Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Every weekday morning, in time for your morning coffee, Carbon Brief sends out a free email known as the “Daily Briefing” to thousands of subscribers around the world. The email is a digest of the past 24 hours of media coverage related to climate change and energy, as well as our pick of the key studies published in peer-reviewed journals.
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- UK: Households could get £350 cut to their energy bill if they agree to wind farm nearby under new plan
- US: Environmentalists condemn Biden administration’s offshore drilling plan
- China urges US to fulfil climate duties after Supreme Court ruling
- IEA chief urges Saudi Arabia to pump more oil in energy crisis ‘red alert’
- The deadly consequences of the climate crisis in Germany
- The climate-change agenda can survive the Supreme Court’s EPA ruling
- The electric car revolution will fizzle out without more power
- Albedo changes caused by future urbanisation contribute to global warming
The Daily Mail reports that “families could be offered up to £350 off their annual energy bills if they agree to a wind farm being built nearby”. The newspaper explains that the UK’s business and energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng will this month “consider” plans to offer communities a direct financial incentive to host new wind turbines. It adds: “Strict planning rules, which mean a single objection is enough to halt a wind farm proposal, could be relaxed if communities can show there is widespread support. Boris Johnson ruled out a nationwide change to the rules earlier this year following a backlash from Tory MPs. But ministers believe some ‘supportive communities’ could be persuaded to host new onshore wind turbines. A government source said ministers were looking at a scheme through which locals would receive up to £350 a year off their bill in return for supporting construction. They said: ‘There is potential for more onshore wind but it has to be done with community consent. As part of that we do think it is right that communities should be offered a share of the financial rewards. By definition the amount of electricity generated depends on how much the wind blows, but there are some models that suggest you could be looking at average discounts of about £350 a year.’”
In other UK news, the Financial Times says that the “Rolls-Royce-led consortium seeking to become the UK’s domestic nuclear energy champion has chosen its shortlist of locations for the first factory that will build a fleet of small modular reactors (SMRs)”. It adds: “Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Richmond constituency in North Yorkshire is among six sites in England and Wales to make the list announced on Monday, along with Sunderland, Deeside in Wales, Ferrybridge in West Yorkshire, Stallingborough, Lincolnshire, and Carlisle.” City AM notes that “the UK’s first deep coal mine in more than 30 years could be given the green light this week, with levelling-up secretary Michael Gove weighing up a decision on the site in Cumbria ahead of this Thursday’s deadline…If approved, the site would be operated by West Cumbria Mining and would remove coking coal from beneath the Irish Sea for the production of steel in the UK and Europe.” (85% of the coal is set to be exported.) The Times says that “abandoned coal mines filled with water could be used to heat homes if ministers invest in former industrial areas, red wall Tory MPs have said”. (The Times also carries an accompanying comment piece supporting the idea. It is noticeable because one of its co-authors, Peter Lilley, has spent years seeking to undermine and attack climate policies and climate science. The article says: “This would bring these places full circle because this largely untapped energy is a legacy of the massive coal mining expansion which has contributed so much to global warming.”)
Elsewhere, the Daily Telegraph says that “National Grid has told energy companies it may impose ‘involuntary’ restrictions on energy supplies if other emergency measures such as payments to switch off machinery fail to reduce demand to sustainable levels”. It adds: “The FTSE 100 company, which runs Britain’s gas mains, has issued the rationing warning as part of talks with power station owners on how to navigate the coming winter. National Grid is scheduled to meet major energy suppliers including SSE, Exxon, Equinor, RWE and others on Thursday to discuss emergency payments to industrial users.”
Meanwhile, the Observer says “Labour has pledged to create at least 30,000 jobs by promising to build three gigafactories for electric car battery production in Britain by 2025, as it warned the country was falling behind its European competitors in the race to ditch petrol power”. The Sunday newspaper continues: “Amid recent reports that Britain faces a battle to hold on to the production of electric vehicles (EVs) made by manufacturers already in the UK, the party has committed itself to a major expansion of the part-financing of gigafactories. It follows research suggesting countries such as Germany, which already has a huge car industry, are significantly ahead in establishing the plants. Research from the independent Faraday Institution suggests Germany will have 150,000 more electric vehicle jobs than the UK by 2030, France will have 20,000 more and Hungary 30,000 more in battery manufacturing and the supply chain.” And the Press Association via ITV News says “a failure to identify greenwashing creates a false confidence about how the climate crisis is being addressed, the outgoing chair of the Environment Agency [Emma Howard Boyd] will warn”.
The Guardian reports that environmental groups in the US have criticised a five-year offshore oil and gas drilling development plan announced by the Biden administration on Friday. The paper says it would “block all new drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans within US territorial waters while allowing some lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s south coast”. The newspaper adds: “The plan, which has not been finalised, could allow up to 11 lease sales but gives the interior department the right to make none…some [environmental groups] expressed concern that the administration was backing away from the president’s ‘no more drilling’ pledge during a March 2020 one-on-one debate with Bernie Sanders…Environmental groups also argued that new leasing would impede the Biden administration’s goal to cut carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2030 in an effort to keep global heating under the threshold of 1.5C.”
Separately, there is continuing coverage of the fallout from last week’s decision by the US Supreme Court to declare that the Environmental Protection Agency had overstepped the authority Congress gave it to limit carbon dioxide emissions at power plants. The Washington Post has a news feature under the headline: “The US is ditching coal. The Supreme Court ruling won’t change that.” It says: “Outside the courtroom, reviving the fossil fuel business isn’t going to be simple. ‘We don’t really see that there would be any immediate impact on our transition plans,’ said Vicky Sullivan, director of climate policy at Duke Energy. ‘We still plan to transition out of coal by 2035 and we don’t see the Supreme Court’s decision having a material impact on that’…Nationwide, US coal output tumbled 35% from 897m short tons in 2015 to 578m short tons in 2021, according to the Energy Information Administration.” The New York Times instead looks at how “with [his] climate agenda stalled at home, Biden still hopes to lead abroad”. The Financial Times quotes Collin Rees at Oil Change International, a US campaign group: “It’s been a disappointing tenure. He’s not even close to lived up to his promises on climate.”
Separately, the New York Times speaks to former US vice-president Al Gore, who says: “We are facing a crisis of American democracy, one that stretches far beyond our ability to confront the climate crisis. The balance of power in our country has been distorted and has shifted away from the people and toward corporations and special interests. Fossil fuel companies and their allies have undermined progress on the climate crisis for decades…In order to address this crisis, we must not only prioritise reforms that will place power back in the hands of the people, but we must also reconcile the distortion of our media landscape caused by a similar imbalance in power.”
Meanwhile, the frontpage story in yesterday’s Washington Post focuses on the extreme weather affecting large parts of the US. The headline reads: “Summer in America is becoming hotter, longer and more dangerous.” It says the summer is “turning what for many Americans is a time of joy into stretches of extreme heat, dangerously polluted air, anxiety, and lost traditions”. It adds: “Though the summer season of 2022 is young, parts of the nation already have experienced punishingly high temperatures, extreme drought, wildfires, severe storms, flooding or some combination. Projections from federal agencies suggest more abnormally hot weather, an expansion of drought and well above average wildfire and hurricane activity in the months ahead.”
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Friday that “the US must meet its international obligations on climate change and do more than ‘shout slogans’”, Reuters notes, adding that this statement came “following a US Supreme Court ruling limiting Washington’s ability to cut power sector emissions”. The newswire quotes Li Shuo, senior adviser with Greenpeace, saying: “The ruling carries profound implications and will significantly weaken the conditions for future US-China climate talks.”
Meanwhile, a separate Reuters report says that, according to what a “private sector poll” showed on Friday, China’s “manufacturing activity expanded at its fastest in 13 months in June”, buoyed by a strong rebound in output, as the “lifting of Covid lockdowns” sent factories “racing to meet recovering demand”.
Separately, S&P Global Commodity Insights writes that China’s “recent move to hand out plentiful crude import quotas” is “expected to trigger a rush” for cargoes among independent refiners “as they prepare to take advantage of recovering domestic demand post the pandemic-induced lockdowns”, citing refiners and analysts on Friday.
Elsewhere, Bloomberg reports that Zijin Mining Group – which the outlet says is “mainly known as one of China’s top copper and gold miners” – is ”stepping up efforts to become a major player in the global lithium rush”, highlighting that the group is “adding a mine-revival project in China to acquisitions from Africa to South America”. The outlet says that the group “plans to pay 1.8bn yuan ($269m) for a 71% stake” in a company “mining for lithium in Hunan province”. Finally, mining “giant” China Molybdenum has said it will “invest more than $1.8bn in the first phase of the Kisanfu project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the world’s largest mines of top-grade copper and cobalt, to meet surging demand from the new energy sector”, reports Yicai, a Shanghai-based financial outlet.
The Sunday Times carries the views of Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency, who has “urged Saudi Arabia to pump more oil as banking giant JP Morgan warned that the price of a barrel of crude could more than triple to $380”. The newspaper continues: “Birol warned that the world was on ‘red alert for economic recession’ as energy prices surge, creating a global inflation crisis. He said the IEA had been urging Saudi and other members of the Opec oil cartel to go above and beyond their commitment last week to increase output by 648,000 barrels a day…Birol’s intervention came as analysts at JP Morgan predicted global oil prices could hit a ‘stratospheric’ $380 a barrel, up from $111 now, in a ‘worst-case scenario’ where Russia cut its daily production by five million barrels.” (Birol also took to Twitter yesterday to reiterate the IEA’s call for efforts to cut energy demand through measures such as lower thermostat settings, slower highway driving and more use of public transport.)
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports on a warning from UN chief António Guterres that humanity is facing a “perfect storm” of crises that is widening inequality between the north and south. The newspaper says: “The global food, energy and financial crises unleashed by the war in Ukraine have hit countries already reeling from the pandemic and the climate crisis, reversing what had been a growing convergence between developed and developing countries, António Guterres said.”
Germany’s Der Spiegel reports that “high summer temperatures led to thousands of heat-related deaths in Germany in the years 2018 to 2020 – a total of 19,300 people died from the effects of the heat”, according to the study published conducted by researchers from the Robert Koch institute, the federal environment agency and the German weather service. The outlet continues that this is the first time since 1992 that excess mortality due to heat occurred in three consecutive years, adding “the progression of the climate crisis will make the occurrence of extreme heat waves more frequent and more likely”.
Meanwhile, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reports that the German government is meeting with employers and unions today to discuss ways to curb inflation. “Today, there are three particular causes fuelling price increases: high energy costs, labour shortages, supply chain problems”, explains the newspaper, adding: “Before energy costs fall due to the expansion of renewables and other sources of supply, they will rise – not least due to the financial difficulties of gas suppliers such as Uniper.“ Euronews reports that Germany’s Uniper is in talks about a possible government bailout as the financial fallout from dwindling supplies of Russian gas reverberates across Europe, sending shares in the energy company sliding. Der Spiegel reports that German chancellor Olaf Scholz wants to prevent a “price explosion” through state support measures, referring to the example of Lufthansa support during the pandemic. It quotes him saying: “During the last crisis, we developed very precise instruments on how to support companies that have come under pressure from circumstances for which they are not responsible, even large ones”. Elsewhere, FAZ reports on plans in Germany to build what it calls the world’s largest heat pump, at a site run by chemical giant BASF. It says the unit will save 400,000t of CO2 per year.
Finally, Politico reports that economy and climate minister Robert Habeck, speaking at a sustainability event in Munich, said that a “complete blockade” of the Nord Stream pipeline could start on 11 July, when Gazprom said it plans to halt deliveries via the undersea Russia-to-Germany pipeline for “routine maintenance”. However, Radio Free Liberty reports that Germany will begin operating two temporary terminals to import liquefied “natural” gas by early 2023, said Habeck in an interview published by Welt am Sonntag.
Several publications carry continuing reaction to the news that US Supreme Court has voted to restrict how the Environmental Protection Agency can use its authority to regulate power plants. Writing in the Washington Post, Joseph Majkut, who is the director of the energy security and climate change program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, argues: “The Supreme Court said this week that ‘major’ regulation must be authorised by Congress. But we already knew that that’s where comprehensive climate policy must come from – even if it happens piece by piece and with compromises climate advocates may be reluctant to make. Republican intransigence on the issue may be frustrating, but for a country targeting net-zero, the path to progress runs through the halls of the Capitol – rightly, and inevitably.” An editorial in the New York Times says: “The court’s adversarial posture means that the administration must double down on its efforts to win congressional support for its spending plans. President Biden and Democratic leaders should also press to pass legislation clarifying the EPA’s authority to regulate emissions.” In the Hill, Stuart PM Mackintosh, who is the executive director of the Group of Thirty and author of “Climate Crisis Economics”, writes: “Elect a green Congress, and we can begin to reverse the shortsighted destructive judicial activism of the SCOTUS six, and the US can quickly rebalance and reorient our society and economy towards a more equitable, prosperous, sustainable, green tomorrow. That green progressive Congress must then set about also enlarging the size of the Supreme Court so it can, going forward, reflect the views of the majority of citizens who live in the real warming world scorched by climate change, not a blinkered constructivist-textualist fantasy that risks our planet and our species’ survival.”
Meanwhile, an editorial in the Guardian says: “The havoc that Russia’s war has caused on the world’s energy markets is contributing to an economic crisis that is playing into the hands of Biden’s domestic opponents. This highlights the west’s failure to confront the climate emergency with a less carbon-intensive economic model. The green agenda risks being derailed by sky-high hydrocarbon prices. This scenario could have been averted if western nations had accelerated their net-zero agendas by driving down energy demand – the lack of UK home insulation is one glaring failure – and spending on renewables to achieve energy security. Instead, [last] week the G7 watered down pledges to halt fossil fuel investment over fears of winter energy shortages as Moscow squeezes supplies.”
An editorial in the Sunday Times bemoans the slow rollout of charging points for electric vehicles in the UK: “The government has set a 2030 cut-off for sales of new diesel and petrol vehicles, and 2035 for hybrids. Ministers have more targets planned: from 2024, 22% of sales must be zero-emission cars, rising to 52% by 2028. These factors should turbocharge the shift from combustion engines to batteries. But, as we report today, Britain lags far behind Norway. Apart from strong incentives and a campaign involving one of the country’s greatest music stars, the big difference is in charging infrastructure. Norwegian motorists are supported by 17,000 public charging stations and fast chargers every 30 miles on main roads. Britain, with over ten times the population, has 32,663 chargers at 19,960 locations, not counting those in homes and workplaces. Almost 830 were put up last month. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says we need 700 a day…The private sector is powerful, but sometimes it needs guidance. The SMMT proposes a regulator, Ofcharge, which would oversee a more organised introduction, as well as pricing. It would be a shame if the electric car revolution were to fall foul of range anxiety.”
In other UK comment, an editorial in the Daily Telegraph demands that “Britain must bring back fracking”. It says: “Imposing a moratorium on fracking was one of the worst decisions taken by any government in the past decade…In a monumentally short-sighted move…ministers effectively banned companies from exploiting it – too terrified of the green lobby to do something that was so obviously within the national interest. This week, Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, has a chance to reverse this error. The government is awaiting peer review on a report into fracking’s safety…Ending this ban is a golden opportunity for the UK.” An editorial in the Sun – once again – calls for “slashing VAT and green levies on energy and VAT and duty on petrol and diesel” in an effort to curb the rising cost of living. In the Daily Telegraph, former Conservative minister Liam Fox writes: “If the government is serious about helping the steel industry, then it should look to how domestic energy policies, including self-imposed green tariffs, are creating additional burdens.” Elsewhere in the Daily Telegraph, current minister George Eustice, the environment secretary, argues that “we must work alongside our world-leading agricultural research institutes” to help “solve the world’s food crises”. He cites “genetic technologies”, adding: “Through these technologies, we will have the power to develop crops that are more resistant to pests and diseases, less reliant on fertilisers and pesticides – which will cut costs to farmers – and more resilient to climate change. With water scarcity likely to become an increasingly pressing issue across the world, the ability to develop plants that cope better with water stress will be all-important for global food security.”
The Times Red Box carries a co-authored comment piece by Ed Birkett, head of energy and climate at the Onward thinktank, and John Penrose, the Conservative MP for Weston-super-Mare. They argues that the “chancellor must look beyond handouts to ease pain of rising energy bills”, adding: “In energy, the solution is a ‘relative price cap’, meaning that customers pay a similar price regardless of whether they have switched. But updating the price cap alone will not be enough. The real problem is the skyrocketing international wholesale price of gas. Our gas and electricity bills follow the gas price, even though it has no impact on the costs of all the energy we generate from renewables. The cost of these has fallen massively, but it isn’t showing up on bills. Any sustainable solution has to upend our wholesale energy supply, redesigning the market so it delivers energy that keeps our net-zero promises, but more cheaply and reliably than today and no matter what’s happening in the international gas market.” The Times also carries an interview with Brian Gilvary, executive chairman of Ineos Energy, who says: “Would Ineos Energy be investing in some of the things like offshore wind, onshore wind, or solar right now? The answer is no. I think there’s higher economic returns available to us, as Ineos Energy, in the oil and gas, carbon capture and hydrogen space.”
Urbanisation has driven 0.0001C of global warming over 2001-18 through changes in the “albedo” of the planet, new research finds. The authors note that replacing natural lands with urban structures changes the region’s albedo – a measure of how much solar radiation the land reflects. They calculate the “100-year average annual global warming” caused by an overall reduction in albedo caused by urbanisation, for both the past and the future. The study finds that under the intermediate emission scenario SSP2-4.5, urbanisation could drive 0.0012C and 0.0015C of warming by 2050 and 2100 respectively, compared to 2018 temperatures.