Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Threat of price cap wipes £700m off energy firms
- Business leaders back transition to low-carbon energy system
- Arctic thaw quickening threatens trillion-dollar costs - report
- Record-breaking climate events all over the world are being shaped by global warming, scientists find
- Enel chief backs renewables in spite of Trump
- The Electric Car Revolution Tesla Began Faces Its Biggest Test
- Editorial: Energy price controls are a potent cause but they will have long-term costs
- Editorial: Fuels rush in
- Drylands face potential threat under 2 °C global warming target
- Climate change may alter human physical activity patterns
The prospect of an energy price cap wiped almost £700m from the value of Britain’s two biggest gas and electricity suppliers yesterday, reports the Times. Shares in Centrica and SSE fell by 3.5 and 2, it says, adding that both firms’ shares had already fallen after business secretary Greg Clark had promised last week to take “muscular” action on energy prices. The Financial Times also has the story, saying more than £3.5bn has been wiped off Centrica and SSE’s shares by the government’s promised crackdown on expensive tariffs. The Guardian, Reuters and the Independent also have the story.
Leaders from companies including Shell, General Electric, BHP Billiton and HSBC have backed a plan for a transition to a low-carbon energy system, says the Financial Times, covering a report from the Energy Transitions Commission. This would include electricity produced almost entirely from renewable sources by the 2030s, the paper says. The shift to a low-carbon economy is a huge investment opportunity, the report says, according to a write up from the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Greater coordination between the public and private sector will be “crucial” to halve energy emissions by 2040, the commission says, according to the Telegraph. The Guardian focuses on the commission’s view that wind power is “increasingly the cheapest form of electricity. It contrasts this business view with the Conservative government’s ban on new onshore wind subsidies. Forbes covers the report too, picking up on the “oil industry past” of the commission, which it says nevertheless “foresees a full-renewable future”. Carbon Brief picked out the key elements of the commission’s report, noting its lack of political recommendations. Le Monde also has the story, in an article in French under the headline: “Climate: How to halve global emissions by 2040”.
A thaw in the Arctic is melting the permafrost under buildings and roads, from Siberia to Alaska says Reuters, covering an international study published today. The report, which says warming could cost between $7tn and $90tn from 2010 to 2100, was written by 90 scientists, including from the US. It was commissioned by the Arctic Council grouping of the US, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland.
It’s almost impossible to blame any individual climate or weather event entirely on global warming, but scientists are getting better at figuring out whether climate change may have increased their chances of happening, reports the Washington Post. It covers a new study of weather extremes around the world, found records for heat, drought and deluge have all become more likely as a result of warming. Climate Central also covers the research.
Investment in renewables will continue in the US and elsewhere despite president Trump, according to Francesco Starace, chief executive of the largest European power company Enel, in an interview with the Financial Times. He tells the paper that technological progress and market forces are driving investment in renewables, with policy changes in the US likely to have at most a marginal impact. Enel plans to invest €5.2bn in renewables over the next three years compared to just €800m in fossil generation, the FT adds.
Will people still buy electric cars once subsidies dry up, asks Bloomberg’s Tom Randall, in a feature that includes the latest research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance analysts. It says electric cars will “win on price” by the mid-2020s, with an “avalanche” of new models set to be on the market by 2020 from the likes of VW, Mercedes, General Motors and others. Separately, Reuters reports that China plans to sell 35m cars by 2025. “New energy vehicles” including hybrids and electric cars are set to make up one-fifth of the total. A second Reuters article says Oslo, Amsterdam and London are leading a shift towards low-carbon transport.
Ed Miliband feels aggrieved, says a Times editorial, because having been much criticised for fighting the 2015 election on a policy of energy price controls, he now finds the Conservatives proposing an “eerily similar scheme”. The policy “has populist appeal…[but] will not work”, the paper says, adding that “price caps cause shortages…[investment] will be deterred if energy companies can’t have confidence in the stability of the regulatory environment”. It says: “A more direct way of benefiting consumers would be to use the prospect of Brexit to reconsider subsidies for renewable energy.” [This seems to be a reference to a Centre for Policy Studies proposal, which would only save money if it were to rip up already-signed contracts]. The Telegraph also has an editorial on the price cap proposal, saying the fall in energy company shares resulting from the cap can “impact pension funds, offsetting any gains from lower gas and electricity prices”. A Financial Times editorial says a price cap “brings its own problems…If [the cap is] set too low, companies will struggle to make investments…that are needed to tackle climate change and keep the lights on”. In the Telegraph, an opinion piece from Jeremy Warner says that price controls will cause shortages. It also claims, incorrectly: “Virtually all the inflation households have seen in their energy bills over the past 10 years is nothing to do with the supposedly gross inefficiencies and monopolistic profiteering of the big suppliers, but is down to the environmental and social costs public policy has seen fit to impose on the industry.” [In fact, energy bills have fallen since 2008, as Carbon Brief explained last month.] Finally, in the Independent, chief business commentator James Moore says: “The Tories’ energy price cap is a cheap gimmick”, adding that the industry has warned of cuts to jobs and investment if it goes ahead.
The Conservatives should scrap a plan to “punish” diesel drivers with higher costs, says a Sun editorial. It says: “Years ago, in a panic over climate change, successive Governments bribed Britain into buying diesels to cut CO2. This one is in the grip of a new hysteria about toxic air — and the easy scapegoats now are those same diesel drivers.” In the Times, a news article says diesel drivers face higher fees, under a new air quality plan that is ready for publication but will be delayed until after the election.
Global average warming of 2C could push temperatures in the world’s drylands to 3.2-4C, a new study says. Over the past century, surface warming over global drylands (1.2–1.3C) has been 20–40% higher than that over humid lands (0.8–1.0C), the researchers find. Decreased maize yields and runoff, increased long-lasting drought and more favourable conditions for malaria transmission are greatest over drylands if global warming were to rise 2C, rather than being limited to 1.5C, the researchers warn.
Warming over the course of this century could increase the overall amount of recreational physical activity in the United States, a new study suggests. Using observed weather data and historical surveys of recreational physical activity of more than 1.9m people in the US between 2002 and 2012, the researchers show that both cold and acutely hot temperatures, as well as rainy days, reduce physical activity. Climate model projections suggest that warming conditions will make outside activity more likely during the cooler months of the year, particularly in northern states, whereas it is likely to decline during summer months, especially in southern states.
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