Today's climate and energy headlines:
- BP withdraws from industry groups, citing climate disagreements
- Climate change could add around $100bn to costs of extreme weather
- Climate case may upset Heathrow third runway plans
- Trump administration resuming coal leasing on public lands
- Rio Tinto chief rejects setting greenhouse targets for customers
- Australia’s electricity market must be 100% renewables by 2035 to achieve net zero by 2050 - study
- We need to restore nature to reduce the risk of flooding
- UK's Nigel Topping seeks broad movement to drive global economy to net zero by 2050
- Repeated leak detection and repair surveys reduce methane emissions over scale of years
- Shifting velocity of temperature extremes under climate change
Oil giant BP has announced that it will withdraw from three US-based industry trade groups due to “differences” over climate change, the Hill reports. It says the groups BP will leave are the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), the Western States Petroleum Association and the Western Energy Alliance. It quotes a statement form the firm’s chief executive saying: “BP will pursue opportunities to work with organisations who share our ambitious and progressive approach to the energy transition. And when differences arise we will be transparent. But if our views cannot be reconciled, we will be prepared to part company.” The Hill adds: “As part of the report, BP also contacted five organisations with which their climate views are only partially aligned, including the American Petroleum Institute and the US Chamber of Commerce.” The move follows a review of BP membership of some 30 trade groups around the world, Reuters says, noting that the decision to remain part of the American Petroleum Institute had “draw[n] criticism from climate campaigners”. It adds that Shell and Total had last year both ended their membership of the AFPM, the main US oil refining lobby group. According to the Financial Times coverage: “Big shareholders and environmental activists have criticised the energy majors for their membership of organisations that have lobbying positions that run counter to company promises to cut emissions.” It continues: “While BP is leaving the AFPM, which is the major lobby group for refiners, it will remain a member of other Washington power brokers that have stances on climate policy that run counter to BP’s own, and advocates of the Paris climate goals.” The president of the American Petroleum Institute is quoted telling the FT that “despite differences he was ‘confident that we’re going to be able to continue to represent this industry, including Total, including BP, including Shell, including Equinor, for many, many years to come’”. Axios also has the story.
Meanwhile, the UK’s oil regulator, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), is seeking to revise its remit to address climate change, the Guardian reports. [The OGA’s current “purpose” is to “maximise the economic recovery of oil and gas”.] The Guardian explains: “The OGA was established five years ago by the government to extend the life of the North Sea, after the oil price crash cast doubt over the future of the UK’s ageing oil basin. Since then, the statutory duty has raised questions over whether it is compatible with the government’s commitment to tackling the climate crisis.” Separately, Unearthed reports: “The sacked president of this year’s international climate summit [Claire O’Neill] held meetings with fossil-fuel companies to encourage oil exploration in the North Sea, Unearthed has learned. Documents released under freedom of information rules suggest government officials are working to further develop oil exploration off the coast of Scotland, even as the UK hosts a major climate summit there this year.”
In other oil news, the Guardian reports “anger” over World Bank support, worth $55m, to “aid fossil fuel extraction in Guyana”. Finally, the Financial Times reports that mining and energy equipment firm Weir Group has “prepared the ground for a sale of its struggling oil and gas division after a £546m writedown”.
The annual cost of extreme weather events could rise by $100bn (more than 20%) because of climate change by 2040, Reuters reports, citing research from Cambridge University. It explains: “The findings come from the university’s Climate Change Business Risk Index, which uses climate modelling data to quantify extreme weather event risks and their potential to disrupt business operations and supply chains globally.” A piece in the Financial Times reports that Chinese and Indian cities are “most at risk from rising sea levels”. And a feature for Reuters says rising seas are putting Myanmar’s coastal villages “on the frontline of climate change”. Separately, the Jakarta Post reports: “Climate change-driven global warming is a factor behind repeated instances of severe flooding across Greater Jakarta since early January…according to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).”
The UK’s Court of Appeal is to rule today in a case challenging plans to build a third runway at London’s Heathrow airport, BBC News reports. It says: “Judges will decide whether Heathrow’s expansion plans took into account climate change commitments.” The broadcaster adds that a ruling against the plans would either require the government “making the highly contentious case that expansion is compatible with combating climate change”, or: “[T]he prime minister could also accept a negative verdict and allow the court to take the blame for scuppering the expansion proposal that he has long opposed.” The Financial Times also previews today’s ruling, which it calls a “moment of truth for Johnson, who switched sides as PM to signal project should go ahead”. The Times reports that the Heathrow third runway is “hanging in the balance after Boris Johnson threatened to withdraw government support”. The paper continues: “There was mounting speculation that judges could uphold four separate legal challenges against the government’s existing airports national policy statement – passed by MPs almost two years ago – which in effect gives approval for a third runway. The Times has learnt that Mr Johnson is likely to refuse to sanction an appeal to the Supreme Court if, as feared, the ruling is made in favour of Heathrow’s opponents. The move would spell the end of the plan in its present form.” Last year Carbon Brief published analysis showing how, in aggregate, plans to expand airports around the UK are “not consistent with [the UK’s] net-zero climate goal”.
The leasing of public lands for coal mining in the US is to resume, the Hill reports, after a Bureau of Land Management environmental assessment. The Hill explains that nearly 40% of US coal is produced on public lands, according to the Trump administration. It adds that the administration had tried to end an Obama-era ban on new coal leases in 2017. Separately, the Hill reports that the administration’s Department of the Interior is “pushing ahead with a controversial proposal that would prohibit the agency from considering scientific studies that don’t make all of their underlying data public”. It adds: “Critics argue that the move, described by the agency as an effort to increase transparency, would sideline landmark scientific research.”
Meanwhile, the Financial Times and others report that Trump appointees to the US Federal Trade Commission have voted against a joint venture between two major coal companies, Arch Coal and Peabody Energy. The FT says shares in the firms “fell sharply” after the decision, which it says “undercut[s] efforts by the nation’s two largest coal companies to survive as the fuel loses ground to natural gas, solar and wind energy”. It adds: “Both companies’ shares fell to their lowest point since emerging from bankruptcy protection in the last decade.” CNN says the decision “deals a blow to leading coal companies” and “poses another setback for the nation’s battered coal industry”. The Los Angeles Times reports that coal-producing states in the US interior, including Utah, are suing cities in California and Washington state over moves to block coal exports from west-coast ports. It says: “Some coastal communities, taking a stand against coal to fight climate change and protect public health, acted to block the exports. And now coal states are fighting back in the courts.”
In other coal news, the Financial Times reports that the Drax power station in Yorkshire is to stop burning coal in 2022, ahead of a government deadline for the UK of 2025. The paper says: “Under the company’s proposals, commercial generation from coal will end in March 2021 but the two coal units will remain available to meet the government’s energy requirements until September 2022.” Reuters reports that protestors dressed as canaries have demonstrated outside a coal mine in Bradley, County Durham, in the north of England, over plans to expand the site’s operations. A comment for HuffPost runs under the headline: “I’m from a family of miners. Here’s why I’m protesting to close Bradley coal mine.” New Civil Engineer reports on plans to develop a new coal mine in nearby Cumbria, quoting the developer’s chief executive saying it could be “the last [coal mine] ever [built] in the UK”. Finally, the Guardian reports on the findings of a parliamentary inquiry into a coal seam gas project in New South Wales, Australia. It says the inquiry “delivered a scathing assessment of the state government’s progress in implementing recommendations to regulate coal seam gas extraction” and says the findings “are likely to increase support for a legislative moratorium on coal seam gas across NSW”.
There is continued coverage of the new climate pledge from mining giant Rio Tinto, with the Financial Times leading on the firm’s chief executive “defend[ing] the miner’s decision not to set targets for reducing the carbon emissions of its customers, saying it was focused on putting its own house in order”. The paper says the firm has “set an ‘ambition’ to reduce its operating emissions to net-zero by 2050 and invest $1bn in climate-related projects over the next five years”. The Times also has a story leading on the firm’s failure to set targets for its customer’s greenhouse gases, part of so-called “scope 3” emissions encompassing supply chains and product use. The Guardian says Rio Tinto, the “second biggest miner in the world”, plans to cut its own emissions 15% by 2030.
Australia can reach net-zero emissions with existing technologies, the Guardian reports, citing “new analysis by ClimateWorks Australia”. It adds that the “yet-to-be-released analysis…suggests transitioning to net-zero will require Australia’s electricity market to be 100% renewables by 2035, as well as achieving deep energy efficiency and electrification in buildings, and an accelerated rollout of electric vehicles”. Separately, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Australian government is weighing up the future of the country’s “premier agency funding research and development of clean energy”. The paper says: “The energy and emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, said funding for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) was guaranteed until 2022 but has declined to confirm it will receive further funding.” Meanwhile, the Guardian continues its multimedia series on climate change in Australia under the headline: “Inside Australia’s climate emergency: the killer heat.”
In a comment for the Times Red Box, Natural England chair Tony Juniper “reflect[s] on the misery and pain caused by recent floods”, arguing that there is emerging consensus on “the need to work more with nature in alleviating the scale and frequency of future incidents”. Juniper writes: “By improving and protecting soil health we can…meet multiple objectives: securing future food production and helping to mitigate climate change while slowing the flow of water.” (A news story for the Daily Telegraph says “landowners may be paid to let fields flood to protect towns”.) Also writing for the Times Red Box, opposition Labour MP Alex Sobel says debates around the government response to flooding “ignore the bigger issue”. He continues: “Scant time has been given to why we are seeing more of these weather events and how we tackle the long-term challenges of the climate emergency. From storms and flooding in the UK to bushfires in Australia, we are seeing more and more catastrophic global climate events.” Writing in the Daily Telegraph, climate sceptic columnist Ross Clark argues it is “far too easy for policymakers to blame flooding on climate change”. He quotes snippets from a number of figures, including environment secretary George Eustice saying weather events “are becoming more extreme”, in support of his rhetorical statement that: “This week’s floods are, of course, all down to climate change and not a bit to do with our failure to manage water flows properly and our habit of continuing to build on flood plains.” In the Independent, James Moore writes under the headline: “Boris Johnson can’t tackle the climate crisis without tackling the housing crisis, too.” He says the two priorities are currently “crashing into each other”, pointing to the building of homes on flood plains.
In an interview with Climate Home News, UK “climate action champion” Nigel Topping says that: “Companies, investors and other non-state actors need to work alongside national governments to transform the global economy towards net zero emissions by 2050.” It quotes him saying: “How we bring coalitions of the ambitious together around these big systems transformations require everybody to act…that is what I am most keen to build on this year.” Separately, Axios outlines a new book coauthored by former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres: “The authors argue that we have a decade left to pick which path the planet will take: catastrophe or hope.”
Taking steps to detect leaks from natural gas production sites can lead to long-term reductions in methane emissions, a study finds. The authors measure the effectiveness of leak detection and repair (LDAR) surveys by quantifying emissions at 36 liquids-rich natural gas facilities in Alberta, Canada. The study finds that overall, total emissions reduced by 44% after one LDAR survey, combining a reduction in fugitive emissions of 22% and vented emissions by 47%.
A study explores how fast hot and cold extremes will shift across world regions. Hot extremes will increase the fastest over marine areas, the study finds, including over the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. “Exceptions occur however in specific regions and for the clustering of warm days, which shifts slower than all other extremes investigated in this study,” the authors say.