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Daily Briefing

18.11.2020
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Drivers to be given grants to buy electric cars as Boris Johnson announces 10-point ‘build back greener’ plan
Drivers to be given grants to buy electric cars as Boris Johnson announces 10-point ‘build back greener’ plan

News.

Drivers to be given grants to buy electric cars as Boris Johnson announces 10-point 'build back greener' plan

There is blanket coverage across UK newspapers of prime minister Boris Johnson’s long-awaited “10-point plan” for a “green industrial revolution” intended to help the country achieve its target of net-zero emissions by 2050. The story appears on the frontpages of the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times, the Times and the Independent. Much of the coverage leads on the government bringing forward the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to 2030, with more than one headline describing it as the “end of the road” for the vehicles. The i newspaper reports that drivers will be offered grants “worth thousands of pounds” to buy low-emission or electric cars in a bid to encourage the transition away from high-polluting models (the release pledges £582m in grants for “zero or ultra-low emission vehicles”). Reuters notes that the new date is five years earlier than the 2035 pledge made by Johnson in February. The prime minister’s plans will cost a total of £12bn and he says they will create 250,000 jobs across the UK, according to the newswire. The Guardian notes that, despite the headline figure, the opposition Labour party pointed out that “at best” £4bn from the new announcement is new money. The newspaper also reports that some of the policies, including the 2030 car sales target and another to quadruple offshore wind capacity to 40 gigawatts, have been extensively reported already. BBC News’s environment analyst Roger Harrabin says that the “total amount of new money announced in the package is a 25th of the projected £100bn cost of high-speed rail, HS2”. The Times says the 2030 petrol and diesel ban, which will also see hybrid vehicles “outlawed” five years later, was a key demand of its “clean air for all” campaign and goes on to outline the rest of the policies. These include £1bn to make homes and businesses more efficient, £525m to develop new large and small-scale nuclear power stations and “up to £500m” to test hydrogen cooking and heating in homes as an alternative to gas, the newspaper reports. A BBC News article that emerged just ahead of the announcement notes “substantial investment” for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

Other pledges, reported in the i newspaper which has published the list in full, include support for research projects for zero-emission planes and ships, tree planting, public transport infrastructure and helping to “make the City of London the global centre of green finance”. The Times also has another article with more detail of each policy. According to the Financial Times, the package is “intended as a signal of intent as Britain prepares to host next year’s UN COP26 climate change summit”. The newspaper states that the 10-point plan is a key component of the Johnson government’s “reset”, as he tries to lay out a future beyond Covid-19 crisis and to “move on after the chaotic infighting in Downing Street in recent days”. It notes that allies of Johnson’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings, who quit last week, have argued that a shift towards green policies would “lose the party votes in former industrial areas”. The newspaper points to an op-ed it has published by the prime minister himself (see below) that “attempts to counter that argument”, emphasising the importance of green hubs in Teesside, Port Talbot, Merseyside and Mansfield. A Daily Telegraph article published before the announcement yesterday has details of a survey that found 70% of new Tory ‘blue wall’ voters in the north feel a ban on diesel and petrol cars “would be unfair, despite sharing overwhelming concern over climate change”. BusinessGreen has a roundup of all the reaction from across the green economy, ranging from shadow business secretary Ed Miliband to acting Confederation of British Industry director-general Josh Hardie. It quotes Lord Deben, chair of the Climate Change Committee, who says he is “delighted to see the breadth of the prime minister’s commitment”, but it must now “be turned into a detailed road map”.

Carbon Brief’s policy editor Simon Evans has written a Twitter thread outlining what is included in the announcement and says that, despite their significance, the policies will not by themselves be enough to close the gap to reaching net-zero emissions in the UK.

The Daily Telegraph reports that hydrogen “could be heating homes in three years” following the government’s announcement. It quotes industry figures at the Energy Networks Association (ENA) who it says have been lobbying for “hydrogen-ready” boilers. (The UK already has some homes being heated with 20% hydrogen blends in a trial project.) Another Daily Telegraph piece carries a warning from the Suffolk Wildlife Trust that the proposed Sizewell C nuclear power plant would be “catastrophic for British nature”.

The i newspaper Read Article
Anger as UN body approves deal that allows ship emissions to rise to 2030

A package of fuel efficiency measures agreed for shipping at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) will allow emissions to continue rising until 2030, Climate Home News reports. The proposals, which NGOs said gave shipping “a free pass to pollute”, were approved by all the member nations present expect Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands, the news website says. It notes that, according to a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), under business as usual, annual shipping emissions are forecast to grow 15% by 2030. The new measures will “only shave off” 1%, resulting in 14% growth, it says. Campaigners quoted in the article state that the decision puts the IMO’s own climate target, which they say would require a 15% emissions cut by 2030, out of reach, as well as the broader goals of the Paris Agreement. (Carbon Brief has an article outlining the IMO’s journey towards its goal of cutting emissions by “at least” 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.) Despite this, Reuters quotes IMO secretary general Kitack Lim who said at the start of this week’s meeting of nations that the agency’s shipping emissions strategy must be delivered “by means of concrete measures”. BusinessGreen reports that supporters of the plan say it “will subject polluting ships to the power of the market and help accelerate already growing demand greener vessels over the decade to come”.

Meanwhile, in aviation news, the Guardian reports on an “exclusive” story based on newly published research that shows 1% of people caused half of global emissions from flying in 2018.

Climate Home News Read Article
Green groups sue over Arctic drilling plans

In the US, a coalition of six environmental groups is suing the Trump administration to stop its “brazen rush to drill anywhere it can in the Arctic”, the Hill reports. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalised plans last month to expand drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA), which is next to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the news website says. The New York Times reports that the current administration on Monday announced that it would begin selling leases to oil companies in “a last-minute push to achieve its long-sought goal of allowing oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge”. It notes that lease sales could begin just before Inauguration Day, leaving the new president Joe Biden “to try to reverse them after the fact”.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that the US will be missing from a global climate summit organised by the UK next month “to press ahead with a new and more onerous stage of the Paris climate agreement”. The article notes that other nations are “desperate” to work with the new Biden administration on climate and that his absence from the upcoming event “couldn’t be more inconvenient for other world leaders”. Another Politico piece looks at the president-elect’s transition teams for federal agencies, which it says include veterans from the Obama administration and others with “significant” experience of climate policy battles. The Hindu reports that Indian prime minister Narendra Modi discussed various global challenges on his first phone call with Biden as president-elect, including “tackling the threat of climate change”. Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem has said he sees a “a more integrated and more rational North American approach to climate change” under the new administration, according to Reuters.

Another Reuters article notes that environmental activists are “heaping pressure” on Biden to avoid cabinet appointees with fossil fuel ties, after it emerged one of his picks received donations from the oil and gas industry. Separately, Reuters reports that the US solar industry has called on Biden to make an executive order to lift tariffs on on imported panels and increase subsidies when he comes into power.

Finally, Climate Home News looks ahead to the upcoming “critical US Senate runoffs” in the state of Georgia, which it says are being targeted by climate campaigners. It notes that for Biden to pass tax and spending plans such as his $2tn green investment pledge, he will need support from a majority in the Senate, which Georgia could provide.

The Hill Read Article

Comment.

Now is the time to plan our green recovery

The UK prime minister Boris Johnson has written a comment piece in the Financial Times to coincide with the launch of his “10-point plan” to make the nation “net zero” by 2050. He asks readers to image a “Britain when a Green Industrial Revolution has helped to level up the country”, writing that now is the time for a green recovery with high-skilled jobs to help the nation recover from the impact of Covid-19. Johnson says “my 10-point plan” will mobilise billions in government and private funding, and “turn the UK into the world’s number one centre for green technology and finance”. He says he will meet UK businesses today to discuss their contribution, noting he plans to provide “clear timetables” for clean energy, details of changing regulations and carbon prices placed on emissions.  Johnson concludes by saying he will launch as establish a “task force net zero” committed to achieving the government’s net-zero goal and push other nations to aim for the same ahead of COP26.

There is extensive analysis of the strategy and what it means for the UK’s climate commitments. The Independent’s climate correspondent Daisy Dunne notes that “key details remain unclear” in the plan, with “noticeable gaps” including new measures to boost onshore wind or solar. “Mr Johnson’s new climate plan also makes mentions of technologies that are yet to be proven at a commercial level,” she writes, pointing out that the prime minister has previously faced criticism for making “unrealistic” claims about electric air travel. BBC News’ business editor Simon Jack asks: “is this really a green revolution?” He highlights the petrol and diesel car ban, which “puts the UK toward the front of the pack in the electric vehicle race” and was also “widely expected” as the nation takes a key climate leadership role ahead of COP26 in Glasgow. Madeline Cuff in the i newspaper highlights the £1bn for energy efficiency in homes and the extra year for the existing Green Homes Grant scheme. However, she notes that this flagship scheme is “stumbling” due to excessive paperwork and lack of suppliers. “Ministers will need to fix those teething problems quickly to prevent the Green Homes Grant becoming a £3bn policy dud,” she writes. Environment and energy correspondents Ben Webster and Emily Gosden write in the Times that the hydrogen plans “appear to be among the most radical” as renewable hydrogen is still in its infancy and the use of pure hydrogen for cooking and heating has only seen small trials to date. An extensive analysis by environment correspondent Fiona Harvey in the Guardian looks at each component of the 10-point plan, noting that with proposals for new nuclear in the UK from Sizewell to Wylfa wavering “if the government wishes to expand nuclear power, it will have to prove that it can be economical”. In a separate piece, Harvey asks: “What could a good green recovery plan actually look like?”

The Daily Telegraph has a piece by the climate contrarian Bjorn Lomborg opining that banning petrol and diesel vehicles would deliver “only minor emissions savings at a vast cost to the taxpayer” and that electric vehicles “are certainly fun, but almost everywhere cost more across their lifetime than their petrol counterparts. That is why subsidies are needed.” [The Climate Change Committee has said that such a phaseout would ultimately save consumers money and that an earlier ban means bigger savings.] A Daily Mail editorial from yesterday also warns that the prime minister “risks a wrong turn” with the earlier ban. Meanwhile, an article from yesterday in Conservative Home looks ahead to Johnson’s speech and notes the importance of Conservative MPs in “red wall” seats who won elections supporting green projects. “In short, parts of this Blue Wall, as we’re now told it should be called, are going green.”

Finally, an editorial in the Sun repeats a common refrain in which it tells the chancellor Rishi Sunak it would be “reckless and wrong to hit drivers with a fuel duty rise hoping to refill the coffers after the Covid borrowing binge”. In contrast, an editorial in the Daily Express (not yet online) says: “This is the right time for the country to pursue a ‘green industrial revolution’ with the potential to create 250,000 news jobs…We can look forward to a near-future in which we will be better off and the UK will no longer depend on foreign-sourced fuels that pollute our air and threaten climate devastation. Our motor-loving PM should put his foot to the floor in pursuit of his electric ambitions.”

Boris Johnson, Financial Times Read Article
Big oil and gas have a lot invested in Trump’s attack on the election system

Fossil-fuel firms are among the biggest donors to the defeated US president Donald Trump, as well as the Republican party leaders who have joined him in attempting to legally overturn the presidential election result, writes the Guardian’s global environment editor Jonathan Watts. “They also have the most to lose if Joe Biden carries out his campaign promise to rejoin the Paris climate agreement and enact a $2tn green new deal that would make wind, solar and other clean technologies far cheaper than petroleum,” he continues. Watts notes that world is in the middle of an “epochal shift” away from fossil fuels and this is being resisted. “Trump may believe the stakes are higher than the value of the system itself. Among his oil-funded allies, he is not alone in this.”

New York Times piece notes that in a bid to elevate climate change issues, Biden “is already drafting orders to reduce planet-warming pollution and seeking nominees who will embed climate policy” across his administration. The article says that, according to someone advising the transition: “Mr Biden’s inner circle routinely asks ‘is the person climate-ambitious?’ of candidates even for lower profile positions like the White House budget and regulatory offices”. The article lays out how the president-elect intends to “move fast” with this “climate administration”, and says that the transition team members that have been named “include dozens of climate change experts”.

Deborah Seligsohn in China Dialogue emphasises the importance of cooperation between the US and China on climate under Biden. She writes: “Biden’s attention to climate change, the greater pressure – especially from his younger supporters – for climate action, and the legacy of President Obama’s important agreement with China on climate change, have all raised the question of whether there will be renewed US-China cooperation on this critical challenge for our planet.” The article notes that this will not be easy, stating that the two world powers will have to “find a way to work together in an environment of increased competition and complexity”.

Jonathan Watts, The Guardian Read Article

Science.

The global scale, distribution and growth of aviation: Implications for climate change

The most frequent fliers, which account for no more than 1% of the world’s population, likely account for more than half of global emissions from passenger air travel, a new study says. Using industry statistics, national surveys and data from international organisations, the researchers estimate that “the share of the world’s population travelling by air in 2018 was 11%, with at most 4% taking international flights”. The study adds that individual users of private aircraft can contribute to emissions of up to 7,500 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Global Environmental Change Read Article
Projecting exposure to extreme climate impact events across six event categories and three spatial scales

A temperature rise of 2C above preindustrial levels could “lead to a more than five‐fold increase” in global exposure to extreme weather events, according to a new study. The study explores six categories: river floods, tropical cyclones, crop failure, wildfires, droughts, and heatwaves. It finds that “global warming increases the number of people around the world that are affected by these events each year, both for all event types combined and each type individually”. The frequency, intensity, and spatial locations of extreme weather events are all projected to change under a warming climate, the study finds – with particularly large increases in exposure in South Asia.

Earth's Future Read Article
What prevents us from taking low-carbon actions? A comprehensive review of influencing factors affecting low-carbon behaviours

A new study explores the “key factors that affect personal behaviour in consumption of food, clothing, housing, transportation, and other various products or services”, to understand the impacts of behaviour change on the climate. Nearly two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions are linked to “daily human activities”, and the paper views changes in individual behaviour as “key to mitigating climate change”. This paper highlights four key recommendations for changing individual behaviour: policy intervention, “improving infrastructure that is conducive to promoting low-carbon activities”, strengthening climate education, and implementing “more effective incentive measures”.

Energy Research & Social Science Read Article

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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.