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Briefing date 27.09.2023
Rosebank oil field given go-ahead by regulator

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Climate and energy news.

UK: Rosebank oil field given go-ahead by regulator
BBC News Read Article

The controversial Rosebank oil field off the coast of Shetland, Scotland, has been given consent by regulators, reports BBC News. Owners Equinor and Ithaca Energy have been given development and production consent for what is the UK’s largest untapped oil field, estimated to contain 500m barrels of oil, it adds. The go-ahead has been granted after the acceptance of an environmental statement for the field, which sits 80 miles west of Shetland, after a decision on its development had been repeatedly delayed, the outlet notes. It adds that, back in August, 50 MPs and peers from all major parties wrote to the then energy secretary Grant Shapps urging him to block Rosebank, arguing it could produce 200m tonnes of carbon dioxide and that most of the cost of the development would be shouldered by taxpayers. [Analysis from Carbon Brief’s Simon Evans found burning all its production – some 300m+ barrels of oil & gas – would be equivalent to the annual emissions of around 90 countries and 400m people.] Environmental campaigners have also called on the UK government to halt the development, reports the Guardian, arguing that it contravenes the country’s plan for a net-zero economy. The article quotes Tessa Khan, a climate lawyer and the executive director of campaign group Uplift, which helped coordinate the Stop Rosebank campaign, who says a legal challenge could be mounted against the government. Khan said: “There are strong grounds to believe that the way this government has come to this decision is unlawful and we will see them in court if so. We shouldn’t have to fight this government for cheap, clean energy and a liveable climate, but we will.” Hundreds of climate scientists and academics, along with more than 200 organisations and tens of thousands of people across the UK, have previously voiced their opposition to the development, the Guardian adds. The International Energy Agency has repeatedly warned that no new oil and gas exploration should take place if the world is to limit global heating to 1.5C, and UN secretary general António Guterres called on governments to halt new licences for oil and gas exploration and development earlier this year, it adds. Equinor will invest $3.8bn alongside its partner to develop the field, which is expected to begin production in 2026-27, reports Reuters. Ithaca Energy said Rosebank will underpin $9.84bn (£8.1bn) of direct investment in the UK and support up to 1,600 jobs during construction, it adds. UK regulator the North Sea Transition Authority stated that it had taken Rosebank’s emissions into account in relation to Britain’s climate plan, before approving the project, notes the newswire. The article quotes Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who says “giving the green light to this huge new oil field is morally obscene. This government must be held accountable for its complicity in this climate crime”. This story was also covered by the Financial Times, Politico, City AM, the Scotsman and others. And for more context, see Carbon Brief’s 2022 factcheck on whether new UK oil and gas licences ever be “climate compatible”.

Europe’s banks helped fossil fuel firms raise more than €1tn from global bond markets
The Guardian Read Article

European banks have helped fossil fuel companies raise more than €1tn (£869bn) from global bond markets since the Paris Agreement, reveals the Guardian following an investigation by the publication and its reporting partners. Since 2016, lenders including Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Barclays have “continued to profit” from the expansion of oil, gas and coal by supporting the sale of fossil fuel bonds, it continues. The newspaper worked with other European newspapers and the Dutch platforms Investico and Follow the Money to look at 1,700 bond issues recorded by the financial information provider Bloomberg. The findings have “raised concerns among sustainable investment campaigners” that banks are continuing to offer “hidden” financial support to energy companies that are responsible for raising global emissions, even as they publicly pledge to phase out direct lending for new projects, the article notes. The Paris Agreement in December 2015 formalised the need to “drastically” reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, notes Le Monde – one of the European publications involved in the investigation. But between January 2016 and June 2023, €1.011tn was raised by 307 major polluters to continue expansion of fossil fuel activities, it continues. This was thanks to 1,666 “grey” bonds, which represent some 20-40% of the sector’s financing, with the rest being through direct loans, it adds.

Climate change: Six young people take 32 countries to court
BBC News Read Article

Six Portuguese young people have filed a lawsuit against 32 governments, including all EU member states, the UK, Norway, Russia, Switzerland and Turkey, reports BBC News. They are accusing the countries of insufficient action over climate change and failing to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions enough to hit the Paris Agreement 1.5C limit, it continues. The case is the first of its kind to be filed at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and if successful could have legally-binding consequences for the governments involved, the article states. The claimants, who are aged between 11 and 24, argue that the forest fires that have occurred in Portugal since 2017 are a direct result of global warming, it notes. The case, which was filed in September 2020, will have its first hearing today, reports Reuters, with a ruling expected in the first half of 2024. Gerry Liston, one of the lawyers from the UK-based Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) – who are backing the claimants – said that if the case was successful it would be up to national courts to enforce the rulings, continues the article, and that they would be provided with a roadmap to ensure enforcement was effective. Gearóid Ó Cuinn, the director of GLAN is quoted in ABC News, saying: “This is truly a David and Goliath case. It is unprecedented in its scale and its consequences. It also makes legal history. Never before have so many countries had to defend themselves in front of a court, anywhere in the world.”

UK: Electric cars to make up half of sales within five years
The Times Read Article

More than half of new cars sold in the UK will have to be electric within five years, reports the Times. Prime minister Rishi Sunak is expected to confirm that the government is sticking to electric sales targets to vehicle manufacturers, following speculation they may be weakened after he “watered down some net-zero policies”, it continues. Sunak’s speech last week “left uncertainty about the fate of the ‘zero emissions vehicle mandate’, which would leave manufacturers facing fines if 22% of their new car sales were not electric next year, and 80% in 2030”, the paper explains, adding: “However, government officials met BMW, Toyota, Stellantis, Jaguar Land Rover, Ford, Bentley and McLaren on Monday to tell them that the goals would remain and become law by January at the latest. Government sources have indicated that the targets remain unchanged from figures published in March and could be announced in a government response to a consultation as soon as Wednesday. The plans are just waiting to be approved by the devolved administrations.” A related story, which is not yet online, makes the Times frontpage with the headline: “Sunak risks ‘row with both sides’ over targets for electric cars. Industry analysts have warned that the UK risks falling further behind Europe with EV sales following Sunak’s “screeching U-turn” on climate policies, reports the Guardian. Sales of EVs grew by 31% in the 12 months to July in the UK, one of the slowest rates of growth in Europe according to data analysed by Cornwall Insight and the law firm Shoosmiths, it continues. A lack of public charging infrastructure has held back uptake, meaning the UK falls well behind the near 61% increase in sales across 27 EU nations, says the article. The UK government’s decision to delay a ban on the sale of new combustion engine vehicles by five years could further “shake investor confidence”, it notes.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that Cheshire-based Community Windpower has announced that it is halting development of one of Britain’s largest onshore wind projects due to rising cost and the government’s windfall tax on green power. The company said there’s been an 80% surge in development costs – from £300m to £550m – over the past two years, and combined with the windfall tax this has meant it is not possible to proceed, it adds. And BusinessGreen reports that the UK has already surpassed the number of rooftop solar installations seen during the whole of 2022. According to the latest figures from the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), 138,336 solar PV installations have been registered since last December, up from the 137,926 registered over last year, the outlet says. 

‘Even Lucifer was using a fan’: Brazil bakes as mercilessly hot spring begins
The Guardian Read Article

Brazil is “sweltering amid unforgiving and unseasonal temperatures” reports the Guardian. Following on from the country’s hottest winter since 1961, temperatures are already soaring towards, and in some places over, 40C, it continues. Newspapers and weather forecasters have drawn comparisons with global hotspots including Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia, the Guardian notes.  São Paulo, “supposedly Brazil’s cloudy “Land of Drizzle”, is sweltering”, the article continues, with temperatures hitting 36.5C on Sunday, its sixth hottest day since 1943. The heatwave is “scorching” South America, reports the Independent, with several countries breaking September records and near all-time highs. Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina have all recorded their highest September temperatures, with western Paraguay’s Filadelfia city seeing 44.4C, it adds. The abnormal heat is expected to continue, risking more records and wildfires, forecasters have said, the Independent notes.

UK and Germany sign hydrogen energy collaboration agreement
Reuters Read Article

The UK and Germany yesterday signed a new hydrogen energy collaboration agreement, reports Reuters. The countries will work closely to underpin the international trade of hydrogen under the new partners, which the UK government hopes will support its net-zero target and bolster energy security, it continues. The newswire quotes Martin Callanan, a junior minister in the government’s energy department, who said: “This agreement will underpin the development of this new fuel not just for our respective countries but also for an international trade that could be transformative in our work towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.” The agreement was signed at the UK Embassy in Berlin by minister for energy efficiency and green finance Lord Callanan and Federal Republic of Germany’s state secretary for energy Philip Nimmermann, reports BusinessGreen. The two governments stated they are “committed to working together to further advance the development of ground-breaking low carbon and green hydrogen technologies, which they said could support new jobs and low-carbon investment”, the article notes. 

Elsewhere, DeSmog reports that hydrogen lobbyists are “targeting the UK’s Labour Party”, having bet that the opposition party will likely win the next general election. Emails seen by DeSmog show a “PR lobby funded by gas companies is looking to influence the party”, it notes.

China considers charging users to compensate utilities for building coal plants
Bloomberg Read Article

China’s top economic planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), has issued a draft plan that would compensate utilities companies for “building coal-fired power”, reports Bloomberg. These would be funded by charging “capacity fees” for industrial and commercial power users on top of existing electricity fees, it adds. Bloomberg says that the proposal would make it possible for power plants to recover “at least 30% of their fixed investment costs by 2025” if it is enacted into law.

Meanwhile, the Chinese energy website BJX News reports that the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) has issued policy guidance to further optimise environmental impact assessment processes. The document aims to “strengthen the protection of EIA services throughout [China’s] economic development”, and improve the administration of pollution permits. Separately, the certifying organisation of China’s green certificates (GECs) has published a report finding that almost 60m green certificates had been purchased by the end of 2022, of which manufacturing companies purchased 68%, reports the Chinese business outlet Jiemian

Separately, the Communist Party-backed People’s Daily reports that China has released a white paper on “building a global community of shared future”, which includes a call to build a “clean and beautiful world” in an allusion to supporting low-carbon development. The Financial Times writes that leading global solar developer EDP warns about the importance of diversifying renewable power supply chains following disruptions in the shipment of solar panels from China to the US. Additionally, the US automaker Tesla garnered significant attention during the evidence-gathering conducted in preparation for the EU anti-subsidy probe into Chinese electric vehicles (EVs), writes Bloomberg. Ford Motors, meanwhile, is pausing work on its $3.5bn EV battery plant in Michigan, which uses technology licensed from Chinese battery company CATL, reports the Chinese financial outlet Caixin.

Elsewhere, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said that climate change “highlights the positive role nuclear could play”, reports the state-run newspaper China Daily. In another article, the newspaper quotes Wang Binghua, director of the China Nuclear Energy Association, that nuclear energy is expected to “supply around 10% of China’s electricity by 2035”.

UK: Sir Alok Sharma to stand down at next election – days after raising net-zero concerns
The Daily Telegraph Read Article

COP26 president Sir Alok Sharma has announced he will not stand at the next general election, the Daily Telegraph reports. It continues: “The Tory former cabinet minister, who led the United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow two years ago, said he will continue to champion ‘climate action’ in parliament for the remainder of his time as an MP. His announcement comes days after he raised concerns about Prime Minister Rishi Sunak weakening a host of pledges designed to help the UK achieve a net-zero economy by 2050.” Sky News notes that Sharma said last week that “it’d be incredibly damaging for business confidence, for inward investment, if the political consensus that we have forged in our country on the environment and climate action is fractured…And, frankly, I really do not believe that it’s going to help any political party electorally which chooses to go down this path”. The Guardian, BBC News, i newspaper, Daily Mail and ITV News all have the story.

Climate and energy comment.

I’m a Tory MP, but I know Rishi Sunak’s claims about the cost of net-zero are false
Chris Skidmore, The Guardian Read Article

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak’s announcement last week that the government would delay key net-zero targets came as “as surprise to anyone who has followed the policy”, writes Conservative MP, former energy minister and chair of Mission Zero Chris Skidmore in the Guardian. “Make no mistake, the government cannot stop our collective progress towards net-zero. But it can, all too easily, slow progress at a critical time when we should be accelerating our efforts”, he continues. Skidmore highlights the importance of electricity decarbonisation by 2035 and urges the government to “double down” on this commitment or risk breaking its 2050 net-zero target. “The rhetoric that the net-zero transition is at odds with the economy is false,” writes Skidmore, hitting out at the “cost of not-zero”, the record levels of fuel poverty seen in Britain last year and the volatility of continued reliance on gas. He concludes: “As I set out in the net-zero review, the climate crisis is the greatest challenge of our generation, but it is also the greatest economic opportunity. There is now no future economy without a green economy, and the UK must continue to seize the net-zero opportunity with both hands, not drop our greatest chance for growth this century.” Elsewhere, a piece in Reuters by reporters Gloria Dickie, Kate Abnett and Susanna Twidale questions whether Britain has “lost its climate crown?”.

Striking a different tone in his Daily Telegraph column, David Blackmon – who the newspaper describes as having had a “40 year career in the US energy industry” – writes that Sunak’s U-turn could “spark a transatlantic energy alliance”. Former US president Donald Trump took time out of election campaigning to congratulate Sunak on the rollback, saying “I always knew Sunak was smart, that he wasn’t going to destroy and bankrupt his nation for fake climate alarmists that don’t have a clue”, Blackmon says. “Assuming Sunak follows through on the legislative front and further assuming a Trump victory in 2024 (he leads Biden by nine points in the new Washington Post/ABC poll released over the weekend), would a two-pronged rollback of net-zero action by a pair of the developed world’s strongest democracies ring a death knell for the entire green energy push?”, he questions. Should both win their re-elections, the UK and US could form a “powerful partnership in leading more rational and truly sustainable change”, Blackmon concludes. (DeSmog notes that Blackmon has previously “warned of a ‘climate scam’ and spread conspiracy theories about plans for Covid-style climate lockdowns”.) 

Also in the Daily Telegraph, financial columnist and author Matthew Lynn argues that US president Joe Biden’s “inflationary boom is running out of control”, as “so much is being spent on America’s green transition that the unions are demanding a share of it”. And Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the Daily Telegraph’s world economy editor, writes that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is “going into a death spiral – because of China”. He says that “the breathtaking pace of global electrification will hasten the decline of oil in car and bus transport” and quotes projections that EV sales in China “will hit 17m or 60% of total Chinese share by 2025, rising to 90% by 2030”.

New climate research.

Implementing climate literacy in schools – what to teach our teachers?
Climatic Change Read Article

New research sets out a “baseline” for the development of teacher preparation in the “interdisciplinary field of climate literacy”. Interviewing experts in climate science and education research, the researchers outline 13 “themes” that describe the knowledge teachers need on the scientific background of climate change and teaching strategies. These themes “indicate that teachers need a broad basis of understanding the climate system, climate science, causes of, impacts of, and dealing with climate change as well as the ability to convey this interdisciplinary content into teaching”, the authors say. This can be achieved by “making the topic personally relevant and strengthening students’ role as change agents”, they add.

Fewer, but more intense, future tropical storms over the Ganges and Mekong basins
Geophysical Research Letters Read Article

The densely populated low-lying delta river basins of the Ganges and Mekong will likely see fewer tropical storms in a warming world, but they will be more intense, says a recent study. Using high-resolution climate models – up to around 25 km grid scale at six hourly time-steps) – the researchers identify a decline in the future frequency of tropical storms, but an increase in the future intensity and “available cyclone energy of storms” over both basins. The results “have implications for adaptation planning and risk assessment for tropical storms and suggest the need for further high-resolution modelling studies”, the authors conclude.

Location is a major barrier for transferring US fossil fuel employment to green jobs
Nature Communications Read Article

A “major barrier” to a just transition of fossil-fuel workers to green jobs in the US is their location, a new study says. Using 14 years of data on power plants, job transitions, and employment and skills, the researchers assess “whether people employed in fossil fuel resource extraction today are co-located and have the transferable skills to switch to expected green jobs”. The findings suggest that “these workers could leverage their mobility to other industries and have similar skills to green occupations”. However, the researchers say, “today’s fossil fuel extraction workers are not co-located with current sources of green energy production” and they “are mostly not located in the regions where green employment will grow despite attaining the appropriate skillsets”.

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