Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- UK Moorside nuclear project in doubt after Toshiba writedown
- U.K. lobbies Trump officials to stay in Paris climate deal
- Sea ice around Antarctica hits record low, preliminary U.S. data show
- EDF earnings hit by low electricity prices and nuclear problems
- G20 urged to ditch fossil fuel subsidies by 2020, go green
- Editorial: The conservative case for taxing carbon emissions
- When Canadian Scientists Were Muzzled by Their Government
- Roundtable: How will countries respond if the US withdraws from Paris?
- Should the UK stay or should it go? The consequences of a divorce with the EU ETS
- Extreme oceanographic forcing and coastal response due to the 2015–2016 El Niño
The planned Moorside new nuclear plant in Cumbria is in doubt after project lead Toshiba said it planned to pull out of the construction work, report Reuters and others. The firm posted a $6.3bn writedown to its US nuclear subsidiary Westinghouse, Reuters adds. Toshiba stopped short of announcing a complete withdrawal from the Nugen venture developing Moorside, but said it would play only a limited role, reports the Times. Greg Clark, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy secretary said there was “continued commitment” to the Moorside scheme, reports Bloomberg. It adds that the GMB union wants government to step in if Toshiba pulls out. The Daily Mail, Guardian, Telegraph, Sun and Independent all have the story. Reuters has more on the “delays [and] confusion” surrounding Toshiba’s financial reporting yesterday. The firm’s chairman has quit over its $3.4bn loss, report the BBC and the New York Times. The Financial Times chronicles the “downfall of…a nuclear industry titan”, noting that the firm’s president pins its woes on the purchase of Westinghouse, the US nuclear reactor business. Environmental Progress also pins the blame on Westinghouse, saying Toshiba “appears to be going bankrupt”, in an article that explores the “accelerating crisis” for nuclear power around the world. Toshiba’s woes “expose the fragility of [the] UK’s future electricity supply”, reports the Financial Times. It notes UK plans to phase out coal power by 2025 and to cut emissions to 57% below 1990 levels by 2030.
The British government is urging the US administration to support the Paris climate deal, according to a UK government energy official quoted by Bloomberg. The unnamed official said that UK government representatives in Washington have been focussing on jobs and growth in talks with US officials. The official also claimed Trump may be more inclined to listen to the UK than the EU, since he has previously backed Brexit.
Antarctic sea ice has shrunk to the smallest extent on record according to preliminary US satellite data, reports Reuters. The ice covered 2.287 million square kilometres on 13 February, below the previous low of 2.290. The Amundsen Sea is practically free of sea ice, says ice scientist Mark Brandon at his Mallemaroking blog. Greenhouse gas emissions are causing an “accelerated collapse of both sea and land ice” at both poles, says Climate Progress. An article at Danish site Polar Portal explores unusual recent Arctic weather and heavy snowfall in Greenland, concluding: “It is…still far too early to suggest that the Greenland ice sheet will not lose more mass than it gains this year.”
French utility firm EDF, which is due to build the Hinkley C new nuclear project in Somerset, yesterday reported a 7% fall in earnings, says the Financial Times. Low electricity prices and problems at some of its nuclear plants weighed on results, the paper adds. EDF’s UK earnings were down 29%, reports the Press Association. This was despite EDF’s UK reactors achieving their highest annual output since 2003, reports the Times. The firm hopes to deliver positive cash flow next year, ahead of its investment in Hinkley C, reports Reuters. Falling profits at EDF “will be seized upon by critics of plans for it to build Britain’s Hinkley Point nuclear power station”, says the Evening Standard.
A group of 16 investors and insurers holding more than $2.8tn in assets have called on G20 nations to phase out fossil fuel subsidies by 2020, reports Reuters. G20 foreign ministers are preparing to meet in Germany, to prepare for a summit in July. The investor group is calling for a clear timeline for the “full and equitable phaseout by all G20 members of all fossil fuel subsidies by 2020”. The investors say subsidies are “jeopardising the global goal of meeting the Paris climate targets”, reports Climate Home.
A Republican proposal for a US carbon tax “deserves attention”, says a Financial Times editorial. It says: “There is nothing intrinsically statist about correcting a price to incorporate the true costs of production — in this case, the environmental cost of carbon emissions — while leaving the wider market untouched. Accepting that principle would make intelligent economics, rather than ideology, the underpinning of the US approach to climate change.”
Amid “ominous” signs for federal scientists in the US, Wendy Palen reflects on the experience of Canadians a decade ago under then-prime minister Stephen Harper. In a comment for the New York Times, Palen explains how “Canada’s scientific community came together to save our research…and captured the attention and concern of the public”. She concludes: “Evidence and objective reality are the foundation of successful policy and governance. Openness is as vital to science as it is to democracy. We cannot allow hard-won knowledge to be ignored or distorted.”
A range of experts convened by China Dialogue discuss how countries will respond if the US pulls out of the Paris Agreement. Voices include Zou Li , deputy director-general of China’s National Centre for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, who says “the vast majority of signatories will continue to fulfil [their pledges]”. Qi Ye, professor at Tsinghua University is less positive, noting other countries pulling out in response to a US exit could “spell the end of the Agreement”.
On balance, the best post-Brexit option for the UK would be to stay within the EU Emissions Trading System, say Baran Doda and Luca Taschini in a comment for Carbon Pulse. A UK-only ETS “would be expensive for the [UK] firms”, they write. Linking a UK ETS to other systems, for instance China’s forthcoming national scheme, would also present challenges, the authors say. The House of Lords EU Energy and Environment sub-committee has recommended the UK look to link up with ETS’s in China or California,, according to Bloomberg.
The 2015/16 El Niño event caused unprecedented levels of erosion along much of the west coast of the US, a new study says. The researchers analysed wave conditions, water levels and coastal erosion of 29 beaches along the California, Oregon and Washington coasts over 2015-16. Their findings show that elevated sea levels and winter wave energy that was twice as high as normal resulted in 76% more coastal erosion than usual. Many beaches – particularly in California – experienced the largest amount of retreat since records began, the researchers say.