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Daily Briefing

17.03.2020
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Coronavirus slows global efforts to fight climate change
Coronavirus slows global efforts to fight climate change

News.

Coronavirus slows global efforts to fight climate change

There is continued coverage of Covid-19’s effect on efforts to tackle climate change, scientific research and the energy sector. Bloomberg reports that several key climate policy events, including ongoing UN climate talks and an EU-China climate summit due to take place at the end of the month, have been postponed. New climate policy is also “at risk of stalling on a national level”, Bloomberg says. It adds: “The UK scaled back plans to put environment at the centre of its budget last week. Spain, which has made climate change a central part of its political agenda, halted all legislative activity for at least two weeks and declared a state of emergency over the weekend.” Sky News correspondents have been tweeting that “sources” have told them that a postponement to COP26 in Glasgow is now being considered.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Covid-19 is creating a “solar industry crisis”. “Fallout from the pandemic has impacted both supply chains and demand in the fast-growing industry, and the president of the top U.S. solar trade group said its annual market report’s projection of 47% growth in 2020 will be ratcheted down in the coming weeks and months,” Reuters says. Elsewhere, BusinessGreen reports that the outbreak is likely to delay European wind projects. Giles Dixon, CEO of WindEurope, tells BusinessGreen it is “too soon to judge” the impacts on production and revenues in Europe’s offshore and onshore wind sectors, but warned developers could well face financial penalties from project delays. A story in the Times notes that coronavirus lockdowns around the world have led to sharp declines in air pollution in major cities. CNN also says that the lockdown has “had an unintended benefit – blue skies”. It also quotes Carbon Brief’s recent analysis showing the impact on China’s emissions.

Elsewhere, Bloomberg reports that: “The big drop on [EU] carbon prices show a turnaround for a commodity that had showed some strength. European polluters had been buying allowances to comply with limits imposed by the bloc for the last year. With industrial production weakening and airlines consuming less fuel, demand for those certificates is likely to slide.”

The New York Times reports that Covid-19 has forced the world’s largest Arctic expedition to cancel a series of research flights. (Carbon Brief joined the expedition for its first six weeks last autumn.) The New York Times says: “The flights, which were to have begun from Svalbard, a group of islands far north of mainland Norway, this month, already had been delayed when one participant tested positive for the virus while still in Germany. But late last week Norway imposed new restrictions requiring that any nonresident entering the country be placed in quarantine for two weeks. Those obstacles proved too logistically difficult to overcome.” Vice reports that NASA has also been forced to cancel climate change missions due to the virus. NASA delayed two airborne missions that study Earth’s climate and the effects of climate change and one tasked with understanding extreme weather, Vice reports. This is due to the virus’s “potential impact on travel during the next few weeks”, a NASA spokesperson tells Vice.

There is also continued coverage of how the pandemic, in tandem with an oil price slide, is affecting big oil companies. Reuters reports that ExxonMobil has announced it will make a significant cut to spending, while the Times reports that BP’s dividend “faces the chop”. Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that investors have abandoned plans to refinance the US oil and gas driller EP Energy in the wake of the crises. A second Reuters story says that one the first US shale gas companies is moving to restructure its debt. The FT also reports that the International Energy Agency has warned the oil price collapse could cut the revenue of “vulnerable” oil-producing countries by up to 85%. Such countries include Ecuador, Iraq and Nigeria, the FT says. And the Guardian reports that “energy companies [in the UK] have started preparing emergency plans to cope with coronavirus disruption, including the possibility of operating with only a fifth of their usual staff numbers”.

Bloomberg Read Article
Climate activists accuse UK lender of financing fossil fuel

The FT reports that climate campaigners have filed a complaint with the OECD against a UK government lender, alleging the agency’s financing of fossil-fuel projects is at odds with the Paris Agreement. The complaint, filed by campaigners at Global Witness, argues that UK Export Finance (UKEF), which offers financial aid to the UK’s exporters, is contravening the Paris Agreement by continuing to give billions to fossil-fuel projects, the FT reports. “It also alleged the organisation breaches OECD guidelines by neither reporting nor reducing its emissions,” the FT says. The Guardian adds that Global Witness accused the government of “rank hypocrisy”. The Guardian says: “UKEF offered financial support worth £2bn to overseas fossil fuel projects in 2018, more than 10 times as much as the year before, when it gave only £175m.”

Elsewhere, BBC News reports that a Scotland-based North Sea oil firm has been accused of “profiting from a deadly industry” after two of its oil rigs ended up scrapped on a beach in India. At least 137 people have died over the last decade in the shipbreaking yards in Alang, BBC News reports. The story was first reported on Monday night on the TV programme BBC Disclosure.

Financial Times Read Article
Climate change: The rich are to blame, international study finds

BBC News reports on a study of 86 countries finding that the wealthiest 10% of people consume about 20 times more energy overall than the bottom ten, wherever they live. The gulf is greatest in transport, where the top 10% consume 187 times more fuel than the poorest 10%, according to the research, BBC News says. “That’s because people on the lowest incomes can rarely afford to drive,” it says. “The study, published in Nature Energy, showed that energy for cooking and heating is more equitably consumed.”

BBC News Read Article

Comment.

How changes brought on by coronavirus could help tackle climate change

In the Conversation, Glen Peters, research director at the Center for International Climate and Environment Research in Oslo, explores why Covid-19 “might significantly curb global emissions”. He says: “Under the worst-case OECD forecast the global economy in 2020 could grow as little as 1.5%. All else equal, we calculate this would lead to a 1.2% decline in CO2 emissions in 2020.” The impact might only be short-lived, however, he adds: “The coronavirus pandemic will not turn around the long-term upward trend in global emissions. But governments around the world are announcing economic stimulus measures, and they way they’re spent may affect how emissions evolve in future. There is an opportunity to invest the stimulus money in structural changes leading to reduced emissions after economic growth returns, such as further development of clean technologies.”

Elsewhere, Axios energy and climate change reporter Amy Harder explores how time plays a key factor in determining the response to Covid-19 and climate change. In Bloomberg (via the Washington Post), opinion columnist Chris Bryant argues that airlines “should work” for the bail outs required to stop them going bankrupt amid the outbreak. He says: “Any cash assistance should be bound by rules: in the more fragmented European market that might mean nudging airlines to consolidate. Airlines everywhere need to show their spending is directed towards curtailing carbon emissions in line with Paris climate agreement.” A second Bloomberg story explores how the ongoing crises are likely to affect the push for electric cars.

Glen Peters, The Conversation Read Article

Science.

Tropical climate responses to projected Arctic and Antarctic sea-ice loss

The projected decline in Antarctic sea ice over the coming century could have knock-on impacts for the tropics, a new study says. Using a fully coupled climate model, the researchers show “that Antarctic sea ice loss, similar to Arctic sea ice loss, causes enhanced warming in the eastern equatorial Pacific”, as well as an “equatorward intensification” of the tropical rain band known as the “Intertropical Convergence Zone”. The researchers also “demonstrate that Antarctic sea ice loss causes a mini global warming signal comparable to the one caused by Arctic sea ice loss, and reminiscent of the response to greenhouse gases”.

Nature Geoscience Read Article
Impacts of climate change and deforestation on hydropower planning in the Brazilian Amazon

A new study explores the potential impacts of climate change and deforestation on hydropower electricity generation in Brazil. The researchers investigate the effects of global and regional changes on “the largest network of planned and existing dams within a single basin in the Amazon (the Tapajόs River), which altogether accounts for nearly 50% of the inventoried potential expansion in Brazil”. The findings suggest that “climate change could decrease dry season hydropower potential by 430–312 GWh [gigawatt hours] per month (−7.4 to −5.4%), while combined effects of deforestation could increase interannual variability from 548 to 713–926 GWh per month (+50% to +69%)”.

Nature Sustainability Read Article
Arctic sea ice variability during the Instrumental Era

New research has produced a reconstruction of Arctic sea ice extent going back to 1850. Rather than piecing together sea ice observations from a range of historical sources – as in previous studies – the authors use “a data assimilation approach that blends more abundant temperature observations with data from climate models”. The resulting 1850-2018 record reinforces previous findings that the current trend in sea ice decline “is unprecedented in duration since 1850″, the authors say, but it also suggests “that sea ice variability prior to 1979 is ∼40% larger than previously estimated”.

Geophysical Research Letters Read Article

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