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Daily Briefing |

TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES

Briefing date 22.06.2022
IEA warns Europe to prepare for total shutdown of Russian gas exports

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News.

IEA warns Europe to prepare for total shutdown of Russian gas exports
Financial Times Read Article

Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), has warned Europe to be ready for Russia to completely cut off gas supplies, the Financial Times reports. In an interview with the paper, Birol said: “Europe should be ready in case Russian gas is completely cut off… I believe the cuts are geared towards avoiding Europe filling storage, and increasing Russia’s leverage in the winter months.“ The paper continues: “Birol said emergency measures taken by European countries this week to reduce gas demand, such as firing up old coal-fired power stations, were justified by the scale of the crisis despite concerns about rising carbon emissions. He said the increase in coal-fired generation was ‘temporary’ and would help preserve gas supplies for heating in winter. Any additional CO2 emissions from burning highly polluting coal would be offset by an acceleration in Europe’s plans to cut its reliance on imported fossil fuels and to build up renewable generation capacity, he added. But he warned that the steps taken by European governments so far probably did not go far enough if Russian exports were completely severed, and said countries should do everything possible to preserve supplies now to ensure storage could be filled ahead of the winter months.” Reuters outlines the measures taken by European countries to prepare for a possible cutoff of Russian gas supplies. Separately, it covers measures in Italy to boost gas storage and Sweden’s decision to activate the first step of a three-stage emergency gas supply plan. Meanwhile, Politico reports that “Russian oil tycoon-turned-dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky” says that the EU is “sabotaging itself” with Russian oil sanctions, and instead should be financing arms for Kyiv.

In other European news, Reuters reports that the European Parliament will today “try again to agree more ambitious climate change policies, after rejecting them in a divisive first vote that threatened to delay the EU’s green agenda”. The group will vote on measures including “the carbon market, a new border tariff on imports of CO2-heavy goods like steel and cement, and a fund to support low-income households affected by CO2 costs”, Reuters says. Separately, the newswire reports that the EU “has reached a deal on corporate sustainability reporting requirements for large companies from 2024”, which should “combat greenwashing”. Finally, Politico covers Spain’s demands that the EU leave the Energy Charter Treaty – an energy investment treaty that it says threatens the bloc’s climate goals.

German finance minister rejects 2035 combustion engine ban
Financial Times Read Article

Financial Times reports that Germany’s finance minister Christian Lindner has rejected EU plans for a ban on the sale of new combustion engine cars by 2035, saying that a complete phaseout was “the wrong decision” as manufacturers worldwide would fill the gap. Lindner, who also heads the business-friendly Free Democratic party, said: “Germany is not going to agree to a ban on combustion engines”, adds FT. It also explains that the EU wants the region’s automakers to cut carbon emissions from cars by 100% from their 2021 levels, a mandate that would make it impossible to sell new petrol or diesel vehicles from 2035. The German car industry and lobbyists have warned it could lead to the “loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in the sector”, notes the media outlet. However, it continues, some carmakers welcomed Brussels’s move: “The current vote, but above all the choice of customers in Europe, shows that the shift to electromobility is irreversible,” said the head of Volkswagen, while Mercedes has already pledged to be all-electric by 2030, “where market conditions allow”. Politico reports that the Greens’ environment minister Steffi Lemke quickly rejected Lindner’s attempt to change the national position on a file critical to Germany’s flagship industry, saying that the government should stick to its “previously agreed course”. Reuters also covers a story.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that because of Russia’s natural gas cuts, Germany is preparing to move from the “early warning” stage to the second or “alarm” stage of a three-stage emergency gas plan, which may mean passing along higher prices to industry and households, according to a person familiar with the matter. Financial Times reports that Germany will fire up 10GW of mothballed coal power plants, which made up more than 28% of the country’s gross electricity generated last year, partly to save natural gas supplies for winter. An article warns “that should add 10m tonnes of CO2 emissions during the next six months”, says research company Rystad Energy. According to FT, experts warn that more robust conservation policies are needed to deal with Germany’s energy crisis, says Georg Zachmann of thinktank Bruegel: “Paying households to reduce their energy consumption could cut the country’s gas needs by up to a fifth”. German Die Zeit reports that Federal minister of economics Robert Habeck sees the gas deliveries reduced by Russia as an “economic attack” on Germany, noting that Putin uses energy as a weapon and wants to stir up fears: “What we saw in the last week is another dimension,” said the Green politician at the end of the BDI Day of German Industry. An opinion Lex piece in the Financial Times says that “Germany is as hopelessly and compromisingly addicted to coal as it is to Russian gas”, adding that “extending the life of nuclear plants would reduce the need for coal and limit carbon emissions”.

In more energy news from Germany, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that, according to the Federal statistical office, the German solar system’s installed capacity in March 2022 rose by 9.7% year-on-year to 58,400MW, which is 38% higher than in 2018. For private households, solar systems were not only a source of electricity but also a source of income: in 2020, around 1.4m households received income from a solar system, notes FAZ.

US: Extreme heat stretches into second straight week for most Americans
The Independent Read Article

Temperatures in the US are expected to rise beyond 100F (38C) in some parts of the country this week, as the heatwave gripping the country progresses into its second week, the Independent reports. According to the paper, parts of south-east US could see record-breaking daily temperatures. Reuters reports that “power demand in Texas hit a new all-time high on Monday and will likely keep breaking that record this week as economic growth boosts overall use and homes and businesses keep their air conditioners cranked up to escape a lingering heatwave”. Separately, the newswire says that the heat will test the US power grid this week. And the Independent showcases a new mapping tool which shows the fingerprint of climate change on extreme heat in the lower 48 US states.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post covers a report from the US forest Service – which says the service started an intentional fire in early April, but “relied on poor weather data and failed to understand how climate change had dried out the landscape, ultimately setting a fire that would explode into the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history”. The Guardian reports that the 80-page review was “quietly posted” yesterday. Separately, the Washington Post reports that President Biden is “giving federal wildland firefighters a significant raise for the next two fiscal years, as agencies face difficulty hiring in western states and an already-severe wildfire season is underway”. Elsewhere, the Wall Street Journal covers insurance rates in Florida, which are rising due to “storm risks and a wave of questionable claims”.

In other US news, the Hill reports that President Biden “is expected to call on Congress to temporarily suspend the gas tax during the summer months”, in an effort to combat rising gasoline prices. Separately, the outlet says that energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will meet with oil executives on Thursday to discuss solutions to the rising petrol prices. Meanwhile, the Financial Times says that “President Joe Biden on Tuesday hit out at Chevron chief executive Mike Wirth, calling the oil major boss ‘sensitive’ after he criticised the US administration’s energy policy, as high fuel prices deepen tensions between the White House and the domestic industry.”

Death toll rises to 116 across India and Bangladesh amid flooding in south Asia
The Independent Read Article

There is continuing media coverage of the extreme rainfall and subsequent flooding affecting south Asia. The Independent reports that the death toll across the two countries has risen to 116 people. It adds that 4 million people – including 1.6 million children – have been cut off by flood waters in north-eastern Bangladesh. Meanwhile, 33 of the 35 districts in India’s north-eastern Assam state are affected by the “severe floods”, and at least 73 people in the region have died, the newspaper adds. The Guardian adds: “Experts say the rain has been double the usual amount, and is an example of the sort of extreme weather event made more likely by the climate crisis.” The Washington Post reports that India and Bangladesh have both pressed their militaries into action for rescue and relief work and set up shelters for the displaced” and the Indian Express also reports on the flooding. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that some low-lying parts of Bangladesh are experiencing “the worst floods in more than a century”. Separately, the newswire says the floods “conjure climate warnings”.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that high temperatures in India are “bad news” for the country’s dairy industry – with heat stress driving “reduced appetite, lower weight gain and decreased fertility in cattle”. And Financial Times reporter Benjamin Parkin has penned an opinion piece entitled, “Delhi’s heatwaves carry a warning for the rest of the world”. Parkin writes that “heatwaves are becoming the new normal across the region”, adding that “nowhere else on earth are so many people exposed to such extreme heat”. He notes that only 5% of Indian households have air conditioning, outlining the economic and health consequences of extreme heat, and highlights the knock-on consequences for the rest of the world as crops fail across India.

In other news of extreme weather, AP News reports that the Mexican city of Monterrey is facing a water shortage caused by “an intense drought, poor planning and high water”. Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that “the Horn of Africa has suffered four consecutive failed rainy seasons and is experiencing its worst drought in four decades, a climate shock exacerbated by ongoing conflict and price rises caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine”. It adds: “Only a ‘massive’ and immediate scaling-up of funds and humanitarian relief can save Somalia from famine, a UN spokesperson has warned.”

Analysis: Quantity over quality – China faces power supply risk despite coal output surge
Reuters Read Article

China could face “further power shortages” this summer despite taking “drastic” measures to “boost coal production”, reports Reuters, citing “traders and analysts”. The newswire writes that the price cap on coal – that was ordered by Beijing – is “encouraging miners to prioritise coal quantity over quality, leaving power generators needing growing volumes of coal as they look to raise output”. A “trader” told the newswire that, “once demand from utilities picks up in summer alongside the economic resumption from Covid lockdown, we could see coal use jumping at a faster than usual pace”.

Separately, an article by Global Times says that extreme weather – which the outlet says was “likely caused by climate change” – has “plagued” China and explains how the country is preparing for it. According to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) – China’s top economic planner last week, the country has “sufficient electricity generation capacity”, the article notes. It writes that the amount of power generated by “key hydropower plants increased significantly” compared with the same period last year, adding that coal storage at coordinated power plants – which is also at a “record high” – lays a “solid foundation for China to ensure electricity security in the summer peak season”. Elsewhere, according to NDRC on Monday, under the “unified deployment” of the government body, its local departments together with other authorities have recently formed a team to “comprehensively” investigate the implementation of coal price regulation and supervision policy, reports China Energy News, a state-run industry newspaper.

Meanwhile, Xinhua carries an interview with Vijay Nambiar, former Indian ambassador to China, ahead of the upcoming “BRICS” summit. (The 14th summit of BRICS nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – will be held in Beijing on 23 June via video link, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Friday.) The state news agency reports: “[Nambiar] said the China-proposed Global Development Initiative [launched by Chinese president Xi Jinping at last September’s UN General Assembly] caters to urgent global priorities of poverty alleviation, food security, Covid response, development financing, climate change and green development, among others.” Additionally, Bloomberg reports that the EU and China are planning two high-level meetings on the economy, climate and the environment, quoting Nicolas Chapuis, the EU’s ambassador in China, saying they would take place “in the next few weeks, hopefully”.

Finally, the South China Morning Post reports that “more Chinese renewable energy developers are incorporating ‘costly’ storage facilities in their projects to comply with state policies”, adding that this move helps increase the national grid’s “flexibility to meet peak demand and absorb clean but intermittent power”. It says “most” provincial governments are requiring bundled storage with large wind and solar projects, adding that more than 4 gigawatts (GW) of renewables plus storage schemes have been “signed in the past week, according to official announcements and mainland Chinese news reports”.

MPs call on Johnson to lead on protecting nature ahead of biodiversity summit
The Independent Read Article

A cross-party group of UK MPs have sent an open letter to Boris Johnson, calling on him to “lead efforts to halt the loss of nature” ahead of the COP15 summit on biodiversity in December, the Independent reports. This comes as outlets including BBC News, the Guardian and Reuters follow earlier reporting that COP15 will be moved from China to Canada. “United Nations is asking countries to designate 30% of their land and sea areas for conservation by 2030,” Reuters notes. And the i newspaper carries an explainer on the summit.

Meanwhile, Irene Wabiwa Betoko – the international project leader for the Congo Basin forest at Greenpeace Africa – has published a comment piece in Climate Change News, entitled, “It’s time to put Indigenous Peoples first at the UN biodiversity talks”. Betoko writes that COP15 “could be the ‘Paris moment’ for biodiversity, as the 2015 Paris Agreement was for climate”. She adds: “To protect biodiversity effectively, and ethically, COP15 must recognise tangible protections for the rights of Indigenous Peoples. That should include creating a new and separate category for Indigenous land, one that puts them as the centre of decision-making and funding.”

UK: Energy supplier collapses likely to cost around £2.7bn, report finds
The Independent Read Article

The Independent covers a new report which finds that household energy bills in the UK rose by around £2.7bn to cover the costs of the 28 energy suppliers that have failed in the past year. “The National Audit Office (NAO) has said that, while the failures were caused by massive changes in the energy market, regulator Ofgem is also partly to blame”, the paper says. The Financial Times adds that according to the report, “about £1.8bn raised from energy bills — or £66 per household — has gone to companies such as British Gas, which have taken on 2.2m customers from failed suppliers”. The total additional cost amounts to around £94 per customer, the Guardian notes. Reuters says that Ofgem’s approach to awarding new supply licences and monitoring companies increased the risk of firms failing. Meanwhile, the MailOnline says that Ofgem is facing criticism for “allowing people with no idea of what they were doing to set up energy firms and sign up customers”. A brief Daily Mail editorial on the new report accuses Ofgem of “fall[ing] asleep at the wheel”. Elsewhere, the i newspaper reports that the energy price cap is expected to reach just under £3,000 a year in October. The Daily Telegraph adds: “The price cap stood at £1,278 in October 2021, before soaring gas prices sent its rising rapidly.”

Elsewhere, the Financial Times reports that chancellor Rishi Sunak is preparing to meet executives from companies who have “hit out at his proposed 25% windfall tax on their profits to partly fund a £15bn package of government support for households struggling with rising energy bills”. The companies include Shell, BP and Harbour Energy, according to the paper. Bloomberg also covers the upcoming meeting. The Daily Telegraph reports on a nuclear startup that aims to turn “waste plutonium into clean energy”. And finally, the New Scientist reports on the “extreme heatwaves” that have arrived “unusually early” in Europe. High temperatures have caused “mass fish death” in the UK, the Independent adds.

G7 leaders must raise investments to save economy
Nicholas Stern, The Times Read Article

Lord Stern – chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment – writes in the Times that G7 leaders “must act strongly and decisively” this weekend to prevent the global economy from stalling. “If they fail to rise to the challenge, the world faces a period of heightened economic and social insecurity that could lead to a deepening climate crisis and more conflict,” Stern says.

In other UK comment, Financial Times international business editor Peggy Hollinger writes that “miracle technologies will not be the answer to aviation’s net-zero emissions pledge”, arguing that “the only way to guarantee that aviation will not emit is to not fly, or to make flying so expensive that people make far fewer trips”. And Financial Times associate editor and business columnist Pilita Clark looks at “how boards can keep up with climate action expectations”. She advises companies to “brush off advice that you can easily offset your emissions by buying cheap carbon credits generated by trees that suck up CO2 as they grow”. Ultimately, she says, “the message for boardrooms is clear. Climate business as usual is over and companies must either keep up or face the consequences”.

Comment.

If we are to have a future, climate justice needs a legal footing
Bob Loughman Weibur, Al Jazeera Read Article

Bob Loughman Weibur – the prime Minister of the Republic of Vanuatu – has penned an opinion piece in Al Jazeera arguing that the issue of climate change should be brought to the International Court of Justice. Weibur writes that “Vanuatu, like other climate vulnerable nations, is paying the highest price” for climate change. He continues: “Everyone who follows climate politics knows that action is not matching up to words…This year we plan to call on the United Nations General Assembly to request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice. We want the learned judges to issue a legal opinion on the rights of present and future generations to inhabit a world that is not ravaged by climate change effects. An advisory opinion could be the very motivation states need to take the decisive action essential in this decisive decade. It will provide much-needed support for the crucial Paris Agreement process – which itself references climate change’s effect on human rights…In order to bring climate change to the International Court of Justice, a majority of countries must back our call at the upcoming UN General Assembly’s 77th session.” He goes on to “welcome the recent endorsement” of countries from the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States, and “urge[s]” Commonwealth countries to join them.

Science.

A gridded 30 year Days of Thunder climatology for the UK
Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society Read Article

A new paper presents a gridded “Days of Thunder” (DoT) dataset of UK thunderstorms from 1990 to 2019. The authors unpack how they combined “long-range lightning location network data, which are (precise but inconsistent) with surface observations (less precise but more consistent)” to generate a “more consistent, more precise” 30-year gridded dataset. Analysis of the data shows that “there has been a small (≈ 1 day) reduction in the average DoT” per year and a “noteworthy north-south divide…with a small increase in the number of DoT per year in the north of the UK and a small reduction in the south”. The authors add that “the summer shows the peak in DoT relative to the other seasons”.

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