Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Record drop in energy investment, warns IEA thinktank
- UN COP26 climate summit expected to be postponed again
- Emmanuel Macron injects €8bn to fuel French car industry revival
- EDF moves closer to second new nuclear project in Britain
- 'The human fingerprint is everywhere': pioneering Hadley climate centre turns 30
- Carmakers should emerge greener from the crisis
- Cutting emissions is not at odds with economic growth
- The role of ecosystems in mitigation and management of Covid-19 and other zoonoses
There is widespread coverage of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) new report, which examines the impact coronavirus will have on energy spending in the coming year, as well as last year’s trends. BBC News reports that coronavirus lockdown measures are hitting fossil fuels the hardest – with funding for oil, the worst hit, falling 30% – while renewables investment will see a relatively small drop of 10%. The overall share of energy spending for clean energy, including renewables, nuclear and efficiency improvements, has been stuck at around one-third for a few years but will approach 40% in 2020 “because fossil fuels are taking such a battering”, BBC News states. The Guardian says that falling energy demand, lower prices and a rise of non-payment of bills will mean energy revenues going to governments and energy companies drop by more than $1tn this year. It notes that at the start of the year the agency forecasted energy investment would rise by 2% in 2020, the biggest annual rise in six years, but it is now expected to “plummet” by 20%. The IEA says oil accounts for most of the decline in revenue, with global consumer spending on oil set to fall below the amount spent on electricity for the first time ever, according to CNBC. The Financial Times has more detail of the changes estimated by the Paris-based agency, noting coal investment will fall 15%, power sector spending by 10% and energy efficiency investment by 12%. Carbon Brief also covers the report.
In more energy industry pandemic news, Axios compares how US oil production could be affected by a Donald Trump or Joe Biden presidency come the election in November. In Canada, the energy minister of the oil-producing province of Alberta has stated now is a “great time” to build oil pipelines because coronavirus lockdowns are preventing large protests, according to the Independent.
Meanwhile, Alistair Phillips-Davies, chief executive officer of energy giant SSE, has warned that climate change could eventually have a greater economic impact than the coronavirus pandemic, according to BBC News. In a “greenprint” sent to the prime minister, he has called for the government to encourage private investment in renewables by approving “big new projects”, such as carbon capture plants. BusinessGreen reports that the UK’s electricity grid “smashed several records” over the bank holiday weekend, with low demand linked to the pandemic and high renewables output cutting both CO2 and flexible tariff prices.
The upcoming UN climate summit (COP26) in Glasgow is expected to be postponed for a second time due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Independent. The news website reports that while the conference was “tentatively moved” to early 2021, this week the UK will ask the UN and other countries to consider a further delay until early November 2021, meaning the delay will be a whole year. It notes that a final decision will be made by the COP governing board on 28 May. The New York Times reports that the proposal is “expected to be approved”. The paper also emphasises the significance of delaying the talks, noting that this COP is “the most important session” since the 2015 event when the Paris Agreement was decided, and that holding it sooner might encourage nations to align post-Covid stimulus packages with green ambitions. In the BBC News coverage, however, analysis by BBC Scotland environment correspondent notes without a delay “there would be very little progress and with minds so heavily focused on tackling Covid-19”, and says countries “will need to understand what their starting position is with economies being crushed by the pandemic”.
Emmanuel Macron has announced a €8bn plan for the French motor industry, which has been “crippled by the loss of sales and production during the coronavirus pandemic”, according to the Financial Times in a piece trailed on the newspaper’s front page. The French president’s strategy has a distinctly green focus, with increased subsidies for electric and hybrid cars and support for research into hydrogen power, as well as self-driving cars. Reuters also has the story, reporting that France intends to become “Europe’s top producer of clean cars”. Separately, BusinessGreen reports on new analysis that shows Europe overtook China for government and industry investment in electric cars and batteries last year.
EDF has submitted an application to build the Sizewell C nuclear plant on the Suffolk coast, according to Bloomberg. The next step will be obtaining planning permission, and the power company awaits a final investment decision from the government by November 2021. The French company says the new facility will generate enough electricity to power six million homes and boost the UK’s energy resilience, according to Sky News. Quoted in BBC News, the project’s managing director calls it a “net-zero infrastructure project” that is not only “ready to kick-start the economy following the coronavirus crisis” but will also “play a key role in lowering emissions while helping the UK keep control of its low carbon future”. Coverage in the Times focuses on opposition from NGOs due to the threats posed by the project to wildlife.
A news feature for the Guardian marking the 30th anniversary of the Met Office’s Hadley Centre for climate science and services includes “exclusively compiled” figures confirming the “human fingerprint on the climate is now unmistakable and will become increasingly evident over the coming decades”. “Since the 1990s, global temperatures have warmed by half a degree, Arctic sea ice has shrunk by almost 2m km2, sea levels have risen by about 10cm and CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 60 parts per million (17%),” the piece says. “The data highlights how a young generation has grown up in a climate unprecedented in a millennium.”
An editorial in the Financial Times explores how governments should tie financial aid for the car industry to climate commitments. It notes that even before the coronavirus pandemic, “carmakers faced plenty of challenges”, with sales in key markets declining and emissions regulations “forcing an expensive shift to electric vehicles”. The editorial reflects on what has been learned in recent history, for example from the schemes that followed the financial crisis. “Carmakers could well join the queue behind airlines for bespoke government assistance. Leaders should remember the lessons of the bailouts a decade ago, and use their influence to change the industry — and transport — for the better,” it states. “They should put their money not into sales incentives, but plans to bring about the electric charging infrastructure necessary for a decisive shift away from hydrocarbons. A pan-European initiative to build electric car batteries is a positive step.”
Conservative MP Alexander Stafford has written in the Times Red Box about being a “climate positivist” and the need to build “a resilient economic future rooted in sustainable growth and jobs” in the wake of the pandemic. He lists some of the government’s successes in this area, including pledges in the most recent Budget to fund clean transport and carbon capture and storage (CCS). However, to boost the economy following the current crisis, Stafford says that there will need to be more support for industries that not only provide lasting benefits for the UK, but will last provide “fast and sustainable” job creation – listing renewable energy as a key sector. “When we transition from the current phase of the pandemic, there is going to be a long queue at the chancellor’s door from sectors asking for financial support,” he concludes. “Any rewards should go to embracing innovation and helping low-carbon industries to grow.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Australian has a comment piece from the nation’s former resources minister Matt Canavan pushing back against the government’s recent “roadmap” which promotes gas investment over coal to rebuild the economy following the coronavirus crisis. Among other things, the Liberal Queensland senator calls for Australia to leave the Paris Agreement and rule out any suggestion of net-zero emissions targets “until other countries much larger than us demonstrate real reductions”. For a reminder of the political landscape around climate change in Australia, you can read Carbon Brief’s country profile which was published last year.
Covid-19 and other animal-borne diseases are “ultimately interlinked with biodiversity crises and water insecurity”, a new analysis finds. This is because increasing human-animal interactions are perceived as driving factors in pathogen transfer – and environmental crises are increasing the chances of these interactions happening. The authors say: “The need to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic ongoing at the time of writing creates an opportunity for systemic policy change, placing scientific knowledge of the value and services of ecosystems at the heart of societal concerns as a key foundation for a more secure future.” Carbon Brief recently published a Q&A exploring the links between biodiversity loss, climate change and the risk of pandemics.
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