Today's climate and energy headlines:
- UK: Energy firm Bulb set to go into administration
- Europe's gas crunch shows little sign of easing
- Britain braces for floods as Met Office warns a 'wet winter ' is on the cards
- US: Biden eyes Strategic Petroleum Reserves crude oil release in coming days
- Nigeria commits to annual carbon budgets to reach net-zero under climate law
- After COP26, countries must turn climate promises into action on global shipping
- Boris Johnson deserves some credit for COP26 success
- From aspirational luxury to hypermobility to staying on the ground: changing discourses of holiday air travel in Sweden
- A multi-model analysis of long-term emissions and warming implications of current mitigation efforts
Bulb energy – the seventh largest energy supplier in the UK – will go into “special administration” following financial difficulties, BBC News reports. Bulb is “the largest UK energy company to face difficulties following a sharp rise in wholesale gas prices this year”, according to the outlet. It adds that the company will be run by the government through the regulator Ofgem – a measure that has never been employed before and is only used when Ofgem is unable to find another company to take over the energy firm’s customers. The Press Association reports that Bulb will continue to supply its 1.7 million customers while the special administrators work out longer-term plans. The Financial Times calls Bulb the “biggest victim” of the UK’s “energy crisis” and the Guardian highlights that the “bailout process” for the company will “rely on public funds”. Separately, the Guardian reports that Bulb “excelled at attracting new customers through lucrative referral payments and green energy claims”, but adds that, according to the company’s rivals, the company’s “green credentials and fundraising were all unsustainable because it relied on greenwashing, and ‘too good to be true’ energy prices to help fuel its rapid growth”. BusinessGreen says that the news is “fuelling growing concern about the future of the UK market with costs expected to rise further as the winter begins to bite.” The i newspaper, Bloomberg and Reuters also cover the news. Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reports that in the UK, “power prices are set to surge on Tuesday evening as low wind levels mean more expensive coal-powered plants will need to be fired up”.
Reuters says that Europe’s “gas crunch” is showing “little sign of easing”. It adds: “Flows of Russian gas via major transit routes are proving too little, too late. The new Nord Stream 2 pipeline running from Russia to Europe might have eased a tight market. But it has faced more delays as German certification has been suspended, amid opposition to the whole project from the US and some Europeans.” And the head of Moldovan-Russian energy company Moldovagaz has told Reuters that the company “received a notification from Russia’s Gazprom threatening to cut off gas supplies to the country within 48 hours unless Moldova pays $73m for recent deliveries.” Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Europe is “growing increasingly reliant on coal to keep the lights on as the weather turns cold, sending the cost of polluting to a record”. Reuters adds: “The European benchmark price for carbon allowances on Monday hit a record of above 71 euros”.
In other European news, Reuters reports that the EU has drafted legislation that aims to reduce methane emissions by forcing oil and fas companies to report their output, and find and fix leaks of the gas. It continues: “Oil and gas operators in the European Union would have to submit estimates for the methane emissions of their installations within 12 months after the regulation comes into force, the draft legislative proposal said.” However, it adds that the European Commission is due to present the draft in December, where it needs to be negotiated by the European Parliament and member states – a process that can take up to two years.
Meanwhile, EurActiv reports on a draft EU carbon strategy, which will “reward green farming practices like afforestation and soil conservation while putting rules to identify activities that ‘unambiguously remove carbon from the atmosphere’. Bloomberg adds that, according to the document, the EU wants to use carbon dioxide removal technology to take 5m tonnes of the gas out of the atmosphere annually by 2030.
The i newspaper covers a warning from the UK Met Office that the UK should “brace itself for a wet winter with an increased chance of flooding”. The paper says that 5.2m properties in England are at risk of flooding and the Daily Express adds that 1.5m of these are “unprepared” for heavy rainfall. The Times reports that the Environment Agency is “urging people to prepare for flooding after the Met Office warned that this winter could be wetter than normal”. It adds that, according to the Met Office’s three-month outlook, the risk of flooding is highest in January and February, when strong winds could also be seen.
In other UK news, the Hill covers an announcement from Boris Johnson that all new homes and buildings in England will be required to have electric car chargers installed beginning next year. BusinessGreen adds: “The news came on the same day as the government-owned National Highways agency announced plans to invest around £11m in Energy Storage Systems at service stations where grid constraints currently make it difficult to install rapid charging infrastructure.” Meanwhile, the Financial Times says: “The truck industry would be able to phase out the sale of polluting vehicles as early as the end of this decade if charging and refuelling infrastructure was rolled out fast enough, the boss of Iveco has said”.
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports: “The UK metals company Hochschild Mining is to fight plans by Peru’s government to hasten the closure of several mines in the southern Ayacucho region because of concerns over their environmental impact.” The Times and Financial Times report that Hochschild shares have dropped rapidly in the wake of this news.
The Biden administration in the US is expected to coordinate with other governments on a coordinated release of oil reserves, in an effort to curb the increase in gasoline prices, Politico reports. The outlet says that, according to people “familiar with the effort”, the US is likely to release 30-35m of oil in coordination with concurrent releases from countries including China and Japan. Reuters says that the administration is expected to announce the plans today, adding that the move comes after OPEC and its allies “rebuffed repeated requests from Washington and other consumer nations to pump more quickly to match rising demand”. Elsewhere, Reuters says that OPEC “doesn’t have much extra capacity to hike output faster, even if it wanted to”. Another Reuters article says that Biden’s “efforts may have limited impact on prices at the pump, experts say, but doing nothing would be a political mistake as gasoline prices hit a seven-year high”. The Washington Post carries a piece entitled, “More oil now, less oil later: Biden’s tricky message on energy”, saying that in the face of “soaring energy prices” Biden is “pushing the Federal Trade Commission to examine whether gas companies are charging too much, and leading a global effort to press oil-producing countries to ramp up production”. However, it adds that these decisions are “prompting warnings from environmental advocates that Biden’s push to lower energy prices is undercutting his lofty goals on climate”. Meanwhile, Reuters says that Democrats have penned a letter to Biden urging him to “use all tools at our disposal to bring down gasoline prices in the short term.” And Reuters reports that oil prices rose on Monday.
In other news, Reuters reports that the US has imposed further sanctions in connection with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and Bloomberg says that developers of the Keystone XL pipeline are seeking $15bn from the US government following Biden’s decision to “yank a permit for the border-crossing oil pipeline even after construction began”. Meanwhile, focusing on Scotland, the Times says: “An [oil] ‘exodus’ from the Highlands and Islands is brewing after Nicola Sturgeon vowed to oppose new oil and gas activities, critics have claimed. And the Scotsman reports that a decade-long programme to decommission 1.2m tonnes of disused oil and gas gear from the North Sea will generate £16bn of work.
Nigeria has become the first “major” developing country to commit to setting annual carbon budgets, Climate Home News reports. It adds: “After announcing a 2060 net-zero target at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, president Muhammadu Buhari signed into law a climate bill committing his government to produce a sweeping plan to reduce emissions, adapt to climate change and set annual and five-year carbon budgets.” The outlet notes that Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and its biggest oil producer, but that half of its citizens still lack electricity. It continues: “Nigerian pundits have been divided between those calling for the country’s unused coal reserves to be tapped for power and those advocating for the fast roll out of renewable energy sources.” According to the paper, the bill is based on the UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act – although while the UK’s carbon budgets are set by the independent Climate Change Committee, Nigeria’s will be “set by the environment ministry and subject to approval from the cabinet”. It notes that the bill sets up a National Council on Climate Change which will oversee Nigeria’s climate plans, adding: “Nigeria’s current climate goal, set in July, is to reduce emissions 20% below a business as usual projection by 2030. With international financing, this target rises to 47%.” (See Carbon Brief’s in-depth profile of Nigeria.)
David Kabua, the president of the Marshall Islands, has penned an opinion piece for Climate Home News arguing that “the world must turn its gaze to shipping”. Kabua writes that the first “test” following COP26 will at a meeting of the UN’s shipping agency called the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) this week. He notes that international shipping currently produces 2% of global emissions and calls the IMO’s ambition to reduce emissions by at least 50% by 2050 “a far cry from what is needed”. He continues: “One group of countries trying to change this at COP26 has been the Climate Vulnerable Forum…In the Dhaka-Glasgow Declaration adopted at COP26, we called on the IMO to set targets that will clearly align the sector with the goal of keeping temperature increases to 1.5C or below, and to implement policy that simultaneously drives technology change and improves equity.” He concludes: “If the IMO takes bold and ambitious action, I believe there is hope for the larger commitments laid out in Glasgow. If not, it will be another nail in the coffin of nations like the Marshall Islands, and the millions of people whose homes and livelihoods will be destroyed by uncontrolled climate change.”
Beatrice Atim Anywar, Uganda’s state minister for environment, has written a piece in the Independent, saying that COP26 brought “signs of hope” for women in Africa, but that there is “more work left to do”. She highlights the “landmark” agreement on deforestation as good news for African women, noting that “given their traditional role as primary caregivers, African women disproportionately feel the burden to provide food, fuel and water and trees to feed the ecosystem upon which they rely”. She says that forests also prevent flash flooding, adding: “This too is important for women: natural disasters are not felt evenly – more women are displaced than men, and girls are more likely to be pulled out of school to help their family.” She continues to discuss climate financing – noting that developed nations failed to meet their $100bn funding target and that, with the current funds going forward, mitigation outpaces adaptation. She concludes: “Delay will only hurt those most vulnerable. The climate crisis affects women disproportionately because it deepens existing inequalities. Given Africa is the continent most vulnerable to climate change, this puts its women at the sharpest end of the global phenomenon. At next year’s COP – Africa’s COP – we must ensure we carry the momentum forward of what we’ve achieved at this year’s meeting if we are to truly overcome these imbalances.”
In UK comment, Lord Howard of Lympne – Michael Howard, a former leader of the Conservative party – has penned an opinion piece for Times Red Box. He rejects the idea that COP26 was a failure, adding: “The success of committed leadership in Glasgow shows that tackling climate change is intertwined with national security, stability, and prosperity — in other words, our national interest, and the priorities of any government.” He highlights that the UK was the first developed country to commit to a net-zero target and the first to commit to phasing out unabated coal use. He continues: “It was the UK’s summit that had the diplomatic heft for a historic climate agreement by the US and China, the world’s highest emitters. COP26 was the latest moment in the story of UK leadership. Glasgow was the place where these pledges on coal reduction, on end fossil fuel finance, on cutting methane, on ending deforestation (among many others) were made.” He concludes: “Climate change is an enemy army marching towards us — one that threatens our prosperity, security, and way of life. Boris Johnson is right to double down on defeating it and he deserves our support.”
Elsewhere, the Guardian‘s financial editor, Nils Prately, has penned an opinion piece entitled, “Bulb’s collapse signals the urgent need for energy market reforms”. Pratley writes that “Ofgem was grossly naive in allowing so many undercapitalised startups to take a punt on wholesale prices” and adds that “slow reactions” have characterised the energy regulator’s “struggle to keep pace with events in the energy crisis”. Meanwhile, Green MEP Bas Eickhout tells EurActiv in an interview that “climate adaptation and loss and damage will be the key fight at COP27”. And London-based political risk consultant and lawyer Adriel Kasonta has penned an opinion piece in the South China Morning Post in which he says that “the US-China joint declaration agreed at Glasgow is far more important than COP26 itself”. Meanwhile, China’s Caixin Magazine has a cover story entitled: “Disappointments and hopes from the climate summit.” The same issue also includes special reports on driving global green recovery, “dual-carbon” self-revolution, and opportunities and challenges in ESG investment, as well as business pieces on EVs and natural gas.
A new paper traces the emergence of a new “staying on the ground” trend around holiday air travel in Sweden. Using travel magazines and digital media sources, the researchers find that the “rising problematisation of flying” works through “moralisation (flying is ethically wrong) and persuasion (emphasising alternatives) to challenge dominant meanings of holiday air travel as desirable and necessary”. The trend “exemplifies how meanings attached to ingrained high-carbon practices, and the policies that sustain them, are currently being contested and rearticulated”, the authors add.
New research projects the trajectory of global energy CO2 emissions – and the impact on warming – according to near-term mitigation efforts and “two assumptions on how these efforts continue post-2030”. The findings indicate that “nearly all the scenarios have median warming of less than 3 C in 2100”, but “the most optimistic scenario is still insufficient to limit global warming to 2C”. Among their conclusions, the authors note that “the common practice of using economy-wide carbon prices to represent policy exaggerates carbon capture and storage use compared with explicitly modelling policies”.
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