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TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES

Briefing date 27.06.2022
G7 told not to ‘water down’ climate promises amid fears of shift back to fossil fuels

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News.

G7 told not to ‘water down’ climate promises amid fears of shift back to fossil fuels
The Independent Read Article

There is widespread coverage of the G7 leaders summit taking place in Bavaria, where the topics for formal discussion today are set to include climate change and energy. The Independent says in a story on its digital frontpage that “G7 leaders have been urged not to water down commitments on climate change amid growing fears they are set to pursue ‘disastrous’ fossil-fuel projects to ease supply problems stemming from the Ukraine war”. It adds: “There are growing fears of a shift back to coal and gas investment, as the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Japan, UK, US and Canada kicked off three days of talks on the economy, energy and security issues in Bavaria on Sunday…Alex Scott, climate diplomacy lead at thinktank E3G, told the Independent that ‘we’re getting signals that some are rowing back’ on the green energy transition commitment. ‘It was a big triumph getting Japan to sign up to ending investment in overseas fossil fuels,’ said Scott. ‘We’re worried Germany could now water down the language because of the urgency they feel in replacing short-term gas supplies.’” Reuters says “two sources” have told it that “some of the leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) rich democracies are pushing for an acknowledgement of the need for new financing for fossil energies investments”. The newswire continues: “‘(It is) possible that there will be wording in the declaration that investment for fossil energy should be possible for a certain time,’ an EU diplomat said on the first day of the annual G7 summit, which this year is taking place in Germany. Italian prime minister Mario Draghi, whose country is also reliant on Russian supplies, said publicly on Sunday that there are short term needs for investment in gas infrastructure ‘in developing countries and elsewhere’.”

In other developments, the Daily Telegraph reports that “[US president] Joe Biden will [today] attempt to block [UK prime minister] Boris Johnson’s plan to move away from green fuels amid a transatlantic split over how to tackle the global cost of living crisis” It continues: “The prime minister believes using less green fuel would dampen soaring food prices and help avert famines in poorer countries that rely heavily on Ukrainian grain blockaded in ports by Russia. However, Biden’s officials made it clear on Sunday that Washington will attempt to block the plans in a bid to protect US farmers and avoid jeopardising climate commitments. Downing Street sources admitted that Johnson’s plan would fail without the support of all G7 nations. The Telegraph understands Germany is backing the plan, but it has been rebuffed by the US and Canada.” Reuters says that “hundreds of protesters marched in the southern German town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen on Sunday…demanding action on climate change”. And Politico reports that the G7 leaders have “announced a $600bn global infrastructure initiative to counter China’s push to exert political and commercial influence through massive investments across emerging economies [the so-called ‘Belt and Road Initiative’]…Biden declared that ‘our nation and the world stand at a genuine inflection point in our history’ and added that the choices made in developing countries today would gird them against future shocks from climate change and pandemics and prepare them for the digital age”.

Several outlets carry news features about what the G7 summit – and war in Ukraine – could mean for fossil fuel use around the world. The New York Times says “the scramble to replace Russian fossil fuels is raising concerns that hard-won climate targets will be missed”. It continues: “Fossil fuel companies, long on the defensive, are capitalising on energy security anxieties and lobbying hard for long-term infrastructure investments that risk derailing international climate targets agreed to only last year. ‘That’s the battle we’re in right now,’ said Jennifer Morgan, the ambassador at large for climate change in the German Foreign Ministry and a former president of Greenpeace International. ‘We’re in a moment of massive disruption due to the invasion, and that’s either a big risk or it’s a big opening on the climate.’” The Daily Telegraph has an article under the headline: “Climate pledges abandoned as Putin sparks global coal crunch.” The Sunday Times says coal “makes unwelcome return” as “energy crisis engulfs Germany and Europe”. Associated Press has an “explainer” on “why Germany is pushing for a ‘climate club’”: “The idea was first floated by Yale economist and Nobel Prize winner William Nordhaus, who said the voluntary nature of existing climate agreements hasn’t resulted in sufficient progress. He proposed that countries which were serious about reducing their emissions could come together and form a club which would jointly set ambitious targets and exempt each other from climate-related trade tariffs that non-members would be subject to.” Politico says that “leaders meeting starting Sunday in Bavaria [are turning] to carrots rather than sticks to push global climate efforts”. It adds: “Rather than browbeat developing countries with high-flown messages on climate change, the idea is to put up hard cash and other sweeteners to shift them away from fossil fuels.” (A separate Politico articles highlights the “hypocrisy” of “whisk[ing journalists covering the G7 summit] by helicopter to a sustainability announcement.)

Japan urges 37 million people to switch off lights
BBC News Read Article

Japan’s government has urged people in Tokyo and its surrounding area to use less electricity, as it warns that supplies will be strained as the country faces a heatwave, reports BBC News. It adds: “The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry expects demand for power to be ‘severe’ this afternoon local time. It said people should switch off unnecessary lights but still use air conditioning to avoid heatstroke. For weeks, officials have warned of a power crunch as temperatures rise. Over the weekend, the temperature in central Tokyo rose above 35C, while the city of Isesaki, northwest of the capital, saw a record 40.2C. That was the highest temperature ever recorded in June for Japan…Japan’s power supply has been tight since an earthquake in its northeastern region in March forced some nuclear power plants to suspend operations. Officials have also closed several ageing fossil fuel plants in an attempt to cut carbon dioxide emissions. These issues, along with a surge in demand for electricity, have resulted in a power squeeze.” Reuters also covers the news.

Elsewhere, France’s Le Journal du Dimanche carries a joint opinion piece written by the heads of France’s leading energy companies Total, Engie and EDF urging lower energy demand: “every gesture counts”. The Daily Telegraph covers their letter, saying that “France’s top three energy suppliers have called households and businesses to prepare to ration electricity and gas as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine fuels fears of shortages this winter”.

Global biodiversity deal to halt nature loss stalls in Nairobi
Reuters Read Article

Reuters reports that “efforts to draft an ambitious global agreement on halting nature loss ended Sunday with little progress made in the Nairobi negotiations, leaving limited time for brokering a biodiversity pact this year”. The newswire continues: “About 1,000 negotiators from 150 countries were supposed to finalise a new draft agreement on protecting nature and wildlife, which would then be considered for adoption at the next UN Biodiversity summit, known as ‘COP15’, in December in Montreal, Canada. But by Sunday’s closing, the wording for only two of more than 20 goals had been agreed, with much of the draft document still riddled with brackets – signalling lack of consensus. Those two goals address the sharing of knowledge and technology, and promotion of urban green spaces.” Carbon Brief’s Aruna Chandrasekhar, who has been at the talks in Nairobi for the past week, tweeted last night that the parties have agreed to meet for a fifth time ahead of the Montreal summit.

Meanwhile, in Lisbon, negotiators have gathered for the UN Ocean Conference. AFP via France 24 reports that experts have warned that “humanity must heal oceans made sick by climate change, pollution and overfishing in order to rescue marine life and save ourselves”. The newswire adds: “Jointly hosted by Portugal and Kenya, the five-day UN Ocean Conference – delayed from April 2020 by the Covid-19 pandemic – brings together thousands of government officials, businesses, scientists and NGOs in search of solutions. While they do not all see eye-to-eye on what needs to be done, they largely agree on what is at stake.” The Guardian says that Australia’s new environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, has received an “enthusiastic welcome in Lisbon at the UN ocean conference after flagging five new blue carbon projects and declaring that ‘under the new Australian government, the environment is back – front and centre’”.

UK: Hard-up families will be paid to use less electricity and avoid blackouts
The Times Read Article

The Times reports that “millions of households could be paid to use less electricity at peak times this winter under plans from the National Grid to reduce the risk of blackouts”. It continues: “The company responsible for keeping the lights on is working urgently to establish a scheme to pay consumers with smart meters to ration their usage voluntarily when supplies are scarce. It believes that this could be a cheaper and greener option than paying fossil fuel power plants to generate more electricity, as Russia restricts the gas supplies to Europe and stokes fears over security of supply. The proposed scheme by National Grid’s electricity system operator (ESO) would reward households for shifting the time at which they carry out power-hungry activities such as cooking, using the washing machine or charging electric vehicles. Households typically pay 28.34p for each kilowatt-hour of electricity they use, but could instead potentially be paid as much as £6 for each kilowatt-hour that they avoid using at peak times, according to initial proposals seen by the Times.”

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times reports that a “blue-on-blue row over fracking is expected to reignite this week as dozens of Tory MPs increase pressure on ministers to overturn a moratorium on drilling”. The newspaper says that Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, will receive a British Geological Survey (BGS) report in the “coming days” on whether scientific developments have made the extraction of shale gas safer. It adds: “Senior backbenchers have expressed concern that the BGS review ignores ‘scientific strides that have been taken since 2019’. The Net Zero Watch group of Tory MPs and peers, who are sceptical about the government’s green agenda, have launched a campaign urging Kwarteng to use the review to ‘unlock’ domestic supplies to bolster energy security.” [Net Zero Watch is actually a campaigning arm of the climate-sceptic lobby group the Global Warming Policy Foundation, not the small grouping of Tory politicians known as the “Net-Zero Scrutiny Group”, although there is close alignment between the two.] Chris Skidmore, a former science minister who chairs the rival “Net-Zero Support Group” of Tory MPs, has pushed back against the move, says the newspaper.

In other UK news, the Times says that “the business secretary has summoned two offshore wind bosses for meetings over their ‘exploitation of British bill payers’ after they used a contract loophole to cash in on soaring power prices”. The i newspaper has an “exclusive” which says that “ministers have admitted they failed to contact the operator of Hinkley Point B to explore the possibility of keeping the reactor running amid major fears over the country’s energy security”. Separately, the Daily Telegraph says in a headline that “ministers approve” funding for the Sizewell C new nuclear plant in Suffolk. Its article contradicts the headline: “A funding deal is not expected until after planning consent for Sizewell C is granted, the deadline for which is 8 July. But in any case, both sides are optimistic that an agreement will be reached before the parliamentary recess begins on 21 July.” The Daily Telegraph claims that “the smart meter rollout is facing a fresh crisis as a shortage of microchips leaves energy companies unable to meet their installation targets and facing multi-million pound fines”. Another Daily Telegraph story says that a “green quango [Natural England] is halting £15bn of investment and blocking 250,000 jobs after house building in parts of the country came to a stop over ‘nutrient neutrality’ rules, ministers have been warned”. And another Daily Telegraph article sits under the headline: “Post-Brexit farming overhaul sows the seeds of further discontent.” It says there are “fears of an existential threat as green subsidies replace EU’s Common Agricultural Policy”. The Daily Express says that Octopus Energy chief executive Greg Jackson has “exclusively laid out his plan to…slash the price of heat pumps in the UK to just £1,000”. Finally, the Sunday Times carries an interview with Ofgem chief Jonathan Brearley: “The watchdog’s boss is racing to contain market carnage while thinking big about net-zero.”

EU ministers seek deals on climate laws as economy woes test green pledges
Reuters Read Article

Ministers from European Union countries will meet this week to “attempt to agree joint plans to fight climate change, with some diplomats saying countries under economic pressure might water down some of the most ambitious targets proposed by Brussels”, reports Reuters. The newswire adds: “The energy ministers meeting on Monday, and environment ministers meeting the following day, are expected to agree common positions on proposed laws to meet a 2030 target to cut net emissions by 55% from 1990 levels. The laws would expand renewable energy, revamp the EU carbon market and ban sales of new cars running on fossil fuels from 2035…But the threat of an economic slump from surging energy prices has also made some countries more cautious about swift change that they fear might bring more disruption. Energy ministers are expected to back targets proposed by the EU Commission last year to get 40% of energy from renewable sources and cut energy consumption 9% against expected levels by 2030. Brussels hiked those goals to 45% and 13% last month, in a bid to speed up the end of countries’ reliance on imported – and increasingly expensive – fossil fuels. Ministers are expected to approve the original proposals, and put off considering the upgraded versions until later this year when they negotiate the final laws with the EU parliament.”

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that “after more than four years of talks, 52 countries and the EU on Friday struck a deal to ‘modernise’ the energy charter treaty, a 1994 agreement that allows investors to sue governments for changes in energy policy that harm their profits”. However, “climate activists have said a deal to update a ‘dangerous’ energy treaty has failed to make the agreement compatible with the urgency of the climate crisis”.

Separately, France24 says that “France has become the latest country to reconsider its energy options because of the war in Ukraine, announcing Sunday it was looking into reopening a recently closed coal-fired power station”. And Bild in Germany says that Germany’s largest nuclear power plant, Isar 2, which is 90km northeast of Munich, “could run” until “spring 2023”, if the government signals it wants it to.

China’s clean energy growth outlook for 2022 keeps getting bigger
Bloomberg Read Article

China is “set to install a record 156GW (gigawatts) of wind turbines and solar panels” in 2022, reports Bloomberg, citing Yi Yuechun, vice dean of the China Renewable Energy Engineering Institute (CREEI). The outlet describes CREEI as a thinktank that “supports” the National Energy Administration (NEA), the country’s top energy planner. Bloomberg highlights that CREEI’s forecast – which includes “100GW of solar, 50 of onshore wind and 6 of offshore wind” – is the “most bullish yet among government thinktanks and industry associations”. The outlet adds that the figure of 156GW would be a “25% jump” from the previous record set in 2021, according to BloombergNEF data. (As Carbon Brief’s Simon Evans explained in a Twitter thread, 156GW is more than the total installed wind and solar capacity of any country in the world, bar the US and China.)

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that “China’s premier has called for increased production of coal to stave off mass blackouts, as early summer heatwaves have prompted record electricity usage”. It adds: “On Friday, authorities again issued high temperature warnings for about a dozen provinces across the central and northern provinces, after consecutive days in the high 30s.”

Elsewhere, the Philippines’ outgoing foreign minister – citing “constitutional constraints and issues of sovereignty” – said on Thursday that “talks over joint energy exploration” between his country and China in the South China Sea had been “terminated”, reports Reuters. The two countries have “sparred for decades over maritime sovereignty” and had since 2018 “pledged to jointly explore oil and gas assets” in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), despite China also laying claim to them, the newswire adds.

Separately, China Electric Power News reports that with the “successful completion of the 168-hour trial run test” on Thursday, the sixth unit of Hongyanhe nuclear power plant was “officially put into commercial operation”. The state-run industry newspaper says the move has made the plant the “largest nuclear power plant in operation” in China, with an installed capacity of “over 6.7GW”. China Energy News – a state-run industry newspaper – covers the same story.

Elsewhere, Bloomberg says that China may “bar solar developers from building panels on farmland” as the government “weighs the importance of food security against its clean energy goals”. The outlet adds that: “three ministries including the NEA are circulating for comment a draft proposal that would make forests and cultivated farmland off-limits for solar development”, according to a report by industry media outlet Polaris Solar Network, citing a copy of the document. Finally, the state news agency Xinhua carries an article which says that China’s “leading automotive lithium-ion battery maker”, Contemporary Amperex Technology Limited (CATL), “revealed on Thursday a new battery” that provides electric vehicles with a “driving range of over 1,000 km on a single charge”.

Glastonbury: Greta Thunberg appears at music festival to urge society to take action against climate change crisis
Sky News Read Article

Several outlets covers Greta Thunberg’s surprise appearance on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury festival in England on Saturday. Sky News says she “urged society to take on its ‘historic responsibility’ to tackle the global climate crisis”. The broadcaster adds: “The environmental activist gave the crowd a stark warning that the world is facing a ‘climate and ecological emergency’. ‘The biosphere is not just changing, it is destabilising, it is breaking down,’ the 19-year-old said, before stressing that the ‘consequences could be catastrophic’. ‘And no, unfortunately, this is not the new normal,’ she added.” The Press Association notes that she told the crowd: “World leaders have been very busy. They have actively created loopholes and benefited the industries of destructive industries…We have the unfathomable great opportunity to be alive at the most decisive time in human history. The time has come for us all to tell the story and perhaps even change the ending.” A separate Press Association article say that “Billie Eilish [who headlined the festival on Friday] and her brother Finneas O’Connell have joined WaterAid’s call for climate action”.

Comment.

Labour has now claimed the centre ground – and has shown it can win
Keir Starmer, The Guardian Read Article

In a comment for the Guardian, UK opposition leader Keir Starmer, of the Labour Party, writes about his vision for the country: “The days of inaction on tackling climate change will be over…Britain will move first and move fastest to become the market leader in the industries and technologies the world will need to achieve net-zero. Our climate investment pledge will be good for the environment, good for the economy and good for households, protecting us from shocks in the price of international gas and oil, ensuring we never again face the sort of cost of living crisis the Tories have subjected us to.”

A second comment for the Guardian, by columnist Ian Jack, is titled: “Why Britain desperately needs a new story about ‘glorious weather’.” Jack recalls the “cool and sometimes damp” summers of his childhood, reflecting how against that example “it was hard to imagine hot air as anything other than pleasurable”. He continues: “This idealisation had consequences when global warming began to edge into our consciousness…The idea that heat could be oppressive and damaging – ruinous to many forms of life, in fact – took longer to sink in.” Jack says “still we present news of heat cheerfully…Newspapers show crowded beaches and swimmers splashing in the Serpentine, the TV weather forecasters smile when they promise us a sunny and warm weekend.”

In the Financial Times, global business columnist Rana Foroohar writes of the “high cost of producing cheap food”. Foroohar says: “​​Anyone who wants to better understand the costly economic and political externalities that come with cheap food should spend some time in America’s Midwestern farm country. I did last week, driving from Wisconsin to Missouri through hundreds of miles of corn and soyabeans, the vast majority of which is grown not as food but as feed for cattle.”

Finally, for Politico, former Irish president Mary Robinson writes on the ongoing G7 meeting: “Today’s summit must be where rich nations finally deliver on the [climate] finance promises they have made.”

Science.

Environmental trade-offs of direct air capture technologies in climate change mitigation toward 2100
Nature Communications Read Article

“Electricity sector decarbonisation and direct air capture technology improvements are both indispensable to avoid environmental problem-shifting,” a new study finds. The authors perform a “prospective life-cycle assessment” for direct air carbon capture and storage under a range of climate change mitigation scenarios, consistent with the Paris targets. “Decarbonising the electricity sector improves the sequestration efficiency, but also increases the terrestrial ecotoxicity and metal depletion levels per tonne of CO2 sequestered via direct air capture,” they find. The study adds that while direct air capture aids the achievement of long-term climate targets, its deployment should not suggest a relaxation of sectoral decarbonisation targets.

Greenhouse gas emissions from African lakes are no longer a blind spot
Science Advances Read Article

CO2 emissions from African lakes may have been “substantially overestimated” by a factor of up to 18, new research finds. The authors collected CO2, methane and nitrous oxide data from 24 African lakes, where “nearly no data” have previously been reported. They find that surface water concentrations of dissolved CO2 were “much lower than values attributed in current literature to tropical lakes and lower than in boreal [subarctic regions of the northern hemisphere] systems because of a higher productivity”. However, methane levels were “generally higher” than in boreal systems. The lowest CO2 and the highest methane concentrations were observed in the more shallow and productive lakes, the study notes.

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