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Daily Briefing

06.07.2021
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Investment industry at ‘tipping point’ as $43tn in funds commit to net-zero
Investment industry at ‘tipping point’ as $43tn in funds commit to net-zero

News.

Investment industry at ‘tipping point’ as $43tn in funds commit to net-zero
Financial Times Read Article

Almost half the world’s assets under management have now pledged to meet climate goals after an array of big investors signed up to the Net-Zero Asset Managers initiative launched last December, the Financial Times reports. According to the newspaper, the latest signatories mean $43tn in assets, making up almost half of the asset management sector globally in terms of total funds managed, are now committed to a net-zero emissions target in “a shift that could have huge corporate implications”. The shift will mean investors are forced to look for cleaner investments to meet climate targets and report their exposure based on Task Force for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations, a framework backed by former Bank of England governor Mark Carney, it adds. However, the newspaper also notes that campaigners have found that while many large asset managers were making long-term climate commitments, very few had robust policies around issues such as phasing out of coal.

Separately, the UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, which oversees $6.6tn in assets and includes some of the world’s biggest pension schemes and insurers, has called for a co-ordinated global price on carbon, according to Reuters. According to the article, the alliance also said that emissions costs would need to increase over time, almost trebling by 2030, to reach the world’s climate goals.

Elsewhere, the Press Association via the Belfast Telegraph reports that Carney, who is now an advisor for the UK presidency of the COP26 climate summit, has emphasised the importance of getting money to developing economies to tackle climate change. He told MPs on the Treasury select committee that investment commitments from the private financial sector “could be sufficient” for the scale needed in advanced economies.

UK: Jim Ratcliffe gets behind the hydrogen energy rush
The Daily Telegraph Read Article

A new fund aiming to become the first UK-listed investment company dedicated to hydrogen has drawn investment from Ineos, the chemicals group controlled by British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, according to the Daily Telegraph. The newspaper notes that Ineos is already Europe’s largest hydrogen producer, producing around 300,000 tonnes annually, and adds that the move reflects its “growing ambitions in energy beyond its oil and gas business”. Ineos will provide at least £25m into HydrogenOne Capital Growth, which is looking to attract £250m in an initial public offering, according to the Financial Times. It notes that while “clean” hydrogen has been rising up the agenda as industries seek to decarbonise heavy polluting activities such as steel production, “environmental groups and some academics have questioned how large a role clean hydrogen can play in the shift away from fossil fuels, given production constraints”. The Guardian notes that HydrogenOne plans to invest in both “green hydrogen”, made using renewable electricity and water, and “blue hydrogen”, which is made using natural gas and carbon capture systems. The newspaper adds that the move comes “weeks before the UK government is expected to launch a strategy worth £240m to support hydrogen production”, adding that the long-awaited strategy “could emerge as soon as next week”. BusinessGreen says that “experts are divided” over whether green or blue hydrogen will dominate the future market, “amid concerns over the capacity constraints of the former, and the climate credentials of the latter”. Bloomberg also covers the story. For more information on the issues surrounding both green and blue hydrogen projects, see Carbon Brief’s detailed explainer on hydrogen.

Meanwhile, a “big read” in the Financial Times examines what is happening to billions of dollars’ worth of assets being put up for sale by the world’s oil and gas majors as they make net-zero emissions commitments. “One company’s transition away from fossil fuels is another’s opportunity to double down,” the piece notes, adding that by one estimate the total value of unwanted fossil fuel assets up for sale stands at more than $140bn. One of the investors quoted in the article is Brian Gilvary, the head of Ineos Energy, who tells the newspaper: “We have an appetite to acquire.”

Airlines to be charged more for polluting in EU green push
Bloomberg Read Article

Airlines in the EU may eventually have to pay for all the emissions from their planes as part of new measures that will be set out on the 14 July, according to Bloomberg. The proposal by the European Commission will include a gradual phaseout of emission allowances for the industry, as well as stricter demands on transport companies to use cleaner fuel, the news website adds. An obligation to blend more sustainable aviation fuels into existing jet fuel sold at EU airports and a push for more synthetic low-carbon fuels will also be part of the measures being announced within the upcoming “Fit for 55 package”, it adds. These measure will be central to the commission’s attempt to align the European economy with its new goal to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels, as part of its wider “green deal”. Other components expected in the package are an expansion of the bloc’s carbon market, a new emissions-trading programme for buildings and road transport and new emissions standards for cars, Bloomberg adds.

Separately, Politico reports that the European Commission is set to present its sustainable-finance strategy, which includes a voluntary green-bond standard for corporations and sovereigns. However, the piece notes that the commission “won’t itself use the new label straightaway for climate-friendly bonds that finance the EU recovery fund – instead, it will try to incorporate its taxonomy of green investments into market standards”. The news website says this raises the question: “If the Commission isn’t using the benchmark, why should anyone else?”

Finally, Reuters reports that the French Senate has voted to block a referendum promised by president Emmanuel Macron to decide whether to enshrine action to tackle climate change in the French constitution. The Senate is dominated by the opposition conservatives who have “expressed concerns that a state guarantee might become an obstacle to innovation and French business”, the newswire notes.

Major steel mills in northern China resume operations with 70% capacity, but demand for iron ore to wane
Global Times Read Article

Furnaces in all major steel mills in Tangshan, China’s largest steel-producing city, have resumed operation with production capped at 70% of capacity, reports the Global Times, citing an industry report. The state-run newspaper states that the move “is seen as a relaxation from a more stringent production curb imposed earlier, which limited many steel mills to keeping their output at 50%”. The original report, published by My Steel, says the new standard kicked in on 2 July and will last until the end of the year. It adds that steel companies that have met their “super-low emissions targets” do not need to follow the 70% capacity rule. [Stringent restrictions were imposed on Tangshan – a city some 110 miles east of Beijing which produces 13.5% of China’s crude steel production – in March in a bid to reduce pollution.]

Meanwhile, the National Energy Administration (NEA), China’s energy regulator, has released its “2020 Monitoring and Evaluation Report” on the national development of renewable electricity generation, Beijixing Electricity Net writes. The NEA report says that, as of the end of 2020, the cumulative installed capacity of renewable electricity generation had reached 934m kilowatts nationwide, which accounted for 42.5% of all electricity-generating capacity, according to the energy news portal. It adds that the renewable capacity installed last year saw a 17.5% increase compared to 2019, citing the report. A Reuters article carried by Forbes also covers the official document. It notes that renewable power sources covered 28.8% of China’s electricity consumption in 2020, up 1.3 percentage points from 2019.

Separately, the NEA has ordered all regional authorities, coal industry administrators and party-owned enterprises to “orderly plan and approve a batch of coal mine projects with advanced capacity” to “accelerate the development of high-quality coal production projects”, reports International Energy Net. Finally, a new report by analysts Global Energy Monitor has said that China needs to transition its steel sector from “a carbon-intensive process to electric steelmaking” under President Xi’s 2060 “carbon neutrality” goal, reports South China Morning Post. “Reducing the carbon dioxide emissions of steel plants will be critical to achieving Beijing’s climate targets since the sector is so vast,” the publication writes, citing the report.

Climate change: Planting extra trees will boost rainfall across Europe
BBC News Read Article

Planting trees across Europe could increase rainfall, with a new study concluding that converting agricultural land to forest would boost summer rains by 7.6% on average, BBC News reports. The research suggests that tree-planting to help tackle emissions could partially offset the rise in dry conditions expected with climate change, the news website adds. While it notes that he study is “partly based on observations of existing patterns”, the underlying reasons for this phenomenon are less clear, but “probably related to the way the forests interact with cloudy air”. The Independent says that, according to the research, planting new forests would also cause some European regions to experience more winter rainfall, and the researchers note that this weather-changing effect must be considered before “blindly using reforestation as a tool to mitigate greenhouse gases”. Separately, a Thomson Reuters Foundation piece reports on new analysis by campaign group Transport and Environment, which concludes that EU biofuels targets are likely to have led to the deforestation of an area roughly the size of the Netherlands over the last decade to make room for soy, palm and other oil crops.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that Nordic countries registered near-record temperatures over the weekend, including highs of 34C in some locations. It adds that Kevo, in Lapland, recorded heat of 33.6C on Sunday, the hottest day since 1914.

Comment.

G20 must rise to the challenge of global crises
Editorial, Financial Times Read Article

With finance ministers and central bankers from the world’s 20 largest economies set to meet in Venice this week as part of Italy’s G20 presidency, an editorial in the Financial Times says they must “seize this crucial opportunity to make headway on the world’s biggest challenges”, including “rallying a global effort to contain climate change”. It notes that the recent G7 summit of the world’s largest high-income nations did not make serious headway on climate, or on two other key challenges: global economic recovery and mass Covid-19 vaccinations. The piece says that the “emerging world has its own role to play” in addressing these issues, and emphasises the importance of richer nations delivering on long-overdue climate finance to poorer ones. “The G20 was forged to co-ordinate the global response to the Asian and global financial crises. Today’s triple challenge is deeper than both. The forum – the closest we have to a world government – must prove its mettle again,” it concludes.

Another editorial in the Financial Times looks at Chile’s efforts to develop clean energy sources, comparing the nation to neighbours such as Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, where governments are pouring investment into fossil fuels. The piece notes that the region’s focus on oil and gas “sits naturally with leaders whose economies have long been tied to natural resource exports”, but says that Chile is a notable exception to this rule. “Chile has put together one of the world’s most ambitious plans for renewable energy, hoping to capitalise on the blessings of abundant strong winds in southern Patagonia and fierce sun in the northern Atacama Desert to generate green electricity at rock-bottom prices,” the editorial states. It notes that besides renewable power, the government is also hoping to make Chile a leading global exporter of green hydrogen. The piece adds that while such an ambition is plausible given current trends and the existence of the required technologies, there is still a question over whether a global export market for green hydrogen will emerge. “Despite these considerable obstacles, Chile’s government deserves praise for the determination and thoroughness with which it is pursuing alternative energy…Fossil fuel addicts elsewhere in the developing world should sit up and take note,” the piece concludes.

A separate piece in Climate Home News written by Brianna Craft, a senior researcher on climate change at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), reflects on the various challenges facing residents from developing nations trying to access the COP26 climate summit during a pandemic, including travel restrictions, lack of flights and difficulty accessing visas. She says the UK government should be working to address these issues to stay true to its goal of making the event “the most inclusive COP ever”.

Climate scientists warned us. When will we listen?
Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post Read Article

A piece by columnist Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post considers the recent heatwave that has struck much of the Pacific Northwest in the context of the warming planet. “Climate change is slow, gradual, almost imperceptible — until suddenly it’s not. One day, it seems like a normal summer. The next, the temperature soars to an unbearable 121 degrees (49C). In Canada,” he writes. Robinson says that the changes that are underway mean reappraising all kinds of assumptions about how infrastructure is built. “What seemed like normal environmental parameters may no longer apply,” he says. This means “being smart enough to use the spending that will be necessary to adapt to climate change as an engine of economic growth and transformation. It means seeing adaptation not just as an environmental program but as a jobs program as well,” he notes.

Separately, the Guardian has published a piece by climate campaigner Alice Bell under the headline, “Sixty years of climate change warnings: the signs that were missed (and ignored)”. The article is an extract from her new book about the history of climate change.

Science.

Increase in frequency of nuclear power outages due to changing climate
Nature Energy Read Article

The frequency of “climate-induced disruptions” to nuclear power plants around the world has “dramatically increased” over the past three decades, a new study suggests. The assessment indicates that the average frequency of climate-linked outages increased from “0.2 outage per reactor-year in the 1990s to 1.5 in the past decade”, the study says. Future projections under different climate change scenarios suggest that “the average annual energy loss of the global nuclear fleet is estimated to range between 0.8% and 1.4% in the mid-term (2046–2065) and 1.4% and 2.4% in the long term (2081–2100)”. An accompanying News & Views article warns that “climate disruptions are already here”.

Land-use changes and impacts
Nature Geoscience Read Article

Nature Geoscience has published a new collection of journal articles on the trends and impacts of land-use change. An accompanying editorial notes that “land-use-induced ecosystem reduction and degradation has profound impacts on the Earth system”, adding: “Proceeding with currently unsustainable land use may jeopardise climate and ecosystem restoration targets.” The collection includes research articles on how “conservation slows down emission increase from a tropical peatland in Indonesia”, how “fire enhances forest degradation within forest edge zones in Africa”, and an “empirical estimate of forestation-induced precipitation changes in Europe”. The last of these also has an accompanying News & Views article. Finally, the collection includes a comment article on managing “fire regimes, not fires”.

Global bioenergy with carbon capture and storage potential is largely constrained by sustainable irrigation
Nature Sustainability Read Article

New research highlights the “importance of irrigation constraints” in the global potential for Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Simulating bioenergy crop plantations and the water cycle, the researchers identify the “irrigable bioenergy cropland on the basis of the water resources reserve”. The findings show that “irrigation of such cropland enhanced BECCS potential by only 5–6% (<60–71% for unconstrained irrigation) above the rain-fed potential…by the end of this century”.

THE BRIEF

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THE BRIEF

Expert analysis directly to your inbox.

Get a Daily or Weekly round-up of all the important articles and papers selected by Carbon Brief by email. By entering your email address you agree for your data to be handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy.