Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- New oilfield in the North Sea would blow the UK’s carbon budget
- UAE climate event organisers warn speakers not to ‘criticise corporations’
- German compromise on gas and oil heating includes key exemptions
- China achieves food security with small carbon footprint
- British cows could be given ‘methane blockers’ to cut climate emissions
- The Guardian view on carbon offsetting: an overhaul is overdue
- Energy security is trumping climate concerns
- Elevation-dependent intensification of fire danger in the western US
A frontpage story in the Observer says that a new oil and gas project called Rosebank, if it passes the final stages of approval, would blow through the UK’s remaining “carbon budget” for oil and gas production. The project has already obtained a licence and reportedly passed a “key regulatory hurdle” on “green day” last Thursday, suggesting it may soon be awarded final approval, says the Observer. Rosebank would be one of the largest oil and gas projects approved in recent years, with the potential to produce up to 500m barrels of oil equivalent, the paper says. Analysis by the campaign group Uplift says that the “likely emissions just from producing oil from the field would be enough to exceed the share of the UK’s carbon budgets that should come from oil and gas production, from 2028 onwards”, the Observer reports. It adds: “That would mean other sectors of the economy would have to cut their emissions further and faster to enable the UK to stay within its carbon budgets, if the Rosebank field went ahead.” It adds that Rosebank is up to three times the size of the Cambo oil field, which was the subject of intense campaigning before being paused last year. The Financial Times also reports on Rosebank, saying it “is set to become a new front in the war between environmental campaigners and the fossil fuels industry ahead of expected government approval in coming weeks”. It reports: “Two UK regulators are expected to give it approval in April before a final decision by energy secretary Grant Shapps.” A frontpage story in CityAM reports that the boss of UK oil and gas firm Ithaca Energy, which has a 20% share in the project, has threatened to pull out unless the UK reforms its windfall tax on oil-and-gas company profits.
Elsewhere, the Daily Telegraph reports that the UK is working with companies to install floating gas terminals along the country’s coast. “It would bolster the UK’s capacity to import from around the world,” says the Telegraph. Separately, the Daily Telegraph speaks to the chairman of JCB, the UK company known for making fossil-fuelled excavators, who is critical of the UK’s target to phase-out the sale of fossil-fuelled cars by 2030. The Daily Express speaks to campaigners against new electricity pylons to support green infrastructure in eastern England, which they call “metal monstrosities”.
In addition, the Guardian speaks to small businesses in fear of going bust after the UK’s energy support scheme for businesses ended this weekend. The Sunday Times also speaks to business owners afraid of energy bill rises. The Daily Telegraph reports on research showing the UK’s energy efficiency ratings system for homes is flawed. Separately, the Daily Telegraph reports on a warning from a trade body that landlords may choose to demolish existing homes and replace them with new ones rather than pursue costly retrofits in order to meet a proposal to have all rented homes at an energy efficiency standard of “C” by 2028.
The Financial Times reports that concerns have been raised for the COP28 climate summit to be held in Dubai later this year after speakers at a climate and health conference in the United Arab Emirates were told not to protest or “criticise corporations” in a warning that cited the Gulf state’s laws. It reports that organisers advised panellists at last month’s Forecasting Healthy Futures event in Abu Dhabi to “be aware and respectful of UAE laws”, and warned “do not criticise Islam, UAE government, corporations or individuals”, and “do not protest”. The written guidance, seen by the FT, added: “We understand that climate change can be a controversial subject and we welcome all perspectives and opinions in civil discourse throughout the programme agenda. Protesting is illegal in the United Arab Emirates and any instances of disruptive protesting will be handled by the local authorities.” In response, a COP28 UAE spokesperson tells the FT that the conference would “take an inclusive approach that engages all stakeholders from the public and private sectors, civil society, scientific community, women and youth” and “welcome inclusive, constructive dialogues that facilitate consensus-building to drive ambitious climate outcomes”. The spokesperson adds that organisers would ensure “there are safe spaces where all voices may be heard”.
On Friday evening, the German ruling coalition reached an agreement on a “controversial” bill to ban the installation of new gas and oil-fired heating systems as of the start of next year, replacing them with 65% renewables-powered installations, reports Politico. Unlike the initial draft, which obliged the replacement of broken systems after 2024, the agreed law allows the reinstalling of oil or gas boilers provided the heating system is supplemented with new technology to reach the 65% target within three years, notes the outlet, adding that this requirement does not apply to homeowners who are older than 80. It quotes the country’s finance minister Christian Lindner saying, “there will be no fixation on heat pumps; modern gas heating systems will still be allowed, for example”. Der Spiegel adds that another significant change includes the allowance to install gas heating systems which must be operated with at least 50% biomethane from 2030 and with at least 65% hydrogen from 2036. Since these “climate-friendly” fuels are not currently available, the gas supplier has to submit a confirmation to supply this fuel in the future, notes the outlet. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung also covers a story adding that “anyone who wants to stick to oil and gas for heating at all costs could come up with the idea of having a new burner installed before 1 January next year”, but “the rising CO2 price in the building sector should quickly make heating with only fossil fuels very expensive”. The article says that at the end of 2044, heating with fossil fuels will be banned entirely.
Meanwhile, Table.Media reports that after Lindner announced that “hydrogen-ready” gas heaters could still be installed, the Bild newspaper “celebrated” a “victory for tenants and homeowners”. Climate protectors, on the other hand, were “appalled”, says Table.Media. It quotes Environmental Action Germany saying that allowing new gas heaters that can theoretically run on hydrogen is “gas greenwashing in its purest form”.
Elsewhere in German media, Die Zeit reports that Kazakhstan wants to increase its oil exports to Germany to 100,000 tonnes in April, intended to reduce Germany’s dependence on Russian oil. However, notes the outlet, Kazakh oil is pumped to Europe via the Russian pipeline system Druzhba meaning “the supplies from Kazakhstan weaken the oil embargo since Moscow earns on the transit fees”. In addition, another Die Zeit article reports that the German economy ministry continues to examine possible locations for a terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the Baltic Sea, trying to find a place “sustainable for people, the environment and energy supply”. The newspaper notes that the infrastructure should also be prepared for the handling of hydrogen and the related energy carrier ammonia.
China has accomplished food security with a comparatively “low dose of greenhouse gas emissions” and its agricultural carbon footprint is of “basic and survival” level, writes the state-run newspaper China Daily, citing a report published by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. The report says that food production accounted for about “9.5%” of the country’s gross domestic product in 2014 but just 6.7% of China’s greenhouse gas emissions – some 825m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. [A recent Carbon Brief guest post said the world’s largest food system produced 1.9bntCO2e. The discrepancy likely depends on whether the definition of food systems is narrow or also includes the transport, processing, consumption and disposal of food.]
Meanwhile, S&P Global reports that China’s environment ministry on 30 March started public consultations, “seeking revisions on existing methodologies and the introduction of new ones to generate voluntary carbon credits” within the China Certified Emission Reduction scheme, according to a notice by the ministry. Citing the consultation document, the previous methodology framework was “not sufficient” for China to achieve its “dual carbon” targets. Reuters has a factbox on Asia’s carbon pricing and emission trading systems (ETSs), including China’s ETS. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Ma Jun, a former official at the People’s Bank of China, predicted that “transition finance” is ready for a “boom” in China that will “dwarf” its “25tn yuan ($3.6tn) green debt market”.
In other news, the Hong Kong-based Asia Times says China is evaluating the risk of losing trade benefits and “carbon emission exemptions”, following the approval of a bill by the US House of Representatives passed that “calls for revoking” the developing country status of China. Foreign Policy has a comment piece by Scott Moore from the University of Pennsylvania and Erin Sikorsky from Center for Climate and Security. They write that China is facing new pressure from developing countries – not just developed nations – to cut its emissions: “Given its status as the world’s largest emitter and second-largest economy, China’s climate commitments increasingly look insufficient, and even its former allies in climate negotiations want Beijing to do more. This creates major geopolitical vulnerabilities for China – and opportunities for the United States and its allies. In short, Beijing’s leadership loss on climate is Washington’s gain.” Finally, the Diplomat carries a comment piece by Seaver Wang from the Breakthrough Institute and Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. They write: “China must begin to challenge its coal dependence, starting by dismantling particularly inefficient policies that have encouraged new coal construction with little benefit to the electricity system.”
Cows in the UK could be given “methane blockers” in an attempt to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, the Guardian reports. The proposal comes following a consultation that began in August on how new types of animal feed may be able to reduce methane emissions from cows, which are the major cause of livestock emissions. The Guardian says that “farmers welcomed the proposal” but “green campaigners were sceptical, arguing that the move would not address the other major environmental harms resulting from the beef and dairy industries and showed a fixation on ‘techno fixes’ rather than reducing consumption”. The Daily Telegraph adds that the extra cost of feeding methane suppressants to cows would add around 33p per year to the cost of milk for the average consumer. “But the cost could be borne by taxpayers if ministers choose to subsidise the feed, or by supermarkets in a form of greenhouse gas levy,” the newspaper says.
An editorial in the Guardian describes the carbon offsets market as “chaotic and dysfunctional”, saying “an overhaul is overdue”. It says: “The danger of carbon offsets, frequently raised by campaigners, is that their primary function is greenwashing…Some carbon offset schemes have been shown to work, as a means of financing conservation. If the $2bn (£1.6bn) industry can learn from recent events, by increasing transparency and integrity, there is a chance that good practice can be built on, while poor practice is stamped out.”
Elsewhere, Sunday Times columnist Oliver Shah is critical of the UK’s ongoing windfall tax on oil-and-gas company profits and says long-term interventions such as the US Inflation Reduction Act are more favourable. He also says that controversy over whether or not to ease the tax was the reason why the government did not announce its “green day” policies in Aberdeen as planned, and instead settled for Uxbridge on the outskirts of London. In the Times, business presenter for Times Radio Dominic O’Connell is critical of the “green day” announcements for aiming to cut emissions with far-off technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and floating wind turbines, while increasing gas production in the short term.
Meanwhile, an editorial in the Sun is critical of the “green day” plans to make household electricity cheaper compared to gas and to force manufacturers to produce more electric vehicles, saying: “We all want a greener world. But we also know Britain’s globally insignificant emissions are not the real problem.” (Just days earlier, another editorial in the Sun had said: “We welcome the plans of energy secretary Grant Shapps to scrap the anomaly where electricity is taxed four times more than gas.”)
The Daily Telegraph publishes several climate-sceptic columns and features. This includes an article by financial columnist Matthew Lynn on protests against low-traffic neighbourhoods, which is headlined: “The backlash has begun against net-zero’s relentless war on driving.” There is also an editorialised feature on “lessons for the UK” from President Biden’s electric vehicle disaster”. Writer Janet Daley has a column very loosely related to energy and climate change with the headline: “The Left now has a demonic new aim: to make ordinary people poorer.”
Elsewhere, prolific climate-sceptic columnist Ross Clark appears twice in the media. For the Daily Mail, he describes warnings about insect decline in the BBC’s Wild Isles series as “alarmist”. For CapX, he is critical of “green day” measures, including plans for more people to use heat pumps and electric cars.
Writing in the FT, US energy editor Derek Brower explores why President Joe Biden approved the Willow oil project and has shown more support for fossil fuel companies in general, despite backlash from young people and campaigners. He says: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is one reason for the turn. It has been a gift for the oil industry, pushing up prices and delivering record profits for producers…Russia’s invasion has also changed the narrative. The stages at Davos still ring with ‘net-zero’ platitudes, but after last year’s energy crisis politicians’ concern is ‘energy security’, code for cheap fuel and stable supplies.” He adds that “the other reason that fossil fuel producers are gaining momentum again is that the energy transition is proving more fraught than some strategists expected”.
Fire danger increased across the mountainous western US over 1979-2020, with the most acute change seen at high elevations, new research finds. The authors assess elevation-dependent trends in fire danger indices between 1979 and 2020. They find that “the greatest increase in the number of days conducive to large fires occurred at 2,500-3,000 metres, adding 63 critical fire danger days between 1979 and 2020”. They add that 22 of these new critical fire days occur outside of the May-September warm season.