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Daily Briefing

16.11.2018
Today's climate and energy headlines
Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

16.11.2018 | 9:28am
DAILY BRIEFING UK’s backup power subsidies are illegal, European court rules
UK’s backup power subsidies are illegal, European court rules

News.

UK's backup power subsidies are illegal, European court rules

Several publications report the news that the UK’s Capacity Market subsidy scheme, which guarantees electricity supply always meets demand, has been suspended following a ruling by the General Court of the EU, which annulled the European Commission’s approval for the scheme and said it should have been subject to a formal state aid investigation. The Guardian reports that the payments under the scheme, which are given to energy firms for making capacity available during peak periods in winter, “will be halted until the government can win permission from the European Commission to restart it”. The Financial Times reports that the “surprise judgement” means the government is now barred from holding auctions scheduled for early next year, which were to award payments to help power plants during high demand in winters. It also cannot pay subsidies due this winter under contracts awarded in previous years. The court found that the European Commission should not have given permission to the capacity market on its introduction in 2014 without more detailed investigation because it may not have been compatible with EU rules on state supports, according to the FT. The UK began power capacity auctions in 2014, offering to pay energy firms for making supplies available during peak demand periods, Reuters reports, and so avoid shortages that might occur as coal plants close. However, UK energy firm Tempus Energy launched an appeal against the capacity market – covered at the time by Carbon Brief – saying it “amounted to subsidies for fossil fuel generators and discriminated against technology designed to cut electricity demand during peak times”, Reuters says. The Energyst reports that Tempus Energy’s chief executive, Sara Bell, says demand-side response aggregators – which offer to turn down demand at multiple sites instead of turning up supplies at power stations – are “ecstatic” about the ruling. The Times says that the ruling is “triggering fears over security of supply” of power for future winters, though the UK government insists it will not affect supplies this year. BusinessGreen also has the story.

The Guardian Read Article
Exclusive: At UN climate talks, Trump team plans sideshow on coal

The Trump administration plans to set up a side-event promoting fossil fuels at the annual UN climate talks next month, according to an exclusive story by Reuters. The plans are a repeat of a strategy “that infuriated global-warming activists during last year’s talks,” Reuters says. However, as well as promoting coal, the Trump administration also plans to allow state officials to take part in key negotiations, signalling “a recognition that the next US president may drop the nation’s opposition to the pact”, according to Reuters. Elsewhere, the Financial Times reports that China has emerged as the “powerbroker” in this years talks. “As nations jockey for position ahead of next month’s UN climate talks, the most significant of its kind since the Paris Accord was sealed three years ago, negotiators are beating a path in a new direction: to Beijing,” reads the FT. China’s leadership has filled “a power vacuum” created when Trump decided to leave the Paris Agreement, the FT says.

Reuters Read Article
Brazil's new foreign minister believes climate change is a Marxist plot

The Guardian reports that Brazil’s president-elect Jair Bolsonaro has appointed a new foreign minister “who believes climate change is part of a plot by cultural Marxists to stifle western economies and promote the growth of China”. Ernesto Araújo, a previous mid-ranking official who, according to the Guardian, also “blogs about the ‘criminalisation’ of red meat, oil and heterosexual sex”, will become the country’s top diplomat when the new government takes power in January. The appointment “is likely to send a chill through the global climate movement”, the Guardian says. Climate Home News adds that, during the election, Araújo wrote in a blog post that “the left has appropriated the environmental cause and perverted it to the point of paroxysm over the last 20 years with the ideology of climate change, the climatism”.

The Guardian Read Article
UK signals plan to leave EU emissions trading scheme after Brexit

The UK has signalled that it plans to leave the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) after Brexit, Reuters reports. This would mean the UK “sticking to its international obligations to cut carbon emissions and would avoid UK firms gaining a competitive advantage, but could hit the price of EU carbon permits as Britain is currently such a big buyer”, according to Reuters. London and Brussels agreed on Wednesday a draft deal over the terms of the UK leaving the bloc on March 29, which included a transitional period until the end of December 2020, meaning the UK would likely remain in the EU ETS until then, Reuters says. The Financial Times also has the story.

Reuters Read Article
John Kerry: Europe must tackle climate change or face migration chaos

The Guardian reports that the former US secretary of state John Kerry has said that Europe must do more to tackle climate change or “face migration chaos”. Speaking at a Guardian Live event, at Central Hall in London, he said he was “deeply disturbed at how issues such as climate change…were not ballot box issues”, the Guardian says, adding “it was hard to translate these issues into an acceptable set of choices for voters”.

The Guardian Read Article

Comment.

The Philippines wants big companies to accept responsibility for a devastating typhoon

The Economist has a piece about attribution of climate change to extreme events, focusing on an inquiry into the damage caused to the Philippines by supertyphoon Haiyan. Last month, the Philippine Commission on Human Rights held its latest hearings into two main questions, explains the Economist: “Whether the damage caused by extreme weather events can be linked to human emissions of greenhouse gases…And…if this link can be established, who bears the responsibility?”. The Philippine hearings will come to a close in December in Manila, however the commission does not have the power to compensate victims of typhoons or to sanction emitters of CO2. According to one of the commissioners, though, “that isn’t even the point”, says the Economist: “His wish is to open a dialogue about possible solutions to climate change that includes the industrial emitters. So far, however, only one side of the story is being heard. The emitters have declined to participate”.

The Economist Read Article
Big Oil v the planet is the fight of our lives. Democrats must choose a side

Democrats must take firmer action against state lobbying from the oil and gas industry in order to reduce the threats caused by climate change, argues Guardian columnist David Sirota. “Oil and gas corporations dumped millions of dollars into the 2018 elections to defeat the major initiatives that could have slightly reduced fossil fuel use,” Sirota says. For example, in Washington State, “petroleum giants funnelled $25m into defeating a proposal to require polluters to pay some of the costs of the climate change havoc they are wreaking,” says Sirota, while in one Californian county, “the fossil fuel industry spent a whopping $8m to defeat a citizens’ initiative to ban new drilling and fracking”. “Will our political class behold the fossil fuel industry’s sociopathy and realise that we face an existential choice between profits and ecological survival?” he asks, “In short, will we as a society finally start treating this emergency as an actual emergency?” Meanwhile, the New York Times carries a letter from a reader asking: “Where are the Democrats on climate change?” Elsewhere, the Washington Post carries the news that three likely incoming Democratic chairs of House committees have “vowed to scrutinise the Trump administration’s actions on climate change and bring before them top administration officials who they think have escaped adequate oversight”.

David Sirota, The Guardian Read Article

Science.

Anthropogenic influences on major tropical cyclone events

There is no consensus on whether climate change has affected of tropical cyclones yet, owing to their large natural variability and the limited period of observations. Projections of future tropical cyclone activity are uncertain, because they often rely on coarse-resolution climate models. This study used high resolution regional climate model simulations to investigate whether and how recent destructive tropical cyclones would change if these events had occurred in pre-industrial and in future climates. They found that, relative to pre-industrial conditions, climate change so far has enhanced the average and extreme rainfall of hurricanes Katrina, Irma and Maria, but did not change tropical cyclone wind-speed intensity. Future anthropogenic warming would increase the wind speed and rainfall of 11 of 13 intense tropical cyclones examined. In a second paper, also published in Nature, researchers found that that urbanization exacerbated the flooding and total rainfall of hurricane Harvey in Houston, and suggested that the effect of urbanization on extreme rainfall and flooding from hurricanes should be more explicitly included in global climate models.

Nature Read Article

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