Analysis

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

  • 15 Dec 2014, 12:24
  • Mat Hope

Lima COP20 | UNFCCC

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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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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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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Low carbon policies could cut household energy costs after 2030, Committee on Climate Change says

  • 10 Dec 2014, 00:01
  • Mat Hope

Windfarm in field | Shutterstock

Investing in low carbon energy generation could lower future household energy bills and insulate the economy from volatile fossil fuel prices, the government's official climate change advisor says. But only if the government commits to implementing long-term climate policies.

A new report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) assesses the impact of the UK's low carbon policies on consumer energy bills. It expects households to pay more to decarbonise the UK's energy sector in the coming decades, but says that doing so should ultimately save people money as well as helping the UK hit its legally binding climate goals.

The committee's conclusion mirrors that of  government analysis earlier this month that showed energy bills would rise significantly if the UK fails to implement climate policies.

Bill projections

The government is legally obligated to cut the UK's emissions, the committee points out. Some policies to cut emissions are paid for by households through a levy on their energy bills. While such levies are set to increase, decarbonisation should lower electricity prices in the long run and cut demand, meaning households save money overall, the committee says.

The Climate Change Act of 2008 requires the government to cut emissions  80 per cent by 2050. With about  35 per cent of the UK's emissions currently coming from the energy sector, that means some pretty significant changes to how the country generates electricity.

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Why the UN says climate adaptation could cost developing countries $1 trillion a year

  • 08 Dec 2014, 14:20
  • Mat Hope

Floods & sandbags | Shutterstock

Adapting to the worst impacts of climate change could cost three times as much as previous estimates, a new UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report suggests.

Developing countries may need to stump up anywhere between $250 billion and $1 trillion a year by 2050 to build flood defences, implement early warning systems, and develop more resilient farming techniques, it says.

We take a look at the figures, and explain why UNEP thinks climate adaptation costs are going to be hundreds of billions more than previous projections.

Underestimate

Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a major review of climate research. It said developing countries could expect to pay about $70 to $100 billion a year by 2050 to adapt to the worst impacts of climate change.

UNEP's new report says that is likely to be a "significant underestimate." It says adaptation costs for developing countries could reach $150 billion by 2025, and $250 to $500 billion a year by 2050.

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Two degrees: The history of climate change’s ‘speed limit’

  • 08 Dec 2014, 10:45
  • Mat Hope & Rosamund Pearce

Hot sun on road | Shutterstock

Limiting warming to no more than two degrees has become the de facto target for global climate policy. But there are serious questions about whether policymakers can keep temperature rise below the limit, and what happens if they don't.

As climate negotiators meet in Lima to discuss a new global climate deal that could limit warming to two degrees or less, we look at each of the issues in turn.

Here, we take a look at where the two degree target came from, and how it has ended up guiding international climate policy. 

Woven into the fabric of climate policy

Perhaps surprisingly, the idea that temperature could be used to guide society's response to climate change was first proposed by an economist.

In the 1970s, Yale professor William Nordhaus alluded to the danger of passing a threshold of two degrees in  a pair of now famous papers, suggesting that warming of more than two degrees would push the climate beyond the limits humans were familiar with:

"According to most sources the range of variation between between distinct climatic regimes is on the order of ±5°C, and at present time the global climate is at the high end of this range. If there were global temperatures more than 2° of 3° above the current average temperature, this would take the climate outside of the range of observations which have been made over the last several hundred thousand years."

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Five things we've learned from the first five days of the Lima climate change conference

  • 05 Dec 2014, 13:05
  • Mat Hope

Lima, Peru | Shutterstock

Thousands of politicians, diplomats and campaigners are currently in Lima, Peru, for the latest round of international climate negotiations. News from the conference hall has so far been been fairly muted as negotiators ease themselves into the talks, due to conclude next Friday. But there have been some important developments.

Here's what we've learned from the Lima climate conference's early stages.

1) The need to get a deal is being talked up

World leaders have promised to agree a new global climate deal by the end of 2015, at a meeting in Paris. As that deadline looms ever larger, each climate meeting is instilled with an increasing sense of urgency.

The UK's energy and climate secretary, Ed Davey, told the  Telegraph:

"These are the last major annual talks before we hit our deadline in Paris next year. We need a deal in Paris - there is no alternative that will protect our national security, our economy and the way of life we take for granted."

Many of the talks' participants are still scarred by what happened last time countries tried to agree a comprehensive global climate deal, in Copenhagen in 2009. That conference's failure is driving a desire to agree as much as possible before negotiators descend on Paris.

Before the conference, negotiators were quick to state  their optimism that the Lima meeting would prove productive.

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Dissecting Germany’s new climate action plan

  • 04 Dec 2014, 15:15
  • Mat Hope

Germany wind turbines | Shutterstock

Germany has implemented a series of ambitious polcies to decarbonise its economy. But despite significant investment in renewable energy, the country's emissions have been rising for the last three years. Yesterday, the government  announced new measures to get the country back on track.

We take a look at Germany's new climate action plan, and what it means for the country's long term decarbonisation prospects.

Closing the 'climate gap'

In 2010, Germany announced ambitious plans to decarbonise its energy sector and cut emissions. The plan has become known as the 'energy transition', or  Energiewende.

At the heart of the Energiewende is a goal to cut emissions 40 per cent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels. The target is considerably more ambitious than the EU's goal to cut emissions 20 per cent by 2020. Germany also aims to cut emissions at least 80 per cent by 2050.

The problem is, Germany's emissions have been  increasing for the last three years. Germany's government acknowledged that if emissions continued to rise, the country would miss its 2020 target by five to eight per cent.

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Source:  Clean Energy Wire. Graph by Carbon Brief.

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