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Briefing date 07.12.2022
UK: Onshore wind rules to be relaxed after Tory revolt

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UK: Onshore wind rules to be relaxed after Tory revolt
BBC News Read Article

The UK government has announced that it will relax restrictions on building onshore wind farms in England after a threatened rebellion from a group of Conservative MPs, BBC News reports. An amendment to the relevant bill had been signed by 34 Tory MPs, including former prime ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, according to the news outlet. The levelling-up department confirmed that a rule requiring new turbines to be built on pre-designated land will be rewritten, but new windfarms would still be subject to local approval, the article continues. However, it adds that the method of measuring local opinion is yet to be decided, and will be part of a wider consultation which will conclude by next April. The Daily Mail describes the move as “another climbdown” for prime minister Rishi Sunak, after he already decided to appease another group of Conservative rebels who opposed measures on housebuilding targets in the new bill. The outlet notes that, with its new consultation, the government plans to explore how local communities could benefit from new onshore wind farms, such as through lower energy bills. It adds that there has been a “de-facto ban” on new onshore wind farms since former prime minister David Cameron tightened planning rules in 2014. As the Financial Times notes, supporters of onshore wind point out that it is one of the cheapest forms of electricity generation and would also strengthen the country’s energy security. According to the Times, ministers will also consider plans to make it easier to upgrade existing onshore wind sites with bigger, more efficient turbines, as many sites are more than 20 years old. The newspaper also states that “Whitehall sources” have said they also expected the government to approve a long-delayed and controversial coal mine in Cumbria, with one describing it as a “quid pro quo” for relaxing restrictions on onshore wind.

The Guardian describes the Cumbria coal mine decision as a likely cause of a “new Tory split”. It says levelling-up secretary Michael Gove “could green light the first UK coal mine in a generation as soon as Wednesday”, noting that despite many high-profile Conservatives opposing it “several MPs said they believed there was a likelihood the mine would be approved”. Another Guardian article cites various international experts and activists who say approving the coal mine would be “hypocritical” and would “send the wrong message” about the UK on the world stage and at international negotiations.

In more UK energy news, the Guardian reports on comments made by environment secretary Thérèse Coffey to MPS on the environment, food and rural affairs committee about building solar power on UK farmland. The newspaper says she “moved away” from the opposition shown by Sunak during his leadership campaign, stating that land graded 3b for agricultural use, which is judged to be moderate quality, capable of producing cereals and grass, could be used for solar farms. (For more on the background to this debate, see Carbon Brief’s factcheck on the subject.) A relevant piece of analysis by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, reported by BusinessGreen, concludes that despite complaints by Conservative MPs about a potential threat to food security, trebling the nation’s onshore windfarm fleet would require just 0.02% of the country’s total land.

UK: Rishi Sunak hails gas deal with US which will 'slash prices' amid uncertainty over Ukraine
Daily Express Read Article

Many news outlets cover the new UK-US Energy Security and Affordability Partnership, which the Daily Express says has been welcomed by UK prime minister Rishi Sunak as a gas deal with the US that will “slash prices and increase energy security amid Russia’s war in Ukraine”. The deal involves the US exporting at least 9bn cubic metres of liquefied natural gas (LGN) over the next year via UK terminals, more than doubling the level exported in 2021. It notes that the deal follows a meeting between Sunak and US president Joe Biden at the G20 Summit in Indonesia last month. According to the Financial Times the commitment is more about assuring long-term supplies, as the pledge to double the amount of LNG the US sends to the UK compared with 2021 levels has already been met. While both countries must rely on market forces, as they lack state-backed fossil fuel companies, both said they would ensure “the market conditions for long-term security of supply”, the newspaper adds. Politico notes that UK LNG terminals have become “a vital lifeline” for Europe “as the continent has sought to replace Russian pipeline gas since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine”. The partnership set up between the two countries is also intended to go beyond gas, according to the Sun. It notes that together the UK and US will also focus on energy security, efficiency and affordability, “with the initiative planning to see a projected 8% reduction in demand for gas this winter”. The Daily Telegraph reports that this will involve promoting nuclear power as a “safe” and “reliable” part of the energy transition, driving low-carbon hydrogen growth and international investment in offshore wind and carbon capture. The partnership will be led by a new UK-US joint action group, led by senior officials from the UK government and the White House, who will meet for the first time on Thursday, the newspaper adds. In related news, the Daily Telegraph reports that as temperatures fall in the UK “Britain’s energy supply is facing its biggest test since Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine”.

The Daily Mail describes it as a “fracking deal with the US [that] will help Britain keep the lights on”, referring to the fact that much of the energy imported from the US will be produced by fracking. It quotes representatives from the UK’s onshore oil-and-gas industry and the Net Zero Scrutiny Group of climate sceptic Conservative MPs, who frame the deal as “hypocritical” following Sunak’s decision to once again halt fracking in England. (See Carbon Brief’s factcheck on why fracking is not the answer to the UK energy crisis.)

Meanwhile, in Germany, DeSmog reports on concerns from campaigners that emergency moves to end energy dependence on Russia by expanding its gas infrastructure “represent a victory for the gas lobby’s plans to lock Europe’s biggest economy into the global market for LNG”. Separately, a Reuters story reports that green NGO Friends of the Earth has appealed against the UK government’s funding of up to $1.15bn for an LNG project in Mozambique, which the group says is incompatible with the Paris Agreement on climate change.

‘We are treating nature like a toilet’ – UN chief says humanity is a ‘weapon of mass extinction’
The Independent Read Article

Speaking at the opening of the COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal, Canada, UN secretary-general António Guterres has once again issued a rousing call for environmental action, the Independent reports. He told delegates that there must be “no excuses, no delays” for measures that will prevent the global population from “waging war on nature”. He accused multinational corporations of “filling their bank accounts while emptying our world of its natural gifts”, adding that: “Ecosystems have become playthings of profit. With our bottomless appetite for unchecked and unequal economic growth, humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction. We are treating nature like a toilet. And, ultimately, we are committing suicide by proxy”. The Financial Times reports that Guterres said tax subsidies and investment from relevant sectors would be necessary. The newspaper notes that as negotiations progress, “heated negotiations” over funding are expected, similar to the demands seen at UN climate summits.

The Guardian has produced a visual guide with graphics and charts explaining “the biodiversity crisis in numbers”.

US kicks off first California coast offshore wind auction
Reuters Read Article

The first-ever sale of offshore wind development rights for waters off the coast of California was launched on Tuesday, “expanding the nascent domestic industry to the Pacific Ocean”, Reuters reports. The auction marks a “major milestone” in the government’s push to expand its wind infrastructure, the news wire says. Bloomberg notes that the auction has lured a “long line of developers”, with 43 companies planning to “vie for the opportunity” to install floating wind turbines and “help nurture a nascent renewable power industry”. The articles adds that 4.5 gigawatts (GW) of floating wind projects that could come from the leases would “help balance California’s grid and aid the state in meeting its goal of a zero-emission grid by 2045”.

Another Reuters story reports that the Norwegian government plans to launch its first-ever offshore wind power tender by the summer or autumn of 2023, as it published “long-awaited criteria for companies to take part in the bidding”.

A further Reuters story includes comments from Catherine MacGregor, chief executive of the French utility company Engie, who says that France fallen behind in rolling out wind power despite possessing vast resources.

G7 makes new $15bn offer to Vietnam to cut coal use – sources
Reuters Read Article

The G7 group of industrialised nations has made a new $15bn offer to Vietnam as part of the latest so-called “just energy transition partnership” in a bid to convince the nation to reduce its coal use, Reuters reports. The nation was supposed to sign up to a deal at COP27, but high-level talks broke off during the meeting, the newswire notes. However, “ three people familiar with the talks” said that the new offer comes ahead of a summit of EU and Southeast Asian nations in Brussels next week. According to them, it involves “$7.5bn made up almost exclusively of loans from the public sector and the same amount in pledges from the private sector”.

Russia is considering setting an oil price floor in response to G7's cap
Bloomberg Read Article

Russia is considering either imposing a fixed price for its oil or stipulating maximum discounts to international benchmarks at which they can be sold, according to Bloomberg, citing “two officials familiar with the plan”. The proposal is a response to a cap on oil that the G7 nations set out last week, which the group hopes will keep the oil trade flowing while depriving Moscow of funding for the war in Ukraine. Reuters quotes a US Treasury official who says the G7’s $60 limit on Russia’s seaborne oil exports , brought in on Monday, has increased western powers’ leverage over Russia. The pieces notes that the treasury is “sceptical” that Russia would be able to sell all of its oil exports above the price cap to other countries such as India and China. The G7’s cap has caused a blockage in the Bosphorus, according to the Financial Times, due to its impact on ships’ access to European maritime insurance and requirements from the Turkish government.

Energy Monitor reports on how emergency EU energy measures meant to “bring down the skyrocketing price of energy” are being “held hostage” by a dispute over a cap the wholesale price of natural gas.

In the UK, Reuters reports that North Sea oil and gas producers are calling on the government to introduce a price floor to mitigate the impact of its new windfall tax on the fossil fuel industry.

China retreats from sweeping zero-Covid policies as economic toll mounts
Financial Times Read Article

China has announced wide-ranging relaxations to the nation’s zero-Covid restrictions, including allowing home quarantine, reports the Financial Times. The “new” measures outlined by the state council, China’s cabinet, were “foreshadowed” by a meeting of the Chinese Communist Party’s politburo that “emphasised the importance of stabilising the economy rather than the battle against Covid-19”, the article adds.

Meanwhile, China’s foreign ministry on Tuesday “expressed opposition to unilateral tariffs that violate WTO rules and vowed necessary measures to protect China’s rights and interests”, as the US is “reportedly pushing for an agreement with the EU on imposing additional tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminium exports”, the Global Times writes. The state-run newspaper quotes Chinese experts saying that such a move “would not only violate international trade rules but also undermine cooperation on tackling global climate change”. However, the move is “unlikely to cause a major impact, given China’s already falling steel and aluminium exports to the US and the EU’s reluctance to join such a move”, the article adds.

Separately, CNN writes that, according to an International Energy Agency (IEA) report published on Tuesday, China is “expected to account for almost half of new global renewable power capacity added between 2022 and 2027”. The state broadcaster CGTN covers the same news. (See Carbon Brief’s analysis of the IEA’s new report.) Reuters’ global energy transition columnist Gavin Maguire writes that “Beijing’s efforts to reopen the country now look set to raise China’s coal needs heading into 2023, which will tighten overall thermal coal supplies and place added price pressure on European power producers already struggling with reduced natural gas supplies”.

In other news, Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia will host a “China-Arab summit” on 9 December “attended by Chinese president Xi Jinping, with the leaders of the two countries expected to discuss trade ties and regional security”. Arab News publishes a comment piece by Huang Zhaohui, CEO of CICC, a Chinese partially state-owned multinational investment management and financial services company. He writes: “Sharing the same strategic goal of sustainable and green development, Saudi Arabia and China exemplify how countries have accelerated action to confront the global climate challenge.” He adds: “Chinese leaders have reiterated the country’s willingness to strengthen and deepen collaboration with the kingdom in environmental protection, energy conservation, emissions reduction, green infrastructure and green finance under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) framework. The complementarity between Chinese and Saudi industries will likely induce greater synergies.” Finally, the South China Morning Post says that, according to a new study published by the journal One Earth , some of those projects of BRI, “especially ports and power plants, pose serious risks to marine biodiversity and indigenous communities in Africa and the Caribbean”.

Scotland's 'trend of failure' on emissions targets will continue without 'urgent' action
The Scotsman Read Article

Government advisers at the Climate Change Committee (CCC) have described Scotland as having a “trend of failure” when it comes to meeting targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Scotsman reports. A new report from the CCC warns that while Scotland has “ambitious” milestones, including a target of cutting emissions by 75% by 2030, there is “no clear delivery plan on how they will be achieved”. Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon “grabbed headlines in 2019 with some of the most ambitious emissions reductions targets in the world”, but her government has yet to demonstrate “real progress” three years on, according to the Times. The newspaper says the report has “triggered a rift” in the SNP-Green power-sharing government, with the Greens pushing for more radical policies such as raising air passenger duty and banning short-haul flights.

Comment .

World leaders must step up to put biodiversity deal on path to success
Editorial, Nature Read Article

A Nature editorial considers the attempt at COP15 in Montreal, Canada, to secure a “bold new international deal committing countries to precise targets to curb species loss and to protect and restore nature”. It begins by focusing on progress that has been made, noting that there is now greater awareness of the impact of pollution and habitat destruction, and links between nature and climate change mitigation. It also notes that there is a strong evidence base that can be referred to in the formation of the deal. However, it notes that in the run up to the Paris Agreement for climate change, there was a lot more high-level support. “When it comes to getting stalled negotiations motoring again, the scale of support by world leaders that was a feature of climate’s road to Paris is currently lacking,” the editorial states. At the time of writing, it says only Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has confirmed that he is to attend in person. The piece also points out that neither Canada nor China, the original COP15 hosts, have issued formal invitations to leaders. The editorial also makes the link with the recent climate summit in Egypt, which it says may offer a positive signal to negotiations in Montreal. “The agreement made at COP27 to establish a ‘loss and damage’ fund to compensate low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) for climate impacts indicates that richer nations are open to talking about funding, which has also been a major sticking point in biodiversity negotiations,” the piece notes. It concludes: “Leaders have regularly attended climate COPs for more than a decade. This shows in the ambition of climate agreements, if not in their implementation. Research communities and civil society must continue to pressure leaders to engage similarly with the biodiversity agenda”.

Craig Bennett, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts, and Clare Shine, CEO of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, have also written a piece on COP15 for Euronews. They write: “The worlds of business and finance need to step up and lead. The model of overexploiting natural resources for profit is not only destructive but self-defeating. There is no viable business on a ransacked, collapsing planet”.


Present-day warm pool constrains future tropical precipitation
Communications Earth & Environment Read Article

New research finds that uncertainty in precipitation projections over the central-to-eastern tropical Pacific can be reduced by around 25% by better representing the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool in climate models. The authors use multi-model simulations to find the link between the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool – an area of ocean characterised by permanent high surface temperatures – and precipitation in the central-to-eastern tropical Pacific. They find a “strong positive relationship” between the size of the warm pool and the intensity of rainfall. “Improved simulation of present-day Indo-Pacific warm pool size is important for reliable tropical precipitation projections,” the authors conclude

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