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Daily Briefing |

TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES

Briefing date 05.08.2022
Glencore posts record $18.9bn profit as coal enjoys a renaissance

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News.

Glencore posts record $18.9bn profit as coal enjoys a renaissance
Financial Times Read Article

In a frontpage story, the Financial Times reports that Glencore – the world’s largest mining company – has seen its profits more than double to a record in the first half of the year on the back of surging coal prices. The firm’s profits of $18.9bn for the first six months were up 119% from a year earlier, the paper says, beating its previous half-year record and coming in higher than expected. It notes that “a strong performance at its coal business, which Glencore has stuck with even as rivals retreat from the controversial fuel, accounted for almost half” of the profits. It adds: “The bumper profits will increase focus on its coal division, which generated earnings of $8.9bn, more than the whole company made in the first six months of last year.” Glencore said it would pay out an additional $4.5bn to shareholders, reports Reuters, “including a $1.45bn special dividend worth 11 cents per share, and a $3bn share buyback which it said was worth around 23 cents a share, taking 2022 payouts to $8.5bn in total”. The newswire notes that “Glencore, which plans to run down its thermal coal mines by the mid-2040s, produces more than 100m tonnes a year at mines in Colombia, Australia and South Africa”. Bloomberg adds that “Glencore’s bumper profits and returns set it aside from mining rivals, which have reported falling earnings and reduced payouts as commodities like iron ore and copper retreat”. The Times also has the story.

In other coal-related news, the Financial Times has a piece in its “A year under the Taliban” series, which reports on how Afghanistan’s economic crisis has seen “Islamists increase [coal] exports to generate revenue with the help of child labour”. It says: “Dozens of men and boys, covered head to toe in coal dust, stream in and out of the mine shafts bored deep into a mountain in northern Afghanistan. In the mines below Nahrain in Baghlan province, children as young as eight work as labourers, loading the fossil fuel on to donkeys which carry it to trucks bound for Kabul. They work with no machinery or safety gear. Thanks to the global surge in commodity prices amid the Ukraine war and Covid-related disruption, business is booming at Afghanistan’s coal mines. This gives the Taliban a crucial revenue stream as the militant group – after seizing control a year ago – seeks to revive an economy shattered by international isolation and sanctions.”

Key US Senator Sinema agrees to $430bn drug, energy bill
Reuters Read Article

Democratic US Senator Kyrsten Sinema said yesterday that she agreed to “move forward” on a $430bn “inflation reduction act”, subject to a Senate arbiter’s approval of the bill, Reuters reports. With the 100-seat Senate split 50-50, Democrats plan to pass the bill without Republican support through a parliamentary process known as “reconciliation”, the newswire explains, adding that the Democrats “cannot afford to lose support from a single lawmaker”, which means Sinema’s agreement is a “critical breakthrough”. It continues: “Sinema said she had reached an agreement with other Democrats to remove a provision that would impose new taxes on carried interest. Without the provision, private equity and hedge fund financiers can continue to pay the lower capital gains tax rate on much of their income, instead of the higher income tax rate paid by wage-earners. She cautioned that her agreement to ‘move forward’ was subject to the review of the Senate parliamentarian. The parliamentarian has to approve the contents of the bill to allow it to move forward through the ‘reconciliation’ process that Democrats plan to use to bypass the chamber’s normal rules requiring 60 Senators to agree to advance most legislation.” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer confirmed in a statement that he had reached an agreement “that I believe will receive the support of the entire Senate Democratic conference”, reports the New York Times. He said the revised legislation would be released on Saturday.

In related comment, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes that “Kyrsten Sinema willing, Democrats appear to be on the verge of passing the Inflation Reduction Act — a bill that probably would, indeed, reduce inflation but is mainly a desperately needed effort to limit climate change. Republicans are, of course, attacking the legislation. But when I look at the substance of those attacks, such as it is, I can’t help feeling more cheerful than I have in months.” And Rolling Stone reporter Jeff Goodell writes that while West Virginia senator Joe Manchin is supporting the bill, this is “only after ensuring his home state would remain a fossil fuel fiefdom”.

In other US news, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced yesterday that, despite a slow start to the hurricane season, it is still expecting an above-average season, with three to five major hurricanes likely and a dozen or more named storms probable, reports the Washington Post. The New York Times also has the story. The New York Times also reports on a study that warns there are not enough cooling centres in New York City’s hottest areas. The Guardian reports that rising temperatures mean that “nearly every sea turtle born on the beaches of Florida in the past four years has been female”. (For more on why this happens, see Carbon Brief‘s explainer from 2017.) The Independent reports that “storms across Michigan have led to flooding and power outages”. And the Washington Post has an interactive on the rise of “billion-dollar disasters”, which are “fuelled in part by climate change”.

Energy bills could double to £4,200 a year under new cap
The Times Read Article

UK energy bills could more than double to £4,200 a year by January after the energy regulator Ofgem announced changes to the price cap updates and how it is calculated, reports the Times. The paper continues: “Critics said the regulator’s decisions were ‘inhumane’, with households facing a crippling increase, now even more than expected, in the depths of winter. Ofgem confirmed yesterday that the price cap would be updated every three months instead of six but it also announced further, unexpected changes to the way it calculates the cap. It admitted that the changes would further increase bills but insisted they were necessary so suppliers could recoup wholesale costs quickly, reducing ‘the risk of further large-scale supplier failures which cause huge disruption and push up costs for consumers’.” Forecasts by the investment bank Investec suggests that the price cap could rise to £3,523 a year in October and to as much as £4,210 a year in January, the paper says, adding: “The End Fuel Poverty Coalition said that introducing quarterly updates was ‘simply inhumane’ and would force more people into fuel poverty in winter, risking more excess deaths.” Bloomberg also has the story, while the Guardian covers the changes introduced by Ofgem.

The Press Association reports that electricity theft is at “record levels amid cost-of-living crisis”. The Independent reports that the UK government has said a campaign for energy customers to go on strike and refuse to pay rising tariffs is “highly irresponsible”. It notes that “a campaign group called Don’t Pay says 70,000 people have so far pledged to cancel their direct debits for gas and electricity in protest of escalating costs”. The Guardian publishes a comment piece from “Christopher” on why he will be refusing to pay his energy bills this winter. Christopher, who is 75 and lives in South Yorkshire, writes: “I’ve never been involved in any sort of civil disobedience before. I’ve always been quite a good boy – I’m not the kind to glue myself to the M25. But I’ve come to realise that it is only by collective action that we can persuade the government and the energy companies to make some very drastic changes. That’s why I’ve joined the Don’t Pay campaign.”

Wildfires in Europe burn second-biggest area on record
Reuters Read Article

New data shows that wildfires in Europe this summer have burned the second-largest area on record, reports Reuters, even though the region is only halfway through its typical fire season. The data, from the European Union’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), shows that wildfires have burned more than 600,000 hectares in EU countries, the newswire explains. This ranks as the second-highest total for any year since records began in 2006, the outlet says. The area is “more than double the size of Luxembourg. No other year in the dataset had seen such a high amount of burned land in Europe by August”, it adds: “The JRC data covers wildfires bigger than 30 hectares, so if smaller fires were included the total burned would be even higher.” The New Scientist reports that the fires have “helped drive carbon emissions from wildfires to record levels across the EU and the UK”. In the US, new research shows that “wildfires have depleted almost all of the carbon credits set aside in reserve by forestry projects…to protect against the risk of trees being damaged over 100 years”, the Financial Times reports.

Also on Europe’s extreme weather, the Financial Times magazine has a piece asking “will anyone still live in central Spain” in 50 years time? Reuters reports on how the extreme heat in France has exposed the “city’s lack of trees”. And Reuters also reports on how heat and high energy prices are leaving Spain short of ice.

China Coking Industry Association released an action plan on coking industry carbon peaking and carbon neutrality
China Energy News Read Article

The China Coking Industry Association released an action plan on carbon peaking and carbon neutrality on Wednesday, which proposes to achieve carbon peaking by 2025, reports China Energy News. The state-run industry newspaper notes that by 2025, coking wastewater generation will be reduced by 30%, and nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide generation will be reduced by 20% respectively. (Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst with the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air tweeted that the plan also cites a “hugely important” target of peaking CO2 by 2025 for the iron and steel industry, the largest emitting sector in China after electricity generation.)

Meanwhile, Xinhua writes that there has been a “notable upward trend” in China’s “surface temperatures in recent decades amid global warming”, according to an “official blue paper” released on Wednesday. The state news agency notes that from 1951 to 2021, the country’s annual average surface temperature “rose 0.26C every decade”, according to the Blue Book on Climate Change in China (2022), issued by the China Meteorological Administration. Finally, the Shanghai-based financial outlet Yicai reports that China’s “first national-level green investment fund” has “stumped up” funds for Avatr Technology, a “premium electric vehicle brand under Changan Automobile”, in what the carmakers said was the fund’s “first investment in the new energy vehicle sector”.

Deadlock over Nord Stream turbine as Russia says only one working
Reuters Read Article

The stand-off over the return of a turbine that Russia says is holding back gas supplies to Europe “showed no sign of being resolved” yesterday, reports Reuters, with Moscow saying it needed documentation to confirm the equipment was not subject to sanctions. The newswire continues: “Germany’s Siemens Energy carried out maintenance in Canada on the turbine for the key Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline and said [yesterday] it was ready to be returned immediately. But Russian gas exporter Gazprom reiterated sanctions imposed by Canada, the EU and Britain prevented the equipment from being shipped back to Russia. It added three other turbines also needed major overhauls, and only one of six main gas turbines was currently working at the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, excluding an emergency spare. That means it can pump no more than 33m cubic metres of gas per day, or about a fifth of capacity, it said in a statement.” The outlet explains that Gazprom had been given the “green light” from Germany, as well as confirmation from the UK in writing “that there were no sanctions preventing the return of the turbine”. Siemens Energy told Reuters the turbine was ready for operation and could be transported immediately. “If the operator really wants the turbine, he’ll get it,” it said via email.

In related news, the Financial Times reports that “the battle between Asia and Europe to lock in gas supplies is stepping up a gear, heightening the risks of a further surge in prices that would add fresh fuel to the cost of living crisis”. Politico looks at what EU countries are doing to save energy ahead of the winter. Reuters has an analysis piece and accompanying “factbox” on how the global energy crisis is driving a “rethink of nuclear power projects” around the world. And Climate Home News reports on how the UN and International Monetary Fund “disagree on who should foot the bill of the energy crisis”.

UK: Source of River Thames dries out ‘for first time’ during drought
The Guardian Read Article

The source of the Thames has dried up during the summer drought, the Guardian reports, citing river experts saying it is the first time they have seen it happen. Dr Rob Collins, director of policy and science at the Rivers Trust, told the paper that “following the prolonged dry weather, the source of the Thames in Gloucestershire has dried up, with a weak flow now only just about discernible more than 5 miles downstream”. He added: “Under our changing climate we can anticipate the frequency and severity of such periods of drought and water scarcity to intensify, with increasing competition for a dwindling resource and devastating impacts on aquatic life.”

Meanwhile, BBC News summarises which parts of the country are introducing hosepipe bans as a result of the dry weather. The Times says that “millions more households” could face bans as forecasters warn of another heatwave. It adds: “Temperatures are predicted to rise above 30C next week, with little respite this month for communities on the verge of drought.” The Independent also reports that “very little meaningful rain” is expected next week, while another Times article notes that the UK isn’t officially experiencing a drought yet. Bloomberg also covers the hot, dry weather. The Daily Telegraph reports that “drought-resistant forests are to be planted to tackle climate change in a £100m government project”. The Daily Telegraph also continues its reporting about Thames Water’s inactive desalination plant, putting the story on its frontpage for the second day running. The paper says that the Environment Agency yesterday “accused Thames Water of hiding problems at its emergency back-up plant that is meant to protect thousands of households from drought”. The Guardian picks up the story too. And the paper also reports on how earlier harvests show that the “UK’s climate is changing”.

African climate diplomats reject African Union's pro-gas stance for COP27
Climate Home News Read Article

African climate negotiators have “quashed a proposal by the African Union to promote gas as a bridge fuel for the continent at UN talks”, Climate Home News reports. It explains: “The executive council of the African Union had proposed that African nations adopt a common position at the COP27 climate summit on Africa’s energy development. It called on nations to ‘continue to deploy all forms of its abundant energy resources including renewable and non-renewable energy to address energy demand’. This would involve financing for gas, green and low-carbon hydrogen and nuclear energy to ‘play a crucial role in expanding modern energy access in the short to medium term’.” At a three-day meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which ended yesterday, African Union officials presented the proposal to the African Group of Negotiators (AGN). But, “sources close to the discussion” – which include “representatives of the Egyptian presidency of COP27″ – told Climate Home News that climate diplomats argued a pro-gas stance was too controversial and would distract from priorities like adaptation and climate finance. The outlet adds: “While negotiators ultimately defer to political masters, it would now take an extraordinary intervention from African heads of state before COP27 to force the position.”

news.

Revealed: how climate breakdown is supercharging toll of extreme weather
The Guardian Read Article

In an in-depth “special report”, which splashes on the Guardian’s frontpage, the paper’s environment editor Damian Carrington reports on how climate change is “supercharging” the toll of extreme weather. Using the latest update of Carbon Brief‘s attribution map, Carrington writes that the hundreds of scientific studies demonstrate “beyond any doubt how humanity’s vast carbon emissions are forcing the climate to disastrous new extremes”. He notes that “at least a dozen of the most serious events, from killer heatwaves to broiling seas, would have been all but impossible without human-caused global heating”, adding: “Most worryingly, all this is happening with a rise of just 1C in the planet’s average temperature.” Carrington focuses on a series of extreme events from around the world, including flooding in Germany in July 2021, heatwaves in Pakistan and Japan in May 2022 and July 2018, respectively, and Hurricane Harvey hitting Houston in August 2017. The science of attribution “has delivered a bleak but undeniable picture of how global heating is already bringing death and destruction”, writes Carrington. Former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres tells him that “gone are the days when global heating was in the future”, adding: “Human-induced heating is wrecking lives and livelihoods today. Every day of higher emissions increases human poverty and misery. Continuing on the path of rising emissions is senseless, selfish and avoidable.” However, Figueres says, “we are not doomed to a continuation of this madness. We – each of us – still hold the pen that will write the future. Collectively, we have the capacity to make the extraordinary changes we need in order to course correct.”

In an accompanying comment piece, the Guardian’s former environment editor John Vidal writes that “for 30 or more years we have had glimpses of what a hotter world would look like but have had only limited ways to understand what was happening”. Now, he says, “we begin to see the full picture of global heating. We are clearly all in it together”.

Comment.

Tories are doomed if they betray Thatcher and retreat from net-zero
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Daily Telegraph Read Article

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the Daily Telegraph’s world economy editor, warns in his regular column (not yet online, so the above link is to a screenshot of the article) that “the surest way for the Tories to lose power for a generation is to resile from green commitments and flirt with climate nihilism, in body language if not in explicit terms”. He continues: “At best it is a recipe for economic decline, at worst a suicidal reflex that relegates Britain to the margins of the greatest bonanza of wealth creation and technological progress of the next three decades. It further imperils union with Scotland, which hosts a royal share of Europe’s offshore wind potential and is betting on green energy for its salvation. It throws away the UK’S foremost diplomatic achievement of the last 15 years, and plays to foes eager to misconstrue Brexit as a variant of reactionary Trumpism.” With the UK still holding the COP26 presidency, such a move “casts British pledges in Glasgow as cynical posturing and undermines a groundbreaking accord that did not win as much praise as it deserved, chiefly because the press corps did not understand the way it mobilised $130tn (£106tn) of Big Money behind the green push”, Evans-Pritchard writes: “Instead of being the first major country to enshrine net-zero into law, we become a devalued backwater slithering into irrelevance.” The “greenbashing” by leadership hopefuls Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak is “already doing [damage] to the Tory brand with facile one-liners, even to the point of trashing solar power”, he writes, adding: “For most Britons under the age of 50 such political signalling is more than irritating. It suggests an ideological chasm between the Conservative Party and the ascendant cohort of voters on the critical issue of our time.” Evans-Pritchard warns that “the detail ought to be a red alarm for Conservative Central Office. Some 24% of Tory voters would abstain or switch to rivals if the party reneges on net-zero”.

Evans-Pritchard’s colleagues at the Daily Telegraph clearly don’t agree with him (or the overwhelming evidence that soaring energy bills are being caused by record-high gas prices). Ben Wilkinson, the paper’s head of personal finance, writes that “Britain will pay a heavy price for falling into a net-zero trance”, warning that “our bills have been inflated by repeated regulatory failures and expensive government eco-vanity projects”. In his regular Daily Telegraph column, Conservative peer Lord David Frost writes that “we have chosen to invest in forms of energy that are unreliable and simply cannot generate what we need, yet come at extraordinary cost”. (At the latest auction, the UK government contracted 11 gigawatts of new renewable capacity – enough to meet 13% of current UK demand – at prices four times cheaper than continuing to run existing gas plants.) And Ben Marlow, the Daily Telegraph‘s chief city commentator, says that “Britain is running out of water and power and it’s a national scandal”.

India: New NDC bar set, can be set higher
Editorial, The Economic Times Read Article

Experts and media outlets weighed in on yesterday’s news that India’s union cabinet had approved an updated 2030 climate plan. Observing that only “some elements” of Modi’s Glasgow net-zero pledge made it into the update, an editorial in the Economic Times writes that “India has played it safe partly out of abundant caution, and partly because the structural reforms needed for more ambitious targets are not yet in place”. The editorial notes that the new plan, as communicated in a press statement, did not spell out an explicit gigawatt goal for non-fossil or renewable energy by 2030: “in favouring a relative target over an absolute one, [the Indian government] has insulated its commitment against growth impacts”. It concludes by urging “more ambitious climate action…if India is to grow its economy in a climate-constrained world”. This, it says, “will require undertaking critical reforms across the economy, particularly the power sector” and an “all-of-government effort”, because “tinkering around the margins won’t do”.

Climate Action Network (CAN)’s South Asia director Sanjay Vashist is quoted by Reuters saying that the updated plan “is more than its expected fair share” and that “the ambition shown by India is the role expected from all developed countries that have so far worked only to shift the responsibility of greenhouse gas reductions on developing countries”.

In a comment in the Indian Express, chief executive of state thinktank Niti Ayog Parameswaran Iyer writes that “in the midst of a global climate crisis, and as India gets closer to hosting the G20 presidency, it is important to recognise our country’s leadership at both ends of the climate debate: by walking the talk on our climate commitments as well as leading people-powered climate action”. Iyer then emphasises the acronym LiFE or “Lifestyle for the Environment” that is in the new plan and also part of Modi’s Glasgow speech, saying that “LiFE could arguably become the very heart of [the global development] model” shaped by India as G20 president. He writes that “Individual behaviour has enormous potential to make a significant dent in the climate conundrum”.

In a reactions piece by newswire Press Trust of India, India’s former chief climate negotiator RR Rashmi is quoted saying that the plan “enhances ambition and yet puts sustainable development at the centre of the debate” and that “it is clear that India does not envisage sectoral emission reduction obligations as part of its NDC at least till 2030”. In the same piece, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) fellow Dr Vaibhav Chaturvedi is quoted saying that the cabinet’s release “explicitly states that the enhanced NDC is a step towards the net-zero goal, the government should now follow this with explicit inclusion of the 2070 net-zero pledge in its yet to be submitted long-term strategy to the UN”.

The Times view on the Great Barrier Reef: Reef revival
Editorial, The Times Read Article

An editorial in the Times reflects on research published this week on how coral has recovered across large parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. In recent decades, the reef “has been in peril”, the paper says, “now, thankfully, coral cover on more than two thirds of the reef has reached the highest level since records began 36 years ago”. Yet this progress “could easily be reversed”, the paper warns, noting that “revival of the reef remains urgent” and “conservation efforts must not be curtailed even with the relatively good news”. These efforts “are effective”, the editorial notes, adding: “An especially important factor in protecting the reef is water quality, which makes the coral more resilient against bleaching and acidification. Government initiatives at both federal and provincial level have done much good to improve standards. Protecting the environment requires active intervention rather than neglect. The good news from Australia is that it can work.” (For more on how climate change threatens the reef, see Carbon Brief‘s interactive from 2019.)

Science.

Intensification of very wet monsoon seasons in India under global warming
Geophysical Research Letters Read Article

The latest generation of climate models project an increase in severity and frequency of very wet Indian summer monsoon seasons, a new study suggests. Under the shared socioeconomic pathway SSP5-8.5, very wet monsoon seasons seen in only five years in the period 1965-2015 “are projected to occur eight times more often in 2050-2100 in the multi-model average”, the authors find. Under SSP2-4.5, these seasons become only a factor of six times more frequent, they note, which shows that “even modest efforts to mitigate climate change can have a strong impact on the frequency of very strong rainfall seasons”.

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