Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Saudi Arabia Plans $2 Trillion Megafund for Post-Oil Era: Deputy Crown Prince
- India to sign Paris climate change accord on April 22
- Europe's carbon market emissions dip for fifth year, down 0.4 pct
- Australia grants India’s Adani go-ahead for thermal coal mine
- Race to go green is killing heavy industries
- Amid Tata Steel's Port Talbot's closure, how many crown jewels can we lose?
- Coal price hopes fade amid reality of slowing Asia demand: Russell
- The high cost of a high moral tone
- Declining water yield from forested mountain watersheds in response to climate change and forest mesophication
- Understanding the recent trend of haze pollution in eastern China: roles of climate change
The world’s largest oil state, Saudi Arabia, is starting to plan for a post-oil future, deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has told Bloomberg in a five-hour interview. He says “within 20 years, we will be an economy or state that doesn’t depend mainly on oil”. A wealth fund created through the partial sell-off of state oil firm Saudi Aramco will fund efforts to diversify the economy. The story has been picked up by the Financial Times, Climate Home, Grist and the Guardian.
Following last week’s news that China and the US will sign the Paris climate agreement this year, the Times of India reports that India will also “formally sign” the deal in New York later this month. Indian environment minister Prakash Javadekar says India will “ratify the [agreement] on April 22”, according to the paper. The move by the world’s top three emitters increases the likelihood that the agreement will enter force: it could become operational by the end of 2016, writes Michael Dobson in Climate Home.
Emissions covered by the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) fell for the fifth year in a row, reports Reuters. In part this was thanks to renewable energy sources and cheap gas cutting power sector emissions, it says. EU ETS emissions in 2015 were down 0.4% on the year before, analysts say.
Australia has approved construction of one of the world’s largest thermal coal mines, the Financial Times reports. The move is controversial, it says, and has drawn immediate criticism from environmental groups. The news is also covered by Reuters and the Guardian. Carbon Brief looked at the significance of the mine last year.
Britain’s energy levies are “bad for the men in boiler suits” says Matt Ridley, adviser to the climate sceptic lobby group the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Ridley says the UK has “the most draconian climate policies” causing higher electricity than anywhere else in Europe and “far higher [prices] than in Asia and America”. [This is not accurate; see this Carbon Brief factcheck]. As Ridley writes: “the immediate Welsh crisis is caused more by China’s dumping of cheap steel on world markets than by energy costs per se”. Ridley is one of the many commentators to take aim at UK climate policy in the wake of the Tata Steel crisis. In the Sun, Trevor Kavanagh decries the UK’s “punitive carbon tax”. Christopher Booker in the Sunday Telegraph says the UK is “following Germany to an energy disaster” [the German steel industry benefits from low power prices]. In theTimes, Marcus Leroux says UK steelmakers face the Highest energy costs in the EU because of “policy and geography”. Dominic Sandbrook for the Mail says energy costs are “ruinously high…imposed by green levies”. The threatened loss of the steel industry is “a predictable result of the decision…to give the utmost priority to reducing CO2”, says Dominic Lawson in the Sunday Times. Lawson makes a similar case for the Mail. The Times also has a comment from correspondent Robin Pagnamenta arguing that “gold-plated UK carbon regulations…are gradually killing heavy industry”. He says the £390m exemption to energy levies for industry “is unlikely to be of much use”. In the Telegraph, Boris Johnson says “the cost of energy matters a great deal”. In fact, energy makes up only around 6% of production costs. After compensation, policy costs add 1%. For more on this, see Carbon Brief’s factcheck.
“Industries rise and fall, with coal giving way to cleaner sources of energy”, says a Daily Mail editorial, but steel is “so strategically vital” it should “stand apart from the normal run of commerce”. UK steel firms are “saddled with monstrous handicaps – first, the crippling green taxes imposed by Ed Miliband’s Climate Change Act in 2008”. It’s worth noting that only five MPs voted against the Act, which was passed with cross-party consensus. David Cameron or George Osborne were not among the dissenters. As for “green taxes”, Carbon Brief analysis shows the costs of climate policy add around 1% to UK steel production costs.
Demand for coal is weak across Asia’s top importers, writes Reuters columnist Clyde Russell. He points to China’s plans to limit increases in total energy use and cut coal’s share of the mix by 1 percentage point. At around 43 million tonnes, this is roughly one-fifth of China’s 2015 imports, he says.
An “important cause” of the demise of the British steel industry is “the artificially high prices charted for our energy”, argues a Sunday Times editorial. It says: “few if any other countries have emulated our onerous green taxes”. Carbon Brief has looked at the impact of climate policy on UK steel production costs.
Climate change and forest disturbances are threatening the ability of US mountain forests to provide the clean, reliable, and abundant fresh water, a new study says. Researchers used 76 years of data on climate, vegetation and water yield for six unmanaged forests in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. Their results suggest that changes in climate, tree cover and mix of species are the main causes behind a decrease in water yield since the 1970s.
A new study identifies the causes behind changes in winter haze pollution in China since 1960. The results show that winter days with haze gradually increased during 1960–1979, remained stable overall during 1980–1999, and increased rapidly during 2000–2012. Growing energy generation in China, rapid decline of Arctic sea ice extent and reduced rainfall and surface winds are the main reasons for the intensification of haze pollution since 2000, the paper concludes.