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Daily Briefing |

TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES

Briefing date 04.10.2022
COP27 host Egypt warns UK not to backtrack from climate agenda

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News.

COP27 host Egypt warns UK not to backtrack from climate agenda
The Guardian Read Article

A frontpage Guardian story reports that the Egyptian government – host of the next UN climate summit – has warned the UK against “backtracking from the global climate agenda”. According to the paper, the “unusual diplomatic intervention” was “prompted by fears over Liz Truss’s commitment to net-zero”, and was sparked by reports that Truss forbade King Charles from attend. In a “significant snub to the Egyptian hosts”, Truss may not attend COP27, the paper says. It adds: “The Guardian understands some Commonwealth countries are also privately concerned that Truss has prevented the King from attending COP27, as he acts as their head of state.”

Meanwhile, Liz Truss has told LBC Radio this morning that “it’s a matter for the King whether he attends COP27”, which seemingly contradicts a report in the Sunday Times that she “told him to stay away”. And Politico’s London Playbook newsletter says: “The permanent representative of Belize to the United Nations Carlos Fuller has said it’s appropriate for King Charles III to skip the COP27 climate talks.” Fuller tells Politico’s Karl Mathiesen: “We recognise that he needs to distance himself from the fray. I am certain that he will now undertake quiet diplomacy with the aim of building consensus for strong climate action.”

Elsewhere, the Guardian says: “Led by climate groups across Africa and the Middle East, hundreds of activists from countries that are the least responsible for the crisis but are experiencing the worst impacts have gathered in Tunisia to prepare for what they say will be a collective fight for justice for their countries and communities, which they will take to COP27 next month.”

UK at significant risk of gas shortages this winter, warns energy regulator
BBC News Read Article

Energy regulator Ofgem says there is a “significant risk” of gas shortages this winter, due to the war in Ukraine, BBC News reports. This could mean that some customers, starting with the largest industrial consumers, will be asked to stop using gas for temporary periods, with the aim of keeping supplies “stable for households for as long as possible”, according to the Independent. The Daily Telegraph says that “Ofgem is drawing up plans to relieve energy giants of significant charges for failing to deliver power in the event of a supply cut off.” The National Grid is due to release its winter outlook reports on Thursday, the Financial Times notes. Reuters and the Guardian also cover the story.

Meanwhile, the Times says: “An early forecast for this winter has found that it should be milder than usual, which could save homes and businesses millions of pounds. It would also reduce the cost of the government’s energy price freeze.” The forecast suggests that the UK could expect an average temperature of between 5.2C to 5.7C.

In other UK news, BBC News reports that a prototype commercial nuclear fusion reactor will be built at West Burton A power station in Lincolnshire. “Fusion is a potential source of almost limitless clean energy but is currently only carried out in experiments”, the outlet says. Business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg “claimed the power plant could be contributing to the grid by 2040, despite the fact that the promise of domestic nuclear fusion remains largely theoretical”, the Daily Telegraph adds.

UK 'cannot afford net-zero' commitments this year, government minister Steve Baker says
The i newspaper Read Article

Steve Baker – a government minister and co-founder of a small cluster of climate-sceptic Conservative politicians self-styled as the Net Zero Scrutiny Group – has said “the UK cannot afford its net-zero commitments in the short term due to the ongoing energy crisis”, the i newspaper reports. Speaking at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham, Baker said yesterday the government “should scrap a raft of net-zero policies to save households more than £1,500 this year”, the paper says. [The figures Baker is using come from a two-page briefing from Net Zero Watch, the rebranded campaigning arm of climate-sceptic lobby group known as the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which Baker recently stood down from as a trustee when he became a minister. The majority of the supposed “savings” would come from restricting free trade in electricity with France. This has nothing to do with the UK’s climate targets. The briefing also suggests £10bn in unfunded tax cuts that would breach the terms of the UK-EU trade deal and a “saving” from scrapping costs that consumers are not currently paying.] According to DeSmog, “a senior figure at a free market thinktank close to Prime Minister Liz Truss” also called for the UK’s 2050 net-zero target to be scrapped.

Meanwhile, business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg told the conference that he would be “delighted” to see fracking in his back garden, the Independent and the Guardian report. The Independent reports that Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley Johnson, has “warned the Liz Truss government not to put vital environment protections at risk in the ‘mad dash’ for economic growth”. Johnson tells the paper that he “was worried by deregulation plans – including the promise to scrap EU laws and set up low-tax investment zones”. And the Daily Express says that “transport secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan has celebrated the UK’s ‘world-leading’ efforts to reach net zero emissions by 2050” at the conference. She tells the newspaper: “It’s clear the general public are with us. We have to keep going to find solutions [to climate change].”

Elsewhere, the Financial Times reports that “Odey Asset Management and a number of top funds committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions have invested in British fracking company IGas Energy, as they take advantage of the UK government’s decision to lift the ban on the controversial process”.

In other UK news, the Times reports that “ministers are being urged to rethink reforms to the planning system that would allow developers in effect to ignore regulations protecting nature”. This comes as the Welsh government announces a plan to triple the rate of peatland restoration in Wales, the Guardian reports. According to BBC News, the plan follows an expert review of ways to tackle nature loss, commissioned by the Welsh government. And the Times reports that “campaigners are celebrating the scrapping of plans for three wind farms in southern Scotland as a turning point in the battle to preserve the country’s natural landscape”.

US: Biden pledges $60m to stormproof Puerto Rico during visit
The Guardian Read Article

In the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona, which hit Puerto Rico last month, the US president Joe Biden has pledged $60m in funding for the island territory, the Guardian reports. According to the paper, the money will help coastal areas become more storm-resilient, through “strengthening flood walls, creating a new flood warning system and other projects”. Biden “admitted shortcomings in past aid to Puerto Rico”, and announced the “Puerto Rican grid recovery modernization team” on his visit, it adds.

Meanwhile, there is widespread media coverage on Hurricane Ian, which hit Cuba and eastern US states last week. Reporting on the damage in Florida, the Guardian says that more 81 people are confirmed dead, and the state has mobilised more than 5,200 troops from its national guard. New Scientist adds that “the destruction caused by Hurricane Ian has left 600,000 Florida homes without power and many without clean water”. The Independent reports that Florida governor Ron DeSantis has defended county officials, following questions about whether they gave residents enough advance notice to evacuate ahead of the storm. And the New York Times lists ways to build back smarter after Hurricane Ian – including better building codes, the inclusion of both hard and soft shoreline defences and “equitable relocation”.

The Washington Post reports that “Florida is the most hurricane-ravaged state in the country” due to the state’s long coastline and rapid coastal development. “As Hurricane Ian gains strength and curves back to the mainland for the third act of its devastating performance in Florida and Cuba, the storm is set to demonstrate the long, inland tail of storms made stronger by climate change,” Bloomberg reports. The Conversation outlines how climate change is making hurricanes worse, while Inside Climate News covers new research which finds that “roughly a third of the metropolitan areas on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are at risk of seeing at least half of their hospitals experience some form of flooding during a hurricane”. And the Independent outlines the climate hazards in the US today, including flooding, drought, heat and wildfires.

In depth: export slowdown reveals cracks in one of China’s economic pillars
Caixin Global Read Article

China’s “disappointing” trade figures in August “highlighted an increasingly apparent trend – that export growth has been slowing since mid-2021”, Caixin writes, adding that the exports fell to 15.6% and 12.8% year-on-year for the first two quarters in 2022, respectively. The Shanghai-based outlet says that the country’s tough restrictions on the real-estate sector had created another drag on growth, leaving the economy with few drivers other than exports and the old standby of infrastructure investment. The article adds that “China’s export growth is expected to be on a downward trend in the next few months and fluctuate over the short term due to factors such as the pandemic”, citing analysts at Citic Securities.

Meanwhile, China Daily reports that “climate experts” have “urged more Sino-US cooperation in reducing carbon emissions from ships and aircraft” at a webinar, with one speaker pointing to the “progress” over recent decades in “making land transport cleaner” and the “need to expand those gains”. Dan Rutherford – program director for the aviation and marine programs at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), an environmental group – is quoted saying that “the maritime and aviation industries ‘are huge markets’ for the US and China”. The state-run newspaper adds that bilateral trade between the US and China is responsible for “about 2.5% of global shipping CO2 emissions”.

Separately, the Associated Press has published an article titled: “What the war in Ukraine means for Asia’s climate goals.” It says that, since the war started, China has “not only imported more fossil fuels from Russia, but also boosted its own coal output”. The article quotes Tim Buckley, the director of the thinktank Climate Energy Finance, who says: “China is leading the way on renewable energy and moving away from fossil-fuel dependence.”

In a separate article, China Daily writes that, as the United Arab Emirates’ energy transition “gathers pace” before it hosts the United Nations climate conference next year, “it is looking to climate partners such as China to help it sustain the momentum”, according to its climate change special envoy.

Elsewhere, the state broadcaster CGTN focuses on the solar farm in Inner Mongolia, which the article says is the world’s largest solar farm. Finally, the state news agency Xinhua says that Chinese researchers “deemed that factors such as temperature limits for plant growth, nitrogen limits for ecosystems, carbon limits for soil microorganisms, and soil water limits for arid and semi-arid ecosystems have an important influence on the regional biogeochemical cycles” on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

Oil pumped up as Opec+ plans production cut to boost prices
The Times Read Article

Oil prices rose by 5% yesterday, following news that Opec+ – made up of the Opec cartel and other producers including Russia – is considering cutting production by more than a million barrels a day, the Times reports. According to this paper, this would be the group’s biggest reduction in oil since the pandemic. The group will hold a “critical” meting on Wednesday, to decide whether to cut production, the Hill reports.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times covers analysis by the US Treasury, which suggests that “the G7’s plan to cap the price of Russian oil exports could yield $160bn in annual savings for the 50 largest emerging markets”. According to the paper, the G7 “approved plans for a price cap on purchases of Russian oil last month with an aim of cutting revenue for the Kremlin to wage war in Ukraine”. However, it notes that the level of the cap has not yet been set. The Financial Times has published an opinion Lex piece under the heading: “Opec+: Saudi Arabian willingness to help Russia may run out next year.” And Bloomberg says that “after more than a century of almost continual growth, the world’s appetite for oil is peaking, and will soon enter terminal decline”.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that European Union countries are moving closer to a deal on a new sanctions package. “The main remaining hitch has been agreeing on the details of a price cap on Russian oil sales to third countries”, it says. In other European news, the Guardian reports that “Europe is likely to experience a colder, drier and less windy early winter”, raising fears that the cost of living crisis could worsen.

Comment.

We are at a crossroads in history: Africa can and must be a leader in clean energy
William Ruto, The Guardian Read Article

Kenyan president William Ruto has published a comment piece in the Guardian, stating that climate change will be “among the central concerns” of his government. He says: “We have immense potential for renewable energy, and this abundance of wind and solar energy can power the development of Africa. Rather than trudging in the fossil-fuel footsteps of those who went before, we can leapfrog this dirty energy and embrace the benefits of clean power. Kenya is home to the world’s largest windfarm and our electricity supply is already 92% renewable, with 74% of our overall energy use powered by clean energy. I am reaffirming our commitment to move this to 100% clean energy by 2030. We call on all African states to join us in this journey.” Ruto calls a transition to clean energy “a no-brainer”. He adds: “As Africans, we will call for a rapid and just transition – delivering on the commitment by heads of state to double Africa’s installed energy capacity through renewables by 2030…We will support a successful COP27 international climate summit in Africa this November by demanding delivery of the finance and technology needed by Africa to adapt to climate impacts, support those in need, and manage the energy transition.”

Attack on nature is a mistake Tories can avoid
William Hague, The Times Read Article

Fearing an anticipated “attack on nature” by new ministers, including “[p]lans to abolish all EU regulations by the end of next year without necessarily replacing them”, former Conservative party leader William Hague, warns Times readers: “This is another issue on which the cabinet is picking a fight it does not need to have, and on which millions of people, including many Conservatives, will be utterly determined that it must lose.” The idea that we can choose faster growth at the expense of our environment shows “inadequate understanding” of the reality that we are “biological creatures that need a thriving ecosystem around us”, writes Hague. “[N]ot gods who can dispense with it if we wish.” He adds: “The commitment of new ministers to achieving net-zero and to global climate co-operation is not in doubt. But at the 2019 election the Conservatives promised much more, to make Britain the cleanest, greenest country on Earth – something a prime minister very much attached to election promises needs to remember.”

Separately, in the Daily Mail, Andrew Neil argues that “Truss should brace herself for what happened over 45p to happen again and again when she tries to push through her supply-side reforms”. Reporting from the party conference in Birmingham, Neil writes that Conservative backbenchers “don’t seem that enthused” about fracking, even though “after Putin’s attack on underwater gas pipelines the case for it – to ensure security of supply – is stronger than ever.’ After promising fracking won’t happen without local consent, Truss’s government is “simply not strong enough to insist the national interest overrides local interests”, Neil continues.

Meanwhile, environmental campaigner Donnachadh McCarthy writes in the Independent: “A general election must be held immediately, so that whatever existential climate choices are being made, they have the legitimacy of an electoral mandate.” The government’s public attitudes tracker shows “two to one” public opposition to fracking. 49% of respondents to a YouGov poll backed renewables as their “top priority for government investment”. And in an ECIU survey on the energy price crisis, 51% saw renewables and insulation as “the best way to reduce reliance on gas”, vastly eclipsing 9% backed expansion of North Sea oil and gas exploration (9%), and fracking (8%), writes McCarthy. And Søren Skou, chief executive of shipping company AP Møller-Maersk, applauds the US for its “game-changing” $369bn Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in the FT.

After Ukraine – the great clean energy acceleration
Michael Liebreich, BloombergNEF Read Article

Writing for BloombergNEF, senior contributor Michael Liebreich writes: “Around 10 years ago there was a major acceleration when it became clear that wind, solar and batteries were going to become really cheap…I believe this hellish year is going to lead to another similar acceleration, as it becomes clear that clean energy, and not fossil fuels, holds the key to energy security.” Liebreich adds: “From now on all three elements of the energy trilemma – security, affordability and sustainability – are pushing in the same direction. We face some very difficult years, there is no question. But as we get through them, things are going to start moving extremely fast. The Great Energy Price Spike is going to give way to the Great Clean Energy Acceleration.”

Science.

Determining our climate policy future: expert opinions about negative emissions and solar radiation management pathways
Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change Read Article

A new study uses an expert survey to examine the future potential of both negative emission options and solar radiation management techniques. Asking a “pool of prominent experts”, the researchers find that “some options (notably afforestation and reforestation, ecosystem restoration and soil carbon sequestration) are envisioned frequently as necessary, desirable, feasible and affordable, with minimal risks and barriers (compared to other options)”. In contrast, other options are “envisaged as unnecessary risky or costly”, the researchers find, including “ocean alkalisation or fertilisation, space-based reflectors, high-altitude sunshades and albedo management via clouds”. The authors add that “only the options of afforestation and reforestation and soil carbon sequestration are expected to be widely deployed before 2035”, which raises “very real concerns about climate and energy policy in the near- to mid-term”.

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