Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
Expert analysis direct to your inbox.
Every weekday morning, in time for your morning coffee, Carbon Brief sends out a free email known as the “Daily Briefing” to thousands of subscribers around the world. The email is a digest of the past 24 hours of media coverage related to climate change and energy, as well as our pick of the key studies published in peer-reviewed journals.
Sign up here.
Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Britain's first new coal mine in decades on the verge of approval
- Macron defeats Le Pen and vows to unite divided France
- Extinction Rebellion activists light flares and ambush energy secretary on Earth Day
- UK: Ditch ‘net-zero’ commitment and lose 1.3 million votes, Boris Johnson warned
- China’s pledge to halt overseas coal-fired power plants leaves a third of proposed capacity in ‘grey area’, report says
- Germany: Russian gas embargo wouldn't end Ukraine war
- Climate progress remains elusive for Biden on Earth Day
- Colonialism: why leading climate scientists have finally acknowledged its link with climate change
- Scenarios for mitigating CO2 emissions from energy supply in the absence of CO2 removal
- Climate adaptation interventions in coastal areas: A rapid review of social and gender dimensions
The UK’s housing and communities secretary Michael Gove is “on the cusp of approving Britain’s first coal mine in decades as the Cabinet rallies behind [the] proposal”, the Sunday Telegraph reports. The paper says “senior Conservative” sources believe Gove “to be supportive of plans” to open a deep mine in Cumbria, which would produce coking coal for steel production. Gove’s decision “now hinge[s] on recommendations that have been handed to him by the Planning Inspectorate”. A source tells the newspaper: “I don’t know for certain, but I get the impression he [Mr Gove] is going to approve it.” Gove has until July to make his decision, but it could come as early as mid-May, according to the newspaper. It adds that “Whitehall sources said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has unified the Cabinet in favour of the plans”. [The article claims the mine would help “wean off” Russian imports. However, according to the mine’s own plans, 85% of the coal produced would be exported to Europe.] Picking up on the story, the Times adds that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) refused to comment, although a “well-placed source” said: “The independent inspector from the Planning Inspectorate who oversaw the inquiry has submitted the report on the Whitehaven coalmine for ministers in DLUHC alone to consider.” The Daily Mail also reports on what it calls “the coal comeback” for the UK.
Separately, the Daily Telegraph “reveals” that Lord Deben, chair of the UK’s independent Climate Change Committee (CCC), “also works for a company providing advice to Qatari ministers who sell gas to the UK”. According to the newspaper, Lord Deben chairs an “international sustainability consultancy”, Sancroft International, that has a contract with the Qatari government. Sancroft’s contract with Qatar is to work with them on their “sustainability strategy”, the Daily Telergaph reports. Lord Deben has told the newspaper: “There can be no conflict of interest in advising people everywhere that sustainability demands that they move away from fossil fuels. All correct procedures were followed.”
Elsewhere, the Daily Mail has published “a despatch from a US state” showing “how fracking is thriving alongside unspoiled nature”. The article editorialises that “hysteria over tremors and poisoned water” has stopped fracking in the UK and claims the US has “plenty to teach Britain about the virtues of natural gas”. A separate Daily Mail story claims offshore wind is being “rushed through” with “catastrophic” consequences for birds.
Emmanuel Macron will be French president for five more years after a decisive victory over Marine Le Pen, who nevertheless secured the far right’s highest share of the vote in the country’s history, BBC News reports. He won by 58.55% to 41.45% and is the first sitting president to be re-elected in two decades, BBC News adds. The Guardian reports Macron had framed the vote as “a referendum on Europe, ecology and secularism” and labelled Le Pen a “climate sceptic”. The paper adds: “Macron had leaned to the left in the final days to try to court Mélenchon voters, promising to speed up measures against climate breakdown and expand environmental policy. His first task is to appoint a new prime minister, who he promised would be specifically devoted to addressing the climate crisis.” (For more on France’s climate and energy policies, read Carbon Brief’s in-depth country profile.)
Many publications report on climate protests and corporate announcements on Earth Day, which fell on Friday 22 April. The Independent reports on Extinction Rebellion protests outside of the London office of asset management firm Vanguard, “where dozens of masked protesters lit flares and set up deck chairs”. It also reports that activists from the Green New Deal group “amush[ed] the [UK] business and energy secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng…asking why he ‘supports new gas and oil licenses’”.
Elsewhere, the New York Times is among US publications reporting that a climate activist from Colorado has died after setting himself on fire outside the Supreme Court on Earth Day. The Metropolitan Police Department of Washington DC said that Wynn Bruce, 50, died on Saturday from his injuries after being airlifted to a hospital following the incident, the newspaper says. A second New York Times story says that climate protests continued outside the White House on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, Reuters reports on Earth Day climate protests in central Europe, where activists demanded EU sanctions on Russian fossil fuels. In addition, the Independent reports on comments from Greta Thunberg, who said Earth Day has “turned into an opportunity for people in power to post their ‘love’ for the planet, while at the same time destroying it at maximum speed”.
In corporate news, Associated Press reports that Twitter announced on Earth Day that it will no longer allow ads that cast doubt on climate science. And the Independent reports on how Google marked the day with a “doodle showing time-lapse satellite footage of melting glaciers, deforestation, coral bleaching and retreating snow cover to highlight the scale of the climate crisis”.
The Independent reports on a poll from the right-leaning thinktank Onward that finds the Conservatives could lose 1.3m votes if “they water down the commitment to achieve net-zero”. The poll found two in every five people who voted Conservative at the 2019 general election would be less likely to back the party again if it abandons its commitment to reach net-zero by 2050, the Independent says. “Only 18% of former Conservative voters said they would return to the party after such a U-turn – which would cost the Tories up to 1.3 million voters, the thinktank estimated,” the Independent says. In City AM, the thinktank’s head of data James Blagden says the findings show “Red Wall Tory voters will abandon Johnson if he backs down on net-zero”.
It comes as the Daily Express reports on a poll finding “69% want the green levy removed from their energy bills”. The Daily Express also quotes “experts” on the “absurd” price of installing a heat pump.
The South China Morning Post picks up a new “industry report”, which analyses China’s plans “to stop building new coal-fired power plants outside the country”. The newspaper says that the “ambiguity” in the plans could “dilute” the country’s climate pledge, “with more than one-third of the potential capacities falling ‘in the grey area’”, according to the report from the Helsinki-based thinktank Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA). The report says that “it may be difficult to halt the proposed projects because some of the coal-fired projects are linked to the host countries’ industrial development and lobbied by local governments and businesses”, according to Zhang Liutong, director at Hong Kong-based WaterRock Energy Economics. AFP (via France 24) and Reuters cover the same report. AFP points out that “loopholes remain” in China’s pledge. Isabella Suarez, a researcher at CREA, tells the newswire that some of the industrial parks under China’s Belt and Road Initiative “have been years in the making”. She says that “additional coal on these projects would not be considered new, even if…tenders are happening after the pledge to ban coal funding”. Associated Press reports that China is “promoting” coal power.
Meanwhile, Yicai – a Shanghai-based financial outlet – reports that China’s special envoy for climate change affairs, Xie Zhenhua, said on Friday that “the energy sector is the foundation and key to addressing climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions”. Xie noted that “it is important to facilitate win-win cooperation between the energy and transportation industries, build a green transportation system and promote the national energy reform”, Yicai says. Xie also stressed the significance of hydrogen as an “important” secondary energy source, the outlet adds.
Elsewhere, Bloomberg reports that China’s “energy giants” – namely Cnooc, CNPC and Sinopec Group – are “in joint discussions” with Shell to buy the latter’s stake in a “major” Russian gas export project, according to “people with knowledge of the matter”. The newswire says that the news comes after Shell “said it would exit Russian operations following the Ukraine invasion”. The Daily Telegraph and Reuters also have the story.
German chancellor Olaf Scholz has said that “a Western embargo on Russian gas imports probably won’t stop Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine”, reports Business Insider with reference to Sholz’s interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel, published last Friday. The news outlet continues, quoting Scholz saying: “I don’t think that a gas embargo would stop the war. If Putin were open to economic arguments, he would never have started this insane war”. Scholz’s comments coincided with the publication on Friday of an economic forecast by Germany’s central bank, about which Manager Magazin reports: “In the aggravated crisis scenario, real gross domestic product in the current year would fall by almost 2% compared to 2021”. The outlet adds that “economic output could therefore be up to 5% lower than the March forecast of the European Central Bank (ECB). Converted into absolute figures, that would be around €165bn”. Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that the Ukrainian president’s adviser, Oleg Ustenko, is convinced that “Germany can survive without Russian oil”.
In more energy news, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that no new offshore wind turbines were completed last year off the coast of Germany’s Northern and Baltic seas, although the head of Germany’s energy company RWE, Markus Krebber, wants to open “a 0.3GW wind farm this fall that will power 400,000 households”. In addition, the outlet says that “the UK this year will put into operation almost ten times more new wind turbines than in Germany”, according to Norwegian analysis company Rystad Energy.
Separately, Associated Press reports that thousands gathered on Saturday to protest “against plans to bulldoze a village in western Germany to expand a coal mine”.
Finally, Egypt Today reports that Egyptian minister of environment, Yasmine Fouad, met on Sunday with German special envoy to international climate action Jennifer Morgan, “discussing the preparation for the UN Climate Change Conference 2022 (COP 27) due to convene in Sharm El Sheikh city in November this year”. Morgan affirmed that Germany, as the G7 president, “is keen to work with Egypt in supporting the climate action agenda”.
Several publications carry features and analysis to mark Earth Day, which fell on Friday 22 April. AP carries an analysis on US president Joe Biden’s struggles to move forward with his climate commitments after his only step forward on Earth Day was to announce an executive order to monitor trees. AP says: “The gap between the scale of the global warming crisis and the president’s initiatives seemed wider than ever on Earth Day. Although last year’s infrastructure legislation had some climate policies, such as building more charging stations for electric cars, many of Biden’s most ambitious proposals remain stalled in Congress”.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post carries a series of guest essays from climate scientists on how nature helps them to remain hopeful. And, in its Earth Day special edition, the Big Issue carries interviews with Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate and UK meteorologist Laura Tobin.
In the Conversation, Harriet Mercer, a research associate in climate history at the University of Cambridge, examines why the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is the first to mention the term “colonialism” in its summary. She explains: “The addition of one new term to the IPCC’s lexicon might not seem significant. But colonialism is a deeply complex word. Referring to the practice of acquiring full or partial control over another group’s territory, it can include the occupation of that land by settlers as well as the economic exploitation of land to benefit the colonising group.” She points to “several reasons” why the IPCC may have included the term in its most recent report, including increases in diversity in the IPCC’s authorship, and a growing body of research on the connections between colonialism and climate change.
If global energy consumption continues to rise at the pre-Covid rate, technological change alone “cannot” keep global warming below 1.5C by 2050, new research finds. The study investigates the effectiveness of different energy scenarios for achieving near-zero emissions by 2050, without relying on “substantial” CO2 removal. It concludes that to keep global warming below 1.5C, either the global total primary energy supply must be halved by 2050 (compared to its 2019 value), or “impossibly rapid reductions” must be made to fossil fuel-derived energy.
Only 2.6% of literature on coastal climate adaptation discusses gender – and “often in a cursory manner – a new study finds. This “rapid review” study assesses more than 1,000 peer-reviewed studies on coastal climate adaptation, published over 2014-20. “The results were strongly populated by natural science publications leading to very low coverage of gender as a social dimension of adaptation,” the authors find. They conclude that “gender-disaggregated data on coastal adaptation efforts” needs to be collected.