Today's climate and energy headlines:
- All Britain’s electricity to be green by 2035
- Climate change: Stop smoke and mirrors, rich nations told
- China’s coal miners vow to ‘go all out’ to beat power crisis
- US Democrats to pare climate, social spending; no clear target
- China-California carbon market joint research project officially begins
- India: State-owned power giant NTPC plans 3 IPOs for $2bn: report
- Britain’s confused approach to carbon pricing
- China and the US must work together on climate change
- Marine high temperature extremes amplify the impacts of climate change on fish and fisheries
Many UK newspapers preview the Conservative party’s annual conference taking place this week in Manchester with a raft of climate- and energy-related stories. Today’s Times leads its frontpage with the news that “Boris Johnson will this week announce that all of Britain’s electricity will come from renewable [and nuclear] sources by 2035 as he seeks to reduce the country’s dependence on gas and other fossil fuels, The Times has been told”. It adds: “The prime minister will use his conference speech to commit his party to plans to hugely increase investment in renewable and nuclear energy as Britain faces a crisis caused by a surge in the cost of gas. He is expected to argue that taking all electricity from green sources would be a significant step towards the government’s ambition to hit net-zero emissions by 2050, and reduce exposure to fluctuations in gas prices.” It continues: “The new target will require significant growth not only in offshore wind generation but also in nuclear capacity to provide a ‘baseload’ of electricity to cope with variable supply and demand. It will mean a minimum quadrupling of offshore wind from the present level over the coming decade. Johnson hinted at the approach in an interview with the Times at the weekend. He said that the government would ‘deal with the cost of electricity and energy’ by increasing ‘our clean energy generation’…Johnson will argue that investing in renewable energy will protect consumers from gas price fluctuations and bring down bills in the long term. Ministers are also examining proposals to reduce the burden of taxes and charges on electricity bills and place them on to domestic gas to encourage consumers to invest in electric heat pumps.” Meanwhile, BBC News reports that Johnson has told BBC Wales that “proposals for a new nuclear power plant at Wylfa are being looked at by the UK government”. The Financial Times says that “EDF has warned that it is now ‘urgent’ for the UK government to decide on the future of the £20bn Sizewell C nuclear power station, including whether China’s CGN should remain involved in the project”.
The Guardian says that “among the subjects preoccupying delegates at the Conservative party conference in Manchester on Monday, energy will be near the top of the list”. It adds that “soaring global gas prices, a lack of wind power and surging household bills have focused minds on Britain’s energy needs – and the role of nuclear power in particular”. The Independent carries an interview with environment minister Zac Goldsmith who says the petrol crisis is a “good lesson” on the need to end our dependence on fossil fuels and accelerate the switch to electric vehicles. The online newspaper continues: “The international environment minister also hit out at sceptics – including those ‘in the Conservative party’ – organising a ‘fightback’ against the drive for net-zero carbon emissions ahead of the Glasgow gathering.…Lord Goldsmith did not criticise any individuals, but said: ‘There are people in society, there are people in the Conservative Party, people in politics, who are sceptical, and who are not supportive of government efforts to secure this transition. I think they’re very much in the minority and I think the science is proving them wrong. Extraordinary events, day to day, are proving them wrong.’”
The Guardian also reports that “voters in Tory heartlands want the government to do more to tackle the climate crisis, and support measures that many backbench Conservative MPs have balked at, from ditching gas boilers to taxing flights, new polling shows”. It adds: “A poll of 41 constituencies in the ‘blue wall’ – long-term Tory-held seats, tilted towards the south but with some in the north of England – has found that a majority of voters there believe the UK should be a world leader on climate, and that the costs of inaction outweigh the costs of action. Six in 10 support the phasing out of gas boilers, while more than half (54%) want a tax on frequent flyers and a similar number (54%) support the phasing out of petrol and diesel vehicles.”
In other UK news, BBC News reports that “the world’s longest under-sea electricity cable, transferring green power between Norway and the UK, has begun operation”. It adds: “The 450-mile (725km) cable connects Blyth in Northumberland with the Norwegian village of Kvilldal. At full 1,400 megawatt capacity it will import enough hydro-power to supply 1.4m homes, National Grid said.” The Independent says: “Much of Norway’s energy is sourced from clean hydroelectricity the North Sea Link was been billed as a step towards the UK’s of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.” Another story in the Independent says that “the growth of renewable power in the UK has collapsed to its lowest rate in a decade, new analysis has found”. It continues: “Analysis of official figures shared with the Independent shows that total renewable capacity grew by just 2.1% in the year to December 2020. This compares with an average annual rise of 18% over the past decade – and an increase of 6.1% in the year before.” The Daily Mail reports that “business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng [has] ruled out future fracking in the UK…amid warnings that the government would need to raise taxes on gas”.
Separately, the Times says: “The government will significantly miss its zero-emission vehicle targets because the vast majority of new cars being sold in 2030 will still have internal combustion engines. That is the conclusion of a report for the Department for Transport from New AutoMotive, a climate change thinktank, which says ministers must adopt more radical plans like those in California if it wants to decarbonise the sector in the timeframes it has set.” The Daily Telegraph says that “councils may be installing hundreds of taxpayer-funded charging points for electric cars in ‘the wrong place’ due to ‘misleading’ official data on the location of battery-operated vehicles, it has emerged”. The i newpaper carries the views of senior Conservative backbencher Robert Halfon who says that his constituents cannot afford a “fancy electric car”. The Guardian notes that the Queen has urged Scotland’s MSPs to tackle climate change and “help create a better, healthier future” in a speech as she formally opened the new session of the Scottish parliament. BBC News says that the “Green Party’s new leadership team [Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay] to focus on power not protests”. And, finally, the Guardian says that, following the party’s conference in Brighton last week, “climate experts and campaigners have given a cautious welcome to Labour’s proposals to tackle the escalating ecological crisis but urged the party not to back away from a broader ‘green new deal’ agenda to ensure a rapid and fair transition to a low-carbon economy”.
BBC News, reporting from the pre-COP26 meeting of ministers in Milan, says that poorer nations have told rich countries that their plans to curb carbon are “smoke and mirrors” and must be urgently improved. The broadcaster adds: “Officials from developing countries demanded tougher targets for cutting carbon emissions and more cash to combat climate change. One minister condemned ‘selfishness or lack of good faith’ in the rich world. US special envoy John Kerry said all major economies ‘must stretch’ to do the maximum they can. Around 50 ministers from a range of countries met here to try to overcome some significant hurdles before world leaders gather in Glasgow in November.” Reuters also covers Kerry’s remarks, adding: “New energy and funding pledges from the US and China have raised negotiators’ hopes, but many G20 countries – including major polluters such as China and India – have yet to announce updates of their short-term climate action plans. Youth climate activists including Sweden’s Greta Thunberg, who was in Milan this week, have demanded that policymakers match words with action and stump up billions of dollars to wean the world off fossil fuels. They have also called for a transparent climate finance system and more grants to help the people most exposed to the impact of climate change.” Another Reuters article notes that COP26 president-designate Alok Sharma said that delegates in Milan agreed they must deliver on the $100bn per year pledge to help most vulnerable nations tackle climate change. It adds: “Speaking after days of meetings at the pre-COP26 climate event in Italy, Sharma said there was a consensus to do more to keep the 1.5C target within reach, adding more needed to be done collectively in terms of national climate plans.”
China’s biggest coal miners have pledged to increase production as the country struggles with a deepening power crisis that is threatening to hit economic growth, reports the Financial Times. It adds: “Central government officials this week told state-owned energy companies to secure supplies for this winter at all costs, with the instruction reported to have come directly from Han Zheng, the vice-premier who oversees the sector.” Reuters says that “a top official of China’s state-asset regulator said on Friday the county’s power supply situation remains challenging and urged grid firms to prioritise residential use and ensure safe operation as winter approaches, said the State Grid Corporation of China”.
China has asked Russia to “boost its electricity supply”, the Daily Telegraph reports. The newspaper writes: “A company spokesperson for Inter Rao, Russia’s monopoly for electricity exports, said China asked the company to send more power to its northern provinces, most impacted by the blackouts.” ITV News says that China’s electricity shortages “could leave the UK short of Christmas gifts”. The broadcaster says that the “power problems” in China mean “many of our gifts and goods could be facing disruption and delays to their production and delivery”. A separate Daily Telegraph article says “stuttering production in the ‘world’s workshop’ will deal fresh blow to supply chains in run up to Christmas, triggering stagflation fears”. Bloomberg reports that global food prices “may soar again” as China encounters the “severe energy crisis”. According to Jiemian News, a Shanghai-based news website, at least eight provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities in China have increased their “on-grid power tariffs” – the prices at which grids purchase electricity from power-generating companies. The outlet says that the move aimed to tackle the power shortfalls, partly driven by state-controlled power prices being low in the country.
Reuters says: “Demand for coal and natural gas has exceeded pre-Covid-19 highs with oil not far behind, dealing a setback to hopes the pandemic would spur a faster transition to clean energy from fossil fuels.” And EurActiv reports that “the current hike in energy prices is threatening to overshadow the COP26 climate summit this November as countries scramble to tackle the rising costs of electricity, oil and gas, warned a senior executive at Spanish power firm Iberdrola”.
Meanwhile, Reuters says that “Indian utilities are scrambling to secure coal supplies as inventories hit critical lows after a surge in power demand from industries and sluggish imports due to record global prices push power plants to the brink”. It adds: “Over half of India’s 135 coal-fired power plants have fuel stocks of less than three days, government data shows, far short of federal guidelines recommending supplies of at least two weeks.” The Financial Times says “India is the latest country to face a severe power crisis that threatens to undermine its recovery from the pandemic, with authorities warning that power plants have run perilously low on coal…The power ministry said at the weekend that heavy September rains in coal-mining areas had hit both production and delivery of coal, while plants themselves had failed to build up their stocks prior to the monsoon season.” Bloomberg says that “India is buying Australian coal that’s been stranded inside China for months, according to people who have made the purchases, spotlighting how geopolitics is complicating Beijing’s battle against an energy supply crisis”.
Separately, the Financial Times reports that “Europe’s escalating gas supply crunch has pushed up the price of allowances linked to carbon emissions as energy producers switch over to cheaper but dirtier coal”. It adds: “EU carbon allowances last week topped €65 a tonne for the first time. Allowances under the UK’s nascent cap and trade system hit a record £76 (€88) a tonne.” Finally, in other European energy news, Reuters says: “France could decide to build six new nuclear EPR reactors before EDF’s EPR nuclear power plant in Flamanville, northwestern France, is fully operational, industry minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said on Friday, as the country bets on renewables and nuclear power for its energy sovereignty.” And another Reuters article says that “German utility EnBW will register its RDK 7 hard coal-fired power station at Karlsruhe for closure by mid-2022, it said on Friday, which means it could cease operations 12 months later unless grid operators and authorities object”.
Several outlets focus on the on-going struggle by Democrats in the US to find consensus over how best to move forward on their infrastructure bill and social agenda. Reuters says: “Democrats said…that their sweeping bill intended to bolster the social safety net and fight climate change will need to be trimmed from a $3.5tn goal, perhaps to closer to $2tn, following a visit by the president to Capitol Hill to sell his agenda. But they have come no closer to agreement on that figure over the weekend. Progressive Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, told ABC News Sunday that $3.5tn ‘should be a minimum. But I accept there is going to have to be give and take’. Moderate Democrat Joe Manchin said his top line for the package is $1.5tn, while fellow moderate Krysten Sinema has not committed publicly to a number.” Meanwhile, another Reuters reports says “the White House and top Democratic lawmakers have agreed to boost a tax credit for industrial carbon capture projects in a deal that could help solidify support for the budget reconciliation bill at the heart of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda, two sources with knowledge of the matter said”.
A research project on a China-California carbon market – which involves multiple institutes – officially kicked off through a virtual launch ceremony last Wednesday, China’s Economic Daily reports. The project, called China-California carbon market joint research project, aims at improving the operating efficiency and effect of the carbon markets in China and California. It also intends to promote the development of the global carbon market and propel the communication and cooperation between China and the US on climate change, the state-run outlet says. Four establishments – Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development of Tsinghua University, Institute of Energy, Environment and Economy of Tsinghua University, California-China Climate Institute and Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment of the University of California in Los Angeles – will conduct the research together, the publication adds. China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, also picks up the story.
Meanwhile, China News Service, a state-run newswire, has a report titled: “How does China promote its ‘dual-carbon’ action in a coordinated manner?” The outlet cites Dr Yang Pingjian from the Chinese Academy of Environmental Sciences. Dr Yang proposes two “keywords” for the country’s climate action, “scientific” and “coordinated”, the article says. Dr Yang also notes that the Chinese regions whose per-capita GDP is below the national average still have a “very strong” will to develop. “In the future, these provinces must avoid a sharp rise in carbon emissions brought by economic recovery or fast economic growth,” Dr Yang is quoted saying.
In India energy news, Bloomberg reports that “[state-run] coal power giant National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) Ltd expects to raise $2bn through initial public offerings in three units including its renewables business”. It reports that the country’s “largest electricity producer”, with “90% of its generation capacity on coal…has pivoted toward green energy as pressure mounts to reduce coal usage because of the fuel’s role in global warming”. It said earlier this year “it would help build 60 gigawatts of renewable energy projects by 2032”. According to Bloomberg: “[The company] plans to sell shares in NTPC Renewable Energy Ltd within a year”, quoting an unnamed company official, and “has also been looking to expand its hydropower fleet, buying two government producers, including North Eastern Electric, last year for $1.5bn.” Meanwhile, the Economic Times reports that “Adani Green Energy has completed the acquisition of SB Energy India for $3.5 bn”. It is “the largest acquisition in the renewable energy sector in India”.
An editorial in the Financial Times argues that the UK government must “think clearly about how to reduce emissions from homes”. It continues: “An analysis by the influential Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank, published this weekend, shows that Britons face a carbon price of £137 per tonne of CO2 equivalent for household electricity compared with an implicit subsidy of £24 per tonne on natural gas for home heating, taking into account lower rates of value added tax on the fuel than normal goods. It is therefore a welcome first step that, as revealed by the Financial Times last week, ministers are planning to shift green surcharges that pay for renewable energy subsidies from households’ electricity to gas bills…It does not, however, go far enough…A reluctance to raise the cost of natural gas is understandable, given that poorer households spend more of their income on heating their homes. But it only further underscores the importance of joined-up, coherent thinking about how Britain can hit its net-zero emissions target by 2050. A properly designed insulation programme that reduces bills will have the biggest benefits for those same groups, as well as for the environment.” An editorial in the Independent says: “Petrol shortages have incentivised switching to electric vehicles, but when supplies have stabilised this momentum will dissipate. It’s up to the government to put an end to our reliance on climate-damaging energy.” In the Sunday Times, author Anthony Horowitz writes: “Pro-nuclear voices will argue it is needed to help wean us off gas – in particular imports from places such as Russia. This ignores the fact that it will take at least 12 years before Sizewell C is complete.” Also in the Sunday Times, Jon Yeomans asks: “Are small nuclear reactors really the answer to our green energy crisis?” But he “finds problems remain with the untested technology”. The Sunday Times‘s letters pages includes several letters on the topic of nuclear energy. And a further Sunday Times feature looks at the UK’s industrial strategy and concludes that “green energy” is one of five industries that “could form the bedrock of an integrated strategy”.
Meanwhile, the Times carries a comment piece by Ben Houchen, the metro mayor of Tees Valley, who says: “Net-zero sceptics, listen up: this is the future. Let me say this to those in the Conservative Party and beyond who are still sceptical – net-zero is not a fad; it is a unique opportunity to bring industry back to the Red Wall. Not only will this agenda give people in Teesside new jobs and skills that will raise living standards, it is also how Britain can lead the world again.” The Daily Telegraph, in contrast, carries the views of David Davis MP who says “Tory MPs are sick of tax hikes and green spending”. And the Daily Telegraph also publishes a comment piece by climate sceptic Janet Daley who argues: “Boris Johnson should drop the green pieties. People want work, independence, dignity.”
An editorial in the South China Morning Post says that China and the US can together “make the difference between life and death”. It continues: “Beijing joins Tokyo and Seoul, the two other key players in public financing of coal plants, which earlier this year also announced ending involvement. It has made an important declaration [in pledging to end financing of overseas coal-fired power plants], but no details were given. A number of Chinese overseas coal power projects had already been cancelled or put on hold and the time frame for others involved has not been set. Whether it applies to both financing and construction has also not been articulated, nor is it certain if it relates only to state-run firms.
More than 80% of the world’s coal schemes involve the private sector…Developed nations are more advanced in turning to cleaner sources, though, taking advantage of the ever-falling cost of solar and wind technology to retire coal-fired plants…Joe Biden pledged to the UN his country would double climate funding for developing nations. The US and China are the world’s biggest polluters and they have to work together and show the way on climate change.”
The Financial Times has a “big read” on how the electric car “revolution” is “finally here”. It adds that “this is the first part of an FT series analysing how the electric vehicle market has rapidly shifted from first gear to fifth”. The New York Times carries a guest essay by Prof David Keith – professor of applied physics and of public policy at Harvard, where he led the development of the university’s solar engineering research programme. He concludes: “Cooling the planet to reduce human suffering in this century will require carbon removal or solar geoengineering or both. The trade-offs between them are uncertain because little comparative research has been done. The fact that one or both are taboo in some green circles is a dreadful misstep of contemporary environmentalism. Climate justice demands fast action to cut emissions and serious exploration of pathways to a cooler future.” Finally, the i newspaper carries a comment piece by James Dyke, a senior lecturer in global systems at Exeter University, who argues that “the fuel and energy crises have laid bare our dependence on fossil fuels”. He says: “The most effective response to both challenges is to accelerate the transition away these sources of energy.”
A new study finds that when annual extreme temperatures occur in an “exclusive economic zone”, 77% of exploited fish and invertebrates will see a decrease in biomass, while the number of potential catches per year will drop by 6%. The authors use “an integrated climate-biodiversity-
Expert analysis directly to your inbox.