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Daily Briefing |

TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES

Briefing date 23.05.2022
Anthony Albanese signals climate policy change

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News.

Australia election: Anthony Albanese signals climate policy change
BBC News Read Article

Many publications report on the results of Australia’s general election, where climate change proved a “key concern for voters”, BBC News reports. Anthony Albanese, who won Australia’s election with the centre-left Labor Party after nearly a decade of Liberal-National coalition rule, has pledged to deliver a “big shift in climate policy” and to make the country a “renewable energy superpower”, BBC News says. (Albanese was sworn in as Australia’s 31st prime minister this morning and the Guardian reports it is looking “increasingly likely” that Labor will form a majority government.) Speaking to BBC News shortly after declaring victory this weekend, Albanese said: “We have an opportunity now to end the climate wars in Australia. Australian businesses know that good action on climate change is good for jobs and good for our economy, and I want to join the global effort.” Albanese also “promised to adopt more ambitious emissions targets”. BBC News adds: “However, he has so far refused calls to phase out coal use or to block the opening of new coal mines.” If the Labor party fails to form a majority government, Greens and “teal” independents campaigning on climate action, who both made major gains, “could wield greater influence in framing the new government’s policies on the issue”, BBC News adds. On Saturday evening, teal independent candidates were set to win at least five seats from the Liberals, “punishing the party’s moderate wing for not securing strong enough action on the climate crisis”, the Guardian reports. CNN also reports on early results suggesting “a strong swing towards Greens candidates and independents who demanded emissions cuts far above the commitments made by the ruling conservative coalition”.

Ahead of the results, the Guardian reported that former prime minister toned down his negative language around climate action at the time of making a trade deal with the UK in 2021 and that analysis found that more than $1bn of climate funding pledged by the Coalition would have been spent on fossil fuel projects.

Temperatures in parts of Spain reach highest on record for May
The Guardian Read Article

Parts of Spain experienced their hottest May since records began this weekend, the Guardian reports. Seville airport reached 41C on Friday, while another Andalucían city, Jaén, hit 40.3C – almost 2C above the previous record for the city, the Guardian says. The outlet adds: “The city of Segovia, north-west of Madrid, also experienced its first ‘tropical’ May night on Friday as temperatures remained above 20C.” The Guardian carries the comments of a spokesperson from Spain’s state meteorological agency, who said: “The climate in Spain isn’t the one we used to know. It’s got more extreme.” The agency issued heat warnings for 10 regions on Saturday, warning the country faced “one of the most intense” heatwaves in years, BBC News reports. The Washington Post adds that France, Portugal and Germany also suffered from extreme heat this weekend, with France’s meteorological agency predicting the country will have faced its hottest May ever. In Germany, several locations set May records on Friday, with temperatures of more than 30C in the south, the Washington Post says.

Elsewhere in the world, the US also faced historic spring heat this weekend, the Guardian reports. Parts of the east coast, including Boston and Washington, were forecast to see new temperature records set on Saturday, the Guardian reports. The outlet says: “The early arrival of sweltering weather, before what’s expected to be another hot, dry summer, is forecast to break or tie roughly 130 heat records for this time of year.” The Guardian adds the heat was expected to affect 120 million Americans. Meanwhile, millions more people living in the southwest US are being gripped by a “megadrought”, according to the Financial Times. In addition, the state of New Mexico is continuing to face its largest and most destructive wildfire in history, the FT reports separately.

In Asia, Indian wheat farmers are still counting the costs of recent 40C heat, the Guardian reports. And, in recent days, heavy flooding in India and Bangladesh has killed more than 60 people and left millions more displaced, the New York Times reports.

In addition, Reuters reports that hundreds of people have been evacuated amid renewed flooding in South Africa.

Storms and tornadoes are raging in Germany
Der Tagesspiegel Read Article

Der Tagesspiegel reports on “massive storms” across Germany, with severe damage and at least three tornadoes in the east of North Rhine-Westphalia. It adds that the city of Paderborn was hardest hit by the hurricane “Emmelinde” on Friday, where 43 people were injured, according to the police. Among other things, the news continues, they were hit by roof tiles and injured by falling trees – 13 of them seriously.

Meanwhile, Deutsche Welle reports that during his three-day trip to Africa Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Sunday that “Berlin will actively work to push for the restart of grain exports to Africa from Ukraine that have been halted as a result of Russia’s invasion”. It adds that he also spoke of the need to ensure the steady transfer of fertilisers out of Africa. Radio Free Europe reports that during the African trip, at a news conference with the Senegalese president Macky Sall, Scholz also said that his country wants to “intensively” pursue gas and renewable energy projects with the West African nation amid uncertainties with Russian supplies. The news details that “Senegal, a country of some 16m people, has billions of cubic metres of gas reserves and is expected to become a major gas producer in the region”. It also quotes Sall, speaking in his role as African Union chairman: “Very clearly, we want peace, we’re working for a de-escalation. We’re working for a cease-fire, for dialogue…That is the African position”.

In more German news, Die Zeit reports that the government has concluded an energy partnership with Qatar which focuses on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and green hydrogen. The outlet adds that Scholz said after a meeting with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, that Germany would create the infrastructure needed for LNG imports. It quotes Scholz: “This is a big, big step forward and Qatar plays a central role in our strategy.“ Deutsche Welle adds that Al-Thani confirmed Qatar‘s plans to start supplying LNG to Germany in 2024.

Finally, Euronews reports that German farmer Allhoff-Cramer is suing Volkswagen claiming that “the automaker is partly responsible for the impact of global heating on the farming industry and wants Volkswagen to stop making combustion engines by 2030”. The media outlet quotes him saying: “Farmers are already being hit harder and faster by climate change than expected.”

UK: HSBC suspends banker over climate change comments
Financial Times Read Article

HSBC has suspended a senior executive pending an internal investigation into a presentation he made where he called climate change warnings as “shrill” and “unsubstantiated” and made light of impacts such as sea level rise, the FT reports in a frontpage story. Stuart Kirk, who is global head of responsible investing at the bank’s asset management division and former FT journalist, also accused bankers and policymakers of overstating the financial risks of climate change in his speech titled “why investors need not worry about climate risk”, given at an FT Moral Money summit last week. Over the weekend, HSBC’s chief executive tried to distance himself from the presentation, the FT says. It reports: “While the bank and its senior executives have criticised the speech made at a Financial Times conference, its theme and content had been agreed internally before Kirk spoke on Thursday, according to people with knowledge of the event’s planning.” The Guardian reports that “climate activists welcomed Kirk’s suspension, but said HSBC had questions to answer about the extent to which Kirk’s views were known or supported within the bank”. Beau O’Sullivan, a senior campaigner for the Bank on our Future campaign, tells the Guardian: “Kirk might be on his way out, but this opens up a new can of worms for HSBC. The bank must now explain how such offensive and inaccurate comments were signed off, to what extent other senior execs share Kirk’s views, and what sort of culture HSBC is breeding that allowed the comments to pass unchallenged.” The Independent, the Daily Telegraph and Reuters also cover Kirk’s remarks.

UK: Sunak and Johnson clash over how to spend windfall tax
The Sunday Times Read Article

A frontpage story in the Sunday Times reports that the UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak disagree over how to spend the proceeds of a mooted windfall tax on energy firms. The print edition of the story says Sunak “is planning a windfall tax for energy companies with a lower rate for firms prepared to invest billions of pounds in the economy”, with the money being use “to help with the cost with the rising cost of living”. It adds that Johnson would only support the tax “if Sunak puts some of the proceeds into the prime minister’s preferred projects, such as nuclear power stations and offshore windfarms”, according to “Downing Street officials”. (The story notably does not mention investment in energy efficiency.) A frontpage story in the Sunday Telegraph says that two more ministers have “become the fifth and sixth cabinet members to speak out” against a windfall tax, reporting that they said it “would damage the economy and have unintended consequences”. The Daily Mail says Sunak is looking at what “one source” describes to the paper as a “windfall tax lite”: “Whitehall sources confirmed last night that he is examining proposals for a ‘graduated’ levy on the big oil and gas firms, which would see those that fail to invest in improving energy capacity in this country face higher taxes.” The Press Association reports that the government “has not ruled out imposing a windfall tax on energy companies despite strong opposition from several ministers”. The Financial Times reports: “The Liberal Democrats have urged Downing Street to clarify whether Boris Johnson – who is resisting the idea of an energy windfall tax – has discussed the issue with his informal political adviser Sir Lynton Crosby, whose companies represent various clients in the oil and gas industry…Crosby’s close ally David Canzini, deputy chief of staff in Number 10, has emerged as a key opponent of an energy windfall tax in recent days, according to government aides. Downing Street did not deny the claims.” Separately, the Financial Times reports that Italian oil firm Eni “plans €2.5bn UK investment as calls for energy windfall tax grow”.

The news comes as several papers give prominent coverage today to the comments of Michael Lewis, chief executive of energy firm E.On, who according to a frontpage story in Monday’s Times, said that the number of households in fuel poverty could double in the autumn. The paper’s frontpage splash on the comments has the headline: “Fuel poverty predicted to hit 40% of households.” The Daily Mirror also splashes its frontpage on Lewis’s comments, reporting: “Boris Johnson must step in to prevent more people falling into fuel poverty, an energy boss warns.” The Daily Express frontpage has the headline: “Time for rescue plan, Rishi! Energy bills to hit £3,000.” The Guardian coverage says the UK should expect high energy bills for at least 18 months, according to Lewis.

China’s PV sector eyes opportunities under EU’s new energy plan
Global Times Read Article

China and the European Union (EU) have “bright cooperation prospects” in the photovoltaic (PV) sector “despite certain differences”, the Global Times reports, citing “industry sources and experts”. The EU’s green transition plan called “REPowerEU” will “strongly promote cooperation between China and the EU in green energy, especially the PV sector”, the state-run newspaper reports. The plan aims to “double PV capacity by 2025 and install 600GW (gigawatts) by 2030”, the outlet notes. One source told it that “China’s PV enterprises can seize the opportunity of this energy revolution to promote international cooperation in this sector”. Meanwhile, Politico’s China Direct newsletter reports that China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua is “planning to visit Europe later this month”. The outlet says that Xie is expected to attend the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos – where he will have a plenary with his US counterpart, John Kerry – before heading to Stockholm for an annual ministerial meeting on climate change, according to “people with knowledge”.

A host of outlets reports that China increased energy imports from Russia in April. Bloomberg says that China’s purchases of Russian oil, gas and coal “jump[ed] 75% in April to over $6bn”, even as “domestic demand slowed due to a resurgent virus and the US and Europe moved away from purchases”. Reuters notes in an “exclusive” that China is “quietly ramping up” purchases of Russian oil at “bargain prices”. Citing shipping data, the newswire says that the trading arm of Sinopec Corp – a major state-owned oil refining, gas and petrochemical conglomerate – is “leading the purchases”, along with Zhenhua Oil, a state-owned oil company. CNN reports that China’s coal imports from Russia “nearly doubled between March and April, reaching 4.42m metric tonnes”, according to “trade data” from Refinitiv, an American-British global provider of financial market data and infrastructure. The outlet says that China is buying “a lot of” Russian coal at “a big discount”.

Separately, Chinese vice premier Han Zheng on Thursday “called for solid work on ecological and environmental protection”, reports state news agency Xinhua. Han also highlighted the “economical use of resources” and stressed that carbon peaking and carbon neutrality work should be promoted “in a steady and orderly manner”, Xinhua says. Han issued the instructions to the leading group of central inspection on ecological and environmental protection. (Carbon Brief has explained the importance of the group.) Finally, Bloomberg says that China’s “beleaguered” carbon market is “facing more delays getting emissions allowances” due to difficulties in resolving”data fraud problems”.

Comment.

Australia’s rightwing government weaponised climate change – now it has faced its reckoning
Katharine Murphy, The Guardian Read Article

There is widespread reaction and comment regarding the Australian election over the weekend. Katharine Murphy, the political editor of Guardian Australia, writes that outgoing prime minister Scott Morrison has been “dumped by the electorate” after his efforts to “weaponise climate action”. One example is Morrison “falsely branding a modest policy by the Labor opposition to impose new vehicle emissions standards as a ‘war on the weekend’”, Murphy says: “While electric vehicles are largely uncontroversial in Britain and other countries, Morrison’s stylised ‘war’ was potent hyper-partisan politicking in a sprawling continent where electric vehicles are viewed through a prism of range anxiety.” After the 2019 election, which Morrison won, “centre-right progressive voters in capital cities were becoming frustrated with Morrison and the Coalition’s failure to get serious about the existential problem of global heating”, Murphy says. Despite signing up to a 2050 national net-zero target, Morrison’s “failure to repent for past reckless behaviour infuriated many voters”, Murphy says: “Those voters parted ways with Morrison’s government in Saturday’s election, voting for a swathe of climate-focused independents in Liberal held seats.”

Also in the Guardian, Murphy has an analysis piece looking at how the Labor party’s focus on opportunities for working people in the transition to renewables allowed “the Greens mounted a formidable on-the-ground campaign”. Frank Jotzo – professor of environmental economics and climate change economics at ANU Crawford School of Public Policy – writes that the new government “has the chance to do more than to make a start on selected policy measures: it can redefine the national conversation about climate change”. And Matt Kean – treasurer and energy minister in the New South Wales (NSW) Liberal government – writes that, “too often the previous government indulged in culture wars, egged on by the rightwing commentariat; failed to hear, respect and act on the concerns of women; and pretended facts – for example, that humans are causing climate change – didn’t exist”.

In other UK media, writing for BBC News, Nick Bryant – senior policy fellow of the Sydney Policy Lab at the University of Sydney – says that the Labor party’s “phobia of alienating voters in this mining and resources hub has had a paralysing effect on its approach to climate change” and “the Greens have been beneficiaries of Labor’s timidity regarding emissions targets”. An editorial in the Independent says that “this election came down to a contest of competence over the cost of living, with strong cross-currents of compassion, climate change, and a desire to break with ‘politics as usual’”. Also in the Independent, writer Jane Dalton says “the most eye-catching difference between Labor and the coalition is the party’s environmental credentials, and activists celebrated”. Bloomberg opinion columnist David Fickling cautions that “climate won Australia’s election”, but “wielding power will be harder”. And less pleased by the result is the Daily Telegraph’s right-leaning columnist and leader writer Tim Stanley, who says that “green radicals are ravaging mainstream parties”.

In Australian media, an editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald says that incoming prime minister Anthony Albanese has a “clear mandate to end the fake culture and climate wars – often imported from the US and fuelled by some sections of the media – which have set city against country and progressives against conservatives”. It adds that “a strong majority of Australians have clearly said they want stronger action on climate change”. In the same paper, Bob Carr – the now-retired longest-serving premier of NSW and a former Australian foreign minister – writes that there has been a “notion simmering away in Australian opinion over the last three years: that the climate shift was fundamental and required urgent response”. This urgency “was confirmed by international climate diplomacy galvanised around COP26 in Glasgow last November”, he says: “And it accorded with the local evidence on the ground. The fires and the floods were ominous proof that a climate shift was upon us. Human activity had warmed the land surface, bringing fires earlier and making them bigger and changing our hydrology.”

There is also analysis of the election result in the New York TimesReuters and Bloomberg.

An energy windfall tax is doomed to failure. Ministers must condemn it
Editorial, Daily Telegraph Read Article

An editorial in the Daily Telegraph argues that a windfall tax on highly profiting oil and gas companies to ease the cost-of-living crisis would be “doomed to fail”. The editorial claims the tax would be “unfair” to oil and gas companies, arguing: “Windfall levies are retrospective, changing the rules on a whim by hiking taxes when people happen to have made more money…The government itself is to blame for under-investment in UK non-renewable energy: it has empowered the Bank of England to discourage investment in oil and gas, and keeps reminding businesses that it hopes to phase out their use almost entirely.” Meanwhile, an editorial in the Daily Mail says a windfall tax under current circumstances could be “innovative”. It claims: “Britain’s shambolic energy policy has played a part in this nightmare. Fearing the eco-lobby’s rage, successive governments have run down nuclear, abandoned North Sea oil and gas, and shelved fracking.” It also incorrectly claims a drive for renewables have driven “eye-watering energy bills”. In addition, the Daily Express carries an op-ed from climate-sceptic Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay, who organises the “net-zero watch” small group of Tory MPs, who tries to claim the current energy crisis has its “roots” in the “1997 Labour manifesto”.

Drivers of UK household energy expenditure: Promoting efficiency and curbing emissions
Energy Policy Read Article

New research looks at the drivers behind how much households in the UK spend on energy. Focusing on 2011-20, the researchers find that, overall, “the key drivers of electricity and gas expenditure are household size, number of rooms, and urban location, with homeowners generally being more sensitive”. They also find that “renters are more sensitive to changes in electricity and gas prices than homeowners, by about 23% and 7%, respectively”. As a result, the researchers recommend that “policymakers offer monetary or legislative incentives to landlords to make energy efficiency improvements in their rented properties, such as double glazing or solar panels”.

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