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Briefing date 12.02.2021
Shell announces new emissions goals as it aims to be net-zero by 2050

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Shell announces new emissions goals as it aims to be net-zero by 2050
Financial Times Read Article

There is continuing coverage of Royal Dutch Shell’s “accelerated strategy” to become a net-zero company by 2050. The Financial Times reports: “[Shell] said its net emissions intensity – a measurement of carbon per megajoule of energy sold – would fall 6-8% from 2016 levels by 2023, 20% by 2030, 4% by 2035 and 100% by 2050. Setting Shell apart from its peers, the target included not just the CO2 emissions released from its operations and use of its products, but also those from the oil and gas that others produce and Shell sells through its marketing arm.” The company plans to continue generating cash from its legacy oil business, but plough more “over time” into gas, chemicals, renewables and selling power, the FT adds. Shell intends to invest heavily in its “transition pillar”, pouring up to twice as much money into natural gas as into renewable energy, reports the Press Association. It adds: “The oil giant said that it would invest around $4bn (£2.9bn) every year to allow it to add another 7m tonnes of liquid natural gas production to its capacity by 2025. The company will also invest around $8bn dollars in exploration of new oil and gas every year.”

Shell’s strategy includes plans to operate 500,000 electric vehicle charging points globally by 2025, reports the Times, up from 60,000 today. And as many as 2.5m by 2030, a second Times article says. Shell is also “eyeing the expansion of its hydrogen and biofuels businesses”, says Axios, including developing what the company describes as “integrated hydrogen hubs to serve industry and heavy-duty transport”. And the company says it will continue to expand its interests in selling electricity, reports BusinessGreen, a move it began in earnest after acquiring First Utility – since renamed Shell Energy – in 2017. In a statement, CEO Ben van Beurden said the strategy “will drive down carbon emissions and will deliver value for our shareholders, our customers and wider society”, reports the Hill. He added: “We must give our customers the products and services they want and need – products that have the lowest environmental impact. At the same time, we will use our established strengths to build on our competitive portfolio as we make the transition to be a net-zero emissions business in step with society.” Shareholders will vote on the strategy at this year’s AGM, says CityAM.

Carbon Brief has analysed Shell’s new 1.5C pathway, finding that it is virtually identical to its 2C predecessor, with Shell’s vision of a continued role for oil, gas and coal until the end of the century remaining essentially the same.

Shell’s upgraded targets “will be seen as an attempt by the Anglo-Dutch company to address criticism that it has been slower to act than some rivals”, reports the Evening Standard. It adds: “With no measures to grow its solar and wind power generation capacity, analysts were quick to point out that spending will remain tilted towards oil and gas in the near future.” The plans “have raised concerns among green campaigners that Shell may still increase its emissions in the coming decade, which is considered a crucial period to avoid a climate catastrophe”, notes the Guardian. The New York Times adds that “there was little that was new in Shell’s announcement about future investments, and the company’s commitments to invest $2-3bn a year in renewable energy like wind and solar lagged some of its peers”. And campaigners tell DeSmog UK that Shell’s strategy includes an “impossible” reliance on tree-planting. Guardian financial editor Nils Pratley says calling the strategy an “acceleration” is a generous self-assessment. He adds: “In today’s Big Oil terms, the approach is a cruise down the middle lane – a tweak here and there, but nothing to frighten those shareholders still scarred by last year’s cut of two-thirds in the dividend.” The Financial Times Lex column notes that “if shareholders are worried that the company has given up on its main source of income, they should rest easy”. And the Daily Telegraph‘s chief city commentator Ben Marlow says :“Ben Van Beurden is absolutely right when he says ‘the energy transition must be faster’…Yet it’s still not entirely clear what Shell proposes to do about it.”

Lastly, Bloomberg reports that Shell “will not raise salaries for most of its employees this year…as it looks to save cash amid an overhaul of the company”. And, separately, the Guardian reports that emergency crews in Richmond, California are rushing to clean up an estimated 600 gallons of oil that spilled from a Chevron refinery into the San Francisco Bay.

France scraps Charles de Gaulle terminal plan over climate pledges
The Times Read Article

Plans for a fourth terminal at Paris’s main airport have been scrapped, reports the Times, “after the French government denounced them as incompatible with the country’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”. The paper continues: “Barbara Pompili, the environment minister, said the planned expansion at Charles de Gaulle airport had to be rethought to take account of what she hopes will be the imminent arrival of ‘green planes’ powered by hydrogen, or biofuels produced from substances including seaweed and rubbish.” The plans, estimated to cost of €7-9bn, had been to add capacity for 35-40 million passengers per year, reports Politico. They had “already run into resistance from environmental activists and local politicians as well as from the national environmental agency which said it fell short in terms of climate protection”, reports Agence France-Presse. And since approval, “two things have happened”, says BBC News Paris correspondent Hugh Schofield: “First, in order to respect carbon emission targets, the government now says any airport development must accommodate electric and hydrogen-fuelled planes of the future. The second change is Covid. With air traffic today just a quarter of its pre-crisis levels, mammoth expansion schemes like Terminal 4 appear distinctly irrelevant.” Reuters notes that the French government holds a stake of just over 50% in the airport’s operator, Aéroports de Paris (ADP).

Meanwhile, CityAM says a new report from a group of aviation bodies has laid out a programme for eliminating all European airlines emissions by 2050. It adds: “According to the research, which was conducted by bodies including airports group ACI Europe, emissions from flights within and departing from the European Economic Area, Britain and Switzerland can be cut to net-zero within the time frame.” And the Economist has a piece on “how today’s reviled airlines could become greener”.

And also in news from France, the Financial Times reports that the country’s central bank governor has called for a “decarbonisation” of the multitrillion-euro holdings of corporate bonds at the European Central Bank.

EU mulls curbs on speculation in Europe carbon market
Bloomberg Read Article

The European Union is considering curbs on speculation on the bloc’s carbon market, reports Bloomberg, as “record prices have lured hedge funds in search of profits”. The outlet explains: “EU emission permits jumped to an all-time high of €40.12 on Thursday, extending their gains to about 70% over the past year. That gain, in part, has been down to large-scale investors speculating in the market. Europe’s cap-and-trade program, started in 2005, is the region’s key policy tool to cut pollution.” According to “people with knowledge of the matter”, Bloomberg says the European Commission – the EU’s regulatory arm – could introduce a limit on the number of CO2 allowances that can be held by investors. This “would prevent financial investors holding too much sway in the market”, the outlet says. At the same time, Bloomberg has another article with the headline: “Betting on pollution proving to be one of 2021’s smartest plays.” And Reuters reports that the UK government has said it will sent a floor price of £22 a tonne when it begins auctioning permits under its domestic Emissions Trading System (ETS) this year. This is “an increase of nearly 50% on the level first announced in its ETS plans”, the newswire notes.

Elsewhere on Europe, Politico reports on concerns that “every solar power panel sold in the EU has its origins in China’s oppressed Xinjiang region”. It says: “The solar industry and Brussels lawmakers argue Europe’s renewable energy push should not come at a human cost amid long-standing international concern over reports China has detained one million people with Muslim backgrounds in camps in Xinjiang and is putting them to work.”

Biden's climate task force has first meeting
The Hill Read Article

The White House’s new National Climate Task Force held its first meeting yesterday, reports the Hill, as it seeks a return to “credibility” on climate change. The task force was created by an executive order from new US president Joe Biden last month, the outlet explains, and gathered virtually and discussed matters including “early actions, near-term priorities and key milestones”, according to the White House. The New York Times adds: “Gina McCarthy, who heads the White House office of climate policy, said Thursday’s meeting focused on job-creation as well as ensuring that agency leaders understood their role in helping to set an aggressive new target for cutting the US’s share of global emissions. The Biden administration wants to announce those goals on April 22.” And in an interview with E&E News, McCarthy said that Biden is likely to issue more executive orders on global warming. She said: “You might see a few here and there…The climate one was certainly one of the most robust that really showed the direction we’re going to take, but there is more to come in terms of opportunities to tell the American people about the actions that we’re taking and that we plan to take and you’ll see those rolling out over time.”

Meanwhile, the Hill reports that the Biden administration is delaying a Trump administration rule that was expected to result in the oil and gas industry paying less money for drilling on public lands and waters. The administration announced yesterday that the rule, which was slated to go into effect next Tuesday, will now not become effective until 16 April, the outlet says. It adds that there will also be a 30-day comment period to allow for “additional engagement” on the rule. Axios reports on the International Energy Agency’s latest monthly report, which suggests the “effects of President Biden’s restrictions on oil-and-gas leasing and permitting on federal lands and waters will be limited in the near term”. Finally, Reuters reports that Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held their first telephone call as leaders, in which climate change was identified as an area for potential cooperation.

£27bn roads plan in doubt after Shapps overrode official advice
The Guardian Read Article

In an “exclusive”, the Guardian reports that a £27bn expansion of England’s road network has been thrown into doubt after documents showed the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, overrode official advice to review the policy on environmental grounds. The paper explains: “It has been a legal requirement to take into account the environmental impact of such projects since 2014. Shapps appears to have pressed ahead despite the advice of civil servants in his own department”. Lawyers for the campaign group Transport Action Network (TAN) have sought a judicial review of the strategy to develop road projects nationwide, the paper says: “According to high court filings seen by the Guardian, evidence that Shapps had decided to override Whitehall advice to review the 2014 national policy statement on national networks (NPS) was disclosed at the 11th hour to the claimants.” The claim focuses on the decision not to review all or part of the NPS, the paper notes – adding that “a review could stall the roadbuilding programme and give fresh impetus to challenges to individual schemes”. An analysis piece by Guardian environment correspondent Fiona Harvey adds that the legal argument is the same as that used by campaigners in an effort to stop a third runway at Heathrow – “that major infrastructure planning decisions need to take account of the UK’s legally binding obligations on the climate has been affirmed”.

In other UK news, the Guardian also reports that the Crown Estate’s property manager in Scotland has delayed the auction of Scottish seabed plots for wind farms. It explains: “Crown Estate Scotland paused its auction in order to carry out a review of the process after the ‘unprecedented’ bidding in an auction for England and Wales lease options last week reached new record highs.” Bloomberg reports that “almost a fifth of FTSE 100 companies have signed up to a United Nations pledge to eliminate their carbon emissions by 2050, as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson strives to inject momentum into domestic efforts to fight climate change”. BusinessGreen reports that a group of 25 Conservative backbenchers have backed a new “Net-Zero Champions initiative” that aims to create green jobs and put the UK on track towards its 2050 net-zero emissions goal. And BusinessGreen also reports on the latest UK government attitudes survey, which shows awareness of “net-zero” has soared over the past year, with more than three quarters of the British public now claiming awareness of the concept.

In related comment, Guy Newey – strategy and performance director at the Energy Systems Catapult and former government special advisor – has a blog post unpacking why “the next phase of decarbonisation in the UK will likely have two characteristics: it will need to be much more consumer-friendly, and it will need to be much more sensitive to local contexts”. And writing in the Times Red Box, Sam Lowe – senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform – says that the UK “must find a way to be competitive while cutting carbon emissions”.


How the right-wing press is embracing green politics
India Bourke, New Statesman Read Article

“They have spent decades spreading climate scepticism and denial, but this week the Sun and the Express both announced new climate-focused campaigns,” writes India Bourke, online editor for the New Statesman’s international edition. She continues: “So far, some of these news outlets have adopted a bold, slightly boisterous climate-swagger. This is visible in the Sun’s ‘Team Green’ slogan, echoing the Olympics, and in the Express’s call for Boris Johnson to ‘lead the world’ in a green ‘crusade’.” The shift “is cause for celebration”, says Bourke, but “what will be important now is the kind of climate response these papers advocate in their coverage”. She concludes: “It is crucial that any positive impulse for national pride regarding climate action also reflects a collaborative effort with the rest of the world. How far the press can convey this will be the real measure of climate coverage success.” At the same time, the Daily Express has a fifth day of articles on its “Green Britain Needs You” series, while a Sun editorial sidesteps its “Team Green” campaign to argue: “In the entire decade the Sun has successfully campaigned for a fuel tax freeze we cannot think of a worse time for the ­Chancellor to abandon it.”

Meanwhile, Press Gazette news editor Charlotte Tobitt interviews Daily Express editor Gary Jones on the direction he is taking the paper since he took over three years ago. The article covers the paper’s new green campaign, which “will run over the next seven months in print and digital to ask readers to sign a petition to boost the tax system to fight climate change and protect the environment”. Jones says: “In the past the Express has neglected to highlight the most important issue we face, namely protecting the planet by collectively doing all we can to make the right choices. We are now very much engaged in campaigning for Green Britain and will be highlighting the issues affecting us all and future generations in the run-up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this November and beyond.”

And elsewhere in newspaper projects, the Guardian has launched “America’s Dirty Divide” – a year-long series focused on environmental inequality and racism in the US. The project “will explore the links between climate, environment and social justice and will interrogate why access to clean air, water and sanitation is so often divided along race and class lines”. And the Scotsman has a piece explaining how individuals, organisations and businesses can “get involved at COP26”.


Giving the climate policy ratchet a healthy turn
The Lancet Planetary Health Read Article

The latest issue of the Lancet Planetary Health focuses on “the upcoming climate negotiations and links with health”. As this accompanying editorial explains, 2021 is “a pivotal moment for the environment”, but comes with “the ongoing pandemic and the politics of a post Covid-19 recovery hanging over proceedings”. The issue includes new studies into how public health is incorporated in the nationally determined contributions (NDCs), the health co-benefits of the NDCs for nine countries, and the carbon footprint of the NHS in England. And it has commentaries on the Reykjavik Green Deal, the climate effects on health in Small Islands Developing States, a framework for sustainable health systems, and how reaching net-zero emissions is “the most important global health intervention”.

Migration towards Bangladesh coastlines projected to increase with sea-level rise through 2100
Environmental. Research Letters Read Article

Sea level rise is expected to have major negative effects on the low-lying country of Bangladesh, with prior studies suggesting large-scale displacement of people away from vulnerable coastlines. A new analysis suggests that, counterintuitively, people will continue to migrate toward the vulnerable coastline irrespective of the flooding amplified by future sea level rise, at least through the end of the 21st century. The study uses a model of household migration decision-making that captures all the different factors driving relocations. The model “does not predict flooding impacts great enough to drive populations away from coastlines in any of the scenarios”, the authors say. They explain: “One reason is that while flooding does accelerate a transition from agricultural to non-agricultural income opportunities, livelihood alternatives are most abundant in coastal cities. At the same time, some coastal populations are unable to migrate, as flood losses accumulate and reduce the set of livelihood alternatives.”

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