MENU

Social Channels

SEARCH ARCHIVE


Additional Options
Topic

Date Range

Receive a Daily or Weekly summary of the most important articles direct to your inbox, just enter your email below:

Daily Briefing

14.05.2020
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Norway wealth fund blacklists Glencore, other commodity giants over coal
Norway wealth fund blacklists Glencore, other commodity giants over coal

News.

Norway wealth fund blacklists Glencore, other commodity giants over coal

The $1tn Norwegian sovereign wealth fund is dropping commodity giants Glencore and Anglo American, Reuters reports, because of their use and production of coal. The newswire says coal use is also behind the fund excluding German utility RWE, South African chemicals giant Sasol and Dutch firm AGL Energy. It explains that Norway’s parliament voted in June 2019 to tighten the fund’s investment criteria around climate concerns, with yesterday’s announcement the first to show the new rules being applied. Reuters adds that several additional firms, including mining giant BHP and German utility Uniper, have been put “under observation for possible exclusion later if they did not address their use or production of coal”. Four Canadian oil sands companies – Canadian Natural Resources, Cenovus Energy, Suncor Energy and Imperial Oil – were also excluded yesterday over “unacceptable greenhouse gas emissions”, an investment criterion implemented four years ago, but applied for the first time yesterday. Reuters continues: “Wednesday’s announcement opens the way for more companies to be excluded on those grounds. The head of the fund’s ethics watchdog told Reuters in March that, once the first ones were published, others companies would follow. Concrete and steel firms have also been probed, he said, without naming them.” The Times reports the news and notes that Norway’s wealth fund owned 2.4% of Anglo American, 1.2% of Glencore and 0.6% of RWE at the end of last year. The Guardian reports that Norway’s wealth fund – “so big it owns an estimated 1.5% of shares listed on the global stock exchange” – also excluded Australian energy firm AGL “which owns coal-fired power stations”. Another Reuters piece quotes the comments of Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau: “We’ve seen investors around the world looking at the risks associated with climate change as an integral part of investment decisions they make…There is a need for clear leadership and clear targets to reach on fighting climate change to draw on global capital.” The Wall Street Journal also reports on the “blacklisting” of the large Canadian oil sands firms due to “high carbon emissions from their operations”. It says the decision “delivered another blow to Canada’s reeling oil industry, which is struggling with low oil prices and limited access to markets”.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, the “biggest Japanese bank by assets”, has “put oil sands extraction and drilling for crude oil and gas in the Arctic on its ‘restricted transaction’ list”. The move means “any lending or other financing such as underwriting bond and equity issues is subject to increased due diligence beyond standard reviews, the bank said”.

In other investment news, Deutsche Bank has pledged to “double green financing to €200bn by 2025”, the Financial Times reports. The paper adds that the move is the first by the bank to make a quantitative commitment, following “years of pressure from environmental campaigners”. Reuters also has the story. Separately, Reuters reports: “Shareholder activists prodding Exxon Mobil Corp on climate-change proposals are backing calls for an independent board chairman as the oil major steps up efforts to keep climate proposals off its ballot.” DeSmog UK reports, ahead of the season for oil major annual general meetings, on “how shareholders are pressuring oil companies to act on climate change”.

Reuters Read Article
In a first, renewable energy is poised to eclipse coal in US

The New York Times reports on the latest US government projections which show, the paper says, that the country is “on track to produce more electricity this year from renewable power than from coal for the first time on record”. The paper continues: “It is a milestone that seemed all but unthinkable a decade ago, when coal was so dominant that it provided nearly half the nation’s electricity. And it comes despite the Trump administration’s three-year push to try to revive the ailing industry by weakening pollution rules on coal-burning power plants.” The latest projections show US coal use falling by a quarter this year, the paper adds, contributing to an expected 11% drop in the country’s CO2 emissions this year. InsideClimate News also has the story that renewables may pass coal “sooner than anyone thought”. It adds: “There was little doubt that renewables would pass coal in the near future, but analysts had projected that it would take longer.” Axios reports that the government projections have cut the outlook for US oil projection “again…as companies curb output amid the price and demand collapse driven by the coronavirus pandemic”.

In other US news, the New York Times “Climate Fwd” newsletter continues to track the environmental rules reversed under the Trump administration, including 64 “rollbacks completed” and another 34 “in progress”. Reuters reports that nine states are suing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for relaxing pollution monitoring rules during the coronavirus pandemic. Reuters explains: “The states, led by New York attorney general Letitia James, argued that the EPA issued a broad and open-ended policy that gives polluters too much leeway instead of using enforcement discretion.” Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the US Energy Department is to buy up to 1m barrels of oil for the country’s emergency oil reserve, having cancelled initial plans to buy 30m barrels in the face of opposition from some in Congress. However, Axios reports that “more help for oil companies [is] unlikely”. The piece adds: “The Trump administration is not planning specific financial aid to beleaguered oil producers, energy secretary Dan Brouillette told Axios Wednesday.” The Financial Times reports that the US commodities regulator has “issued a rare warning to brokers, exchanges and clearing houses, urging them to be ready for the risk that oil prices could again drop below zero”. Reuters reports that California’s largest oil company, California Resources, is in talks over a $600m bankruptcy loan and, separately, Reuters reports that the US clean energy sector has “shed nearly 600,000 jobs”, some 17% of its workforce, “as stay-at-home orders halt production of components from solar panels to electric cars and slow installations at homes and businesses”.

The New York Times Read Article
Drop in pollution may bring hotter weather and heavier monsoons

The fall in air pollution levels during the coronavirus crisis “could increase sunlight and affect weather patterns”, the Guardian reports. The piece adds: “But detecting the effect of falling air pollution and disentangling it from the random ups and downs in the weather will be extremely challenging.” In other weather-related news, Reuters reports that a private weather forecaster, Weatherbell Analytics, is expecting a “big ticket” 2020 Atlantic hurricane season “because of high sea surface temperatures and a lack of mitigating forces”. The newswire says: “Weatherbell’s forecast, prepared by [climate sceptic] forecaster Joe Bastardi, is using years with similar weather patterns to analyze the upcoming 2020 season. Among those analog years are 2005, which saw hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastate the US Gulf of Mexico, and 2017 when Hurricane Harvey raked the coast of Texas.” Another Reuters report says California has had 60% more wildfires so far in 2020 than last year, because of drier weather. Separately, the Financial Times covers new research on meteorological data from the early 1960s, which, the paper says, “may offer clues to how mankind could control the weather”. The paper explains: “Scientists at the universities of Reading, Bath and Bristol have used meteorological data from 1962-1964 – when the US and Soviet Union were conducting nuclear experiments – to establish a link for the first time between rainfall and radioactivity.”

The Guardian Read Article
Heat-tolerant algae could save coral reefs from warming seas

Several outlets report the findings of a new study published in Science Advances which, the Times says, show that “coral reefs under threat from rising ocean temperatures could be saved by training algae to become more tolerant of warmer waters”. The Times adds: “Scientists took algae from reefs and exposed them in a laboratory for four years to a temperature of 31C, which is 3-4C above what they normally experience and comparable to the water temperature during the Great Barrier Reef bleachings. When the algae were reintroduced into coral larvae they were found to have adapted to become more tolerant of heat and were able to share this benefit with the coral.” Sky News, the i newspaper and BBC News (not yet online) also cover the story.

The Times Read Article
City of London to ban cars on busiest roads as lockdown eases

The City of London is to ban cars on its busiest roads to help manage the safe return of commuters as the coronavirus lockdown eases, the Financial Times reports, in a story trailed on the paper’s frontpage. The paper adds: “If its plans work, the [City of London] corporation will consider making road closures permanent to support its longer-term goals of reducing vehicle traffic to improve air quality.” The FT reports the corporation’s policy chief Catherine McGuiness saying “this would be a ‘first step in a radical strategy’ that would see the City move away from private car use”. Separately, the i newspaper reports that the number of diesel cars on UK roads fell in 2019 for the “first time in 25 years”.

Finally, Reuters reports that UK prime minister Boris Johnson said yesterday that airlines must take steps to keep carbon emissions down when flights resume so that the lower levels recorded during the Covid-19 pandemic can be entrenched. He told parliament: “Inadvertently, the planet this year will (have) greatly reduced its CO2 emissions … we need to entrench those gains…I don’t want to see us going back to an era of the same type of emissions as we’ve had in the past. Aviation like every other sector must keep its carbon lower.”

Financial Times Read Article

Comment.

Moral Money special edition: In depth with BP’s Bernard Looney

In an interview with the Financial Times “moral money” section, BP chief executive Bernard Looney discusses the future of the global energy system and his firm’s plans to go, as the FT puts it, “carbon neutral by 2050, not just at the company, but with your customers as well”. Looney says: “[W]e’re doing this because we actually see an enormous business opportunity. That’s why we laid out the ambition that we did – we said we’d get to net zero and do it on an absolute basis and not an intensity basis. When hydrocarbons are burned either by our customers or someone else’s customers, CO2 is emitted in the atmosphere. We said that by 2050 we would have that equivalent at zero.” Regarding the impact of the coronavirus crisis, Looney adds: “How does Covid change things? I think it has only emphasised, re-emphasised, recommitted me to the need to take BP on the energy transition. Why? First of all, I think oil has its challenges and I can only see Covid adding to the challenges of oil in the years ahead. We don’t know how it’s all going to play out. But it’s gotten more likely to have oil be less in demand.” Asked directly if the world has reached peak demand for oil, Looney says: “I don’t think we know how this is going to play out. I certainly don’t know. Could it be peak oil? Possibly. Possibly. I would not write that off.” In related news, Bloomberg reports that Shell has “said it will be well placed to boost shareholder payouts once the oil market recovers, as it sought to appease investors after last month’s surprise dividend cut”. And the Times reports that Saudi Aramco has “defie[d] [the oil] price war to pay [a] bumper $18bn dividend”.

Meanwhile, Climate Home News has a news feature on the current oil market turmoil, headlined: “This oil crash is not like the others.” The piece argues: “[T]his is not just another cyclical downturn. It is a savage blow at a time when fears of climate breakdown call the whole basis of our energy system into question.” It continues: “Historically, oil busts have been followed by recovering demand and then price spikes as supply catches up. This time, most analysts are not predicting a return to pre-Covid levels of demand until late 2021, if at all.” Writing for the Blakeney Group, Joss Garman, UK director of the European Climate Foundation [which funds Carbon Brief], argues: “Given the [coronavirus] pandemic has exposed more clearly than ever the frailty and dangers of Britain’s pre-crisis economy, we can now expect even greater pressure from the public not to return to where we were when this is over.” Axios covers a new report from consultancy Wood Mackenzie, which, it says, “tries to grapple with ways that the coronavirus pandemic might be an inflection point for the global energy system that changes its trajectory for decades”. The website continues: “The consultancy concludes that, depending on how things shake out, the pandemic could greatly accelerate coal’s decline and hinder the long-term growth of oil demand.”

 

Gillian Tett, Billy Nauman and Anjli Raval, Financial Times Read Article
Seizing the moment: how Australia can build a green economy from the Covid-19 wreckage

In the first article of a new series, Guardian Australia’s Adam Morton looks at the prospects for a “green recovery” after the coronavirus pandemic. He writes: “As the government prepares plans for economic recovery, investors and green groups alike say this is a once-only opportunity to move towards zero emissions.” He continues: “There is a growing case that recovery from the coronavirus offers Australia a chance to succeed where it has failed for more than a decade: to break away from the climate wars and head in a new direction.” For BusinessGreen, Cecilia Keating writes that from Europe to North America, “battle lines” are being drawn over a green recovery. The Guardian reports on a $1bn boost for “nature jobs” in New Zealand’s budget but cites “dismay at lack of climate action”.

Adam Morton, The Guardian Read Article

Science.

Increasing escape of oxygen from oceans under climate change

Europe’s record‐breaking heatwave in June‐July 2019 was made at least seven times more likely because of human-caused climate change, a new study says. Using climate model data from the sixth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6), the researchers find that “climate change has caused a seven‐fold increase in the likelihood of the extreme heat over 1950‐2014 climate, and even a 23‐fold increase since 1980s”. Such extreme heat will become more frequent in the future, the study also finds, “with return periods of 1.8‐7.2‐year under future emission and societal development scenarios”.

Geophysical Research Letters Read Article
Heat-evolved microalgal symbionts increase coral bleaching tolerance

Researchers have managed to breed corals in a laboratory that can withstand higher water temperatures. This paper describes how the researchers “evolved 10 clonal strains of a common coral microalgal endosymbiont at elevated temperatures (31C) for four years in the laboratory.” All 10 heat-evolved strains showed increased tolerance to warmer conditions, the study finds. The findings “demonstrate that coral stock with enhanced climate resilience can be developed” through laboratory evolution, the authors conclude.

Science Advances Read Article
Increasing escape of oxygen from oceans under climate change

A new study explores the phenomenon of “ocean deoxygenation” – where the oxygen content of the global oceans has been declining over the past few decades. Using Earth system models, the researchers “systematically [diagnose] the global oceanic oxygen budget”, finding that “oxygen outgassing is directly responsible for ongoing deoxygenation”. Projections for the future indicate that oceanic outgassing will increase from 1.6bn to 4.3bn tonnes per year over the 21st century “due to solubility and circulation changes related with warming, which may eventually lead to a more hypoxic ocean in the future”.

Geophysical Research Letters Read Article

THE BRIEF

Expert analysis directly to your inbox.

Get a Daily or Weekly round-up of all the important articles and papers selected by Carbon Brief by email.

THE BRIEF

Expert analysis directly to your inbox.

Get a Daily or Weekly round-up of all the important articles and papers selected by Carbon Brief by email.