Today's climate and energy headlines:
- BP to take up to $17.5bn hit on assets after cutting energy price outlook
- New British green number plates could allow drivers to use bus lanes and park for free
- Covid-19 pandemic is 'fire drill' for effects of climate crisis, says UN official
- EU set to slightly surpass 2030 renewable energy goal, but funding boost needed
- Big Oil faces up to a future beyond petroleum
- Australia has a problem with climate change denial. The message just isn't getting through
- Is there warming in the pipeline? A multi-model analysis of the Zero Emissions Commitment from CO2
- Understanding and managing connected extreme events
- Insights from extreme coral reefs in a changing world
Publications continue to cover the news that oil giant BP will slash up to $17.5bn off the value of its oil-and-gas assets. The move comes as BP takes “a more downbeat view of longer-term oil prices in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which it expects to hasten the shift away from fossil fuels”, the FT says. BP said coronavirus would have a lasting impact on the global economy as well as on oil and gas demand, and that it expected the crisis to accelerate the transition towards cleaner energies, the FT says. “Its move is the biggest recognition yet among the largest oil and gas players that tens of billions of dollars worth of investment could be rendered uneconomic as the world pursues the Paris climate goals,” the FT reports. The New York Times reports that the shift indicates BP is “preparing for a future that needs less oil”. The pandemic has caused steep declines in demand and prices for oil and gas that could be long-lasting, the New York Times says. “In addition, governments, consumers and investors are increasing pressure, especially in Europe, for oil companies to curb the greenhouse gas emissions produced by their fossil fuels,” it adds. The assets write-down is the largest since 2010, when the company recorded a $32bn hit related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the New York Times adds. BBC News carries reaction on the news from its environment analyst, Roger Harrabin, who says: “The North Sea is difficult and expensive to exploit, so this is clearly a business-based decision by BP. But the ramifications for the climate are potentially very significant. Experts have been warning for years that firms have already discovered far more oil than we can afford to burn if we want to protect the climate. This, in part, is a reflection of that new reality. We’ll see how other firms respond.” The Guardian reports that BP’s shift “marks the clearest sign yet that the coronavirus could hasten the global shift towards cleaner energy sources”. Press Association, Bloomberg and Reuters also have the story.
Elsewhere, a second FT story reports that the US shale producer Extraction Oil & Gas has filed for bankruptcy. Extraction is the second big US shale producer to go bankrupt during a crude price collapse triggered by the pandemic, the FT says. Clean Energy Wire reports that Germany’s car industry has warned of bankruptcies “due to coronavirus and climate policies”.
Meanwhile, several publications continue to report on the announcement that the UK’s oil and gas sector aims to halve emissions from production and exploration by 2030. BBC News reports that the industry will consider production platforms, exploration, shipping and helicopter movements will be counted, along with emissions from onshore terminals – but not what happens to the oil it produces. Bloomberg and EurActiv add that the sector aims to eliminate the emissions from production and exploration completely by 2050. Elsewhere in Bloomberg, energy reporter Laura Hurst reports on how the pandemic is bringing “pain and opportunity” to the oil sector.
The Daily Mail reports that drivers of electric cars in the UK are to be given “green number plates” that could allow them to use bus lanes and park for free under new government plans. The UK’s transport secretary Grant Shapps tells the Mail that the plates will be introduced from autumn as part of a £1.5bn drive to stimulate the economy by accelerating zero emission motoring. Shapps tells the Mail: “A green recovery is key to helping us achieve our net zero carbon commitments while also promoting economic growth. Green number plates could unlock a number of incentives for drivers and increase awareness of cleaner vehicles on our roads, showing people that a greener transport future is within our grasp.” The Daily Telegraph adds that special number plates have previously been trialled in Ontario, Canada, with drivers of electric vehicles given free access to toll lanes and high-occupancy vehicle lanes, with the city seeing a subsequent increase in electric vehicle registrations. A second Telegraph story, however, reports that, in the UK, electric cars only become “cost effective” after five years – even when the government’s planned subsidies of up to £6,000 are considered. Sky News and ITV News also cover the green number plates idea.
Meanwhile, BBC News covers a report finding the UK’s newly created garden cities could be locking-in car dependency. The report, from Transport for New Homes – a group promoting alternatives to the car, assessed the plans for 20 new garden cities across the country and found they would create up to 200,000 households dependent on driving, BBC News says. BBC News adds: “All settlements but one failed to provide access to amenities with safe walking and cycling routes and a railway station within a mile of all new homes…Residents in one garden village may have to walk up to seven miles to buy a pint of milk.”
The Guardian reports on comments from the UN’s sustainable business chief Lise Kingo, who has called the current pandemic “just a fire drill” for what is likely to follow as a result of climate change. Kingo tells the Guardian: “The overall problem is that we are not sustainable in the ways we are living and producing on the planet today. The only way forward is to create a world that leaves no one behind.” Elsewhere, Bloomberg covers a report finding “governments around the world are key to spurring renewables growth in laggard sectors like heating and transport.”
Reuters reports that the European Union is set to slightly beat its goal to get a third of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, but only if public support is provided to offset a drop in clean power investment due to the pandemic, according to the bloc’s top energy official. EU countries’ latest energy policy plans would see the bloc reach a 33% share of renewable energy by 2030, surpassing its target by one percentage point, EU energy chief Kadri Simson told an online news conference on Monday, according to Reuters. The US clean energy sector, meanwhile, has lost 18% of its workforce amid the pandemic, a second Reuters story reports. Elsewhere, the FT reports that the chief executive of Orsted has resigned after an eight-year stint in which he transformed the Danish utility into the world’s biggest offshore wind developer. And EurActiv reports that the “Spanish government [has] unveiled a €3.75bn aid package for the domestic auto industry, which includes a scrappage scheme with green strings, a bigger focus on electric charging points and funding for hydrogen power”.
An editorial in the FT says the coronavirus pandemic has forced oil majors to “face up” to a future beyond fossil fuels. It says: “Big Oil faces a future where it may not be so big, and may have less to do with oil. The industry has faced an increasingly uncertain future as climate change has moved to the forefront of the public’s consciousness. Investors, too, have stepped up their calls for action. Now the coronavirus pandemic, by radically cutting demand for oil and gas and giving governments the whip hand in directing the revival of their economies, looks likely to accelerate the long-term shift away from fossil fuels in many nations.”
In the Guardian, economics writer Greg Jericho writes on the news that Australia ranks fourth in the world for populations who believe that climate change is not a serious problem. (The highest ranking country is the US, followed by Sweden and Norway.) Jericho says: “Given that the report was conducted during the recent horrific bushfire season, that result is rather stunning and depressing.” The lack of serious coverage of climate change in Australian media could explain the result, he argues: “Nearly 30% of skynews.com.au readers don’t believe climate change is a serious issue (compared to 35% of those who watch Sky News TV), and we see News Corp websites dominate the news sites whose readers most deny climate change.”
A new study estimates the warming that might still be in the pipeline after global emissions reach net-zero. As part of the Zero Emissions Commitment (ZEC) Model Intercomparison Project (ZECMIP), 18 climate models ran an experiment where “atmospheric CO2 concentration increases exponentially until 1000 PgC (billion tonnes) has been emitted…Thereafter emissions are set to zero”. The global average temperature change 50 years after ceasing emissions across the models was -0.07C, with a range of -0.36 to 0.29C. Therefore, “the most likely value of ZEC on multi-decadal timescales is close to zero, consistent with previous model experiments and simple theory”, the researchers conclude. They add that “both the carbon uptake by the ocean and the terrestrial biosphere are important for counteracting the warming effect from the reduction in ocean heat uptake in the decades after emissions cease”.
A new perspective article looks at the “complex combinations” that can occur between extreme events. The authors “reflect on connected extremes through our research and practitioner experiences in the sectors of food, water, human health, infrastructure and insurance, and show how current risk-management approaches fall short in addressing the complex challenges associated with connected extremes”. They then “present a multidisciplinary argument for the concept of connected extreme events”, and “suggest vantage points and approaches for producing climate information useful in guiding decisions about them”.
In a review paper, a group of authors assess 860 publications to glean insights from “marginal and extreme [coral] reef environments” across the tropics. These reefs include “systems characterised by unusually high, low, and/or variable temperatures (intertidal, lagoonal, high-latitude areas, and shallow seas), turbid or urban environments, acidified habitats, and mesophotic depth”. Studying these reefs can help scientists “understand how organisms respond to, and cope with, environmental stress, and to gain insight into how reef organisms may acclimate or adapt to future environmental change”, the authors say.
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