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Briefing date 01.06.2023
New global renewables capacity additions to rise by a third this year – IEA

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Climate and energy news.

New global renewables capacity additions to rise by a third this year – IEA
Reuters Read Article

The world is to add some 440 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable capacity this year, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Reuters reports, adding that this would be one third more than the growth seen last year. Citing the IEA, the newswire says “stronger government policies and energy security concerns drive more clean energy deployment”, with China expected to account for 55% of growth in 2023 and 2024. It adds that a 107GW jump in annual additions is the “largest absolute increase ever, to more than 440GW in 2023”. Total global renewable energy capacity will reach 4,500GW this year, the newswire says. The Financial Times also has the story. Carbon Brief’s Simon Evans has a Twitter thread noting that the 440GW of additions now expected during 2023 is 24% higher than the figure forecast by the IEA in December.

Earth’s health failing in seven out of eight key measures, say scientists
The Guardian Read Article

There is widespread coverage of new research laying out what the Guardian calls “newly demarcated indicators of planetary safety and justice”. The paper says human activity “has pushed the world into the danger zone in seven out of eight” of the new measures. The Financial Times reports on the findings from researchers at the Earth Commission: “The Earth is already past safe limits for humans as temperature rise, water system disruption and destruction of natural habitats have reached boundaries, a study by a group of the world’s foremost scientists has found.” The Times reports: “In almost every category, the scientists said, we have passed the threshold after which people suffer significant harm.” The Press Association reports: “In quantifying the limits of the planet’s life-support systems, a team of more than 40 international scientists found humans have exceeded seven of the eight Earth System Boundaries (ESBs) they identified. They said social and economic systems based on unsustainable resource extraction and consumption are causing rapid changes that undermine these systems while pushing the Earth towards irreversible destabilisation.” The Associated Press, the Daily Mail and Bloomberg also have the story, as does Carbon Brief.

Exxon and Chevron shareholders cut support for climate resolutions
Financial Times Read Article

Shareholders in US oil giants Exxon and Chevron “solidly rejected” climate proposals at their annual meetings yesterday, the Financial Times reports. It says the votes “scal[ed] back support from last year and split with results at peers in Europe where resolutions related to global warming have won stronger support”. The paper adds: “Only 11% of Exxon shareholders supported a petition calling for the company to set emissions reduction targets that would be consistent with the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. A similar proposal at Chevron received less than 10% support.” Reuters also has the story. Separately, BusinessGreen reports: “German energy giant RWE has updated its climate goals to align with a 1.5C temperature pathway, as part of a decarbonisation programme it said covered ‘all corporate activities’.”

Meanwhile, the Financial Times “moral money” newsletter looks at the “coming crackdown on the ESG ratings industry”. Elsewhere, Bloomberg columnist David Fickling writes under the headline: “Red states can’t hold back the ESG investing tide.” He says: “​​Hard scientific evidence and political pressure have convinced businesses they need to mitigate the risk of inaction on climate change.”

Turkmenistan in talks with US to tackle giant methane leaks
Bloomberg Read Article

US officials are in talks with Turkmenistan to curb the country’s methane emissions, reports Bloomberg. The US could provide financial support and expertise to assist the country in plugging leaks in its ageing fossil fuel infrastructure, where about 7% of Turkmenistan’s gas is currently being wasted, the article continues. US State Department officials estimate that fixing the leaks could reduce at least 3% of the emissions needed to fulfil the 30% reduction pledge by the end of the decade, agreed at COP26 in 2021, Bloomberg continues. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the world is “dangerously lagging” on curbing its methane emissions, as a team of European research scientists reviewed more than 250 policies, finding that they cover just 13% of methane emissions. 

US: ‘Stop the dirty deal’ – activists decry Schumer and Manchin over pipeline plan
The Guardian Read Article

Ahead of the US Congress’s vote late yesterday on plans to raise the debt ceiling, climate activists intensified their protests over the inclusion of a provision to speed up the completion of the controversial Mountain Valley pipeline, reports the Guardian. They rallied outside the home of Democrat Chuck Schumer, who – along with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin – has received donations from NextEra Energy, one of the companies behind the $6.6bn gas pipeline, chanting “Schumer, stop the dirty deal,” the Guardian continues. Politico highlights the work being done by White House climate and energy adviser John Podesta and economist Heather Boushey to tackle criticism from within the Democrats of the deal, to ensure that it passes [it passed the House of Representatives last night and now heads to the Senate] and avoids becoming the first US default in history. Democrat senator Ed Markey confirmed yesterday that he will oppose the deal between President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy to raise the debt ceiling due to the provisions that will see the energy permitting process overhauled, reports the Hill. While much of the criticism of the deal has focused on the gas pipeline, this is not the most important climate concession exacted in negotiations, argues Heat Map. Changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), once widely understood as “a bedrock of federal environmental law”, could ease the federal permitting processing, making the development of transmission lines easier – with building long-distance power lines a key goal of the Democrats – but would also ease the process for further gas pipelines going forwards, explains Heat Map. 

UK: Health alert system aims to cut heatwave deaths
BBC News Read Article

A new alert system could be introduced in England this summer to warn people when high temperatures could impact their health, reports BBC News. Run by the UK Health Security Agency and the Met Office, the new health alert system would operate all year round, but with a core alerting season running from 1 June to 30 September, with the aim of reducing illness and deaths among the most vulnerable, according to BBC News. Climate change is likely to make heatwaves more frequent, it continues, pointing to UK temperatures rising above 40C for the first time last summer. Researchers at the London School of Economics have called on the government to stop cutting public budgets if England is to adapt to heatwaves, reports the Press Association. It adds that this would allow there to be more staff, better training for heatwave emergencies and additional education for the public, to support adaptation to hotter and more frequent heatwaves due to climate change. This comes after last July’s record temperatures “stretched services to their limits” and led to 2,803 excess deaths (excluding Covid) among the over-65s and 3,271 of all ages.

UK: Labour defends donations from Just Stop Oil backer Dale Vince
BBC News Read Article

The UK’s opposition Labour Party has, reports BBC News, “defended accepting donations from a backer of Just Stop Oil, saying it does not affect the party’s views on the campaign group”. The broadcaster says Dale Vince, founder of energy firm Ecotricity, had given “more than £1.4m to Labour since 2014”. The Sun says Labour leader Keir Starmer “held secret talks with Just Stop Oil donor days before revealing plan to bin new oil licences”. [Vince had talked openly about his phone conversation with Starmer, in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Starmer had already “revealed” his intention to ban new oil and gas licences back in January.] The Press Association says Vince has “vowed to double all money given to Just Stop Oil for the next 48 hours after senior Conservatives urged Sir Keir Starmer to return the funds the green energy entrepreneur gave to the party”.

Related comment includes an editorial in the Daily Mail, which says: “Just Stop Oil backer and multi-millionaire environmental activist Dale Vince says his £1.4m donations to Labour had no strings attached. However, he admits that he spoke to Sir Keir Starmer just days before Labour sources said that if elected, the party would ban new drilling in the North Sea. Coincidence? Or a tawdry example of Labour selling its soul to the highest bidder?” [As noted above, Starmer had announced his plans for North Sea licences months before the latest conversation with Vince.] Similarly, an editorial in the Sun says: “Starmer’s cash deal with donor Dale Vince looks murkier by the minute.”

In the Guardian, columnist Bill McGuire writes under the headline: “Labour’s oil and gas ban shows it’s ready to fight the next election on climate issues.” Taking a different tack, climate-sceptic columnist Allison Pearson writes for the Daily Telegraph on what she calls the “six major flaws of Starmer’s ridiculous plan to stop drilling in the North Sea”. Her final “flaw” is what she describes as “economic suicide”: “No biggie. Of course, the Conservatives could admit that there’s no way we’re going to hit the 2050 net-zero target, at the same time encouraging oil and gas companies to get drilling so fuel bills would be much cheaper. Don’t be ridiculous, Allison. That might prove popular with voters!” Also in the Daily Telegraph, in a comment trailed on the paper’s frontpage, Sunday Telegraph editor Allister Heath writes: “I’m not downplaying the large disruption and cost of climate change, but it won’t come anywhere close to terminating life on Earth, unlike a nuclear war, biowarfare or out-of-control AI. Our rush to net-zero, by reducing growth, is in fact limiting our ability to wage an AI war with a Chinese state that continues to belch out carbon dioxide.” For City AM, reporter Nicholas Earl sets out his stall in a comment titled: “Just Stop Oil offer nothing in the debate over our energy future.” He also has a news article for City AM, quoting two researchers at universities in the UK’s oil and gas capital Aberdeen, under the headline: “North Sea oil and gas projects essential to UK’s energy future, warn academics.”

​China leads the world in preparing for extreme weather threats to power supplies
Bloomberg Read Article

With “sweltering” temperatures in Shanghai and peak power demand from Guangdong to Hainan, extreme weather is set to test China’s electricity grid again, after heatwaves and drought last year impacted hydropower and caused power shortages, Bloomberg reports. However, the website says: “The good news is that China is better prepared than many other countries, according to a report from the Lantau Group.” It adds that learning from China’s fast response to such climate events will be “important to grid operators around the world as a warming planet makes once rare climate events more commonplace”. The website SGTN, quoting Shanghai Securities News, says high temperatures have resulted in electricity demand peaks occurring earlier than expected. It adds that there will be a tight balance between electricity supply and demand this summer.

Elsewhere, “top scientists” in China have emphasised the importance of forest carbon sinks in reducing CO2 levels and combating climate change, state newspaper China Daily writes. Meanwhile, Du Xiangwan, the former deputy head of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, shares his views on how China can achieve its “dual carbon” goals, China News Network reports. Du says that the task of China completing its low-carbon transformation is “the most difficult challenge”, the outlet says. At a separate symposium regarding China’s energy transformation, China Petroleum News also quotes Du saying: “At present and in the foreseeable future, fossil energy still remains vital. So it’s crucial to coordinate and complement fossil energy with non-fossil energy. This ensures a resilient energy system for immediate and long-term energy security.” Du stresses the “construction before destruction” approach, the outlet concludes. (See Carbon Brief’s previous coverage for an explanation of the “construction before destruction” approach, also described as “establish [new rules] before breaking [old ones]”.)

Climate and energy comment.

The Times view on electric vehicles: Electric dreams
Editorial, The Times Read Article

An editorial in the Times says the UK’s charging infrastructure for electric vehicles is “woefully underdeveloped”. It says: “At the end of 2021, there were 31 electric cars on the road across the UK for every public charger. By the end of last year, that ratio had increased to 36 to one…Which prospective car buyer, upon seeing these figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, would gamble on an electric vehicle?” [Some 80% of EV users charge at home and the deployment of public chargers in 2023 to date is the fastest on record, according to Ian Johnston, chair of charging industry group Charge UK.] The editorial goes on to argue that the government’s policy of banning new combustion engine cars from 2030 should be delayed to 2035, concluding: “Unachievable ambitions do more harm than good to a cause with which few disagree. Ministers should recognise that industry and a sceptical public need more time.” The Times reports separately on calls from thinktank the Resolution Foundation for EV users to be charged 6p per mile to drive on Britain’s roads, as a way of replacing the revenue lost from the duty charged on petrol and diesel fuel. The Daily Mail also has the story.

In other news from the UK, the Daily Telegraph reports: “Households are at risk of being exploited in the government’s net-zero heat pump drive, the competitions watchdog has warned.” It reports: “A lack of trustworthy information for households looking to install heat pumps or solar panels means they are vulnerable to being exploited or misled by businesses, it warned.” It adds: “The CMA [Competition and Markets Authority] also highlighted a greenwashing risk from boilers that are advertised as ‘hydrogen-ready’, which it said were misleading customers into thinking they were more environmentally friendly than other gas boilers.”

A rising backlash against green policies is energising Europe’s far right
Wolfgang Münchau, New Statesman Read Article

Writing for the New Statesman, Financial Times associate editor Wolfgang Münchau says that the “spectacular blooming, then rapid wilting, of Germany’s Greens is a warning for progressives everywhere”. Münchau continues: “In the past few weeks, the Green flower has started to wilt. Two consecutive events have triggered the backlash against the Greens. The first was an old-fashioned nepotism scandal in the Green-led economics ministry…The other, and more important, event has been a proposed law to force homeowners to switch their heating systems from oil and gas to heat pumps, starting next January. The costs to households are potentially devastating…The government is considering ways to compensate the losers. But this is not going to be easy when budgets are tight.” He concludes: “My assessment is that European politics is moving in the same direction as politics in the US. It will fragment into two groups. One will be dominated by green issues, though not necessarily by green parties. The other will define itself in radical opposition to the politics of climate change. My image of the Greens in Germany as a wilting flower is, therefore, not quite complete. When those long-dormant plants die, they often leave behind bulbs. Whatever the future of the Green party itself, its policies will remain – and split the centre down the middle.” Writing in the Daily Telegraph, assistant editor Jeremy Warner writes under the headline: “Boilergeddon could topple Germany’s heat pump-loving leaders.” [German chancellor Olaf Scholz has said he does not expect any fundamental changes to the plans, according to Clean Energy Wire.]

Running out of battery: how post-Brexit Britain is failing to set up a future-focused economy
Mariana Mazzucato, The Guardian Read Article

Mariana Mazzucato, professor in the economics of innovation and public value at University College London, writes for the Guardian that the UK “needs an ambitious industrial strategy more than ever”. Citing the UK government deal with Tata-owned Jaguar Land Rover to build a battery plant in the UK, she says “one-off deals…won’t keep pace with the big industrial strategies of the US and EU”. Mazzucato writes: “The US’s industrial strategy could lead to public and private investment reaching a total of about $3.5tn over the next decade. At the same time, the EU is financing its largest stimulus package ever, with a €2tn deal aimed at building a green and digital future. The UK has nothing of this kind.”

Separately, a New York Times feature is headlined: “As US races ahead, Europe frets about battery factory subsidies.”

New climate research.

Quantifying generational and geographical inequality of climate change
Scientific Reports Read Article

New research finds “outstanding geographical inequality” between the emissions of individuals living in the global north and global south. The authors compare the lifetime greenhouse gas emissions and global warming experienced by different cohorts of people born between 1960 and 2018, for different geographic regions and future socioeconomic scenarios (SSPs). They say “the method is designed to realistically display inequality, as it is experienced by people while motivating action and change needed to achieve emission reduction to reduce climate change and generational and geographical inequality simultaneously.”

Twenty-first century increases in total and extreme precipitation across the Northeastern USA
Climatic Change Read Article

“Extreme precipitation events” – defined as about 1.5 or more inches of heavy rainfall or melted snowfall in a day – will increase by 52% in the northeast US by the end of the century, according to a new study. The authors use a regional climate model to simulate precipitation for historical (1976–2005) and future (2070-99) periods. They project that winter and spring will contribute most to the projected% increase in extreme precipitation in the region by 2070­-99, with increases of 109% and 89%, respectively.

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