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:
- UK: Hundreds of thousands without power after Storm Eunice
- US envoy warns geopolitics risk hurting climate efforts
- Covid shutdown linked to record rainfall in China
- Oil and gas firms have unlisted links to Westminster
- The Guardian view on Britain’s green economy: seriously underpowered
- Green investing: the risk of a new mis-selling scandal
- Limits to Paris compatibility of CO2 capture and utilization
- Increase in compound dry-warm and wet-warm events under global warming in CMIP6 models
Hundreds of thousands of people across the UK and Ireland were left without power this weekend in the wake of Storm Eunice, reports the Press Association. Authorities have begun clean-up efforts after the storm brought damage, travel disruption and record winds to the UK and Ireland, killing at least four people, PA says. On Friday, the Needles on the Isle of Wight recorded winds of 122 miles per hour which, if verified, would be the highest ever recorded in England, it adds. The i newspaper reports that wind turbines were generating almost half of the UK’s electricity demand at one point on Friday amid the high-speed gusts. Both the Daily Telegraph and MailOnline report that power prices plummeted amid the record winds on Friday, with day-ahead UK power temporarily dropping 11% to £140 per megawatt-hour. BBC News reports that the rains have triggered severe flooding in Northern Ireland, Manchester and Yorkshire. It adds that the country is set to see more disruption as Storm Franklin arrives today, the third storm in a week in the UK. The Guardian examines whether Storm Eunice is “the result of climate breakdown”. It says: “While there is dispute between scientists over whether [UK winter] storms themselves are likely to increase and become stronger, most agree that the climate crisis will make their impacts worse.”
Elsewhere, the Observer covers a report finding people in London are at risk of drowning as climate change is increasing the risk of flash floods in the city. The report, from a London Councils taskforce, warns the risks are particularly high because “there is no overall plan or authority to tackle the increasing threat of flooding in the city”, the Observer says.
Geopolitical tensions, including the Russia and Ukraine conflict, risks harming international efforts to tackle climate change, the US climate envoy John Kerry has warned, according to Associated Press. Speaking at the annual Munich Security Conference on Friday, Kerry warned that rising energy prices may make governments way of taking the measures needed to tackle rising emissions, AP reports. Kerry said: “It’s not going to be positive because it’s going to distract rather enormously.” His words come as Politico reports on the “global climate attention crisis” 100 days after a deal was struck at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. COP26 president and UK minister Alok Sharma told Politico that Glasgow pact “continues to be fragile”. Sharma continued: “It’s challenging where you have one big, immediate geopolitical issue that takes up a lot of bandwidth. But that doesn’t mean that governments don’t also want to get on and focus on the other issues that matter.”
Elsewhere in US news, the New York Times reports that the Biden administration is “indefinitely freezing decisions about new federal oil and gas drilling as part of a legal brawl with Republican-led states that could significantly impact President Biden’s plans to tackle climate change”. Reuters also has this story. Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that prospects for new fossil-fuel infrastructure in the US have “gone from bad to worse” after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted on Thursday to overhaul the certification process for new “natural” gas pipelines to include more scrutiny of the environmental and community impacts of projects. A second FT story reports on a trend among US companies such as Starbucks, Apple and Disney to add environmental targets to executive bonuses.
A “rapid drop” in greenhouse gas emissions due to the Covid-19 lockdown played “a key role” in record rainfall in China in 2020, BBC News reports, citing a new paper. The outlet says that the emissions decline “contributed about one-third of the extreme summer rain” that year, according to the researchers. Elsewhere, Bloomberg reports that scientists in China have developed strains of salt-tolerant “seaweed rice” with hopes of ensuring food security amid sea level rise.
Meanwhile, the Russian news agency Tass reports that Russia and China are “developing an intergovernmental agreement” on the supply of 100m tonnes of coal. The news was announced by Sergey Mochalnikov, a department head at the Russian Energy Ministry, the report says. Mochalnikov noted that Russian coal exports had “very good prospects” due to a global supply fall, it adds.
Separately, the Global Times – a state-run Chinese newspaper – focuses on statements from Wang Jinnan, a department head at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment. Wang said on Friday that the “green and low-carbon practices” at the Winter Olympics 2022 in Beijing would leave “a rich and valuable sustainable Olympic legacy for future generations”. China’s state broadcaster CCTV says 12 government agencies released joint economic directives on Friday. According to the report, the instructions include upgrading less-efficient coal-fired power units and launching an energy-saving campaign for heavy industries.
Elsewhere, there are multiple reports about China’s carbon markets in the Chinese state media. China News Services reports that the accumulative turnover of the market had exceeded 8bn yuan (£930m) as of 17 February. Beijing Evening News says that the Chinese capital city is due to establish a trading centre for China’s Voluntary Emissions Reduction Programme, which encourages companies to take part in a series of non-mandatory schemes to cut their emissions.
The Observer reports that lobbyists for fossil-fuel companies are “quietly helping run parliamentary groups on energy and climate policy without the need to formally declare their involvement”. The newspaper reports that trade associations funded by oil and gas companies are providing administrative and public relations support to a group of MPS, but their roles are not includes in official parliamentary transparency logs because rules dictate only benefits above £1,500 a year must be recorded. The Observer reports: “In one case, the UK Petroleum Industry Association (UKPIA) – an alliance of eight of the world’s biggest oil companies – is playing a key role in the running of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on downstream energy and fuels. The association’s involvement is not listed as a benefit and the names of the firms it represents do not appear in official parliamentary records.” Meanwhile, the FT reports that western oil majors are on track to buy back shares at near-record levels this year as “soaring oil and gas prices enable them to deliver bumper profits and boost returns for investors”.
An editorial in the Guardian warns “Britain risks falling behind in the new industrial revolution” as Office for National Statistics figures show employment in low-carbon and renewable energy sectors fell between 2014 and 2020. “This dismal state of affairs predated the Covid pandemic and the accompanying recession,” the editorial says. It continues: “Windy rhetoric is not enough. To a far greater extent, the state must play a strategic role in shaping and investing in the green economy.” Elsewhere, an editorial in the Independent says that Storm Eunice is “another sign” that the UK has not adequately invested in the defences needed for worse extreme weather events. Similarly, an editorial in the Daily Mirror says the devastation caused by Storm Eunice serves a “brutal reminder of the power of nature”. It adds: “Once the clean-up is over there should be a review into whether the country is properly prepared for the climate change.”
Meanwhile, writing for the Sun, TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson says “going green is fine”, but “do it with a bit of common sense”. He adds: “Ecomentalists need to develop a bit of balance…They need to recognise that a draconian ban on anything which hurts the air or the soil or the ocean is unworkable and that it’s best to simply ask us to do our best.” The Sun also reports on comments from former Brexit negotiator Lord Frost, who said he believes hitting net-zero is too much a “complex task” for the the current Conservative government.
Elsewhere, the New York Post hosts an opinion piece from the climate sceptic Bjorn Lomborg, which claims that the “green agenda is too expensive”.
The FT publishes an investigation into how companies are misleading investors about their green and sustainable investing products. According to the FT, there is “a growing realisation among retail and other, larger investors in the UK, the US and across Europe that some of the vast sums of money they have poured into green and ethically-labelled investment products in recent years may not have been invested in quite the way they had imagined”. It continues: A series of high-profile scandals…has now raised fears that some of the bolder green claims made by asset managers could amount to mis-selling. Some industry insiders believe they are on the brink of a mis-selling scandal in the mould of payment protection insurance, mortgages or diesel cars.”
A new study finds that “only products storing CO2 permanently or produced from only zero-emissions energy can be Paris compatible”. The study assesses the life cycle emissions and “technological maturity” of carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) technologies to determine which are the most “promising” for achieving global temperature goals. The authors conclude that “research and policy should focus on accelerating development of CCU technologies that may achieve (close to) zero net emissions, avoiding lock-in by CCU technologies with limited net emission reductions.”
Global compound wet-warm events (CWWEs) and compound wet-dry events (CWDEs) could become 211% and 574% more frequent by the end of the century, according to new research. The authors investigate changes in the frequency of CWWEs and CDWEs under future warming scenarios using models from the sixth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. They find that in a 1.5C warming scenario, CWWEs and CWDEs will become 170% and 105% more frequent respectively, compared to present day levels. In a 2C warming scenario, these numbers will rise to 260% and 142%, they add.