Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- EU smashes 2020 emissions target six years early
- California's last nuclear plant to close amid longstanding earthquake concerns
- Norway ratifies Paris Agreement
- Ofgem approves a 354-mile power cable from UK to Norway
- EU referendum: Brexit will lead to fracking free-for-all as environmental regulation will be up for grabs, experts say
- Trader Joe's reaches settlement over Clean Air Act violation claims
- EVs will put oil majors into permanent decline
- What Do Brexit Campaign Groups Have to Say on Energy and Climate Change Policy?
- Greenland Ice Sheet seasonal and spatial mass variability from model simulations and GRACE (2003–2012)
- Characterizing the extreme 2015 snowpack deficit in the Sierra Nevada (USA) and the implications for drought recovery
The European Union has met its 2020 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions six years early, new figures show. Greenhouse gas emissions in 2014 were 24.4% below the 1990 baseline – meeting its 2020 target of a 20% cut with time to spare. The EU has seen large reductions in emissions from manufacturing, generating power, and domestic heating – the latter helped by the mild winter that year, says the BBC. In contrast, transport emissions have risen substantially, notes the Guardian. Between 1990 and 2014, emissions from aviation and road transport rose by 82% and 17%, respectively. The EU’s next target is an overall 40% reduction on 1990 emission levels by 2030. Reuters also has the story.
California’s last nuclear power plant will close by 2025, ending decades of safety fears over its location in the earthquake-prone state. California’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co (PG&E), reached an agreement to replace production at Diablo Canyon nuclear plant with solar power and other renewable energy sources. The nuclear plant, which produces 9% of California’s power, has faced opposition since it was first proposed in the 1960s because of its close proximity to seismic fault lines – one is which is only 600m from the plant. The Hill and the New York Times also have the story.
Norway has become the first industrialised nation to complete the ratification process for the Paris Agreement, after submitting its “instrument of ratification” to the UN’s climate change Secretariat on Monday. Last week, Norway’s parliament voted in favour of ratifying the agreement, alongside approving a plan to make the country carbon-neutral by 2030, two decades ahead of schedule. Although both Hungary and France have already formally approved the treaty in their respective parliaments, they must wait for the rest of the EU to do the same before ratification can be finalised. Meanwhile, the Maldives have urged developed countries to ratify the Paris Agreement. Speaking to the Guardian, Thoriq Ibrahim, the environment and energy minister of the Maldives, said there was “no time to waste” and that it should be a matter of urgency for industrialised countries.
The UK energy regulator, Ofgem, has granted a licence to a Norwegian consortium to push ahead with plans to build a 345-mile power cable between Norway and Britain. The NorthConnect project aims to tap into Norway’s abundant hydro-power reserves through a high voltage 1.4GW subsea cable to a substation at Peterhead in Aberdeenshire. Granting the licence is the first of many steps to get approval for the project, which aims to begin providing power to the UK by 2022.
Fracking for shale gas could potentially be fast-tracked across the country if Britain votes to leave the European Union, according to analysis by Greenpeace’s Energydesk. EU rules are intended to prevent pollution of water and air from fracking, as well requiring that companies assess the damage they could do to the environment and conduct consultations with those living in areas that might be affected. However, as these rules come from European directives, almost all of them could be undone if Britain leaves the EU, says Energydesk. Elsewhere, Reuters reports that Germany’s coalition government has agreed to ban fracking indefinitely, although the new law hasn’t yet been approved by parliament.
The US supermarket chain, Trader Joe’s, has agreed to reduce its stores’ greenhouse gas emissions and pay a $500,000 penalty for violating the Clean Air Act. US officials alleged the company did not promptly repair leaks of hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HFCs) that the chain used as a coolant in refrigerators in its 453 stores. HFCs are both an ozone-depleting substance and a potent greenhouse gas. The story is also covered by Reuters, Politico, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and The Hill.
In a letter to the Financial Times, Howard Covington – chair of the Alan Turing Institute and trustee of environmental law firm ClientEarth – says that Volkswagen’s plans to sell 2-3m electric vehicles by 2025 would put “the oil price below $30 a barrel and the oil majors into permanent decline”. “The arithmetic is simple,” he says, with a potential fleet of electric vehicles in 2025 reducing oil demand by 4.5m barrels a day. “It is surely time for the large investors in the oil majors to wake up and demand management plans for dealing with the energy and technology transition that is threatening to overtake them,” he argues.
With many people trying to answer the question of what the UK’s energy and climate change policy might look like if Britain leaves the EU, Mandel takes a closer look at what the various leave campaigns have published on the subject. “There appear to be only two relatively clear strategies on energy and climate policy put forward”, says Mandel, though “neither of them have been updated to take into account the Paris climate deal.”
Analysis of data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission suggests ice loss from the Greenland ice sheet of 239 billion tonnes per year between 2003-2012, more than currently indicated by climate models. Models underestimate ice loss particularly at low elevation, which is where observations suggest most ice loss is happening. The study highlights the importance of capturing processes at regional rather than basin-wide to improve projections of future sea level rise.
The year 2015 was truly extreme for the Sierra Nevada snow pack in the US, concludes a new study. A strong drought occurring on top of three previous drought years led to the smallest snowpack volume in the 65-year analysis. The scientists say the accumulated deficit of around 22 cubic kilometres of snow is likely to take about four years to recover, despite a particularly strong El Niño event in 2015/6 bringing some respite.