Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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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.
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Climate failure costs will surpass economic hit of change, says IMF
- Opec+ unleashes shockwaves with big cut to oil production
- Von der Leyen: Commission has ‘started work’ on broad gas price cap
- Global rise in electricity demand met entirely with renewables, report finds
- China’s solar exports to Europe shine bright amid dimming trade outlook, global recession fears
- New oil and gas at odds with green goals – report
- UK new car registrations up 4.6% in September on EV sales
- UK: Greenpeace protesters disrupt Truss speech for ‘U-turns’ on fracking and climate
- Climate change made ‘summer drought 20 times more likely in Northern Hemisphere’
- Liz Truss’s obstinacy spells trouble for energy too
- Liz Truss: Time to find common cause with our European friends
- The Guardian view on COP27: climate justice must take centre stage
- Invisible ship tracks show large cloud sensitivity to aerosol
- Arctic Ocean annual high in pCO2 could shift from winter to summer
There is an “overwhelming” economic case for tackling climate change, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Financial Times reports. It quotes the IMF saying the short-term increase in costs to the economy of 0.15-0.2 percentage points of GDP between now and 2030 would be “dwarfed by the long-term benefits (with respect to output, financial stability, health) of arresting climate change”. The Guardian also covers the IMF report: “The IMF said governments should resist the temptation to postpone action until inflation was lower and their economies were growing faster. The costs would be higher if governments adopted a stop-go approach or delayed further on the grounds that ‘now is not the time’ to act. If climate and anti-inflation policies were not credible, the toll would be greater.” Separately, Associated Press reports on calls from a senior official at the UN Environment Programme under the headline: “UN officials: Energy crisis shouldn’t delay emissions slash.” Elsewhere, the Guardian reports: “World Bank ‘has given nearly $15bn to fossil fuel projects since Paris deal’”, citing figures from the Big Shift Global, a coalition of more than 50 NGOs.
The OPEC+ producers’ cartel has agreed “deep oil production cuts” that have “sent shockwaves across energy markets”, the Financial Times reports. It says the move “put the cartel on a collision course with Washington and pointed to a strengthening bond between Saudi Arabia and Russia”. Another Financial Times story says the White House “accused Opec+ of aligning with Russia”. Reuters says US president Joe Biden called the move “shortsighted”. Reuters also says the move has “fan[ned] global inflation concerns”. Bloomberg says the decision could see Russia cut oil output. Politico says it “fuels Dems’ gas [petrol] price fears”.
The European Commission is working on a “temporary” measure to cap the price of gas used to generate electricity and in other parts of the economy, Politico reports, citing comments from commission president Ursula von der Leyen yesterday. Bloomberg also has the story: “European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is proposing that the bloc intervene in the gas market to cap the rise in prices that is threatening to push the region into recession. Bowing to pressure from more than half of the EU’s member states calling for action to rein in soaring energy costs, von der Leyen is suggesting a plan that would include a temporary price limit.” Meanwhile, there is continued coverage of Germany’s plan to inject €200bn into its economy to shield consumers from high energy prices, with the Financial Times running a piece titled: “Why Germany’s energy package is undermining EU unity.” Another Financial Times piece says: “Spain and Belgium warn of threat to single market after German stimulus.” Politico reports: “Germany lashes back at energy plan critics, pointing to French subsidies.” Reuters says Germany will put €13bn towards grid fees next year, a move that it says will reduce electricity bills as the fees can make up “around 10% of overall costs for retail customers and around a third for industrial companies in sectors such as steel or chemicals”. The Financial Times reports: “EU energy pact vital to avert industrial decline and unrest, says Belgian PM.”
Elsewhere, Reuters reports: “Europe may face an even more acute energy crunch next year after draining its natural gas tanks to get through the cold of this winter, the head of the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday, as the EU looks for ways to ease the crisis.”
In related comment, president of the European Council Charles Michel writes for the Financial Times under the headline: “The EU needs a genuine energy union now.” Pointing to the “energy missile” he says Russian president Vladimir Putin has fired at Europe, Michel says: “This situation forces us to reassess how we achieve our longer-term transition to climate neutrality, which is not only central to our environmental fight but key to our growth strategy. Our path to net-zero was partly predicated on ample availability of affordable gas. This is now a thing of the past.” He outlines four goals for an EU energy strategy: reducing consumption “permanently”; ensuring security of supply by avoiding “becoming overdependent on a single source”; getting prices down; and research and innovation. On energy security, Michel say: “A varied energy mix will reduce the risk of energy dependency. This includes renewables, such as solar, wind and geothermal energy, as well as hydrogen…It also includes nuclear, an energy source that can help ensure a reliable and flexible electricity system, while supporting our net-zero objective.”
Renewables covered all of the increase in global electricity demand in the first half of 2022, E&T (Engineering and Technology) reports, citing a new report by thinktank Ember. The outlet says three-quarters of the rise in renewable output came from wind and solar, according to the report, and that this uptick prevented a 4% increase in electricity generation from fossil fuels that would have cost $40bn and led to an additional 230m tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). BusinessGreen says the Ember report showed renewables “outpaced demand growth across the electricity sector” in January to June this year. The Independent runs under the headline: “World ‘nearing peak fossil fuel demand’ as wind and solar power take over.” However, Agence France-Presse says the Ember report also points to rising coal and gas-fired power during July and August “as heatwaves swept across large parts of the world”. The South China Morning Post covers the report, saying: “Prolonged heatwaves and droughts could result in increased carbon emissions from global power generation, highlighting the disruption extreme climate events can have on decarbonising the sector, according to an environment thinktank.” Separately, Reuters says: “The share of nuclear power in global gross electricity generation fell below 10% last year to the lowest in around four decades, an industry report showed on Wednesday.”
China’s exports of solar power systems to the EU have “surged 138% in the first eight months” of 2022, compared with the same period in 2021, the South China Morning Post reports, citing its own calculations using Chinese customs data. The outlet adds that “soaring” electricity prices in Europe, “triggered” by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are one of the “major factors driving up demand”. Meanwhile, industrial news portal in-en.com reports that Chinese provinces are planning to add 874 gigawatts (GW) of wind and solar during the 14th five-year plan period (2021-2025), citing targets drawn up by 30 Chinese provinces and cities. (In May, Carbon Brief reported provincial targets released at that time added up to 570GW, which was already enough to double China’s wind and solar capacity in five years.
Separately, Foreign Affairs carries an article by Michael Pettis, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, titled: “How China trapped itself.“ He says that as China “emerges” this month from the “all-important” 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), its leadership will “have to confront the most difficult set of economic choices it has faced in decades”. He says that Chinese growth will “slow sharply” and the way in which it does will have “profound consequences for the country, the CCP, and the global economy”. Additionally, the Financial Times quotes Dan Wang, chief economist at Hong Kong-based Hang Seng Bank, saying: “The [Chinese] economy has arrived at an inflection point…the old model of relying on infrastructure and housing has essentially finished.” Energy Monitor asks: “Could a Chinese invasion of Taiwan derail the net-zero transition?”
In other news, Caixin runs an “in-depth“ article titled: “China’s relocated chemical plants bring pollution problems with them.“ Finally, the state-run Global Times says Chinese carmaker BYD has sold 537,164 units of new energy vehicles (NEV) in the third quarter of 2022, “surpassing Tesla by nearly 200,000 vehicles and maintaining its position as the world’s biggest electric vehicle producer by sales”.
New oil and gas extraction in the North Sea is “‘radically at odds’ with the UK’s commitments to fight climate change”, BBC News say, citing a new report from Global Energy Monitor. The broadcaster says extracting and burning all of the North Sea’s reserves “would lead to the UK exceeding its legally binding carbon budget by almost two-fold”. BBC News adds: “Prime minister Liz Truss says she is committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. But her government has also lifted a moratorium on fracking of shale gas and said it will award new licences for North Sea oil and gas.”
Meanwhile, the Guardian picks up a report from German NGO Urgewald: “Hundreds of coal companies around the world are developing new mines and power stations, according to a study. The researchers said the plans were ‘reckless and irresponsible’ in the midst of the climate emergency.”
Rising demand for electric vehicles “helped drive a 4.6% rise in Britain’s new car registrations in September”, Reuters reports, citing industry data. It says battery electric vehicle (EV) registrations rose 17% in September compared with the same month in 2021 but adds that this growth was slower than at the start of the year. The Times says pure EV sales have risen by 40% in 2022 to date, in an article headlined: “Electric car sales slow amid rising cost of consumer credit.” The Daily Telegraph uses a similar headline for its coverage: “Electric cars sales slow as charging costs weigh on drivers.” (The industry figures show that sales of diesel cars have fallen by 43% in 2022 to date and petrol cars by 15%.)
Environmental activists interrupted a speech by prime minister Liz Truss at the Conservative party conference yesterday, the Guardian reports. The paper adds that Greenpeace UK released a statement following its intervention saying Truss’s policies on environmental protection and climate action contradicted the 2019 Conservative election manifesto. Reuters reports: “Truss paused her speech as the protesters shouted slogans including ‘Who voted for fracking?’.” BusinessGreen says Truss “restated her commitment to net-zero, renewables, and nuclear power, as well as North Sea oil and gas”. The disruption to her speech is covered by, among others, the i newspaper, the Big Issue. The Independent covers the speech with the headline: “Truss speech a ‘shameful’ display of a government ‘rowing back’ on net-zero.” In a letter to the Guardian, Green MP Caroline Lucas responds to comments on fracking from the business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, writing: “If Jacob Rees-Mogg really believes that the only people who don’t like fracking are ‘the socialists and Caroline Lucas’, he’s clearly not been paying attention.”
The drought seen across many parts of the Northern Hemisphere summer this year was made at least 20 times more likely by climate change, the Press Association reports, citing a new study. The research showed similar droughts could be expected every 20 years under current climatic conditions, the newswire says, but would only have happened once every 400 years without warming. The Financial Times leads with the finding that the extreme heat that contributed to the droughts would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change. It quotes a study author saying: “With further global warming we can expect stronger and more frequent summer droughts in the future.” The study has received widespread coverage including from the New York Times, CNN, Sky News, the Guardian, Associated Press, Inside Climate News, MailOnline, Politico, the Independent and Carbon Brief.
The “obstinacy” of UK prime minister Liz Truss has made her government’s action on energy prices “more expensive than it needs to be”, writes columnist Cat Rutter Pooley for the Financial Times. She writes: “Despite U-turns elsewhere the government has been steadfast until now on two things, refusing to countenance a higher windfall tax on oil and gas producers or to tell consumers to cut their energy use.” Pooley continues: “It is a quirk of Conservative party politics that action against nuclear and renewable generators appears more palatable.” She adds: “Prodding consumers to conserve demand should be far less controversial. But not only has the government displayed an enduring lack of ambition on energy efficiency, it has kept quiet for too long about what consumers can do to ease the coming squeeze.”
Writing for the Times, columnist Iain Martin makes a similar argument: “Emphasise the national solidarity of the energy rescue and begin, immediately, a campaign advising Britons to use less electricity and gas. Get over the ridiculous idea that it’s nanny statism. Reduced use means lower bills, a bailout that need not be quite so big and less borrowing than envisaged. Concentrate, above all, on getting the country through what will be the most difficult of winters.”
In related news, the Guardian reports that the government has “stepped back from mooted plans to launch a public information campaign to encourage households to reduce their energy use this winter”. It says a campaign “has been discussed between the business department, energy companies and the network operator National Grid”, but it goes on to quote a business department spokesperson saying: “There are no plans for the government to tell the public to reduce usage for the sake of our energy supplies. The UK has a secure and diverse energy system, and we are confident that the steps we are taking will protect security of electricity and gas supplies.” Another article from the Guardian reports that the government’s household energy bill freeze will cost between £72-140bn, according to consultancy Cornwall Insight.
In a comment for the Times, UK prime minister Liz Truss writes: “Security, energy and migration are three of the most urgent priorities for the British people, so they are top of my agenda too…These vital issues affect the whole of our continent, so it is right that we find common cause with our European friends and allies.” Truss goes on to describe each of her three priorities in more detail, writing on energy: “Second, we must end our addiction to Russian hydrocarbons. Yesterday at the Conservative Party conference, I set out our plan for growth and the vital importance of becoming less reliant on authoritarians for our energy. It is right that we talk with our European allies about how we do that collectively. Putin is hoping he can divide us in a scramble for energy supplies. We must show him that he is wrong. The UK sends and receives both gas and electricity through the undersea cables and pipelines that link us with neighbours like France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Today we must all commit to keeping those connections open this winter so we keep the lights on across the continent.” Truss continues: “We must also act now to make sure we are never in this position again. We must usher in a new era of European energy independence, dramatically accelerating our own energy production. Today I will be discussing deeper bilateral nuclear co-operation with President Macron, including progress on Sizewell C. We are ready to work with our European friends to develop next-generation interconnectors in the North Sea. And I hope to make progress towards new partnerships on offshore wind, all of which will help to make the UK a net energy exporter by 2040.”
An editorial in the Guardian looks ahead to the upcoming COP27 UN climate talks in Egypt this November backs calls for “loss and damage” to be addressed at the summit. It quotes UN secretary-general António Guterres saying this is a “moral imperative that can no longer be ignored”. The editorial also warns: “As governments focus on spiralling energy costs, soaring inflation and the geopolitical fallout of the war in Ukraine, the climate emergency is in danger of being relegated to the back burner of policymaking.” (See Carbon Brief’s recent series focused on loss and damage.)
A study of “invisible” ship tracks in the sky suggests that air pollution could have a “large” impact on climate by increasing the amount of water contained in clouds. Ship tracks – long lines of polluted clouds that are visible in satellite images – are one of the main tools for quantifying aerosol–cloud interactions, the study explains; however, “only a small fraction of the clouds polluted by shipping show ship tracks”. In an accompanying Research Briefing article, the authors explain that “rather than searching for visible tracks in clouds, as previous work has done, we used a database containing the positions of almost all ships worldwide at a given time to estimate ship movements”. Their analysis of more than 2m ship paths across the Atlantic over six years show that “shipping increases the number of droplets and the amount of water in clouds – even when the ships do not leave visible tracks”. The findings suggest a “much stronger cooling effect” from the impact of air pollution on clouds, the authors write, meaning that “as pollution regulations imposed for health reasons become stricter, a reduction in aerosols would mean less cooling, exacerbating global heating”.
The seasonal peak in CO2 levels in the Arctic Ocean could shift from winter to summer as a result of climate change, a new study suggests. Using 27 Earth system models, the researchers project that the summer low in ocean CO2 partial pressure (pCO2) “eventually becomes a high across much of the Arctic Ocean under mid-to-high-level CO2 emissions scenarios”. The main cause is “the large summer sea-surface warming from earlier retreat of seasonal sea ice”, the authors say. The timing change “worsens summer ocean acidification, which in turn may lower the tolerance of endemic marine organisms to increasing summer temperatures”, they warn. An accompanying News & Views article says: “The resulting increase in acidification would double down on the already heat-stressed ecosystem, with effects that could creep up the food web — further challenging the food security, culture and well-being of Indigenous peoples in the Arctic.”