Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Australia’s banks stop funding coal as trading partners decarbonise
- Marise Payne declines to welcome adoption of net-zero emissions target by Japan and South Korea
- Asset managers warned over ‘insufficient’ climate risk reporting
- European oil stocks dealt €360bn blow while renewables surge
- The next pandemic: where is it coming from and how do we stop it?
- There is only one existential threat. Let's talk about it.
- Large Chinese land carbon sink estimated from atmospheric carbon dioxide data
- Let more big fish sink: Fisheries prevent blue carbon sequestration – half in unprofitable areas
ANZ Bank has become the last of the Australia’s “big four” banks to say it will stop financing new thermal coal projects, the Financial Times reports, adding that the move will force mining projects in the country to turn to foreign lenders. ANZ will immediately cease funding new projects, the FT says, with lending to existing coal plants and mines ending by 2030. The Guardian reports the news and adds that Australia’s deputy prime minister Michael McCormack criticised the decision as “virtue signalling”. Bloomberg also has the story. The Guardian reports in an “exclusive” that a private investigator for Adani, the firm hoping to build a giant coal mine in Queensland, had “surveilled and followed anti-Adani activist Ben Pennings’ wife and daughter”.
In other coal developments, Climate Home News reports that the Philippines has declared a moratorium on new coal-fired power stations, saying that the move “could scrap 8GW [gigawatts]” of capacity that has yet to receive full approval, meaning only a third of the 12GW pipeline would be able to move forward. A second article from Climate Home News asks “who will build the world’s last coal plant”. Meanwhile, Miningmx reports that the state-owned Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa has pulled its support for a thermal coal mine in the country, citing “market conditions” for the fuel having “deteriorated materially”. Reuters reports that Banks Mining in the UK will not challenge a government decision to reject its plans for a new coal mine at Druridge Bay in northeast England.
There is continuing coverage of the news that South Korea has joined Japan in this week committing to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, with the Guardian reporting that Australia’s foreign minister “decline[d] to welcome” the moves. The paper notes that the two countries are the largest markets for Australian fossil fuel exports, along with China, which also recently set its own net-zero commitment. [Carbon Brief analysis shows two-thirds of Australian coal exports in 2018 went to countries that now have net-zero targets.] BusinessGreen, Climate Home News and Reuters all cover the news of South Korea’s pledge. In a comment for Reuters, columnist Clyde Russell says Australia has “shrug[ged] off” the net-zero pledges of its “top resource buyers”, adding: “It shouldn’t.” Russell describes Australian prime minister Scott Morrison’s response as “a case of putting one’s head in the sand and pretending that the problem will somehow go away”. He concludes: “If there is a positive, it’s that Australia’s resource companies are likely to embrace a carbon-neutral future, even if it is without support from the federal government.”
Asset managers are not providing enough information about the climate risks faced by companies they invest in, according to a regulatory task force, the Financial Times reports. It says the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures has (TCFD) found “insufficient” risk reporting in its third annual status update, published today. Reuters says the TCFD found the current voluntary global disclosure code “needs wider backing from asset managers and others to be fully effective”. Reuters notes: “Just one in 15 companies reviewed disclosed information on the resilience of their strategy, far lower than other categories of disclosure such as governance and risk management, it added.” Meanwhile, an analysis piece from Reuters reports that central banks are “preparing to deploy their firepower in another unprecedented battle – against climate change”. It looks at what central banks are doing to tackle the issue. Finally, Reuters reports that Barclays has raised £400m “through a green bond issuance, which will be used to finance or re-finance mortgages on energy efficient residential properties”.
Europe’s big oil-and-gas firms have lost more than €360bn in market value this year, the Financial Times reports “while renewable energy stocks and technology companies focused on cleaner fuels have surged”. The paper says the €364bn loss in market value amounts to a 53% drop across 16 companies, whereas various clean energy firms have seen large increases in market capitalisation this year: “The gulf in performance between the two groups highlights how investors are betting on a transition away from fossil fuels.” In related news, the Financial Times reports that Shell’s share price has fallen to a 25-year low, with the firm raising its dividend in what the paper calls a “pitch to shareholders”. The FT says: “Royal Dutch Shell raised its dividend on Thursday, insisting it could afford higher payouts even as the oil and gas company navigated the twin challenges of the pandemic and the shift towards lower carbon energy.”
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Danish energy firm Ørsted – the world’s largest offshore wind developer – has “beat[en] third quarter profit expectations”. Another Reuters piece says General Electric shares have risen 10% after an unexpected quarterly profit “on the back of cost cuts and improvements in its power and renewable energy businesses”. A third Reuters article says Norwegian oil firm Equinor has written off $2.9bn in assets “after cutting its long-term oil price forecast on Thursday, betting the pandemic and a shift away from fossil fuels will have a lasting impact on markets”. Bloomberg reports that a solar panel parts maker has listed on the Spanish stock market, with stock trading 14% higher than its initial public offering “buoyed by Europe’s drive for a green economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic”. Finally, Reuters reports that Spanish wind giant Iberdrola has called for EU funds to expand the scope of its renewable hydrogen project in central Spain. The firm wants to expand the scheme from 2 megawatts (MW) of electrolyser capacity to 800MW by 2027, which Reuters says would be a fifth of the 4,000MW that Spain is targeting by 2030.
In the Financial Times magazine, environment and clean energy correspondent Leslie Hook introduces the “virus-hunters trying to prevent the next Covid-19” in a world where “deforestation and climate change increase the spread of new diseases”. Her feature quotes one researcher on the factors that make disease emergence more likely, such as deforestation and illegal trade in wild animals, saying: “when you put it all together – population pressure, urbanisation, agricultural practices, deforestation, high mobility . . . and then climate change is going to make all these things worse”. Hook adds: “Extreme weather events, such as drought and flooding, also have a big impact. For diseases like dengue fever, heavy rains make its spread more likely by creating breeding grounds for the mosquito that carries it.”
In a comment for the New York Times, columnist Farhad Manjoo says that whereas climate change was “mostly ignored” during the 2016 US election, the topic “got airtime in both presidential debates and the vice-presidential debate”, as well as having been “one of the top issues during the Democratic primary race”. But, Manjoo says: “I keep getting discouraged by how far there is to go. Voters, the candidates and especially the political media have not given it enough attention this year, considering the stakes at hand…[T]he pundit class on Twitter and cable news rarely discuss climate change as the existential threat to humanity that it now plainly is.” He concludes: “The sitting president of the United States has no plan to address the most important problem facing humanity. That’s it. That’s the scandal. That’s the tweet. That’s the headline.” Meanwhile, the Hill reports that Democrats “are sensing political gains from the green new deal heading into election day, even as Republicans deride the progressive proposal”. And Scientific American has a podcast on the election stakes for climate science.
China’s land surface absorbs around 45% of its annual national carbon emissions, a new study estimates. Using data from six sites across the country during 2009-16, the researchers calculate an average China land biosphere sink of 1.11bn tonnes of carbon per year. The estimate “reflects a previously underestimated land carbon sink over southwest China (Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi provinces) throughout the year, and over northeast China (especially Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces) during summer months”, the study says. The authors note that these provinces have seen a period of rapid afforestation, with forest areas “increasing by between 0.04m and 0.44m hectares per year over the past 10 to 15 years”. (Carbon Brief has previously mapped where afforestation is taking place across the world, with China contributing the largest area.)
The global fishing industry is reducing the storage of “blue carbon” through the death and sinking of large fish, a new study says. By catching these fish – rather than letting them die naturally – and using fossil fuels to power their boats, ocean fisheries “have released a minimum of 0.73bn tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere since 1950”, the study finds. The authors also note that “globally, 43.5% of the blue carbon extracted by fisheries in the high seas comes from areas that would be economically unprofitable without subsidies”.
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