Government holds first capacity market auction

  • 16 Dec 2014, 09:45
  • Mat Hope

High Marnham | Shutterstock

Companies will today bid for government subsidies to ensure power plants are available at the flick of a switch, as part of the new capacity market. The market is designed to ensure the lights always stay on, even when demand is high and the weather means renewables aren't generating electricity.

Under the scheme, power providers are paid to be available when the National Grid needs them. But it's not yet clear which power stations will be included in the scheme. That's important, as it will determine how much coal, gas, or oil gets burned for power generation, and what the impact on the UK's emissions will be.

The capacity market's first auction begins this morning. We explain how the market works, and how it fits with the government's wider energy and climate change policy goals.

Making a market

Even though  electricity demand is gradually reducing, the UK's peak demand isn't shrinking much, and is set to remain at around 53 gigawatts.

The UK has lots of old coal, gas and nuclear power plants. As they age, they get more prone to breaking, so if the power companies don't want to invest millions in upgrading them they usually shut them down.

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Daily Briefing | US and India to announce joint climate change action

  • 16 Dec 2014, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

India flag | Shutterstock

US and India to announce joint climate change action during Obama visit 
"America and India will unveil joint efforts to fight climate change when Barack Obama visits New Delhi next month, as the US tries to keep up the momentum of international negotiations", the Guardian reports. India is the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after the US and China.       The Guardian

Climate and energy news

MPs target Eric Pickles over wind farm planning delays 
A committee of UK MPs has criticised the government over delays in the planning process around onshore wind farms. The government' own National Planning Framework contains measures to allow a presumption in favour of "sustainable development". But delays and reviews of windfarm applications may suggest it is failing, as does the committee's criticism that legislation doesn't do enough to prevent damage to wildlife habitats.      Business Green 

China climate negotiator says Lima deal 'balanced' 
The Guardian reports comments from China's "top climate negotiator" made to Chinese media - he described the Lima climate agreement as "balanced", reportedly saying "we're not very satisfied with the outcome, but we think it's a balanced and nice document". Negotiations in Paris "will be more challenging and require parties to show greater flexibility", the Guardian reports him as saying.     The Guardian 

Coal demand set to break 9bn tonne barrier this decade 
Global coal use has risen from 7.2bn tonnes in 2010 and is expected to hit 9bn tonnes by 2019, according to projections from the International Energy Agency, a thinktank. The IEA predicts that consumption will grow 2.1 per cent a year through this decade, but that's a lower growth rate than the 2.3 per cent forecast last year by the organisation, suggesting demand for coal is slowing slightly.      The Guardian 

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New satellite maps reveal hidden intricacies of Greenland ice loss and sea level rise

  • 15 Dec 2014, 20:00
  • Roz Pidcock

Jakobshavn Icebergs | B. Csatho

Greenland lost enough ice between 2003 and 2009 to raise sea levels by more than four millimetres, according to new research that maps the vast ice sheet in unprecedented detail.

Scientists have used satellites to measure ice loss at nearly 100,000 locations, concluding that the Greenland ice sheet is far more complicated that it's often assumed to be. And that means projections of how much we can expect sea levels to rise need updating.

Between 2003 and 2009, Greenland lost about 243 billion tonnes of ice a year, adding 0.68 millimetres to sea levels annually, the research finds. Almost half the ice lost came from Southeast Greenland.

Castho Et Al 2014_Fig3

Annual total ice loss from the Greenland ice sheet between 2003 and 2009. Source: Csatho et al., (2014)

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New paper raises question of tropical forest carbon storage

  • 15 Dec 2014, 16:00
  • Robert McSweeney

Tropical rainforest | P. Groenendijk

The world's forests provide a huge carbon sink, absorbing around a third of manmade carbon emissions, and helping to moderate global temperature rise.

A new study argues that the speed of tree growth in tropical rainforests isn't keeping pace with rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, and so it may be "too optimistic" to expect this buffering effect to keep pace with rising emissions.

But another scientist tells us the finding needs to be examined carefully, and it could be difficulties in taking measurements in tropical rainforests that are leading to the result.

Rainforests are an important carbon store

As part of the Earth's natural carbon cycle, vast amounts of carbon dioxide are taken out of the atmosphere and absorbed by the land each year. Tropical rainforests, the extremely productive forest ecosystems found gathered around the equator, are responsible for much of that exchange.

Through photosynthesis, trees convert carbon dioxide, water and sunlight into the fuel they need to grow, locking up carbon in their trunks and branches in the process.

Experiments scientists have carried out in temperate forests and greenhouses suggest that when there's more carbon dioxide in the air, trees can grow more quickly because their photosynthesis rate speeds up. This process is called 'carbon dioxide fertilisation'.

Scientists expect that as manmade carbon dioxide emissions increase, forests will absorb and store more carbon.

But a new study, published in Nature Geoscience, suggests that tropical rainforests might not be absorbing more carbon as emissions rise. Despite a 35 per cent increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the last 150 years, the study suggests that trees in the tropics aren't growing any quicker.

Studying tree rings

The researchers studied over a thousand trees of different ages, covering 12 different species and three different parts of the tropics. They chose areas of old-growth forests in Thailand, Cameroon and Bolivia that were undisturbed by deforestation or human settlements.

They analysed tall 'canopy' trees, which are the most common type in tropical forests and typically reach around 30 metres in height, and also smaller 'understorey' trees that grow to around 10 metres tall.

Examining tree rings can show how quickly a tree has grown from year to year. As a tree grows, it puts on extra layers of wood around its trunk, creating a new ring each year. The more a tree has grows in a year, the more wood it adds, and the wider the tree ring is.

800px -Tree _rings

Tree rings. Source: Creative Commons 2.5: Arnoldius

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Good COP, bad COP: Winners and losers at the Lima climate conference

  • 15 Dec 2014, 12:24
  • Mat Hope


Representatives of 190 countries agreed the  Lima Call for Climate Action early on Sunday morning, recommitting countries to preventing temperatures rising by more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

None hailed the deal as a triumph, and no single actor came away feeling totally satisfied with what went on over the last two weeks, or what looks set to come over the next year. But there were small victories smattered throughout the text.

We review  the deal, and identify Lima's winners and losers.

Climate finance

Good COP for developed countries nervous about their short-term economic recovery.

Countries including the EU, US, and even Australia collectively  pledged a little over $10 billion to the UN's newest climate fund in run-up to the Lima negotiations. During the talks, it became clear that this is the limit of what they're willing to give, for now, as their economies struggle to recover from the recession.

Economists suggest that spending money to help developing countries pursue lower carbon development paths and become more resilient to climate change is a wise investment. They say that sacrificing  a fraction of one per cent of global GDP now could save the global economy trillions in the decades to come.

Bad COP for the Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) bloc demanding financing assurances.

The LMDC group is made up of 26 developing nations. They made it clear  going into the negotiations that they wanted countries to ramp up their contributions to the UN's  multiple climate funds, and give greater assurances that such financing would be delivered.

Countries like Bangladesh argued that funds to help them adapt to climate change were  their "right" rather than a demand. But despite the strong language, the world's largest emitters wouldn't promise anything new.

Developing countries made it clear they wouldn't agree to more transparent financing processes, showing how the funds were spent, until new money was on the table. In the end, the Lima agreement settled for the worst of both worlds: less transparency and less funding.

GCF BKM meeting lima.jpg
Executives of the UN's Green Climate Fund meet secretary-general Ban Ki-moon at the Lima conference. Credit:  UN Photo


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Daily Briefing | UN members agree deal at Lima climate talks

  • 15 Dec 2014, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

UN members agree deal at Lima climate talks 
Hundreds of diplomats are heading back to their bases after agreeing a new climate change deal in Lima, Peru. The deal recommits countries to curbing emissions to prevent global temperatures rising by more the two degrees above pre-industrial levels - we look at the deal's details, here. Environmental campaigners describe the deal as "weak" and "ineffectual", the Independent and Channel 4 report. The deal commits all countries to cutting emissions, but allows them to outline how, the Times and Telegraph observe. That lays the foundations for a "new-style" climate deal in 2015, Reuters says. That means a deal "based on peer pressure" not legal sanctions, as the New York Times puts it. The Lima deal puts off most difficult decisions until next year's summit in Paris, the Guardian says. The last two weeks show how tough those negotiations are likely to be, the FT predicts.     BBC News 

Climate and energy news

National Grid prepares STOR Runway for take-off in move to boost demand response market 
Companies will today start bidding to turn their power down when demand is high and supply is short. National Grid is launching the demand side reserve as part of its Short Term Operating Reserve (STOR), which ensures the UK always has enough power available at the flick of a switch. Under the initiative, 200 megawatts of the capacity to be provided through STOR in 2015/16 will be reserved for demand-side response schemes, BusinessGreen reports.     BusinessGreen 

Drax Shares Plunge After U.K. Government Proposes Subsidy Change 
The government is considering removing subsidies for biomass power for the lifetime of the projects, causing shares in power company Drax to plummet. The changes would "have no impact on the Drax base strategy of converting three generating units to burn sustainable biomass in place of coal and becoming a predominantly biomass-fuelled power generator", a spokesperson tells BusinessGreen.      Bloomberg New Energy Finance 

Climate change 'will foster terrorism and fuel immigration to UK' 
Millions of Bangladeshi's may migrate to the UK as a consequence of climate change, a military advisor tells the Telegraph. Major General Munir Muniruzzaman says some people are already fleeing floods and falling crop yields. "There will be pressures, both from the people living in the UK to save the relations who are displaced - or from the displaced people in Bangladesh trying to reach out to their relatives in the UK," he says.      Telegraph 

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Briefing: Lima Call for Climate Action lays out policy options for new global deal

  • 14 Dec 2014, 12:00
  • Mat Hope

Lima conference |  UN Photos

  • Lima Call for Climate Action outlines main aspects of a new global climate deal.
  • Keeps goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees.
  • Contains reference to ensuring the world has net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • Doesn't clarify if a new deal will be legally binding.
  • Doesn't give countries the power to alter other country commitments
  • Doesn't offer new assurances on the flow of climate finance.
  • Leaves all options on the table regarding compensation for countries worst hit by climate change.

Hundreds of country negotiating teams have been meeting in Lima, Peru over the past two weeks for the latest round of international climate negotiations. The talks concluded in the early hours of Sunday morning with the meeting's chairs unveiling a 43 page document that lays the foundations for a new global climate deal.

The  Lima Call for Climate Action attempts to resolve some of the pressing issues ahead of a meeting in Paris in December 2015 that should agree a deal.

It appears to commit all countries to making emissions cuts, and reiterates the need to limit global temperature rise to less than two degrees celsius.

But the Lima agreement leaves the most controversial issues to be dealt with at a later date. As a consequence, some campaigners have branded the text weak and ineffectual.

We've analysed an  unedited version of the Lima text to explore what it may mean for a new global deal. This text appears to agree with the final agreed text, but we will update this briefing as required.

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Formulating five ways just to thank Ban Ki-moon: Behind the scenes at the Lima climate conference

  • 12 Dec 2014, 15:10
  • Ben Garside

Ban Ki-moon Lima | UN Photos

Reporter Ben Garside gives an insider's view of the international climate talks underway in Lima: from covering six miles in an hour, to watching the negotiating text swell.

With parties still deeply divided heading into the final scheduled day of the two-week U.N. climate change conference in Lima, 'gridlock' is a fitting way to describe both the talks and host venue.

Peru's sprawling capital is home to around 10 million people and, for the 12,531 delegates attending the conference, the first battle has just been navigating to the venue.

It has taken me and most of the rest of us about an hour each day in shuttle buses and taxis to travel six miles from Lima's swish hotel district to the "Pentagonito" army headquarters towards the outskirts of town, often at no more than walking pace along the city's traffic-clogged streets. And it's more than a minor irritation. According to the World Resources Institute, Lima's traffic is costing the city around eight percent of its GDP as its citizens sit in jams when they could be working.

Few at the conference would question those numbers or disagree with former Mexican President's Felipe Calderon's speech on why building more compact cities, with good public transport links, are essential in tackling climate change, as more and more of us are set to live in cities over the coming decades.

"We cannot live anymore in this very old and inefficient model of cities geared toward the individual use of cars and the hours wasted for people," he told a high-level panel, on behalf of the New Climate Economy initiative.

Fringe progress

After finally arriving at the venue, a purpose-built tented village the size of eleven football fields, delegates from former vice-presidents (Al Gore) down to city leaders have set themselves apart from the negotiations and brim with positive examples of taking action to cut emissions.

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Daily Briefing | £24m Green Deal Fund exhausted in a day

  • 12 Dec 2014, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

£24m Green Deal fund exhausted in a day 
Just a day after re-opening its popular Green Deal Home Improvement Fund the government has been forced to close applications to a £24m pot allocated for solid wall insulation, following a rush of applications. This second phase of the Green Deal offers households up to £5,600 for certain energy savings measures. The Telegraph brings you everything you need to know about the Green Deal in a 90-second video.      BusinessGreen via The Guardian 

Climate and energy news

Lima climate talks agree on just one paragraph of deal with 24 hours left 
Negotiators working on a deal to fight climate change have agreed on just a single paragraph of text, casting a shadow over the prospects for a strong outcome in Lima. The talks are scheduled to end today after 10 full days, but have "fallen into a rut" despite initial enthusiasm for a deal, says The Guardian. RTCC looks at the continued disagreements between developed and developing countries, but also reports that many business and civil society leaders attending the talks say they feel cautiously optimistic. Inside Climate News also says that many see a positive outlook as "seasoned observers of the UN climate talks said that they expect the Lima talks to wrap up at the end of this week with an open path ahead to a Paris treaty."      The Guardian 

Will Kerry strike gold at Lima climate talks? 
John Kerry is the talk of the town in Lima as the media ask whether his presence at the UN climate talks will help push through a draft agreement. The BBC, The TimesThe Telegraph and the all report John Kerry's  speech that climate change science is "screaming at us" that humans are the cause, poorer nations must also act to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and tomorrow's generations would judge inaction as "a massive collective moral failure of historic consequence."      BBC News 

Water woes in Lima: A glimpse of our future? 
As UN negotiators meet in Lima to work out a plan for dealing with rising temperatures, Matt McGrath visits a community paying a high price for water supplies threatened by climate change and increasing demand, and asks whether Peru's experience a sign of things to come.      BBC News 

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An international climate change negotiations glossary

  • 11 Dec 2014, 12:35
  • Mat Hope

Ban Ki-moon in Lima | UN Photos

Do you know your Bali Action Plan from your Kyoto Protocol? Thousands of politicians, diplomats, and NGOs are currently meeting in Lima, Peru, as part of an international process to agree a global response to climate change.

The negotiations are now more than 20 years old, and have developed a language all of their own. Here's our guide to the key terms.

Bali road map

Agreed at the Bali meeting in 2007, this was countries' first effort to lay the foundations for a new global deal to replace the Kyoto protocol, which expired in 2012. The road map contained the Bali action plan, which outlined options for progress on climate mitigation, adaptation, technology and finance.

The UNFCCC now acknowledges that the Bali action plan "may have been overly optimistic, and underestimated the complexity both of climate change as a problem and of crafting a global response to it."

Cancun Agreements

After the disappointment of Copenhagen, negotiators expectations for 2010's meeting in Cancun were much lower. That meeting's conclusions were captured in the Cancun Agreements, which were mainly notable for formally committing countries to preventing temperatures rising by more than  two degrees above pre-industrial levels, more than three decades after the limit was first proposed.

Copenhagen Accord

The much-hyped Copenhagen climate talks in 2009 were meant to deliver a new legally binding, global deal to replace the Kyoto protocol. Instead, they resulted in a "political agreement" called the Copenhagen Accord. The accord "recognised" the need for countries to tackle climate change, and set the deadline to review existing agreements by the end of 2015.

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