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TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- UK: Liz Truss set to give fracking the go-ahead as part of her landmark energy package
- Australian parliament passes first climate change legislation in a decade
- EU plans revenue clawback from non-gas power plants, document shows
- Californians seek relief as heatwave grips state for eighth day
- Germany turns to coal for a third of its electricity
- China combats drought with artificial rain technology
- Watch out, Liz Truss: this energy crisis may spark a climate revolution we can all get behind
- Pakistan’s perfect storm is an urgent call to action
- Temperature impacts on hate speech online: evidence from 4bn geolocated tweets from the US
The UK newspapers are dominated by reports that the new prime minister Liz Truss will later today announce a series of new polices aimed at tackling the energy crisis. The Sun, among others, says this will include a manifesto-busting “green light to fracking”. The tabloid adds: “Insiders expect her to rip up the moratorium in England which has banned it since 2019, to help boost our own supplies. A landmark report is expected to say that it can be done safely under certain conditions. But it will only be allowed to take place when local communities agree to it. Locals will be wooed into backing new projects with the promise of hugely discounted energy bills.” The Press Association reports that the “new premier is expected to tell MPs on Thursday that domestic energy bills will be frozen at around £2,500 as part of a package to ease the cost-of-living crunch – said to cost up to £150bn”, adding that she will “also declare she is lifting the moratorium on fracking, according to reports, with potential for the change to be implemented at pace”. The Daily Mail says Truss “is set to freeze fuel bills, end the fracking ban and signal a new era of oil and gas exploration in the North Sea on Thursday as part of her energy revolution”. It quotes a “Whitehall source” saying: “We need to get going on every source of energy supply. The severity of the challenge means more supply options are on the table and politically palatable.” The Daily Mail also devotes a fullpage to attacking Lord Deben, the chair of the Climate Change Committe, which is the government’s official climate advisory body. It bases its attack around a single quote from the climate-sceptic MP Craig Mackinlay who has formal links with a climate-sceptic lobby group: “Lord Deben and his Climate Change Committee need to come out of their ivory towers and live in the real world. We are facing an energy cost and supply emergency. It is time we unleashed the full potential of all sources of domestically derived power. Fracking could play a huge role in this. The best time for a UK energy policy would have been 10 years ago. The second best time is now.” Deben has been attacked because he co-authored a letter sent to Truss in which he, reports the Daily Telegraph, “sought to shoot down her plans to revive fracking”. (Politico reminds readers of the views of Kwasi Kwarteng, the new chancellor who was energy secretary back in March when he wrote an article for the Mail on Sunday dismissing fracking.)
Meanwhile, Reuters reports in an “exclusive” that “the British government is expected to announce dozens of new North Sea oil and gas exploration licences in an effort to boost domestic production, two sources familiar with the government’s discussions said”. The newswire adds: “The exact number of new licences was still to be confirmed, one of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. The other said it could be as many as 130. The announcement could come as soon as Thursday.” The Press Association says that “a group of energy trade bodies have written to the prime minister to suggest that she focuses on passing new energy laws that ensure policy keeps up with a rapidly evolving industry”. It continues: “Bosses at eight trade bodies said that passing the Energy bill could be the first victory for Liz Truss’s new government…[The letters says:] ‘A recommitment to the bill would be a welcome signal that your government remains committed to not only net zero, but the UK’s booming green energy industries.’”
In other news related to Truss’s expected announcement today, the Times reports under the frontpage headline, “£150bn scheme to freeze energy bills for two years”, that “the pound yesterday fell to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985 amid concerns about Truss’s package of energy support and a surge in the value of the US currency, but regained ground later in the day”. The Daily Telegraph says that Truss will today vow “never again” on exorbitant energy bills. The Guardian reports on “environmentalists’ concern over Liz Truss adviser’s climate policy views”. BBC News also examines how key new cabinet ministers, such as energy secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, have “raised climate target doubts” in the past.
Separately, the Times says that “ministers are drawing up plans for a public information campaign to encourage people to reduce energy use this winter amid fears that a price freeze will deter them from doing so”. It adds: “There is concern within government that an intervention by Liz Truss to tackle the sharp rise in energy costs could increase the risk of blackouts if it means that households and businesses do not reduce consumption. The Times has been told that ministers want to work with energy companies on a public information campaign over the winter to encourage people to turn down their thermostats and turn off electrical appliances instead of leaving them on standby.” The Guardian says that “top green Conservative Chris Skidmore is to embark on a net-zero tour to show that ‘normal people are getting on with’ decarbonisation, and urge the new prime minister to ignore the ‘Westminster bubble’ that is pouring scorn on the climate target”. Finally, BusinessGreen reports that “the UK’s pipeline of onshore wind farms has grown by over 4GW over the last 12 months, largely thanks to the growing number of projects at the planning, consented, construction, and commissioning stages in Scotland, the latest industry data shows”.
(See “Climate and Energy Comment” below for more reaction to the UK government’s energy plans.)
Australia’s first climate change legislation in a decade has passed federal parliament with support from the Greens and key crossbench senators, reports the Guardian. It adds: “Labor’s climate bill – which includes the national targets of cutting emissions by at least 43% by 2030 (compared with 2005) and reaching net-zero by 2050 – cleared the Senate 37 votes to 30 after the government accepted some minor amendments proposed by the ACT independent David Pocock…The climate change minister, Chris Bowen, told the parliament ‘today is a good day for our parliament and our country, and we’re going to need many more of them’. He said the passage of the legislation would send a message to the world that Australia was driving down emissions and was ‘serious about reaping the economic opportunities from affordable renewable energy’…The Liberal MP Bridget Archer again crossed the floor to support Labor’s legislation, having argued her northern Tasmanian community expected her to vote in support of action on climate change. It passed the lower house 86 votes to 50…The Senate vote followed an at times fractured debate in which Pocock was forced to withdraw an unparliamentary remark after describing contributions from some senators who questioned the science of climate change as ‘bullshit’.”
Reuters reports it has “seen a draft document” showing that the “European Commission wants to claw back revenue from electricity generators that do not run on gas, aiming to use the cash to cushion consumers from soaring bills as they head into winter”. The newswire continues: “The plan is part of emergency measures being drafted by Brussels to reduce gas and electricity costs that have surged as a result of Russia cutting gas flows to Europe since the invasion of Ukraine. A draft of the Commission proposals seen by Reuters also outlined a target for countries to cut electricity use by 10%. The document, which could change before it is formally proposed, said the EU would apply a revenue cap of 200 euros per megawatt hour on producers whose power generation is not gas-fuelled. European utilities stocks rallied on the news, with analysts viewing a 200 euro cap as a better than expected outcome for an industry that could provide relief to customers without discouraging investment.” However, Politico says: “European Commission blindsided member country governments with five ideas for tackling the energy emergency on Wednesday, and reaction by member countries was split, six diplomats told Politico.” It adds: “That’s likely to give Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen some room for maneuver ahead of next week’s State of the European Union speech, which is expected to push for an EU-wide effort to get natural gas and electricity prices under control. EU energy ministers will discuss energy prices during an emergency summit Friday.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Post covers remarks made yesterday by Russia’s Vladimir Putin when he called western sanctions “stupid” and threatened to halt all energy sales to Russia’s critics if they move forward with a cap on oil prices proposed by the G7: “‘We will not supply gas, oil, coal, heating oil – we will not supply anything,’ Putin said in a defiant speech at the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum, which was being held in the city of Vladivostok in Russia’s far east. Putin added that Moscow will let ‘the wolf’s tail freeze’ in reference to a famous Russian fairy tale.”
Californians have been “desperately seeking cool shelter as extreme temperatures baked the state on Wednesday for an eighth straight day”, reports Reuters. The newswire adds: “Temperatures were expected to top 108F (42C) in Sacramento, the state capital, and other inland valleys, and broke 100F around the Los Angeles area. The agency that operates most of California’s electrical grid urged consumers to conserve energy during the late afternoon and evening hours to avoid rolling blackouts, as the heatwave blanketed the drought-stricken region and crews fought multiple wildfires linked to the dry conditions. Many people without air conditioning or homes found some relief in cooling centres operated out of city hall conference rooms and community centres. But untold numbers of homeless people lay on the streets in downtown Los Angeles, seeking whatever patches of shade they could find.” The Los Angeles Times says: “For a second day, California’s largest utility is warning customers to prepare for the possibility of rotating power outages as a brutal heat wave continues to pummel the state. Pacific Gas & Electric Co said Wednesday that it had notified about 525,277 customers to prepare for possible outages.” Meanwhile, an editorial in the climate-sceptic opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal seeks to blame “man-made climate policies” claiming (falsely) that California’s climate “hasn’t suddenly changed”.
One-third of German electricity generation now comes from coal-fired plants, up from 27% last year, reports the Financial Times. It explains that in the first six months of this year, Germany generated 83 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity from coal, up 17% from the same period last year, according to the national statistics office. Generation from gas fell from 18% to only 12% of total generation, adds the outlet. German chancellor Olaf Scholz is quoted saying that the opposition party Christian Democrats (CDU) bore “complete responsibility” for the exit from coal and nuclear power that “formed part of his predecessor Angela Merkel’s Energiewende policies, which, in turn, raised reliance on Russian gas”. But, the outlet continues, CDU leader Friedrich Merz accused the government of “madness” over its decision to idle the country’s three remaining nuclear power plants from the end of this year.
Scholz’s government coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), has also urged Scholz to overturn the 2011 ban on nuclear power, reports the Guardian. However, it says, Scholz has rejected calls for his government to commit to a longer-term extension of the life of the country’s nuclear power plants and insisted that “Europe’s largest economy would have enough energy to get through the winter”, accusing the conservatives “of failing to embrace renewable energy and actively campaigning against it”. The CDU, he said, “fought hard against every single wind power station”, reports Deutsche Welle. The opposition has also criticised economy minister Robert Habeck, saying that “he has no idea what he’s talking about [solving energy issues]” and that “he has to step down”, reports the German tabloid Bild. Reuters also has the story. Guido Knott, head of the Eon subsidiary, which operates the Bavarian plant Isar 2, considers Habeck’s plans to leave two of the last three nuclear power plants operational after they were shut down “technically unfeasible and therefore unsuitable for securing the supply contribution of the plants”, reports Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).
According to the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), China has used “artificial rain technology since August to help various regions fight drought”, reports Xinhua. CMA official Zhao Zhiqiang is quoted saying that “from 1-31 August, aircraft made 75 flights, which lasted 211 hours in total, to induce artificial rainfall in drought-hit areas”, adding that these rainmaking operations are “estimated to have covered 1.45m sq km, playing a vital role in mitigating drought and high temperatures, increasing water reserves, and stabilising agricultural production”. The state news agency writes that these operations are also “powered by cutting-edge technologies such as meteorological satellites, weather radar and unmanned aerial vehicles”, citing the official. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports that China’s “record-breaking” heatwaves and droughts have “highlighted the sizable challenges the world’s second-largest economy faces to meet its energy needs in the years ahead amid a changing climate”. Additionally, Bloomberg reports that China “expects above-average temperatures to continue through September” after the “hottest August on record led to a historical drought and power cuts that damaged the world’s second-biggest economy”.
Separately, a Bloomberg article, titled “Xi’s ESG boom funnels billions into coal, liquor, defense stocks”, says that assets in China’s environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) funds have “doubled since 2021, lifted by Beijing’s growing emphasis on poverty alleviation, renewable power and energy security”. Another Bloomberg article notes that Chinese exports to the European Union “held up better” than to the US, recording “11.1% growth as China is supplying more energy-intensive goods that have become more costly to produce in Europe”. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the EU and China are “questioning each other’s commitment to fighting climate change”, following the “failure” of climate talks by the G20 last week. And the Financial Times says that China is “pushing ahead with Indonesia’s largest hydro-plant project”.
The South China Morning Post has published a comment piece by Jiang Lin and Michael O’Boyle, saying that “by pursuing common interests and opportunities, the US and China can lead the world in decarbonising their grids. Their leaders must not let political disagreements get in the way.” Elsewhere, Bloomberg columnist David Fickling writes: “It’s almost impossible to decarbonise cement production in any significant way, especially in the short term, so a peak in emissions means a peak in output. That will have knock-on effects throughout the universe of hard commodities.” [For more on this story, see yesterday’s Daily Briefing.] Finally, the Global Times writes that with “no western leaders showing up” at the climate summit in Rotterdam, Netherlands on Monday besides the host country, developed countries in the west “responsible for most historical CO2 emissions” have been “slammed as being indifferent and irresponsible for dodging their moral obligation and hampering global climate cooperation”. The state-run newspaper adds that the western countries’ “pledge of $25bn funding to support climate change adaptation in African countries [was] doubted as another empty cheque that could not be cashed”.
Many UK publications carry commentary focused on the energy crisis and the government’s expected policy response due to be announced today. Writing in the Guardian, columnist Zoe Williams says that it’s “not looking great for the climate” that Liz Truss, “who has about as much expertise in British geomorphology as she does in cheese, seems to think we can frack our way out of the energy crisis by Christmas, and that nuclear power is a similarly quick answer”. But Williams looks ahead with positivity: “We will emerge from the next election with not only a new government but a radical and uncompromising plan for energy that will transform the way we live. We’ll look back on this as the inflection point that got us to net-zero.” In the Independent, Green MP Caroline Lucas writes: “No government that’s remotely serious about tackling the twin climate and nature emergencies would even contemplate putting Jacob Rees-Mogg in charge of that portfolio. He’s the worst possible candidate at the worst possible moment. Just when we need forward-looking solutions to modern problems, we have a Victorian politician with antiquated ideals.” Also in the Independent, Rebecca Newsom, who is head of politics at Greenpeace UK, argues that “Truss could fix the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis in one go…but at a minimum we need an energy secretary who is not intent on taking us in the opposite direction”.
Elsewhere, an editorial in the Evening Standard says: “ Our energy security and low-carbon generation cannot be lost amid the gas crisis. But for the millions of people worried about how they will stay warm this winter, what matters most is that action is being taken.” The Times carries a comment piece by its chief leader writer Simon Nixon in which he argues that the “reluctance to talk about energy demand is perplexing” He adds: “The time to deliver the various options for diversifying sources of energy supply, including nuclear, renewables or fracking, is measured in years or even decades, much too late to make much impact on the present crisis, even if they are worthwhile to boost Britain’s long-term energy security, which has been brutally exposed in the past year. In contrast, the benefits of a determined programme to improve energy efficiency in buildings and industry could be delivered in months.” The Guardian’s financial editor Nils Pratley says “ending the outdated system that links some electricity generators’ revenues to wholesale gas prices could fund the UK’s rescue package”.
Separately, several outlets focus on the climate credentials – of lack therein – of Jacob Rees-Mogg, who now overseas the UK’s energy and climate policies. The Guardian has analysis asking: “Will Liz Truss’s government adopt or weaken green policies?”Another Guardian feature is headlined: “Jacob Rees-Mogg: the fossil fuel fan in charge of cutting UK carbon emissions.” New Scientist also takes a close look at Rees-Mogg’s previous comments on climate change. And the New Statesman’s India Bourke lists the “five reasons Jacob Rees-Mogg is unfit to tackle the climate emergency”.
An editorial in the Financial Times says that “this summer has been heavy with examples of what a warming climate will mean to our future”, but “nowhere else…has suffered the extremes of Pakistan, which has gone from 50C temperatures to devastating floods in a few months, even as it wrestles with financial and political crises”. It continues: “It is a devastating illustration of the need to invest in adaptation to a changing climate, with both general lessons on how the international community should respond and specific challenges for Pakistan. Within Pakistan there are two clear lessons: forecasting and evacuations…Pakistan should not be denied investment in climate adaptation because of fears cash will be diverted to shore up its short-term finances. Pakistanis desperately need help now, but they need a future as well.”
Separately, the New York Times has published a “scrolly” interactive feature by Sarah Hurtes and Weiyi Cai headlined: “Europe is sacrificing its ancient forests for energy.” The standfirst says: “Governments bet billions on burning timber for green power. The Times went deep into one of the continent’s oldest woodlands to track the hidden cost.”
New research provides evidence that “hot and cold temperatures can aggravate aggressive tendencies online”. The authors use machine learning to identify “hate speech” in around 4bn geolocated tweets from 773 cities across the US between May 2014 and May 2020. Analysing this data against changes in local temperature, the findings show that the prevalence of hate tweets was lowest at moderate temperatures (12 to 21C) and saw marked increases at hotter and colder temperatures, reaching up to 13% for cold extremes (–6 to –3C) and up to 22% for hot extremes (42 to 45C). The results point to “limitations in the ability of humans to adapt to temperature extremes”, the authors say.