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Daily Briefing

28.07.2020
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING ‘Once in a lifetime opportunity’: PM unveils plan for cycling and walking ‘revolution’
‘Once in a lifetime opportunity’: PM unveils plan for cycling and walking ‘revolution’

News.

'Once in a lifetime opportunity': PM unveils plan for cycling and walking 'revolution'

Many publications in the UK report on a new £2bn plan from the government to boost cycling, e-bikes and walking that is to be announced by the prime minister Boris Johnson today. BusinessGreen reports the government’s plans include thousands of miles of new protected bike lanes, cycle training for both children and adults and a national e-bike programme. In addition, councils and metro mayors are to be given stronger powers to close side streets to cars and restrict traffic around schools, backed by funding for 12 new “Mini Holland” cycle-friendly areas and the creation of “at least one zero-emission transport city centre”, BusinessGreen says. The government adds that a new walking and cycling watchdog, called Active Travel England, is also being established to oversee the budget for infrastructure and ensure cycle lanes are safe, according to BusinessGreen. The government is also launching a “fix your bike scheme” later today, in which 50,000 people will be able to apply for a £50 voucher to make repairs on their bike, reports BBC News. BBC News adds: “The prime minister also announced that bikes will be made available on the NHS as part of the strategy…GPs in areas of England with poor health will be encouraged to prescribe cycling and patients able to access bikes through their local surgery.” The Times reports that, under the plans, “electric bikes will be cheaper under a new subsidy to encourage older people and commuters to get out on the road”. It adds: “The grants will be on top of the government’s cycle-to-work scheme, which gives higher-rate taxpayers up to 42% off the cost of a bike, potentially providing more than two-thirds off for some employees.” The announcement is also covered by the Evening Standard and the i newspaper. Meanwhile, a second story in the Times reports that half of UK drivers would consider getting an electric vehicle for their next car, according to new polling. And a second story in BusinessGreen reports on a new study finding investments in buses must also be made to boost greener travel.

Elsewhere, several publications continue to cover a report from National Grid finding the UK could meet its goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 if technologies including carbon capture and storage become available. The Independent reports that, according to the National Grid, the UK could hit net-zero by 2050 or earlier, but that reductions in emissions from areas including transport were essential to achieve this. Reuters reports that “green hydrogen” will also need to be utilised alongside carbon capture and storage to achieve the climate goal. BusinessGreen and the Daily Telegraph also cover the report.

BusinessGreen Read Article
Offshore wind power is now so cheap that UK wind farms could soon be paying back government subsidies

Several outlets report on a new study finding UK offshore wind farms are set to be the first in the world to pay money back to consumers following dramatic price declines for power generation. A steep drop in the cost of offshore wind power, coupled with a slight rise in wholesale power prices, will likely mean the newest wind farms coming online in the UK will operate with “negative subsidies” – meaning they will effectively be paying the government to generate power, the i newspaper says. The Daily Telegraph reports that, in the UK, record-breaking low prices of around £40 per megawatt hour (MWh) were agreed last year in contracts for several new coastal wind farms. It explains: “Offshore wind companies are paid the difference by the government if wholesale electricity prices go lower than that, but have to pay back any money above it. Expected electricity price rises mean that offshore wind providers will likely start passing on those gains to consumers in reduced energy bills by 2023 as they start to operate.” The analysis comes from a new study in the journal Nature Energy, the Daily Telegraph adds. Press Association and the Independent also cover the study.

The i newspaper Read Article
EPA inspector general to investigate Trump’s biggest climate rollback

The New York Times reports that the US Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog has opened an investigation into the agency’s weakening of Obama-era regulations that would have limited vehicle emissions by significantly raising fuel economy standards. Auditors said they intended to investigate whether Donald Trump’s administration acted “consistent with requirements, including those pertaining to transparency, record-keeping and docketing, and followed the EPA’s process for developing final regulatory actions”, the New York Times reports. It adds: “The year-long effort to write the Trump administration rule was plagued with controversy. Just weeks before the final rule was published, the administration’s own internal analyses showed that it would create a higher cost for consumers than leaving the Obama-era standard in place and would contribute to more deaths associated with lung disease by releasing more pollution into the air.” The Hill also covers the news.

The New York Times Read Article
British fracking firm to challenge 'de facto ban' on shale gas projects

The Guardian reports that a UK fracking company has vowed to challenge the effective ban on shale gas projects after withdrawing its application for two wells in Lancashire. The company Aurora Energy Resources blamed the government’s “de facto ban on shale gas activity” for its decision to drop an application to frack at Altcar Moss in west Lancashire, the Guardian says. The company submitted its fracking plans a few months before the government imposed a fracking moratorium in November, the Guardian says.

The Guardian Read Article
Climate deniers get twice the news coverage of pro-climate messages, study finds

The Independent covers a new study finding that climate sceptics have had twice the media coverage of those advocating to take action against climate change. The study looked at more than 1,700 climate-related press releases over a 30-year period and news articles including those published in the US’s largest-circulation newspapers, the Independent says. The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it adds.

The Independent Read Article

Comment.

I’m bewildered that Trump would imperil America by abandoning the Paris Agreement

Ban Ki-moon, who served as UN secretary-general from 2007-16, writes in the Guardian that Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement is “politically shortsighted, scientifically wrong and morally irresponsible”. He says: “Every single day, we see the effects of climate change across the US. From catastrophic forest fires in California to rising sea levels in Miami and devastating flooding in Texas, these changes are a real and present danger. Our climate is visibly changing and the consequences will be disastrous for everyone. Despite this, the president is closing his eyes to reality.” He adds: “His actions lessen America, a country that has always taken pride in doing the right thing, at the right time, and seized opportunities for technological and economic transformation. But it is not yet too late to find a way back and this is one error that can be undone. We can only hope that America recognises this before it is too late.” (Avid readers may notice that Carbon Brief also included Ban Ki-moon’s article in its Daily Briefing last Tuesday, which the Guardian says was published early in error.)

Ban Ki-moon, The Guardian Read Article
Why we need to declare a global climate emergency now

Prof Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, writes in the FT that “it is cheap insurance for future generations to match the [climate change] risk with action to preserve the ecosystems we all need”. He says: “With each decade that passes, scientists have to reach further back in time to find comparable atmospheric conditions. By 2025, greenhouse gases will reach levels not seen in more than 3m years, when the average temperature was 3C-4C warmer than today and sea levels 20 metres higher…There is sufficient evidence to draw the most fundamental of conclusions: now is the time to declare a state of planetary emergency. The point is not to admit defeat, but to match the risk with the necessary action to protect the global commons for our own future.” The article is part of of special report called “Investing in Nature”, which also includes an article by Leslie Hook on why “a rush by big emitters of greenhouse gases to plant trees can only be part of the battle against global warming”. The FT also carries a video interview with Christiana Figueres, the former head of the UN climate secretariat, on tackling Covid-19, climate change and inequality. And today’s “Big Read” in the FT is on whether “coronavirus will hasten the demise of Poland’s coal”.

Meanwhile, Dr Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to analysing and preventing pandemics, writes in the Guardian that we are entering an “era of pandemics” that “will only end when we protect rainforests”. He says: “If we are to prevent future pandemics, we will need to reassess our relationship with nature, blocking each step in the chain of disease emergence. This should begin with reducing the rampant consumption that drives deforestation and wildlife exploitation.”

Prof Johan Rockström, Financial Times Read Article

Science.

Offshore wind competitiveness in mature markets without subsidy

The UK is likely to see the world’s first “negative-subsidy” offshore windfarm amid falling prices for wind power generation, a new study says. “Negative-subsidy” would mean that the plant would effectively pay back consumers to produce power, the authors say. Between 2015 and 2019, the price paid for power from offshore wind farms across northern Europe fell by almost 12% per year, the study adds.

Nature Energy Read Article

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