Social Channels


Daily Briefing |


Briefing date 17.05.2024
Joe Biden to raise solar import tariffs in bid to protect US industry

Expert analysis direct to your inbox.

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.

Sign up here.

Climate and energy news.

Joe Biden to raise solar import tariffs in bid to protect US industry
Financial Times Read Article

The Financial Times reports that, following Tuesday’s tariff announcements, US president Joe Biden is “set to impose tariffs on double-sided solar panel imports”, which will “immediately end an exemption from Trump-era tariffs”. This is part of a wider plan to “protect US clean energy manufacturers and boost jobs ahead of November’s election”, according to the newspaper. The newspaper notes that US imports of cheap solar panels, which it says are “largely” coming from south-east Asia, have recently reached record highs. The Hill notes that since the exception was implemented, nearly all solar panel imports have been double-sided. The exclusion of these panels was first created under former president Donald Trump, but then extended under Biden, according to Bloomberg. The news website notes that it was originally framed as a “safety valve” to ensure that large solar power projects could always procure enough panels. However, some companies have been petitioning the US government, arguing that cheap foreign imports and tariffs exemptions were “undermining incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act meant to support domestic manufacturing and erode China’s green technology dominance”, the article continues. “It’s not clear whether the new policies will be sufficient to drive domestic manufacturing,” it adds.

State news agency Xinhua quotes Chinese commerce ministry spokesperson He Yadong saying the global popularity of Chinese “green” products is “the result of long-term efforts by Chinese companies rather than government subsidies”. The print edition of the Communist party-affiliated newspaper People’s Daily publishes a commentary under the nom-de-plume Zhong Sheng, which signals support from top party leaders, arguing that overcapacity arguments are a “fallacy”. State-run newspaper China Daily reports that the US tariffs are “unlikely to have a severe impact on the industries concerned in China”, arguing that the move is motivated by politics. The Financial Times carries an opinion article by its European economics commentator Martin Sandbu arguing that it “would not be a good look” for the EU if it were to “copy US protectionism”, adding that Europe should “mak[e] use of Chinese imports to keep [the energy transition] affordable and intensify competitive pressure on domestic producers”. China Daily also reports that the US’s solar tariffs were opposed by some US contractors “who seek low-priced imported panels”.

Meanwhile, economic newspaper Caixin reports that the EU’s recent investigations into Chinese wind turbine suppliers have “deepened uncertainty around these companies’ overseas expansion”, which it says has become increasingly important amid slowing domestic demand. China Daily says that “an increasing number of overseas-funded enterprises”, particularly from Germany, are continuing to invest in the new energy vehicle (NEV) sector in China. In an interview with the Communist party-affiliated newspaper Guangming Daily, Hildegard Müller, president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry, says that “the claim of China’s overcapacity in new energy production lacks reliable evidence”. China Daily carries an editorial in its print edition arguing that the EU’s probes, which have caused the withdrawal of two Chinese companies from a Romanian solar park bid, were “a means to squeeze [fair competition] out of the market”, adding that the approach will be “detrimental” to China-EU ties.

Bloomberg reports that, as presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin meet in Beijing, Sino-Russian trade is being “driven by Russian oil and gas sales [to China] and [Russian] purchases of electronics, industrial equipment and cars [from China]”. China Daily publishes a commentary by Xu Wenhong, deputy secretary-general of the Center for Belt and Road, arguing that Putin’s visit to China “signals a new start for Sino-Russian relations”.

US proposes ending new federal leases in nation’s biggest coal region
The Associated Press Read Article

The Biden administration has proposed an end to new coal leasing from federal land in  the Powder River Basin area of Wyoming and Montana – the most productive coal mining region in the US, according to the Associated Press. The move is a response to a court order from 2022 that found plans drafted for the region under former president Donald Trump had “failed to adequately take into account climate change and public health problems caused by burning coal”, the article states. However, the Biden administration’s plans would still  preserve existing leases, which are expected by federal officials to continue through to 2041 in Wyoming and through to 2060 in Montana, according to the news outlet. Nevertheless, E&E News says “the election-year moves illustrate the stark contrast between the Biden administration’s climate-driven priorities compared with…Trump’s embrace of fossil fuel production on federal lands”. The Washington Post describes the proposal – for a region that produces nearly half of the coal used in the US – as the “biggest step yet to end coal mining” in the country. The newspaper says the move “angered Republican lawmakers” in the affected states, some of whom said president Joe Biden was waging a “war” on coal – “even as the nation moves away from the fossil fuel because of market forces”.

Reuters reports that “despite widespread efforts to transition energy systems away from fossil fuels”, coal retained more than 15% of the US power mix in the first four months of 2024. However, it adds that a 1.8% drop in coal-fired power from the year before “extends coal’s steady decline” in the US electricity system.

Alleged ‘deal’ offer from Trump to big oil could save industry $110bn, study finds
The Guardian Read Article

A “deal” allegedly offered to oil executives by former US president Donald Trump, as he sought $1bn in donations for his presidential campaign, could save the industry around $110bn in tax breaks, according to analysis carried out by the NGO Friends of the Earth Action and shared with the Guardian. The current Democrat president Joe Biden wants to get rid of tax breaks for the sector, which include incentives to help drill for oil and gas, the newspaper reports. It notes that a recent White House budget proposal targeted $35bn in domestic fossil-fuel subsidies and $75bn in overseas fossil-fuel income. The possibility that the Republican candidate Trump will avoid eliminating these tax breaks appears to be the “biggest motivation for oil and gas companies” to back him, the article explains. The Independent reports that Democrats in the US House of Representatives are investigating Trump over the allegation that he proposed a “quid pro quo” with representatives of the fossil fuel industry. It adds that Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee have sent letters to nine oil executives asking them about their meeting with Trump at his house in Florida. At a climate conference hosted by Pope Francis at the Vatican, Democratic California governor Gavin Newsom told attendees that Trump was engaging in “open corruption” by offering “a billion dollars to pollute our states, to pollute our country, and to pollute this planet and to roll back progress in the open”, the New York Times reports.

Meanwhile, Reuters covers analysis by the consultancy Wood Mackenzie that concludes an election victory for Trump – who has said he would reverse many of the Biden administration’s flagship climate policies – would “jeopardise a projected $1tn in low-carbon energy investments”. Moreover, the consultancy projects that, in 2050, net US energy-related CO2 emissions would be 1bn tonnes higher compared to where they would end up under current policies. (Carbon Brief has also conducted analysis examining the impact of Biden and Trump presidencies on future US emissions.)

In a separate story, sources “familiar with the matter” tell Reuters that Trump will likely push to replace Fatih Birol, the influential head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), if he wins the presidential election. The goal would be to “shift the energy watchdog’s focus back to maximising fossil fuel output instead of fighting climate change”, according to the newswire.

New Dutch coalition aims for more offshore gas extraction, nuclear energy
Reuters Read Article

The incoming coalition government in the Netherlands that includes the far-right party of Geert Wilders has announced a series of policies for dealing with climate change and energy supplies, Reuters reports. Among the proposals are plans to increase drilling for domestic gas in the North Sea and build at least four nuclear power plants, including two completely new ones, according to the newswire. It notes that these are framed as policies to increase the nation’s energy security and adds that the coalition also plans to expand offshore wind power, but onshore wind will be “de-emphasised”. The article adds that the new government said it would stick to international climate goals that the Netherlands has already agreed “as much as possible, but would not add any national restrictions on top of them”. According to Reuters, this means “scrapping plans for an additional national carbon dioxide (CO2) tax”. According to NL Times, the coalition agreement – titled “hope, courage and pride” –  said “if we do not achieve the [climate] goals, we make alternative policies”. It adds that, under the new plans, targets for the introduction of heat pumps will be abandoned and subsidies for electric cars will be scrapped from next year. There are also plans to increase speed limits back to 130km per hour (80mph) “where possible”, alongside initiatives to improve public transport connections. The Dutch climate fund, which was set up to finance climate measures, will remain in place but will be cut by €1.2bn (£1bn), according to DutchNews. Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant reports that the new leadership said it wanted to change the emphasis of the climate fund, with more money from it going to help households pay for the energy transition. 

The Guardian explains that the new coalition government includes the far right, anti-immigration climate sceptic Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom – although Wilders himself did not gain enough cross-party support to become prime minister. The coalition also includes a group called the Farmer-Citizen Movement, which will represent farmers in government, it adds. Among the new proposals were measures to roll back the Netherlands’ relatively ambitious climate proposals for its agriculture sector, according to the newspaper. It reports the coalition saying it will scrap plans to enforce compulsory animal farm closures and re-introduce subsidised “red diesel” for farmers from 2027.

Chevron to sell remaining UK North Sea oil and gas assets
The Times Read Article

US oil major Chevron is planning to sell its remaining UK North Sea oil and gas assets, marking its exit from the region after more than 55 years, according to the Times. The newspaper says the Conservative government under Rishi Sunak has committed to “maxing out” North Sea reserves, in the hope of making the country more energy independent. However, it says the decision by Chevron “will be the latest step in a retreat of big oil and gas companies from the emptying basin”. The Daily Telegraph reports that the decision came after UK chancellor Jeremy Hunt “rejected calls for respite” from the UK’s windfall levy, which has increased the tax on oil profits to 75%. The newspaper says industry leaders “told Hunt that there was ‘one last chance’ to halt a ‘catastrophic’ decline in investment in UK waters that risks reducing oil and gas output by at least 50% by 2030”.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that the Unite union’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, has urged the opposition UK Labour party not to introduce its proposed ban on new North Sea licences without a clear plan to safeguard jobs in the sector. Otherwise, she said oil and gas workers risk becoming “the coal miners of our generation”, according to the newspaper.

Elsewhere, the Financial Times reports that wildfires are burning forests in the Canadian province of Alberta, where oil sands deposits are mined. It says the blazes near the city of Fort McMurray have been “putting petroleum production at risk”. Reuters covers a report from Rystad Energy that finds more than half of the oil sands production from Canada could be impacted if the wildfires worsen.

German government must amend climate plan, court rules
Deutsche Welle Read Article

A major German state-supported environmental group, Environmental Action Germany (DUH), has won a suit in the higher administrative court of Berlin-Brandenburg against the German government, with a verdict to improve the country’s climate protection plan, reports Deutsche Welle. The lawsuit emphasises that current federal measures to reduce CO2 emissions in various sectors by 2030 are deemed “insufficient” and will fall short of the government’s legally binding targets for the coming years, notes DW. Therefore, in its current form, the Climate Protection Act adopted last October “does not fully meet the legal requirements”, says Der Spiegel. However, it explains that the federal government can appeal the decision, thus postponing the effect of the court’s ruling, leaving the final decision to the federal administrative court. A key demand of the DUH organisation is a speed limit of 100km per hour (kmph) on highways, 80kmph on other roads outside of urban areas, and 30kmph within urban areas, according to the newspaper. In a comment for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), reporter Julia Löhr says the costs of reaching climate neutrality are “getting out of control”. 

Meanwhile, Die Zeit reports that German energy company EnBW has begun construction of “XXL wind farm”, which it says is the largest in the North Sea and is expected to provide electricity for at least 1.1m households by the end of 2025. The installed capacity of 64 wind turbines is reported to be 960 megawatts (MW), says the outlet. Elsewhere, FAZ reports that another German energy company, Siemens Gamesa, lost €4.6bn in the wind business. 

Climate and energy comment.

Tariffs against China hamstring the transition to a clean energy future
Editorial, Washington Post Read Article

Various outlets address US president Joe Biden’s decision to impose a series of tariffs on low-carbon technologies, such as solar power components and electric cars. The Washington Post says the president has cited the need to protect US jobs from “Chinese domination of clean energy manufacturing”, adding that Biden “intended to send a message” by announcing these tariffs. However, the newspaper is not confident that Biden has made the right move. It says: “The inescapable fact is that – to the extent it has a material effect – Biden’s tariff wall makes the transition to a carbon-free future more costly and difficult. The tariffs pad the bottom lines of incumbent manufacturers such as Tesla but provide no guarantee the profits will be used for investments in cutting-edge green technology.” While the newspaper accuses China of “predatory trade tactics”, it accepts that “for the climate, Chinese industrial policy has done undeniable good” by massively subsidising renewable power manufacturing and, in doing so, slashing costs by up to 90%.

Martin Sandbu, the Financial Times European economics commentator, describes the US tariffs as “rank electioneering”, adding that: “There are a lot of reasons to think green tech protectionism will hurt the industrial transformation the Biden administration wants to engineer.” He points to past cases where EU restrictions on solar power imports from China failed to stop the decline of domestic industries, while also reducing the uptake of solar power. On a similar note, Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell asks: “Why are both Biden and the GOP sabotaging clean-energy technologies?” She argues that while Republicans lawmakers have been continuing a long tradition of ignoring the threat of climate change, with Biden’s decision to impose new tariffs on China “the Democratic standard-bearer has also traded off climate goals for political expedience”. In their New York Times Climate Forward newsletter, Jim Tankersley and David Gelles outline the key political motivations for the Biden administration to support this policy, including to assure the support of US labour groups. Ben Marlow, associate editor at the Daily Telegraph, says Biden’s tariffs are “hypocritical” in that they are “coming from someone who once accused Trump of harming American farmers and manufacturers with his trade war against China”.

Meanwhile, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s hatred of wind turbines. Krugman explains that this stems from Trump’s failure to block a windfarm being built near his golf course in Scotland and warns of the “pettiness of powerful people”.

The Times view on Labour’s programme: Promises, promises
Editorial, The Times Read Article

There is widespread coverage in UK newspaper editorial pages of Labour leader Keir Starmer’s six “first steps” – commitments that will set the tone of his potential future government. Among them was the – already announced – promise to launch Great British Energy, a public clean energy company, as noted by a Times editorial. The newspaper asks whether Labour intends to stick with another pledge to reach 100% low-carbon electricity by 2030, adding “its days must be numbered”. The editorial adds that “experience suggests that forecasting accurately what a Starmer government will do is a futile exercise”, given that the pledges made by Starmer when he ran for the leadership included now-abandoned commitments to nationalising “rail, mail, energy and water”. A Daily Telegraph editorial repeats this criticism, noting that “one of the few consistent things about [Starmer] is his inconsistency” and adding that “he has backtracked on his £28bn ‘green prosperity plan’”. A Daily Mail editorial says Starmer’s plans for a “greener country” and other issues are “blandly vague on detail”.

A Sun editorial offers more broad criticism, stating that “Great British Energy, and Ed Miliband’s 2030 ‘net-zero power’ fantasy, would never survive contact with reality”. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Fraser Nelson, the editor of the Spectator, shares similar sentiments, stating that the plan for a net-zero power sector by 2030 is “unlikely to be ever attempted because it would quickly dissolve on contact with reality”. Climate-sceptic Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn is also highly critical of Starmer and suggests that the Labour leader should focus on fracking if he wants to ensure energy security for the UK. A Guardian editorial is more positive, describing Labour’s plans for the energy sector as “more substantial” than some of its other ideas, but adding that it has an “uncertain timetable”.

Meanwhile, climate-sceptic columnist Ross Clark, who says he is “not generally given to conspiracy theories”, speculates that Chinese president Xi Jinping may have had a hand in the UK’s commitment to reaching net-zero by 2050, in the lead comment slot for today’s Daily Mail. “It is hard to conceive of a mechanism better designed to promote Chinese interests at the expense of our own,” he writes, referencing the import of cheap electric vehicles from China. Clark also has a prominent full-page comment in the Daily Express about Xi’s meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, which he also uses as an opportunity to attack net-zero targets in Europe. “Remember all those ‘green jobs’ our leaders promised would follow carbon pledges? They are being created alright…but in China,” he writes.

New climate research.

The choice of land-based climate change mitigation measures influences future global biodiversity loss
Communications Earth & Environment Read Article

A new study finds that land-based climate change mitigation strategies, such as tree-planting, will benefit global biodiversity overall – although it will have negative impacts in certain regions. Using an integrated assessment model, researchers assess the impacts of large-scale bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and afforestation on both climate change and biodiversity, based on more than 8,400 species. They find that while biodiversity declines under every scenario studied, it declines less under the mitigation scenarios than under a baseline, climate-change-only one. They conclude: “The results imply the need to consider the unequal regional distribution of benefits from climate mitigation.”

Carbon stocks and fluxes from a boreal conifer swamp: Filling a knowledge gap for understanding the boreal C cycle
Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences Read Article

Swamps in the northern Canadian boreal regions – long overlooked compared to other types of wetlands – store large volumes of organic carbon in their soils, new research shows. Researchers use field data from a boreal swamp in Alberta to measure the amount of carbon stored in the ecosystem and the greenhouse gas emissions from the swamp. They find that the wetlands store 134 kilograms of carbon per metre squared, with 95% of that being held in the soils. The ground layer of the swamp serves as a greenhouse gas source during the growing season, but the scientists write that they “are not able to say whether the site is an overall source of C to the atmosphere”.

Expert analysis direct to your inbox.

Get a round-up of all the important articles and papers selected by Carbon Brief by email. Find out more about our newsletters here.