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Daily Briefing

30.09.2021
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING China’s emissions on track to peak by mid-2020s: IEA
China’s emissions on track to peak by mid-2020s: IEA

News.

China's emissions on track to peak by mid-2020s: IEA
Argus Media Read Article

A new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) has found that China’s existing policies put its CO2 emissions on track to peak by the mid-2020s, Argus Media reports. The outlet notes that China has the capacity to accelerate its transition to clean energy sources and reach carbon neutrality before 2060, according to the report. “China has the means and capabilities to accomplish an even faster clean energy transition that would result in greater social and economic benefits for the Chinese people and also increase the world’s chances of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C,” IEA’s executive director, Fatih Birol, is quoted saying. S&P Global also covers the IEA findings, reporting: “China needs to cut demand for coal by more than 80% by 2060, oil by around 60% and natural gas by more than 45% in order to realise its commitment of carbon neutrality by 2060, while renewables-based power generation, mainly wind and solar PV, needs to increase sevenfold between 2020 and 2060.”

Meanwhile, CNBC reports that Frans Timmermans, the EU’s executive vice president and climate commissioner, said international leaders need to talk to China and convince it to take concrete steps towards decarbonisation. Timmermans told CNBC: “We need to convince them to peak earlier than 2030, substantially earlier, and we need to convince them to come up with plans to decarbonise their economy.” Bloomberg reports that US climate envoy John Kerry has again “encouraged China to move more aggressively to slash greenhouse gas emissions before 2030”. Sky News reports: “The United Nations climate change chief, Patricia Espinosa, has told Sky News that China seems unlikely to move its net-zero carbon emissions target from 2060 to 2050 by COP26.”

Separately, lawmakers in the Chinese city of Tianjin passed a new law on Monday to help the city peak its carbon emissions and achieve carbon neutrality, reports China’s Legal Daily. The legislation, titled “Regulations of Tianjin municipality on the promotion of carbon peak and carbon neutrality”, will go into effect on 1 November. It gives detailed instructions on how the city should view the climate goals, set up leadership to help achieve them and the job responsibilities of relevant government functions, among other things, according to the report. Hongqiao Liu, Carbon Brief’s China specialist, analyses the significance of the news in this Twitter thread.

In other news, Bloomberg says that China’s coal shortage means higher prices for the world. The newswire writes: “China, the world’s top coal consumer, is in dire need of more supply and is willing to pay any price – a move that threatens to leave less fuel for energy-starved rivals.” The Times reports that investment bank Goldman Sachs “has slashed its growth forecasts for China as the world’s second largest economy struggles with energy shortages”. Reuters reports that China’s “power crunch slams factories”, while a second article from the newswire reports that the situation is also affecting farmers thanks to rising feed costs. A comment piece for Reuters Breakingviews, by financial columnist Robyn Mak, says: “China’s power woes may deliver a helpful green jolt.” For Reuters, columnist Clyde Russell writes under the headline: “China’s coal crunch is self-inflicted, costly and temporary.” Bloomberg columnist David Fickling writes under the headline: “China’s energy crisis may be the birth pangs of a better grid.” He says: “There’s a silver lining in this fight to keep the lights on. Beijing has stopped bailing out state-owned generators, and that will ultimately force the economy to become more energy-efficient.” A comment piece in the South China Morning Post by Xiaojun Wang, executive director of the Manila-based People of Asia for Climate Solutions, is headlined: “China’s pledge to stop building coal power plants abroad opens door for its renewable energy firms.” However, an editorial in the South China Morning Post says: “Power outages are a wake-up call as China tries to go green.”

Meanwhile, Project Syndicate has a piece titled: “Carbon neutrality with Chinese characteristics.“ It is written by Nancy Qian, professor of managerial economics and decision sciences at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. The South China Morning Post reports that China could produce electricity from a proposed nuclear fusion reactor known as the “artificial sun” in a decade, if Beijing backs the project. It cites one of the project’s lead scientists. Finally, a report from E&E News looks at the global implications of President Xi’s pledge to stop building new coal-fired projects abroad.

UK green energy surcharges set to switch from electric to gas bills
Financial Times Read Article

The UK government is to outline plans next month to move environmental and social levies from household electricity bills onto gas bills, reports the Financial Times, in its frontpage splash. It says the move, which will be subject to consultation and could be phased in over 10 years, is “a sign of the government’s desire not to let the crisis over spiralling gas prices derail its longer-term goal of eliminating all net carbon emissions by 2050”. The paper quotes the business department saying: “We want to encourage people to take up technologies such as heat pumps and electric vehicles. Affordability for consumers and taxpayers will be at the heart of our approach.” The paper adds: “The plan, dubbed the ‘energy affordability and fairness review’, will explore how to allocate energy costs to ‘incentivise cost-effective decarbonisation’. It will be published within weeks as part of the government’s much-delayed strategy for decarbonising buildings called the “heat and buildings strategy”. The plan would involve the introduction of new levies on gas bills designed to support net zero, such as a charge on gas bills to help fund the fledgling hydrogen industry.“ The Daily Telegraph picks up the FT’s reporting.

Elsewhere in the Financial Times, a feature runs under the title: “Boris Johnson under pressure to set out UK’s route to net-zero emissions.” It starts by noting how the failure of the government’s green homes grant scheme “is one of several factors that threaten to undermine the Conservative party’s 2019 election manifesto pledge to ‘lead the global fight against climate change’, by raising questions about whether the government has the political courage and policy chops to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050”. The piece adds: “How the government thinks it can cajole or compel people in order to hit the target should become clear in a series of much-delayed decarbonisation strategies that ministers say will be published before the COP26 summit. The government has not issued its overarching road map for securing net-zero. Two other key documents – a Treasury review of where the costs of the transition will fall and a decarbonisation plan for household heating and buildings – were expected earlier this year, but are also yet to be published.”

Separately, the Financial Times reports that Labour’s opposition leader Keir Starmer has pledged that he would spend £6bn a year on insulating homes, if he were elected prime minister. According to the Sun, Starmer said Labour would “borrow billions to insulate every home in Britain in a decade – to the delight of hardcore eco activists”. A related Sun editorial says: “A rash vow to insulate all homes by 2030 delighted the imbecilic eco fantasists glued to the M25. They’re Team Keir now.” The Daily Telegraph reports that protest group Insulate Britain had twice blocked a junction of the M25 motorway yesterday, leading to 27 arrests. BusinessGreen reports Starmer’s comment that the net-zero transition is “full of promise” for the UK. Meanwhile, DeSmog reports that Labour’s transport spokesperson “rejected calls to ‘pause’ expansions at UK airports during a party conference event”.

In other UK news, there is continued coverage of the ongoing energy crisis caused by surging gas prices, with the Guardian reporting that three more energy suppliers have gone out of business. It quotes Citizens Advice saying: “Overnight price hikes will be a shock for more than a million households whose energy companies have gone bust. We’re particularly worried about those who’ll face desperate choices this winter because of the cumulative impact of soaring bills, the planned cut to universal credit and inflation.” Bloomberg reports: “Benchmark natural gas prices in the UK rose 10% to a new record on Wednesday.” Its article includes a chart showing UK power prices being tightly correlated with the rising price of gas.

Climate change: More 'blah' in Milan as ministers meet?
BBC News Read Article

Climate ministers are meeting in Milan for “the final UN talks before COP26 in Glasgow”, BBC News reports, adding that they will have “the jeers of Greta Thunberg ringing in their ears” after she “criticised the efforts of politicians to tackle climate change as ‘30 years of blah, blah, blah’”. It adds that the “pre-COP” meeting in Milan runs until Saturday, with “one of the big issues” being the $100bn climate finance target. Reuters reports that COP26 is “a crucial catalyst for urgent action to keep a lid on global warming”, according to the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC), described as “a global coalition of 40 energy producers, industrial companies and financial institutions”. It says a new report from the commission “outlined six actions which need to be agreed at COP26 and implemented this decade to give the world a 50% chance of limiting global warming to 1.5C”, including a more rapid coal power phaseout, an end to deforestation and a ban on sales of combustion engine cars. The Guardian also covers the ETC report under the headline: “Cutting methane should be a key COP26 aim, research suggests.” The Independent reports the comments of opposition business secretary Ed Miliband saying the UK government is “culpable” for the world’s failure to get on track with global climate goals ahead of COP26. The i newspaper reports on the “One Step Greener” ambassadors who have been “appointed by the government to drum up public enthusiasm for the COP26 UN climate summit”.

Fumio Kishida wins race to become Japan's next prime minister
BBC News Read Article

Former foreign minister Fumio Kishida is set to succeed Yoshihide Suga as Japan’s next prime minister, BBC News reports, having won the race to lead the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The broadcaster says Kishida’s “first mission as prime minister will be to lead the LDP to victory in an upcoming general election”. A Reuters “factbox” summarises Kishida’s views on a range of issues, calling him a “consensus builder”. On energy and climate change, it notes: “Kishida believes [nuclear] should remain an energy option to ensure stable and affordable electricity”. The newswire quotes him saying recently: “I do think renewable energy is important. But when I think about whether relying solely on renewable energy is good enough, I believe we need to have other options ready, like hydrogen, small nuclear facilities and nuclear fusion.” A news analysis for the New York Times says that the ruling LDP “with a stranglehold on power, bucked the wishes of the public to select a moderate mainstay”. It reports: “Kishida has offered few concrete policies to address other issues like ageing, population decline or climate change”. The paper adds: “In a magazine questionnaire, he said that he needed ‘scientific verification’ that human activities were causing global warming, saying, ‘I think that’s the case to some extent.’”

More renewables best answer to energy price surge, Europe power lobby hears
Reuters Read Article

Speakers at an event hosted by European electricity lobby Eurelectric said a faster expansion of wind and solar is the best response to the current energy crisis, Reuters reports. The article explains: “Energy prices have surged recently as rising global demand has collided with tight gas and coal supply, unfavourable weather for renewables, and European Union resolve to boost the price of carbon emissions permits.” It then quotes a senior EU official saying: “The solution, in the longer run, is the accelerated deployment of renewables and improved energy efficiency…We must keep investing in wind and solar to have more days when renewables are setting the price. Today’s situation underlines that we have to limit our dependence on foreign fossil fuels as soon as possible.”

In related developments, Bloomberg reports that the energy price spike will be debated by EU environment ministers on 6 October “following Poland’s call to carefully consider its impact on a planned green economic overhaul, according to two diplomats with knowledge of the matter”. Its article, citing a Polish government note “obtained by Bloomberg”, is titled: “Energy crunch fuels calls for rethink of EU green-shift design.” Reuters reports that Czech prime minister Andrej Babis has called for a cap on prices under the EU emissions trading system. It adds: “Leaders of the EU’s 27 member states are already due to discuss soaring energy prices when they meet on 21-22 October according to a draft agenda for the summit, seen by Reuters.”

Rich nations pitch $5bn to fund South Africa coal exit
Bloomberg Read Article

Envoys from some of the world’s richest nations have met South African cabinet ministers to discuss a climate deal that could channel nearly $5bn towards ending the country’s reliance on coal, Bloomberg reports. It says the funding would comprise mainly of loans, citing “a person familiar with the discussions” and adds that the delegation is “trying to hammer out an agreement that can be announced at the COP26 climate talks”. It goes on to quote a statement from South Africa’s environment department saying: “We need certainty and predictability of the quantum of financing available to us, to accelerate this transition. We do need an irrevocable agreement that we can sign at COP26 where our commitments, as all parties, are clear.” Reuters reports the meeting under the headline: “South Africa tells Western envoys it needs funds to shift from coal.” A Thomson Reuters Foundation piece asks: “Can South Africa become a model for developing nations ditching coal?”

US: Democratic disagreements imperil Biden agenda as shutdown looms
Reuters Read Article

US president Joe Biden’s climate agenda is “at risk of being derailed by divisions among his own Democrats”, Reuters reports, with continuing disagreement over whether to link votes on a $1tn infrastructure bill and the $3.5tn budget. The newswire says the infrastructure bill was scheduled for a vote in the Senate on Thursday, but adds: “With House progressives warning they will vote against the infrastructure bill until a deal is reached on the separate multitrillion-dollar plan focused on social spending and climate, the vote was not guaranteed.” A separate Thomson Reuters Foundation analysis reports that the infrastructure bill “could make it easier to push through new fossil fuel projects, including controversial pipelines, with reduced public input, experts and advocates warned”. A New York Times feature profiles Kyrsten Sinema, the “stubbornly centrist Democrat” in the Senate “whose vote could seal the fate of a vast Democratic effort to remake America’s social safety net”. It says: “Many of the state’s most fervent Democrats now see her as an obstructionist whose refusal to sign on to a major social policy and climate change bill has helped imperil the party’s agenda.” Politico reports that Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the $3.5tn budget bill “was critical for president Joe Biden to show the rest of the world that will gather for COP26 that the US was serious about fighting climate change”. The publication adds: “That legislation currently includes hundreds of billions in clean energy tax incentives and payments for utilities that boost renewable energy, as well as new fees on methane.” It quote Pelosi saying: “He will go to Glasgow, and we want him to do so with legislation that is passed.” Another Politico article reports: “The Biden administration can still make significant progress on climate change even if Congress cannot pass the high-dollar climate parts of Democrats’ reconciliation bill like the Clean Electricity Performance Program, National climate adviser Gina McCarthy said on Wednesday.”

In other US news, Reuters reports that the commerce department has delayed a decision over a request for broader solar panel import tariffs, filed by a group of anonymous domestic manufacturers. The publication says the department has asked the group’s members to reveal their identity – and adds that domestic solar installers and the US Solar Industries Association oppose the tariff request.

Pope Francis praises youth activists in fight to tackle climate change
NBC News Read Article

Pope Francis has addressed a gathering of youth climate activists and thanked them for their concern about climate change, NBC News reports. It quotes him telling the meeting via video link: “It is said that you are the future, but in these matters, you are the present. You are those who are making the future today, in the present.” The Hill also has the story.

Separately, Reuters reports that Italian prime minister Mario Draghi is to meet climate activists Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate in Milan today, where they are attending the Youth4Climate meeting. Another Reuters article reports: “This year’s Nobel Peace Prize could go to exiled Belarusian dissident Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, climate activist Greta Thunberg, or a media watchdog such as Reporters without Borders (RSF), Norwegian experts on the prize said on Wednesday.”

Meanwhile, a comment for the Daily Telegraph by historian Jeremy Black is titled: “Ignore Greta: Britain should be proud of the industrial revolution.”

Comment.

Change is in the air in Germany despite a messy election outcome
Daniela Schwarzer, Financial Times Read Article

“Whoever forms the next government [in Germany] is going to come under popular pressure to act on climate policy,” writes Daniela Schwarzer, executive director of the Open Society Foundations Europe and Eurasia, in a piece for the Financial Times. She notes that no party scored a “decisive victory” in Sunday’s election before adding: “Yet beneath the surface dynamics are at work that may eventually transform Germany in fundamental ways.” Schwarzer writes: “Climate policy was among the top four priorities of German voters in this election. Many young voters, however, believe the SPD, CDU and FDP are doing too little, too late. The German branch of the Fridays For Future environmental movement has given them a voice. The group said it had mobilised about 600,000 young people in protest across the country two days before the election. What is certain is that they have put climate firmly on the agenda of the next government.”

For the Daily Telegraph, international business editor Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes: “Christian Odendahl from the Centre for European Reform says a ‘traffic light’ coalition of Greens and Liberals under [SDP leader Olaf] Scholz could agree on a ‘€500bn climate transition fund’ for public and private investment that finesses German debt curbs and is anchored on Mittelstand family firms. This in turn could be the model for softer EU rules exempting green investment from spending caps.” However, he concludes: “What Germany needs is an electric shock, not a greener or slightly pinker version of Merkelism.”

Science.

Communicating Arctic-midlatitude weather and ecosystem connections: direct observations and sources of intermittency
Environmental Research Letters Read Article

The “controversy” over the extent that Arctic change can influence mid-latitude extreme weather is in part due to “the intermittency of the connection through the jet stream and polar vortex that leads to different emphases when communicating research”, a new study says. While statistical studies and model results “often show weak or non-existent connections”, the researchers “provide two observational examples” of three atmospheric processes active during the winter of 2016 in the Barents Sea and winter of 2018 in the Bering/Chukchi Sea. Both “impacted sea ice loss and the entire marine ecosystem food chain, and resulted in downstream cold air transport into midlatitudes”, the authors note, showing that “global warming influences can be more than a local heating response, but follow a chain of events involving disruption of the jet stream”.

THE BRIEF

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Expert analysis directly to your inbox.

Get a Daily or Weekly round-up of all the important articles and papers selected by Carbon Brief by email. By entering your email address you agree for your data to be handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy.