losses for insurance companies as a result of catastrophic weather-related events. Last year’s Californian wildfires, for instance – the worst in the state’s history – cost insurers more than $12bn.
Banks that have lent vast sums to fossil fuel companies could be left with mammoth losses if those investments decline in value and become “stranded assets”. The Bank of England has warned that as much as $20tn of assets could be wiped out by climate change if the problem is not addressed.
Many companies are making changes. Global businesses including Nestle and L’Oreal have committed to reducing their carbon emissions to zero. We will track and report on their progress.
We are reporting on climate crisis initiatives, and our journalists will ask if they go far enough. Last week we reported that British Airways is to offset all emissions from domestic flights from next year, and questioned whether offsetting can ever be the answer.
Our reporters will expose companies that are not walking the talk. Last month Amazon announced a series of initiatives, from putting 100,000 electric vans on the road to handle its deliveries to reforestation projects. But, as our reporters also revealed recently, Amazon has also recently introduced plastic packaging that cannot be recycled in the UK.Advertisement
Most corporate bosses know they have to make changes. But progress is nowhere near fast enough. Oil companies are still seeking new oilfields. Giant new coalmines – like Indian billionaire Gautam Adani’s Carmichael coalmine in Queensland – are still being developed. Airbus recently predicted that the number of aircraft in the sky would double in the next 20 years.
Investment groups that manage pension funds around the world can exert pressure on companies to clean up their businesses. Legal & General, Europe’s second biggest fund manager, admitted earlier this year: “The effects of climate change will soon be irreversible. This will affect economies, politics and, as a result, our clients’ assets all around the world. We all need to move faster.”
However, not every investment group is using its muscle – and we are calling them out. BlackRock, the world’s biggest investment manager, with $6tn under its management, says climate change is a big risk to the value of its investments. But it remains at the heart of fossil fuel investing and, as we reported, its chief executive, Larry Fink, still insists that BlackRock’s job is to make a profit for investors. He added: “Our personal views on environmental or social issues don’t matter.”
They do matter, and our reporters are now treating the climate crisis as the default setting for how they approach business reporting.
Jess Cartner-Morley, associate editor (Fashion)
Fashion is about the zeitgeist, and climate change is the most
important issue of our age. And we know that our readers really *do* care. (Sorry, Melania.) So more than ever before, we want to put sustainability front and centre of our fashion coverage.
We aren’t perfect and we don’t pretend to have all the answers. We
will continue to listen to a wide range of voices – our readers
paramount amongst those – to guide us. But we do know that we want to talk about sustainability how we have always talked about fashion – in a way that includes everyone in the conversation, whatever their age, budget, gender or background.
We have always championed ethical fashion brands, but now we want to go further. The future of our planet isn’t a niche interest. We aim to continue creating fashion content that is accessible and appealing, desirable and democratic – but now with sustainability as a fundamental metric. We want to inspire our audience to enjoy fashion while being mindful of the impact on the planet.
What does that look like? We try wherever we can to include vintage
pieces in shoots and gift guides. When we report from London fashion weekwe talk to the Extinction Rebellion activists outside the shows, as well as having backstage chats with the designers. We championed Secondhand September and a year ago we updated my column in Weekend magazine so that you now see me wearing old clothes from my own wardrobe, and vintage pieces, alongside new clothes. This party season we will be reporting the best places to rent your dress, or source it pre-worn, rather than buy it.Advertisement
None of this means compromising on bringing you compelling, gorgeous, original fashion content. We are passionate about the latest fashion – and about the future of our planet, too.
Tim Lusher, editor of Feast
There’s an obvious connection between food and the climate emergency. Look at the deforestation of the Amazon to provide grazing for cattle and soy to feed it. But wherever cows are raised, they generate atmosphere-heating methane. As the global human population grows, it’s clear that we need to think about how to feed it, how to use land and what impact our choices have.
Meat eating and animal farming have seized the headlines and the public’s focus. There are many reasons why veganism – or at least flexitarianism – is growing fast and sustainability is one of them.
As well as covering the environmental impact of food production, we’re thinking about what we publish in lifestyle terms. The Guardian’s archive contains nearly 10,000 recipes, of which 19% use meat of some kind, but that figure is down to 15% for articles created in 2018 and 2019. We aim to run recipes that use only sustainable fish (we follow the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide in the UK and associates in the US and Australia). Food is complicated though and it’s not all about meat. Almonds and avocados use a huge amount of water. Generally, it feels an era to be mindful – we have a zero waste column and readers love its inventive, resourceful, frugal ideas.
It’s important to talk about all this but what people eat is always going to be a highly personal decision. In many countries where we have the luxury of food options, we are in anxious, uncertain, divided times. Food is joyful. It brings people together – families, friends, communities and strangers – and reminds us both of our uniqueness and of what we have in common. It’s also a time when it’s difficult to know who to believe and to trust. I hope people can be sure of the Guardian.