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Daily Briefing

14.08.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Market awaits record low prices as UK starts offshore wind showdown
Market awaits record low prices as UK starts offshore wind showdown

News.

Market awaits record low prices as UK starts offshore wind showdown

As much as 6 gigawatts (GW) of new offshore wind capacity is “up for grabs” in the UK, as the latest round of the nation’s contracts for difference (CfD) scheme opens up, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. It notes that while the auction is also open to other forms of renewable energy, the government’s low price ceiling for offshore wind means it is expected to be the “overriding victor”. However, Business Green reports that a “mystery complaint” may delay this”crucial wave” of contracts for new wind capacity. The website says the auction had come to a halt on Friday after it emerged an unnamed complainant had lodged an application for a judicial review. There are hopes the delay with be short, perhaps only a few weeks, according to BusinessGreen, which notes that none of its sources knew any details about the basis for the complaint.

Separately, over 150 MPs, including 35 Conservatives, have written to Boris Johnson calling for an end to the effective block on onshore wind farms in Britain, according to the Times. The letter to the prime minister, which includes six signatories who initially called for restrictions under David Cameron, calls for “onshore wind [to be] allowed to lower power prices through the resumption of competitive electricity market auctions for low-carbon energy for the cheapest technologies”. The Times also reports on initial findings from the consultancy Aurora Energy Research, which it says points to the need for more batteries to prevent future blackouts like the one that struck on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Independent picks up on a story from Carbon Brief about a new paper, revealing that solar power in Chinese cities is now cheaper than grid electricity. MailOnline also has that story.

S&P Global Market Intelligence Read Article
States sue Trump administration over rollback of Obama-era climate rule

The New York Times reports that 29 states and cities have launched a bid to block the Trump administration from easing restrictions on coal-burning power plants. It describes the lawsuit as “the latest salvo in a long-running battle over the future of coal and how to regulate the nation’s heavily polluting power plants”, as well as a significant test of the current administration’s efforts to weaken measures to tackle global warming put in place by president Barack Obama. The Washington Post says the case is based around the claim that the proposed replacement regulation does not “meaningfully” reduce CO2 emissions, meaning the US Environmental Protection Agency is not fulfilling its duties under the country’s Clean Air Act. According to the Wall Street Journal, New York is taking the lead in what could be a “landmark” case. Associated Pressreports comments made by California governor Gavin Newsom at a news conference that: “[the administration is] rolling things back to an age that no longer exists, trying to prop up the coal industry”. ReutersCNN and HuffPostalso have the story. One of the key states in the case, California, saw its emissions fall 1% in 2017, meaning it is “well past” its 2020 goal of reducing greenhouse gas levels to 1990 levels, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Politico has a video of the president speaking about energy at an event in Pennsylvania, where it says he made disparaging comments about “big windmills” and proposed Democrat climate policies. Meanwhile, a research paper covered by Axios shows improved health outcomes for people in the US “rust belt” following a phaseout of coal.

The New York Times Read Article
Australia seeks to water down climate declaration at Pacific summit

There is continued coverage of the Pacific Islands Forum meeting, where nations are discussing climate change and Australia’s performance on the matter has been in the spotlight. Climate Home News reports on an annotated joint forum statement on climate action, which it says shows the Australian government trying to “quash references to 1.5C, carbon neutrality and coal development”. Key edits included deleted references to the 1.5C goal being an “irrefutable red-line”, replacing it with limiting temperature rise “in line with the Paris Agreement”, Climate Home News says. The Guardian reports on comments from analysts that historical CO2 reductions are being used by Australia to back out of promised cuts to emissions in future, describing this Paris Agreement “loophole” as eight times larger than the entire emissions of the Pacific region. The Australian reports on comments from Jacinda Ardern that “Australia has to answer to the Pacific” on climate change, but the Guardian notes the New Zealand prime minister did not specifically call for Australia to transition away from coal.

Elsewhere, DeSmog UK has a piece by Prof John Quiggin from the University of Queensland, warning about difficulties when attempting to insure new coal initiatives, such as Australia’s controversial Adani project.

Climate Home News Read Article
China government thinktank presses for 2025 CO2 cap

An influential Chinese government-run thinktank is calling for the country to set absolute caps on emissions during its next five-year plan for 2021-2025, reports Reuters. The thinktank – part of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment – warned China could breach its climate pledge under the Paris Agreement to peak emissions by “around 2030”, if an emissions cap is not included in the plan, Reuters says. The newswire adds: “[I]t remains unclear whether China will heed its recommendations, especially with the economy under pressure.”

Reuters Read Article

Comment.

The Times view on no-deal’s effect on Britain’s environmental standards: Green Brexit

With the prospect of a no-deal Brexit looming, an editorial in the Times considers the “important role” that the EU currently has in maintaining environmental standards. It notes that the EU has been instrumental in helping the UK shift from being the “dirty man of Europe” in the 1970s into a “global environmental leader” today, through hundreds of directives and pieces of legislation. “Many of the challenges that these rules were designed to tackle, such as greenhouse gas emissions or wildlife protection, are transnational and so require transnational solutions. In other cases, EU action was essential because governments that acted unilaterally risked putting businesses at a competitive disadvantage,” the editorial notes. “In all cases EU action has been effective because the European Commission has proved a powerful regulator and the European Court of Justice has ensured that rules are consistently enforced across all member states.” It notes that while former environment secretary Michael Gove pledged to transpose EU environmental rules into UK law, a no-deal Brexit could compromise this plan. It also questions whether the new prime minister is committed to maintaining standards or will use Brexit to weaken them. “Mr Johnson should make clear that he will not use a no-deal Brexit to water down any environmental rules,” it concludes. The Sun, meanwhile, uses an editorial to criticise the new transport minister George Freeman for saying he will meet members of the Extinction Rebellion protest group at the Big Tent Ideas Fest, dubbed the “Tory Glastonbury”. “No sensible tent, no matter how big, has space for these extremists,” the editorial states.

Editorial, The Times Read Article
Extreme climate change has reached the United States: Here are America’s fastest-warming places

A new interactive features in the Washington Post looks at places where “extreme climate change” has already taken place, and specifically parts of the US that have already reached 2C of warming. The Post also has a piece with five takeaway messages from its analysis.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports on a heatwave sweeping across Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee. The Daily Mail refers to a “ring of fire” threatening 40 million people in the US south, which is expected to continue into Sunday. Reuters reports that electricity demand in Texas was expected to hit a record high as residents turned up their air conditioners to escape the heat.

Steven Mufson , Chris Mooney , Juliet Eilperin and John Muyskens, The Washington Post Read Article
Green Republicans should support a carbon tax

An editorial in Bloomberg says that “rather unexpectedly”, US Republicans have become “a minor font of ideas” when it comes to the question of tackling climate change. It lists suggestions focusing on American innovation including clean-energy tax credits, a boost to carbon-capture technology, a push for nuclear power and a new “Roosevelt Conservation Caucus” dedicated to green issues.  “Republicans are to be commended for finally grappling with this problem. Unfortunately, most of the ideas they’ve aired so far are unlikely to achieve their stated goals,” the editorial states. In order to achieve their stated goals, it says these Republicans would do better to focus on the “best approach of all”, namely a carbon tax. By raising costs on companies that emit CO2, they would be incentivised to look for inventive ways to cut emissions while driving support for green technologies. “Republicans should be welcomed to this battle of ideas. Their instinct to focus on technology and market-driven incentives is well placed. All the more reason for them to back a reform that could truly unleash American inventiveness,” it concludes.

Editorial, Bloomberg Read Article

Science.

The macroeconomic impacts of future river flooding in Europe

The “indirect costs” of river flooding in Europe could rise by up to 350% under any degree of future global warming, a study says. Indirect losses are the economic costs to society from flooding beyond those suffered in directly-affected areas. In Europe, indirect losses from flooding rise by 65% more compared to direct asset damages, the study finds. This is “due to the increasing size of future flood events, making it more difficult to offset losses through alternative suppliers and markets”, the authors.

Environmental Research Letters Read Article

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