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TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- G7 reaches deal on price cap for Russian oil, officials say
- UN head declares ‘ocean emergency’ as global leaders gather in Lisbon
- Germany is extremely vulnerable when it comes to energy
- Heavy rain, floods bring renewed calls in China for 'sponge cities'
- UK: Climate denial funder set to become tory peer
- Climate change role clear in many extreme events but social factors also key, study finds
- Russia/sanctions: G7 seeks more damage to the war machine, less to its own economies
- Energy demand reduction options for meeting national zero-emission targets in the United Kingdom
- Future Southern Ocean warming linked to projected ENSO variability
G7 countries have reached a deal to introduce a price cap on Russian oil, two officials have told Politico. The outlet continues: “[The agreement] follows growing frustration among Western countries that their embargoes on Russian oil have had the counterproductive effect of driving up the global crude price. This has led to a situation where Moscow ends up earning more money for its war chest and where oil market ructions help drive runaway inflation.”
Prior to the agreement being reached, the Financial Times reported: “The move on price caps on Russian oil comes alongside a French proposal for higher global oil production…French officials focused during discussions on Monday on ways of moderating prices via higher oil output. In particular, France wants to explore ways of bringing production from Venezuela and Iran, both subject to US sanctions, back on the market.” However, Politico carries warning from economists that “market manipulation could backfire”. The paper adds that the US – who originally proposed the lower Russian price cap – was “blindsided” by the French plan for “a worldwide cap on oil prices that would require the cooperation, or coercion, of major suppliers, including countries such as Saudi Arabia and Nigeria that belong to the OPEC producers’ cartel”. According to Reuters, French president Emmanuel Macron told Joe Biden that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – considered the only two countries in OPEC with spare capacity to increase global oil supply – cannot boost oil production. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that oil prices have risen by $2 per barrel due to the G7 meeting, adding separately that US emergency oil reserves are currently at their lowest level since 1986. This comes as EnergyMonitor reports that western sanctions on Russia have already “led to a $237.5bn decline in the eastern Europe oil and gas project pipeline”.
Elsewhere, AFP reports that G7 leaders “are considering watering down a pledge to stop financing fossil fuel projects abroad” – according to a draft text. However, Clean Energy Wire says that, according to a draft it has seen, “G7 leaders are set to make clear they aim to stick with climate targets even as Russia’s war against the Ukraine has exacerbated the energy crisis”. Reuters reports which Japan is pushing to remove a target for zero-emission vehicles, and the Guardian adds: “Green groups also complained that climate crisis commitments in the draft G7 communique risked being watered down, especially the passages on ending public sector investment in gas, and a commitment to zero-emission vehicles.”
Elsewhere, Politico reports that EU energy ministers yesterday “adopted new legislation that requires countries to fill their storage facilities to at least 80% by 1 November”. However, Dutch climate minister Rob Jetten told the outlet that “while some countries with significant infrastructure or resources, like the Netherlands, might find it easier to prepare, they won’t escape the fallout”. Meanwhile, Reuters quotes EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson, who says that a “serious disruption” to the EU’s gas supplies from Russia is likely. The EU is aiming to install at least 1.5m “energy-saving ‘smart’ thermostats” this year, to help reduce energy demand, the newswire reports separately. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that “a dispute over how to shield low-income citizens from EU policies to put a price on pollution is threatening to prevent the bloc’s countries from agreeing a raft of new green measures”.
There is widespread media coverage of remarks made by UN secretary general António Guterres, who spoke at the opening of the UN ocean conference in Lisbon, Portugal. Guterres said the “egoism” of some nations was hampering efforts to agree a long-awaited treaty to protect the world’s oceans, the Guardian says. The newspaper continues: “The secretary general referred to the positive news since the last UN Ocean conference in 2017, including progress on a legally binding instrument to conserve and protect biodiversity in waters beyond national jurisdiction – part of the draft UN high seas treaty – and last week’s World Trade Organization agreement to curb harmful fishing subsidies. But he issued a call to governments to raise their ambitions on global health.” Associated Press carries Guterres’ remarks in a piece entitled, “UN chief: National selfishness delaying global oceans deal”. It adds that Guterres “didn’t say which countries he was referring to, but stressed the significance of the oceans to everyone on the planet”. The outlet continues: “The conference is set to adopt a declaration that, though not binding on its signatories, could help implement and facilitate the protection and conservation of oceans and their resources, according to the UN. The declaration is due to be endorsed on Friday.” But Reuters reports that, according to the UN special envoy for the ocean, “hopes are fading”. The newswire adds that UN member states “failed in March to agree on a blueprint for shielding the open seas against exploitation beyond national jurisdictions”.
Meanwhile, Climate Home News reports that campaigners are calling on Guterres to “rescue” a deal at COP15 – the biodiversity summit in Nairobi that ended on Sunday. Guterres has also penned an opinion piece in the Independent under the subheading: “The only true path to energy security, stable power prices, prosperity and a liveable planet lies in abandoning polluting fossil fuels and accelerating the renewables-based energy transition”.
German news magazine Stern reports a new study conducted by the Mannheim-based economic research institute ZEW, which concludes that “Germany’s energy supply is particularly vulnerable in an international comparison – both to rising prices and supply bottlenecks”. It also says that Germany is becoming a “high-price island” with the Netherlands regarding electricity supply. Furthermore, the study finds that “in case of gas rationing, the metalworking, chemical and paper sectors would suffer the most”, says Stern. Berliner Zeitung adds that ZEW took a look at the energy supply of 21 industrialised countries from the point of view of how much the national economies would suffer from price increases and supply bottlenecks.
Meanwhile, according to Der Spiegel, Germany’s economy and climate protection minister Robert Habeck “is preparing the population for the state to reduce deliveries to industry and households by law”. It says that over the coming winter, there is a “medium-term” scenario “that reductions will actually have to be prescribed by law”, said Habeck before a meeting with the energy ministers of the EU countries on Monday in Luxembourg. In his view, such a reduction would lead to “a severe economic crisis” in Europe and Germany. EurActiv reports that ahead of the meeting of energy ministers, Germany, Austria, Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia signed a memorandum of understanding on risk preparedness and solidarity in the electricity sector.
Elsewhere, Bild explains the new “alert” stage of the gas emergency plan for Germany: “It means that gas is officially scarce, citizens and businesses are called upon to save energy”, and the Federal Network Agency can activate the “price adjustment clause” at any time, while energy companies would then be able to pass on the increased purchase prices to consumers – despite the price guarantee. In an interview with Der Spiegel, Habeck says he is also concerned that “companies will have to stop production, lay off their workers, that supply chains will collapse, that people will go into debt to pay their heating bills, that people will become poorer, that frustration will eat up in the country”.
In more news from Germany, Bloomberg reports that the chancellor Olaf Scholz used a meeting with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau “to push for closer energy ties”. According to the article, Germany hopes to import liquefied natural gas from Canada to help replace the Russian gas as it still relies on for more than a third of its imports, down from about half before the invasion of Ukraine. It also notes that “Germany and Canada have been discussing options for an LNG [liquified “natural” gas] terminal on Canada’s east coast to export to Europe”, German officials said.
Finally, Montel reports that Russia’s Gazprom will likely stop gas deliveries to Germany via Nord Stream 1 pipeline in August following its annual maintenance, the head of Germany’s energy association BDEW said at an industry event on Monday.
Reuters says that “heavy rain has lashed more than 10 cities” in the Chinese province of Shandong since the weekend, “inundating streets, disrupting traffic and renewing calls for better drainage in built-up areas where concrete and asphalt trap water”. Thunderstorm alerts were issued on Monday as vehicles in the northeastern province were “stranded in waist-deep water”, the newswire says. It cites “weather” expert Zhang Jianyun who said at a climate change and extreme weather forum on Sunday that it was “necessary to plan and intensively use underground spaces for drainage, storage and water-treatment, especially in big cities”. Separately, Bloomberg says that China’s “effort to stabilise its coal market” will meet its “biggest test” so far in 2022 as a heat wave “grips” the country and power consumption “hits record levels across many northern and central provinces”.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Ministry of Finance announced on Friday that in order to “further enhance energy and power supply”, the Ministry of Finance and State Taxation Administration issued a notice on matters related to the “implementation of the policy of VAT retention and refund for coal-fired power generation enterprises”, reports the state-run industry newspaper China Energy News.
Elsewhere, according to the China nuclear energy association, a China-based NGO, from January to May in 2022, the country’s cumulative nuclear power generation was 166 terawatt hours, up 4.5% from the same period in 2021, reports China Electric Power News. The state-run industry newspaper says that this growth was “4 percentage points higher” than for power generation overall and means nuclear accounted for 5.1% of the country’s cumulative power generation for the same period.
Finally, Reuters reports that profits at China’s industrial firms “shrank at a slower pace” in May following a “sharp fall” in April, as activity in “major” manufacturing hubs “resumed, but Covid restrictions still weighed on factory production and squeezed factory margins”. The newswire says May’s improvement was “driven by surging profits in the coal mining and oil and gas extraction sectors”, as the Russia-Ukraine war “sparked a rally” in global commodity prices.
Michael Hintze – an Australian hedge fund manager and Conservative donor, who has helped to fund climate-sceptic lobby group the Global Warming Policy Foundation – will become a member of the House of Lords, DeSmog reports. According to the paper, Green MP Caroline Lucas has called for an “urgent” investigation. It continues: “Hintze will join several other climate-sceptic peers in the House of Lords, including GWPF founder Lord Lawson, former GWPF trustees Peter Lilley and Charles Moore, Matt Ridley, who is on the GWPF advisory board, and outspoken climate sceptics Claire Fox and Anne Widdecombe…Caroline Lucas, who last month reported the GWPF to the charity commission over alleged lobbying and its receipt of funding from US interests, told DeSmog: ‘It’s already an insult to democracy that the prime minister is stuffing the House of Lords with his billionaire Tory donors. But the fact that those billionaires are funding climate denial and delay – barely six months after he claimed we were at ‘one minute to midnight’ in a race to avert the impending climate crisis – exposes the utter hypocrisy of any climate pledge that comes out of his mouth.’”
In other UK news, the Times covers concerns from energy industry chiefs, who think that Rishi Sunak’s plan for a windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas producers “may only succeed in raising customers’ bills”. It reports separately that Lightsource BP – a solar power company co-owned by BP – has warned that a windfall tax on energy generators would “deter investment and push up energy bills”. Meanwhile, RWE – one of the biggest power plant owners in Britain – has warned that it “will reconsider its £15bn investment plans if the chancellor imposes a windfall tax on the sector”, the paper says.
Elsewhere, the Daily Telegraph reports that changes being proposed by Whitehall officials would exempt coal and gas stations providing back-up supply in 2023 from reporting on their emissions. The paper writes that power plants will be “ temporarily freed” from the emissions checks as the UK “scramble[s]” to avoid blackouts. Meanwhile, the i newspaper reports that, according to Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist, Boris Johnson’s plan to repurpose land used to grow grain for biofuels is “the right thing for the planet”. And Bloomberg reports that UK petrol prices have hit a “new all-time high”. Meanwhile, the Financial Times covers a warning from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, that “more than 22,000 UK jobs making engines or other traditional car parts are placed at risk by the shift to electric vehicles”.
The Guardian covers new research which uses attribution studies – as well as the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports – to review how human-induced climate change is affecting heatwaves, heavy rainfall, drought, wildfires and tropical cyclones. The paper says: “[The authors] say that in the case of heatwaves, the role of climate change is unequivocal, and that the average and extreme heat levels in every continent across the globe are increasing specifically because of human-caused climate change…For other events such as droughts, floods and tropical cyclones, there is a more nuanced link to climate change.” Bloomberg adds that a lack of climate data in lower income countries means that “the effects of some heat waves and other weather disasters have been missed”. It adds: “[The paper] reports grotesque inequality in the amount of information available from country to country, and recommends investment in local expertise to close the gap.”
Meanwhile, the New Scientist covers new research which finds that climate change has shifted African wild dogs’ birthing time by three weeks in just 30 years. The outlet quotes study’s lead author: “African wild dogs like to breed at the coolest times of the year, and this is coming later and later, says Abrahms. In 1990, the average date when they gave birth was 20 May. In 2020, they gave birth 22 days later, on 12 June. It is unclear why exactly wild dogs like to breed when the temperature is coolest, but it is probably linked with when hunting conditions are optimal, says Abrahms.” The Independent reports that changes in the timing of “major life events” can have “unforeseen consequences” in its coverage of the study. It says that later birthing “allows the dogs to match the birth of new litters of pups to the coolest temperatures in winter” but that “cubs are then still in their critical post-birth ‘denning period’ when temperatures begin to rise again, resulting in fewer pups surviving”. The Guardian covers new research which finds that “farmers could continue to produce high crop yields with far less use of artificial fertilisers if they adopted environmentally sustainable practices”. The study investigates techniques including adding manure and compost to soils, growing nitrogen-fixing plants between crops, and cultivating a wide range of produce instead of sticking to the same crops, the newspaper says.
Meanwhile, according to new research covered by the Washington Post, emissions of methane are “rising faster than the rebound in oil, gas and coal production since the easing of the coronavirus pandemic”. The Daily Telegraph says that “birdsong will be unrecognisable” in 20 years – in part due to climate change. Associated Press reports that “Maine’s season for black flies appears to be taking up more of the year due to factors including cleaner water and climate change”. And MailOnline reports that sea sponges are “dying by the millions” off the coast of New Zealand.
The Financial Times has published a Lex column about western sanctions on Russian energy. The piece notes that Russia has been forced to discount its oil to $34 per barrel, and says that “the G7 price cap proposal would doubtless seek to impose a lower price”. It continues: “A cut-off of natural gas supplies poses a real threat. Europe has halved its reliance on Russian gas to about 20% of total supplies, according to consultancy ICIS. But it is running out of short-term fixes. Germany is particularly exposed. In the medium term, energy sanctions should weaken Russia, made worse by an eventual fall in oil and gas prices when an economic recession bites. It will be left with stranded assets in the form of its gas pipelines to Europe, while it could take at least five years to build a new one to China. In the meantime implementing sanctions will be painful. What started as an economic shock-and-awe campaign is turning into a war of attrition.”
Meanwhile, the FT’s chief foreign affairs commentator, Gideon Rachman, writes that the US could be “the real winner in the energy wars”. He says: “Russia has a strong hand in the short term but its position will dramatically worsen over the next three years. America has a big problem in the short term but is in a strong position over the long term. It is the EU that has the biggest short- and medium-term problems. Despite brave talk of diversification and decarbonisation, the Europeans are still a long way from finding a viable new energy strategy…Higher energy prices are a pain for American consumers, but they are a boon to the US shale gas industry.” He adds that the crisis has strengthened Saudi Arabia’s position, but notes that “decarbonisation may eventually mean that the world is no longer buying what the Saudis are selling”.
Elsewhere, an editorial in the Sun says that we need “direct and rapid action” on rising energy bills. It adds: “Slashing fuel duty again is a start — but only if retailers are forced to pass it on…We need a cut in VAT and green levies on energy too.”
Energy demand in the UK could be reduced by 52% by 2050 – compared with 2020 levels – without compromising on quality of life, a new study says. The researchers develop a “bottom-up, whole-system framework that comprehensively estimates the potential for energy demand reduction at a country level”. The findings show that energy demand reduction “can reduce reliance on high-risk carbon dioxide removal technologies, has moderate investment requirements and allows space for ratcheting up climate ambition”, the authors say.
Future changes to the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) could have a significant knock-on effect on warming of the Southern Ocean, a new study suggests. Using climate model output, the researchers find that “models simulating a larger increase in ENSO amplitude systematically produce a slower Southern Ocean warming; conversely, a smaller increase in ENSO amplitude sees a stronger warming”. The projected increase in ENSO amplitude – driven by human-caused warming – “weakens high-latitude westerly poleward intensification and slows future Southern Ocean warming”, explains an accompanying research briefing.