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Daily Briefing

19.11.2020
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Green plan ‘far cry’ from hitting UK’s net zero targets
Green plan ‘far cry’ from hitting UK’s net zero targets

News.

Green plan ‘far cry’ from hitting UK’s net zero targets

There is blanket continued coverage of UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s 10-point plan for a “green industrial revolution”. The Financial Times reports that the plan is a “far cry” from what will be needed to reach net-zero emissions, citing “climate experts”. It quotes shadow business secretary Ed Miliband saying the plan “does not remotely meet the scale of what is needed”, followed by a “government aide” saying: “These are just down payments, there will be more of this in future.” The FT notes: “The government estimates the plan will save more than 180m tonnes of CO2 emissions during the 2023 to 2032 period, which is slightly more than half the UK’s annual emissions right now.” [It does not add that this saving is only enough to close 55% of the gap to meeting the UK’s legally binding climate goals for this time period, even before raising ambition in line with the net-zero target.] New Scientist also has a piece asking if the plan is enough to reach net-zero. A Guardian article asks if the £12bn in Johnson’s plan is “enough to get UK on track for net-zero carbon emissions”. It concludes: “Some say proposed public funding is too little while others say key is galvanising private capital.” An earlier Guardian article says a 2030 ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars is “not enough”. The Daily Telegraph reports that the government’s spending plans are “dwarfed by figures pledged in other major European nations”. The Independent also compares the £12bn plan with what is happening in other countries and a second Independent article reports the comments of critics saying the plan is “inadequate”. BusinessGreen reports that the UK will need to invest an extra £400bn this decade on the way to net-zero, according to consultancy PwC. The Times has analysis of the proposals under the headline: “Green revolution will be a challenge and it won’t come cheap.” BBC News energy and environment analyst Roger Harrabin looks at what is missing from Johnson’s plan. The New York Times has a summary of the plan.

An article on the frontpage of the Daily Telegraph business section runs under the print headline: “Consumers to foot the bill for green revolution.” It quotes former Ofgem head Dermot Nolan and former chancellor Nigel Lawson, now of climate sceptic lobby group the Global Warming Policy Foundation, saying the plan will be costly. Lawson is quoted saying the plan is “economically illiterate”, with the paper saying he “dismissed the government’s proposals as an economic disaster”. A number of papers focus on the plan to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, with the Daily Mail calling the move: “Authoritarian, elitist, anti-motorist…and eye-wateringly expensive.” [The Climate Change Committee has said a 2030 ban will save the UK even more money than a later phaseout.] The Daily Telegraph reports that Johnson’s “electric dream will be a costly journey”. The i newspaper says the shift to electric vehicles “depends on millions more charge points and longer driving range”. BBC News has a piece on how electric cars are charged and how far they can go. The Times and Daily Telegraph report on calls for drivers to be given extra support to shift to electric cars. The Times also reports on the Johnson plan aim to boost walking and cycling.

The Times and the Daily Telegraph use some of their coverage of the plan to pick out one detail: a proposal to bring forward a new “future homes standard” from 2025 to 2023, which was removed from an early draft of the document. The standard is expected to ban gas boilers from being installed in new homes, the Times says, adding “a government source later confirmed that the ban was being brought forward”. [The future homes standard is subject to an ongoing government consultation.] The Independent reports that Johnson’s climate plan is “missing nature-based solutions, campaigners say”. Bloomberg reports on the plan extending the “green homes grant” with an extra £1bn and another year, saying that so far only 267 grants have been handed out. BusinessGreen says the extension has been welcomed by industry and campaigners. BBC News reports that plans to create four carbon capture and storage clusters “may create 49,000 jobs”, according to a report commissioned by power station Drax, which is working on the technology. BusinessGreen asks if the plan can “usher in an economic renewal for post-Brexit Britain”. BBC News asks what the plan means for Scotland and a second BBC News piece has a glossary of terms used in the plan. BBC News Reality Check looks back at the record of UK governments on climate and other green targets.

Financial Times Read Article
SSE sets wheels in motion for vast Dogger Bank wind farm

The world’s biggest offshore wind farm is set to get the go-ahead from SSE as part of the energy group’s plans to treble its renewable electricity output in the next decade, reports the Times. The Dogger Bank wind farm will have capacity of 3.6 gigawatts – enough to power 4.5m homes – when it is completed by 2026, the paper explains. It adds: “The company said yesterday that it expected to reach a financial close in a matter of days on the first two stages of the Dogger Bank wind farm, 60 miles off the northeast coast of England. SSE owns 50% of the project, with the remainder owned by Equinor, of Norway, although both companies are looking to sell 10% stakes. Alistair Phillips-Davies, SSE’s chief executive, said that a deal to reduce the stakes was ‘progressing reasonably well’ and was likely to take place within the next few weeks.” Reuters notes that SSE is seeking to divest around £2bn pounds of assets. The Dogger Bank project is part of SSE’s plan to invest about £7.5bn on clean energy in the UK, which would help triple the company’s existing renewable energy capacity, reports the Guardian. The Financial Times adds: “By 2030 it expects to increase its renewables output from 11 terawatt hours (TWh) to ‘more than’ 35TWh. It currently has renewables capacity of just under 4 gigawatts (GW), with a pipeline to reach about 10GW by the end of the decade.” SSE saw a £115m drop in profits in the six months to the end of September, says another Reuters article – a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the firm says. The newswire notes that “the company turned its focus to renewable power generation and networks after selling its household energy supply and services arm to OVO Energy at the beginning of the year in a deal worth £500m”. SSE says this places them in a position to benefit from the UK’s renewables expansion as then country aims to hit net-zero emissions by 2050, Reuters adds. A Financial Times Lex column says that the UK government’s “green industrial revolution” should be good news for SSE, yet “investors shun its shares”. The column suggests that “the market should focus on SSE’s future renewable projects and start to price them more generously. Even if those projects take time to arrive”.

In related news, Reuters reports that Danish renewable energy group Ørsted and North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) announced a deal yesterday to train an offshore wind construction workforce to build the firm’s pipeline of projects down the US East Coast.

The Times Read Article
Thanks for polluting the planet: emails blamed for climate change

In a story carried on the paper’s frontpage, the Financial Times reports that “British officials working on plans to tackle climate change have alighted on a new threat to the planet: millions of unnecessary emails sent every day”. However, the article itself says: “Experts estimate data centres account for less than 0.1% of the world’s carbon footprint, a small figure compared with the 20% blamed on cars.”

Financial Times Read Article

Comment.

The Guardian view on Johnson's green jobs plan: the right way to start

Several UK newspapers have published editorials on Boris Johnson’s “10-point plan” to cut emissions. The Guardian says: “The ambition to preside over a green industrial revolution is the right one, but with the current prime minister there is no guarantee that it will evolve beyond laudable intent.” It says: “Some of the sums of money involved do not stand up well to international comparison. The headline investment pledge is £12bn, much of which has been announced previously.” But the Guardian adds that: “It is churlish to judge Mr Johnson’s move exclusively in cash terms. Money matters, but so does the message that Britain wants to be part of the global trend towards carbon-neutrality.” The Financial Times editorial says Johnson’s plan has “plant[ed] a political flag”, but that a “detailed road map is needed to mobilise private capital”. It says the plan is a “commendable vision”, despite its “many gaps”, concluding: “Mr Johnson’s green plan is a credible signal of intent. For it to have any hope of success he will need to focus his efforts on the present, not just the future.” The Daily Mirror has an editorial saying the plan is “more style than substance”. It says that while the plan is “welcome, the scale of what the PM is proposing is disappointingly limited”. For the lead editorial in the Times, the green plan is “ambitious but viable”, adding: “Labour says he should have gone further, and indeed he might have done.” It concludes: “The plan is welcome not only because it makes economic sense, but because it provides political direction to a prime minister increasingly accused of not knowing what he wants to do with the luxury of an 80-seat commons majority. The Tories are right to seize greenery as a Conservative issue, because it is helping to conserve the planet and will foster new industries.” The Daily Telegraph editorial says the prime minister’s plan for a green industrial revolution is “a fine ambition”, but asks “how will it work in practice?”. It continues: “What is questionable is not the ambition but the feasibility.” The paper concludes that “We need far more detail about how the ‘green revolution’ will be brought about.” The Evening Standard says the plan is “a step in the right direction” and a “welcome development”. A short editorial in the Daily Mail (not online, but tweeted) says the green plan is “commendable”, but “ill-timed” given the Covid-19 crisis and Brexit. It says: “[R]ushing to cut carbon emissions to net-zero could cost £1tn, saddling the consumer with even more spurious environmental taxes.” [The Climate Change Committee’s chief executive Chris Stark said yesterday: “It won’t cost £1tn. Such a misleading figure, so it’s time to put it to bed.” Stark added: “[W]e have to reach a better, more grown-up discussion of costs. Some of the commentary today has been woeful on this.”]

On the comment pages, there is an even longer list of reactions to the 10-point climate plan. For the Daily Mail, columnist Stephen Glover has a comment piece that accompanies the paper’s editorial, under the headline: “It’s a noble goal, but why IS Boris Johnson launching a grand green plan in the midst of a crisis?” For the Guardian, Greenpeace’s Rebecca Newsom says the plan “looks good”, but adds: “When it comes to the funding, the government both needs to check its priorities and accept that £4bn is only a down payment for what is required for a green recovery.” In the Independent, economics editor Ben Chu asks if the government is “really putting its money where its mouth is on green investment”. He adds that the spending review next week is “an opportunity for the government to fill in some of the big gaps”. In the Daily Telegraph business section, columnist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes that Johnson’s “green industrial revolution” is “our path to economic and political revival”. In his piece, trailed on the paper’s frontpage alongside a more sceptical take, Evans-Pritchard continues: “The PM realises decarbonisation is a bonanza, not a threat and offers Britain a path to national regeneration.” The opposing view is offered for the Daily Telegraph by Sunday Telegraph editor Allister Heath, who takes a broad swipe at the proposals under the headline: “This rushed electric car revolution will backfire disastrously on Boris.” He says “the green agenda has triumphed”, but questions what he sees as the current approach to cutting emissions. Heath continues: “So the only real question, in practice, is how will we go green, and how quickly? Will the authoritarian hair-shirt, command and control, Stone Age tendency triumph? Will cars be banned, people forced to cycle, airports be shut, and the vast majority of the population’s quality of life trashed in a debilitating culture war waged by an army of puritanical, elitist, neo-luddite, collectivist eco-warriors?” Another Daily Telegraph comment, by former UK Independence Party MEP Patrick O’Flynn, runs under the headline: “The petrol cars ban has torpedoed Boris’s hopes of a green agenda that can win over the Red Wall.”

For the Times Red Box, Shaun Spiers, executive director of thinktank Green Alliance, calls on the Treasury to “get with the programme”, noting reports that it had “resisted the prime minister’s plans”. He adds: “Over the next couple of months we need to see the policy detail backed by serious spending commitments.” For BusinessGreen, Nick Molho of the Aldersgate Group, says the green plan “can be a turning point for the net-zero transition”. Writing in the Independent, Green MP Caroline Lucas writes: “A genuinely green reset would boldly repurpose economic policy so that it prioritises people’s health and wellbeing.” She compares the “paltry” £4bn of new money for Johnson’s plan with the £27bn earmarked for roads and the £36bn being invested in a green recovery in Germany. In a letter to the Times, the scientists Prof Myles Allen and Prof Stuart Hazeldine say the plan fails to set out who will pay for carbon capture and storage “in the long term”. Another letter from Prof Jim Watson cautions against the ambition to heat an entire town with hydrogen by 2030, saying such a commitment should await the outcome of smaller trials. A third letter, from Prof Lorraine Whitmarsh writes “as ever, there is an assumption that technology alone can get us to net zero – which we know from numerous studies it can’t”. The Spectator carries a comment by Ross Clark arguing that the UK net-zero target is “perverse” since it only applies to emissions within the UK. He argues that the target will be met by “offshoring” UK industry, food production and electricity generation “while doing little or nothing to reduce global net carbon emissions”. [More than three-fifths of global CO2 emissions will soon be subject to net-zero commitments, recent Carbon Brief analysis shows.] For Spectator Life, Ross Clark has a separate piece asking if “now is the time to invest in green energy”. He concludes: “It is hard not to come to the conclusion that there will be great fortunes to be made in green energy in coming years – though, inevitably, not by everyone.” Another Spectator article by James Kirkup runs under the headline: “Boris’s eco-optimism will get the better of him.” He says: “For what it’s worth, our polling and focus groups don’t find much regional variation in attitudes here: broadly speaking, voters are quite positive about a greener economy, though their level of knowledge about what that means is fairly low. The big variations in attitude are found in income: unsurprisingly, the more money people have, the more relaxed they are about the costs of net zero.”

Editorial, The Guardian Read Article
Bundesbank chief: How central banks should address climate change

Writing in the FT, the president of Germany’s Bundesbank Jens Weidmann argues that “every one of us should be doing more to curb global warming – this goes for central banks, too”. He continues: “We owe it to our taxpayers to keep the financial risks that arise from our monetary policy operations in check. That’s why central banks should make sure that climate-related financial risks are given due consideration in their own risk management. To this end, it is legitimate to expect securities issuers and rating agencies to provide better information. The Eurosystem – the European Central Bank and the national central banks – should consider only purchasing securities or accepting them as collateral for monetary policy purposes if their issuers meet certain climate-related reporting obligations. We could also examine whether we should use only those credit ratings from rating agencies that appropriately include climate-related financial risks.”

Jens Weidmann, Financial Times Read Article

Science.

Global climate response to idealised deforestation in CMIP6 models

A new study finds that deforestation is likely to have a “net warming effect” globally, but could also cause a “temperature increase over deforested land in the tropics” and “cooling over deforested boreal land”. Using nine models running under the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 6 (CMIP) framework, the researchers simulated a gradual replacement of forest area with grassland, and defined a “forest sensitivity” to quantify the local temperature change caused by deforestation. The study found a cooling effect of 0-0.55C from land use change, and warming of 0.46-0.22C from the resulting release of carbon, suggesting a net warming effect from deforestation.

Biogeosciences Read Article
Stratospheric aerosol geoengineering could lower future risk of 'Day Zero' level droughts in Cape Town

The risk of intense droughts in the future could be managed using stratospheric aerosol geoengineering, according to a new study. Previous research has shown that Cape Town’s “Day Zero” drought of 2015-2017 was made around three times worse due to human-caused climate change, and that the risk of similar droughts will rise as the climate warms. This study suggests that under the very high emission scenario RCP8.5, “keeping the global mean temperature at 2020 levels through SAI (Stratospheric Aerosol Injection) would offset the projected end century risk of ‘Day Zero’ level droughts by approximately 90%”, whilst precipitation would be “maintained at present-day levels”. However, the study highlights that different models could lead to different conclusions. For more on SAI, see Carbon Brief’s in-depth explainer on solar geoengineering.

Environmental Research Letters Read Article
The benefits of increasing resolution in global and regional climate simulations for European climate extremes

A new study finds that increasing the resolution of climate models leads to improved simulations of intense rainfall and wind extremes. The researchers ran regional and global climate model simulations repeatedly at a range of resolutions for different regions. The findings suggest that rainfall is most sensitive to model resolution, particularly over mountainous regions, whilst temperature extremes were largely unaffected by changes in resolution. See Carbon Brief’s Q&A on climate models for more on model resolution.

Geoscientific Model Development Read Article

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