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Daily Briefing |

TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES

Briefing date 12.05.2022
Revealed: the ‘carbon bombs’ set to trigger catastrophic climate breakdown

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News.

Revealed: the ‘carbon bombs’ set to trigger catastrophic climate breakdown
The Guardian Read Article

Fossil fuel firms are “quietly planning scores of ‘carbon bomb’ oil and gas projects that would drive the climate past internationally agreed temperature limits”, the Guardian reports in an “exclusive” that dominates the paper’s frontpage. The plans include “195 carbon bombs, gigantic oil and gas projects that would each result in at least a billion tonnes of CO2 emissions over their lifetimes” and that could collectively emit 640bn tonnes of CO2, more than enough to breach the carbon budget for 1.5C, the paper says, citing research due to be published in the journal Energy Policy. The piece says the US, Canada and Australia are among the countries with the biggest expansion plans and adds: “The lure of colossal payouts in the years to come appears to be irresistible to the oil companies.” The main frontpage feature is accompanied by further reports breaking down the findings for individual countries, with one article on how a “US fracking boom could tip [the] world to [the] edge of climate disaster” and another article on how “Australian gas project threatens ancient carvings – and emissions blowout”.

Meanwhile, Climate Home News reports that environmental groups are suing the Canadian government over its approval of an oil extraction project. Reuters also has the story. Separately, Time trails its new documentary series “Black Gold”, which it says is on “the history of ExxonMobil’s denial of the science of climate change”.

UK: Rishi Sunak warms to energy windfall tax plan – gas and oil giants may be told to pay up billions
The Daily Mail Read Article

The frontpage splash for the Daily Mail says that UK chancellor Rishi Sunak has asked officials to look at a potential windfall tax on oil and gas companies, despite ministers “repeatedly rul[ing] out the idea, warning it could damage investment in energy infrastructure”. The paper continues that the idea of a windfall tax to fund support for families facing a cost of living crisis is “back on the table”, according to “multiple sources”. It says: “[T]he chancellor is said to be alarmed that industry giants have done little or nothing to increase their spending despite raking in enormous profits.” However, it adds: “Both Sunak and [prime minister] Boris Johnson are understood to be anxious to give the oil and gas firms the opportunity to set out more ambitious plans.” An accompanying Daily Mail editorial says the paper would “typically run a mile from talk of a socialist-style windfall tax on energy giants’ profits to subsidise bills. But the firms admit it wouldn’t risk investment vital to our energy future, so isn’t it worth the chancellor considering it as a one-off?” The i newspaper says a “senior Tory MP” Robert Halfon is backing the idea of a windfall tax, but that he “claims that Scottish Tories are leading internal opposition to the measure they say would cost jobs”. The Sun says Sunak is “closer to slapping windfall tax on oil and gas companies’ huge profits”, reporting that he has “told North Sea oil and gas companies they may face a levy unless they invest more in UK energy”. The Financial Times reports that Sunak “is preparing to announce in the summer a major new support package for UK households struggling with soaring energy bills, as he seeks to head off criticism he is not doing enough to tackle the cost of living crisis”. It continues: “Sunak’s colleagues said he is looking to make the announcement in August, around the same time as the regulator Ofgem unveils a new UK energy price cap, which could increase to as much as an average £2,900 a year per household.” The paper adds: “Sunak is also ‘leaving open the door’ to partly funding a support package through a windfall tax on the UK energy sector, according to his allies, unless oil companies bring forward new investment plans soon.” According to Politico’s London Playbook email newsletter, Johnson told LBC’s Nick Ferrari this morning that “we’ll have to look at” a windfall tax. It says: “This is the strongest sign yet that the policy is being considered.” An editorial in the Independent says the government’s plans set out in the Queen’s Speech “held 38 new bills – but not one will help with the cost of gas”.

In related news, the Press Association is among the outlets covering a new report from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR): “Around 1.5 million UK households will struggle to pay food and energy bills amid a deepening cost-of-living crisis that will plunge Britain into a recession, according to a leading thinktank.” Another Press Association article quotes Jonathan Brearley, the head of energy regulator Ofgem, saying that rising energy bills are “literally a matter of life or death” for some people.

Separately, the Guardian reports that bosses of some of the largest North Sea oil and gas firms have been “handed bumper payouts” and a “combined £25m pay rise”. The i newspaper says ministers are considering delaying the closure of the UK’s ageing nuclear reactors “in a bid to keep soaring energy prices down in the coming years”, if they can stay open for longer safely. The Herald Scotland says energy minister Greg Hands has called on Scottish ministers to drop their opposition to new nuclear. The Press Association says Johnson “has pushed the idea of slashing the energy bills of households living near new wind farms”. Finally, the Times says a “glut of gas in UK drives wholesale price down to pre-crisis levels”. It adds: “The bad news for consumers is that day-ahead prices have little bearing on the energy price cap, which assumes gas is bought well in advance.”

EU warns of €195bn cost to free bloc from Russian energy
Financial Times Read Article

There is continued coverage of leaked drafts of an EU plan, due to be published next Wednesday, which, according to a frontpage article in the international edition of the Financial Times, will include “aggressive targets in areas such as clean energy and lowering consumption” to secure energy independent from Russia. The paper says a projected additional €195bn of investment would be needed between now and 2027 to implement the plans, according to draft European Commission proposals seen by the Financial Times. It quotes the leaked draft saying they are about “rapidly reducing our dependence on Russian fossil fuels by fast-forwarding the clean transition and joining forces to achieve a more resilient power system and a true Energy Union”. The proposals would raise EU targets, calling for a 13% cut in energy consumption by 2030 compared with the current 9% goal, with renewables meeting 45% of all energy demand by the same year up from the existing 40%. The paper adds that the document aims to speed planning rules for clean energy infrastructure, boost hydrogen use, more than double solar capacity by 2028 and “calls for greater use of heat pumps, geothermal and solar thermal energy”. The Financial Times “Europe Express” briefing says the draft EU plans “are likely to meet some opposition from green groups and local communities”. Analysis for Energy Monitor says the “RePowerEU” proposals due next week are “the most ambitious for getting off Russian gas” compared with scenarios outlined by a range of thinktanks. Another Energy Monitor article says the “big question” over the plans is whether they focus on “replacing Russian fossil fuels with other fossil fuels”, or if they will “seek to reduce fossil fuel use full stop”.

In other EU news, Reuters reports that the European Parliament’s environment committee has backed an effective ban on new petrol and diesel car sales from 2035, proposed by the European Commission last July. Another Reuters article says a broad majority of the committee has separately reached initial agreement on its position over proposed reforms to the EU Emissions Trading System (EUETS). In both cases, the European Parliament’s positions will be negotiated with EU governments prior to adoption. Bloomberg says the parliamentarians back deeper emissions reductions under the EUETS, as well as curbs on access to the market to “cut speculation”.

China’s rains promise ample hydropower in a new blow to coal
Bloomberg Read Article

Bloomberg reports that “heavy rainfall across southern China is swelling reservoirs and promising ample hydropower generation”. The latter “will further suppress coal demand already weakened by pandemic restrictions”, the outlet says. It adds that flood warnings have been issued by local authorities and “as much as 20cm (8 inches) of precipitation” is expected to fall “in parts of the south” between Tuesday and Sunday this week. An analyst told the newswire that the rainfall “should support increasing hydro power generation, which in turn will put pressure on coal consumption”. A separate article on Bloomberg says that “massive rainstorms lashing southern China have forced schools to close, threaten to damage wheat crops and halt stock trading in Hong Kong”. The piece highlights that climate change is “exacerbating China’s long history of extreme weather events”.

Meanwhile, China’s State Council said yesterday that “advanced coal production capacity will be released in a safe and orderly manner and power cuts must not occur” this year, the state-run Global Times reports.

Separately, the South China Morning Post reports that “the local unit of European oil and gas giant Shell aims to open Hong Kong’s first service station with both electric vehicle (EV) charging and conventional fuel facilities”. The new service station at Hong Kong International Airport’s cargo terminal will have “four EV charging points and 16 refuelling positions” and “be pressed into service” by June 30, the outlet says. The Hong Kong government is “stepping up policy support to boost the take-up of emissions-free vehicles”, it reports. A Caixin article explains how Hegang, a “rust belt” city in north-east China that “boomed” on its coal industry, has witnessed an economic downturn over the past decade.

Elsewhere, the Securities Times – a state-run financial and securities newspaper – reports that the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) – China’s top economic planner – has instructed the nation to develop biomass power generation “in an orderly manner” and “promote” its transition and upgrade towards “cogeneration”. [Cogeneration – also known as “combined heat and power (CHP)” – is the use of a heat engine or power station to generate electricity and useful heat at the same time.] Finally, the NDRC has ordered China’s “main” coal-producing provinces – including Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Inner Mongolia – to “advocate” its recently published policies aimed at regulating and supervising coal prices “well”, the state-run industry newspaper China Energy News reports.

Climate change to make droughts longer, more common, says UN
Associated Press Read Article

Droughts will continue to get longer and more frequent as a result of climate change, according to a UN report covered by the Associated Press. The newswire says: “The UN desertification agency…estimates that roughly one third of the world’s population – 2.3 billion people – is already facing water scarcity, with that number expected to double by 2050.” The Drought in Numbers 2022 report found a 29% increase in the number and duration of droughts since 2000, says the Hill. The Independent and MailOnline also have the story.

In related news, France 24 carries a translation of an article that first appeared on Monday, titled: “France’s unprecedented drought shows climate change is ‘spiralling out of control’.” It quotes ones expert saying that “huge droughts” in Spain and Portugal last autumn have now spread up through the whole of France. It also quotes hydrologist Emma Haziza saying: “The lack of rain is directly caused by climate change; there’s no doubt about that…Drought is one of the first consequences we can see. As things stand, this phenomenon is occurring sooner and sooner and becomes more widespread every year.” A picture essay for Guardian Global development describes how drought in the Horn of Africa has exacerbated the effects of war in Ethiopia.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports: “Largest US wildfire threatens New Mexico town.” It says the northern part of the state is “caught in its worst drought in at least 500 years” and adds: “Northern New Mexico is caught in its worst drought in at least 500 years. Climate change has reduced snowpacks and dried out high-mountain forests and valleys, according to scientists.” A second Reuters article reports on wildfires in Southern California: “As California endures a historic drought exacerbated by climate change, brush that could normally resist fire is consumed with ever greater speed, [local fire chief Brian] Fennessy said.”

Separately, Agence France-Presse reports on a new briefing paper for the media on how to cover extreme weather events, quoting one of its authors, Dr Friederike Otto, saying: “Every heatwave in the world is now made stronger and more likely to happen because of human-caused climate change.”

Germany gas supply drops as Ukraine shuts off pipes from Russia
The Daily Telegraph Read Article

Germany has had to import extra gas from Norway and the Netherlands, reports the Daily Telegraph, after Ukraine shut a key transit hub bringing Russian fuel to Europe for the first time since Russia’s invasion began. It adds that the closure “caused onward gas flows into Waidhaus, Bavaria, to drop by a quarter”, according to German authorities. Reuters reports that a “25% drop in flows at Waidhaus on the German border with the Czech Republic was more than compensated by higher volumes from Norway and the Netherlands”, according to the Germany authorities.

Meanwhile, RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND) reports that Argentina wants to become a new energy supplier for Germany. The outlet quotes Argentinian president Alberto Fernández at a joint press conference with German chancellor Olaf Scholz: “We have a lot to offer.” Argentina has “the second largest deposit of unconventional gas that can be sold in the form of liquid gas in the world”, the story adds. Blue and green hydrogen were also mentioned as a part of cooperation, notes RND. Die Zeit reports that cooperation plans between the state of Bavaria and South Africa. It quotes Bavaria’s minister Melanie Huml saying: “We have a long and friendly partnership on an equal footing [with South Africa]. Above all, we want to start our cooperation in the use of green hydrogen.”

In more energy news, German news portal Heise says that the German solar industry has reported strong growth, recording an increase of 32% in photovoltaic output in the first quarter. Finally, WirtschaftsWoche reports that a German chemical company plans to phase out business in Russia and invest €8bn in the sustainable future of the firm, including carbon reduction.

IEA expects record renewable growth despite cost, supply problems
Reuters Read Article

New renewable energy capacity will be added at a record pace this year, according to an International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast covered by Reuters. It says a record 320 gigawatts (GW) is forecast to be added, boosted by “[r]ising concerns over energy security and climate change”, according to the IEA. BusinessGreen says the IEA “warns policies introduced in next six months will determine whether momentum can be maintained beyond 2022”.

Do not use Ukraine war to defer climate goals, warns Mark Carney
The Guardian Read Article

UN climate envoy Mark Carney says the world cannot afford to defer climate action in light of the energy crisis linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Guardian reports. It quotes him speaking at the Net Zero Delivery Summit in London saying: “The more we emit now, the more radical action will be needed later. We need to speed up, not slow down.” Reuters also has the story, saying US climate envoy John Kerry, speaking at the same event, “echoed the call for the Ukraine war to drive a quicker shift to renewables”. Separately, the Press Association reports the comments of COP26 president Alok Sharma, quoting him saying that “climate security has become synonymous with energy security” because of Russia’s “illegal and brutal invasion of Ukraine”. Politico has an article headlined: “Climate goes missing in action in Russia’s war.”

'Critical mass' of polluters setting carbon targets
BBC News Read Article

The number of major emitting companies setting climate targets has reached a “critical mass”, says a new report from the UN-backed Science-Based Targets Initiative covered by BBC News. The broadcaster says targets have been adopted by “more than 2,000 firms worth $38tn across 70 countries in 15 industries”, according to the report. The article mentions a second report, from thinktank Carbon Tracker, that it says “cast[s] doubt on whether oil companies can deliver carbon cuts they’ve promised” because they are “relying on unproven technologies”.

Nature loss: Watchdog highlights 'precarious state' of environment
BBC News Read Article

The first report of England’s new nature regulator, the Office for Environmental Protection, says the country’s environment is in a “precarious state” and should receive the same urgency as efforts to reach net-zero, BBC News reports. It says: “[The] report, described as a ‘polite demolition’ of the government’s track record, paints a picture of environmental crises on land, in the air and in the seas and rivers.” The Daily Mail coverage of the report says the regulator “warned that it could take the government to court as a last resort if it did not meet its legal obligations to clean up the environment”. The Guardian quotes the watchdog’s chair, Dame Glenys Stacey, saying that “tipping points are fast approaching in some areas”. The Independent also has the story.

Comment.

Climate change is devastating the global south
Saleemul Huq and Mohamed Adow, Al Jazeera Read Article

“[T]he onus is particularly on rich countries in North America and Europe to help vulnerable countries to weather climate impacts”, says a comment for Al Jazeera penned by Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa and Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development. They describe a call to action for faster progress at the next UN climate summit COP27, launched this week by ACT2025, which they describe as “a coalition amplifying the voices of vulnerable countries in the climate negotiations”. The calls include: for G7 and G20 countries to commit to faster emissions cuts; for developed countries to deliver adequate climate finance; for countries to implement stronger adaptation measures and agree a global goal on adaptation; for developed countries to commit finance specifically for loss and damage; and for countries to implement the Paris “rulebook” to hold state and non-state actors accountable for their climate commitments.

BusinessGreen article reports that the UK and Egyptian COP presidencies are “seek[ing] to rally support for Glasgow Climate Pact” before COP27 in November.

The Democrats really are that dense about climate change
Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic Read Article

In his weekly article for the Atlantic, columnist Robinson Meyer bemoans the “litany of missed opportunities” that he says characterise the Democrats’ recent record on climate change. He writes: “The party doesn’t even seem to realise that it’s blowing a once-in-a-decade chance to pass meaningful climate legislation.” As well as the impending midterm elections that could see the Democrats “consign[ed]…to minority status for years to come”, Meyer notes that the Supreme Court could soon restrict the administration’s ability regulate greenhouse gases this term. He concludes: “If Democrats couldn’t pass a climate bill in 2009 or 2022, why should anyone have any hope that they’ll try to do it again, or be able to?”

Science.

Shifts in regional water availability due to global tree restoration
Nature Geoscience Read Article

Large-scale tree-cover expansion around the world could “create complex patterns of shifting water availability”, a new study suggests. The researchers estimate how 900m hectares of global tree restoration would impact evaporation and rainfall. The findings show that “tree-cover expansion can increase water availability by up to 6% in some regions, while decreasing it by up to 38% in others”. The authors add that “several so-called hot spots for forest restoration could lose water, including regions that are already facing water scarcity today”. Nature Geoscience also publishes an accompanying editorial and research briefing.

Global hydro-climatological indicators and changes in the global hydrological cycle and rainfall patterns
PLOS Climate Read Article

“Individual precipitation systems” around the world have shrunk in terms of their spatial extent while becoming more intense during 1950-2020, a new study says. Using the ERA5 reanalysis dataset, the researchers find that the global area of daily precipitation decreased from 43 to 41% of the global area between 1950 and 2020. At the same time, the total daily global rainfall increased from 1440bn tonnes to 1510bn tonnes per day, the study says.

How can carbon labels and climate-friendly default options on restaurant menus contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions associated with dining?
PLOS Climate Read Article

Using labels to shows the carbon footprint of meal choices on restaurant menus could encourage diners to choose more climate-friendly options, a new study suggests. In an “online simulation experiment”, the researchers showed participants menus from nine different restaurants with and without “default” climate-friendly options and carbon labels. The results indicated that “more climate-friendly dish choices resulting in lower greenhouse gas emissions were made with the low-emission than the high-emission default condition, and when carbon labels were present rather than absent”.

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