Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Global wind and solar growth on track to meet climate targets
- Poland to ban Russian coal imports
- Ministers brace for storm amid Kwasi Kwarteng's plan to double onshore wind power
- China sets energy targets for 2022
- Justin Trudeau’s climate plan seeks 42% cut in Canada oil and gas emissions
- Australia: Budget papers show Morrison government plans to cut climate spending if it wins election
- UN biodiversity talks fail to agree on new targets to protect wildlife
- Germany to invest €4bn in ′natural climate protection′
- Heatwave threshold is increased across eight counties as climate warms
- Britain needs a huge expansion of wind and gas at the same time
- Pipeline on demand
- Predictive models for the selection of thermally tolerant corals based on offspring survival
- Slowing deforestation in Indonesia follows declining oil palm expansion and lower oil prices
There is widespread coverage of new figures on the global power sector from thinktank Ember, including a piece in Reuters that reports solar and wind power are on track to grow enough to limit global warming to 1.5C, if their 10-year average compound growth rate of 20% can be maintained to 2030. The piece notes that solar generation rose 23% globally in 2021, while wind supply gained 14%. It adds that both renewable electricity sources accounted for more than 10% of total global electricity generation, up 1% from 2020, with Netherlands, Australia and Vietnam showing the fastest growth rate. BBC News states that 50 countries now get more than a 10th of their power from wind and solar. However, it adds that demand for electricity also grew at a record pace last year, leading to the fastest surge in coal power usage since 1985. It adds that the growth in the need for electricity last year was “the equivalent of adding a new India to the world’s grid”. According to Bloomberg “the trend could continue this year as countries turn to coal – the dirtiest fossil fuel – amid high gas prices”.
Associated Press quotes the head of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), who says that world must take “radical action” to shift away from fossil fuels, including investing $5.7tn annually in solar, wind and other forms of clean power this decade, in order to ensure that global warming does not exceed “dangerous thresholds”. The piece references a new a 348-page report from Irena, which also emphasises the need to improve energy efficiency, increase electrification, capture carbon emissions and expand the use of hydrogen.
BusinessGreen reports on new analysis from Finnish energy technology company Wärtsilä, which concludes doubling clean power capacity additions from 40 gigawatts (GW) to 80GW each year could drive down costs, bills, emissions and geopolitical risk. A Daily Express article, covering the same report, is headlined “Brexit Britain to be ‘world leader’ as Europe could save £273bn by ditching Russian energy”.
Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine, Poland has been calling on the EU to end imports of Russian gas, coal and oil, and now it has unilaterally decided to enact a ban on coal for national security reasons, according to government spokesperson Piotr Müller, cited by Politico. The news website notes that Poland imports roughly one-fifth of its coal – 75% of which comes from Russia – while its gas import contract with Russian state-owned Gazprom expires at the end of the year, and the nation is also a large importer of Russian crude oil. News website Notes from Poland states that while the Polish government admits that there are “legal doubts” over a unilateral embargo by a EU member state, it says that it “cannot wait any longer” for Brussels to act. Reuters says that Poland plans to announce “detailed plans to eliminate Russian energy supplies later this week”.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that while Russian gas deliveries to Europe on two key pipelines have remained steady, flows through the Yamal-Europe pipeline at Germany’s Mallnow point fell to zero yesterday afternoon.
The Daily Telegraph reports that, in the UK, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted “even ethical investors to reconsider the merits of fossil fuels”, specifically referring to projects to extract oil-and-gas in the North Sea. The Financial Times says that an annual report on the state of fossil fuel financing by a coalition of campaign groups organised by the Rainforest Action Network finds that global banks provided $742bn in financing to coal, oil and gas companies last year. This comes “despite the fanfare of climate pledges by lenders that signed up to former Bank of England governor Mark Carney’s industry alliance”, the newspaper notes. In the US, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Michael Regan has defended the White House’s push for increased oil production, saying it is still “compatible” with Joe Biden’s pledge to cut emissions and shift away from fossil fuels, according to the Financial Times.
Finally, the Financial Times reports that energy firm SSE has upgraded its full-year earnings projection after its gas and hydro plants benefited from increasing power prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ministers are preparing for a “backlash” if the UK governmetn agrees on proposals to double onshore wind power by 2030, as part of its wider plan for net-zero and energy security, the Daily Mail reports. The newspaper states that business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is “pushing to relax planning laws that have led to an effective moratorium on wind farms since 2015”, but some in the cabinet fear that the proposal will put them on a “collision course with backbenchers” who oppose such projects. It adds that the news “comes as the government’s energy security strategy was delayed again this week, following Treasury concerns about the cost of a massive push for nuclear power”. According to Bloomberg, private investors are “yet to be convinced” that nuclear power is worth them ploughing billions of pounds into the new fleet of reactors that is currently being pushed by the UK government.
A story in the Daily Telegraph states that England faces being “carpeted with solar panels” covering an area “close to the size of Exmoor” in the push towards net-zero. It says Kwarteng’s proposals for new solar power are likely to focus heavily on the south of England, where solar radiation is higher, and “risk sparking a wave of public resistance and are already concerning Tory MPs”. It quotes former health secretary and energy minister Matt Hancock as one such MP. The Guardian says that under the proposals from Kwarteng’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), targets would include increasing solar power from its current capacity of 14 gigawatts (GW) to 50GW, offshore wind from 11GW to 50GW, onshore wind from 15GW to 30GW, and nuclear power from 7GW to 16GW. It notes that “solar power and onshore wind generation have, to date, not had official government growth targets”.
The Guardian reports that 133 Conservative MPs, half of the party’s backbenchers, are now in the party’s green Conservative Environment Network, while there are only 19 publicly named members of the Net-Zero Scrutiny Group set up to oppose climate action. Elsewhere, the Financial Times reports that former Brexit champion Nigel Farage, who is now orchestrating a campaign opposing the government’s 2050 net-zero target, is in line to gain up to €18.5m (£15.7m) from share options in a carbon offsetting company. The article is based on an investigation by Unearthed, which also has the story. A related comment piece in the Independent by former Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable is headlined, “The Brexiteers are coming for a ‘zero carbon’ economy – we must be prepared”.
Meanwhile, MailOnline reports on a new study from University College London that demonstrates that it is possible to achieve net-zero emissions without stopping economies growth. A piece that cites Carbon Brief’s deputy editor Dr Simon Evans in New Scientist explores how, amid rising energy prices, “green” options such as solar panels and heat pumps could be a more affordable alternative. Simon’s analysis shows that electricity bill savings of a 3-kilowatt peak solar photovoltaic system would currently pay back the upfront cost in 18 years, but from April that figure should drop to 11 years, and by October it should have dropped even further, to seven years.
Finally, a pice in the Independent about a climate protester on hunger strike outside UK parliament cites Carbon Brief’s recent article about the presentation that convinced prime minister Boris Johnson about the threat posed by climate change.
Xinhua, China’s state news agency, reports that China’s state energy regulator released a guideline for the country’s energy work for 2022 on Tuesday. Xinhua’s report lists some of the key objectives in the instructions, including 4.4bn tonnes of standard coal equivalent (tce) in annual domestic energy production capacity in 2022. The authority also expects the country’s crude oil production to reach “around” 200m tonnes and gas production to reach 214bn cubic metres, the piece notes. Reuters reports that the guideline orders the nation to “steadily promote [energy] structural transition” and that the proportion of coal consumption in the total energy consumption should “decline stably”. The newswire says that the ratio of non-fossil fuel in China’s overall energy consumption is expected to increase to 17.3% this year and that 12.2% of the nation’s electricity consumption should come from wind and solar power generation, according to the guidelines. Various other media outlets – including Caijing, the 21st Century Business Herald and Jiemian – have covered the same directives.
Meanwhile, China Daily reports that China “has made progress on preparing a law dedicated to tackling climate change”. The state-run newspaper cites Li Gao, a senior official with China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment. In an “exclusive interview”, Li told China Daily that “the law was proposed in 2009 and [has been] included in the top legislature’s legislative agenda”. Another state-run newspaper, the Global Times, reports that China’s state economic planner issued guidance on Monday on the “green development” of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s global infrastructure development strategy.
Separately, Bloomberg reports that China Shenhua Energy – described by the outlet as China’s “largest listed coal company” – intends to “shift nearly half its capital spending to clean energy by the end of the decade”. S&P Global Commodity Insights analyses China’s “first hydrogen plan”, which was released last Wednesday. Elsewhere, Reuters reports that China’s state economic planner has asked “some major coal price index providers” to rectify “severe irregularities”. The newswire says that the instruction followed a “nearly half-year investigation” by the authority.
The Canadian government wants a 42% reduction in emissions from the nation’s oil-and-gas sector as part of its plan to meet its 2030 emissions-reduction goal, Bloomberg reports. Overall, the strategy laid out by environment minister Steven Guilbeault aims to reduce Canada’s domestic emissions by 40% from 2005 levels by 2030, it continues. The news website notes that the plan includes a tax credit to help industry pay for carbon-capture projects, but does not include a specific emissions cap on the fossil-fuel sector, which accounts for around a 10th of Canada’s total economic output. According to the Globe and Mail, such a cap was “promised” by prime minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party in the past election, and is still under development. Reuters notes that the plan, which constitutes Canada’s “first real roadmap to meeting 2030 climate targets”, includes detailed plans and CAD$9.1bn (£5.6bn) in new spending for climate action. CBC News reports that under the scheme, Canada’s carbon price is set to rise steeply from its current level of $50 per tonne of emissions to $170 by 2030 to help push consumers to cleaner energy sources. Besides “embracing” carbon capture, another key area of focus is road transport, the news website adds, with more money for incentives to buy zero-emission cars and trucks, and a mandate that 20% of all new light-duty vehicles sales in Canada be zero-emission vehicles by 2026. The latter point is a “quick turnaround in a country where the overwhelming majority of new cars sold still have internal combustion engines”, it says. For more on Canadian climate policies, see Carbon Brief’s profile of Canada from 2019.
Scott Morrison’s government in Australia plans to cut climate spending if returned to power at the election, according to the Guardian. It says the story of the 2022-23 Australian budget “is one of what isn’t there as much as what is”, with climate spending expected to fall from AUS$2bn (£1.2bn) next financial year to AUS$1.9bn (£1.1bn), AUS$1.5bn (£0.9bn) and AUS$1.3bn (£0.8bn) in the three years that follow, representing a 35% annual cut over four years. Among those missing out will be the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena), the “direct action” emissions reduction fund, programmes to develop a “clean” hydrogen industry and resilience programmes to protect the Great Barrier Reef, the newspaper reports. The Guardian adds that while the government says it is spending AUS$22bn (£12.6bn) on low-emissions technology, that commitment is “over a period beyond the life of most governments – about a decade”. Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald reports on AUS$1.3bn that the government says it will invest on hydrogen, gas and carbon capture as part of its plan to get Australia to net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050. It notes that this includes $300m for liquified natural gas and hydrogen production in Darwin.
Negotiations to establish the draft of a new global deal to help reverse the loss of biodiversity has ended in what has been described as “major disappointment” after nations failed to agree on new targets, New Scientist reports. Officials from 195 countries met in Geneva to discuss the “post-2020 global biodiversity framework”, but with little progress made the UN biodiversity summit to agree a final deal, in Kunming, China, will now officially be delayed for a fourth time, the article adds. Reuters notes that the proposed framework, which “has the potential to be the biodiversity equivalent of the 2015 Paris climate deal”, has faced “glacial progress”, according to campaigners, and the talks concluded with another round of negotiations being approved for Kenya in late June. Associated Press quotes Francis Ogwal of Uganda, one of the meeting’s co-chairs, who cites the “close linkage” between biodiversity and climate change and states that “every time that governments are talking about mobilising for climate change, they should be doing the same for biodiversity”.
Deutsche Welle reports that German environment minister Steffi Lemke on Tuesday announced governmental plans to invest nearly €4bn in “natural climate protection” to complement steps being taken to wean Germany off fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions. Lemke referred to “drained moors, damaged floodplains, overexploited and polluted seas and forests weakened by pest infestation.” In the context of climate change, the Tagesspiegel reports that “in the long term, meteorologists have identified a significant increase in spring drought in Germany”.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that at an energy conference foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said that “Germany has already halved its imports [of fossil fuels] in the last few weeks, especially in hard coal, and we will not only halve this in all other areas, we will also completely phase out fossil fuels that come from Russia.”
Finally, Handelsblatt reports that energy group E.ON and the Australian company Fortescue Future Industries want to make a “hydrogen bridge” from Australia to Germany. According to the statement of companies, the aim is “to achieve the delivery of up to 5m tonnes of green renewable hydrogen per year to Europe by 2030”. The delivery is to start with 200,000 tonnes in 2024. The Financial Times also has the story.
The UK Met Office has announced that temperatures needed for a heatwave to be officially declared have been increased across eight English counties, according to MailOnline. The piece notes that heatwaves are called when an area experiences at least three days in a row with daily maximums hitting or exceeding a specific temperature threshold, and this threshold has now gone from 27C to 28C for Surrey, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. The Independent notes that the changes are being brought in to “match the UK’s current climate – which is different from the conditions the existing system is based on”. According to the Met Office there has been an “undeniable warming trend” across the country, but with temperatures rising at different rates, it adds. Bloomberg quotes Prof Nigel Arnell, a meteorologist at the University of Reading, who says “we have to get used to a ‘new normal’…In a few years, we’ll probably have to change the definitions again otherwise we’ll have a heatwave every summer”.
The Daily Telegraph’s international business editor Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes that “it takes a heroic feat of mental gymnastics to turn the world’s oil, gas and coal crisis into an indictment of renewable power”, but also calls the fossil-fuel versus renewables fight a “false dichotomy [that] is 10 years out of date”. Evans-Pritchard suggests that “each gigawatt of wind, solar, nuclear, or hydro” be called “liberty electrons” for their role in mitigating economic shock and enhancing energy security. However, at the same time, he chastises “the vilification of oil and gas companies by Extinction Rebellion and Greta’s brigade” for “the premature campaign by zealous metropolitan elites to force disinvestment before green alternatives can possibly be ready at sufficient scale”. Evans-Pritchard says that “gas is the bridge fuel until the 2040s” and that “ministers have arbitrarily drawn a [political] line against the revival of fracking”, and concludes that “patriots and free marketeers wear bright green these days”.
Elsewhere, writing in the Times, Financial News columnist David Wighton says that “the inconvenient truth is that while Russia’s invasion may speed up renewables investment in the developed world, it threatens to do the opposite in many emerging economies”. According to Wighton, “unless emissions growth in poorer countries is curbed, we will get nowhere near tackling climate change”. He writes that “if the world is to reach net-zero by 2050, investment in energy transition in emerging markets must increase to more than $1,000bn a year by the end of this decade”, quoting the IEA. However, “in 2020, it was only $150bn”, he says, adding: “So what about the rest? Assuming, optimistically, that around half is generated locally and that western governments put in the $100bn they have pledged, the remaining $400bn a year will have to come largely from western investors. That is a frankly implausible 30 times the $14bn they invested in 2020.” Wighton warns that “western investors tend to see emerging markets as “difficult, risky and not very profitable”, and might be even more “skittish” because of the increased perceived risk of the invasion of Ukraine.
“Due to the bankruptcy of the Nord Stream 2 operator, the federal state of Germany, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, inherited taking care of it,” writes Tagesspiegel reporter Christian Schaudwet. The country faces high inspection and maintenance costs, as well as the question of what happens to the gas in the pipeline, he says. “If it escaped, it would be climate poison,” Schaudwet writes. At the same time, the “German side has no idea what is happening at the other end of the pipeline, since it does not maintain contacts with the Russian side”. With the pipeline filled with high pressure methane, the German organisation for the protection of the environment (DUH) assesses the situation as “very alarming”. Schaudwet quotes a warning from a DUH representative that “this is an extremely climate-damaging greenhouse gas, and safety must be guaranteed in any case”.
New research finds that about 7.5% of reefs in the Great Barrier Reef may be home to corals with heat tolerance high enough to withstand up to 3C of warming. Researchers collect juvenile corals and expose them to higher-than-normal temperatures, then combine the resulting survival data with satellite data to map the likely habitats for these resilient corals. They identify “hundreds” of reefs that may harbour heat-tolerant corals, saying that these areas should be “targets for protection”. The authors also suggest that corals gathered from these reefs could be used to repopulate degraded reefs under future ocean warming.
A new study shows that deforestation and the expansion of industrial-scale palm oil plantations in Indonesia are both correlated with palm oil prices, with declining deforestation associated with lower prices. By analysing satellite data for the presence of oil palm plantations between 2000-19 and combining that with maps of deforestation, researchers calculate how much forest loss can be attributed to plantation expansion. They find that oil palm plantations are responsible for one-third of the old-growth forest loss in Indonesia since 2000 – excluding all of the associated activities, such as infrastructure expansion. They also find that a 1% decrease in the price of crude palm oil is associated with a 1.1% decrease in new plantations and a 0.7% decrease in deforestation.