Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- US: Senate passes $739bn healthcare and climate bill after months of wrangling
- UK: Tory frontrunner Liz Truss under pressure over help on cost of living
- China halts climate, military ties over Pelosi Taiwan visit
- Germany gets solar power boost amid energy crisis
- England is heading for a drought, Environment Agency warns
- UK: Energy bills cap could hit about £4,400 in January, analysis shows
- UK: Shell and BP to share in £7.5bn taxpayer handout
- UK: Liz Truss heckled by climate protesters at Tory leadership hustings
- Fuel measures cost Aussies billions over six years at the bowser, new report finds
- Tesla urged to build gigafactory in Teesside as Elon Musk plots new plants around the world
- US: A clean energy future is in the hands of Congress
- UK: Next leader must be switched on to spiralling energy crisis
- The Tories have failed to ‘get climate done’ – so I’ve launched a new centre-right party
- The Guardian view on accelerating global heating: follow the science
- Changing minds about global warming: vicarious experience predicts self-reported opinion change in the USA
There is widespread coverage of the US senate passing the Democrats’ “Inflation Reduction Act” yesterday, which the Guardian says would allocate $369bn to climate action and, if signed into law after a vote in the House, would reduce US emissions to about 40% below 2005 levels by 2030. The paper says the bill passed in a 51-50 vote “with every Democrat supporting the bill while all 50 of their Republican colleagues opposed the legislation” and vice-president Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote. It notes: “he majority leader, Steny Hoyer, has said the House will return on Friday to take up the legislation, and Democrats do not need any Republican votes to pass the bill.” The New York Times reports: “The Senate passed legislation on Sunday that would make the most significant federal investment in history to counter climate change…The measure, large elements of which appeared dead just weeks ago amid Democratic divisions, would inject more than $370bn into climate and energy programs.” Reuters reports the comments of Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer calling the bill “the boldest clean energy package in American history”. The Washington Post reports: “The party-line vote marks a major achievement for Democrats, after more than a year of wrangling over a centrepiece of President Biden’s economic agenda. It now awaits a vote in the House.” The Financial Times calls the passage of the bill “a major political victory [for President Joe Biden] just months before the midterm elections”. It quotes Schumer saying: “This bill will kick-start the era of affordable clean energy in America. It is a game-changer. It is a turning point. And it has been a long time in coming.” It lists the key measures in the bill including: a methane “penalty” charging $900 per tonne for emissions in excess of limits in 2024, rising to $1,500 in 2026; a tax credit for carbon capture and storage; $30bn of tax credits for solar, wind, batteries and advanced nuclear over 10 years; a $27bn “green bank” to support clean energy; $60bn “to support low-income communities and communities of colour, includ[ing] grants for zero-emissions technology and vehicles”; $10bn in investment tax credits for electric vehicle and clean energy manufacturing facilities; and a tax credit of up to $7,500 for people buying electric vehicles. BBC News reports the passage of bill: “Democrats cried with joy and pumped their fists in the air after the US Senate finally approved a key plank of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.” It includes analysis from climate editor Justin Rowlatt, who writes: “This isn’t the all-singing, all-dancing climate mega-bill Joe Biden promised when he became president – but if it passes it will be the most ambitious action the US has taken to try to stop the planet overheating…With America leading by example, the hope is international efforts to tackle global warming will be revitalised.” The Hill, the Independent and the Daily Telegraph also have the story.
The New York Times has an article listing the contents of the bill, that says: “It is the largest single American investment to slow global warming.” Another New York Times article looks at how the bill “scaled back” earlier Democratic climate plans, that failed to win enough support in the Senate. Analysis from Reuters says the legislation “could deliver a major win for Democrats and could help reduce the carbon emissions that drive climate change while also cutting costs for the elderly”. It says: “About half of Americans – some 49% – support the bill, including 69% of Democrats and 34% of Republicans, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted 3 and 4 August.” The newswire adds: “While environmental groups largely embraced the bill, they noted that compromises secured by [senator Joe] Manchin, who represents coal-producing West Virginia, would prolong US use of fossil fuels.” Politico reports: “Historic climate bill to supercharge clean energy industry.” It says the bill “will devote hundreds of billions of dollars to clean energy sources and speed the US transition away from fossil fuels”. The publication says the impact of the bill would “put the country on a path to reduce greenhouse gases by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030, significantly narrowing the gap with the goal Biden set under the Paris climate agreement to cut that pollution by at least half by that date”. The New York Times says: “Consumers will benefit from lower utility bills and cheaper home upgrades, energy experts say.” Reuters says US fuel retailers “are fighting the inclusion of a tax credit for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in Democrats’ $430bn spending bill, arguing SAF is more carbon intense and less efficient than renewable diesel”.
The New York Times has a feature titled: “Five decades in the making: Why it took Congress so long to act on climate.” It explains: “The Senate bill avoided the political pitfalls of past legislative attempts by offering only incentives to cut climate pollution, not taxes.” The Financial Times reports how Democrat senator Krysten Sinema “is significant beneficiary of private equity lobbying machine”. It says: “When the centrist Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema gave the green light this week to move forward with the much-slimmed-down version of her party’s long-awaited climate and tax bill, her colleagues breathed a sigh of relief. However, Sinema’s assent came with a notable proviso: scrapping the promise to end a notorious tax loophole allowing private equity and hedge fund managers to lower their tax bills.” The New York Times reports: “Manchin’s donors include pipeline giants that win in his climate deal.” The Wall Street Journal has an article titled: “GOP lawmakers lobby oil industry to denounce tax-and-climate bill.” It reports: “Congressional Republicans are ramping up pressure on the oil-and-gas industry to take an aggressive stance against the Democrats’ tax-and-climate bill, frustrated that the industry hasn’t done more to help Republicans defeat a cornerstone of President Biden’s agenda.” For the Atlantic, columnist Robinson Meyer writes under the headline: “History’s greatest obstacle to climate progress has finally fallen.”
The rival plans from Conservative leadership hopefuls Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to tackle the UK’s cost of living crisis feature on several of the weekend’s newspaper frontpages, with Monday’s Financial Times frontpage reporting that Truss is “under pressure to promise more help…after expressing her preference for tax cuts over ‘handouts’”. The paper says Truss ally Penny Mordaunt “told Sky News on Sunday that Truss’s comments had been ‘misinterpreted’” and that she had “not ruled out all future help”. It adds that Sunak has pledged to “go further” on household support and that his team say Truss’s plans “would not help the poorest and most of the benefits would accrue to higher earners”. The Sunday Times frontpage splash is headline: “Sunak pledges billions more to ease cost of living crisis.” It says he has “pledged to introduce another multibillion-pound package to help ease the cost of living crisis”. Writing for the Sun, Sunak comments under the headline: “Liz’s plan to help hard-up Brits this winter won’t touch the sides – Sun readers can trust me to step in.” Monday’s i newspaper frontpage says: “Cost of living plans will decide leadership race.” Accompanying reporting from the paper says: “[E]conomists are increasingly arguing that the candidates’ plans are ignoring the elephant in the room – the prospect of energy bills hitting £3,600 a year by next year.” It adds: “Experts from several think-tanks told i that the contenders for next prime minister now need to stop ‘monkeying around with taxes’ and commit billions of pounds to support households through the winter as they face soaring energy and food prices.” The Sunday Telegraph reports on its frontpage that Conservative leadership hopeful Liz Truss would “rush through” tax cuts to “tackle the cost of living crisis”. The reporting is based on an article for the Sunday Telegraph by Truss, in which she reiterates her plan to “suspend” the “green levy on energy bills”. (These make up less than 5% of bills today and will fall below 3% in October.) An editorial in today’s Times says of proposals from Liz Truss: “Her proposed tax cuts will do very little to help most people in Britain through what promises to be a very difficult winter. Taken together, her combination of scrapping the planned rise in national insurance and removing the green levies from energy bills will save someone on average earnings about £200 per year. That compares with an expected rise in the typical fuel bill of £559 in October and £870 in January. By contrast, scrapping the national insurance rise will save anyone with annual earnings above £100,000 more than £1,000 next year.”
The Observer uses its frontpage to report on a call from former primer minister Gordon Brown for an emergency budget. The paper reports: “The intervention by the former prime minister comes as new figures seen by the Observer show that more than 4 million households are on course to spend a quarter of their net income on energy.” It adds: “With pressure growing for action, senior Labour sources have confirmed to the Observer that the party is preparing to back a key intervention designed to curb the winter crisis, in addition to the removal of VAT on energy bills that it has already supported.” Brown pens a comment for the Observer titled: “Fuel poverty is creating a left-out generation that will never recover from the scars.” Making his case for an emergency budget, he says: “For if nothing is done before yet another fuel price rise hits in January, the fuel poor could rise to 39 million people in 15m households – 54% of the country.”
Press Association reports that 44% of UK adults who pay energy bills “found it very or somewhat difficult to afford them in the last two weeks of July, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found”. The Sunday Telegraph reports: “More than two in five people believe the Government is not taking the cost of living crisis seriously despite almost two-thirds of the public already struggling to pay energy bills, a new poll reveals.” It adds: “The findings are likely to pile pressure on Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak over their policy offerings to help with rising costs.” Another Sunday Telegraph article reports a call by former Conservative energy minister Lord Howell who says fuel duty should be halved “to help deal with cost of living crisis”. (The poorest households are much less likely to have access to a car than richer ones.)
China is breaking off talks with the US on a range of issues, including “suspending” discussions on climate change, in response to the visit of US speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, Associated Press reports. It says that “climate change and fighting trade in illegal drugs such as fentanyl were…areas where [the US and China] had found common cause, and Beijing’s suspension of cooperation could have significant implications for efforts to achieve progress in those issues”. The outlet adds that: “China and the US are the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 climate polluters, together producing nearly 40% of all fossil-fuel emissions. Their top climate diplomats, John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua, maintained a cordial relationship that dated back to the Paris climate accord, which was made possible by a breakthrough negotiated among the two and others”. The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced the package of eight “countermeasures” on Friday, says state news agency Xinhua. Bloomberg writes that “in addition to halting talks with the US on defense, China announced it would cancel a dialogue with military leaders and halt discussions on climate – one area where the two nations had found common ground in recent years”. The Financial Times quotes the response from US climate envoy John Kerry saying the Chinese decision “punishes the world”. It quotes the Chinese government saying the move was made because Pelosi’s visit had gone ahead “in disregard of China’s strong opposition and serious representations”. The South China Morning Post, Reuters, Politico and the Independent also have the story.
Reuters reports: “China’s decision to halt bilateral talks on climate change with the United States has cast a cloud of doubt over whether the world can rally enough ambition to address global warming in time to avert its worst impacts.” Bloomberg says the decision “is dealing another blow to global warming negotiations already upset by the energy crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”. An analysis article for the Guardian asks “[w]hat does the US-China row mean for climate change?” It says “the extent of China’s withdrawal from climate discussions is still not clear” but adds that the “breakdown of cooperation between world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters over Taiwan could spell disaster for global warming targets”. An Associated Press “explainer” on the row reports: “Just how much this will sidetrack momentum – especially in the US where there’s congressional action to cut emissions of heat-trapping gas – depends on how long the rift extends, experts said. But they said there’s hope that climate actions already set in motion in both countries will matter more than unspoken words.” It adds: “Just because the two nations aren’t talking to each other about climate doesn’t mean they are not acting, experts say.”
In other news from China’s strategic partnerships, Xinhua carries a report titled “China, ASEAN laud achievements under comprehensive strategic partnership, vow to deepen ties”. Citing Chinese state councilor and foreign minister Wang Yi, the news agency says “[T]he two sides [China and ASEAN] have strengthened cooperation to boost green development, address climate change, enhance ecological environmental protection, and promote energy transformation.” A separate Xinhua article, titled “China ready to advance comprehensive strategic partnership with New Zealand” quotes New Zealand foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta saying:“ New Zealand is willing to continue strengthening effective cooperation with China in such various fields as economy and trade, agriculture, education, science and technology, climate change and environmental protection”.
Elsewhere, the state-run newspaper Global Times reports on China’s “successful launch” of the “terrestrial ecosystem carbon monitoring satellite” on Thursday. The publication says that the world’s “first joint active-passive observation remote sensing satellite for forest carbon sink” has been “officially put into operation”. Finally, a separate article by the Global Times quotes “climate experts” saying that although the “frequency” of hot weather [across China] has been “quite notable” this year, it has not reached “abnormal levels”. The article adds that, according to China Electric Power News, a state-run industry newspaper, “to address the challenges of hot weather, China’s State Grid is placing more emphasis on electricity supply”.
Deutsche Welle reports that Germany’s plan to make up 80% of electricity production with wind and solar by 2030, instead of today’s 42%, “seems to be on its way”. It details that “July was the third month in a row when solar power output soared to a record level”. The news continues that “for the month, photovoltaic (PV) systems generated around a fifth of net electricity production” in Germany – putting it just ahead of lignite-fired power plants, which brought in nearly 22%. However, Die Zeit reports, “the industry had lost its great importance in the face of competition from Asia a decade ago”, with many companies filing for bankruptcy or sold abroad. It quotes Volker Quaschning, professor at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences, saying: “When it comes to expanding solar energy, we are currently more than 90% dependent on solar module imports from Asian countries.” France 24 carries a story on another issue with German solar energy. It says that “in sunny weather, the power lines are becoming overloaded – leading the grid operator to cut off supply from the solar panels”. According to the publication, one solar owner calls the situation “a betrayal of the population”, pointing to soaring electricity prices and a continued push to install more solar panels across Germany.
Meanwhile, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that the German Federal Network Agency believes that consumers in Germany “must save significantly more energy to avert a gas shortage in winter”. The head of the authorities, Klaus Müller, told the newspaper Welt am Sonntag that reducing gas supplies from Russia to just 20% of the agreed volume means that the shortage can only be prevented in two best-case scenarios. It quotes him saying: “For these scenarios, however, consumers must save at least 20% – that is, much more than before…[I]n all other scenarios, there is already a risk of a gas shortage in December, or we will have low storage levels at the end of the coming heating period.” According to Müller, the gas production in Germany by fracking demanded by Bavaria’s prime minister Markus Söder “would not help to prevent a gas emergency”, notes the newspaper.
In more energy news, the New York Times reports that Germany was supposed to end this year “as the world’s only leading industrial nation to have abandoned atomic power”. However, the news continues, chancellor Olaf Scholz “publicly acknowledged for the first time that plans to shut down the country’s remaining three nuclear plants on 31 December may no longer be viable”. It adds that the country’s remaining three nuclear power plants provide only about 6% of Germany’s energy supply. “This is painful for all of us…But we are also under the shadow of this war in Ukraine,” Rosi Steinberger, a member of the Green Party, which has roots in the antinuclear movement, is quoted saying.
The Financial Times says England is heading for a drought, according to the Environment Agency. It reports: “Climate change has made extreme weather events around the world, from heatwaves to floods and fires, more frequent and intense.” It quotes one scientist saying: “The scale of heatwaves and droughts we’re currently experiencing has been projected by climate research for many years now…What we are seeing is a clear signal of what the future is going to be like.” Meanwhile, an editorial in the Times says there has been “chronic underinvestment” by water companies. It says: “[N]ot a single new reservoir has been built in 30 years, despite rising demand for water from a growing population and changing patterns of rainfall arising from climate change.” An editorial in the Daily Mirror says: “[D]roughts and the climate change driving them are deadly serious and require some uncomfortable shifts in our behaviour. However water companies in England are driven by profits and are more concerned about the bottom line than our showers, gardens and clean cars.”
In a comment for the Sunday Telegraph, environment secretary George Eustice says water companies must “eliminate leakage across the country” to secure future water supplies. Eustice also points to investments in “options like new reservoirs, recycling and transfer schemes”. He adds: “The government is also taking action to build resilience in our water resources now and for the future.” (Eustice does not mention climate change.) Several newspapers including the Guardian and the Sunday Telegraph frontpage report Eustice’s call for hosepipe bans to come into force now.
The Financial Times reports: “UK preparations for hotter climate should be ‘national priority’.” It adds: “Experts say July’s record heatwave highlights lack of planning by government to upgrade infrastructure.” The Independent reports: “The government has been accused of having no plan to deal with drought conditions that have seen record-breaking wildfires.” The Sunday Telegraph reports on a grass fire near Stonehenge, noting that “warm weather is due to continue for most of the UK into next week, when conditions will stay dry and settled with little rain or wind”. The Daily Telegraph reports again on the Thames Water desalination plant at Beckton in East London, which it says “may have” been shut down “to save on power costs, the local MP has said”.
The cap on UK household energy bills “might soar by several hundred pounds more than nightmare forecasts predicted earlier this week, new analysis has shown”, reports Press Association. It says a provisional forecast from consultancy Auxilione “predicted the price cap on energy bills could reach £3,687 in October…[and] around £4,400 in January…although the predictions came with caveats”. The newswire continues: “Auxilione said it was double-checking its figures, due to changes made by energy regulator Ofgem to the price cap rules. It quotes Ofgem saying: “The wholesale market continues to move extremely quickly so no forecast for next year is at all robust at this stage.” The Daily Telegraph, the Mirror, ITV News and the Sun are among those covering the new analysis.
Meanwhile, Current reports that windfarms will “pay back £25 to each household from this October” after a change in rules. The Times reports: “Higher bills mean solar panels have never been better value for money. But you’ll have to join the queue.” Another Times article says UK households “landed with £280m bill for the mass collapse of energy suppliers”.
Elsewhere, the Observer reports on the “thousands in Britain [who] vow to ignore energy bills”. The Guardian reports: “Serious consequences for not paying energy bills, warn UK charities.” Politico has a timeline titled: “How Putin sent EU energy prices rocketing.” The Times asks: “How ready is Britain for a gas crisis this winter?” Another Times article says: “Norway could limit power exports [to the UK] due to lack of rain.” The Daily Telegraph reports: “The heat-pump rollout could be delayed, experts have warned, amid fears crucial gases face a crackdown.”
Oil and gas companies are “set to reap a mammoth taxpayer giveaway of up to £7.5bn despite making record profits”, the Mail on Sunday reports, under new incentives introduced as part of the government’s windfall tax on North Sea production. It continues: “The MoS has seen estimates that expose the eye-watering allowances for oil and gas firms investing in the North Sea. Analysts warned the incentive may not increase investment. They said taxpayers will fork out the £7.5bn over three and a half years under investment plans already in place.” The paper adds: “The government has defended its windfall tax plans, which it predicts will raise £5bn in its first year.” The Times reports that Norwegian oil giant Equinor “is counting on tax breaks with plans for North Sea oilfield”. The paper reports: “Norway’s state-owned oil company is pushing ahead with plans to develop Britain’s biggest untapped oilfield after confirming that it stands to benefit from ‘helpful’ tax breaks introduced alongside the windfall levy.” The Daily Telegraph reports: “Energy firms argue Treasury impact assessment underplayed risk of the tax hike discouraging ‘vital investment’ in the UK.” It continues: “The ‘energy profits levy’, which was announced by [then-chancellor Risihi] Sunak in May, aims to raise revenue to help with the cost of living by introducing a temporary 25% tax on UK oil and gas companies…[A]n impact assessment produced by HM Revenue and Customs for the Treasury last month suggests the levy will not hit the economy because it has been coupled with a tax relief on new investments.” The Financial Times “moral money” newsletter has a section titled: “Global momentum grows for energy windfall taxes.”
Meanwhile, an editorial in the Sunday Telegraph explains why the paper is backing Liz Truss to be the next prime minister, giving reasons including her opposition to a windfall tax on energy firms. Meanwhile, a comment for Energy Monitor by freelance journalist Katie Kouchakji is titled: “Record profits give oil majors an opportunity to invest in the energy transition. They’re blowing it.” The Financial Times says US oil companies are “funnel[ing] profits back to shareholders rather than[ing] invest in new production”.
Foreign secretary and leadership hopeful Liz Truss “vowed to crack down on ‘militant activists’ after six Green New Deal Rising protestors disrupted the fourth Tory leadership hustings in Eastbourne”. The paper quotes Truss saying: “I will make sure that militant activists such as Extinction Rebellion are not able to disrupt ordinary people who work hard and do the right thing and go into work.” Press Association reports: “The five protesters, believed to be from the Green New Deal Rising group, heckled Truss over climate change and energy bills.” The Guardian says the protestors criticised Truss for “her failure to tackle the global heating crisis”. An editorial in the Daily Telegraph says: “Extinction Rebellion’s imagined utopia of a pre-lapsarian [“characteristic of or belonging to the time or state before the fall of humankind”], pre-industrial past seems to have been accepted by many who should know better.“ It adds: “The eco-extremists of Extinction Rebellion have turned pessimism and privation into a virtue. The Industrial Revolution was Britain’s original sin, they argue, and the only way we can atone for it is to accept punishing reductions in our living standards.”
Australians “could have saved billions in fuel costs and reduced emissions equivalent to a year’s worth of domestic flights if different fuel efficiency standards were adopted years before”, NCA Newswire reports, citing a new report. It says fuel costs would have been A$5.9bn lower if stronger efficiency standards had been in place, according to the Australian Institute. The Guardian reports: “Car companies have faced calls to reconsider their membership of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, after documents revealed the industry group’s lobbying campaign on weaker road transport emissions limits.” Its coverage is based on a report from the Sydney Morning Herald, which says: “The car industry has launched a wide-ranging secret campaign that would delay Australia’s transition to electric vehicles and hamper a key part of the nation’s climate change plan, confidential documents show.” For his “temperature check” column in the Guardian, Adam Morton writes: “In a political system long captured by fossil fuel interests, there is a disconnect between the arguments and the evidence.”
The Conservative mayor for Tees Valley in Northeast England has written to Tesla owner Elon Musk to ask him to build a car plant in the region, the Daily Telegraph reports. It notes that in 2019, Musk “said Brexit prevented him from picking the UK for a Tesla factory”. A comment by Daily Telegraph chief city commentator Ben Marlow says: “The Government would happily have us all believe that Britain is poised to become a world leader in electric cars. But like so much of what has come out of No 10 under Boris Johnson it is a mirage…If Britain is serious about electric cars, it needs [Musk] to invest here. Tax breaks and guarantees of smooth trade with the EU are vital.”
Meanwhile, an editorial in the Guardian says: “If a rudderless government continues to stand back, other countries will dominate the electric vehicle revolution.” Separately, the Financial Times says: “Carmakers face fierce battle for lithium until 2030, warns top producer.”
For the New York Times, Microsoft founder Bill Gates writes: “The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 may be the single most important piece of climate legislation in American history. It represents our best chance to build an energy future that is cleaner, cheaper and more secure.” Gates concludes: “The country has an opportunity to set an example by offering a vision of what’s possible – and then by making it happen. By passing this legislation, Congress would mark a moment when, despite the many challenges facing the nation, lawmakers in Washington acted with ambition and foresight to build a cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous future. Let’s get it done.” In the Washington Post, EJ Dionne Jr writes: “On a straight partisan vote, Democrats approved the largest investment in history to fight climate change married to first steps toward controlling prescription drug costs and helping Americans buy health insurance…If Congress had done nothing, the US would have squandered any claim of global leadership on one of the central challenges of our time. It also would have been a signal that our political system is so dysfunctional that it could not even enact comparatively painless, positive incentives for moving toward cleaner energy.” He concludes: “Nothing feeds cynicism about democracy and collective action more than abject institutional failure. That’s why what happened on Sunday matters. Despite partisan obstruction, arcane rules and dilatory habits, the Senate struck a blow against hopelessness.”
Meanwhile in the Boston Globe, climate scientist James Hansen reflects on his decades of attempts to get successive presidents to tax greenhouse gas emissions. He writes: “The president has an opportunity to take the fundamental step on climate change that eluded all past leaders, and he can start by taxing carbon emissions.”
An editorial in the Sunday Times says the rivals bidding to be the next UK prime minister are “engag[ing] in doctrinaire arguments” while “a truck is hurtling towards households” in the form of soaring energy bills. It says the existing £15bn plan to help households “will do little to soften the impact” and “more is likely to be needed if we are to avoid widespread misery”. The paper continues: “As well as acting on the near-term problem, the next prime minister must build a long-term energy vision for the country. The UK has been successful in cutting coal out of the mix and increasing generation from renewables over the past 30 years. However, our continuing dependence on gas imports leaves us exposed to price rises. A plan set out in April rightly focused on a big expansion in nuclear power and offshore wind. These projects must be pursued with vigour. They have a long lead time, though, and before they come to fruition ministers must get serious about the unsexy business of insulating homes.” It adds: “Successive schemes, such as the green homes grant, have been flops. The next cabinet should create compelling incentives to do the basics, such as loft and cavity wall insulation, as well as higher-end options such as heat pumps.” Writing for BusinessGreen, Conservative MP Chris Skidmore writes: “The UK’s next PM must work closely with local councils to deliver a long-term energy efficiency plan that can reduce soaring household energy bills.” An editorial in the Observer says: “As millions face hardship thanks to soaring bills, the Tories are focused on their next leader rather than the emergency at hand.”
Columnists for almost all of the UK newspapers have shared their thoughts on the energy bills crisis over the weekend. For the Guardian, columnist John Harris writes under the headline: “Britain is entering a profound social emergency. Why is nobody acting like it?” For the Daily Telegraph, columnist Juliet Samuel criticises the Conservative leadership contenders for failing to address the energy crisis. She writes: “We don’t know how either of them plans to keep homes warm and factories running this winter. We haven’t learned what action they would take to ensure the country has access to enough gas imports if Europe cannot supply us. We haven’t learned whether they think we can get significant new supply out of the North Sea or British shale in time for winter, or whether they would temporarily reopen coal plants to see us through. We haven’t heard how they will deal with the acute pressure to give households more help with energy bills.” (The government has already signed deals to keep coal plants open next winter; the shale gas industry’s own forecasts suggest it would produce less than 1% of UK gas demand even after three years.) In a similar vein the Guardian, Isabel Hardman, assistant editor of the Spectator writes a comment under the headline: “From energy to the NHS, all the next Tory leader can offer is an information blackout.” She writes: “There has been no discussion of an emergency plan to deal with energy supply or energy demand. Britain’s housing stock is leakier than a sieve.” The Financial Times Lex column says “maybe it is time for an individual approach to temperature control”, noting that “[p]eople used to live in much colder houses”. It suggests: “Small changes add up. Delay turning on the heating by a month to November. That could save your household around 670kWh [kilowatt hours] per year, or 5.5% of space heating energy. You can save even more by wearing thick jumpers and persuading cohabitants to do the same. Then you can turn down the temperature by as much as 2C.” In the Daily Express, columnist Patrick O’Flynn writes: “A national energy emergency needs to be declared right now, with [prime minister Boris] Johnson, his almost-certain successor Liz Truss and the outsider Rishi Sunak working together on a broad plan to protect vulnerable households.” He calls for more “direct financial support” for struggling households but also “everything from expanding gas storage to improving home insulation, from fracking to increasing onshore wind turbines”. O’Flynn adds: “VAT on domestic energy and the green energy levy will both need to be suspended, but even such extraordinary steps will not be sufficient, such is the scale of impending price rises.”
In the Times, columnist Clare Foges writes under the headline: “Now Brexiteers are taking aim at net-zero.” She says: “Yes, Truss and Sunak have quietly pledged to reach net zero by 2050. But, listening to Truss in particular, it is difficult to escape the impression that tackling climate change is to be sidelined, framed as a luxury we can’t afford in the heating-versus-eating era.” For the Daily Telegraph, columnist Matthew Lynn calls for a “three-year moratorium on green levies” and adds: “We will need to transition to net-zero one day – very few people dispute that – but right now we are in the middle of both a cost-of-living crisis and an energy crisis and that it is hardly the best moment to impose lots of extra taxes on heating and fuel. The soaring cost will bring demand down anyway, as well as boosting investment in renewables.” For the Daily Telegraph, the author of the Conservative manifesto that lost the party its majority in 2017, Nick Timothy, writes under the headline: “There is another choice beyond what Sunak and Truss are offering.” He says: “We need an urgent plan to secure our energy supplies into the future: new nuclear is welcome but takes time to build, so we need to secure gas imports, rebuild abandoned storage facilities, and exploit our own reserves as fast as possible.” For the Sunday Telegraph, climate sceptic columnist Daniel Hannan writes that “our leaders don’t want us to have cheap energy” and that politicians are “in hoc to eco-extremists”. Hannan writes: “[W]e are in this mess because, for most of the twenty-first century, we have ignored economic reality in pursuit of theatrical decarbonisation…The idea that cheaper energy is a positive good – that it reduces poverty and gives people more leisure time – has been almost wholly lost.” He adds: “None of this is to argue that governments shouldn’t seek to mitigate climate change. They should. I just wish they would admit that doing so is expensive.” (The UK government recently contracted enough renewable energy to meet 14% of electricity demand at prices four times cheaper than gas. Recent analysis shows the UK could save 0.5% of GDP by reaching net-zero.) Another climate-sceptic columnist writing for the Sunday Telegraph, Sherelle Jacobs, calls net-zero (the target that must be reached if global warming is to be stopped, according to the world’s leading climate scientists) “a dystopian agenda that takes the sacrificial politics of austerity and financialisation of the world economy to new heights”. For the Sunday Times, columnist Matthew Syed says “new sources such as nuclear fusion are the only solution” to our energy needs. (Fusion does not feature in any of the pathways put forward by the International Energy Agency.) Finally, for the Sunday Express, city and financial editor Geoff Ho writes: “Britain is set to be dragged into recession by surging fuel and energy prices, but we can spare future generations this by accelerating transition to net-zero…Getting to net-zero is good for the environment, our wallets and the economy, and whoever is our next PM needs to prioritise that transition.”
The Guardian carries a comment by Ed Gemmell, the leader of the new Climate party, who explains how he will “take on 110 Conservatives in the next election” because they have “miserably failed Britain on climate, displaying a nonchalant attitude to the danger and a lack of commitment to action”. He continues: “Leadership has been so lacking on this issue that my co-founders and I felt compelled to create a new single-issue, centre-right party to champion these concerns: the Climate party.” Gemmell adds: “The Climate party will ensure British climate leadership while upholding true conservative values and supporting businesses. We will put forward a minimum of 110 candidates in the next general election, taking on the Conservative party in all their marginal seats and additionally facing down all MPs who have stood in the way of rapid climate action, such as those Conservative MPs in the Net Zero Scrutiny Group…No longer will it be necessary for climate-conscious Conservative voters to feel disenfranchised. The Climate party is here to represent them.”
An editorial in the Guardian reflects on the contents of a database, compiled by Carbon Brief, that includes hundreds of extreme weather attribution studies showing the impacts of climate change already being felt today. The piece says: “It shows that intense heatwaves, hurricanes, droughts and floods have all been made far more likely be greenhouse gas emissions.” It continues: “The purpose of attribution science is not simply to warn the world about what is happening, but to aid preparations for what has not happened yet. The most alarming global trend, apart from the still-rising emissions that mean we are on course for 2.5C of heating, is the unexpected speed with which it is already causing chaos. Given what we now know about the impact of 1C of warming, it is no exaggeration to say that this trajectory is not only suicidal but murderous.” It concludes: “The alarming findings of attribution scientists can give rise to desperation – but must not be allowed to extinguish determination and hope.”
“Perceived experience with global warming” is the most common reason for Americans to change their opinions on climate change, and accept that it “is happening and a serious threat”, new research finds. The authors investigate why individuals in the US report changing their minds on climate change, exploring factors including perceptions of social norms, media attention, learning more about the issue and exposure to extreme weather. Personal experience of the impacts of climate change was a stronger driver of opinion change among Republicans, while learning more about climate change was more significant among Democrats, the authors find. They add that “attention to the Fox News Channel was associated with negative self-reported opinion change but only among Republicans”.