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January 4, 2024

Editor’s note: a dose of magical realism

EU flags Brussels
A new report by the European Court of Auditors suggests the EU needs to bring a dose of reality into its plans for biofuels (Photo: Marco/Pexels)

The latest edition of our Sustainable Views newsletter

Dear reader,

I have decided, unintentionally, to start 2024 lost in the world of magical realism — reading, to my shame for the first time, Gabriel García Márquez’s strange and engaging One Hundred Years of Solitude, and rereading the wonderful works of Angela Carter. 

The interwoven mixture of fantasy and detailed reality in these authors’ novels is not that far from the world in which we are living — not least the the cyclical repetition and senseless war in García Márquez’s book as experienced by seven generations of the Buendía family, and the cycles of prosperity and decay of Macondo, the town where they live.

To reduce emissions in line with 1.5C, or even 2C, as set out in the Paris Agreement, engaging with the detailed reality of climate change, and forgoing any temptation to give in to fanciful delusions is vital.

For some, geoengineering, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through various technologies, is an expensive fantasy that will simply allow the fossil fuel industry to carry on pumping out emissions. Yet, the difficult reality is that all Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change net zero model pathways include the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere to reach net zero emissions. Florence takes a detailed look at the data of geoengineering and why the very word continues to cause so much controversy. 

Meanwhile, a report by the European Court of Auditors suggests the EU has failed to learn from the harsh lessons of the past and needs to bring a dose of reality into its plans for biofuels. 

The revised EU Renewable Energy Directive, agreed in 2023, increases the target for the share of advanced biofuels used in transport from 3.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent by 2030. Yet, the EU has no long-term policy to ensure this target is met sustainably, says the report published in December.

Out in the wider world, I’d be interested in knowing what readers think about Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates being officially part of the Brics bloc of emerging economies since January 1, and any impacts the growth of this grouping may have on climate negotiations and financing for the energy transition. 

The Johannesburg II Declaration, signed at the end of the Brics summit in South Africa in August last year, promised “the promotion of peace, a more representative, fairer international order, a reinvigorated and reformed multilateral system, sustainable development and inclusive growth”. 

Until tomorrow,


Philippa Nuttall is deputy editor of Sustainable Views 

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