Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Saudi Aramco raises $25.6bn in world’s biggest IPO
- Brazil will not hold up climate deal over funding demand
- New South Wales bushfires: 'Mega blaze' warning near Sydney
- Climate change protests will surround the World Bank and block traffic Friday morning
- EU gives green light to rule book on sustainable investments
- Climate change: The necessity of pulling carbon dioxide out of the air
- Sea ice targeted geoengineering can delay Arctic sea ice decline but not global warming
Saudi Aramco has priced its long-awaited initial public offering (IPO) at the top end of its range, reports the Financial Times, making it the world’s largest new listing. The FT continues: “The state oil giant raised $25.6bn, surpassing Chinese ecommerce group Alibaba’s 2014 $25bn share sale in the US, giving Saudi Aramco a valuation of $1.7tn. This is more than the combined market capitalisation of the five biggest international oil companies.” This means Aramco will topple Apple as the world’s most valuable listed company, says the Guardian. Apple is valued at $1.17tn. While setting a new record, the IPO “still falls well short of Saudi Arabia’s initial lofty expectations”, says CNN. The Saudi government initially discussed floating 5% of the company in 2018 in a deal that would raise as much as $100bn, the outlet says, but the project was shelved. The deal was revived this year, says CNN, “but international investors were far less convinced about buying Aramco stock. Among their concerns: Low oil prices, the climate crisis and geopolitical risks”. The reasons for listing Aramco “have not changed”, says the Economist: “Saudi Arabia needs to move beyond oil, which accounts for nearly 70% of government revenues. That would be a dangerous dependence in any era, let alone one with swelling youth unemployment and doubts about long-term demand for fossil fuels in a world worried about climate change.” Aramco did not say when shares would start trading on the Saudi stock market, but two sources tell Reuters that it is scheduled for 11 December.
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that Opec – the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries – “is considering deeper cuts to production next year to avert a price slump in the market as the global economy falters”. The deal, agreed in principal with Russia – would extend cuts in productions by an additional 500,000 barrels a day, says the FT. Axios adds: “The emerging agreement signals how petro-states are grappling with how to prop up prices amid rising supplies from the US and elsewhere, and sluggish global demand that’s hampered by trade battles.”
Reuters reports that a senior Brazilian diplomat has said Brazil will not hold up a deal settling the final items of the Paris Agreement on climate change over a demand for more international funding for domestic environmental efforts. “Brazil’s environment minister Ricardo Salles has made securing more money for the country’s environmental efforts his top priority at UN climate talks underway in Madrid,” the newswire says, yet “earmarking funding for specific countries is not part of the UN negotiations, which are focused on setting rules for how the Paris accord will be implemented, leaving unclear how Salles’ demand factored into negotiations”. Yesterday, Marco Tulio Cabral, Brazil’s 2nd-ranking diplomat at the summit told a gathering of Brazilian NGO representatives that “yesterday we had a long meeting and he at no point established this link. These things are not linked. This negotiation is happening in parallel”. Elsewhere at the climate talks, the Japanese website NHK World News reports that Japan’s Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi says he will do his best to explain the country’s use of coal-fired power generation. It continues: “Koizumi told a news conference in Tokyo on Friday that he thinks it is inevitable that he will have to explain Japan’s use of fossil energy. Japan has been facing international criticism over the issue. The minister said his government will have to consider raising Japan’s emission reduction target.” Meanwhile, China held a “rare press conference” on Wednesday, says Climate Home News (CHN), where “a panel of experts (which didn’t include any government officials) dodged questions about whether Beijing would enhance its climate plan next year”. CHN also has a comment piece from Richie Merzian, the director of the Climate & Energy Programme at thinktank the Australia Institute, on how Australia “will try and keep a low profile” at the talks, focusing “on blue carbon and avoid discussing its accounting tricks to meet its Paris promises”. Elsewhere, BBC News has a video where they “asked delegates from all over the world how they were adapting their lives for the sake of the environment” and Reuters reports that climate activist Greta Thunberg has made it to Madrid after taking an overnight train for the final leg of her journey back from the US. Thunberg will be giving a press conference “in Madrid city centre at La Casa Encendida at 4pm on Friday just before joining climate protests starting at Atocha train station from 6pm”, says CHN.
About 100 bushfires are raging in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW), reports BBC News, “with the most severe forming into a ‘mega blaze’ north of Sydney”. More than 2,000 firefighters are battling bushfires, which escalated in intensity late yesterday, the article says, adding: “Many fires have raged for weeks, feeding off tinder-dry conditions from a severe drought which has affected much of the nation.” It continues: “The severity of the blazes so early in the fire season has caused alarm, and prompted calls for greater action to tackle climate change.” For example, “Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology says that climate change has led to an increase in extreme heat events and raised the severity of other natural disasters, such as drought”. NSW rural fire service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has said authorities were particularly concerned about eight fires now at emergency levels around Sydney, reports Reuters. With smoke from the fires blanketing the city, the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald today leads with: “Sydney chokes as state burns”. Schools in Sydney “have cancelled outdoor sport and activities and been advised to keep children inside”, reports the Guardian. The smoke has “aggravated asthma attacks and resulted in a spike in hospital admissions as fires burn all along the New South Wales coast”, it adds. Both the Guardian and the Sydney Morning Herald have live blogs providing the latest updates on the fires. Yesterday, a group of firefighters “held a protest and media conference in front of Parliament House demanding action on climate change and more resources for firefighting services”, reports the Daily Telegraph. Mick Tisbury, commander at the Metropolitan Fire Brigade described the conditions as “absolutely demoralising”. He told local media: “We are fearful of the fire season we are going to cop – we’ll do the best we can but we can’t perform miracles. People are going to lose their properties – unfortunately, people will probably lose their lives – it won’t be from lack of trying, but that’s just the reality.“ And, finally, Jamie Smyth, Australia and Pacific Islands correspondent for the Financial Times, writes that the severity of the fires “has opened a new front in Australia’s ‘climate wars’, a partisan political battle that has raged for more than a decade over energy and climate policies”. Smyth adds: “The conservative government, a staunch supporter of the A$67bn-a-year coal industry, and green groups have spent the past month bickering over whether climate change is to blame.”
Climate change protestors plan to take to the streets of Washington DC this morning, reports the Washington Post, with the aim of targeting the World Bank to demand that it “fully divest from fossil fuels immediately”. “Not only do the leaders of the major financial institutions know that they are contributing to the biggest existential crisis of our lifetime; they are preparing for it,” said protest co-organiser Raegan Davis in a statement. “We know we can stop climate chaos, and if financial institutions would rather profit than help us, then we will shut them down until they change their minds.” Today’s demonstration, which is part of the national student-led Youth Climate Strike, will then merge with activists’ “Fire Drill Friday protest”, says the Post, a “weekly rally on Capitol Hill aimed at what activists say is lawmakers’ lack of action on reducing climate-altering carbon and greenhouse gas emissions”. Actor Jane Fonda “has become a fixture” at these protests, says the Post: “Fonda moved to the District for the duration of the protests, which are slated to continue until early January.” Fonda has an opinion piece in the New York Times on why the “climate emergency is a political emergency”. She adds: “We must overcome the power of the fossil fuel industry and elect an environmental champion for president and a congressional leadership ready to move forward aggressively with a Green New Deal to save us and the planet, starting the day they take office.” BBC’s Newsnight interviewed Fonda on last night’s programme.
Elsewhere, Dame Emma Thompson gave a speech outside the BBC Broadcasting House in central London last night as part of Extinction Rebellion’s latest climate change protest, reports the Press Association. Delivering a mock weather forecast, Thompson warned that “climate crisis trends show an increased chance of warmer, wetter winters and hotter, dryer summers, along with an increase of frequency and intensity of extremes.” The stunt was organised as part of the climate change protest group’s “Election Rebellion” demonstrations across the UK, adds the newswire. The PA also reports from the appearance in court by 91-year old climate protestor John Lynes, who was arrested in September when demonstrators occupied one side of a dual carriageway near the Port of Dover. Lynes told the court he deliberately disobeyed police orders because he “trembles” for future generations dealing with the climate crisis, says the PA. And, finally, former BBC World News editor Lisette Johnston writes in the Guardian that “people listen to Greta Thunberg because of her creativity, not just her science”, and in another Guardian piece, Zamzam Ibrahim – president of the National Union of Students – says that the “surge in youth and student voter registrations is no accident” and that climate change is the “issue that we have been campaigning on more than any other”.
EU negotiators have agreed a deal to establish common European rules over what can be considered a green investment, reports the FT, “in what Brussels hailed as the first concerted attempt to define what counts as a sustainable investment”. It continues: “The categorisation system to decide which financial products could be marketed as green was agreed by the European Parliament and EU diplomats on Thursday following weeks of talks in Brussels. The rule book, which will cover all types of energy sources including nuclear, will inform how investors treat a range of assets from green bonds to bank loans and investment products.” The framework is should help stamp out so-called “greenwashing”, says the FT, when countries and companies seek to make their environmental credentials look better than they are. Under the agreement, all financial products that claim to be green or sustainable will have to disclose exactly what proportion of their investments are environmentally friendly, says Reuters. The deal will also classify products into three levels of “greenness”, adds Reuters, and “requires full disclosure for all financial instruments, forcing funds without any sustainability claims to disclose that they are not assessed under the green criteria”.
Meanwhile, Reuters also reports that “European investors representing over six trillion euros in assets are calling on European Union governments to speed up efforts to enshrine the EU’s 2050 climate neutrality goal in law”. And another Reuters article reports that “some of Europe’s biggest banks are being challenged by environmental groups to sever all lending to utilities which they say are still developing new coal-fired power plants”. And, finally, Gillian Tett – chair of the editorial board of the Financial Times and US editor-at-large – has an opinion piece asking: “How can an asset management sector dominated by passive funds fight climate change?”
An editorial in the Economist talks up the need for society to “clean up your own mess” by actively removing CO2 from the atmosphere. It continues: “Considering that the world has yet to get a handle on cutting emissions, focusing on moving to negative emissions – the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere – might seem premature. But it is already included in many national plans.” Methods of providing negative emissions need to be developed right now, the editorial says, but there are two problems: “one technological, the other psychological”. The technological challenge “is an enormous undertaking for which the world is not prepared”, while the psychological one is that “even while the capacity to ensure negative emissions languishes underdeveloped, the mere idea that they will one day be possible eats away at the perceived urgency of cutting emissions today”. This “puts policymakers in a bind”, the article says: “It would be reckless not to try to develop the technology for negative emissions. But strict limits need to be kept on the tendency to demand more and more of that technology in future scenarios.” The Economist has an accompanying briefing article focusing on the biomass plant at Drax power station in Yorkshire. (Carbon Brief has extensively covered the topic of negative emissions.)
A new modelling study tests a “geoengineering approach” that aims to help maintain Arctic sea ice by using wind-driven pumps to “spread seawater on the surface in winter to enhance ice growth, allowing more ice to survive the summer melt”. Using the very high emissions scenario RCP8.5, the model simulations show “that it is possible to keep the late‐summer sea ice cover at the current extent for the next ∼60 years”, the researchers say. The increased ice extent is “accompanied by significant Arctic late‐summer cooling” by ∼1.3C on average north of the polar circle in the 2021–60 period, the study finds. However, “this cooling is not conveyed to lower latitudes”, the authors note, and “moreover, the Arctic experiences substantial winter warming in regions with active pumps”.
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