Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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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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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- EU's greenhouse gases rise by nearly a fifth on economic rebound
- UK households face £3.2bn bill for collapsed energy suppliers
- China’s rising ultra-nationalism complicates Xi’s climate ambitions
- Russia’s Gazprom reports record earnings amid global gas crisis
- Emissions rise 2% in Australia amid increased pollution from electricity and transport
- Nissan powers up EV, battery, and home energy goals with new $17.7bn plan
- ‘Confronting’: Great Barrier Reef faces frequent extreme coral bleaching at 2C heating, research finds
- A busy, but wimpy, hurricane season fizzles in South Florida. We’re grateful, how about you?
- Climate action with revenue recycling has benefits for poverty, inequality and well-being
- Health co-benefits of climate change mitigation depend on strategic power plant retirements and pollution controls
New data from Eurostat shows that greenhouse gas emissions from EU countries rose 18% last spring, Reuters reports. The newswire continues: “The manufacturing and construction sector – responsible for more than a third of emissions, the largest share – saw levels jump 22% from 2020, while the electricity supply sector rose 17% and agriculture remained steady. Households contributed almost a fifth of emissions, largely due to their transport-linked carbon footprint, which rose 25% from last year, and heating up 42%.” The Hill notes that between April and June 2021, the EU released 867m metric tons of greenhouse gases. “Although this represented an increase from the second quarter of 2020, it was also the lowest level of any pre-pandemic quarter, according to Eurostat”, it adds.
Elsewhere, Reuters covers a statement from the EU climate policy chief Frans Timmerman that the EU and collaborating countries “are likely to surpass a current target to install a combined 80 gigawatts (GW) of renewable hydrogen electrolysers by 2030”. It adds: “Timmermans did not specify which non-EU countries would host the electrolysers, but separately referred to possible partnerships with Africa and Latin America.” And the New York Times carries a piece on nuclear power use in Europe, under the subheading: “While wind and solar ramp up, several countries, including France and Britain, are looking to expand their nuclear energy programs. Germany and others aren’t so enthusiastic.”
The recent collapse of more than 20 gas and electricity suppliers will cost UK households a total of £3.2bn – equivalent to £120 per household – the Financial Times reports. This is according to research published by Investec, which finds that the past three months have seen “the sector’s worst crisis for 20 years”, the newspaper notes. The research “adds further urgency to calls for an inquiry into the crisis, which has affected nearly 4m households”. The Times reports that the collapsing energy suppliers have directly affected 3.7 million customers since the start of August. Most of the collapsed suppliers are “being dealt with by Ofgem’s ‘supplier of last resort’ process, in which customers are transferred to solvent businesses that can claim any extra costs they face through an industry-wide levy on all households”, while Bulb has been placed into “special administration”, it adds. The Guardian notes that the extra cost could “plunge hundreds of thousands of households into fuel poverty for the first time”, adding that energy bills already rose last month and are expected to climb further in April. Meanwhile, the Press Association reports that Orbit energy is “poised to go into administration”. Elsewhere, the Conversation carries a piece entitled, “Why people in some parts of England pay far more than others to heat their homes”, focussing on the inequality in energy performance between different homes. And Bloomberg reports that European energy prices “surged” on Monday in response to cold temperatures.
In other UK news, the Independent covers the results of a YouGov poll of 100 Labour and Conservative MPs. The poll finds that more than half of MPs “believed the government must make it a priority for the UK’s 29 million existing homes to have a green energy retrofit”, while three-quarters think that “small-scale renewables, such as photovoltaic solar panels, thermal solar panels and heat pumps should be incorporated into all new build properties from next year”. Meanwhile, BusinessGreen says that Defra will plant a new forest in Cumbria as part of a £12m tree-planting package. In other news, the Scotsman reports that a Scottish renewable energy firm has won £200,000 to “examine the feasibility of installing a 7MW array of tidal turbines in Indonesia”.
Bloomberg reports that “an increasingly vocal nationalist faction of society” in China is making some of the country’s emission-reducing process “difficult”. The outlet writes: “There’s a battle over the climate change narrative between those pushing for green reforms and those who view the measures as bending to demands from hostile Western powers.” It also says that “this year a particular conspiracy theory started to gain traction”, explaining that “foreign actors are reaching into Chinese society and policy making, trying to influence public opinion and derail the nation’s economic and geopolitical ascent”. Separately, China National Radio reports that the state economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, has met with “experts, coal power enterprises and coal enterprises” in consecutive meetings in a bid to improve the pricing mechanism for the domestic coal market. The report notes that all those conferences mentioned the need to establish a “long-term mechanism” to “guide coal prices to operate within an appropriate range”. The article speaks to various experts to discuss how such a mechanism might work.
Meanwhile, TASS, a major Russian news agency, reports that “China is ready to promote further development of energy cooperation with Russia, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday in his address to the participants in the 3rd Russian-Chinese Energy Business Forum”. According to China’s state broadcaster CCTV, Xi states in a congratulatory letter that “energy cooperation is an important direction for pragmatic cooperation between the two countries”. The official channel also quotes Xi as saying that “China is willing to work with Russia to forge an even closer partnership on energy cooperation, maintain energy security and respond to the challenges of global climate change together”. According to another CCTV report, Xi’s letter was read out by China’s vice premier Han Zheng, who attended the forum’s opening ceremony in Beijing. Elsewhere, an in-depth analysis by Caijing, a Chinese financial magazine, discusses if China’s recent power shortages will affect its “dual-carbon progress”.
Elsewhere, according to the Independent, “‘massive flooding’ triggered by sudden intense monsoon rains led to the collapse” of some ancient Chinese cultures around 4,300 years ago. The publication cites a new study that assessed the sudden diminishing of “the Liangzhu and other stone age Chinese cultures along the Yangtze river delta” near modern-day Shanghai. China Education Online covers the same paper and says that it “provides a highly precise climate change background for studying stone-age cultures in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River”. It adds that the study “finds that the increase of extreme rainfall in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River was an important climate element in leading to the decline of the Liangzhu culture”.
The world’s largest gas producer – Russia’s state gas company, Gazprom – has reported “record earnings” for the third quarter of the year and expects even higher profits in the final months of 2021, the Guardian reports. According to the newspaper, the company is “profiting” from the “global gas crisis that has ignited historic energy market highs across Europe”. Similarly, the Financial Times reports that the company “is emerging as one of the big winners from the global energy crunch with surging profits paving the way for a record 2021 dividend payment, with a forecast of even more impressive results to come”. It adds: “Gas prices have risen for six consecutive quarters and third-quarter prices nearly tripled year on year to $304 per 1,000 cubic metres, according to Gazprom.” Reuters notes that the company does not expect gas prices in Europe to drop in 2022. Meanwhile, Reuters says: “The Kremlin said on Monday the US must not put pressure on anyone over the certification of the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.” The newswire notes that the newly completed pipeline is awaiting clearance from a German regulator before it can be used. It adds that the US and some European countries oppose the pipeline, saying it would make Europe “too reliant on other gas”, but that other European governments “say the link is vital to secure energy supplies”.
Elsewhere, Reuters reports that crude oil prices have rebounded after a temporary “slide” due to fears over the impact of the Omicron variant. Separately, the newswire says that in response to the rebound in prices, Russia and Saudia Arabia have signalled that there is “no need for OPEC+ to race to adjust oil output policy this week”.
Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions rose around 2% in the June quarter, driven by increased emissions from the electricity and transport sectors, the Guardian reports. According to the newspaper, figures released today by the Australian government show that “emissions are not in decline despite its pledge ahead of the Glasgow climate summit that the country would hit net zero by 2050”. Meanwhile, the Guardian covers the results of a new study, which concludes: “The federal government has been ranked last behind all Australia’s states and the Northern Territory in the move toward clean energy, with a new report showing Tasmania, New South Wales and South Australia are leading the transition to renewables.” And Climate Home News reports on the country’s 2021 National Gas Infrastructure Plan, released on Friday. The paper says that Australian prime minister Scott Morrison is “doubling down on fossil fuel production with new gas basins and pipelines in a plan slammed by climate campaigners”.
Japanese carmaker Nissan has revealed its aim for “75% EV sales in Europe by 2030”, led by a “fresh $17.7bn (£15.1bn) investment drive”, reports BusinessGreen. “The firm has set its sights on bringing down battery costs by 65 per cent by 2028, with a plan to accelerate lithium-ion technology innovation and introduce cobalt-free batteries, in a move that would help to make EVs more affordable for consumers”, the outlet adds. Also reporting on the announcement, Yale Environment 360 notes the car manufacturer plans to unveil, “15 new EV models by 2030, as well as an additional eight partially gas-powered models. Such vehicles will account for half of available models by the end the [sic] this decade under the ‘Nissan Ambition 2030’ plan.”
In the US, transport secretary Pete Buttigieg is quoted as saying families who buy electric vehicles would essentially have a “$12,500 (£9,376) discount” in transportation costs and that they “will never have to worry about gas prices again”, reports The Hill. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that two US Democratic senators said they are in talks with Democratic senator Joe Manchin over “his objections to a proposal to provide a $4,500 (£3,375) tax incentive for union-made US electric vehicles as part of the ‘Build Back Better’ legislation before the Senate”.
In Australia, big suppliers of storage capacity on Australia’s main electricity grid, including Tesla and Snowy Hydro, warn proposed rule changes “amount to a tax on their operations that will deter investors and slow the decarbonisation of the industry”, reports the Guardian. Elsewhere, the New York Times carries a profile of Albert Yuma Mulimbi, “chairman of Gécamines, Congo’s state-owned mining enterprise” and “a longtime power broker in the Democratic Republic of Congo”. According to the 4,000-word article, Mr Yuma’s professed goal is “to turn Congo into a reliable supplier of cobalt, a critical metal in electric vehicles, and shed its anything-goes reputation for tolerating an underworld where children are put to work and unskilled and ill-equipped diggers of all ages get injured or killed”. However, Yuma has also been accused of “helping to divert billions of dollars in revenues”, the outlet notes.
The Guardian covers a new study, which concludes that, by mid-century, parts of the Great Barrier Reef will be hit by “extreme” levels of coral bleaching five times per decade – even if global warming is limited to 2C above preindustrial levels. It notes that even if warming is limited to 1.5C, bleaching events will hit the reef more than three times per decade, adding: “Allowing global heating to go beyond 2C would bring unprecedented levels of heat stress.”
Elsewhere, the Guardian covers new research into the fashion industry’s global supply chains, which “links major fashion brands to Amazon deforestation”. According to the study, “more than 50 brands have multiple supply-chain links to the largest Brazilian leather exporter, JBS, which is known to engage in Amazon deforestation”.
Meanwhile, the Independent outlines the findings a new study, which finds that “the climate crisis may be pushing polar bears to use new tactics to seek out unexpected sources, including drowning reindeer”. Separately, analysis from the Washington Post suggests the use of recycled water in sustainable agriculture, adding that “there is a disconnect between scientists, policymakers and the public around a general understanding of recycled water”.
The Miami Herald carries an editorial reviewing the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, with a focus on South Florida. “We were lucky this year”, the piece says, adding: “Not a single hurricane seriously threatened us.” The piece note that the hurricane season officially ends tonight, adding: “The National Hurricane Center will report it saw seven hurricanes, but only four became full-fledged Category 3 or 4 storms. A handful of tropical and subtropical storms of varying forces and brief hurricane status also formed. Some brushed Florida.” However, it notes that climate change “will continue to play more of a role” in storms, with warmer waters driving up the number and intensity of storms. The piece concludes: “Experts say the waters across the Mid-Atlantic have warmed close to 1 degree since 1901. This may seem insignificant, but warming waters mean more fuel for a storm, producing heavier rainfall and a higher storm surge. We’ll see how it all plays out next year, should Alex, first storm of the season, pay a visit.”
A pro-Brexit editorial in the Daily Mail, which is headlined “Green jobs dividend”, celebrates that “Nissan is building its new £13bn electric car plant in Sunderland and BP is to create a vast green hydrogen facility on Teesside”. It continues: “These companies could have chosen anywhere to locate their cutting-edge clean energy initiatives. That they chose the UK is a huge vote of confidence in this country’s workforce and our economic future. That they chose the industrial North East shows that levelling up can be more than a pipe dream. One a car manufacturer and the other an oil producer, both firms are accused of contributing to the climate change problem. It is fitting that they should now be part of its solution.”
Elsewhere, the Hindu carries a comment piece by economists C P Chandrasekhar & Jayati Ghosh entitled, “Carbon emissions and the question of climate inequality”, which argues that “the carbon trade mechanism is ineffective”. The piece says that developed countries are responsible for nearly 80% of emissions over 1850-2011, but that “advanced economies have succeeded in shifting the terms of negotiation away from any notions of historic responsibility and climate debt, to current emissions levels”. It notes that China, India and the US are the three biggest emitters today, but continues: “a closer look at the data suggests that even in current terms, the inequalities in carbon emissions remain very significant, and that the standard indicator used by the UNFCCC and in climate negotiations, of carbon emissions produced within that country, may not be the most relevant.” The authors go on to discuss problems with “exporting” emissions and to emphasise that more climate finance is needed.
Paying “large and immediate dividends” from a carbon tax could help limit warming to 2C while also “improving well-being, reducing inequality and alleviating poverty”, a new study suggests. Using an integrated assessment model, the researchers highlight the potential benefits of “revenue recycling” of carbon tax proceeds in “a progressive way”. An “optimal policy” is “characterised by aggressive near-term climate action followed by a slower climb towards full decarbonisation; this pattern…prevents runaway warming while also preserving tax revenues for redistribution”, the authors say.
Around 92% of the deaths related to power plant emissions during 2010-18 “occurred in low-income or emerging economies such as China, India and countries in southeast Asia”, a new study says. The researchers “examine the relationship of climate and health benefits by modelling individual electricity-generating units worldwide across a range of climate-energy policy scenarios”. They find that “minimising future deaths” will require “strategic retirements of super-polluting power plants and deployment of pollution control technologies”.