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: Just Stop Oil activists cause fuel shortage
- Full embargo on oil could stop war – ex-Putin aide
- UK: We’ll prove fracking is safe, says Ineos chief Jim Ratcliffe
- Three-quarters of Britons back expansion of wind power, poll reveals
- Germany: The federal government wants to support the energy industry with billions in loans
- China issues guidelines under 14th five-year plan to limit high-carbon product exports
- Britain was promised a bold and visionary energy plan. But we’ve been sold a dud
- This 900-mile crude oil pipeline is a bad deal for my country — and the world
- The Times view on the infrastructure to boost electric vehicles: No charge
- Projections of faster onset and slower decay of El Niño in the 21st century
- Future changes in mean and extreme precipitation over the Mediterranean and Sahara regions using bias-corrected CMIP6 models
Several UK petrol stations ran out of fuel this weekend as climate activists targeted oil terminals, the Times reports. According to the protest group Just Stop Oil, which is linked to Extinction Rebellion, fuel supplies from oil terminals were disrupted in Warwickshire, Hertfordshire and Essex, the Times reports. The article carries a reaction from the UK home secretary Priti Patel, who says: “Hard-working people across our country are seeing their lives brought to a standstill by selfish, fanatical and frankly dangerous so-called activists. Keir Starmer’s Labour Party repeatedly voted against our proposals that would have given the police extra powers to deal with this eco mob. The police have my full backing in doing everything necessary to address this public nuisance.” [Patel is referring to a new policing bill which critics say will stifle protests in the UK.] Patel’s comments are carried on the frontpage of the Daily Mail. The Guardian carries a quote from Howard Cox, a founder of FairFuelUK, who says he has been “bombarded with messages that garages up and down the country are short of petrol and diesel stock”. [FairFuelUK is a pro-diesel and petrol lobbying group that has attempted to cast doubt on the health impacts of air pollution.] The Guardian also carries a feature behind the scenes with the Just Stop Oil group and an interview with an 80-year-old oil campaigner who has five times stopped fossil fuel companies from expanding.
Elsewhere, the Guardian also reports on the return of Extinction Rebellion to the streets of central London. Several thousand demonstrators met in Hyde Park on Saturday, before moving to Oxford Circus and occupying the road, the Guardian says. Ahead of the protest, XR had promised to “grind the capital to a halt” over the coming week, “with new tactics developed in response to increasingly harsh policing that limited the group’s attempts to cause disruption in protests last August”, the Guardian says. On Sunday, the group blocked bridges across London, the Independent reports. Meanwhile, a second story in the Independent reports that a climate activist on hunger strike outside the Houses of Parliament has gained the backing of 75 scientists. The activist is calling for all cabinet ministers to receive the briefing that is said to have convinced Boris Johnson on climate change, which was first made public by Carbon Brief.
Away from the UK, the Guardian carries a feature on “Fireproof Australia”, an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion, while the Independent reports on a protest at a West Virginia coal plant in the US “where senator Joe Manchin makes $500,000 a year”.
Vladimir Putin’s former chief economic adviser has said a “real embargo” on Russian oil could end its war, BBC News reports. Dr Andrei Illarionov said Russia “did not take seriously” other countries’ threats to reduce their energy usage, according to BBC News. According to BBC News, Illarionov also said Western countries “would try to implement a real embargo on oil and gas exports from Russia…I would bet that probably within a month or two, Russian military operations in Ukraine, probably will be ceased, will be stopped”. He added: “It’s one of the very effective instruments still in the possession of the Western countries.” His words come as the Financial Times reports that oil and gas revenues are currently giving Russia a $3.4bn cushion. Meanwhile, the Guardian covers a report from campaigners which calls for a ban on flights in the European continent and car use in city centres in response to Russia’s war.
Elsewhere, Reuters reports that the leader of the Czech Republic has said the country should cuts its dependence on Russian fuel within five years. Reuters also reports that US president Joe Biden will virtually meet with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi today, “at a time when the US has made clear it does not want to see an uptick in Russian energy imports by India”.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the UK billionaire and founder of Ineos, has asked the government for permission to drill a shale test site after ministers last week requested a report on the current state of scientific knowledge around fracking, the Times reports. According to the newspaper, Ineos has written to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng offering to develop a “fully functioning” test site to “demonstrate that the technology can be safe”. The Daily Telegraph carries a comment piece from Ratcliffe, who blames an “ignorant minority”, including the fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, who the current moratorium on fracking. The Press Association also has the story.
Elsewhere, BBC News reports that a deadline of July has been set for the decision over whether a new coal mine will go ahead in Cumbria. [Scientists and activists have protested against the project for years, which was approved several times by local councillors before being called in for review by the government shortly before the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.] In addition, the Daily Telegraph reports that the Russian state-owned Gazprom is still benefiting from North Sea gas. The Sunday Telegraph carries an interview with Lord Bamford, a Conservative donor who chairs JCB, who says the government’s “fixation with electricity” is upending the rollout of hydrogen.
In wake of the UK’s energy security strategy, the Observer publishes an Opinium poll finding three-quarters of Britons back expansion of wind power. The newspaper reports: “Ministers backed nuclear power but shunned new onshore wind plants as the main means for protecting the UK against future energy crises. But the new poll indicates Tory voters’ backing for wind turbines almost matches that of Labour and Lib Dem supporters – suggesting the move against onshore wind, a result of backbench Conservative pressure, runs counter to the views of the party’s own voters.” [Official polling shows 80% of the public support onshore wind, compared with 37% for nuclear and 17% for fracking, as Carbon Brief notes in its explainer on the UK’s new energy security strategy.] Meanwhile, the Daily Express reports on polling finding a quarter of Conservative voters would reconsider their support for the party if it weakened its climate policies.
Elsewhere, the Daily Telegraph reports that UK citizens are “rushing to crowdfund onshore wind farms in a bid to cut energy bills”. And PA reports on comments from energy minister Greg Hands, who claimed the Scottish government should not be “ideological” about nuclear power.
Die Zeit reports that “German federal ministers Christian Lindner and Robert Habeck presented an aid package for companies affected by the Ukraine-war”. The Independent adds that “the package includes loans of as much as €100bn to cover the credit risks taken by Germany’s energy industry as the country scrambles to replace imports of Russian oil, gas and coal”. It comes as the Guardian carries a feature on how German companies are bracing themselves for a future without Russian gas.
Meanwhile, in an interview with the Sunday edition of Bild am Sonntag, Werner Baumann, vice president of the German Chemical Industry Association said that “an end to the gas supply [from Russia] would have a catastrophic consequences for [the chemical] industry in Germany and the people in our country”. He added that if gas imports from Russia are boycotted, Germany will be threatened by “a wave of unemployment, the likes of which we have not seen for many years”. The FT reports that that German energy company Eon has ruled out extending the life of its nuclear power plant in the country, despite biting energy restrictions.
Finally, Gründerszene, a German online magazine for the digital industry, reports that the former Tesla manager Philipp Schröder has raised €200m for his new climate startup 1Komma5. “We want to be the first energy company that really offers everything from a single source – from the solar system to the electricity tariff,” he explains.
China intends to draw up a catalogue of “high-carbon” production from the refining and chemical industry to “limit exports of some of these products”, the S&P Global Commodity Insights reports, citing new guidelines jointly published by six national-level government agencies last Thursday. The industry outlet says that the guidelines are “likely to be” Beijing’s “first” five-year plan (FYP) “targeting to limit high-carbon products from the industry amid China’s carbon neutrality journey”. This move comes amid “expectations that foreign countries may levy tariffs like the EU’s Cross Border Adjustment Mechanism, or CBAM, on such products in the future”, according to the report.
A host of other state-run outlets – including the Global Times and China Electricity Power News – also cover the same guidelines. The Global Times says that the plan “demonstrates the country is on the way of realising its green promise regardless of external uncertainties”. The newspaper says that the country will also “strictly control” new capacity in its oil refining industry and will “accelerate the elimination of inefficient and outdated production”. China Electricity Power News reports that China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) – a state-owned energy corporation – had sent an accumulative 300 terawatt hours (TWh) of wind, solar and other “clean” power generation to the grid as of 5 April, since 26 December 2007.
Meanwhile, SupChina writes that the approval of a new “mega-mine” in Ordos – described as “China’s mining hub” by the outlet – shows that Beijing is still “committed to mining coal”. The New York-based website assesses the implications of China’s recent efforts to “double down on coal”. Additionally, Bloomberg reports that China’s oil demand outlook “darkens as the virus crisis persists”. The piece writes that the recent Covid-19 quarantine measures in Shanghai have “knocked out 1.2m to 1.3m barrels a day of Chinese transport fuel demand, with jet fuel accounting for around half of that”, citing the energy consultancy Facts Global Energy (FGE).
Elsewhere, China Daily, a state-run newspaper has an opinion piece on China’s recent policy document on the “further greening” of the Belt and Road Initiative. The piece is written by Dimitri de Boer, chief representative for China of ClientEarth, and Christoph Nedopil Wang, an associate professor at Fudan University in Shanghai.
UK publications continue to carry opinion articles based on the UK’s new energy security strategy. In the Guardian, UCL energy-policy expert Prof Jim Watson says the strategy “fails” to meet its objective of ensuring energy security. He writes: “The new strategy does very little to deal with the immediate impacts of high fossil fuel prices. While the government has announced some help for households via loans and a council tax reduction, this is simply not enough.” In the FT, Prof Michael Grubb, also from UCL, describes the energy strategy as “both cowardly and incoherent”. In the i newspaper, columnist Ian Dunt criticises the UK’s decision to row back on onshore wind commitments in the strategy. In the Daily Telegraph, associate editor Ben Wright says “double glazing” would have been “a better bet than nuclear” to ensure the UK’s energy security. Meanwhile, the Sunday Times carries a feature on the “warnings from history” on nuclear power”. Separately, the Sunday Times also examines the reason why Johnson appeared to U-turn on onshore power in the published strategy, blaming the prime minister’s desire to keep MPs “happy” ahead of voters.
Writing in the New York Times, Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate says the recent IPCC report on how to tackle climate change adds to the case against a $10bn oil pipeline project from the French company TotalEnergies, which will run for 900 miles from Uganda to Tanzania. Referencing the publishing of the IPCC report, she says: “In moments like this, the media rarely focuses on African countries like mine, Uganda. When it does, it covers the impacts — the devastation we are already experiencing and the catastrophes that loom. They are right to: Mozambique has been battered in recent years by cyclones intensified by climate change. Drought in Kenya linked to climate change has left millions hungry. In Uganda, we are now more frequently hit by extreme flash floods that destroy lives and livelihoods. But this latest report from the IPCC, on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent more of these impacts, has implications for Africa’s energy systems, too. Africa isn’t only a victim of the climate crisis, but also a place where infrastructure decisions made in the coming years will shape how it unfolds.”
Meanwhile, in Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, journalist Joachim Müller-Jung also refers to the latest IPCC report, saying that “Putin’s war reinforces the impression that the world urgently needs replacements for oil, gas and coal from other parts of the world’‘, adding that “the many possible and effective instruments for radical climate protection are meticulously listed in the IPCC report: the massive drop in prices and the increase in renewable energy sources are more than just a ray of hope”.
Finally, the Guardian carries a comment piece by veteran climate campaigner and author Bill McKibben under the headline: “Putin’s war shows autocracies and fossil fuels go hand in hand. Here’s how to tackle both.”
An editorial in The Times argues that the “charging facilities for plug-in and hybrid vehicles requires radical improvement”. It continues: “A worrying survey by Auto Trader reveals that, with registrations having increased year-on-year in 2021, searches for electric alternatives on its site dropped off slightly in the first quarter of 2022. Despite the soaring cost of conventional fuel, the disincentives to making the switch are still too great for mass adoption.”
Meanwhile, an editorial in the Sunday Telegraph calls for the UK to back fracking and North Sea oil and gas, and to not “capitulate to the demands of extreme climate activists”. The paper also carries a comment piece from climate-sceptic US journalist Janet Daley which claims “climate anxiety is driving the West into dangerous mass hysteria”. In the Times, columnist Libby Purves says that “disruptive eco-protestors harm their cause”.
The global impacts of El Niño will become “more significant and persistent” over the coming century, new research suggests. The authors investigate changes in the spatio-temporal evolution of El Niño events over the 21st century using a collection of global climate models. They project that El Niño will grow faster, persist longer over the eastern Pacific and drive stronger remote impacts via “teleconnections”. These changes are due to “significant changes in the tropical Pacific mean state, dominant ENSO feedback processes, and an increase in stochastic westerly wind burst forcing in the western equatorial Pacific”, the study finds.
The Mediterranean and Sahara regions will see a reduction in average rainfall by the end of the 21st century, according to a new study. The authors explore changes in average and extreme rainfall in the regions over 2015-2100 using models from the sixth coupled model intercomparison project, under two different shared socioeconomic pathways. The study finds that Morocco, Algeria and the Mediterranean area will see the greatest drying. “The projected pattern agrees with the ‘wet gets wetter, dry gets drier’ paradigm,” the authors add. They also note that the reduction in rainfall “is likely to exacerbate the region’s droughts and aridity situation and worsen the water scarcity status”.