Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Every weekday morning, in time for your morning coffee, Carbon Brief sends out a free email known as the “Daily Briefing” to thousands of subscribers around the world. The email is a digest of the past 24 hours of media coverage related to climate change and energy, as well as our pick of the key studies published in peer-reviewed journals.
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Stop burning trees to make energy, say 650 scientists before COP15 biodiversity summit
- G7 price cap on Russian oil kicks in, Russia will only sell at market price
- EU agrees new law to kick deforestation out of supply chains
- Economists split over China’s 2023 outlook
- Global renewables capacity set to double over next five years, says IEA
- UK: Cold snap poses first test of Britain’s efforts to prevent winter power cuts
- Carmakers warn on EU tariffs threat to electric vehicle prices
- Europe urgently needs a new industrial master plan
- Methane emissions from agricultural ponds are underestimated in national greenhouse gas inventories
In the lead up to COP15 in Montreal, 650 scientists have sent a letter to world leaders including Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen arguing that countries need to stop burning trees for bioenergy, the Guardian reports. According to the newspaper, the letter argues that bioenergy has “wrongly been deemed ‘carbon neutral’”, adding that “the best thing for the climate and biodiversity is to leave forests standing – and biomass energy does the opposite”. Prof Alexandre Antonelli, a lead author of the letter and director of science at Kew Gardens, said: “Ensuring energy security is a major societal challenge, but the answer is not to burn our precious forests. Calling this ‘green energy’ is misleading and risks accelerating the global biodiversity crisis.”
Meanwhile, the New Scientist covers new research which says “[the] goal to ‘halt and reverse’ biodiversity loss by 2030 – a headline aim of the COP15 biodiversity summit – could take 80 rather than eight years to achieve”. The paper quotes study author David Obura, who says “the headline aims of COP15 should be to ‘bend the curve’ of biodiversity loss as fast as possible without setting rigid deadlines for success”. The Independent also has the story.
In related news, the Guardian has published a COP15 preview piece, which says: “A draft target to protect 30% of land and sea by the end of the decade – know as ‘30 by 30’ – has dominated the headlines about COP15… Other targets include proposals to limit the spread of invasive species, reduce and repurpose $500bn (£439bn) a year of environmentally harmful subsidies, and mandatory nature disclosures for all large businesses.” Reuters has also published a preview of COP15. Separately, three young UK-based naturalists tell the Guardian their hopes and concerns for COP15 and beyond. And the Conversation has discusses how pastoral farming can help to avoid a biodiversity crisis. (Carbon Brief has an interactive guide exploring what different countries want from the global deal for nature, in addition to explaining the key issues at play at COP15.)
The price cap of $60 per barrel on Russian seaborne oil, imposed by the G7, EU and Australia, came into force yesterday, Reuters reports. This “comes on top of the EU’s embargo on imports of Russian crude by sea and similar pledges by the US, Canada, Japan and Britain”, it says. Separately, the newswire reports that oil prices are rising in response to the sanctions. It adds that “Russia has said it will not abide by the measure even if it has to cut production”. The Hill says the price cap will not apply to oil transported over land, including through pipelines. And India’s oil minister has said the price cap will not impact India, signalling that “the South Asian economy intends to continue purchasing from Russia for now”, Bloomberg reports.
Separately, the Financial Times reports that a traffic jam of oil tankers has formed in Turkish waters. “The market for old oil tankers is booming, and it’s all down to efforts by western nations to curb trade in Russian crude,” Reuters says. The Financial Times reports separately that “Slovenia plans to build a pipeline that would transport Algerian gas to Hungary, helping Budapest to kick its dependence on Russian fossil fuels”. Meanwhile, Energy Monitor says that Norwegian oil output is set to increase by 13% next year, adding that the Norwegian government expects its oil and gas industry to “deliver a massive net cash flow of NKr1.17trn ($119bn) in 2022”. Politico reports on “the role of renewables in a world without Russian energy”.
Finally, Reuters reports on a proposal from the Netherlands to cap the price of EU gas: “The Dutch proposal, shared with EU countries and seen by Reuters, said government-backed gas buyers and companies obliged by law to buy gas to fill storage had contributed to surging gas prices in Europe this summer, as countries raced to replace dwindling Russian gas deliveries and were willing to pay sky-high prices to do so. The Netherlands therefore proposed capping gas transactions by those buyers at a level below the cap proposed by the EU, and which would be reviewed each month.”
EU legislators have agreed to pass a new law, guaranteeing that products sold in the EU are not linked to the destruction or degradation of forests, EurActiv reports. The outlet continues: “The new law will require all companies to issue a due diligence statement in order to sell products like coffee, cocoa and wood on the EU market. Those linked to deforestation will be banned from import and export into the EU… The new EU law was hailed as ‘groundbreaking’ by green campaigners.” While biodiesel and maize are not included, the European Commission will review whether to add them in the future, the outlet adds. Reuters reports that the deal will also apply to some derived products including leather, chocolate and furniture. It adds: “Companies would need to show when and where the commodities were produced and ‘verifiable’ information that they are deforestation-free – meaning they were not grown on land deforested after 2020. They must also show that the rights of indigenous people were respected during production of the goods. Failure to comply could result in fines of up to 4% of a company’s turnover in an EU country. EU countries and its Parliament will now formally approve the legislation. The law can enter into force 20 days later, although some of the rules come into force for 18 months.”
As the Chinese government tries to bring the nation’s economy back “on track” by gradually moving away from its “zero-Covid” policy, economists remain divided over growth projections for next year, with forecasts split between 4-5% and 5-6%, Caixin Global writes. Meanwhile, the outlet has a cover story, titled: “China’s ‘zero-Covid’ looks done. So, what to expect next?”
Separately, Bloomberg reports that the US and European Union are “weighing new tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminium as part of a bid to fight carbon emissions and global overcapacity”, according to people “familiar with the matter”. The move would “mark a novel approach”, as the US and EU would seek to use tariffs – “usually employed in trade disputes” – to “further their climate agenda”, the article says. Meanwhile, Voice of America writes that Beijing is “taking its first steps toward recovering from years of setbacks to its scientific, land-based projects in the Arctic”, sending personnel to “two outposts that have been vital to its policy” of establishing China as a “near-Arctic” state. Nengye Liu, a law professor at Singapore Management University, says tha,t as Arctic ice melts “because of climate change”, China sees “new opportunities for shipping, fisheries and oil and gas development in the region”, the article notes.
In other news, the Global Times writes that energy has “become an important area of cooperation between China and Arab countries”, citing Mao Ning, a spokesperson of China’s ministry of foreign affairs, during a press conference held yesterday. Mao cited the example of a “China-built” photovoltaic (PV) power station in Qatar, which is “helping the nation fulfil its promise of holding a carbon-neutral World Cup”, the state-run newspaper notes. [There have been multiple articles questioning this claim.] The Diplomat has an article which says that, “apart from the stadiums, China has also had a hand in constructing the renewable energy infrastructure for the tournament, particularly the Al Kharsaah solar power plant”. It adds that this plant is capable of generating “800MW (megawatts) of power, providing one of Qatar’s main sources of energy for the World Cup”. Finally, Xinhua reports that the ministry of industry and information technologies (MIIT) has “introduced a catalogue of recommended energy-saving technologies and equipment to help enterprises improve energy efficiency and reduce costs”.
In its annual report on the outlook for renewables, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says that capacity worldwide is expected to grow by 2,400GW, reaching 5,640GW by 2027, Reuters reports. The newswire continues: “The increase is 30% higher than the amount of growth forecast a year ago. High gas and power prices from a global energy crisis this year have made renewable power technologies more attractive. Growth in renewables is also being driven by the US, China and India implementing policies and market reforms to support renewables deployment more quickly than previously planned.” The report says renewables will make up more than 90% of global electricity expansion over the next five years, overtaking coal to become the largest source of global electricity by early 2025, the outlet adds. BusinessGreen quotes IEA executive director, Fatih Birol, who said: “The world is set to add as much renewable power in the next five years as it did in the previous 20 years.”
As a cold weather alert is issued in the UK, warning that lows of -10C are possible, the Guardian reports that “Britain’s energy executives and policymakers are on tenterhooks”. The cold snap poses first test of the UK’s efforts to “prevent winter power cuts”, the paper says. It explains: “One of Britain’s strengths is its diversity of energy supplies: gas from the North Sea and Norway, and LNG from around the globe, notably the US and Qatar. In electricity, there is wind and solar, nuclear, biomass – particularly from the heavily subsidised Drax power station in North Yorkshire – and a small amount of coal. Government efforts to boost supplies this winter have included paying to keep coal units set for retirement on standby. (These have not yet been exercised). The revived gas storage facilities at Centrica’s Rough – shut down after the government refused to support it – have also been called into action, although Britain’s gas storage is far lower than other European countries.”
Separately, Bloomberg says that “UK residential supplier So Energy stopped looking for extra funding to get through the winter after wholesale gas and power prices fell from peaks earlier this year.” And the Press Association says companies will know about the future of the support they will get on their energy bills by the end of the year.
In other UK news, the Mail Plus reports that “ministers are expected to agree a further climbdown over onshore wind farms by allowing turbines to be erected in locally supported areas”. Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that 59% of UK universities did not meet the sector target to “to reduce emissions directly controlled by institutions by 43% between 2005-06 and 2020-21”. And BBC News says “a group of climate protesters has been found guilty of causing criminal damage after smashing glass windows at the London headquarters of Barclays bank”.
The prices of many electric vehicles made or sold in the UK and Europe could jump by 10% or more from 2024, the Financial Times reports. The paper says: “The UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) temporarily exempted EVs from rules stating that products must be substantially made in Britain or the bloc to qualify for the EU’s zero tariff, zero quota regime because such a large proportion of EV batteries are imported from Asia. Both EU and UK car manufacturing groups are asking for the rules of origin exemption to be extended from December 31 2023 because there are not enough batteries and precursor chemicals currently being made in Europe.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reports that carmaker Toyota has launched six new electric models “in a sign of shifting focus from its previous bet on hydrogen”. The paper adds that the company “will sell the new plug-ins in Europe by 2026 as part of a plan to comply with targets within the bloc to phase out petrol and diesel sales by 2035”. The Times also reports on the decision. The Guardian reports that Toyota is Australia’s top-selling car brand, and accounting for 85% of all hybrids sold in the country in November. According to the paper, more than 8,500 hybrid vehicles were sold in Australia in November – almost double the number of battery electric vehicles. The paper adds that experts are “blaming a lack of electric incentives” for the trend.
In other electric vehicle news, the Financial Times reports that China is “turning itself into the battery workshop of the world”. It adds: “By 2031 it is projected to have more production capacity in Europe, the second biggest market for EVs, than any other country”. And the South China Morning Post says: “A highly anticipated dialogue between the US and Europe on frictions over massive tax incentives for American electric vehicle producers under President Joe Biden’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act concluded in an impasse on Monday.”
Writing in the Financial Times, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Fatih Birol says: “The inconvenient truth is that, for decades, the business model of many European industries was based on the availability of abundant and cheap supplies of Russian energy.” That model “is not coming back”, but one area where Europe can find its “competitive edge” is “in the next generation of industrial production”, Birol writes. “With offshore wind, Europe has shown that it can be a global leader in clean technologies. It now needs to become much stronger in areas such as batteries, electric vehicles, electrolysers for hydrogen, heat pumps and more,” he concludes. Meanwhile, Bloomberg columnist Javier Blas warns that “the worst of europe’s energy crisis isn’t over”. Blas, who describes himself as “a glass half-empty kind of person”, writes: “A few degrees Celsius is all that stands in the way of regional blackouts. And the cold season has barely even begun.” He continues: “The reality is: Energy prices remain extremely high, the continent is at the mercy of the weather, the cost of subsidies is rising at an unsustainable pace, and companies are warning of deindustrialisation…The problem is, energy markets are so tight that only a few degrees Celsius, or a few windless days, are what separate Europe facing blackouts from having enough power to make it through the winter.”
Elsewhere, freelance journalist and writer Philippa Nuttall writes in Energy Monitor that “electric vehicles are not the silver bullet to transport emissions”. She says that, according to reports by the IEA and BloombergNEF, “behavioural change” is just as important as electrification – a call which “demands a change in mindset from policymakers, automobile manufacturers and the general public”. Nuttall continues: “Car-sharing schemes and regular electric bus services, trains that run on time and safe bike lanes should be the norm everywhere. Rather than putting our faith solely in technologies that can replace petrol and diesel, we should start asking what people need and how this need can best be met with the fewest emissions.”
Agricultural ponds in the US and Australia emit nearly double the amount of methane reported in their national greenhouse gas inventories, a new study finds. Using maps of the ponds, the researchers compile a continental-scale assessment of their methane emissions in the US and Australia. They find that the 2.6m ponds in the US emit around 96,000 tonnes of methane per year and the 1.8m ponds in Australia emit 75,000t per year. These ponds have “some of the highest methane emissions per area among freshwater systems”, the researchers say, but “managing these systems can reduce these emissions while benefiting productivity, ecosystem services, and biodiversity”.