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Daily Briefing |

TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES

Briefing date 24.05.2022
Egypt promises to allow protest, push pledges as COP27 host

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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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News.

Egypt promises to allow protest, push pledges as COP27 host
Associated Press Read Article

Associated Press carries an interview with the Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry, who is also the president-designate of COP27, which is scheduled to be held in the Red Sea resort city Sharm El-Sheikh this November. Shoukry indicated, notes AP, that Egypt “will push countries to make good on their pledges to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions, facilitate ‘non-adversarial’ talks on compensation to developing countries for global warming impacts and allow climate activists to protest”. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Shoukry adds: “The commitments and the pledges now have to be implemented in all sectors of the climate change agenda, whether it’s in adaptation, mitigation or finance, loss and damage…We hope that the discussion [on loss and damage] is comprehensive, but it is non-adversarial.” On the issue of allowing protests at COP27, he says: “We are developing a facility adjacent to the conference centre that will provide them the full opportunity of participation, of activism, of demonstration, of voicing that opinion. And we will also provide them access, as is traditionally done on one day of the negotiations, to the negotiating [hall] itself.” AP adds that, when asked whether fossil fuel companies could or should be part of the transition to renewable energies – an argument made by oil and gas companies, including many at the Davos conference – Shoukry disagreed: “I can’t say that fossil fuels are part of the solution. Fossil fuels have been the problem…We might see in gas a transitional source of energy with certainly less emissions. But I think we have to really move quickly to the net-zero goal and we have to apply ourselves more effectively in new technologies, in renewable energy.”

Meanwhile, in other Davos news, Reuters carries the comments of International Energy Agency (IEA) chief Fatih Birol who says that the energy security crisis since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine must not lead to a “deeper dependence” on fossil fuels. He said yesterday: “We need fossil fuels in the short term, but let’s not lock in our future by using the current situation as an excuse to justify some of the investments being done, time-wise it doesn’t work and morally in my view it doesn’t work as well.”

Separately, the Financial Times focuses on comments made at Davos by Saudi Aramco’s chief executive Amin Nasser. He argues, says the FT, that the “energy shock sparked by the war in Ukraine has shown the need to overhaul green energy transition plans and maintain investment in oil and gas production”. He tells the FT: “The crisis is just indicating to us [that] you are running the whole world with not enough spare capacity…Instead of really working on a transition that will help the world by 2050, we are pushing the world to more coal because we are not taking seriously the issue of energy security, affordability and availability.“ The Times also covers his remarks made at Davos.

UK: Sunak orders plan for windfall tax on electricity generators
Financial Times Read Article

A story on the frontpage of the Financial Times says that the UK chancellor Rishi Sunak “has ordered officials to draw up plans for a possible windfall tax on more than £10bn of excess profits by electricity generators, including wind farm operators, on top of a hit on North Sea oil and gas producers” It adds: “Treasury officials are working on a scheme that would go well beyond Labour’s original windfall tax plan, as Sunak looks to raise billions of pounds of financial support for households struggling with soaring energy bills. ‘North Sea oil and gas producers are only half the picture,’ said one government insider. ‘The other half is that high gas prices have led to some pretty substantial windfall profits for all electricity generation.’ By pulling big power generators such as SSE, ScottishPower, EDF Energy and RWE into the scope of any windfall tax Sunak would sharply increase the revenue it brings in…Tory rightwingers oppose a windfall tax, but Sunak does not want to fund a rescue package for households struggling with higher bills through large-scale additional borrowing, fearing that it could fuel inflation. Sunak’s officials are working on a windfall tax model for North Sea oil and gas producers similar to the one introduced by George Osborne in 2011, according to those briefed on the policy.”

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that “energy companies will need to provide updates each quarter on how they’re boosting clean energy investments in order to avoid a UK windfall tax on their surging oil and gas earnings, British government minister Alok Sharma said”. It adds: “Producers are making ‘extraordinary’ profits with rising prices, said Sharma, who’s also president of the COP26 climate summit. Failing to disclose how those earnings are being ploughed into green initiatives would mean ‘all options are on the table,’ he said in a Bloomberg television interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos.”

In other UK news, the Times says that “a proposed new nuclear power plant in north Wales could cost as much as £17bn, but would be quicker and cheaper to build than EDF’s Hinkley Point C in Somerset, according to the American consortium behind the project”. And a frontpage story in the Daily Mail claims that proposed “country-wide” summer rail strikes could cause “power blackouts”: “Freight trains supplying critical power plants would be severely disrupted, hitting electricity feeds to millions of homes.” [However, both coal and biomass are stored in quantity on site at power stations such as Drax and these sources only make up a relatively small proportion of the UK’s energy mix.]

'They're ignoring all the alarms': Contractor resigns from Shell with warning to staff about 'extreme harm' to planet
Sky News Read Article

There is continuing and widespread coverage of the resignation by a Shell contractor who claims that the oil and gas company is causing “extreme harm” to the planet. Sky News says: “In a mass email to over a thousand Shell employees including company CEO Ben van Beurden, Caroline Dennett wrote: ‘The United Nations and the International Energy Agency are clear: there is no safe level of new oil and gas extraction, any new projects commit us to global overheating and an un-liveable world. Contrary to Shell’s public expressions around net-zero, and as most of you will know from the inside, Shell is not winding down oil and gas, but planning to explore and extract much more. It pains me to end this working relationship which I have greatly valued, but I can no longer work for a company that ignores all the alarms and dismisses the risks of climate change and ecological collapse’…Ms Dennett told Sky News that working for Shell was no longer morally compatible with her beliefs about how best to protect the planet and the people who live on it…In a statement, a Shell spokesperson told Sky News: ‘Be in no doubt, we are determined to deliver on our global strategy to be a net-zero company by 2050 and thousands of our people are working hard to achieve this.’” The IndependentPress AssociationPoliticoClimate Home News and the Guardian are among the other outlets carrying the story.

Climate change made India and Pakistan's record March and April 30 times more likely
The Washington Post Read Article

There is widespread media coverage of new findings released by climate scientists yesterday showing that human-caused climate change made the heatwave that hit India and Pakistan in March and April at least 30 times more likely. The Washington Post says the punishing heat experienced over this period was the “most intense, widespread and persistent in the region’s history”, with “numerous all-time and monthly temperature records broken across both countries”. It quotes Dr Friederike Otto, a co-author of the study: “What was particularly exceptional and particularly unusual was how early it started.“ Associated Press quotes Arpita Mondal, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai, who was also part of the study: “This is a sign of things to come.” The Guardian explains that “extreme temperatures and low rainfall since mid-March have caused widespread suffering, including deaths, crop losses, forest fires, and cuts to power and water supplies”. It adds: “The study is the latest to show the already severe impacts of global heating on millions of people, even though the global average temperature has risen only 1.2C above pre-industrial levels to date. If it rises to 2C, heatwaves as intense as the current one would be expected as often as every five years in India and Pakistan, the scientists estimated.” The New York Times says that the study was undertaken by World Weather Attribution, a “collaborative effort among scientists to examine extreme weather events for the influence, or lack thereof, of climate change”. The IndependentBloombergNatureReuters and Politico are among the other outlets covering the study.

Carbon Brief has also covered the findings in depth, and has produced an in-depth summary of the heatwave’s media coverage at the time.

Australia’s Greens demand end to new coal and gasfields
Financial Times Read Article

With Australia’s election results still yet to be completely finalised, media coverage is still largely focused on what impact the Greens and “Teal” independents could have on Labor’s climate and energy policies. The Financial Times says that that “Greens, which could hold the balance of power in the country’s upper house after Saturday’s election, have called for a halt to all new gas and coal projects, setting up a collision with the recently elected Labor government and the large fossil fuel export industry”. The newspaper adds: “Adam Bandt, the Greens’ leader, said preventing all new coal and gas developments would be the party’s priority in negotiations with Labor. ‘The Greens will be demanding climate targets in line with the science for a safe climate, that meet our Paris commitment and don’t spell the end of the Great Barrier Reef,’ he said on Monday. ‘But the first job is to stop making the problem worse. Labor’s targets don’t even take into account the 114 new coal and gas projects in the pipeline. You can’t put out a fire while you’re pouring petrol on it.’”

Indian’s Business Standard covers remarks made by Australia’s new prime minister Anthony Albanese in Tokyo yesterday, where he said: “We will act in recognition that climate change is the main economic and security challenge for the island nations of the Pacific. My government will set a new target to reduce emissions by 43% by 2030 to put us on track for net-zero emissions by 2050.” He was speaking at the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – or “Quad” – which is an informal strategic forum made up of the US, India, Australia and Japan. Reuters says he told the leaders at the meeting, which included the US president Joe Biden, that he wanted to “discuss climate change” with them. The Australian says that the new Australian government wants to host a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting this year to “signal its new approach” to climate change.

Meanwhile, the Guardian covers the fallout within the defeated Liberal party noting that “the Liberal moderate Andrew Bragg says after the Liberal party’s rout in its progressive heartland, the incoming opposition must reject the ‘conspiracy theorists’ of the climate wars and return to core values of enterprise and fairness”. It adds: “With some conservatives declaring that the Liberal party needs to shift to the right in the wake of Saturday’s electoral defeat, the remaining moderates, including Bragg, are rallying to ensure the new opposition leadership doesn’t write off inner-city professionals and lurch into populism.”

Sharp cut in methane now could help avoid worst of climate crisis
The Guardian Read Article

Scientists have warned that cutting methane sharply now is “crucial”, as focusing on CO2 alone will not be enough to keep rising temperatures within livable limits, reports the Guardian. It adds: “The study found that cuts to CO2 alone could not achieve the reductions needed to stay within 1.5C of pre-industrial temperatures. But cutting methane and other ‘short-lived climate pollutants’ (SLCPs) such as soot would reduce the global heating effect in the near term, thus giving the world ‘a fighting chance’ of staving off climate catastrophe, the scientists said. Prof Durwood Zaelke, the president of the Washington-based Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD), and co-author of the paper, said cutting methane offered a quick way to reduce global heating while the world pursued longer term cuts in CO2. ‘We can’t solve the fast-moving climate problem with slow-moving solutions. Like Maverick [the Tom Cruise character in Top Gun], we’d better start feeling the need for speed,’ he said.”

Reuters says: “Over the last year, more than 100 countries have pledged a 30% cut by 2030 to emissions from methane…Meanwhile, scant attention has been paid to other warming pollutants, including black carbon, also called soot, which absorbs radiative heat, as well as hydrofluorocarbons found in refrigerants, and nitrous oxides. But together with methane, these pollutants are responsible for about half of the warming seen today, according to the study published on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

Germany: Habeck promotes a maximum oil price
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Read Article

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that Germany’s economy minister and vice chancellor Robert Habeck has proposed at the World Economic Forum in Davos that major oil-consuming countries should agree on a maximum price at which they will buy oil – with the “final goal” being to stop buying it at all. FAZ quotes him saying: “The rules of the markets have to change…We have to agree that we won’t pay any price.“ It adds that Habeck spoke of four current crises – inflation, the energy crisis, food poverty and the climate crisis – and “we cannot solve these crises by solving just one”. CNN also reports that Habeck has urged Hungary to impose embargo on Russian oil.

Meanwhile, Berliner Zeitung reports that the Christian Democratic Union party has criticised plans by the economic ministry to start preparing for the “dismantling” of the gas network. The outlet quotes Christian Gräff, the CDU’s energy spokesperson, saying: “Throwing something like that out is pure ideological activism, because at the moment we definitely still need natural gas.”

In more energy news, Clean Energy Wire reports that Germany’s gas policy plans may prevent the country achieving its goals, as stated at COP26, to become climate-neutral by 2045. The outlet explains that the NGO Germanwatch says that Germany supporting Senegal’s gas expansion plans would “not be compatible with the Glasgow statement”.

Finally, Der Tagesspiegel reports that around 15 activists from “Last Generation” glued themselves to a street in Brandenburg yesterday in protest at the importing of fossil fuels by oil company PCK.

Comment.

Australia is set to become less of an outlier on climate
Editorial, Financial Times Read Article

An editorial in the FT focuses on the election of a new government in Australia and what it could mean for the country’s climate policies. “The result promises to make Australia less of a global outlier on climate policy, and carries warnings for parties of the right elsewhere…The pro-climate swing highlights the risk…of ignoring opinion in favour of climate action. It is a lesson to rightwing parties elsewhere – if not yet, perhaps, in the US – that there is a price to pay for attempting to turn climate change into a left-right issue. One positive feature of European and British conservatism is that, despite some internal pressure, they have not made climate a divisive ‘wedge’ issue. Australia’s Liberals under successive leaders have made the mistake of doing just that. The message from this election is that pro-business and pro-climate policies can coexist.”

In other comment, Mehreen Khan, the economics editor of the Times, argues that “an effective carbon levy would remove a need for short-term windfall taxes”. She adds: “One levy notably absent from the present debate is a global carbon tax to provide an incentive for the huge shifts required to hit the global net-zero target. Even in relatively benign times, politicians have taken fright at the idea of taxing carbon use, thinking that it will disadvantage their industry at the expense of foreign rivals…Arguments against national carbon taxes wither away if all countries agree to impose a price. The International Monetary Fund has devised an international carbon floor where the price paid corresponds to a country’s wealth. It would mean America, Britain and Europe would use a minimum floor of $75 a tonne, falling to $25 for the poorest. This collective jump into carbon taxation would not disadvantage industries in richer countries, the fund says, and would dramatically reduce emissions.” Elsewhere in the Times, Alistair Osborne asks: “Threats to Britain’s net-zero targets come in many forms. But could this be the most dangerous yet: the endless hot air from politicians over a windfall tax?” He seeks to answer his own question: “The risk is that any short-term benefit from a tax is outweighed by raising the long-term costs of investing in green energy projects in Britain.”

Separately, Time magazine has included IPCC co-chairs Valérie Masson-Delmotte and Panmao Zhai in its list of the “100 most influential people of 2022”, with Bill McKibben writing a short article to explain their contribution to climate science.

Finally, there is reaction to the suspension by HSBC of one of its senior team after he publicly belittled the risk of climate change. Cat Rutter Pooley writing in the Financial Times says that the remarks made by Stuart Kirk, the global head of responsible investment for HSBC’s asset management division, may isolate him as a “lone public voice”, but “we can be confident he is not the only one in the industry expressing such views in private”. She adds: “To deal effectively with the broader societal problem of climate change, banks and asset managers have to incentivise their employees to look beyond a short-term professional horizon. That is a cultural question for institutions to solve. If the dissent expressed by Kirk represents broader resistance, it will not be possible to simply shut it down by pushing out individual employees or hushing it up. Management will need to recognise they have work to do to align the incentives of those lower down the hierarchy with the views of executives at the top.” Ben Wright in the Daily Telegraph says: “There’s more than a slight whiff of self-serving hypocrisy in HSBC’s swift disavowal of its own employee. Anyone who knows anything about how banks operate can be in little doubt that Kirk’s presentation passed through an army of compliance officers. Indeed, the FT has reported that its theme and content had been agreed internally. This strongly suggests HSBC is far more concerned with the fallout from the presentation than its arguments.” And an editorial in the climate-sceptic op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal concludes: “Credit to Mr Kirk for exposing the hubris of the regulatory climate emperors even as his superiors shrink in fear.”

Science.

Mitigating climate disruption in time: A self-consistent approach for avoiding both near-term and long-term global warming
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Read Article

New research highlights the need for “comprehensive CO2 and targeted non-CO2 mitigation” in order to “address both the near-term and long-term impacts of climate disruption”. The study finds that mitigation measures that focus only on CO2 “are essential for strong long-term cooling but can result in weak near-term warming” – because of the cooling effect of co-emitted aerosols – and “lead to temperatures exceeding 2C before 2050”. In contrast, “pairing decarbonisation with additional mitigation measures targeting short-lived climate pollutants and [nitrous oxide], slows the rate of warming a decade or two earlier than decarbonisation alone and avoids the 2C threshold altogether”.

Insights from the 2018 drought in Ireland’s broadsheet media
Environmental Communication Read Article

A new study examines Ireland’s 2018 summer drought and how its coverage was framed in three broadsheet newspapers. Ireland provides “a novel case study due to its rainy climate and lack of drought management strategies”, the researchers note. They demonstrate “delayed media coverage of the drought and insufficient advice may have hampered public water conservation efforts”. In addition, the study notes, “the role of climate change in exacerbating drought was under and misrepresented, potentially discouraging mitigative behaviours and acceptance of climate and water management policies”.

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