Today's climate and energy headlines:
- BP highlights ‘decisive’ shift away from coal power
- Tillerson: 'My view didn’t change' on Paris climate agreement
- Scottish greenhouse gas emissions rise
- EPA moves to halt Obama methane rule for two years
- Trump was wrong to withdraw from Paris climate accord, says Gove
- Theresa May could ditch plans for an energy price cap after being urged to by Cabinet Ministers
- Ukip MEP resigns amid investigation into alleged misuse of funds
- National Grid reveals plans to simplify balancing services market
- Recalling Michael Gove is an act of environmental vandalism
- Potential impacts of climate change on extreme precipitation over four African coastal cities
- Climate change adaptation in the Sahel
- Climate change and loss, as if people mattered: values, places, and experiences
The world has made a “decisive” shift away from coal and not even Donald Trump will be able to save it. This is how the Financial Times describes the message from BP, after it published its latest set of annual statistics on world energy use and production. Most of the media focuses on the coal figures. “Global coal production plunged by 6.2% last year, the largest annual fall on record,” says the FT. “Global coal consumption also dropped as the US, China and especially the UK cut their use of the dirtiest fossil fuel.” The Guardian says that “the UK was described as the ‘most extreme example’ of the trend away from coal, which has resulted in use of the fuel returning to levels not seen since the start of the industrial revolution”. Reuters says that “growth in Chinese [energy] consumption fell to its lowest in nearly two decades, while renewables flourished”, adding that “slower demand growth helped stall the acceleration of greenhouse gas emissions for a third year to levels not seen since the 1980s, but emissions remained well above targets set out globally under the 2015 Paris accord on climate change”. In the Daily Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard says: “The unveiling of the BP Statistical Review of World Energy is an annual ritual. This year it tells us that a profound rupture has occurred as technology advances by leaps and bounds, and humanity finds alternatives to fossil fuels faster than almost anybody thought possible. Global carbon emissions were flat for the third year in a row, even though the global economy grew by 3pc. Coal is the chief casualty.” The Times takes an alternative look at the data highlighting that “renewables were the fastest growing energy source worldwide last year but barely grew in Europe because the weather was less windy and sunny…China was responsible for about 40% of the global growth in renewables, which now account for about 4% of global energy consumption. Year-on-year growth in renewable energy in the EU was “almost zero”, however, because renewables were generating electricity less often than in 2015.” In a separate Times article, Emily Gosden, the paper’s energy editor, focuses on coal and remarks of BP’s chief economist: “[Spencer] Dale said the change had been driven by ‘structural, long-term factors: the increasing availability and competitiveness of natural gas and renewable energy combined with mounting government and societal pressure to shift away from coal towards cleaner, lower-carbon fuels’.” Bloomberg opens its article with this introduction: “China’s domination of energy markets — long the driver of soaring fossil-fuel consumption and rising carbon pollution — is now turning the planet in a cleaner direction. The biggest energy consumer is moving toward the end of an era after it burned the least coal in six years, became the number one producer of renewable energy and even lowered its emissions of climate-warming gases, according to data from BP Plc.” Carbon Brief’s own detailed analysis of the new BP data will be published later today.
Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State and former Exxon CEO, told senators yesterday that he still supports the Paris climate change agreement, despite President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from it. “My view didn’t change,” Tillerson said at a hearing on the State Department’s budget. “My views were heard out. I respect that the president heard my views, but I respect the decision he’s taken.” He said Trump was “quite deliberative” in his consideration of the Paris pact. The president “took some time to come to his decision, particularly waiting until he had heard from European counterparts in the G7 on it,” Tillerson said. Meanwhile, Scientific American reports that Rick Perry, Trump’s energy secretary, has now reversed his position on the Paris Agreement. At a White House Cabinet meeting, Perry told President Trump that he defended the US’s withdrawal from the global accord while meeting with energy ministers last week in China and Japan. “They needed to hear why America was stepping away from the Paris accord, and they did,” Perry said. “And how America is not stepping back, but we’re stepping into place and sending some messages.” Before Trump’s decision to quit the accord earlier this month, Perry said it would be better to stay in. Separately, the Hill reports that California’s governor Jerry Brown has been named a special adviser to COP23, the annual UN climate change conference, to be held in Bonn, Germany, later this year. The Hill explains that Brown has been a vocal opponent of Trump’s Paris decision: “Brown has become a high-profile advocate for climate action on the world stage in recent weeks. The California governor traveled to China last week where he spoke with President Xi Jinping about climate change and signed bilateral climate deals.” Reuters reports that Angela Merkel told a meeting of her party yesterday that Germany and the rest of Europe should redouble their efforts to fight climate change after the withdrawal of the US from the Paris climate pact: “For us, it is clear that the Paris agreement is a cornerstone for cooperation in the world.” Meanwhile, Reuters reports that at the launch of the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, Spencer Dale, BP’s chief economist, said that the withdrawal of the US from the Paris deal is unlikely to have a direct impact on the expected decline in global carbon emissions: “Nearly all the improvement in (carbon reduction) comes from the developing world, it isn’t coming from OECD or America.” Last week, Carbon Brief published analysis examining, in part, what the US exit from the deal might mean for global emissions.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed pausing an Obama administration oil and gas pollution rule for two years while it reconsiders the regulation. EPA officials have formally proposed a two-year pause on implementation of the rule, which would limit methane leaks at drilling sites and set standards for equipment and employee certification within the oil and gas drilling sector. Obama officials finalised the rule last May as part of a federal effort to cut pollution of methane, a greenhouse gas with 25 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that a panel convened by the National Academy of Sciences has released an in-depth report praising a key energy research office that President Trump wants to eliminate: “The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, was created in 2007 under President George W. Bush to fund research into long-shot technologies, such as advanced batteries or algae-based biofuels, that might one day prove useful for tackling climate change and other energy challenges.”
The appointment of Michael Gove as the UK’s new environment secretary of state continues to cause ripples, not least due to his apparent new-found concern about climate change. Yesterday, he toured the broadcast studios in which, each time, he expressed his views on the topic. The Times reports what he told LBC radio’s Nick Ferrari: “I think it’s really important that countries work together in order to deal with environmental issues. Most of all, the problem of man-made climate change. And so, if the Donald were prepared to re-engage, then I think that would be a really good thing.” Asked what he would say to Trump, who he famously interviewed for the Times earlier this year, Gove said: “I’d say to him that, of course, I understand that he wants to put America’s children first. But America’s children breathe the same air that we all breathe. America’s children live on the same planet that we all live on. Therefore, we need to reach across the ocean and reach across borders in order to ensure that we all work together, to make sure that the one world that we have, and the only world that we’re ever going to have, is better protected in the future.”
The Sun has published an “exclusive” saying that Theresa May is preparing to “ditch radical plans” for an energy price cap as she “dumps ‘toxic’ policies from her disastrous manifesto”, according to the paper’s sources. “The Sun can reveal cabinet ministers have told the PM to axe her flagship proposal for an ‘absolute’ cap on gas and electricity prices from the Queen’s Speech to appease Tories worried about going to war with business.” One source said: “We have to get back to our free market roots.”
Roger Helmer, a key member of Ukip’s top team, is resigning from the European parliament, ahead of a demand to repay around £100,000 of EU money for alleged misuse of public funds. The veteran politician, known for his controversial remarks on climate change, rape and homosexuality, is standing down from the European parliament on 31 July, after an 18-year career as an MEP. He can appeal against the repayment demand at the European court of justice in Luxembourg. If he loses, the parliament has the right to claw back the money by withholding a chunk of a generous “transitional allowance” MEPs get on their departure. The former Conservative MEP has been responsible for energy policy at UKIP and has been among the most prominent climate sceptic politicians in the UK, making frequent media appearances.
National Grid has launched a major new consultation on the future of the “balancing services” market, as the grid operator seeks to meet the fast-evolving demands of an increasingly flexible and distributed low-carbon energy system. BusinessGreen reports that the company has published its first ever “System Needs and Product Strategy” document, which provides information on its expectations for the balancing services market and launches a consultation on how it can best facilitate the development of the sector so “all technology types can compete on a level playing field delivering the cheapest possible cost for consumers”.
Greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland have risen, reports the BBC, but the statutory target for 2015 has been met, according to the latest figures. They show emissions in 2015 were 41% below the levels for 1990, a benchmark against which targets are set. Last year saw a record reduction of 45.8% which not only met the annual target but exceeded a medium-term aim to reduce emissions by 42% by 2020. It means total emissions since 2014 are 1.8% higher. The statistics appear to support claims from environmental groups that the 2020 target was only met because of an unseasonably mild winter. The Scotsman reports that opposition parties say more action is needed to tackle emissions from transport which “have barely changed”. Labour’s Claudia Beamish said: “It is very concerning that transport is now the heaviest emitter… every year the Scottish Government reports the emissions inventory we have seen transport emissions barely change.” The Herald says that Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, a coalition of organisations campaigning on climate change and other environmental issues, welcomed the data. But it stressed: “To hit future climate change targets, we now need to build on the early successes to supercharge action on key areas. These include homes, farming and particularly transport, which is for the first time the largest source of emissions.”
Sir Ed Davey, the former secretary of state for energy and climate change during the final years of the David Cameron-led coalition government, is unimpressed with Michael Gove’s sudden interest in climate change: “Putting Michael Gove in charge of the Department of the Environment is much like putting a wolf in charge of the chicken coop. To say that the Gove pulse is unlikely to race too much faster over environmental concerns would, from my experience of working with him, be an understatement. He probably regards global warming as an excuse to reduce winter fuel payments. Gove’s appointment is a threat to the British fight against climate change. Uniquely for a cabinet minister, Gove turned the word “expert” into a snarling insult. Truly, Donald Trump would have been proud…When I was energy and climate change secretary I sat around a cabinet table with Gove, and he couldn’t help playing to the Tory climate-sceptic audience. As education secretary, he tried to ban climate change from the geography curriculum. After an angry exchange of letters with me, he eventually backed down. On another occasion, he stopped Amber Rudd – my then junior minister – from attending a critical climate change conference under the pretence of needing her for a vote in parliament. The Lima conference Rudd missed laid the groundwork for the Paris agreement, and I attended as secretary of state. However, given the significance of these annual UN talks, the minister for climate change had always attended in the past. For Gove, as chief whip, to hold her back prevented the UK reaching out to many more nations, and shocked everyone involved with the UK delegation. The move was as petty as it was cynical.”
The African coastal cities of Cape Town, Maputo, Lagos and Port Said can expect a decrease in wet days but a rise in dry spells in the future, according to new modelling research. Extreme rainfall presents a more complicated picture, with an increase projected over Lagos but decrease over the other three cities. The authors say the results may help these cities manage their vulnerability to extreme weather as the climate warms further.
In a new country-to-country analysis of climate change adaptation in the Sahel region of Africa, the authors find Kenya has the highest number of reported actions – with 75 actions or 18% of the total. Regionally, West Africa has more adaptation actions but adaptive capacity is generally low across the whole area. The most commonly found adaptation actions are income diversification and water harnessing, the study finds.
A new paper explores the thorny issue of ‘loss and damage’ in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – and how it could be updated to better value places, nuanced lives and experiences. There is an emerging literature that better values what matters to people and what they may consider to constitute loss, which offers an opening to develop the concept of loss and damage more sensitively in international negotiations, the paper suggests. Carbon Brief has a detailed explainer on the history and growing recognition of loss and damage.
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